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, 29 July 2020

Pied Flycatchers Have a Bumper Year

This year has seen a welcome increase in the number of Pied Flycatchers using our nest boxes in the Lune Valley. Unfortunately, because of corvid 19 we were not able to survey two woods. However, the 18 woods we did survey held 109 occupied boxes an increase of 21 over 2019.

Every time I visit one of our woods, I reflect on the changes we have recorded. The first survey that the Lancaster and District BWS did was a study of the Redstart population which I organised in 1960. We found it to be well distributed in the Lune valley and many of the woods there were searched, but we had only one record of a Pied Flycatcher, a male on May7th. We could have possibly missed others but they were certainly very rare. To see Pied Flycatchers at this time I had to go to the two nest box schemes near Grasmere and on the edge of Ullswater. I wondered why Pied Flycatchers were so rare in our area for the habitat looked right but I concluded that it must be because of a shortage of natural holes in the Oak trees. This was further highlighted when several of the Redstart nests we found were in holes in stone walls. The lack of natural holes was probably accounted for by the past management of the woods for fuel and charcoal production so most of the trees were relatively young and not at the stage where they produce holes

We decided to try some nest boxes but first had to get permission for each woodland.  So just seven boxes were tried in 1966 and we were thrilled when two were occupied by Pied Flycatchers. Over the next few years, we extended the scheme throughout the upper woods. We now have around 500 nest boxes monitored by members of the  Group. One of the thrills I get each spring is to lift the lid of a nest box and see the lovely blue eggs of a Pied Flycatcher and hear the chorus of singing males.
We  catch the adult birds at the nest box and off course ring the nestlings. Over the period of our study we have ringed 13354 birds. The results of all this effort are interesting. Taking nestlings first, of those that return to breed, 29% return to their natal wood, 57% to other woods in the Lune valley and 14 % elsewhere. Of the later most have moved to the Ribble valley and Cumbria but a few as far as Scotland and South Wales. F431440 though is interesting, on 4/05/91 it was caught in Noord Holland The Netherlands then 33 days later it was caught breeding in Jylland Denmark. The same year F431397 also a male, was caught at a nest box with 4 young on 28th June in North Germany. We had ringed both these birds as nestlings in 1990

Once they have nested 97% of the males that return, nest again in the same wood. Females are a bit more choosey, with 25 % moving to other woods mainly in the Lune valley but occasionally further afield. On several occasions we have proved that a male has two nesting females with the male feeding the young at both nests.We also get birds coming in to breed in our area from elsewhere mainly Cumbria and Durham and seven from Wales including four this year.

So we have gone from just one male in 1960 to probably around 125 nests this year. A real conservation achievement.

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Pied Flycatchers Still on a Roll

With more data coming in it looks as though our total of occupied nests in our Lune Valley RAS might be  ca. 30 up on last years total of 106. On our Bowland RAS one wood has increased from 18 last year to 23 this year to balance this another wood has  seen a decline from 23 to 12. The trees in this upland wood suffered severe frost damage so this may possibly be the reason.
In the three woods that I record, all 26 nests have suffered no predation although a Blue Tit nest in one wood has been woodpeckered. Three of the nests close to the exposed edge had some dead young but of  the 18 broods ringed so far the average size is 6 young.
Ringed adults caught have followed the usual pattern of a dispersal within the Lune Valley and Bowland areas. But we had a female which had been ringed as a nestling in Powys last year. It joins another Welsh nestling which has nested in our area for  the past three years.

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Pied Flycatchers on a Roll

With the BTO lifting some of the restrictions on ringing, we decided to make our Pied Flycatcher RAS in the upland woods of the Lune Valley our priority. First impressions have been exciting. In two of the larger woods with 110 nest boxes, we found 43 boxes occupied by Pied Flycatchers compared to just 28 last year.
To date we have caught 31 females of which 21 were already ringed. The most interesting of the these was one which was ringed as a nestling near Swansea in South Wales. It bred in our woodlands last year and has returned to the same wood this year. Another is almost six years old, it is breeding in its natal wood although for its first year it bred in another of our woods before returning to its natal wood the next year.
Our RAS covers 20 woods in the Lune valley , we also ring in other woods a little further south. Last year we ringed 952 birds of which 864 were nestlings and we had 121 retraps. The Pied Flycatcher population in the Lune valley has increased dramatically since we first started putting up nest boxes in 1966 with only two pairs. Most of our woodlands, probably due to past cutting to make charcoal have very few natural holes so the provision of nest boxes has ben a great conservation benefit. Over the last decade the numbers of pairs has increased from 54 in 2009 to 109 in 2019, partly because of more boxes being installed.
We have looked at our data over the years. We have found that 32 % of nestlings return to breed in their natal wood, 55% return to other woods in the Lune Valley and 12% move outside our area. For males 40% return to the natal wood 59 % move to other Lune Valley woodlands and only 1% move further afield.
Birds which move further afield have been reported breeding in Cumbria, Yorkshire, Northumberland, South Wales, and Northern Scotland. But the most surprising was F431440 . It was ringed as a nestling in 1990 in our woods, then on 4/05/91 it was caught in Noord Holland The Netherlands, then 33 days later it was caught in Jylland Denmark. It was identified as a male but no other details are given on the recovery sheet, but one assumes it was breeding.
The same year F431397 also a male, was caught at a nest box with 4 young on 28th June in North Germany. Both birds had been ringed as nestlings the previous year. That same year one was found dead in Northern Italy on May 15th. It is fascinating that these three long distance movements occurred in the same year, were they the result of some adverse winds on migration?
We look forward to finding out what has happened in our other woods this year.

