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)

Friday, 13 July 2018

Pied Flycatcher End of Term Report

Our Pied Flycatcher RAS spread across 19 upland woods in the Lune valley in Northern Lancashire has been completed for this season.Following last seasons good productivity we hoped for an increase in the breeding population. We were not disappointed, there was an increase of seven occupied nest boxes to 107 for the year,an all-time record. Of these 69 successfully produced young, down somewhat on last years total of 89. Predation by Weasels and Stoats was a problem especially at two sites.

However we ringed 448 nestlings and caught 70 adult females and 34 males. Males are always harder to catch at the nest than females as they do not incubate and can be only caught for a limited time  while they are feeding the young.

Our oldest bird was ringed as a nestling and caught  5 years and  362 days after ringing this year, so it was in its 6th year. It was a male and surprisingly it had only been caught twice in the last five years in both years in the same wood.The next oldest was first ringed as an adult female in 2013. It bred in the same  wood for three years then moved four km to another wood in 2017 and then 3 km to another wood this year. Another five year old female returned to breed in its first year to its native wood, but since has flitted between three woods.

I wondered if there was any difference between males  and females in returning to the same wood in successive years. I checked our retrap data for birds caught breeding as adults. Males turned out too be more site faithful with only 12% of 80    moving to other woods while 25% of the 183 females recorded, changed woods. Males usually arrive first and start defending a nest box almost straight  away to attract a female so the difference between the sexes is to be expected.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Reed Warbler RAS Report

Yesterdays ringing on our Reed Warbler and Bearded tit RAS studies at Leighton Moss RSPB was rather spoilt by a sudden upsurge in wind mid morning. However of the three Reed Warbler retraps two were very interesting. The first had been ringed at Leighton Moss as a juvenile in late July 2016 and caught  45 days later at the foot  of the Pyrenees in the south west corner of France a distance of 1195 km. It was not recorded in 2017 but had returned this year to the same ride where it was first caught in 2016. We have 28 other Reed Warbler recoveries from Western France

The other retrap  was first ringed as a juvenile in late August 2011 so it was 7 years old . It had not been caught since 2014. Although a good age it is not our oldest Reeed Warbler. We have two at 10 years, two at nine and three at eight years all still going strong when retrapped.  Reed  warblers seem to live longer than the other warblers we handle.                              

Monday, 9 July 2018

Garden Ringing

Another visit to Jerry and Barbara's  woodland edge garden brought 57 birds in two short nets in just two hours. Almost all were young birds  suggesting a successful breeding season. Of the 33 tits only one, a Great Tit was an adult. The one exception was Bullfinch  with nine caught of which only three were juveniles. A few more young birds than our last visit two weeks ago,when we caught only one juvenile out of 11 birds.This means that so far this season we have caught 20 Bullfinch compared with  only seven in the whole of last season.Other members of the group have reported good numbers of Bullfinch in their gardens

Looking back at July catches in past years gives a very similar picture of low numbers of adults with the marked exception of Bullfinch. It is not until mid August that we start to get a good numbers of adult tits. The adult birds will be in wing moult and appear to prefer to remain in the surrounding woodlands.

The catching of four  juvenile Nuthatch was the highlight of the morning to further our colour ringing study of this attractive species.

Monday, 25 June 2018

A Bullfinch Morning

Paid our first post breeding season visit to Jerry and Barbara's woodland edge garden. With just two short nets we caught 50 birds. We expected to catch young tits and of  25 tits caught only one was an adult. We also caught 3 young Nuthatch which is great for our colour ringing study of this species.

 The big surprise though was Bullfinch, we caught 11, especially when you consider that  we only caught seven over the  previous 12 months! Interestingly only one was a juvenile, the others were adults including four we had ringed before. One of these had been ringed as a juvenile almost three years previously. Does this mean that Bullfinch have had a poor breeding season, or that juveniles do not visit feeders at this time of year? Future visits may  throw light on the situation.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Pied Flycatcher RAS Interim Report

Now got the data for about half our RAS study of Pied Flycatchers in the Lune valley woodlands.So far it has been a good season although there has been three reports of nest box predation by either weasels or stoats.

