NLRG was formed in 1957 to help in the study of birds in the Lancaster and District Birdwatching Society area. There are currently 12 active ringers. Species currently being studied include: Pied Flycatcher, Bearded Tit, Sand Martin, Twite, Goosander, Oystercatcher and Grey Wagtail. Migration has been studied for 28 years at Heysham. We welcome anyone who wants to observe, help or perhaps wish to become a ringer. Photo: A Heysham-ringed Twite on the Mull of Kintyre (thanks to Eddie Maguire)

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Goldfinch versus Greenfinch

So far to date we have ringed 962 Goldfinch our best year ever. Its interesting to look back over the years and trace the increase of Goldfinch both as a breeding bird in our area and of course as a bird at feeding stations where most of our birds are caught. Looking back to 1960 before mist nets we ringed 326 Greenfinch but only one Goldfinch! By 1984 were ringed 521 Greenfinch but just 24 Goldfinch. How things have changed to date this year we have ringed 517 Greenfinch but 962 Goldfinch. 

The Greenfinch number is hearting though, for in recent years the disease trichomonsis has depleted the population we reached  a low of 278 in 2015  but numbers have increased over the past three years.Goldfinch are apparently quite mobile at this time of year ,we had  two movements between our feeding sites, one moved 40 Km.

This autumn has seen several quick movers, a Chiffchaff ringed on October 6th  was in Dorset 4 days later. A Sedge Warbler ringed on 27th July was in NW France 16 days later. While a Reed Warbler ringed on August 8th was in southern Spain15 days later. It is only our 6th Reed Warbler from Spain compared to 29 from France.

The build up of Little Egret in recent years has been amazing. Peak numbers of course occur in late summer/early autumn. Colour ringing has shown that many of these are young birds, bred that year with sightings of birds ringed as nestlings usually in May or June from Kent, Lincolnshire and amazing of all, eleven from Wales. This year a new location was added with a nestling from Hartlepool in the NE. Interesting that so many move north after fledging, before moving south in late autumn winter.


Monday, 5 November 2018

Norwegian Brambling and Other News

Mark and Dave had a wonderful surprise  on the 2nd when the only  Brambling they caught  carried a Norwegian ring. The group has only ringed 375 over the years and our only other foreign recovery was from The Netherlands.

They also had a good Redwing catch with a few Fieldfares. Heysham also has done well for Redwing tape luring them early morning.  Over the years we have ringed 3600 and our  recoveries have shown a strong tendency for birds to winter in other areas in successive years. We have only had one  bird retrapped locally in the following winter. However we have had two in Italy one in Greece and one most surprising of all one in Azerbyzhan in successive winters. Not that it did them any good for they were all shot!

Grit tray sightings of our colour ringed Bearded Tits at Leighton Moss RSPB has increased our total of adults for the year to 22 males but only 12 females, we have ringed 30 juveniles. Data from our nest boxes suggested  rather low first brood productivity. Interesting how catches of species varies between sites in the same year. Coastal Heysham  and Middleton report low Goldcrest catches but inland Leighton reports normal catches with 10 on one day this week.

Blue tits appear to be moving more into the reed and scrub at Leighton we have caught 227 to date this year. One of this weeks retrap was 6 years and 8 days after ringing, and it was ringed in 2012 as an adult. Surprisingly this was only the second time it had been retrapped.

Friday, 19 October 2018

Recent Highlights

Our best recent highlight was a Chiffchaff caught at Poole Harbour in Dorset just four days and two hours after ringing at Middleton NR,a movement of 370 km S. It weighed 9.4 gms when caught, a good weight for a Chiffchaff but only 8.1 grams when caught in Dorset.This is only our second Chiffchaff from Dorset and only our third record from the south coast. We have  had single birds from the Channel Islands, Portugal,Morocco and Senegal. Contrast that with a Sedge Warbler caught 484 km SE in Pas-de-Calais France just 16 days after ringing in late July at Leighton Moss.  It is our 54th Sedge Warbler from France 38 of which have been in August. To date we have ringed 4500 Chiffchaff and 14500 Sedge Warblers.

I have posted recently about how faithful Bearded Tit pairs are once formed. Another pair seen recently on the grit trays is a good example. First caught together as juveniles in  early October 2016 they were recorded together on 11 other occasions in 2016, on 17 occasions in 2017 and seven occasions so far in 2018.

We have ringed good numbers of Reed Bunting at Leighton Moss this year 139 so far compared to 56 in 2017.We get very few retraps suggesting movement through the reed-bed. Looking at our retrap data I was surprised to find our oldest record was just 10 days short of eight years after ringing. It had been retrapped seven times. We had no records of other birds past five years. The national record is just 22 days short of ten years.

