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, 30 June 2011

Chiffchaffs on the Up

Many people have commented on the good numbers of Chiffchaff singing this spring. The first returns from our ringing sessions at Leighton Moss support this view. Looking back over the period 2000 to 2010, in these 11 years we only ringed a grand total of 23 Chiffchaffs in June. This June we have ringed 20 all juvenile birds suggesting good productivity.

These early returns from a difficult month weather wise also suggest that it has been a good breeding season for Willow and Reed Warbler and also Blackcap. However for our main study species -Bearded Tit the population has obviously suffered during the past cold winter. We have only caught 13 this June compared to 77 in June 2010.


Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Poor Season in Aughton Woods

The breeding season got off to a promising start but soon went downhill and ended up being, sadly, rather a disaster.

The current total of nestboxes is now 33. These consisted of 29 boxes existing (odd ones have been added over the past couple of years), together with 7 new boxes erected early this spring. These new boxes are part of a batch of 12 made this year and kindly financed by the North Lancs. Naturalists’ Group. Of these 12, there are 3remaining as spares for failing boxes, 2 were used to replace rotted boxes and 7 new boxes were erected.

There is an unofficial view that Pied Flycatchers like to use new boxes, and indeed, one of the new ones (which had only been erected a couple of weeks earlier) did attract a Pied Flycatcher this year - the first in these woods since 1 in 2008. A part clutch of eggs was laid but unfortunately was predated. Another clutch of eggs, possibly of a Redstart, was predated plus 5 clutches of Blue Tit eggs.

In each case there remained only many small pieces of eggshell in the nests – this suggests that the culprits may have been Wood Mice. These nests were spread throughout the area, rather than in one particular group.

The takeup of boxes was:

Blue Tit 13 3 successful, 5 predated eggs, 4 failed eggs(reason unknown).
Great Tit 3 2 predated eggs, 1 failed eggs(reason unknown).
Pied Flycatcher 1 1 predated eggs.
Redstart?? 1 1 predated eggs.
Other nests were begun in 5 boxes but did not progress.
10 boxes unused.

As can be seen, only three broods of young were successfully fledged from the 33 boxes.
The weather during the breeding period was generally rather cool, windy and wet at times. However, the Aughton Woods complex is not especially exposed and faces approximately south-east. The woods are fairly dense and boxes around 1.5metre above ground level would be somewhat protected from the elements.

A disappointing outcome from four monitoring trips of 3-4 hours each undertaken from the Crook O’ Lune!


Saturday, 18 June 2011

The Long Lived and the Quick Mover

A further batch of recoveries included two outstanding records.

The first was an Oystercatcher ringed by the Devon and Cornwall Wader Group while wintering at Dawlish Warren on the Exe Estuary in Devon. Nothing outstanding about that as we have had several Oystercatchers from Devon but this bird was ringed in 1989 and was killed by a raptor at Arkholme 21 years and 158 days after ringing. Making it the Groups oldest recovered bird. However it had a long way to go to reach the British record of 36 years and eight months!

The other outstanding recovery was of an adult Sedge Warbler ringed at Middleton NR on 18th July 2009 and controlled 15 days later in Loire-Atlantique France a distance of 745 km. this shows just how early some of our breeding Segde Warblers start to migrate.We also had another adult Sedge Warbler which was ringed on 16the June 2010 and controlled at the same site in Loire-Atlantique 64 days afrer ringing.

Other recoveries included two Siskin ringed in winter and both controlled at the same site in Dumfries in early March. A Lesser Redpoll ringed in February was on the Isle of Mull in late April showing the breeding area of some of our wintering birds. The ring number was read through a telescope.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Sand Martins - an update of the first 700 captures

2011 has started with sand martins where we left off. We've been catching large numbers of birds at regular colonies on the lune. We still have some new colonies to try and see how many of our birds from last year are using them.

The highlight of the year so far is L334091 which we ringed at Whittington in 2010, was controlled in December in Senegal and then retrapped on Wednesday back at the same colony in Whittington.

Out of the 737 birds caught so far this year 560 have been new birds (256 juveniles, 304 adults), two have been ringed in France, 2 have been controls from the UK. The retraps have been very interesting, the break down of years are below:

2007 - 1, ringed as a juvenile and not seen since ringing
2009 - 10, 8 ringed as adults, 2 as juveniles
2010 - 107, 56 ringed as adults, 51 as juveniles

The 2010 retraps show that the juveniles have so far had a 5% return rate and the adults a 8% return rate. This is significantly lower than last year however the season is yet young and we have more sub colonies to ring at when the wind finally drops.

