Study Group




Glen Clunie

Glen Clunie Ring Ouzel Breeding Ecology Project

Summary of Results 1998-2004

Part 1


There has been concern for some time that the Ring Ouzel population in Britain is in decline. Baxter and Rintoul (1953) reported large decreases in parts of Scotland, and Thom (1986) confirmed this trend. The New Atlas (Gibbons et al 1993) showed a 27% range reduction, mostly in Wales, south Scotland, Highland and Grampian. There was concern that this range reduction may have masked an even more serious population decline, and indeed recent analyses suggest a 58% decline between 1990 and 1999. As a result, the species has been red listed in The Population Status of Birds in the UK (Gregory et al 2002). Reasons for this population decline are unclear, but it may be that regional differences are linked to variations in breeding success.
During 1998-2004 we studied Ring Ouzel breeding ecology in upper Glen Clunie, north-east Scotland, which holds a relatively stable population (Rebecca 2001), in contrast to areas such as south-west Scotland and Wales. The valley is steep-sided, rising from an altitude of 400m to peaks of up to 850m, and is readily accessible with a main road running through it. Land use on the valley floor consists of semi-improved pasture for sheep, small conifer plantations and open moorland. Vegetation cover at higher altitudes is dominated by a mosaic of heather, grass and blaeberry, with numerous crags, scree slopes and gullies. Red Deer, Mountain Hares, Rabbits and Sheep are all present, and the land is managed for Red Grouse and Red Deer shooting (Rebecca 2001). Here we summarise results from 1998 to 2004.

Number of territorial pairs

Two estimates of the number of territorial pairs in the core study area were made. The minimum was the number of territories occupied in the early season only, and the maximum was this number plus those occupied in the late season only. The minimum number of territorial pairs in the core study area increased from 34 in 1998 to 37 in 2000, but declined to 27 in 2004 (Fig. 1). A similar pattern is obtained by using the maximum number of pairs. It is too early to say if this is a real decline, or part of a long-term fluctuation. It will thus be important to continue to monitor the population over the next few years.



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