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, 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.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Our Ringing Suggests Excellent Productivity

2014 is turning out to be a record year for the group. Although helped by the excellent ringing weather in September our ringing totals so far this year  for warblers especially, are the highest on record . The table below compares our catch this late summer/autumn with the  averages for the past 10 years from three of our regularly ringed sites where effort has been similar over the years

                                              Average Catch                   2014 Catch
Chiffchaff                                      132                                409
Willow Warbler                             280                                541
Blackcap                                         65                                 244
Whitethroat                                     77                                 243
Reed Warbler                                602                                 916
Goldcrest                                        87                                 139
Robin                                              96                                 255          

For the last two residents the average catch extends to December so the 2014 figure should rise. The only warbler that we ring in significant numbers not to show an  increase was Sedge Warbler . Here the catch at 438 was around average.  


Saturday, 20 September 2014

Reed Warbler RAS End of Term Report

With Reed Warbler captures almost at an end for the year time to look at the results of this the 18th year of our RAS study at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve. This is a spin off from our main study at Leighton which is our isolated population of Bearded Tits

After a slow start adults eventually picked up and we ended with a total of 174 (112 new birds and 62 retraps from previous years). This is 16 birds short of the average catch of 190 over the last 17 years and a similar proportion of new birds to retraps. Our oldest bird was just 6 years and we had two at five years.

With the mainly good spring and summer weather productivity has been good with a record total of 910 juveniles ringed. The average for the past 17 years has been 601. The excellent ringing weather in September really helped. Bearded Tits have also had a good year with 60 juveniles ringed to date.

We look forward to hearing of  a few of our birds  caught by other ringers as they migrate south. From past ringing we have had 55 from Southern England,  3 in Belgium, 15 in France, 5 in Portugal 4 in Spain and 2 in Morroco.


Thursday, 11 September 2014

Colour Ringed Curlew Sandpiper & Little Stint

Small movement into our area of both these species so far this autumn but one of each is colour ringed. The juvenile Curlew Sandpiper with red on the left and Yellow on the right leg with letters ECC was sighted on the Allen Pool Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve on September 6th it had been ringed just four days previously at Revtangen Norway having been  caught in a walk in trap. It had  moved a distance of 720 km SW in the four days. Rather like the Norwegian name Tundrasnip!

The Little Stint  was at Leighton Moss on September 9th and is still there today(11th) it also  has a red colour ring on the left and yellow on the right with letters engraved but to date we have been unable to  read these. However we do know that this juvenile has also been ringed at Revtangen obviously this autumn.

Thanks to Keith Kellet for the sightings and to Kjell Mork Soot for the ringing information.


Monday, 8 September 2014

Sedge Warblers Make a Late Surge

After a period of lower numbers than usual there was  a sudden upturn this weekend with   35  Sedge Warblers caught compared with 26 Reed Warblers, the first time this year that Sedge Warblers have been the most abundant. Even so total numbers for the year  at 225 are down by just a hundred on  2013 where as Reed Warblers at  960 are 80 up on 2013.

This weekend saw  two Bearded Tit catches including two new birds one of which was in juvenile plumage and had only just started to moult so it must have fledged in early August. To date we have ringed 58 juveniles compared to 48 in 2013 and just17 in 2012.

I always find it interesting to compare  the numbers we catch with previous years given that our ringing effort is similar each year. Certainly for most species that we handle in sufficient numbers to give a meaningful comparison, this year looks like a very productive one for both residents and migrants. To  quote a few figures- Blue Tit 327 against 212 in the whole of 2012, Willow Warbler an increase from  173 to 349, Goldcrest 33 this year  only 23 last year , Robin 32 compared with just 11 last year and autumn is usually best for these last two.


Monday, 25 August 2014

Warbler Miscellany

With decent weather we caught 333 birds in three visits to our reed  bed sites at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve. Bearded Tits our main study species started to feature again as the first brood complete their moult. Bearded Tits are one of those species where the juveniles moult their flight feathers and they become almost flightless during the moult but all 5 that we caught had all but completed their moult.  Two had been ringed as first brood nestlings  giving us precise data as to their age in relation to completion of the moult.

Warblers  though proved the most interesting. Our catches of Sedge Warbler have been low this year, on Saturday it looked as though they were picking up with a catch of 25 compared to 39 Reed Warblers, but Sundays catch produced only 2 compared with 35 Reed Warblers. One feature of Saturdays catch was the low weights with many under 10 grams suggesting they had migrated over night, probably from  Scotland.

Reed Warblers appear to be having a bumper season, we are just short  of the 1000 mark for the year. Despite ringing 450 juvs in July all but one of the 28 retraps we had this weekend were from August ringing, the exception was a bird ringed as a short  tailed IJ  on 21/7. this strongly suggests that all the first brood Reed Warblers along with most of the  adults have moved out. We have caught only  14 adults in August.

But the star of the show was Willow Warbler. If our catches are any thing to go by they also have had a bumper season. In the whole of the 2013 season we caught only 183 but to date this year we have already caught 307. Many of this weekends catch were  long winged birds suggesting a northern origin


Wednesday, 20 August 2014

A tail of two Knot

On a recent trip to the Wash as part of the Wash Wader Ringing Group's summer fieldwork activity a catch of Knot was made in Lincolnshire.  While the number of Knot retraps is always low due to the large numbers around and relatively small numbers ringed each year we did have around 1% of the catch as previously ringed on the Wash.  We also retrapped a bird originally ringed on the 14th February 1998 at Heysham, Lancashire. 

This kind of movement is exactly what we would expect from a wintering Knot at Heysham.  In autumn flocks of many 10s of thousand or even 100,000 form on the Wash where many moult before dispersing to estuaries around the UK and Northern Europe.

While looking at the excellent BTO online recoveries page to see how many have been recorded making this movement before (90), I noticed a rather surprising movement to the Canary Islands.  On further investigation I found this blog which even has photographic evidence of this unusual movement.  Interestingly this bird to the Canary Islands was caught in the same catch at Heysham back in 1998.

The Canary Islands, although a long way away, is not a surprising location for Knot to winter.  What is surprising is that all knot in Morecambe Bay in winter are of the Islandica race which breed in Greenland and Canada then winter in Northern Europe with a few reaching as far south as Portugal. Normally I would have expected a Knot on the Canary Islands to be from the nominate Canutus race however mid August is awfully early for them to arrive on their wintering grounds, particularly as this was still in summer plumage.  How this bird reached the Canaries is a mystery however as they are long distance migrants that do cross large expanses of ocean it is possible a storm picked it up somewhere further north, alternatively it became horribly lost.