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)

Sunday 26 December 2010

Waxwings Move On

Photo David Talbot
The 200+ Waxwing frequenting Leighton Moss in early December have now declined to 30-40. One of the birds (shown above) photographed at Leighton Moss had been colour ringed in Dyce Aberdeen on 31/10. It was an adult male. It was seen at Leighton Moss on 14/12 334 km SSW. This bird has now been sighted at Ely near Cambridge on 24/12 a further 284 kms further south.

Raymond Duncan who is organising the ringing in Aberdeen reports that many colour ringed birds have reached the south coast with 4 in Kent, 2 in Dorset, 2 in Hampshire and 1 each in Somerset and Isle of Wight.


Sunday 19 December 2010

Record Breaking Bittern

The photographing of a ringed Bittern from Lilian's Hide Leighton Moss on December 15th by Stan Parrot established 1291702 as the longest lived ringed Bittern in Britain. It is ten years and 221 days since it was ringed

This bird was ringed as a nestling at Leighton Moss by the RSPB Research Department on May 5th 2000, and on DNA evidence was sexed a female. The improvement in camera and telescope technology in recent years has allowed the reading of the rings of ringed birds in the field. Using these methods this bird has been identified on one occasion in 2007 and twice in both 2008 and 2009 and now twice in 2010. Prior to the recent sighting it was last recorded on 31 January 2010.

All the certain sightings of this bird have been in the period October to January. However ringed birds have been seen at Leighton Moss during spring and summer but not identified with certainty. It is much more difficult to get photographs showing the ringed leg during the spring and summer when the legs are often hidden in the vegetation. The best time is during cold spells when they often walk on the ice,

The Wardens at Leighton Moss are putting out sprats to help tide the bitterns over the present cold spell. This bird was seen to disappear into the area where the sprats are being provided. Excellent views of at least three Bitterns from Lilians hide have been obtained recently.


Saturday 18 December 2010

Recent recoveries

Over the last few weeks we have received some recoveries from the BTO and some foreign colour ringing schemes. The highlights are below:

Canada Goose 5252529
02/07/2006 Llangorse Lake (Powys)
25/08/2010 Arkholme 250km North. Dead
Historically Canada Geese used to migrate in late summer to do their main moult. Recently this migration has lessened so a movement of 250km is rather exceptional. Of the 2300 movements of more than 100km of Canada geese ringed in the UK only 13 occurred in 2009.

Little Egret:
2 ringed as chicks near Bangor were seen and identified from their colour rings near Cockersands. Both were ringed this summer and brings the total from that colony to the area to 5 individuals.

Black-tailed Godwit R8-OG
07/07/2010 Lambadalar NW Iceland
26/09/2010 - 17/10/2010 Eric Morecambe complex
09/10/2010 Dee Estuary
Another Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit to the area from Iceland. Of more interest is the rapid within winter movement to the Dee. This is becoming a regular event with well over 50% of the birds seen at Leighton also being seen on the Dee showing that Morecambe Bay and the Dee estuaries are heavily both important for the same individual birds.

Bar-tailed Godwit Y1WYBR
18/10/2001 Schiermonnikoog, Netherlands
14/11/2010 Glasson
The is the first foreign ringed barwit to the area. The only other record of Bar-tailed Godwit in the area was ringed on the Dee.

Waxwing NW50006
31/10/2010 Aberdeen
14/12/2010 Leighton
A rapid movement of this charismatic winter visitor. More sightings of these (and any other species) are always welcome.

Sand Martin L334998
25/08/2010 Gressingham
31/08/2010 Northamptonshire
A very rapid movement of a juvenile. Lets hope it returns to the Lune valley to breed in 2011.

Reed Warbler Z49451
19/08/2009 Handarribia Spain
12/07/2010 Middleton
Our third Reed Warbler from Spain. A very nice movement showing how early Reed Warblers leave the UK as juveniles if they possibly can.

Goldcrest CDR913
12/10/2010 Heysham
20/11/2010 Finningley, Doncaster
Another rapid movement of this tiny species. Rather unusual for one to move east during autumn. A movement in the opposite direction with these dates would be considered 'normal'!

Twite R687685
01/11/2008 Heysham
04/02/2009 Heysham
24/09/2010 Clachtoll Lochinver (485 km)
31/10/2010 Heysham
Birds returning to the same winter site is always good. Even better is that we know that this one spent some time in autumn in the Highland region.

