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)

Sunday, 19 June 2016

An Excellent Breeding season

Judging by my nest boxes it has been an excellent breeding season. Tits have done well with  little predation and  only one  dead young in the 90 occupied boxes I have checked and brood size has been quite high.This week ends ringing produced 21 young Blue Tits  also the first young Reed Warbler and Willow Warblers, ten days earlier than last year. Of the 20 Pied Flycatcher nests two still have young to  ring and two were lost to predation. Of the others, brood size was good  averaging 6.8.
The other woods in our Pied Flycatcher RAS report similar findings although two have experienced heavy predation probably by weasels.

Over the next few months  will be working on our Bearded tit and Reed Warbler RAS. So far have caught 46 adult Reed Warbler and 16 adult Bearded Tits.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Sand Martin Ringing On The River Lune

The Sand Martin ringing season is about to get underway. I have prepared an account of our activities at the colonies on the River Lune to  to to provide information to those landowners and farmers  who have kindly given members of the North Lancashire Ringing Group access to their land to undertake our studies. I thought I would share this on the Blog.

We carry out a census each year of the breeding colonies from Skerton Lancaster  to Kirkby Lonsdale by counting occupied nest holes. Over the past five years the population has ranged between 3026 pairs (2011) and 1309 (2014). We have 40 years of counts and historically the population has varied between 370 (1984) and the recent high of 3026 in 2011. It is  thought that these fluctuations are mainly due to drought conditions in their African wintering areas causing high mortality, but river floods during the breeding season and lack of suitable nesting banks have also played their part.
Since 2001 we have caught nearly 27,000 Sand Martins mainly at the Lune colonies. The recovery locality of those reported away from the Lune is shown in the table below. Around 99% of these are birds caught be other bird ringers and released both in Britain and abroad.
Recovery  Localities of Sand Martins Ringed on the River Lune 











South Coast


East Anglia










The late summer migration is well shown with  first brood juveniles already in East Anglia and the Midlands in late June and on into July many of these are caught on migration ,roosting in colonies on their way south, until the colonies are vacated in early August then they roost in reed-beds or maize fields  with Swallows.  The recoveries from Scotland are mainly .of juveniles  caught roosting in our colonies on their way south. The speed of departure was well shown this year by-one of the few birds we have ringed as a nestling. It probably left the nest about the 18th of June but it was caught27 days later in Northern France a distance of 493 km SE, certainly a quick mover.  By . July many birds are along the south coast and into France, a movement that continues throughout July and reaches a peak in August then on to early September with adults and second brood youngsters joining in. August is the peak month for passage through western France and on into  Spain. Smaller numbers occur in France in September with none at all in October by which time they have moved in to Eastern Spain to eventually reach their wintering areas in West  Africa where we have six recoveries from Senegal.
Spring migration is not well documented as  little ringing takes place, also birds are moving through quickly and return to the  colonies where  ringing is not attempted to avoid disturbance at this critical time. Returns from Spain and France suggest a similar route to autumn.


Sunday, 5 June 2016

Pied Flycatchers Do Well

Have 21 pairs of Pied Flycatchers spread over 3 woods in the Lune Valley. One pair down on 2015 but all are doing well with no losses to predation. Have ringed seven broods so far six had seven young and one six.
 Interesting behavior at two  nests while we were catching the males. At one two males were around the nest box and another there were three males. Quite a bit of chasing between the males. Never seen this behavior before.

Both tit species are down following last years poor productivity but they are also doing  well with little predation and reasonable brood size.

Monday, 30 May 2016

A Morning with Bearded Tits

Spent an interesting morning using new technology to  watch a pair of Bearded Tits feeding their brood of six young in one of my nest boxes at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve. This is part of my 17 year study of this species, the results of which have just been published in Ringing &Migration. To get the colour ring combinations of the adults I used to move a hide near to the nest over 3 days or so, quite a task when you had10-15 nests. Recently we have used motion activated cameras but yesterday we positioned a small camera  to give a good view of the entrance and  we could watch what went on on a tablet siting in deck chairs along a nearby ride! With the zoom we could identify most of the prey the adults were bringing in, mainly blue tailed damsel flies. They were feeding ca ever 4-5 mins. and quite unusually the pair came in together almost all the time. We  easily got the colour ring combinations and discovered that they were the same pair which had already reared a brood of five in a nest box 110 metres  away. The young from this nest had fledged on 21st of April and the first egg of this second brood was laid just 11 days later.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Nestbox Carnage

The first visit to our nestboxes in Pott Yeats Wood this season augered well - 7 boxes with Pied Flycatcher nests out of the total of 43 boxes, a good proportion for this relatively low altitude valley woodland.

However, today's visit told a very different story.  All 7 nests contained many fragments of eggshell, the result of predation probably by a mammal species (possibly Woodmouse).

It was a depressing day, lifting one lid after another to find yet more predation.  In all, 10 clutches had been destroyed (7 Pied Flycatcher, 3 Blue Tit) out of a total of 18 nests (7 Blue Tit, 4 Great Tit, 7 Pied Flycatcher).  The predated nests were spread evenly throughout the wood.  A further visit in a couple of weeks will be made to check for second attempts, although there will be little chance of this unless the weather warms up somewhat - it seems so sad that that the birds have made the long journey from south of the Sahara only to have their eggs eaten and then to return with no young produced.

Perhaps the anti-midge net ordered last weekend will not see any use this year after all!


Friday, 6 May 2016

Pied Flycatchers Arrive in Force

A careful count on a morning visit  yesterday to one of our main Pied Flycatcher RAS woods, gave  a total of 19 males but only 1 female. The wood resounded to Pied Fly song and many were visiting nest  boxes although we found only two nests in the early stages. Last year we had 14 pairs using the nest boxes in this wood so the omens look good for this year. We also had a pair of Redstarts around the  box they used last year and for the first time in four years a singing Wood Warbler, while a Cuckoo called at the edge of the wood. A great morning!

Tits though were rather sparse. we had only four nests with eggs, on the same date last year we had nine but this years cold spring appears to have delayed laying both here and at our other nest box schemes.

Richard has done a great job searching for colour ringed Black-tailed Godwits in a flock of around 1750 which frequent the Leighton Moss RSPB reserve area on spring passage. He has sighted at least eight originally ringed on their breeding area in Iceland, and one from the wintering area in France. The information amassed is amazing, one of the colour ringed birds has ben sighted 111 times over six years and has visited four of the major estuaries in Britain. This year  most departed in late  April /early May. Two birds have already been reported from Iceland, both were last sighted at Leighton on 29 April and seen on the breeding areas in Iceland 4 and 6 days later.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

The Movement Continues

A further batch of recoveries and controls of Lesser Redpoll, Siskin and Goldfinch adds more information to my last post on these three species.

Pride of place goes to a Goldfinch recaptured at Nigg Ferry on the Cromarty Firth NE Scotland on 21 April just 13 days after ringing in our area. This is our first Goldfinch from NE Scotland.  A Lesser Redpoll caught on passage at Heysham on April 19th had been  ringed 20 days previously in Staffordshire. Other birds  caught while wintering  in Cambridge and Notts. were also caught in  our  area on spring passage.

Two Siskin ringed in past years in our  area were caught in NE Scotland in mid and late April bringing our  total  of Siskin from this area to 25.

Finally a juvenile  Sand Martin  ringed in mid July on the River Lune was caught 17 days later in Western France bringing the total of our Sand Martins reported from France  to 52.