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)

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Chiffchaffs on the Up

One of the fascinating aspects of  bird study is observing and recording changes in bird populations. Since 1989 I have  censused the breeding populations of Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff on a woodland and scrub  section of Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve.Chiffchaff have seen  a marked rise in the population from just 1-2 pairs in the 1980’s increasing to 4-6 pairs in the  2000’s and to a peak of 18 pairs in 2014. By  contrast Willow Warblers have fluctuated but overall have remained reasonably stable throughout  with 26 to 35 in the 1990’s and the 2000’s and 27-30 over the past  five years.

We had concluded that the change in habitats   basically the maturing of the Hawthorn/ Ash scrub favoured the Chiffchaff and was the main reason for the recorded increase . However I thought it would be interesting to  look at the Groups  ringing statistics of these two closely related species to see what they reveal.
Figure 1 shows the annual ringing totals of new birds of each species from 1981 to 2015. It shows that Willow Warbler ringing totals have fluctuated quite widely, probably to some extent due to varying ringing effort which is mainly related to weather conditions, but the peaks have been similar throughout with peaks of 640 in1985 and 645 in 2014. By contrast although there has been some  small fluctuations in the Chiffchaff ringing totals the main trend has been upward especially recently. From a low of only 9 in 1981and 82 to a high of 437 in 2014 strongly suggesting an increasing population breeding in and migrating through our area.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Firecrest goes to Scotland

Just received recovery details of a Firecrest that was ringed at Heysham on 14th September and found dead in the grill of a car at Elgin (Moray) 401 km N 115 days after ringing! The car had been driven that day between Wick and Elgin but the finder remembers striking a small bird as he approached Elgin. He has supplied us with a photo of the dead bird and it certainly looks fresh. So what an amazing recovery. Just a pity that it had to die.

Five other Firecrests have been ringed at Heysham since 1998. Three of these were in spring , of the three  caught in autumn this preset bird is the earliest by a month so had plenty of time to drift north before choosing to winter in Moray. An interesting example of a bird making an unexpected journey and shows the value of ringing.
Looking  at the online ringing reports this is the 4th longest movement of a Firecrest in Britain. Interestingly the one making the longest  movement from Norfolk to Wick did so in a similar time frame to the present bird.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Poor Year for Blue Tits

The first signs that this was going to be a poor year for  Blue Tits came from our nest box studies. Of the 50 pairs that occupied my boxes,  laying was 12 days later than average.  Brood size was   1.5 young down on 2014 and only 26 of the 50 occupied boxes produced any young. Predation, probably by Weasels played its part but the main reason was probably a shortage of caterpillars at a crucial time due to the cool and wet spring weather.

That this poor productivity has meant lower numbers at all our ringing sites this late summer on. At the site where we catch most blue tits numbers have plummeted. In 2014 we caught 470 birds during the period from early summer to early winter, this year only 209. But even more telling is the percentage of adults in the population. The average over the last 19 years has been 14.5% and in an exceptional year as low as 7%, but this year it is 36% and at another site with smaller numbers ringed it is a high as 55%. Both figures suggesting very low productivity.

On the bright side adults and juveniles from 2014  appear to have survived well at all sites. Our oldest bird this year to date is 6 years and 214 days and we have 3 others at five years. Our record though is 8 years and  15 days. Will be interesting to see what the breeding population is next year.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Quick OfF the Mark

Since its inception the group has ringed a total of 23,608 Sand Martins mainly at the colonies in the sandy banks of the River Lune. To date we have had  48 recoveries on passage through France mainly caught by French ringers, all were of birds caught as adults or juveniles. Of  the 48  reported 31 were in July, mainly young birds but because they were caught after fledging we had no way of knowing 
exactly how long they took to reach France. However this year Dave ringed 56 nestlings at an artificial site and one has just been reported in Northern France just 33 days after ringing. It probably took 5-6 days before it fledged so it had started its migration south  about 25-27 days after fledging when it was only about 45 days old. Amazing! It had traveled 493 kms SE when caught. John

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Long-tailed Tits on the Move

Five Long-tailed Tits which were ringed by Mark in his large garden at Newton on the edge of Bowland on 11 October 2014 have obviously moved as a flock for two were caught near Runcorn in Cheshire 66 km SSW on 16th November 36 days after ringing. A third has now been caught in the same area on 12 November 2015.

Such a movement by this usually  sedentary species is interesting.  The Group has ringed 2693 Long-tailed Tits since 2001 and had  1469 retraps all showing  no movement. During that period we have had only one other recovery showing any movement and this was just 17 km. However going further back we had five birds ringed together on 23 October 1993 and caught together 38 km north 17 days later. Most outstanding though was one ringed on 23 October 1993 and caught 306 km north in North Scotland 19 days later.


Friday, 13 November 2015

Goldcrest and Lesser Redpoll Movements

Two species that have been present  our area this autumn in good numbers are Lesser Redpoll and Goldcrests. The later is probably a reflection of the large arrival of continental birds recorded on the east coast. That this was the case  was signaled by the catching of one at Leighton Moss on October 23 which had been ringed 11 days previously  at Whitby North Yorkshire. One ringed on spring migration at Heysham was caught at  Spurn on October 9th. Another bird ringed in mid winter in Somerset was caught at Heysham on October 4th was also probably a continental bird

Another migrant was a Lesser Redpoll ringed in Aberdeenshire on 28th September was caught at Leighton Moss 17 days later. This is our first Redpoll from NE Scotland. A Redpoll ringed in mid winter in Surrey was  caught on August 7th at Newton. This is our 13th bird in winter from Surrey which is obviously a prime wintering area for passage and breeding birds from our area.   We also caught 2 birds from Northumberland and one from Worcester.

A Siskin ringed at Newton on the edge of Bowland on 22 September was caught 39 days later in Hampshire only our second Siskin from that area.


Sunday, 25 October 2015

How Many Nuthatch Visit A Garden?

This autumn's ringing in Jerry and Barbara's woodland edge garden at Silverdale has thrown up some interesting findings. With well stocked feeders close to the house they can easily observe all the visiting birds. The most Nuthatch's they usually see is three at once occasionally, but usually just two. Kevin Briggs  has started a RAS on Nuthatch this year with a colour ringing scheme. Since mid September we have  colour ringed 11 Nuthatch in the garden. Over this past week Barbara has seen nine of these birds visiting regularly . She has also seen two unringed birds together and a ringed but not colour ringed bird making12  birds visiting regularly  and  two others occasionally making at least 14 birds in all. Will be interesting to see  what happens over the  winter and into spring. Last spring one pair nested in the garden.

The  abundance of Coal tits this autumn is well shown by our latest catch in the garden we caught  19 but the scarcity of Blue Tits is shown by  a catch of only 13. Last year a little later we caught 29 Blue Tits and 19 Coal Tits. The scarcity of Blue Tits following a disastrous breeding season is being commented on by many observers.