Chiffchaff BXC640
21/09/2008 Middleton
06/05/2010 Batschuns Vorarlberg (Austria) 1158 km SE
A lot can be said about this however it is purely guesswork so I'll stick with saying it is the first BTO ringed Chiffchaff to be recovered in Austria!

Thanks to Tony Cross, Pete Potts (and the Icelandic Godwit project), NIOZ, Richard Smith and Grampian Ringing Group of the details of resightings.


Friday 17 December 2010

Bearded Tit End fof Term Report

Photo Mike Malpass

With the onset of the cold weather we have finished our ringing of Bearded Tits for this year. The cold weather with snow also appeared to cut short the gritting season.

It has been a very successful year for our long term study of this isolated population which we have been studying since they colonised in 1973. We estimate that 30 pairs of bearded tits have nested on the reserve this year, four upon 2009. In total though we have caught or identified by colour rings a total of 49 adult males and 28 adult females. The surplus of males appears genuine for of 41 adult males caught during the breeding season 27% had not developed brood patches so were probably not paired.

A total of 104 free flying young were ringed just one up on 2009. Survival has been very good for of 67 young birds ringed before they moulted in late July no fewer than 65 were caught or identified in late September/October.

The grit trays were well used this year a total of 726 sightings were made. This involved 122 different birds. Of these 62 were adults and 60 birds of the year. Many birds (47%) visited on only one to three days but a sizable proportion visited more often including one record breaker which visited on at least 22 days. Adults visited from the start of the season in late September and birds of the year only started visiting in numbers in mid October.


Monday 13 December 2010

Blue Tits don't move?

a Blue Tit ringed as a nestling in a box in Roeburndale near Wray this year has been caught twice in my garden in Lancaster. If it moved through Littledale, this will have moved about 14Km (a crossing directly over Clougha seems unlikely). One of the old papers on Blue Tits said that they would not cross open ground the size of a football pitch - this one clearly hasn't read the script!

This isn't the first of our Blue Tits to make this type of journey, but it does show that urban gardens hold birds (even sedentary ones) from a surprisingly wide radius


Saturday 11 December 2010

warming up in the woods

15 degrees warmer at Wray than it was on Thursday. A pleasant morning's ringing saw plenty of retraps, as expected, but also plenty of new birds. This poses the question: where do they come from as there are a number of us ringing pulli in the Roeburn Valley, yet I seldom catch anyone else's birds and hardly ever catch birds from my boxes a mile upstream.

Today was one of the better days for variety of species with Great, Blue, Coal, Marsh, Long-tailed Tits, Chaffinch, Dunnock, Nuthatch, Lesser Redpoll oh, and one of these .....

Thursday 9 December 2010

Feeding Station Turns up Trumps!

The promise of milder weather initiated a visit to our Woodland Feeding Station near Storth. Two short nets cover the feeders and our second net round produced only the second Brambling for the site. But this adult male was different- it was already ringed! In 50 years of ringing our group has only ringed a total of 308 Brambling and just 12 over the past ten years- and this is our first control. So we wait with interest the ringing details of this British ringed bird.

It was a good morning with 57 birds caught, many from previous visits to the site including both Coal and Blue Tits in their fifth year.

So far we have made Seven visits to the site this autumn and early winter and some interesting statistics are coming out. Blue Tit is as usual the commonest bird with 79caught. But Coal Tit with 68 runs it very close. Chaffinch is next with 50 followed by Great Tit with 48.

These four species appear to have had a successful breeding season - all four are well up on the same period in previous years with roughly similar effort. The numbers of Coal Tits is quite exceptional 20 - 30 is the usual catch.


Saturday 27 November 2010

freezing the nuts off!

Far fewer birds in my trip to the woods this morning than last week (only 29, of which only ten were new birds) but surprisingly, FOUR Great Spotted Woodpeckers - more than I usually catch in a year.

Gosh, my figers don't half hurt now - they can peck like mad and one of my fingers would have been bleeding faster than it did - if it hadn't been freezing cold this morning!


Friday 26 November 2010

Autumn Osprey update

Earlier this year, I mentioned all the satellite-tracked Ospreys which had passed over this area on the 2010 spring migration. I have just had a look on the Highland Wildlife site to see what happened on the autumn migration and most of the same birds took a more easterly route with just the one (Red HT) in ‘our’ area: “following the M6 down to Tebay services, then cutting across towards Ingleborough before heading for east Lancs”. A look at the weather maps at the time showed a lot of strong westerly winds, so sheltered migration routes to the east of the Pennines were the order of the day. Let’s see what happens next spring.

