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)

Wednesday 23 December 2009

Ground Breaking Recoveries

The recently published Ringing Report for 2008 contains five of the Groups recoveries as follows.
CK97769 5 27.1.2001 Heysham
Controlled 12.5.2008 Parque Natural Bahia (Cadiz) Spain1967 km S
Only the 5th British ringed Knot in Spain.

P312986 3 13.8.2007 Gressingham
Long Dead 21.7.2008 Ihla de Deserta Grande Maderia 2641 km SSW
The first British ringed Swallow from Maderia, where Swallows are vagrants.

V465735 3F 23.12.2007 Walsberswick (Suffolk)
Controlled 5.11.2008 Heysham 360 km WNW
One of a very few records of a Twite to visit both the west and east coasts.

Reed Bunting
X227181 3F 8.10.2008 Leighton
Controlled 3.11.2008 Broxton (Cheshire) 123 km S
One of a very few Reed Buntings to move over 100km.

Bearded Tit
A new British longtevity record of seven years and 22 days. Now exceeded by a male this year of 7 years and 92 days.
John Wilson.

Sunday 20 December 2009

True Grit (3)

The Bearded Tit gritting season is just about over for another year. Thanks to all who sent in colour ring sightings especially Keith Kellet who spent many hours watching the trays.
In total 79 different birds were recorded between September 11th and December 19th. (Although this does not include at least 2 un-ringed birds.) The table below gives the number of days that birds were sighted. Of course these are minimum figures as the trays were not watched all the time. Although numbers only visited once or twice a lot paid multiple visits to the trays with an adult making the record 14 visits. Interestingly four of the birds which gritted early in September came back in December presumably to top up their grit supplies. The same pattern of previous years was repeated this year with adults coming early in the period and birds of the year somewhat later. Also very noticeable how pairs visited together. Bearded Tits form pairs shortly after fledging and seem to remain faithful through to the next breeding season if they both survive.

Number of Days Individual birds were Recorded on the Grit Trays 2009

No of Days Sighted Adult Juvenile
1 7 16
2 3 12
3 3 7
4 1 4
5 1 1
6 3 5
7 2 1
8 2 3
9 1 4
10 1
11 1
14 1
Total 24 55

Wednesday 16 December 2009

North Harbour Wall Twite

The first autumn passage/wintering birds appeared quite early this year, on 15th October. Since then up to a maximum of c70 have been frequenting the feeding site interspersed with periods elsewhere, probably Ocean Edge foreshore, local salt marshes to the south and the Lune Estuary.

Catching them this year has seemed rather like planning a small war (although I have never actually planned a war, big or small). The feeding site is rather public and the birds cannot be relied upon to be there at specific times, although they do seem to be more reliable around high tide - presumably there is less salt marsh area to forage on at this time - although they can be around at any time of the day. The day also needs to be dry (wet whoosh nets and small birds do not go together well) and not too windy.

Unfortunately, high tide during the morning/midday plus decent weather also attracts other less welcome visitors such as unruly dogs being walked, noisy fishermen, ship watchers, birders, walkers and motor bikes etc. etc. Of course, all these people have just as much right to be there as me but it can make things frustrating!

However, 5 catches have been achieved to date, the first on 28th October. In all 89 new birds have been ringed and colour marked, approximately 40 different birds retrapped (5 from spring 2009, 14 from autumn 2008 & 21 from the current period) and 2 controls caught. These last were one bird ringed on the Duddon Estuary on 15/12/2008, and one possibly ringed on Birkdale Beach (this yet to be confirmed).


Tuesday 15 December 2009

Singing the praises of the "unsung heros"

Congratulations to two of our active members:

Richard De Feu was recently elected to the BTO's National Ringing Committee - congratulations, Richard

Alan Draper was reported in last week's Lancaster Guardian as having been named an "Unsung Hero" of the Lancashire Wildlife Trust because he "has bolstered staff in North Lancashire for more than 10 years with vast numbers of daybreak birdringing". It will be characteristic of Alan's modesty to want to keep this to himself, but I'll congratulate him anyway!

Monday 14 December 2009

Continetal Blackbirds

There seems to be good numbers of Blackbirds around this autumn, or perhaps it seems that way because there are so few Fieldfare and Redwing attracted to the good supply of Hawthorn and other berries.

A Holly tree in may garden regularly has up to 8 Blackbirds feeding there. Many are probably of course our local birds. But as the map shows quite a number of Scandinavian Blackbirds winter in our area.
The dots on the map shows the recovery locations during the breeding season of Blacbirds ringed in our area. Some had been ringed while on spring or autumn passage at Heysham Nature Reserve but quite a few have been ringed either at winter roosts or a garden feeding stations. So you are never ceratin wether the Blackbird in your garden is a local or a Scandinavian visitor. To date we have ringed almost 8000 Blackbirds to get these results.

John Wilson

John Wilson

Saturday 12 December 2009

first time for a while

hurrah! Ringing weather at the weekend, for a change. One 30ft net, caught in the garden at Hala, caught 24 birds, 18 of which were Blue Tit, most of which were already ringed including one of Ian Hartley's from the University which was ringed as nestling on 20/5/03 - which makes it 6 years 7 months old - probably the oldest I've caught.

Sunday 29 November 2009

Tideline possibilities

Worth checking the local tidelines in the next few days to see if the minor seabird wreck reached this part of the world. Could just be the odd interesting ringing recovery out there waiting to be found - says he sitting in a warm Heysham NR office with the rain lashing down!


Friday 20 November 2009

True Grit (2)

Bearded Tits continue to use the grit trays at Leighton Moss despite the wind and rain. To date we have logged 275 sightings of 75 colour ringed birds. Thanks especially to Keith Kellet and Alan Gallagher and several other birders for colour ring sightings.

This year the birds have followed the pattern of previous years- adults coming in first from early October to be replaced by birds of the year from late October/ early November on.Two birds have been recorded coming back for the past four years. It is too early to analyse this years sightings but our results from 2006 when we had 331 sightings of 97 different birds may be of interest. Of the 97 birds identified 55 birds were sighted on just one or two days but some visited much more often with one bird being recorded on 15 days. Of course we missed many sightings as coverage was incomplete. Close observation suggests that they are to sorting through the fine sand for the right sized particles. They can stay on the trays for up to 15 minutes. There is a very marked tendency for birds to keep together in a flock often visiting the table two or three times a morning as a group and returning with the same group days later.

A German study of 12 Bearded Tit gizzards found an average of 608 (range 470- 830) stones in the gizzards in autumn. No wonder they need to visit the trays often! They need grit at this time of year to help grind up the hard seed of the winter diet of reed seeds.

I have been asked by several birders if the taking on of grit increases the weight of the bird. We have lots of weight data but it would take a lot of effort to analyse it. However what we have done so far shows an increase of ca 0.7 grams from September to December, Bearded Tits average ca 14.5 grams. Of course other factors may be responsible for this weight increase.

John Wilson

Tuesday 17 November 2009

Where are all the Goldcrests?

At the Heysham obs ringing site we generally catch a good number of Goldcrests during the Autumn southward passage. This year, however, we have managed to capture just 5. This compares with 61-2008, 36-2007, 24-2006, 108-2005 & 119-2004.