So far in total we have ringed or retrapped 369 birds  made up of 33 males, 60 females and  286 nestlings. The later have survived well in the excellent June weather, the number of caterpillars on the Oak especially appears to be high, and the numbers of insects especially midges is amazing!

A quick analysis of the retrap data shows that although 13 of the birds ringed as nestlings in previous years and retrapped breeding this year returned to their native wood, but 27 moved to other woods within the Lune valley. But  of adult birds 13 returned to the wood they breed in last year and only  two changed woods. There were several examples of birds returning to the same box to breed.

Our oldest bird  is in its seventh year and was originally ringed as an adult. This female bred in the same wood for three years,was missed the next year, then moved 4 km to another wood and this year moved 3km. We have two others in their fifth year.

Monday, 28 May 2018

Siskin Movements

The Group has over the years ringed 3390 Siskin, these have produced 112 recoveries or controls. We have just received our first recovery from Norway as shown on the map below. It fell victim to a cat on May 6th just 43 days after ringing in Dave's garden, a distance of 1151 km NE.We had one previous recovery from Sweden. Most of our ringing of this species is done in winter and early spring although in recent years numbers have started to breed in our area. The recoveries suggest that the bulk of our wintering birds  breed in Scotland with  34 reports from Northern Scotland and 15 from Galloway during the breeding season, almost all caught by ringers.

Comparing our data with the national picture shown in Online Ringing Reports one would have expected more Scandinavian reports from the numbers we have ringed and had recovered Nationally there has been 425 reports from Norway and Sweden. Perhaps the Scandinavian birds winter mainly in  the east and south of the country.


Friday, 4 May 2018

A Record Breaking Reed Bunting

Over the years our Group has ringed 4674 Reed Bunting mainly during or just after the  breeding season. These have shown a southward movement in winter with seven recoveries in the Cheshire/Merseyside area, three in Shropshire and singles in Kent, Dorset, Nottingham, South Wales and Sussex. The only birds showing any significant  northerly movement was an April ringed bird  found a day later 60 km north in Cumbria and a Tyneside bird in January.

So the report of one ringed on October 9th 2016 at Middleton Nature Reserve and caught at Fair Isle in Shetland, 698 kms. north on April 24th this year was completely unexpected. It was however caught during a period of marked easterly movement.

The BTO online Ringing Report shows this recovery to be the second longest recorded movement of Reed Buntings within Britain. The only one to exceed it was also caught at Fair Isle and ringed in Suffolk in 2007. These were probably birds heading for Scandinavia  as there are  37 reports from Norway and 20 from Sweden of birds ringed or recovered in Britain.

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Colour ringed Avocets

Over the last 16 seasons an account of the Avocets at Leighton Moss has been kept and is available at Jim Shep's webpage.  The account gives excellent information on how many Avocets have attempted to breed at Leighton over the years and also the highly variable success they have enjoyed or, more often, endured.

Over the years a handful of colour ringed birds have appeared at the colony.  The first being a French bird (Red/White(O), Red/Lime).  From this record it would be very easy to assume the birds populating Leighton Moss were from the Southern populations spreading Northwards.

RWO-RL - The French Avocet

Last year two more colour ringed birds appeared (Red/Blue, Black/Black and White/Blue, Red/Green).  Interestingly these were ringed on the same day in 2015 at the same site on Teeside as chicks but not from the same brood even though the ring numbers are consecutive.  Further to this a third bird ringed on the same day, site etc appeared on the Ribble strongly suggesting many of the birds are populating from the East.

WB-RG - The second Cleveland bird

This year the French bird and Red/Blue, Black/Black have returned to breed.  Sadly the first breeding attempt of the French bird failed after 4 eggs were laid.  Additionally a metal ring only bird has had the ring number read.  This bird was ringed at Spurn in July 2013 as a chick adding further to evidence of birds populating Leighton are coming from the North-East.

RB-NN - The first Cleveland bird
In the last couple of days two 'new' colour ringed birds have been seen, firstly Lime/Blue, Lime/White which was ringed in May 2011 in Cleveland and a second bird appeared this morning (28th April) carrying a white engraved colour ring on the left tibia and green/metal on the right.  This appears to be a bird ringed as a chick in the Netherlands, exact details as yet unknown.

