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, 11 August 2018

Quick Movers

  Two controls received today,  both at Icklesham in East Sussex on the south coast are good examples of the  quick movement of our summer visitors at this time of year. - A Sedge Warbler on July 31st just six days after ringing and a Sand Martin on August 6th 12 days after ringing both were juveniles and involved movement of 425 kms. They set me looking back at our data set for these two well ringed species.

The latest control brings the total of our Sedge Warblers controlled along the south coast to 88, 36 of them in Sussex. Of these 19 have been under 10 days after ringing and a further 11 within 20 days. The shortest was just two days after ringing. Further afield we have had 53 controls from Western France of these two were under 10 days and four within 20 days,  the quickest was six days after ringing.

The Sand Martin  in Sussex is the 141st ringed by the group to be controlled there! We have 58 reports from Western France, 16 in Spain and six in Senegal in West Africa. There are fewer quick movers than Sedge Warblers mainly I feel because almost all Sand Martin ringing is at the breeding colony and most birds are recently fledged youngsters. However we have 2 under 10 days and 10 under 20 days. Of French controls we have one 10 days after ringing and another 17 days.

Friday, 10 August 2018

Have Arctic-breeding Waders had a poor breeding Season?

In a change from the usual North Lancs RG blog posts we have a guest blog written by Rose A. Maciewicz & Peter J, Knight about the early results of colour ring sightings of Knot caught near Formby last winter:

Recent reports that NE Greenland was blanketed in snow in the breeding season suggested that 2018 might be a wipe out for Arctic-breeding waders, and this coming after very poor breeding productivity for Red Knot (Calidris canutus islandica) in 2017. The juveniles aren’t due to arrive in the UK just yet, but there may be a glimmer of hope from analyzing the biometrics of colour-ringed adults resighted just after they returned from the north.

On 22nd September 2017 and 30th March 2018 a team including many members of South West Lancs, North Lancs and SCAN Ringing Groups fitted about 1,000 Red Knot with coded orange flags at Altcar Training Camp near Formby, Merseyside and recorded their wing and bill lengths. Since the middle of July we have been observing their return to the beaches around the ringing site. Arrival started on 15th July and numbers grew over the next weeks. By reading the flag codes we could identify which individuals had returned.

Looking at the biometrics of the Red Knot that we read between 22nd and 31st July we were intrigued to see that on average they had statistically longer wing and bill than the whole catch population (see graph). Furthermore, flagged Red Knot that were newly observed on 3rd and 6th August had an average smaller wing and bill than these early arrivals. Since female Red Knot are on average larger than males this is an indication of the females arriving back before the males. As female Knot leave the breeding grounds shortly after the eggs hatch whereas the males remain until the chicks fledge this, in turn, is an indication of probable breeding success.

Time will tell, but maybe our readings of flagged Red Knot offer hope that although NE Greenland had nil productivity, there has been success elsewhere in islandica Red Knot’s breeding range, which extends across Arctic Canada.

Red Knot Of-EHT digiscoped at Formby Point on 22nd July, having recently returned from the Arctic. Wing length when flagged was 178mm - well above the catch average (see graph), so most likely a female.

Our analysis of Red Knot arrivals would not have been possible without colour ringing and all colour ring sightings are valuable. Many of these Red Knot were observed in Iceland on their Northwards migration. As such, interesting life histories are building up in a short space of time. If you see a colour ringed bird please report it via or contact the ringer directly. For waders, the Register of colour-ringing schemes maintained by the International Wader Study Group (IWSG) is a good way to track down the ringer, at the Wader Study Group register.

Rose A. Maciewicz & Peter J. Knight 10th August 2018

Monday, 6 August 2018

Colour Ringed Mediterranean Gulls at Heysham

The numbers of Mediterranean Gulls appearing in late summer to mid/late September around Heysham outfalls has increased markedly in recent years, in contrast to the status at other times where there has in fact been a decline (spring passage) or no change (winter) for many years.  At least 70 birds were involved in 2017 and an absolute minimum of 74 have been seen in 2018.  This figure is reached by adding together the maxima for each age class with the highest day count of 62 being in early August 2018.