Although the ringing effort may have been less this autumn owing to the atrocious weather recently, this is still a very low number. Lack of Goldcrests is also backed up by regular observations at the site which have recorded very few seen or heard.

Recently, a ringer from Hilbre Island has reported NO Goldcrests ringed this Autumn (they have ringed an average of 50 birds per autumn over the past 10 years). This report has resulted in a flood of replies from around the country in similar vein.

One suggestion put forward has been that the windy and wet conditions could have prevented the birds from using the normal passage route southward and they might have moved south on a much more easterly line, avoiding the UK altogether. However, at Falsterbo in Sweden, they too have ringed only a quarter of their normal total so another explanation may be a very poor breeding season in the northern forests.


Friday 13 November 2009

Ringing on the telly

from a posting on a ringers' blog site:

Last Thursday morning Wash Wader Ringing Group were accompanied by Countryfile on a catch of Sanderling. We are told this will air on BBC1 onSunday (at 6pm) though countryfile schedules can be a bit flexible. They should have some good footage of a cannon net being fired. Listen out for a shout of spoonbill as one flew past - and I missed because I was talking to camera at the time, how's that for dedication ... Cheers rob

thanks to Rob Robinson for the info


Sunday 8 November 2009

Leighton's Bearded Tits and Bitterns Break Records

Great excitement today at the grit tray at Leighton Moss when a male Bearded Tit with BTO ring over Blue on the left leg and Red over white on the right leg appeared. This bird was first ringed on 8/8/2002 as a juvenile male 7 years and 92 days ago making it the oldest Bearded Tit for the British Ringing scheme and beating the previous record of 7 years and 6 days also held by a Leighton Moss Bearded Tit, a male ringed in 1992. The bird visited the grit tray today on two occasions. It was re-trapped or sighted 5 times in 2007 but not at all in 2008 then re-trapped on 5/7/2009.

A Bittern ringed in the nest by the RSPB on 8/5/02 was sighted at the Lower Hide recently and the ring photographed nine years and 157 days after ringing again another British record. This bird was sexed a female by DNA analysis.

Yesterday at our feeding station at Teddy Heights near Arnside we caught a Coal Tit which was ringed 6 years and 290 days previously. A record for the group but the British record stands at 9 years.

John Wilson

Wednesday 28 October 2009

Good year for Pied Flycatchers

It seems like a long time since May and June (and the birds in question will be thousands of miles away by now) but it was a good year for birds using nest boxes in the Lune and its tributaries. There were at least 43 nesting attempts in our nestboxes, of which, 35 successfully fledged young.

Great Tit and Blue Tit numbers were down following two poor breeding years, but productivity and survival have been good and there are tits in the woods - there is so much food around that it may be a while before they make it into gardens and towns.

Many thanks to the ringers, helpers, nest box providers and landowners who have supported our project - if you wish to get involved next year, please let me know at

Friday 23 October 2009

Hidden Reed Buntings

Today I asked two very regular birders who visit Leighton Moos several times a week how often they see Reed Buntings at this time of year. Both replied that the most they see in a day is up to two feeding or gritting on the paths. When I told them that today we had caught 18 in one small area they were amazed. Obviously the birds are feeding quietly within the reedbed not calling or showing themselves.

Since October 1st this year we have ringed on 12 days and caught 117 Reed Buntings. The interesting thing is that we have only retrapped one of these. This means either there is a steady movement through of birds or that there is a very large population indeed.

Ringing returns suggest that there is a movement from the reserve at this time of year. In total over the years we have had eight birds found wintering in the Merseyside to Cheshire area. We have also had one that went to the south coast being ringed at Leighton in August and caught the following October in Dorset 386 kms south.

Wednesday 21 October 2009

True Grit

The use by Bearded Tits of the grit trays at Leighton Moss have been exciting a lot of interest this year. I thought some back ground information on the development of the trays may be of interest along with our findings from colour ringing the birds.
For many year Bearded Tits used to grit on the gravel paths. The rather poor photo shows a shot taken c 1993 with 22 bearded tits all gritting on the paths. In c 1996 I had the idea to provide grit trays and they have been used ever since and use of the paths has stopped. Birds gritting on the path were subject to a lot of disturbance but the present arrangement allows lots of people to see (and photograph) these super birds.
Bearded Tits need grit at this time of year because they are changing from the soft insect diet of summer to the harder mainly reed seed diet of winter. The grit sits in the gizzard and so grinds up the seeds.
We are also responsible for the colour rings you can see on all but a few birds. The birds are colour ringed as part of a long term (25 years) population and DNA study of this very local species. Remember Leighton Moss is the only place you can regularly see this evocative species in the North West.
The colour rings have also enabled us to study their gritting habits. Every year the adult birds come first to the trays from about mid September to mid October almost all the birds gritting are adults but as the season progresses birds of the year move in. This year to date we have identified 51 different birds using the trays 23 of them adults and 28 this year's young ones. So far this year we have ringed 104 young bearded tits the largest number since 2000 so many more may yet visit the trays.

John Wilson

Thursday 15 October 2009

Blue Tits have a Record Season

Our ringing of blue tits to date suggests that they are on track for an excellent season. Despite a rather low breeding population in our nest boxes following two years of poor productivity the numbers of fledged young was high.

Ringing since then has recorded a high population suggesting good survival . Leighton Moss is typical with 369 caught to date 77 up on the whole of 2008. There is still two and a half months yet to go in which we normally catch many birds. Another pointer to productivity is the percentage of adult birds in the catch. In 2008 it was 21% this year it is only 7% the best since 2006.

Blue tits are normally quite sedentary but in years of high population they often irrupt with birds moving some distance. A pointer that this may happen this year is an adult bird ringed at Heysham on 8/10 and caught six days later at Leighton Moss, a movement of 17 kms in just five days. Not exactly in the same league as our true migrants but still unusual for a blue tit.

At the late September meeting of Lancaster and District BWS most members reported no unusual numbers of Blue Tits at their garden feeders. However all the signs are that there is a large amount of natural food available with a good beech mast and berry crop.

John Wilson

Thursday 1 October 2009


Bearded Tits have had their best season at Leighton Moss since the crash in the population in the 2000/2001 winter. To date we have caught 92 free flying juveniles 41 more than last year. Juvenile survival has been very good- of 16 ringed as nestlings no fewer than 13 have been caught as free flying juveniles. This included 5 out of a brood off 6 ringed in a nest box just 4 m. from a Marsh Harrier nest!. There has also been at least one very late brood, just recently we have caught three in juvenile plumage. A male was caught yesterday and it was just starting to moult and still in full juvenile plumage. So must have been hatched in mid to late August.

The first brood younsters are now very active and showing well. We have been recording fat scores and weight of all the birds we have caught. Recently almost all first brood youngsters have some fat in the trachael pit and they have on the average increased their weight by almost 1.5 grams since August.Is this laying down of fat in preparation for a move?

In some years prior to 2000 some bearded tits have irrupted away from Leighton usually in late October and early November We have had sightings from Marton Mere near Blackpool and birds caught in Bolton, Coventry and three in South Yorshire.

If you do see birds away from Leighton please check for rings as all our birds are colour ringed. (A BTO metal ring and three colours). Please note carefully the position of the colour rings and report them on this site. Many thanks.