LB-LW - The third Cleveland bird

Once again these two records appear to add to the evidence of most of the population at Leighton are coming from the East and North-East confused by the first record being of a Southern bird.

Perhaps the origin of the birds being from the North-East is not quite so simple.  Does this reflect more on the ringing effort of Avocets than where they are coming from?  I took a look at where Avocets are ringed in the UK:

Of the 585 nestling Avocets ringed in the UK between 2010 and 2016 30% have been ringed in North Yorkshire and Durham however a tiny proportion of the breeding Avocet in the UK breed there.  Additionally most of the chicks raised in the North-East have been colour ringed so it is far more likely any from the North-East are marked whereas the probability of an East Anglian bird being marked is much lower.  In conclusion the movements suggest we are getting a lot of birds from the East but suggesting they are mostly from the North-East is ignoring the 90% of unmarked birds.

With the rapidly rising population of Avocet in the North-West it is not at all clear were the nestlings will disperse to.  Is Ireland a likely option or perhaps the Cumbrian coast spreading into Dumfries and Galloway?  With so much effort being put into understanding declining species it is easy to ignore the questions surrounding rapidly increasing species and as such perhaps an effort to colour mark chicks raised in the North-West should be made.

Selected histories of the 6 individually identified birds at Leighton Moss:

RWO-RL (The French bird, over 100 sightings in total):
20/06/2008 - Ringed as chick, Bas Boulais, France
Arrival/last sighting dates at Leighton Moss with next sighting for that year:
26/03/2012 - 17/04/2012 (France September)
28/03/2013 - 25/04/2013 (France July)
22/03/2014 - 29/04/2014 (Scunthorpe July, France Febuary 2015)
11/04/2015 - 18/04/2015 (20/04/2015 France!)
03/04/2016 - ?? (16/04/2016 Hesketh Out Marsh), no winter records
28/03/2017 - 23/04/2017 (November France)
05/04/2018 - 28/04/2018
If there is ever an example of why every sighting is valuable this bird is it.  In 2015 the last record at Leighton was 2 days before it appeared back in France.  Had we just had the first sighting of the season how long it stayed would be a complete mystery and whether it went directly back to France would be unknown.

RB-NN (EY98058):
Ringed 24/05/2015, Teesmouth
Sighted Alkborough, North Lincs 17/07/2015
05/04/2017 - 26/04/2017 - Leighton Moss
29/03/2018 - 26/04/2018 - Leighton Moss

WB-RG (EY98059):
Ringed 24/05/2015 - Teesmouth
Sighted Alkborough, North Lincs 19/07/2015
22/04/2017 - 26/04/2017 - Leighton Moss

LB-LW (EX15786):
Ringed 23/05/2011 - Teesmouth
Sighted Alkborough, North Lincs 08/08/2011, 13/07/2012, 30/08/2013
27/04/2018 - 28/04/2018 - Leighton Moss
Where has this bird been for the last 5 years?

EY21410 (No colour ring)
Ringed 03/07/2013 - Spurn Bird Observatory
27/04/2018 - Leighton Moss

White(EK) - Holland. More details to follow
28/04/2018 - Leighton Moss

Friday, 16 March 2018

Grey Wagtails Suffer from the Cold Weather?

Over the last 18 years we have ringed 988 Grey Wagtails. Since 2008 we have been colour ringing those caught on passage along the coast at Heysham. Up to this year we have had 18 recoveries with all being either colour ring sightings, or recapture by other ringers, no birds have been reported dead. These recoveries show that our birds winter mainly in the  Chesire/Merseyside/ Greater Manchester area with single birds reported  from Wiltshire, Staffordshire and Pembroke.

However  this March we have had two reports of dead birds. The first was in Shropshire on March 1st. It was reported as being in poor condition indicating cold  weather. It had been ringed as a juvenile on September 25th 2017 at Heysham and had moved 137 km. The other was killed by flying into a balcony window in Conwy North Wales on March 13th. One can only assume that this bird was searching for food in an unusual  habitat during cold weather. It had moved 99 km and had been ringed on September 14th 2016.