Sunday, 9 February 2020

Nuthatch Study Update

Our colour ringed Nuthatch study  is based in Jerry and Barbara's woodland edge garden in Silverdale North Lancashire and is in its fourth year. Our aim is to study how many different Nuthatch visit the well stocked feeders over a  period each year from July to June and compare years and survival. Even with intensive observation one very  rarely sees more than  two Nuthatch on the feeders at once.
From June to January this year we  have recorded 250 colour ring sightings. We only record a bird once in each day. Despite 12 ringing visits  we have caught five  new birds but only six  retraps of four birds, this  really shows the  value of colour ringing. We also record sightings of unringed birds usually around ten per month.

In total  since June we have recorded 13 different birds visiting the feeders, of   these  five  have been recorded many times each month and are visiting regularly, one assumes that they have territories close by and they often visit in pairs. The other eight fall ino two catagories. Five have visited  only occasionally and not at all regulary missing several months and  are probably birds which have a territory further away and are attracted at times by the well stocked feeders. The other  three wer all birds newly ringed in July and August. All three were recorded several times shortly after ringing but then disappeared. Possibly they died, but in past years we have had several  reports of birds caught in late summer establishing territories  several miles away and coming regularly to feeders. So some of these birds are moving through looking for territories.

Our oldest bird is in its fourth year and appears to be mated to a three year old bird as they regularly visit together. Numbers visiting this year  were slighly down in late summer but have been average during the winter.

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Warbler Recoveries

Just been compiling the ringing report for last year and thought I would detail the warbler recoveries we have received.

A Reed Warbler was recaptured in Charente-Maritime coastal  south west France  33 days after ringing and  is our 30th record from France. This like 21 others was in August and had moved 974 kms on its first migration.

 A quicker mover was a Sedge Warbler, only  9 days after ringing, it was caught  in coastal  west France on August 11th. This juvenile weighed 10.5 grams and had no sign of any  fat,  but had travelled 763 kms. It is our 57th Sedge Warbler to be recovered in France of these 40 were in August. It was recaptured at a ringing station from which we have had 8 other Sedge Warblers.

 Chiffchaff reports included our third from the Channel Islands in late March. One ringed in November near Land's End Cornwall was found in our area in May. Another ringed in Dorset in late September was caught, probably still on migration in mid May. A juvenile ringed in mid June was recaptured in early October in Hampshire.


Thursday, 19 December 2019

Feeding Station Ringing

Our two woodland edge feeding stations have seen  some interesting changes this season. The most unexpected is the appearance of Tree Sparrows at the Challan site. In five years of ringing we have not caught a Tree Sparrow but this season so far we have caught four. House Sparrows are rare at both sites with only 11 caught over the past five years.

 So far it has been a rather poor season for Coal Tits at both sites.The average autumn catch at the Teddy Heights site over 12 years has been 85 but this year it is only 40. Challan has also seen a decline but not quite as  bad. The retrap of a Coal Tit in its sixth year shows site faithfulness. Both Blue Tits and Great Tits are slightly down. Marsh Tits are a speciality of this area, last year we caught 29 different birds at Challan. To date they are slightly below average at both sites. Judging by the amazing number of berries there are this autumn there is probably a good supply of natural foods available.

Long-tailed Tits though are doing well with 31 so far this season at Teddy Heights compared to an average of 12. On our last visit we caught  13, of these two had been ringed together four years previously.

Our colour ringed study of Nuthatch at  Challan  shows there are eight birds visiting the feeders. But it is the usual pattern of  about half visiting regularly which probably have local territories and usually come in   pairs. While others visit much less frequently and have their territory further away. There are also unringed birds visiting.

Starling have become regular feeder visitors  at Challan over the past two years. In a catch of seven this week we had a Stavanger (Norway) ringed bird.


Friday, 6 December 2019

Bearded Tit Update

The gritting  season is now almost over . To date we have recorded 153 sghtings of colour ringed birds mostly on the grit trays  In total we have identified 27 adult males(five more than in 2018) and 14 adult females. We have two males which are in their 6th year. 
I have been able to work out crudesurvival rates, and both adults and juveniles from last year had a survival rate of 60%. One of the best rates since our study started 27 years ago.

Really pleased that the high water levels of early October when all the visitor paths were under water are now back to normal. In the winter of 2000 we had really high water levels from October through to mid December followed by a cold spell. The Bearded Tit population went from ca 65 pairs to just seven in the spring of 2001. In 2000 we identified 119 adults and ringed 275 young. Next year we found only 9 adults and ringed only 18 young. They recovered quickly but have never reached the 2000 population.

I have published four papers on the results of our study. There is still plenty to write up yet, but need someone good at statistics to help out. Not my strong point! I just enjoy studying these wonderful birds!

On another subject Stuarts colour ringed study of Dippers in the  upper catchment of the River Lune has shown a strong attachment to this area. However one bird colour ringed as a nestling on April 7th this year moved 34 km north to the River  Eden catchment. Unfortunatly it was killed flying into a window.