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)

Thursday, 28 February 2019

Godwit arrival dates

Black-tailed Godwit have started arriving in reasonable numbers at Leighton Moss in recent days.  Several of these have long histories of spring sightings at Leighton and other very local sites having spent the winter further south on the Dee.  Two are of note with several years of good arrival data for Leighton Moss.  The first seen date is listed below for each year they have been seen at Leighton:







It would be very easy to say 'global warming' or 'unseasonably hot weather' is driving the early arrival date however I think it's more complex.  This winter has been fairly dry and many of the sites used early in spring by these birds (Lytham Hall, fields on the field) are only good feeding in wet conditions so maybe the early arrival is more a case of lack of good feeding throughout the tidal cycle rather than an early migration north.

Thanks to all the observers at Leighton Moss for seeing and reporting these birds to the ringers (in this case in Iceland).  The arrival and departure dates are really useful so even if the bird was seen yesterday reporting it again is important to understand how the Godwit use different landscapes in a changing world.

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Our Nuthatch Study

We have continued our colour ringed study of Nuthatch visiting Jerry and Barbara's woodland edge garden at Silverdale. They usually see no more than two birds visiting their feeders at once but since late summer 2018 we have seen or caught 19 birds. In January at least 11 different birds have visited the feeders. They basically fall into three categories based on our sightings.

There is obviously a resident pair which have each been seen 14 days,very often together. Three other birds have been seen less often but still regularly  probably from adjoining territories close by. But the remaining six are only infrequent visitors only being recorded once or twice a month but obviously attracted by the abundance of bird food on offer. One assumes that they have territories some distance away in the surrounding woodland.

Sunday, 6 January 2019

End of Year Summary

 With almost all the data in for the year we have ringed  10750 new birds, although with retraps and sightings we have details of almost 14000 captures.Top of the pile as usual is Blue Tit with 2263 followed by Goldfinch at 1059 and Pied Flycatcher at 773. Of the warblers,  Willow Warbler was top with 584 followed by Reed Warbler at 577, Sedge Warbler at  247,Chiffchaff at 225 and Blackcap at 216.

Our  colour ringed studies of the  Nuthatch and Bearded Tit produced 415 and 150 sightings and furthered our knowledge of the behaviour of these two resident species. Our other colour ringed studies of Grey Wagtail produced sightings in Shropshire and Conwy in early spring and Hampshire in winter.While Common Sandpiper sightings were from Herts, Lincoln and Surrey all on their way south in late summer

Recovery highlights included a Robin  ringed  in early March in the Highland Region  and caught at Middleton on May 1st- a time you would expect Robins to be moving north. A Blackbird in Norway in late March was our sixth from Norway, but a first for Norway was a Brambling ,ringed 30 September and caught 33 days later at Newton. Although we ringed twice as many Reed as Sedge Warblers we had only one foreign recovery  in Spain, but three Sedge Warblers in France  and one in Belgium. Interesting that this brings our Sedge Warblers from France to 54 but only three in Spain. By contrast  29 Reed Warbler have been found in France but 5 in Spain. The groups all-time totals for Reed Warbler is 20.450, 6000 more than Sedge Warbler.

Colour ring sightings of birds ringed elsewhere has  generated more interesting recoveries. We sighted no fewer than five colour ringed Avocets  in the small colony at Leighton Moss. A  French ringed nestling ringed ten year ago has bred here for the past six years. A nestling ringed in The Netherlands in 2016  bred this year as did two reared  in Teesmouth and one in South Yorkshire.

Mediterranean Gulls mainly at the power station outflow at Heysham came from Germany (2), France, The Netherlands and Poland (2) all  except one Polish bird were  colour ringed as nestlings. The French bird is now in its tenth year.


Sunday, 16 December 2018

Not the normal Knot movement - 18th record of a BTO ringed Knot in Africa

Update - Corrected flag code but similar story.

One of the many things that has come out of the Knot work at Formby is the vast amount of data being produced by a small team of dedicated observers which have made nearly 4,000 observations.  These are all really valuable and without your help many an interesting pattern of movement or important bit of connectivity between sites would be missed.

An email last week was very interesting with the report of a Knot seen twice in Mauritania which had been ringed at Formby in 2017.  I expected this to be either the bird that was seen on the Azores (although unlikely as it looked in pretty poor condition in the last photo) or the bird that was identified as canutus when we caught it in September 2017.  It turned out to be neither of these and in many ways much more surprising.

