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)

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.


Sunday, 1 May 2016

Finches on the Move

The spring move north of Goldfinch, Siskin and Lesser Redpoll is well underway,although it may be delayed somewhat by the unseasonably cold spring weather. Certainly all three have been coming to garden bird feeders, especially Mark's and Dave's in the south east of our area. In total we have caught around 3-400 of each species so  far this year.

This has produced a nice flush of recoveries adding further to our knowledge of these species wintering and breeding areas and their time of movement.The quickest mover was a Lesser Redpoll ringed in Powys on April10th and caught 6 days later by Mark. It is only our second Redpoll from Wales. Birds which had wintered in Surrey and Berkshire brings our total from   SE England  and the South Midlands to 36 showing this to be the main wintering  area for our passage birds.

A Siskin recaptured at Shebster (Highland) on the April 8th had been ringed by Dave  41 days previously and brings our total of Siskin from NE Scotland to 22 showing this to be the main breeding area of our birds for this early breeder.

We have much less information about Goldfinch which have been especially abundant at garden feeders this late winter/spring. Recoveries in spring in Argyll and Galloway bring our reports from these areas to the second and third only. The one recaptured in Galloway on April 2nd had been ringed by Dave just 10 days previously. But Marks retrap of a French ringed Goldfinch in late April breaks new ground as our first foreign report of this species.


Tuesday, 19 April 2016

2015 Annual report

The North Lancs Ringing Group annual report is now available for download here.

Many thanks to all who contributed.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

A Bullfinch Morning

The highlight of a morning visit to Jerry and Barbara's woodland edge garden at Silverdale was the catching of 12 Bullfinch. This compares with just 10 over the winter in 13 ringing visits. The down side was that we couldn't ring two of them because of warty growths on the legs, the first time we have recorded this in Bullfinch. We have had several Chaffinch with the same problem but on this visit we caught seven all with no problems.One further Bullfinch had been ringed by Andrew in his Over Kellet garden in January 2012 so  it had moved 8 km the longest Bullfinch movement we have recorded. This also was showing slight signs of  leg warts.

The catching of two more Great Spotted Woodpeckers brings the total since August to 22 and reflects the large amount of woodland in the Silverdale area. Nuthatch stand at 19 for the same period. Blue Tits at 152, Coal Tits 115 and Great Tit 83.   These figures refer to the total number of individuals caught with retraps from previous years only counted once.

The Lesser Redpoll spring passage is underway, on the day after the above catch we caught 17 of which two were controls. Of 170  caught to date so far this year by the Group seven have been controls, averaging ca 1 in 25.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Garden Ringing Update

Been an interesting winter at Jerry and Barbara's woodland edge garden at Silverdale .  Highlights of our 13 visits  have been the catching of  20 Great Spotted Woodpeckers compared with  only 8 last winter with 8 visits. Nuthatch  were 19 this winter compared to only 5 last winter. We have colour ringed all the Nuthatch and have had 524 sightings logged to the end of February. In total 13 individuals were visiting the well stocked feeders in February. will be interesting to see how many continue to visit as the breeding season approaches.

Following poor productivity last breeding season Blue Tits  at 150  compared to 244 last year are well down,  but Coal Tits are up, 111 compared to 47 last year. Only one Siskin has been caught. Its interesting to compare  the catch at Mark's and Dave's gardens inland in NE Lancashire and close to the Bowland Fells. Up to mid March they had caught 288 Siskins and 185 Lesser Redpolls, but only 5 Nuthatch, 8 Great Spotted Woodpeckers and 54 Coal Tits.


Monday, 29 February 2016

A Record Breaking Ringed Plover

Kevin Briggs has just given me details of a colour ringed sighting of a Ringed Plover that he saw  on 22  June this year at Melling on the River Lune. It was originally colour ringed as a juvenile   on 10 July 1993 two kms from where it was sighted this year. Making it 21 years  11 months and 13 days old. It beats the  present oldest recorded Ringed Plover which was ringed as  an adult on The Wash and last recorded  19 years  8 months and 19 days after ringing.

Kevin has recorded this bird for the past four years breeding on  a maize field. This bird is part of Kevin's long term  study of this species breeding on the gravel  banks of the River Lune. He has another bird also ringed as a juvenile which was 13 years and 355 days when last seen also on a maize field.

The Lancaster and District BWS has censused the breeding birds of the lower section of the River Lune each year for the past 41 years. Ringed Plover have declined from a peak of 42 pairs in the 1970's to just  four pairs in  2009 due to  regular spring and summer  flooding  of the gravel  nesting sites.  This year nine pairs attempted to  nest but the only successful pairs were the four pairs nesting on maize fields.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Scandinavian Rock Pipit in North Lancashire

The problem with Scandinavian Rock Pipit in winter is that many individuals are inseparable from our nominate Anthus petrosus petrosus (subsequently referred to as ‘petrosus’).  That has led to several  county and regional bird reports being  a bit reluctant to document Anthus petrosus littoralis unless this relates to individuals (usually in spring) which show a subtle combination of characters which suggest they are not petrosus (e.g. well-defined supercilium, ‘cleaner’ more individual breast streaking and noticeable white (not muddy white) outer tail feathers, with the more clear-cut individuals superficially resembling Water Pipit) 

