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, 19 October 2018

Recent Highlights

Our best recent highlight was a Chiffchaff caught at Poole Harbour in Dorset just four days and two hours after ringing at Middleton NR,a movement of 370 km S. It weighed 9.4 gms when caught, a good weight for a Chiffchaff but only 8.1 grams when caught in Dorset.This is only our second Chiffchaff from Dorset and only our third record from the south coast. We have  had single birds from the Channel Islands, Portugal,Morocco and Senegal. Contrast that with a Sedge Warbler caught 484 km SE in Pas-de-Calais France just 16 days after ringing in late July at Leighton Moss.  It is our 54th Sedge Warbler from France 38 of which have been in August. To date we have ringed 4500 Chiffchaff and 14500 Sedge Warblers.

I have posted recently about how faithful Bearded Tit pairs are once formed. Another pair seen recently on the grit trays is a good example. First caught together as juveniles in  early October 2016 they were recorded together on 11 other occasions in 2016, on 17 occasions in 2017 and seven occasions so far in 2018.

We have ringed good numbers of Reed Bunting at Leighton Moss this year 139 so far compared to 56 in 2017.We get very few retraps suggesting movement through the reed-bed. Looking at our retrap data I was surprised to find our oldest record was just 10 days short of eight years after ringing. It had been retrapped seven times. We had no records of other birds past five years. The national record is just 22 days short of ten years.

Friday, 12 October 2018

Reed Bed Ringing Update

In a spell of  windy days it was great to have a calm morning on Wednesday this week allowing a visit to the best site for catching Bearded Tits. We were not disappointed, for we caught this years record catch  of 14 of which 11 were new birds all probably this years young. One of the retraps was an adult which we had not recorded this year, bringing our totals to 16 adult males and 10 adult females and 26 young birds. We normally add more adults to the totals this time of year from grit tray sightings of our colour ringed birds.

The other major catch was 18 Reed Buntings all new birds. It appears to have been a good year for this species for we have ringed 154 this year so far, compared to just 58  last year. We caught surprisingly few tits just one Blue Tit, one Great Tit and three  Coal Tits. Flocks normally move into the reed beds at this time of year to exploit the insects over wintering  in the reed stems, however there is so much food available in the surrounding woodlands with all tree species producing a bumper harvest.


Sunday, 30 September 2018

Bearded Tits Gritting Season Gets Underway

It was great this morning for my arrival at 09.00 coincided with the  first birds of day on the trays at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve. Up to now there had been very few sightings. In the end there were three pairs each with their own grit tray, which was great for we could tell who was paired to whom.If you got three or more birds on a tray there was much aggression and chasing.

On my return home I quickly looked up the colour combinations of these three pairs and their sighting history. The oldest bird, a male was  first ringed in 2014 so is in his 4th year. His mate was first ringed as a  juvenile in July 2016. In 2016 they were both paired to other birds but by October 10th 2017 they were obviously paired and we seen on the grit trays together on 5 days in October and early November.  One assumes that their previous mates had died. On May 4th this year they were recorded feeding a brood in one of our nest boxes and the sighting  today proved they were still together.

Another pair were both first ringed as juveniles in 2017. They had formed a pair on their first sighting on the grit trays on 18th October and were recorded together on four other occasions to early November. The male was seen on May5th near one of our nest boxes but the female was not identified. But today's sighting shows they have remained together.

The third pair is the one I posted about 10 days ago when they were the first pair to be recorded gritting this season. They were both 2016 birds and were  seen together on 8 times  in the 2016 season and no fewer than 13 times in the 2017 season. They were  seen together at a nest box on March 4th this year and have already been recorded together on four days this September.

These sightings conclusively prove that Bearded Tit pairs remain together as long as they both survive of course. Few other passerine species exhibit this behaviour.

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Knot in odd places... part 2 - The Azores.

In early September I had a message from a friend near Liverpool with a photo of one of the Knot from Formby.  After a quick exchange explaining it was one from Formby and asking where he had seen it Peter told me it was taken by someone on the Azores!  Yesterday it was seen again a couple of km away from the previous sighting on São Miguel Island.

It will be interesting to see what happens to this bird. If it has survived for a couple of weeks there is a chance it could survive long term and perhaps reorientate to find it's way back to the Dee, Mersey and Alt estuaries where it spent last winter.  Time will tell however it certainly needs to update its satnav. 