John Wilson

Saturday 19 September 2009

Reed bed Birds Have a Good Season

Our ringing at Leighton Moss suggests that most reed bed birds have done well this year. Pride of place goes to Bearded Tits with 84 young birds ringed this year the highest total since the crash in the breeding population in 2000 and 23 up on 2008. The first brood has now completed their moult and are showing well with some starting to visit the grit trays. Sightings of colour rings are very welcome please send to

Reed Warblers also with 694 ringed are well up on the 553 of last year and a few are still left. Reed Buntings with 59 ringed as similar to 2008. Sedge Warblers at 249 are 21 down on 2008

Of other species Blue Tits seem to have had a successful season with 148 ringed to date compared to 158 in the whole of 2008 and the best part of the season to come. Passage Warblers though are down mainly I think due to the bad weather in August and early September.

John Wilson

Thursday 17 September 2009

Ringing Photos

there are soem really nice photos of ringing, courtesy of the Times. Follow this link to see them:

you need to scroll down the page to the box that says "Bird ringing" and click on "slide show"



Friday 28 August 2009

Interesting Lesser Black-backed Gulls

There has been a little bit of Mute Swan-like ring-reading 'fatigue' with the Lesser Black-backed Gulls which have been ringed at Tarnbrook, Walney and the Ribble over the last few years.

Please, however, continue to report them e.g. they are developing interesting life histories in relation to winter travels to Iberia and north Africa.

There are also some other very interesting ringed Lesser Black-backed Gulls birds around. Mark Breaks recently unearthed an Icelandic-ringed bird at Stock Reservoir and Steven Grimshaw recently read the following :

Ringed: Orfordness, Suffolk as pullus on 12/7/03
Seen: Laayoune Plage, Western Sahara 19/1/04
Seen: Great Harwood, Blackburn 19/7/09

This is the first Lancashire sighting of any of the 4,000 ringed at Orfordness over the last 13 years. Note that it stayed in Africa during its first winter as is not unexpected, but perhaps not usually this far to the south. Why is this relevant to 'our area'? Note the Blackburn date (and age of the bird) and can we assume it has changed breeding sites to Tarnbrook?


Wednesday 26 August 2009

Reed Warblers Prosper

Large numbers of Reed Warblers are ringed each year at Leighon Moss during our Bearded Tit study. Since 1997 we have registered this ringing in the BTO's RAS scheme which attempts to monitor the survival of adults. With the ringing effort being roughly similar each year we get an idea of population levels as well.

Our average catch of adults in the 12 years from 1997 to 2008 is 176. This year to date we have recorded 166- slightly below average but 13 up on 2008. We may yet catch a few more although most adults appear to leave during the period late July and through August. In the 12 years studied we have only recorded 5 adults in September, although many juveniles are caught in the first half of September.

Reed Warblers appear to be long-lived. This year we have caught one first ringed in 2002, 4 in 2003 and 1 on 2004. This year adults seem to have stopped a little later than usual with 9 adults caught between August 16th and yesterday(25th)- in some years we have not caught any adults at all in this period. Of the 9 adults caught this year 5 were well above the average weight of 11 grams with the heaviest being 14.3 grams. These 5 all showed signs of laying down fat reserves in readiness for migration.

Recoveries from our ringing give some clues as to the timing of this migration. We have had 11 adult Reed Warblers caught on passage along the south coast of England the earliest was on August 2nd and most were during mid August. Tracking the migration further, our earliest date for an adult on migration along the Atlantic coast of France is August 10th.

We also monitor productivity and this year seems to have been well up to average with 430 juveniles ringed to date.

John Wilson

Monday 17 August 2009

Of camcorders and Med Gulls

Now is the time to look out for Mediterranean Gulls and various other species such as Cormorant with darvic or even metal rings. There are a few ring-reading specialists in the county, notably at Brockholes Quarry where Bill Aspin and Tony Disley have a really good track record for "sorting out" ringed birds, bordering on the 100%!

This is due to a mixture of highly-skilled digiscoping and 'blasting away with a camcorder'. Anyone interested in ring-reading should consider a camcorder

Bill uses an old Sony PC - 110 with mini DV tape

These used to be £1,400 at the start of the millenium, but you can now pick them up for under £300

You will need an adaptor (37 mill) which screws on to the camera and placed over the cap of the telescope - best set the zoom at x 20.

A videograb at this setting gives 680,000 pixels which is quite adequate for most ring-reading. Some modern camcorders now deal in megapixels e.g. some of the crystal-clear postings on Surfbirds.

Back to the Meds. In the area at the moment are:
1) Polish-red-ringed adult around Lancaster Quay and nearby playing fields
2) Formerly Belgian-darvic-ringed adult which lost the this ring in summer 2008, but the metal ring can still be read as Mark Prestwood managed to do yesterday. This lives in the Morecambe Broadway area during the non-breeding season
3) Czech metal-ringed bird which lives around Heysham Harbour. Not absolutely definitely seen yet this autumn, but a bird with a ring in the right place (see above photo) has.
4) Surprisingly reappearing , and of unknown future status:

Arnhem 3651898 & darvic
Ringed: De Kreupel, Netherlands: Pullus: 5/7/07
Seen: Heysham power station outfalls: 1-2/9/07 (prob since 28/7/07)
Seen: Morecambe Broadway area: 16/8/09

There may be some interim sightings of this bird which we dont yet know about. They will be inserted here if this is the case.

Sunday 9 August 2009

Nest Box News - Pied Flycatcher

One of the Groups major studies is of pied flycatchers. Within the Lune valley woodlands we recorded 57 occupied nest boxes this year. Most were very successful and 264 nestlings were ringed. We also caught 50 adults at the nest boxes of these 30 were already ringed. Breeding birds appear to show a remarkable site fidelity with 12 ringed as adults caught back in the same wood the following year many of them to the same nest box, only 1 moved and that was just 2 km. Many nestling also return to the wood where they were borne of 18 birds ringed as nestlings 8 returned to the same wood and 10 moved only to the next wood. Three were a little bit more adventurous moving between 20 km and 8 km.

However we caught 3 birds which were not ours being marked by other ringers outside our area. A look through our files shows that many nestlings do not return to their natal area. Over the years we have had 24 records of nestlings that moved away to breed in their first year. Of these 10 moved under 50 km 7 between 50 and 100 km, 5 between 100-200 km and 2 over 200 km. Three adults have also moved, 2 between 50 and 100 kms and one female moved 261 kms to Powys.

John Wilson

Wednesday 22 July 2009

Do Male Bearded Tits Live Longer than Females?

To date, this year we have caught 24 adult Bearded Tits at Leighton Moss . Of the 24, 14 are males and 10 Females. Of the 14 males 5 are 3 years old or older but the oldest female is only in its third year. This is obviously a small sample so I looked at our records since 2000

In total up to the end of 2008 we had caught 1395 juveniles of which 723 were males and 672 females. Of these 298 males (41%) had been caught or sighted as adults. By contrast of the 672 females only 171 ( 26%) were caught or sighted as adults. So it appears as though males survive better in the first year.

