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)

Monday, 27 September 2010

Bearded Tit Bonanza

The grit tray season is well under way with a total of 62 sightings recorded,mainly from Keith Kellet and Brian Howson, over the past five days. We have also caught a further 30 birds at three different sites around the Moss, To date we have ringed 82 juveniles and 38 Adult males and 21 Adult females. So the imbalance between the sexes continues.

Perhaps the most interesting finding was the catching of a female which had been ringed as a nestling in one of our wigwam nest boxes on 20/5/04 making it six years and 129 days old. Certainly our oldest female to date, and probably a British record. The Oldest male this period was five years and 59 days. Although our oldest Bearded Tit of all was a male at 7 year and 42 days a British Record it was still alive in October 2009.

Another interesting observation was the catching of three birds (2 males and a female) with consecutive ring numbers, they had all been ringed as nestling's in the same brood in May 2009. This shows excellent survival but it is most unusual for siblings to be found together after such a period.

The 62 grit tray sightings involved 33 birds, of these only 8 were birds hatched this year. This preponderance of adults early in the gritting season has been recorded in all previous years studied - the young birds only appearing in numbers by mid October.


Better day in the woods

after the poor show a fortnight earlier, Saturday was more like it, even though I slept in and didn't get to the woods til 8.30 after having to scrape ice off the car.

51 birds of 9 species caught, including Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Goldcrest, Robin, Marsh, Great, Blue, Coal and Long-tailed Tit.

Interestingly, very few Blue Tits on the feeder but plenty in the canopy - there is probably still plenty up there for them to feed on at the moment.


Tuesday, 21 September 2010

How to catch Grey Wagtails

The simplest and most efficient way of catching Grey Wagtails at Heysham is to create a 'corridor' pointing north-westerly in an otherwise fairly enclosed mist net ride (or whichever degree of northerly is the favoured direction of autumnal migrants at your site) and place a CLEAR tape (Roche works very well) under or behind the net. Try and make sure that the location does not have an easy perch behind the net (a nice dense bush without obvious open branches is best - also giving the net shelter/background), or the birds may fly beyond and see/then avoid the net

There is absolutely no need to "make the site open" for an "open area-loving" species. Grey Wagtails dont mind enclosure at all, indeed quite the opposite e.g. along the gloomy 'gorge' section of the Hindburn at Millhouses, therefore it is not a problem bringing them into a relatively enclosed area where your mist net has the necessary 'background'. Creating the corridor along the natural flightline of the autumnal migrants is a similar principle to landing an aircraft!


Saturday, 18 September 2010

A Morning to Remember

With all our ringing gear packed and ready to go with a good weather forecast - light winds and cloudy. I woke at 05.30 to the sound of steady rain but this had stopped by 06.15. With Andrew and Aidan we set the nets, very little to start with then two un-ringed Bearded Tits both still in full juvenile plumage were caught making 74 young for this year. It is somewhat unusual to catch Bearded Tits in juvenile plumage in September. Over the last 18 years we have only caught a total of 47 juveniles in this distinctive plumage in September and interestingly in only seven of those years did they occur. This suggests that they have late broods in some years only. Judging by the eye colour ( which changes as they get older) and the fact they had just started to moult these birds probably fledged in early August. Bearded Tits can breed quite late we have also caught 6 in juvenile plumage in October in past years which must have fledged in early September.

A flock of Long-tailed Tits were caught next, rather unusually well out in the reed beds with them were four chiffchaffs and two Willow Warblers but as we returned along the nets Aidan shouted Cetti's Warbler and sure enough there was one in the end net and surprise surprise it was already ringed. Its measurements were taken and it fitted the biometrics given for females in Svensson( Identification Guide to European Passerines.

Later we caught a further seven Bearded Tits all ringed as juveniles in June and resplendent in their new plumage.

On returning home I dashed to the computer to see if the Cetti's Warbler was one of the four we ringed at Leighton Moss last year. Yes it had been ringed at exactly the same spot on September 22nd last year. So this raises the question where had it been over the past year? There were no records of singing males at Leighton this spring. Did this presumed female not find a mate? Or has it bred elsewhere and returned here to winter?

All but one of the eight Long-tailed Tits were ringed -they had been all ringed together in late June and this suggests that they have survived the summer well.


Monday, 13 September 2010

An Exceptional Blue Tit

We recently received details of a Blue Tit that Paul ringed in his garden in Lancaster during the cold weatherin late January. It was found freshly dead in early April at Catterick Camp North Yorkshire 80 kms. NNE. What makes this exceptional you say?

Well our group has ringed just over 26,000 blue tits over the past 35 years and of those that have been recovered only 12 have moved more than 20 kms. Of these only three (including the present bird) have moved more than 40km. The other two moved 82 kms to near Leeds and 87 kms to near Carlisle.

The Catterick bird probably originated in that area and moved south during what was our coldest winter for several years. The other two birds exhibited similar weather motivated movements. If our recoveries show anything it is a general movement south mainly from South Lakeland to our relatively milder climate near the coast. The numbers of well stocked feeders also probably playing a part.


Bad Day at Wray

It all looked so promising! Relatively calm in the woods, plenty of birds around when I checked the feeders earlier in the week, but only 6 birds caught!

Well, that is what happens sometimes. Ringing isn't all action-packed fun!


Thursday, 2 September 2010

Willow Warblers Have a Bumper Season

Willow Warblers appear to have had a most successful breeding season, at least judging by the numbers ringed by the group. At Leighton Moss where ringing effort is similar each year we ringed only 75 in August 2009 but no fewer than 315 this year. There was a very marked passage during the last few days of August which has continued with slightly lower numbers into early September by the 4th we had ringed 393in total. At Heysham and Middleton there has been a simialr increase, only 10 in August 2009 but 43 this August.

Chiffchaffs have also been passing through although in smaller numbers. Their main passage is usually early to mid September but we ringed 42 this year in August compared with 32 last August.

By contrast Reed and Sedge Warblers after an excellent early season have droppedoff markedly in August compared to other years, possibly the second broods failed during the wet weather in July and August.