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)

Friday, 21 November 2014

A Bumper Year

With some submissions yet to come in the group has just passed 15,000 new birds ringed which is almost 4000 more that the average for the last five years. With ringing effort being roughly the same this suggests excellent productivity for both residents and migrants. The table below compares the 2014 catch with the five year average for species ringed regularly in good numbers.

Species                   5 Year Average        2014 catch
Chiffchaff                      185                       462
Willow Warbler             434                       585
Whitethroat                    116                       257
Lesser Whitethroat          46                         71
Blackcap                        109                       300
Reed Warbler               1010                     1300
Sedge Warbler               416                       410
Goldcrest                       129                       211
Robin                             132                      326
Grey Wagtail                   49                      162
Wren                              134                      258
Reed Bunting                196                       364

Of these 13 species only Sedge Warbler has not shown any increase. The fact that both migrants and residents have increased suggests excellent productivity and survival no doubt due to the good warm weather especially later in the breeding season. In the case of residents last winters mild weather also helped.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Bearded Tit Gritting Season Interim Report

Its been an interesting season this year to date . With 269 sightings of colour ringed birds logged so far which is 78 up on the whole 2013 season. A total of 36 adults (21 males and 15 females) and 43 juveniles (21 and 22 females) have been recorded to date. There are also a number of unringed birds around with a maximum of 5 being seen at any one time. These are almost certainly all juveniles.

The birds this year have used the path for gritting much  more than in recent years. Possibly because it was very dry when they started gritting in late September and also because some new filling was put down to repair holes in the track. However most sightings have been  on the grit trays. Another reason for some birds switching to the path was that Chris Packham in Autumn Watch tried an experiment with different sizes of grit  in three bowls. The birds  certainly didn't like this until they replaced the bowls with a partitioned grit tray. However most of the birds using the path are  juveniles.
Birds usually  visit the grit trays on 3-5 days but as usual some  birds visit more often. The record this year is a young female D752024 which has been recorded on the trays on 15 different days. Birds regularly visit in presumed pairs as is shown in the photo. This year we have a young male and a female which we ringed in the same nest box on May 2nd . They appear to be a pair as they have been seen together on the trays nine times. This is the first time we have recorded brother and sister remaining together into autumn, they were still  together today.will be interesting to watch developments.

Many thanks to Keith Kellet and the Gallagher Family for logging most of the sightings.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Chiffchaff and Cetti's Warbler Make a Late Appearence

To date the group has ringed an unprecedented 8 Chiffchaff in November(4 each at Heysham and Leighton). The most we have ever ringed in November before was 3 in 2010. The occasional bird winters in our area , so it will be interesting to see if more stop this coming winter.  Judging by our ringing Chiffchaff have had  excellent productivity this year. Our average catch over the past five years was 185. This year we have caught 462 so possibly the record numbers to date in November are a spill  over from this excellent productivity.

This weekend we caught a further three Cetti's Warblers bringing our Leighton total to 13, the highest yet recorded. The fascinating thing is that although  at least 6 pairs were located in the breeding season we only caught one during our spring and summer ringing which produced a total of 1240 Reed warblers so the effort was there. The others were caught in October and  November. Historically this has been the pattern; of 40 ringed in previous years only four were caught in summer.

A Cetti's controlled at Heysham on 28/9  was not ringed by any of our local ringing groups. So we await with interest full details from the BTO.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Reed Buntings, Cetti's Warbler & Bearded Tits

A rare still day allowed us to get out at Leighton Moss . We were hoping to catch some of up to 5 unringed Bearded Tits which are visiting the grit trays but we only caught ringed birds.  Reed Buntings though were  good with a catch of 22 bringing our total for 2014 to 193 almost 100 up on 2013 and still time for  more. Like many other species they seem to have had a very good breeding season.

Our ninth Cetti's Warbler for the year was interesting. It was a retrap from November 2010 but it had not been retrapped in the intervening 4 years.Singing males in spring have built up over the past 3 years. There was certainly at least five at Leighton and 2-3 in other parts of the reserve and many suitable but difficult areas not checked, but we still catch only small numbers although the nine this year is the most ever. But they certainly are worth ringing one ringed at Leighton on 13/03/2010 was caught at Farlington Marsh Hampshire on 25/04/11and on 4 other occasions into 2012 a distance of 389 kms south.