Unfortunately, as regards deciphering the darvic numbers, the immediately local birders/ringers have struggled with ring reading and we have had to rely on better eyesight and better optics/cameras from outside in order to read all but the very occasionally obliging individuals.  Double-figures of Mediterranean Gulls were read in the "Bonaparte's Gull year" of 2013, where the occurrence pattern of this vagrant mirrored the moulting Med Gulls.  In the absence of any subsequent notable mid-summer 'draws', ring reading has been very intermittent and this explains the 'gap years' for some of the returning birds.

They are quite difficult, even for the best optics, especially on Red Nab where they tend to congregate on the south-western area of the rocks and any attempt to approach them leads to mass flushing of eg closer Black-headed Gulls and they are also disturbed by the alarm-calling habits from recently nesting large gulls being difficult to break!  They also tend to clear off south well before the tide reaches the rocks.  The most favoured ring-reading area is on the mudflats between Heysham one outfall and the wooden jetty but even here a lot of patience and luck as they move closer on the incoming tide instead of flying off is needed

However, the rewards for a successful ring-read have been very interesting.  There are clearly a number of adults, third and second calendar years which move in a north-westerly direction in late June/July from breeding areas between France and Poland, including Czech Republic, and complete their moult at Heysham Power Station outfalls and surrounding areas (eg outer Lune Estuary where Heysham birds are displaced on high spring tides). Slightly later in the summer, we receive decent numbers of juveniles which often remain to partially moult into first winter plumage.  Logic might then suggest that these birds move onwards at a similar latitude and become part of Ireland's significant wintering population.  However, this has not been the case with any of the Heysham ringed birds, although the vast majority, of course, are not ringed.  After moving north-west to moult, several have been traced back south to the French and Iberian peninsula coasts during the winter months.  Why do they come so far NW to moult! Three of  the birds are a good age- the French bird is 9 years,the Netherlands one 8 years and the German one 6 years, all ringed as nestlings. Full details are given below.

Note that one of the dispersing juveniles in 2003, ringed in the Czech Republic, has returned here outside the breeding season every year but it is going to be hard to locate in 2018 with access changes (and absence of food from anglers) in its favoured location on the north harbour wall

Please do visit Heysham at or near low tide or the early stages of the incoming tide - not at high tide on a spring tide when you will see a big fat zero - and try and check the Med Gulls for rings.  Thanks to Richard du Feu, Pete Woodruff and Margaret and Mark Breaks for efforts in 2018 and many others (including Ian Hartley, Mark Nightingale, Mark Prestwood, Jon Carter, Ian Walker, Gav Thomas, Chris Batty) for efforts in previous years    

1 A 121586
10/06/2016 Rehbach Gravel Pit, Leipzig, Sachsen. GERMANY  51° 15' 54'' N 12° 17' 4''
15/07/2016 Rehbach Gravel Pit, Leipzig, Sachsen. GERMANY  51° 15' 54'' N 12° 17' 4''
25/12/2016 Azurara, Vila do Conde, Porto PORTUGAL 41° 20' 18'' N 8° 44' 38'' W  19
08/03/2017 Playa de San Lorenzo, Gijon, Asturias SPAIN 43° 32' 32'' N 5° 39' 10'' W  1
10/03-12/03/2017 Playa El Rinconin, Gijon, Asturias SPAIN 43° 32' 54'' N 5° 38' 19'' W 1595
23/03/2017 Playa de San Lorenzo, Gijon, Asturias SPAIN 43° 32' 32'' N 5° 39' 10'' W  1
25/05/2017 Rehbach Gravel Pit, Leipzig, Sachsen. GERMANY  51° 15' 54'' N 12° 17' 4''
22/06/2017 Gunners Park, Shoeburyness, Essex  51° 31' 32'' N 0° 46' 58'' E 798km WN
12/09/2017 Heysham Power Station outfalls  1067km NW
05/02/2018 Playa de San Lorenzo, Gijon, Asturias SPAIN 43° 32' 32'' N 5° 39' 10'' W  1
01/04/2018 Montmirail Landfill, colony, Sarthe  48° 6' 35'' N  0° 45' 55''  FRANCE
31/07-02/08/2018  Heysham Power Station outfalls  1067km NW