It has been increasingly apparent in this country that there is a quite specific outer saltmarsh habitat which does not 'proximately overlap' with rocky coasts and shorelines which has its own wintering population of Rock Pipits.  The problem with this habitat is that at many sites the birds are 'impossible' to watch closely and document unless there are high spring tides forcing them to the inner end of the saltmarsh within observational range.   Therefore opportunities to study them can be limited to just two or three tides per winter period month.  This is because they feed in the outer saltmarsh creeks and are very reluctant to leave this area unless the adjoining saltmarsh is completely inundated by the tide.  Birders also tend to ‘ignore’ them as they search for the occasional Water Pipit (or hope for a long-shot Buff-bellied Pipit) during these limited opportunities. 

Here is an extract from the Christchurch Harbour Ornithological Group website:  "The location of winter pipits within the recording area can be used as an indicator as to the likely species or race. Rock Pipit seen on the Hengistbury shoreline or Stanpit river bank are almost exclusively Western European petrosus birds, some of which are thought to be resident and form the Hengistbury breeding population.  However, Rock Pipit encountered on the saline marshes of Stanpit are candidates for littoralis race.  Of course, many are simply indistinguishable from petrosus , but there are often individuals that stand out from the crowd".  See also:
for a closer look at the problem of field identification

In north Germany, for example, there are no breeding (or wintering) petrosus Rock Pipit and the species is exclusively of the form littoralis and a denizen of the muddy outer saltmarsh creeks.  Here it feeds on e.g. hydrobia which is, of course, an abundant food source in our own outer saltmarsh creeks and utilised by e.g. Redshank and Shelduck (ref:   Dierschke and  Bairlein: Habitat selection of wintering passerines in saltmarshes)

Here in Lancashire/Morecambe Bay, with one small exception,  we do not have resident  'rocky coast pipits' breeding nearby.  Apart from an isolated pair in at least 2015 on Chapel  Island in the Leven Estuary, the nearest breeding birds are St Bees in Cumbria and North Wales.  The migration Atlas, utilising ringing data, also deems petrosus as 'mainly sedentary', whilst conversely the Scandinavian form is known to be migratory.  However, we do receive the occasional 'dark smudgy-breasted individuals with 'no' supercilium' at rocky sites such as Heysham Harbour with two cases of late spring birds holding temporary territory around Heysham Head/Harbour, including "a few"  observations of parachute flight.   It is presumed that these might be wandering petrosus, but we have no ringing evidence, just a combination of habitat and temporary territorial behaviour

However, by far and away the preferred habitat for Rock Pipit in Lancashire is exactly that of known littoralis in Germany; outer saltmarsh creeks.    We have already had confirmation of this with two previous sightings of Scandinavian birds - one fully documented, the other not narrowed down to an individual.  Now we have a third, but unlike the two previous ones, this was well-photographed.

As can be seen from the photograph of this latest colour-ringed bird, there is little or nothing to suggest that it is any different from our resident petrosus, but, in Lancashire, as in many other coastal counties, it is surely time to assume all the saltmarsh Rock Pipits are littoralis by virtue of clear-cut habitat preference (beware the occasional Water Pipit).  This should be reflected in county and regional bird reports and indeed, in a county such as Lancashire, maybe the ones deserving individual documentation are the occasional rocky habitat individuals suggesting dispersing petrosus!    Caution is obviously needed with birds on passage e.g. small numbers of presumed littoralis pass through Heysham on especially autumn passage and documentation of littoralis should be limited to winter residents flushed out during saltmarsh inundation

Thanks to Chris Batty (photo supplier) and Andrew Cornall for persevering with this bird, leading to documentation and the Lancaster RSPB group for first drawing attention to it

Ring no:Stavanger 8E28835

Yellow colour ring HJP (Left tarsus metal ring. Right tarsus yellow ring with three black letters HJP engraved).

Age/sex:: Adult female (hatched 2013 or before).

Biometrics:  Wing  83 mm. Weight: 19,8 g.

Ringing date: 22.08.2013, 0900 hrs.

Ringing place: Makkevika (62*30'N-006*02'E) Giske, Giske, Møre &Romsdal, Norway.

Remarks: Caught in walk-in-trap at our wader station (Giske Ornithological Station).

Ringer: Sunnmøre Ringing Group.

Finding date: 09.02-12.02.2016, almost certainly the bird seen in January

Observed: Pilling Marsh (53*56'N-002*53'W) Lancashire, England / UK.

Remarks: Photo-documented

Observers: Andrew Cornall and Chris Batty

Distance:1084 SSW.

Further information
Colour-ringing in Norway:
Sunnmøre Ringing Group hope that you will look for flagged Common Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula),  Common Sandpiper(Actitis hypoleuca), Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola)and Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea).  All these species have metal ring on left tarsus, red colour ring on left tibia and yellow flag on right tibia engraved with 3 black letters.

Pete Marsh