The Bearded Tit gritting season continues apace up to yesterday we had logged 227 sightings of colour ringed birds. At total of 75 different birds were involved. Of these  36 were adults and 39 birds of the year.


Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Bearded Tit Gritting Season Update

The gritting season is certainly in full swing. To date we have got 160 sightings of our colour ringed birds involving 68 different birds. Of these 35 are adult birds and 33 are birds hatched this year and ringed as juveniles. To date we have identified 40 adults in our population from sightings and retraps so 35 of them seen gritting represents a high proportion of the  adult population. Two of the adults are in their sixth year.
We have ringed 61 juveniles this year of these 33 have been seen gritting. Of these 29 are from first brood youngsters. This pattern follows observations of previous years that the adults come first to the trays , then the first brood youngsters and finally birds from later broods.

I reported before that birds were using both the trays and also new areas of gravel  on the path. This use of two sites has continued but the ones using the path are almost exclusively young birds and there is a mixture of both age classes on the trays. The use of the path has diminished over the past week as the path becomes solidified by the rain. We know from past experience that there is little gritting activity during wet and windy weather so this week looks poor but the first day of reasonable weather should see a marked upturn in activity.
Paul Brewster's fine photo shows a young bird identified by its red colour ring on the path.
While Alan Gallagher's photo shows the female in its sixth year on the grit trays. Many thanks to both.


Thursday, 16 October 2014

Recoveries Catch Up

With the BTO's new  database now functioning we have just received a batch of 8 recoveries and 19 controls. Sand Martins top the list with four from Sussex and one from Norfolk. This brings the total of  our Sand Martins reported from Sussex to an amazing 129 (almost all from Icklesham) and 33 from Norfolk almost all of them on return migration. We still await details of six French ringed Sand Martins.

A Sedge Warbler from Sussex brought our total on passage there to 36. Lesser Redpolls have a marked passage through our area in spring. The wintering areas of these passage birds is further confirmed by reports from Suffolk and Herts. While a spring recovery in Dumfries  just 14 days after spring ringing points to the breeding area.

Many of our nestling Pied Flycatchers ringed in our nest box schemes return to nest in our area of the Lune Valley although they usually move woods. But nestlings from other areas also  move into our nest boxes and this batch of recoveries featured nestlings from Durham (2) and one from Cheshire all caught while breeding in our nest boxes.

All but two of this batch were details of birds caught and released by other ringers. A Robin ringed as nestling was killed by a cat just  two days after fledging , probably an all to often occurance.

On a brighter note Reed Buntings can be added to those species which appear from our ringing to have had good productivity this year. To date we have ringed 246 compared with just 126 in 2013 and 100 the previous year. This week we have caught 5 Cetti's Warblers at Leighton Moss including one ringed as a juvenile in 2011. It was retrapped in the same area it was ringed.


Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Bearded Tit Gritting Season in Full Swing

Taking in grit is essential to Bearded Tits at this time of year as they change their diet from the soft insect food of summer to the much harder reed seed diet of winter Over the past few days they have been taking grit but with a difference this year. Although numbers are using the specially provided grit trays good numbers have also been gritting on the limestone path that runs across the centre of Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve.

Before the grit trays were provided in 1996 they used the paths exclusively but over the  past  15 years use of the paths has been minimal as they have become solidified. But after this years unusually dry weather the paths have a fine layer of grit in some areas and this is obviously attractive to the birds. This morning after a good rain shower they deserted the areas of path they had used  for the past week and moved to a patch of new limestone gravel that had been put down to repair a hole. The problem with path gritting is that although most visitors to the reserve are delighted to see these  attractive birds so close it only takes one person to walk along the track and disturb them.

To date thanks to the dedication of Keith Kellet we have got sightings of  55 birds. Of these 49 are colour ringed. These show clearly that it is almost exclusively adult birds which are using the grit trays and birds of the year the paths. Obviously the adults have used the trays in previous seasons  and know of their location. Will be interesting to see if  they desert the paths  when the weather changes as it is forecast to this weekend.
 To date on our Bearded Tit RAS we have identified   18 adult males and 16 adult females. Five of these were identified for the first time on the grit trays and we hope for more. To date we have caught 60 juveniles.