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)

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.

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.