We have been eagler waiting for details of two French ringed sand martins we caught last year. Sadly the details are yet to arrive from the BTO however in the latest batch of recoveries we have 7 Sand Martins we ringed in 2010 that have been recaught in autumn in France and a further sand martin caught in Shropshire on spring passage. More details of these to follow soon.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Israeli-ringed Lesser Whitethroat updated

What was thought to be a 2CY male Israeli-ringed (Tel Aviv University Y60214) Lesser Whitethroat was caught during the Middleton Nature Reserve CES this morning. It was 'loosely' associating with some independent but recently fledged juveniles and, as also suggested by the date, is a local breeding bird

Provisional information relayed to suggest that it was ringed at Eilat on 10/3/09 - this was a surprise given the seemingly brand new ring, muddy iris and tail feather features. Thanks to Pete Kinsella for alerting me to this site & posting

Richard has informed that this is the 7th Israel-ringed bird to be found in the British Isles with 9 British-ringed birds found in Israel. These are all caught during spring passage in Israel which is a more easterly route than the autumn passage. Ringing recoveries suggest that autumn passage involves a stop-over in north Italy before a more direct route to the presumed Kenyan (and surrounding countries?) wintering area (per Migration Atlas)

Rather overshadowed by this, but perhaps equally unlikely, was the fact that the first Swallow capture of the year on the nearby Heysham NR CES was also a (British) 'control' (contrast with one 'control' out of 1000+ in last autumn's roost ringing!)

Saturday, 11 June 2011


The catching yesterday of an adult reed Warbler with ring number P503386 sent me racing to my computer when back home. I knew that P rings were used about 10 years ago so this bird was obviously quite old but would it be a record age for our study at Leighton Moss? I quickly discovered that it was ringed as a young bird on 23/08/01 so it was 9 years and 261 days since it was first ringed. But it was obviously 10 years old, Would this be our record for longevity in this species? A quick look at another file and I discovered that our previous oldest bird was 9 years and 263 days after ringing! So it had missed the record by just two days.

Nationally the oldest British ringed Reed Warbler was 11 days short of 13 years so our bird has a bit to go yet. Reed Warblers are well known for their longevity, in the same catch we had one bird 6 years old and 2 each at 5 and 4 years old.

Visiting I found that the oldest British ringed Sedge Warbler was only 8 years and 8 months. Blackcap and Willow Warbler both 10 years and 8 months. Why Reed Warblers should be so long lived compared with these other warblers is interesting .But most amazing of all is the thought that this little gem has navigated to West Africa and back on 10 occasions!
Thanks to David Mower for the photo.

Pied Flycatcher on autopilot?

Whilst checking nest boxes/utilising the energy provided by a piece of Bakewell tart/walking off the fat-store remnants of a triple-headed cone from Mr Whirl at Hartlepool headland, I approached Box 56 along the stream below Thrushgill clearfell

This seemed to be a clear cut case of empty box, flattened heavily soiled nest, no sign of any birds in the vicinity - typical of a Pied Flycatcher brood which would have left about 5 days ago. The nest was thrown out and the box cleaned. As soon as this was done, a/the male Pied Flycatcher suddenly appeared, making a racket and wing-flicking - the usual anxiety behaviour around an occupied nest

Furthermore it then followed me for a good 70m to Box 57 where an ex-Great Tit nest was similarly removed. During this process, the PF "defended" this box as though it was its own, calling,wing-flicking and approaching within about 2 metres

I moved on further up the river and it immediately lost interest. All previous alarm-calling had been limited to examination of/proximity to Box 56 with no prior example of being followed so far upstream to the vicinity of Box 57

Two pristine boxes if it wants to commandeer the/a female for a second brood!
Or is this just 'autopilot' behaviour?


Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Another Nest Box Scheme has a good year

Following on from my previous report showing good productivity from my nest box scheme near Kirkby Lonsdale and also Paul's report on Roeburndale my Leighton Moss scheme has also had a successful season. Results as follows-

Of 13 Great Tit nests 11 were successful.
Eleven Blue tits had only one failure.
Single nests of Coal Tit, Nuthatch and Tawny Owl were all successful.