Friday, 12 October 2018

Reed Bed Ringing Update

In a spell of  windy days it was great to have a calm morning on Wednesday this week allowing a visit to the best site for catching Bearded Tits. We were not disappointed, for we caught this years record catch  of 14 of which 11 were new birds all probably this years young. One of the retraps was an adult which we had not recorded this year, bringing our totals to 16 adult males and 10 adult females and 26 young birds. We normally add more adults to the totals this time of year from grit tray sightings of our colour ringed birds.

The other major catch was 18 Reed Buntings all new birds. It appears to have been a good year for this species for we have ringed 154 this year so far, compared to just 58  last year. We caught surprisingly few tits just one Blue Tit, one Great Tit and three  Coal Tits. Flocks normally move into the reed beds at this time of year to exploit the insects over wintering  in the reed stems, however there is so much food available in the surrounding woodlands with all tree species producing a bumper harvest.


Sunday, 30 September 2018

Bearded Tits Gritting Season Gets Underway

It was great this morning for my arrival at 09.00 coincided with the  first birds of day on the trays at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve. Up to now there had been very few sightings. In the end there were three pairs each with their own grit tray, which was great for we could tell who was paired to whom.If you got three or more birds on a tray there was much aggression and chasing.

On my return home I quickly looked up the colour combinations of these three pairs and their sighting history. The oldest bird, a male was  first ringed in 2014 so is in his 4th year. His mate was first ringed as a  juvenile in July 2016. In 2016 they were both paired to other birds but by October 10th 2017 they were obviously paired and we seen on the grit trays together on 5 days in October and early November.  One assumes that their previous mates had died. On May 4th this year they were recorded feeding a brood in one of our nest boxes and the sighting  today proved they were still together.

Another pair were both first ringed as juveniles in 2017. They had formed a pair on their first sighting on the grit trays on 18th October and were recorded together on four other occasions to early November. The male was seen on May5th near one of our nest boxes but the female was not identified. But today's sighting shows they have remained together.

The third pair is the one I posted about 10 days ago when they were the first pair to be recorded gritting this season. They were both 2016 birds and were  seen together on 8 times  in the 2016 season and no fewer than 13 times in the 2017 season. They were  seen together at a nest box on March 4th this year and have already been recorded together on four days this September.

These sightings conclusively prove that Bearded Tit pairs remain together as long as they both survive of course. Few other passerine species exhibit this behaviour.

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Knot in odd places... part 2 - The Azores.

In early September I had a message from a friend near Liverpool with a photo of one of the Knot from Formby.  After a quick exchange explaining it was one from Formby and asking where he had seen it Peter told me it was taken by someone on the Azores!  Yesterday it was seen again a couple of km away from the previous sighting on São Miguel Island.

It will be interesting to see what happens to this bird. If it has survived for a couple of weeks there is a chance it could survive long term and perhaps reorientate to find it's way back to the Dee, Mersey and Alt estuaries where it spent last winter.  Time will tell however it certainly needs to update its satnav. 

What an islandica Knot is doing on the Azores is somewhat of a mystery.  On the Azores Knot occur regularly but in very low numbers.  Given the location it is likely most records are rufa Knot that have been caught in storms and blown over the Atlantic. Given the proximity of the breeding ranges of rufa and islandica it is likely there is occasional mixing of immature birds in autumn however an adult is quite a different matter.

This is the first record of a BTO ringed Knot on the Azores and is only the 3rd British ringed Knot to be found in any of Portugal.  Only one Portuguese ringed Knot has been found in the UK which was found in August 2013 in Lincolnshire which, remarkably, I was also involved in catching.  These low totals are probably not surprising as few islandica knot make it as far south as Portugal and relatively few canutus Knot stop off in the UK in spring and autumn.  

Many thanks to Peter Fearon, Carlos Ribeiro and Tiago Rodrigues for photographing this bird and getting the data submitted.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Bearded Tit Gritting Season gets Underway

The sighting of a pair on the  grit trays at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve today signals the start of the gritting season. The pair sighted proved most interesting.

They were  both 2016 youngsters, the female having been ringed as a nestling in May and the male as a juvenile in July. The were first recorded together on October 2nd 2016 when they were recaptured. They were them recorded gritting together on 10 occasions up to  November 11th. The next  sighting was on the grit trays on 17 September 2017 and over the next months they were recorded gritting together on 14 occasions up to November 14th. On April 3rd this year they were sighted together near a nest box and the female was seen at the same nest box on April 27th.

These sightings again prove that Bearded Tits pair in their first autumn and remain together as a pair as long as they survive of course.They were the first birds to be recorded on the grit trays in 2017 and the first birds this year although three days late!  They were also the pair which was recorded on most occasions on the grit trays in 2017.

The Grit trays are just off the main public path leading to the Causeway Hide. A new viewing  platform  been installed by the RSPB, giving brilliant views of the three grit trays. I you visit and get details of the colour ringed birds please send them to and help in our research on these amazing birds. Birds are best seen on reasonably calm days between 08.00 and 11.00 from now to late November.