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)

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Thrushgill feeding station

Please note that there is no general access to this site in what is a peaceful cul-de-sac. If you do visit, please can you reduce the number of vehicles accessing beyond the turning at Botton Mill to an absolute minimum e.g. park & share at e.g. Wray tearooms

Average to reasonable mobile phone pics of Crossbill (thanks Louise)
Terrible mobile phone pics of Mealy redpoll

A feeding station was set up at Thrushgill, following permission from Scottish Forests (thanks Simon). There are masses of feeding stations in the upper Hindburn with nearby Lower Thrushgill surely having one of the highest densities of wild bird food in relation to human population. Therefore the aim was certainly not to catch huge numbers of hungry waifs at a remote location.

A redpoll flock had been seen intermittently and tantalising views in the tree-tops suggested at least two Mealy Redpolls were present, one a very frosty and grey bird. Therefore the aim of the feeding station was simply to try and bring to ground level as many redpolls as possible with the hope that some would be frosty and possibly even whiter!

A sheltered mist-met ride was constructed amongst wind-affected larches in various stages of falling over. This included the stunning discovery that sawing through fallen tree-trunks can give you a nasty uppercut as the roots decide to return to their upright position! The food initially concentrated on "obvious" wild bird seed mix in both feeders and scattered around. The aim was to create a 'flow' of birds which would be noticed by the redpolls and in turn they would locate the less ostentatious nyger feeders

The rapid 'flow' of birds certainly did happen! The start of the operation on 20th February saw the last stages of the flock/feeding station winter routine of the local Coal Tits. 40 were caught on the first visit and the subsequent two visits saw a mixture of a few new birds, a few retraps and a lot of net-wise visitors to the feeders. Then they disappeared! Wanderings along the access track saw many of them singing and starting to hold territory and showing little interest in lengthy journeys to a feeder

The distribution and behaviour of the small finches saw mixed flocks of up to about 80 (usually about 35), mainly Siskin with a few redpolls, remaining in the larch canopy and feeding on the seeds. Small numbers did visit the nyger and sunflower heart feeders, but most of them stayed feeding on the larches, despite use of a redpoll tape. Indeed, the tape was forgotten on one day and this made no difference to the numbers visiting the feeder or the catch on that day. Therefore, given this alternative, indeed preferred, food source, lengthy netting sessions were unlikely to pay dividends and the routine became a short visit to top the feeders up along with a couple of mist net rounds

Nine short visits have been made to date, taking advantage of some friendly weather before things become much more unsettled from Wednesday 9th March. There remains a possibility that more of the significant crossbill population might be tempted in the region of the nets and a dustbin lid full of water has been "constructed"

One very obvious Mealy Redpoll has been caught (3rd March) and a few grotty 'mobile in one hand, bird in the other' pics were taken (see above). The age ratios of the Siskins were interesting with far more adults than I was expecting or you tend to get at urban feeders on passage - are these local breeding adults? The redpolls were as expected with the usual degree of caution over sexing probable long-winged females:

Lesser Redpoll age/sex ratios:
3 x adult male, 2 x adult female, 12 x 2CY* male, 7 x 2CY female, 7 x unspecified 2CY, probably longer-winged females. Therefore the sex ratio is probably about 50:50 and the age ratio very much biased towards 2CY at 26:5

Siskin age/sex ratios:
7 x adult female, 13 x adult male, 8 x 2CY male, 13 x 2CY female, single unaged male and female. Therefore a far higher proportion of adults than lesser redpoll with almost equal numbers of adult & 2CY

Controls comprised a Lesser Redpoll ringed at nearby Wray in December 2010 and a Siskin with someone else's rings. Just four Siskin and four Lesser Redpoll retrapped. One Lesser Redpoll was unfortunately terminated by a window in Lower Thrushgill a few days after ringing

Other species ringed comprised: 1 Common Crossbill, 8 Chaffinch (all males), 5 Great Tit, 1 Nuthatch, 2 Blackbird, 57 Coal Tit (8 of these retrapped), 7 Robin, 17 Blue Tit, 2 Wren, 2 Dunnock and a single Mealy or Common Redpoll

*2CY = aged as second calender year = born in its first calender year = 2010 [formerly known as 'first winter', 'first year' etc]. Euring code '5' (from '3' prior to 31/12/10).

Pete Marsh

1 comment:

North Lancs Ringing Group said...

2CY male Crossbill caught this morning & single Mealy Redpoll seen, but not the right leg (c/f whether ringed or not)