What an islandica Knot is doing on the Azores is somewhat of a mystery.  On the Azores Knot occur regularly but in very low numbers.  Given the location it is likely most records are rufa Knot that have been caught in storms and blown over the Atlantic. Given the proximity of the breeding ranges of rufa and islandica it is likely there is occasional mixing of immature birds in autumn however an adult is quite a different matter.

This is the first record of a BTO ringed Knot on the Azores and is only the 3rd British ringed Knot to be found in any of Portugal.  Only one Portuguese ringed Knot has been found in the UK which was found in August 2013 in Lincolnshire which, remarkably, I was also involved in catching.  These low totals are probably not surprising as few islandica knot make it as far south as Portugal and relatively few canutus Knot stop off in the UK in spring and autumn.  

Many thanks to Peter Fearon, Carlos Ribeiro and Tiago Rodrigues for photographing this bird and getting the data submitted.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Bearded Tit Gritting Season gets Underway

The sighting of a pair on the  grit trays at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve today signals the start of the gritting season. The pair sighted proved most interesting.

They were  both 2016 youngsters, the female having been ringed as a nestling in May and the male as a juvenile in July. The were first recorded together on October 2nd 2016 when they were recaptured. They were them recorded gritting together on 10 occasions up to  November 11th. The next  sighting was on the grit trays on 17 September 2017 and over the next months they were recorded gritting together on 14 occasions up to November 14th. On April 3rd this year they were sighted together near a nest box and the female was seen at the same nest box on April 27th.

These sightings again prove that Bearded Tits pair in their first autumn and remain together as a pair as long as they survive of course.They were the first birds to be recorded on the grit trays in 2017 and the first birds this year although three days late!  They were also the pair which was recorded on most occasions on the grit trays in 2017.

The Grit trays are just off the main public path leading to the Causeway Hide. A new viewing  platform  been installed by the RSPB, giving brilliant views of the three grit trays. I you visit and get details of the colour ringed birds please send them to and help in our research on these amazing birds. Birds are best seen on reasonably calm days between 08.00 and 11.00 from now to late November.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

This Years Ringing at Leighton Moss

With poor ringing weather  for the next few days, if the forecast prove correct, thought I would check how we are doing so far this year. With 1469 new birds so far we are already well past last years total for the full year of  1315.

Including retraps Reed Warblers head the list with 474 compared to 345 last year. A close second is Willow Warbler, with 345 an increase of 182 on last year . Sedge Warblers at 130 saw an increase of 25 but Chiffchaff at 81 are still 20 behind last year although September is  usually good for this species, as it is for Reed Bunting which is already 28 up on last years 58.

Of the less frequently ringed species Treecreeper  are amazing with 43 this year compared to just 27 in the whole of 2017. Blackcap went from 21 to 36 this year. Species which are down are mainly the tits  which usually come into the reed bed and willow scrub later in the year. Blue Tit is a good example being 54 down on last years total of 227.

Bearded Tits are our main study and we appear to have been a bit unlucky with catches. Last week was typical  a flock was calling near the nets but the wind got up and we had to take down. To date we  have recorded 29 birds but September/October are usually the best months and grit tray sightings of colour ringed birds  should  get underway shortly.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

An Amazing Sedge Warbler

A clear calm interval on Saturday morning gave us the opportunity to visit the Spring ride at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve. The first round of our six nets produced a good variety, including a Cetti's warbler and a Nuthatch and four Sedge Warblers these were weighed  and  none showed any sign of fat. The average weight was 10.7 grams. The next round produced two more  Sedge Warblers one at 10.2 with a fat score of 1. Kevin extracted the other and was amazed  when he examined it , its body was completely covered in fat including the breast and he gave it a fat score of 8. We all guessed at its weight and the highest suggestion was 16 so we were all amazed when it came in at 19.3.grams. When I entered this weight on IPMR it came up with a warning that the usual highest weight was 17.9. So quite an intriguing bird

According to the migration Atlas Sedge Warblers mainly fatten up for their journey across to France along the English south coast or the South Wales coast. We have ringed as a group just over 14,000 Sedge Warblers so  just about impossible to search through these  but we only occasionally get birds above 13 grams. However a search of September catches revealed one  at 15 grams in late September and this appears to be the heaviest we have recorded up to now.

It is thought that Sedge Warblers fatten up on Plum/reed aphids which is abundant in many parts of the reed bed this year. But it is still amazing that this bird should accumulate so much fat especially when only one of the 89 other  birds caught this year so far, exceeded 13 grams and that by .1 of a gram.