Yesterday I visited the boxes of a small scheme in Barbondale. Here six Pied Flycatchers have nested, just one failed but the other five were all feeding young.
Many thanks to Tony and June Moriarty for checking the bulk of the Leighton Moss boxes.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Osprey passes through our area

This link is to Rothiemurchus, a two-year-old Osprey on its first northbound migration. It roosted overnight either Wenning or Greta Foot area, having flown from the Blackpool direction in late evening. Unlike 2010, all the satellite tagged adults, with their much earlier migration being mainly during a period of westerlies, chose routes to the east of our area in 2011.

Keep checking - part 2

.... and in Roeburndale, a Redstart pair have just laid their second brood but not in the same box as the first. This time, they are using an adjacent box that had a Blue Tit nest in when they staarted their first nest. Pied Flies still singing in some areas of the woods sso there maay be more to come.

Provisional totals from the boxes I've checked - 174 Fied Fly pulli and 29 adults (best ever year for me), 24 Redstart pulli, 177 Great Tit pulli and a wopping 330 Blue Tit pulli. Total so far (of all species) 730 pulli!



Early sand martin ringing

We've made the first visit to a couple of sand martin colonies that have been well watched over the last few weeks. We time our first visit to be a few days after the first juveniles have fledged. This ensures the colony is very well established and gives us a good chance of catching locally grown juveniles and catching a good number of adults.

Our first visit to the Burrow colony was a quiet affair with just 3 of us there so only covered a small proportion of it however in return we caught 82 new birds of which 11 were juveniles. Of far more interest were the 30 retraps and two controls.

17 of the retraps were ringed as juveniles (16 from 2010 and 1 from 2009) at colonies along the Lune. Most of these were early season birds (up to mid June) suggesting that juveniles at colonies early in the season will return there. Later in the season a lot of the juveniles are wandering between sites so have a much lower return rate.

13 of the retraps were ringed as adults, mostly at Burrow in 2010 with a couple from Arkholme (6km away) with 3 from 2009.

The two remaining birds were controls (ie not ringed locally). One was carrying a French ring which has a very similar ring number to one ringed in September 2007 in Charente-Maritime (Thanks to the on line reports on the BTO website). The other is a complete mystery - L088327.

At the same time Pete made a visit to a small colony in the Bowland fells and caught a total of 32 birds including 4 retraps from previous years (all ringed as adults), and 3 controls (in this case moved more than 10km) which were from Arkholme (2) and Burrow. One ringed as an adult female in 2009 and the other two as juveniles in 2010.

We hope to make visits to more smaller colonies this year to try and find out where more of our 918 juveniles from 2010 have gone.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Permutations - see update 12th June

Box 51 in upper Hindburndale seemed to have ended its 2011 season rather sadly with a clutch of dead Pied Flycatcher young which had "seemed only to be being fed by the male", backed up by the growth being much slower than the nearby Box 56 PFs. Their deaths seemed to be a case of female predation and the male not being able to the weather didnt help. Indeed I had phoned Mark Breaks earlier this evening to say that the female was probably dead (ringed as a nestling in 2009 at Marks home at New Laithe Farm, Newton in Bowland, nested in 2010 in Sykes, Slaidburn before moving further north in 2011)

The nest and contents were removed. Following reports of late PF nests and knowing that two seemingly unmated males were holding territory nearby, I checked all the empties this evening.

All remained empty except Box 51 which contained a new PF nest with two eggs

Is this the original pair re-laying, the original male (which was ringed on the left leg) with a new female, one of the nearby unmated birds pairing with a late migrant female or some other convolution. Examination of the female if/when the clutch of 7 is reached will help solve this as will views of the male to see if it is or isnt ringed on the left leg

Haven't had a decent view of the male to see if it is the left-leg-ringed original, but can confirm that the female is an unringed 2CY - ringed today (12th June) sitting on a small apparently full clutch of 5 eggs

Keep checking you 'empty' boxes!


Friday, 3 June 2011

A Successful Season

Have been getting reports that some nest box schemes have been experiencing a poor season. Have just returned from one of my schemes in a private wood near Kirkby Lonsdale. Here it has been a very successful season. Of the 36 boxes a record number of 32 were occupied. Of these five are Pied Flycatchers ( Compared to only one last year) All five have young and the first brood are ready to fledge. Two of the adult birds have been ringed as nestlings last year in one of the Groups nest boxes on the other side of the Lune Valley

Blue tits had 13 nests of which 10 were successful. The three lost were all due to predation by Great Spotted Woodpeckers. Great Tits had 14 boxes of which 13 were successful.

The wood has many mature mainly Oak trees but also a variety of other trees, it is also south facing so has been reasonably well protected from the recent cold NW winds.