I then looked at the numbers of each sex as to how long they live and the table below shows the results.
7 + years 1 Male
6+ years 2 Males
5+ years 5 males 2 female
4+ years 6 males 4 females
3+ years 18 males 9 females

Of course these results need testing statistically, but it does appears that males survive better than females.
John wilson

Monday 6 July 2009

Long Lived Bearded Tit

A Bearded Tit originally ringed at Leighton Moss as a juvenile male on 08/08/02 was re-trapped this week 6 years and 331 days after ringing. We have a special programme running at Leighton Moss on Bearded Tits and all birds caught are colour ringed. This allows us to identify the bird without catching them and has been very useful in seeing which birds use the grit trays along the Causeway during autumn and early winter. This bird was seen there once each in 04 and o6 but on 4 occasions in 07 but not in either 06 or 08.

They need grit in their gizzards at this time of year as they change from the summer diet of soft insects to the much harder autumn and winter diet of reed seed.

Our record for the oldest Bearded Tit was one re-trapped 7 years and 6 days after ringing in 1991. This is the oldest Bearded Tit recorded by the British Ringing Scheme. So the present bird is only 40 days off the record.

John Wilson

Thursday 2 July 2009

Long Lived Reed Warblers

This week we have caught a Reed Warbler at Leighton Moss which was first ringed there on 23/07/01. that makes it 7 years 342 days since ringing, almost 8 years. However it was an adult when caught so it is at least 9 years old. The oldest Reed Warbler the group has recorded to date was 10 years old. The oldest Reed Warbler recorded by the National Ringing Scheme was 13 years- so our bird has a bit to go. The interesting thing is that it had never been retrapped during the 8 years until this year.
We have also had two other long livers this spring at 6 years and 302 days and 5 years and 309 days. These two birds have also not been regularly re-trapped. They have obviously breeding away from our ringing rides. This year though much of the reedbed was seriously trashed by the roosting Starlings so there may well have been a re-distribution of breeding birds.

John Wilson

Wednesday 1 July 2009

Sand Martins and recent colour mark sightings

The sand martin season has begun with 2 visits made to 2 colonies and 1 to a third. In 2008 we failed to ring any sand martins due to the river being very high throughout the season. As a result our retrap rate of birds has been exceptionally low.

The catches have been made up as follows:
12th June Burrow:
New: 61 Juveniles, 65 Adults (42 female, 23 male)
Retraps: 3 Adult males - ringed 2006 and 2x2007 all at Burrow

14th June Arkholme:
New: 43 Juveniles, 51 Adults (22 female, 27 male)
Retraps: 1 ringed elsewhere - Sussex in autumn 2006

25th June Burrow:
New: 26 Juveniles, 39 adults (21 female, 18 male)
Retrap: 33 adults (23 female, 9 males) All but 4 from previous visit and one from elsewhere. These were ringed in 2003, 2x2006, 2007

27th June Arkholme:
New: 26 Juveniles, 25 adults (12 female, 13 male)
Retrap: 1 Juvenile, 17 adults (7 female, 10 male). All from previous visit including sussex ringed bird

30th Crossdale Beck, Tatham Fells:
New: 10 Juveniles, 25 adults (16 females, 5 males, 4 unsexed)
Retrap: 1 adult female carrying a Spanish ring. This is NLRGs 7th Spanish ringed sand martin.

The bird ringed in 2003 is now just 2 years short of the longevitity record for Sand Martin the UK and Ireland.

As the Arkholme colony is closer to the river level than the Burrow colony it is likely birds using it last year have moved elsewhere due to the poor breeding success they had or were killed during flooding. As a result the low retrap rate is not too surprising.

In other news there have been recent sightings of colour ringed birds including:
Scottish ringed Greenshank at Leighton Moss which was present for 2 months last year. It arrived 4 days late this year!
Colour ringed Little Egret, origin as yet unknown, at Leighton Moss
Redshank with an orange flag from France seen at Leighton Moss
Black Headed Gull at Teal Bay (Morecambe) ringed in Denmark, present 2 years ago.

2 Knot caught at Heysham at Easter 2008 have been recaught (and resighted) in northern Norway (Porsangerfjord) on their spring migration to the breeding grounds in Canada and Greenland.

Wednesday 10 June 2009

Nest Box News (3)

Great and Blue Tits using our nest boxes this year appear to have had the best season for several years. With just 3 nests still to fledge the results for 3 schemes within the Arnside/Silverdale area and 1 in Roeburndale make encouraging reading as follows-

Great Tit Of 51 occupied nest boxes no fewer than 46 have fledged young. Only 4 dead young were found at the last visit.

Blue Tit Of 33 occupied boxes 28 produced young, only 4 dead young were found at the last visit. The largest brood was 11 all fledging succesfully.

3 broods of Nuthatch fledged and 3 of Marsh Tit.

It will be interesting to see if this good breeding success transalates into high catches during our summer and autumn ringing.

John Wilson

Monday 25 May 2009

Nest Box News No 2 Tawny Owls

Photos Chris Hoyle
The four pairs of Tawny Owls in our nest boxes this year appear to be struggling somewhat. Looking back through our records, average clutch size in previous years has been just short of 3 eggs. This year all four pairs have just two eggs each. Average brood size in previous years worked out at 2.4 per nest. This year only one pair has 2 young the others started with 2 but now have only one.
The reason for this poor productivity is probably the low numbers of small mammals this year. This scarcity has been commented on by a number of observers and may well be affecting other predators. Small mamal numbers tend to be cyclic with this year being at the low point of the cycle.

The photos show a Tawny Owl which has been hunting in daylight in a garden near Kirkby Lonsdale successfully taking small birds. Further evidence that their normal prey is scarce.

John Wilson

Friday 15 May 2009

Nest Box News

Nuthatch photo by David Mower

Following last years abysmal weather during the nesting season which resulted in below average productivity in many of our nest boxes we rather expected a decline in the numbers of pairs . To date I have had reports from three schemes we run within the Arnside/Silverdale area and the results tabulated below show that although there has been a decline in the use by Great Tit and Blue Tit it is only a comparatively small decline.

Great Tit 51 in 2008 to 47 in 2009
Blue Tit 23 in 2008 to 21 in 2009
Nuthatch 2 in both years
Marsh Tit Nil in 2008 1 in 2009

To date despite the recent period of cold easterly winds the number of chicks surviving has been good. However today's forcast of periods of heavy rain, which makes the finding of sufficent caterpillars difficult may further test the birds.

First results from our other schemes in the Lune valley suggests a similar decline in tit population except Marsh Tit which this year we have 5 pairs nesting compared with a nil return last year. Pied Flycatchers arrived early but numbers appear to be down somewhat but full details will not be available for a few days yet.

John Wilson

Tuesday 28 April 2009

There has been lots of reports of Siskins coming to feeders this spring and late winter. Several people have asked where these visitors breed. We have ringed just over 900 in the area almost exclusively in gardens and 33 of these reported from elsewhere. Of these 14 were reported from Scotland during the spring and summer suggesting that this is the main area where these birds of coniferous forests are coming from. A few are drawn from further afield with one, (killed by a cat) in southern Sweden in late April . We also have 3 reports from Belgium- one each in March September and November so these may be either Scandinavian or Scottish birds moving through Belguim at this time. The same is probably true of a bird in France on April 1st.