24/06/2010 De Kreupel Island, Ijsselmeer, Noord-Holland, NETHERLANDS 52,48N 5,
19/08/2010 Knott, End-on-Sea,Lancashire, GB  53,35N 2,59W
20/08/2010 Cocker's Dyke, Pilling Lane, Lancashire, GB  53,35N 2,57W
20/02/2011 Malaga harbour, Malaga, SPAIN  36,43N 4,25W
11/08/2013 Heysham Power Station outfalls  54 1N 2 55W
09/01/2015 Olhao salinas, Algarve, PORTUGAL  37,02N 7,48W
19/01/2016 Santa Cruz, La Coruña, SPAIN  43,21N 8,2W
18/01/2017 Playa San Lorenzo, Gijón, Asturias, SPAIN  43,32N 5,39W
29/12/2017 Playa de El Rinconin, Gijón, Asturias, SPAIN  43,32N 5,38W
21/01-09/02/2018 Playa San Lorenzo, Gijón, Asturias, SPAIN  43,32N 5,39W
31/07/2018 Heysham Power Station outfalls  54 1N 2 55W

26/05/2018 Wisla, Mazowieckie, POLAND    52 28N  19 57E
26/07/2018 Heysham Power Station outfalls       1518km WNW

15/06/2009 Oye Plage, Les Huttes d'Oye, Pas-de-Calais, FRANCE  50,59N 2,03E
20/09/2009 Le Portel, Pas-de-Calais, FRANCE  50,42N 1,34E
07/02/2010 Piriac-sur-Mer, Loire-Atlantique, FRANCE  47,23N 2,33W
18/02/2010 Piriac-sur-Mer, Loire-Atlantique, FRANCE  47,23N 2,33W
21/04/2010 Barbâtre, Polder de Sebastopol, Vendée, FRANCE  46,56N 2,09W
27/04/2011 Barbâtre, Polder de Sebastopol, Vendée, FRANCE  46,56N 2,09W
03/08/2011 Heysham Power Station outfalls  54 1N 2 55W
    21/07-22/07/2013 Heysham Power Station outfalls  54 1N 2 55W
31/12/2014 Noyalo, étang, Pont Grandic, Noyalo, Morbihan, FRANCE  47,37N 2,41W
05/07/2015 Heysham Power Station outfalls  54 1N 2 55W
23/07/2016 Heysham Power Station outfalls  54 1N 2 55W
06/03/2017 Playa de El Rinconin, Gijón, Asturias, SPAIN  43,32N 5,38W
28/07/2018 Heysham Power Station outfalls  54 1N 2 55W

16/06/2012 Pionierinsel Lühe, Steinkirchen, Stade, Niedersachsen 53° 34' 59'' N  9° 36' ' 
08/07-21/07/2013 Heysham Power Station outfalls  54 1N 2 55W
14/05/2016 Pionierinsel Lühe, Steinkirchen, Stade, Niedersachsen 53° 34' 59'' N  9° 36' ' 
22/05/2016 Pionierinsel Lühe, Steinkirchen, Stade, Niedersachsen 53° 34' 59'' N  9° 36' 1
31/03/2017 Pionierinsel Lühe, Steinkirchen, Stade, Niedersachsen 53° 34' 59'' N  9° 36' 1
30/08/2017 Heysham Power Station outfalls  54 1N 2 55W
28/07-02/08/2018 Heysham Power Station outfalls  54 1N 2 55W
Pete Marsh

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Early Population Indications

One of the great things about reasonably standardised ringing is that it gives you some insight into the productivity of the most frequently ringed species. It's early days yet but there are a few indicators from our two regular ringing sites in the Silverdale area. Two species stand out -Treecreeper we have already caught 29, the best we have ever achieved in a full year was  27 and weve still five months to go. We have already also caught 29 Long-tailed Tits two more than in the whole of 2017.