So far the only local report of a dead bird during the cold spell was a Blue Tit . However we have been fortunate with only a short lived  covering of snow.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Bearded Tit Pair Remain Faithful

A regular visitor to Leighton Moss was very lucky to see a pair of Bearded Tits on the grit trays at 08.00 this morning. Visits to the grit trays are  most unusual at this time of year. Over the past 15 years of our colour ringing study at Leighton we have only had six grit tray sightings in March. Fortunately he  took some photos and we were able to work out their history.

They were both ringed as juveniles in July 2016  and first seen together on the grit trays on 2nd October 2016. Since then they have been recorded together on 28 occasions including 13 sightings between early October and late November 2016 and 15 times between late September and late November 2017.

Another excellent example of Bearded Tits forming pairs in their first autumn and remaining faithful in subsquent years.We have recorded such behaviour on many ocasions but this is outstanding.

Will be interesting to see if there are any more grit tray sightings in this cold spring. Fortunately we have no snow but it has been very cold. Usually by this time of year there are numbers of insects appearing for the Beardies to catch, but not this year so they are probably still  feeding on reed seed for which they need grit in the gizzard to grind up.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Another Good Year

With all the data now in it was another successful year for the group with total handlings of 15,940 made up of 9152 new fully grown, 2950 nestlings and 3838 retraps or recoveries.

Top of the pile as usual was Blue Tit with 2399 handlings of these 994 were nestlings from our various nest box schemes and 472 retraps. Our RAS schemes featured highly with Pied Flycatcher having their best year ever with 944 handlings made up of 754 nestlings, 115 retraps and 75 adults. Sand Martins had a reasonable year with 757 handlings but Reed Warblers  at 389 were down due to access difficulties

We have five colour ringing schemes. Nuthatch with 773 records of which 651 were re-sightings was the most productive. Bearded Tits with 437 records of which 405 were sightings. These are both local species with only very occasional movements out of the area. Our Grey Wagtail scheme based mainly at Heysham BO is designed to study their movements through our area.We colour ringed 83 this year but had only four sightings out of the area, but our knowledge of the birds wintering area is building up after ten years of study.Stuarts study of Dippers on the Upper Lune resulted in 33 new adults and 193 nestlings being colour ringed . He has started a new study with Thomas, studying Common Sandpipers in the same area, the first year was highly productive with 50 adults and 42   young birds  ringed.

Finches feature highly with Mark and Daves garden ringing in the east of our area producing the most.  Goldfinch  at 944 was amazing when you consider that 10 years ago we ringed only 88. That year we ringed 457 Greenfinch this year we 451. Goldfinch have increased as a breeding bird in our area and really moved into gardens. Other finches included 381 Siskin 386 Lesser Redpoll and 125 Bullfinch .

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Garden Ringing

A visit this morning to Jerry and Barbara's woodland edge garden produced 72 birds of which 50 were new birds and 22 retraps. From late summer to this morning we have caught 501 birds of 21 species in 10 visits to the garden. Top of the pile is Blue Tit with 106 different individuals closely followed by Coal Tit with 90 then Great Tit with 60. These are individual birds so a bird caught several times is only counted once.It is nice to see Greenfinch making a come back we have ringed 53 so far this season double the numbers we ringed in the two previous seasons.By contrast Bullfinch are down with only four ringed compared to 28 last season, surprising for at another woodland feeding station ca 3 km away we have had a record year for Bullfinch. At the other end of the scale we have caught only four Starlings and two House Sparrows.

The woodland aspect of this well provisioned garden is reflected in the species we catch including 9 Great Spotted Woodpeckers and 19 Nuthatch. The later is our main study species with all the birds we catch individually colour ringed and Jerry and Barbara record sightings as often as possible, they regularly record up to 5 or 6 different individuals in a session, but we only caught one today. This was first ringed 3 years and 330 days ago in January 2014. This was the 10th time we had re-trapped it but we have 255 sightings over the past almost 4 years. It is a male and for three years it came regularly to the feeders with its mate but she has now dissapeared.There is also another male sighted 3 years and 66 days after ringing, he also is a regular at the feeders. Of the 19 Nuthatch sighted. Seven are visiting regularly but the other 12 are quite irregular visitors.
Survivial though is interesting. Of the 18 Nuthatch recorded in the 2015/16 winter using sightings the survival rate was 50% using retraps it was only 23%.