Having said all this there are increasing numbers being reported during the breeding season in the maturing conifer woodland in our area and in Cumbria so some at least of our birds may be quite local. If you come across any Siskins in typical habitat please report these for the BTO Atlas.

John Wilson

Friday 3 April 2009

where do your garden's birds come from?

A Greenfinch that was caught in my garden in Hala, Lancaster on 9th November 2008 had been ringed at Spurn Point, Humberside nineteen days earlier.

Spurn Point is a well known staging post for birds migrating across the North Sea from Scandanavia and it is tempting to think that this bird might be one of the small proportion of wintering Greenfinch that come from Norway. To put it in perspective, over 1.5 million Greenfinch have been ringed in Britain but only 141 have made it here from other countries - so its a small, but tantalising, possibility that this is the case.

However, unless it goes back to Norway and is caught there this year (or later) there is no way of knowing for sure. Who knows? The birds in your garden might also be visitors from outside the area!

Paul Cammack

Friday 20 March 2009

More godwit sightings

This morning shortly after dawn I made a visit to Leighton Moss. Present were a flock of around 1100 Black Tailed Godwit. At least 4 of these were colour ringed - 3 marked were in Iceland and 1 on the Wash (as mentioned on the 14th post).

The life histories of these 3 birds are outlined here:

July 2004 N Iceland
May 2005 Dee estuary
April 2006 Leighton Moss, Lancashire, NW England (2 sightings)
August 2006 The Wash estuary (at the same time as the bird on the 14th was ringed)
December 2006 Leighton Moss
December 2006 Hodbarrow RSPB Reserve,
March 2007 RSPB Leighton Moss, Lancashire, NW England (2 sightings)
January 2008 Marshside, Ribble estuary, Lancashire, NW England (2 sightings)
March 2008 Leighton Moss Allen Pools, Lancashire, NW England (3 sightings)
March 2009 Leighton Moss
Total 15 sightings in 6 locations

June 2005 NW Ice
January 2006 Western Spain
May 2006 The Dee estuary
January 2008 Marshside, Ribble estuary, (2 sightings)
February 2008 The Dee estuary (2 sightings)
April 2008 Leighton Moss (4 sightings)
September 2008 Marshside
October 2008 The Dee (3 sightings)
February 2009 The Dee
March 2009 Leighton Moss
Total 17 sightings in 5 locations

July 2005 N Iceland
January 2006 Co. Wexford, S Ireland
March 2006 Loire-Atlantique, NW France
December 2006 Algarve, Portugal (2 sightings)
April 2007 Cambridgeshire, E England
July 2007 Dee estuary, (2 sightings)
October 2007 Dee estuary
January 2008 Marshside
February 2008 Dee estuary ( 2 sightings)
May 2008 E Iceland (2 sightings)
August 2008 Dee estuary
October 2008 to February 2009 Dee estuary (22 sightings)
March 2009 Leighton Moss (2 sightings)
Total 39 sightings in 9 locaions

From the last two (which were ringed as chicks) it is clear they do not attempt to breed in their first summer. One didn't appear to move north in the second summer. They spend much of their first year finding the place to winter. Once they have the winter site they become very site faithful until March when they start to move northwards.

The 'Islandica' population of Godwit have between 1 and 2% colour marked. Here we rarely have evidence of more than about .5% being colour marked. The bulk of the marked birds here (75% this year) are colour marked on their breeding grounds in Iceland. This once again points at birds being very area faithful after their first winter as no Godwit are currently colour ringed in the north west UK.


Monday 16 March 2009

Twite Movement Begins in Earnest?

Over the past few weeks Twite numbers at the Heysham feeding station have been fairly constant at around 30 - 38. The vast majority of these were ringed birds (with metal and colour combinations). Between 3 and 7 birds were unringed on average. The birds were mostly seen as large groups and catching efforts resulted in a single catch of a reasonable number (or no catches!) on any day. Two to three Linnets were present on occasions too. This flock size was present as recently as Sunday (yesterday).

This morning, things were quite different. Small groups of birds were seen together with a number of Linnets and a much higher proportion of the Twite were not ringed. Six separate net deployments resulted in catches of most of these small groups. The proportion of unringed birds was now 11 out of a total of 17 (plus a total of 6 Linnets which were also caught).

It would seem that in the last weeks, the "local" wintering birds were frequenting and feeding in the area from Heysham southwards to the Fylde. Twite are very mobile and visit a number of widely separated sites daily within their overall area. Flocks including Heysham ringed birds have been witnessed as far as the Southport shore recently.

The apparent break up of the flock and arrival of unringed birds seems to indicate that local birds are now moving north towards their breeding grounds in the western Scotland mainland and islands and that individuals that have not been on the Heysham part of the daily circuit (i.e. unringed birds) are moving through, possibly taking advantage of the feeding station there en route.


Saturday 14 March 2009

Wader update

Today was my first colour ringed Godwit sighting of the year in the North Lancs area. This is by my standards very poor! All that being said the Black Tailed Godwit turned out to be an old friend at Leighton. First ringed on the Wash in 2006:

12.08.06 The Wash estuary, Lincolnshire, E England
01.12.06 Leighton Moss, Lancashire, NW England
22.12.06 Leighton Moss, Lancashire, NW England
21.03.07 Leighton Moss, Lancashire, NW England
24.01.08 Marshside, Ribble estuary, Lancashire, NW England
29.03.08 Leighton Moss, Lancashire, NW England
20.04.08 Leighton Moss, Lancashire, NW England

There have been at least two other likely sightings before todays at Morecambe (9th January), Leighton Moss (8th March).

Other recent movements of waders ringed in Morecambe bay are 3 knot ringed in 1998 and 2004 (2) which have been retrapped on the Wash in August and November last year. Once again these show the importance of both the Wash and Morecambe Bay for Knot. Whether these Knot will have returned to the Bay this year or stayed on the East coast we do not know however we do know they will soon begin their migration to arctic Canada either via Iceland or back to the Waddensea, up the coast of Norway and a short hop to Canada from there.

Richard du Feu

Friday 13 March 2009

Twite update

See previous posting for the background to this

Alan caught 18 Twite today at the Heysham feeding station, including 7 unringed birds, out of 30+ seen.

The retrap data from the other 11 birds is interesting. Most of them were retrapped for the first time since ringing with the ringing dates as follows:
31/10/08 (1)
5/11/08 (2)
26/11/08 (4)
4/2/09 (1)
One was ringed on 5/11 and retrapped on 4/2/09
Two others were both ringed on 31/10/08 and retrapped on 5/11/08 + 16/11/08 and 16/11/08 + 15/12/08 respectively.

Bearing in mind that only FIVE out of the 137 ringed during winter 2008/9 have been previously retrapped twice, it is interesting that two of these have appeared for their third retrap today. This suggests that, in contrast to the rest of the retrap data (& unringed birds), which suggests a wide-ranging metapopulation with individual birds occasionally visiting Heysham, these two (and perhaps the bird retrapped on 4/2) have developed a degree of loyalty to the Heysham feeding station. This is backed up by variable counts (rarely exceeding 30 at any one time) and ringed/unringed percentages

14/3/09 update: Heysham NHW feeding station at 1315hrs
31 Twite with 7 unringed, 23 Heysham-ringed and one ringed in autumn 2008 at Askam in Furness, Duddon estuary. A reading attempt on the latter with 50 x just kept flagging the letter "R"; about as helpful as the "E" when reading British-ringed Black-headed Gulls.