Of the species ringed in larger numbers Willow Warblers are doing well with 110 ringed and the best period for passage yet to come. We have caught a good number of moulting adults. After a slow start both Reed and Sedge Warbler are doing well. I feel that both these species  had a protracted arrival this past spring and this is reflected in an extended breeding season with numbers of young coming through now. Blue Tits and Reed Buntinga are well above average so far this season. The only regularly ringed species which appear to be lower than usual are Goldcrest  and Wren.

One further thought, in this very dry summerr with many streams and pools dry, both our sites still have water which may be proving attractive and rather inflating numbers around our net sites.


Friday, 13 July 2018

Pied Flycatcher End of Term Report

Our Pied Flycatcher RAS spread across 19 upland woods in the Lune valley in Northern Lancashire has been completed for this season.Following last seasons good productivity we hoped for an increase in the breeding population. We were not disappointed, there was an increase of seven occupied nest boxes to 107 for the year,an all-time record. Of these 69 successfully produced young, down somewhat on last years total of 89. Predation by Weasels and Stoats was a problem especially at two sites.

However we ringed 448 nestlings and caught 70 adult females and 34 males. Males are always harder to catch at the nest than females as they do not incubate and can be only caught for a limited time  while they are feeding the young.

Our oldest bird was ringed as a nestling and caught  5 years and  362 days after ringing this year, so it was in its 6th year. It was a male and surprisingly it had only been caught twice in the last five years in both years in the same wood.The next oldest was first ringed as an adult female in 2013. It bred in the same  wood for three years then moved four km to another wood in 2017 and then 3 km to another wood this year. Another five year old female returned to breed in its first year to its native wood, but since has flitted between three woods.

I wondered if there was any difference between males  and females in returning to the same wood in successive years. I checked our retrap data for birds caught breeding as adults. Males turned out too be more site faithful with only 12% of 80    moving to other woods while 25% of the 183 females recorded, changed woods. Males usually arrive first and start defending a nest box almost straight  away to attract a female so the difference between the sexes is to be expected.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Reed Warbler RAS Report

Yesterdays ringing on our Reed Warbler and Bearded tit RAS studies at Leighton Moss RSPB was rather spoilt by a sudden upsurge in wind mid morning. However of the three Reed Warbler retraps two were very interesting. The first had been ringed at Leighton Moss as a juvenile in late July 2016 and caught  45 days later at the foot  of the Pyrenees in the south west corner of France a distance of 1195 km. It was not recorded in 2017 but had returned this year to the same ride where it was first caught in 2016. We have 28 other Reed Warbler recoveries from Western France

The other retrap  was first ringed as a juvenile in late August 2011 so it was 7 years old . It had not been caught since 2014. Although a good age it is not our oldest Reeed Warbler. We have two at 10 years, two at nine and three at eight years all still going strong when retrapped.  Reed  warblers seem to live longer than the other warblers we handle.                              

Monday, 9 July 2018

Garden Ringing

Another visit to Jerry and Barbara's  woodland edge garden brought 57 birds in two short nets in just two hours. Almost all were young birds  suggesting a successful breeding season. Of the 33 tits only one, a Great Tit was an adult. The one exception was Bullfinch  with nine caught of which only three were juveniles. A few more young birds than our last visit two weeks ago,when we caught only one juvenile out of 11 birds.This means that so far this season we have caught 20 Bullfinch compared with  only seven in the whole of last season.Other members of the group have reported good numbers of Bullfinch in their gardens

Looking back at July catches in past years gives a very similar picture of low numbers of adults with the marked exception of Bullfinch. It is not until mid August that we start to get a good numbers of adult tits. The adult birds will be in wing moult and appear to prefer to remain in the surrounding woodlands.

The catching of four  juvenile Nuthatch was the highlight of the morning to further our colour ringing study of this attractive species.