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, 30 September 2013

Meadow Pipits and Skylark Ringing

Meadow Pipits  are one of our commonest passage migrants at this time of year. Their abundance is well shown by the counts at the three regularly manned Vis. Mig. stations in our area with over 12,000 being recorded in autumn last year, and as they move on a broad front, the numbers passing are obviously very large. By contrast Skylarks pass in much smaller numbers. Heysham  observations in the autumn passage period show this well with 3342 Meadow Pipits counted but just 84 Skylarks.

The Group has had our best year to date for ringing Meadow Pipits with just over 800 so far, mainly at three sites. Meadow Pipits respond well to a tape lure playing the spring song. At Heysham they are mist netted  in an open area with a background of bushes. Richard's team have caught them as a by-product of Swallow roost ringing in a maize field.  While whoosh netting on the Morecambe Bay coast by the Keer estuary is only undertaken on days when it is not suitable for mist netting at our reed bed sites.

This year  while whoosh netting we also played Skylark song as an experiment and in three morning  sessions we have caught seven birds. Doesn't sound a lot but these are the first Skylarks that the Group has ringed since 1995 and in the whole of Britain in 2012 only 79 fully grown birds were ringed! You don't often ring ca 9% of the national total in three mornings! We could have at least doubled the catch if we had set two whoosh nets as birds regularly dropped and stopped behind the net.

Would be interested to know if other ringers using whoosh nets have tried  to ring Skylarks.


Sunday, 22 September 2013

Birds on the Move

This is the time of the great movement southward of our summer migrants- obvious to anyone who birds or especially rings on a regular basis. Recent recoveries shows how early some of our summer visitors start to leave. A juvenile Sand Martin caught in Spain on 28th July just 39 days after ringing  had flown 1300 km south. A juvenile Sedge Warbler was on the south coast in Sussex on 13 August just 5 days after ringing at Leighton Moss, a movement of 426 km SSE.

But not all summer visitors set off  south at first, a juvenile Garden Warbler ringed on 24 July sadly killed itself against a window in Kirkby Thore Cumbria 53 km NNE 9 days later. While a Reed Warbler ringed as a short tailed juvenile and obviously close to its birth place at Middleton NR was caught at Leighton Moss 38 days later, 18 km to the  north.  Most probably these are just part of a random dispersal that takes place before the on set of the southerly movement.

Other recoveries included 4 Sand Martins ringed in Sussex on migration and found breeding in   the River Lune colonies. The brings the total of Sand Martins we have had reported in Sussex to a staggering 124 with the bulk  occurring there in August.

Two Siskin caught while breeding in Dumfries and Galloway brings to nine the Siskin we have had reported from this area.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

10,000th Swallow at maize field roost

Since 2004 North Lancs Ringing Group have ringed swallows every autumn in a maize field near Hornby.  Initially we started ringing there as part of the swallow roost project and more recently to continue marking some birds passing through the North West of England.  The numbers of birds ringed each years varies massively due to productivity and autumnal weather conditions.  This year we have caught just over 800 with a few weeks of swallow ringing left before the maize is harvested.  When entering the last visits data I noticed we had passed the milestone of 10,000 swallows ringed. 

Below are the totals for all years since 2004:

Year Total new New Juvs New Adult % adult Controls Recovered
2004 1585 1556 29 2% 6 8
2005 1811 1742 69 4% 7 5
2006 1409 1335 74 5% 2 3
2007 1247 1180 67 5% 1 3
2008 533 507 26 5% 1 1
2009 371 337 34 9%
2010 1213 1186 27 2% 1 2
2011 440 362 78 18%
2012 612 551 61 10% 1
2013 873 860 13 1% 1

10094 9616 478 5% 20 25

Ringing swallows at a roost is always going to produce low numbers of retraps as 95% of the birds ringed are juveniles.  Likewise as Hornby is a fair way north we are less likely to catch birds that have been ringed previously compared to sites further south on the Swallow migration route.

The map below shows the origin of all the birds previously ringed that have been caught at Hornby.  Markers with a green P have been ringed in the nest, red J have been ringed as juveniles with the same year and finally purple As are birds that have been ringed as juveniles but we have caught in a subsequent year as an adult.

The second and third maps show where birds that have been ringed at Hornby have been recovered or recaught. The green J markers are the sites where birds have been caught in the same year and the red As are where birds have been recaught in subsequent years.  One map shows the longer distance recoveries and the other is more local.

These maps tell a story which is a not too surprising one.  Most of the birds we catch are locally bred typically from the Lakes, North East England and Southern Scotland.  These are birds that are yet to find a coastline and are probably following rivers on their autumnal amble to the South coast. If we looked at the recoveries from a coastal roost such as Heysham or Fleetwood I wonder if we would find a different pattern of recoveries.

While Swallows are the target at Hornby we have also had some other interesting captures such as the group's only adult Merlin, 3 Yellow Wagtails, 175 Pied Wagtails and 20 House Martins.

Many thanks to the farmer and everyone who has lent a hand over the last 10 years at Hornby.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Reedbed Birds Do Well This Year

Bearded Tits, our main study at Leighton Moss have had a good season with 38 juveniles caught to date well up on the 17 of 2012. To date we have identified 8 adult males and 11 adult females but we usually pick up several more, once the birds start using the grit trays which is usually during the second week in September. Young birds are still moulting as is shown in the photo taken yesterday of a young bird still in body moult and in the late stages of primary moult. Its pale iris  shows it is a second brood young probably hatched in mid July.

Reed Warblers despite an  apparent drop in the breeding population have had excellent productivity. Our average catch of new birds over the past five years has been 711 with 629 in 2012. This year with about two weeks to go we have caught 775 new birds the bulk of which are juveniles. Sedge Warblers have also done well, our 5 year average catch has been 236 with just 198 in 2012. This year to date we have caught 308. That the move south is well under way is shown by the small numbers of re-traps in both species. A few Sedge Warblers have been putting on fat to prepare for the journey south. The heaviest was  one at 14.8 grams- almost 4 grams heavier than normal and with a fat score of 5.