[No flagged/cr Knot/c600 on heliport] (14/3/09)

Pete Marsh

Thursday 12 March 2009

Swallow to Madeira

Once again the North Lancs Ringing Group gets a first from ringing swallows. In September 2007 a Juvenile swallow was caught at a roost in the Lune valley. In July 2008 this bird was found dead at:

Ihia da Deserta Grande, Madeira, Portugal - 32 30N 16 30W

The report suggested this bird was long dead. As a result it was likely to have been blown off course on migration.

Not only is this the first BTO ringed swallow to be found on Madeira it is also the first BTO ringed passerine to be recovered on Madeira. 6 non-passerines have been recovered there in the past:

1 Lesser Black Backed Gull
1 Herring Gull
1 Puffin
1 Manx Shearwater
2 Great Skua

This makes it a very interesting movement - why would a swallow be in Madeira unless it was blown off course or a local breeder.

The previous first for NLRG with swallows was the first Scandanavian ringed swallow to be recorded in the UK.

Friday 6 March 2009

Three British Records for the Group

The BTO Website (www, gives a list of longevity records for all British ringed birds.
The group has three species which qualify.

A nestling ringed at Leighton Moss on 8th May 2000 is still being sighted at Leighton Moss making it 7 years 8 months 23 days old at the last sighting.

Great Tit
A nestling ringed in a nest box in Eaves Wood on May 23 1976 was found dead 13 years 11 months and 5 days later. It was quite an adventurous bird for it had travelled 45 km NE to reach Appleby in Cumbria. Great tits rarely move more than 5 km

Bearded Tit
The BTO list gives the record for this reed bed species as 6years 4 months and 24 days. But looking through our data I was found an older bird. This was ringed on May 5th 2000 at Leighton Moss and finally retrapped 7 years 8 months and 23 days later- still at Leighton Moss!

Wednesday 25 February 2009

Knot Migrations

A large number of recent Knot recoveries and colour ring sightings prompted me to review what local ringing by the Morecambe Bay Wader Group has discovered about this abundant winter visitor to Morecambe Bay.

1) Breeding Area The 16 recoveries within the Greenland breeding area during May to July show this to be the main destination of our birds. Most of the recoveries are on the west of Greenland ( the side nearest to Canada). We also have two recoveries in June on Ellesmere Island Canada both were caught on the nest then
released. The distance between Morecambe Bay and Ellesmere Island is 3400 km.

2) Spring Migration Birds start to leave the Bay in late March on through April. They obviously use Iceland as a re-fueling halt for we have 26 recoveries in May and 1 in late April. Almost all of these were caught and released. We also have 10 reports from northern Norway at this time of year. So this area is also used as a stop over point. All these birds were either caught and released by ringers or were sightings of colour ringed birds. The only other reports we have at this time of year are one each in Germany and The Netherlands.

3) Autumn Migration On the return migration in July through to early September they also make use of both Iceland (18 recoveries) and Norway ( 4 recoveries) as re-fueling halts but most move to the Wadenzee in the Netherlands ( 24 recoveries) or The Wash(48 recoveries) where they under go the annual moult during September and October before they make a gradual return to Morecambe Bay most arriving in late November through to early January.

So Knot make this amazing circular migration of around 7000 km. from the Bay to the breeding grounds and back.

Sunday 15 February 2009

Couple of updates

.....One good, one not so good

Honey Buzzard
The Scottish bird which roosted overnight in our area near Lupton on 13/14 September during its southbound migration. It has now either lost its transmitter in Morocco or is dead. Either way it is a closed book unless it turns up as a conventional ringing recovery. From the Highland Foundation Website:

3rd October
At 11.30am, she was on the western flanks of the Anti-Atlas mountains, heading for Imzilene; 60 kilometres SE of Agadir, Morocco

4th - 11th October
She had moved 60 kilometres to the south-east near Tameguert and then was along a river valley in these mountains.

12th to 18th October
She is still in the river valley area, with fixes being up to 6 kilometres apart north to south near Tameguert. It seems a strange place for her to stay.

19th -24th November
Signals are still coming in for the same place on mountain ridges. This is an earlier model transmitter without GPS or activity meter, but it is now pretty certain that the transmitter has either detached or the honey buzzard has died or been killed in the mountains.

20th December
Signals are still coming from same area, so the bird or radio must be out in the sun in an open area in the mountains. If anyone is going birding there this winter - please get in touch and I'll give an accurate location - in case you could solve the mystery.
Ringed Plover
The Snettisham bird has definitely overwintered by Ocean Edge caravan park, Heysham/Middleton, albeit elusively:
NW23526 Adult female
Ringed as a nestling at Snettisham, Norfolk on 16/7/04
Subsequently nested at Snettisham in at least 2005, 2006 and 2008
Seen: Cockersands on 30/9/07 by Ian Hartley
Seen: Ocean Edge caravan park foreshore 19/9/08 & 14/11/08 & 14/2/09

Thursday 12 February 2009

Link to BTO ringing blog

This link will be added to the list at the side later, but just thought it worth highlighting this blogsite:

Saturday 7 February 2009

Twite ringing – late winter update

The ringing of previous influxes of Twite to Heysham and nearby coastal sites to the south has resulted in several recoveries to and from the inner Hebrides and nearby Scottish mainland along with one from South Uist. Given this evidence, there has been a logical interchange of birds between Askam-in Furness (Cumbria) and Heysham. This picture was ‘complicated’ by evidence suggesting that the occasional bird of south Pennine origin at the very least passed through Heysham and Askam on late autumn passage and also wintered in small numbers on the south Ribble marshes. The jury is out as to whether the two Heysham recoveries involving the Lincolnshire coast, or indeed the recent Walberswick control, were of south Pennine origin or could be birds of Scottish origin. Two of these were in the same autumn-winter. Therefore this presumably involved either south Pennine birds reorientating towards the "correct" wintering area after initial autumnal dispersal in the 'wrong' direction or Scottish birds "ending up with" (how?) south Pennine birds and being "dragged" kicking and screaming to the east coast! There has not been an east-coast-ringed bird found on the western Scottish breeding grounds or vice-versa.

After two rather lean winters with very few birds at the Heysham feeder and rather low numbers along the coast, it was a surprise to find a significant influx of mainly juvenile birds during late October-mid November 2008. The west Scottish Twite population had seemingly enjoyed the “poor” summer in terms of breeding success. Or have a higher percentage simply come further south than in the previous two winters? In this respect, at this current time, there does not seem to be a great deal of evidence of sizeable flocks on the Cumbrian coast c/p winters 2006/7 and 2007/8. This is, however, the sort of comment which could be contradicted tomorrow!

This influx resulted in about 130 birds being ringed at Heysham north harbour wall feeder between 31/10/08 and the end of January 2009. Over one-third of these were trapped on 5/11/08.

