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 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!