Orange HA was indeed ringed in September 2017 at Formby as a moulting adult however was seen up until 29th October before disappearing.  It's next sighting was in Mauritania this December.

This is the 18th recorded movement of a British ringed Knot to Africa with previous records in:

Congo - 1
Gabon - 1
Ghana - 1
Liberia - 1
Mauritania - 4
Morocco - 1
Mozambique - 1
Republic of South Africa - 3
Senegal - 4

16 of the 17 have been ringed as juveniles in August and September, the 17th ringed as an adult in July 1973 before being found in South Africa in December 1973. Additionally all but one of these were ringed on the East coast of the UK.  These are all typical movements of Knot of the canutus race.

What makes HA particularly interesting is that it was in the UK so late into October when the previous latest record of a Knot in the UK going to Africa was 25th September.  Clearly having a colour mark here helped get a closer to departure date than a single capture however a month later than the previous latest is surprising.  Was this in the wrong place with a group of Knot not wanting to migrate or was it something else?

With metal ringing alone we might have had some details of it in Mauritania if conditions were good however we certainly would not have had any sightings in the UK post ringing.  Similarly with the bird on the Azores - we may well have had enough photographs to identify the bird but again the intervening records would not be present as a result of the difficulty of approaching Knot in the UK in autumn and winter without causing disturbance.  Once again this highlights the value of colour ringing difficult to monitor species such as Knot.  We are not only getting excellent survival data thanks to the efforts of the local observers but we are also getting fascinating movement data from the global network of keen colour ring readers and one which I would recommend everyone tries as you never know what interesting bird movements you will record.

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Goldfinch versus Greenfinch

So far to date we have ringed 962 Goldfinch our best year ever. Its interesting to look back over the years and trace the increase of Goldfinch both as a breeding bird in our area and of course as a bird at feeding stations where most of our birds are caught. Looking back to 1960 before mist nets we ringed 326 Greenfinch but only one Goldfinch! By 1984 were ringed 521 Greenfinch but just 24 Goldfinch. How things have changed to date this year we have ringed 517 Greenfinch but 962 Goldfinch. 

The Greenfinch number is hearting though, for in recent years the disease trichomonsis has depleted the population we reached  a low of 278 in 2015  but numbers have increased over the past three years.Goldfinch are apparently quite mobile at this time of year ,we had  two movements between our feeding sites, one moved 40 Km.

This autumn has seen several quick movers, a Chiffchaff ringed on October 6th  was in Dorset 4 days later. A Sedge Warbler ringed on 27th July was in NW France 16 days later. While a Reed Warbler ringed on August 8th was in southern Spain15 days later. It is only our 6th Reed Warbler from Spain compared to 29 from France.

The build up of Little Egret in recent years has been amazing. Peak numbers of course occur in late summer/early autumn. Colour ringing has shown that many of these are young birds, bred that year with sightings of birds ringed as nestlings usually in May or June from Kent, Lincolnshire and amazing of all, eleven from Wales. This year a new location was added with a nestling from Hartlepool in the NE. Interesting that so many move north after fledging, before moving south in late autumn winter.


Monday, 5 November 2018

Norwegian Brambling and Other News

Mark and Dave had a wonderful surprise  on the 2nd when the only  Brambling they caught  carried a Norwegian ring. The group has only ringed 375 over the years and our only other foreign recovery was from The Netherlands.

They also had a good Redwing catch with a few Fieldfares. Heysham also has done well for Redwing tape luring them early morning.  Over the years we have ringed 3600 and our  recoveries have shown a strong tendency for birds to winter in other areas in successive years. We have only had one  bird retrapped locally in the following winter. However we have had two in Italy one in Greece and one most surprising of all one in Azerbyzhan in successive winters. Not that it did them any good for they were all shot!

Grit tray sightings of our colour ringed Bearded Tits at Leighton Moss RSPB has increased our total of adults for the year to 22 males but only 12 females, we have ringed 30 juveniles. Data from our nest boxes suggested  rather low first brood productivity. Interesting how catches of species varies between sites in the same year. Coastal Heysham  and Middleton report low Goldcrest catches but inland Leighton reports normal catches with 10 on one day this week.

Blue tits appear to be moving more into the reed and scrub at Leighton we have caught 227 to date this year. One of this weeks retrap was 6 years and 8 days after ringing, and it was ringed in 2012 as an adult. Surprisingly this was only the second time it had been retrapped.

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.