The retrap data from previous winters has seen a certain amount of interchange between birds at Heysham north wall and other flocks scattered along the Fylde coast. However, there was always a “core” of up to c20 birds, which were regularly retrapped. This winter has been different. First of all, there was only ONE bird seen which was ringed at Heysham prior to February 2008. Therefore there was NO ‘core population’ of regularly returning birds and this is perhaps reflected in the retrap data tabled below. In other words, the presence at Heysham in winter 2008/9 is simply due to a significant number of mobile birds knowing about the feeding station, not due to a ‘resident group’ using this source and occasionally being joined by others. The Heysham retrap data and observation of ringed birds elsewhere suggests a metapopulation of scattered coastal flocks which vary in size and location as the individuals ‘mix and match’ sites. It must be emphasised that catching of Twite at Heysham tends to be an "all or nothing" under a whoosh net. Therefore there is no obvious bias towards birds which have not been retrapped on a regular basis and are therefore not net-shy. Therefore catching sessions are not accompanied by significant numbers of net-wise birds sitting on a nearby fence. Also, in previous winters, when there was a "core population", some individuals were retrapped as many as five times.

'Mixing and matching' certainly appears to be the case between Heysham and Bank End and is also probably the case between Heysham and perhaps as far south as Knott End (although ringing data from this flock not available). Unfortunately we have no idea of the location of overnight roosts, possibly the most likely ‘mixing ground’. However, the roosts may be separate entities at each location and therefore any mixing is simply, as has been observed on occasions, due to roaming around in daylight hours. Observed roaming e.g. purposeful flight over Potts corner, half way between the Heysham and Conder, has tended to involve small flocks, not singletons.

One of the difficulties has been to determine the end of the passage period and the start of the winter ‘mixing and matching’, especially in relation to the unringed birds appearing at Heysham in variable numbers during the winter. The Heysham ringing data, allied to observations, suggests that the 2008 autumn passage as such was probably over by about 20/11/08, therefore subsequent unringed birds were part of the winter ‘mixing and matching’ and presumably not a dribble of southbound new arrivals during the course of the winter. Difficult to be absolutely certain as this species is NOT obvious on ‘vis’, perhaps due to off-passage birds at the feeder & regular commuting to and from Ocean Edge saltmarsh confusing matters.

The flocks, many of which appear to contain “at least some” Heysham-ringed birds, can be found at the following sites. As already implied the numbers are extremely variable as befits a mixing and matching metapopulation.

Location of flocks in Lancashire and Merseyside winter 2008/9
Bolton-le-Sands saltmarsh

The only flock recorded to the north of Heysham was of 5 (at least one Heysham-ringed) on Bolton-le-Sands marsh on 10/1/09. This was a regular site, with daily commuting to and from Heysham north wall in e.g. winter 2003/4.

Heysham north harbour wall & Ocean Edge
Reasonably easy to see ringed percentages at the feeding station. Very variable unringed/ ringed ratios, sometimes as low as 1/40 in early December, but as high as 21/85 on 23/12 and about 16/60 in mid-January. In general, the smaller flocks of 30-40 contained about 4-7 unringed birds during December-January, but a flock trapped on 4/2/09 contained 6 unringed birds out of a flock size of just 15. This supports the suggestions above re-mixing

Conder Estuary and area
Maximum of 55+ on 6/2/09 (only 2 at Heysham on this date). 50+ on 23/1, all other counts being 25 or below. Very hard to observe legs but percentage of Heysham birds presumed high

Maxima of 50+ on 1/1/09 & 5/1/09, 41 on 2/1/09, otherwise 13 or below. “Some” Heysham birds, with some counts suggesting as high as 80%

Bank End
46-55 on several dates 30/11-11/12/08. c50 on 5/1, otherwise absence of records. At least 50% Heysham birds on the few occasions able to observe the legs

Fluke Hall to Cockers Dyke
Difficult to be sure here – maximum of 20-30 but Linnets confuse the picture. “Some” Heysham birds

Knott End
Build up during November from 1 on 5/11, 30+ on 14/11 and 50+ on 23/11 & 28/11. Irregular high counts reported with a maximum of 62, but under 40 since 1/1/09. Number of Heysham birds completely unknown

South Ribble Estuary
Numbers unknown – no data available. Previously, this flock has perhaps surprisingly contained several south Pennine-ringed birds along with at least two from Heysham, or in one case, ringed on the South Ribble and controlled at Heysham. There is no evidence that the Heysham-ringed birds were of Scottish origin, given the history of small numbers of south Pennine or presumed south Pennine (see ringing recoveries) birds mixing with the inner Hebridean/west Scottish mainland birds

Birkdale and rest of Sefton Coast
There is absolutely no evidence of these birds mixing with any further north during the course of the winter. The grand total appears to be about 130 with the largest flock, of up to 56, at Birkdale One Heysham-ringed bird present – ringed during the known passage period [& one from Askam – see recoveries]. Otherwise at least 50 unringed, probably as many as 90, with the rest unknown. 33 have been metal-ringed here by John Gramauskas. As far as I am aware, the usual amount of ringing was undertaken in the south Pennines in 2008, so the lack of ringed birds may suggest another origin, perhaps logically, Scottish birds avoiding the whoosh nets at Askam and Heysham (apart from one from each site)

Thurstaston, Wirral
A small seemingly isolated and self-contained flock exhibiting a ’10 green bottles’ winter survival syndrome as it has gradually reduced from 15 to about 11. No ringed birds.

Heysham north harbour wall retrap data
Retraps of birds ringed during the 2007/8 winter
Ringed 12/2/08 (last three digits of ring numbers=619-640)
628 26/11
629 31/10
630 26/11
631 31/10
633 26/11
638 12/11
640 31/10
Ringed 16/2/08 (641-646)
643 15/12
644 1/11
646 5/11

Ringed 31/10/08 (647-677)
648 26/11
649 5/11
650 26/11
651 12/11
653 15/12
654 5/11
655 5/11
658 26/11
659 5/11
661 26/11
662 5/11
663 26/11
664 26/11 & 4/2/09
666 4/2/09
667 15/12
668 16/11 & 15/12
670 4/2/09
671 26/11
672 5/11 & 16/11
674 5/11
677 5/11
Ringed 1/11/08 (678-691)
680 26/11
684 26/11 & 4/2/09
685 4/2/09
686 16/11
688 5/11
690 5/11
Ringed 5/11/08 (692-743)
697 26/11
702 26/11
705 15/12
706 26/11
709 4/2/09
712 15/12
713 12/11
716 12/11
719 12/11 & 26/11
722 12/11
724 12/11
725 12/11
726 26/11
730 26/11
732 16/11
738 26/11
741 4/2/09
742 16/11
Ringed 10/11/08 (744)
744 4/2/09
Ringed 12/11/08 (745-746)
Ringed 16/11/08 (747-754)
753 26/11
754 15/12
Ringed 26/11/08 (755-770)
Ringed 15/12/08 (771)
Ringed 4/2/09 (772-777)

As has already been alluded to, the low number of double, as opposed to single, retraps does suggest that the Heysham winter population involves mixing and matching with at least the birds as far south as Bank End. The notable exception appears to be the Askam-ringed R687936! See above re-comment on net-shyness.

Selected ringing recoveries relating to winter 2008/9
Ringed: Askam-in-Furness SD205775 c27/10/08
Seen: Birkdale beach 12/11/08

Ringed: Heysham north harbour wall SD399604 31/10/08
Presumably same bird seen: Birkdale beach 12/11/08 & 4/1/09

Ringed: Askam-in-Furness SD205775 end of Oct 2008
Seen Glasson Marsh 17/11/08

Possibly one of those already seen/trapped at Heysham

Ringed: Heysham north harbour wall autumn 2008
Seen: Bolton-le-Sands shore; only bird/5 where legs seen 10/1/09

The only Morecambe Bay-east flock seen to the north of Heysham as far as we know

Ringed: Heysham north harbour wall autumn 2004
Seen: Heysham north wall 22/11/08

The only Heysham-ringed bird seen/caught which was ringed prior to February 2008! (None ringed 2006/7)

Ringed: Askam-in-Furness autumn 2006
Seen: Heysham north harbour wall 13/11/08

Just seen the once rather briefly and not possible to read metal ring

Heysham controls of birds ringed at Askam in Furness late October 2008:
R687936: caught 26/11/08 & 15/12/08, also presumably this partially read in 2009
R687948: caught 5/11/08
R687944: caught 5/11/08 & 12/11/08

All sightings of Askam birds at the Heysham feeding station since mid-November 2008 have been singletons and, on two occasions [last on 31/1/09], partial-reading has suggested, but not absolutely confirmed, R687936.

Ringed: Walberswick, Suffolk 3 female 23/12/06
Caught: Heysham north harbour wall 5/11/08 & 4/2/09

This has obvious wintered! Why would a south Pennine bird orientate correctly to Suffolk in its first winter (as a potentially lost and inexperienced immature) yet go “the wrong way” in its third winter? Perhaps it was a Scottish bird which ended up ‘lost’ at Walberswick (with known south-Pennine birds) as a youngster, then found the ‘correct’ wintering area in 2008/9? Is it from a fragmented population in the north Pennines without a strongly flock-cohesive migration pattern?

Further information required
The ringed birds have a metal ring on one (usually the right) leg and a single colour and a two-colour (with each colour half the width of the single colour) rings on the other leg. The most common combination of colour rings will involve a Heysham LIGHT BLUE single ring which is the SITE CODE and a variety of two-colour rings.

WE are not that bothered about the individual details as you will probably get very little time to observe the flock. Therefore please prioritise checking the approximate ringed to unringed ratio and check for any SINGLE colour rings which are NOT LIGHT BLUE. If you do come across one with a site ring not from Heysham, please try and get details of the two-colour ring and in an ideal world digicam the metal ring (last three numbers might be enough in conjunction with accurate reading of the two-colour ring)

Thanks very much and good luck!

To Alan Draper for ably conducting the ringing effort at Heysham and to all the various people who have assisted in ringing and providing photographs of ringed birds. Could someone upload a Twite pic to accompany this article, please?

Monday 26 January 2009

Lune valley Whooper & imminent Twite

The Twite at Heysham will be updated in the next day or so. I was waiting for another catch to help sort out the retraps but various things conspired to thwart yesterdays lengthy effort by Alan (notably the unfortunately-timed arrival of police on a "what are you doing - we're new and dont know you" theme)

Whooper Swan
After about three hours, spanning two sessions, down a muddy slippery road with a "bobsleigh" run at the half-way point, an unsatisfactory and patently incorrect "553" was finally modified to an accurate "S53"

The history is a little ungrandiose but at least it shows some cred - a difficult to approach (therefore read) bird in proper wild habitat!

W19967 S53
Ringed: Muthill, near Crieff, Tayside 56 20N 3 57 W Ad 7/11/06
Seen Muthill, near Crieff, Tayside 1/2/07
Seen Melling, Lune Valley at least 15/12/08 to present

One of a herd of 8 adults which have all almost certainly been present since mid-November, but the presence of a darvic was not suspected until mid-December due to range of birds & length of grass!

Thanks to Kane Brides & Richard for sorting this out and Edward Towers for access.

Wednesday 14 January 2009

Speedy Sedge Warblers

A recent recovery of a Sedge Warbler on 28 August in Seine-Maritime France just 13 days after ringing in our area inspired me to look through our files for similar quick movements.

We have 4 reports of Sedge Warblers ringed in the Tay reed beds in eastern Scotland in mid to late August and caught in our area all 4 just 7 days after ringing. So many of the Sedge Warblers we catch are obviously of Scottish origin and have already started their migration.

Perhaps the most interesting report was a young bird ringed at Leighton Moss on 13/08/04 at 10.00 and caught next day at 05.50 at Brandon Marsh Warwickshire. Sedge Warblers are night migrants so this bird had travelled 220 km in one night which at that time of year means a maximum ca. 6 hours of flying time with a minimum speed of ca 35 km per hour. When originally caught it weighed 12.7 grams and when retrapped it had lost exactly a gram!

Of course we don't know if a bird starts migrating the next night after ringing or if it was caught as soon as it arrives at the site it is reported from. So the details given below should be considered with this in mind.

Birds have traveled the c.400 km to reach the English south coast in 4 days(2), 5 days (3) 6 days (3) 7 Days (2) 9 days (2) and 10 days (2).

Going further afield birds have reached Belgium in 10 days, France in 11, 14(2), 16days and 23 days. These birds travelled between 700 and 1323 km.

All this information has come from other ringers catching and releasing our birds. For our part we have ringed almost 11,000 Sedge Warblers in our area.

John Wilson

Tuesday 13 January 2009

Heysham Knot (again)

From my recent postings it appears as if I'm somewhat obsessed with waders and in particular with Knot at Heysham. Today during what can only be described as poor weather a decent flock of Knot (c1500-2000) were present on the concrete helipad. Of these at least 4 were colour marked although I only managed to read one combination in full. This bird was ringed in late September on the Waddensea. Once again this demonstrates the eastward movement of Knot throughout the winter until they migrate north through Iceland or Norway back to Greenland and Canada. Any sightings are of huge value to help the understanding of bird movements and survival in the UK.


Monday 12 January 2009

heavy Blackbirds

I was surprised to catch a Blackbird in my garden last week that was rather heavy. I had originally caught this bird in November 2005, when it weighed a pretty normal 113g. Last week, I re-caught it and it weighed 137g, an increase of 24g. A lot of this extra weight was stored as fat (visible if a ringer gently blows on the breast feathers to reveal the skin underneath) and you might like to put 25g (or one ounce) of fat on your kitchen scales to see what this amount of fat would look like!

There has been some recent information from ringing providing evidence that some species of bird, particularly Blackbirds, put on weight in harsh winter weather. You might imagine that this would make perfect sense - if food is in short supply, load on as much as you can in case you can't find some later on. However, it isn't quite as simple as that as a heavy bird takes up more energy to move and is thus less efficient at using its food whilst worse, it is less manoeverable and thus more at risk of being caught by predators. Whilst much more research is needed for humans to understand the processes involved in weight gain in birds in harsh weather, it appears as if the birds know what to do - and this seems to be to feed up!

Incidentally....I wonder where this bird had been for the past 3 years as I hadn't caught it since 2005 despite some intensive efforts, but the faithfulness of birds to urban gardens is a topic for another post!

paul cammack