Saturday 20 November 2010

Busy morning in the woods

Work has got in the way recently and I haven't been able to get to the woods as often as I would have wished, so it was good to get there this morning. A lovely, peaceful morning which produced 73 birds, 70 of them tits. Very heartening to catch birds from previous years and the number of young tits, especially Blue tits, backs up suggestions of a very good breeding season followed by good post-fledging survival.

Hopefully, there will be some more mornings to come between now and the end of the year


Cetti's Warbler - The Mystery Deepens!

Cetti's Warbler have not as yet been proved to breed in North Lancashire. The first record was one ringed at Leighton Moss in October 1995. Singles were also caught there in the autumns of 2007 and 2008. This increased to four in the autumn/winter of 2009/2010.

At least two males were singing throughout March 2010 but the last one was heard on April 3rd. However this autumn has been outstanding for between September 18th and mid October we have caught six birds. Of these four were newly ringed and two were re-traps from previous autumns. One from September 2008 and the other from October 2009.

So are these two birds returning winter visitors? Or did they breed undetected and the four newly ringed birds are locally bred. Certainly there are many suitable areas difficult of access on the Moss where they could have bred undetected. However one would perhaps have expected us to catch young birds earlier in the season.

Monday 15 November 2010

Twite Season in Full Swing

Arrivals of Twite on their way to wintering grounds on the Lune Estuary marshes and further southwards in North Lancs is in progress. Last autumn/winter, although many Twite arrived in the Heysham area, there was a tendency to remain hereabouts, resulting in a high proportion of retraps later in the period. The pattern is beginning to look a little different this year with more birds moving through. This should result in more new birds being trapped, with fewer retraps (as seems to be the case so far).

During the Autumn, a large number of Twite were trapped and ringed at Macrihanish Bird Obs on the west coast of Scotland. Since some of our birds have previously been controlled there in the summertime, we hoped that some of their ringed birds would pass through Heysham. That has indeed occurred, with 2 birds (1CY Males) being controlled here already.


Saturday 13 November 2010

Which Way Africa?

A recent batch of recoveries included the first two from our ringing of 1440 Swallows this year mainly at a roost in a maize field.

The first one from Hampshire, 389 km to the SSE just 19 days after ringing in early September, was obviously heading in the right direction. The other though was ringed as a nestling on June 12th this year near Hoylake on the Wirral. It was caught in our roost 79 days later and 88 km to the NNE. This is not the first Swallow we have had to show a northerly movement at a time you would expect them to be heading south. A nestling ringed in Staffordshire on 10th June 2005 was controlled in our roost on 30 August the same year and 191 km to the north. Perhaps even more surprising was a juvenile ringed in Lincolnshire on 26th August 2004 and caught four days later in our roost 186 km NW.

This type of movement has been recorded in a variety of species. Members of our Group who take part in vis.mig. watches tell me that N and especially NW movements of Swallows in some numbers have been recorded in most recent years and is often linked to unfavourable migration weather.


Monday 8 November 2010

Speedy Waxwing giving first recovery in this area

Thanks Rob for this excellent sighting/documentation!

Wellheads Ind. Estate, Dyce, Aberdeen
1CY male

Read in field
Levens, just north of Milnthorpe, SE Cumbria

This fits in with the impression that this autumn's irruption has so far involved a lot of birds whizzing through/over sites without settling. This seems to have been changing in the last few days with some birds discovering good rowan crops

Bearded Tits And Grit

The grit trays just off the Causeway at Leighton Moss have been very popular this year with both bearded tits and bird watchers. At times there has been even more of the latter than the former! The record for bearded Tits is ca 12 birds at once but for bird watchers at times up to 40!

Our individual colour ringing has really paid off this year and thanks to the efforts especially of Keith Kellet but also Andrew Cadman Alan Gallagherand Pat Bowskill we have logged 580 sightings up to the present To date a total of 112 different birds have used the trays these are made up of 50 adult birds out of a known ringed population of 76 birds and 62 juveniles out of 104 ringed this year.

Like previous years there has been a marked difference in the makeup of birds visiting. The season started on September 20th with two adults. Of the 108 records to the end of September only 18 were of birds ringed this year. Slowly the numbers of young birds increased through October with birds from the early broods coming first, and second and latter broods not gritting until early November. Of the 60 birds recorded over the first week of November 32 were birds of the year.
The number of days that birds visited the tray is also very variable. The record this year is held by female Green over white Red over BTO. This bird has been recorded on 18 different days. Like others she started early in the season missed five days in the middle of October then visited almost daily in late October and early November.

One interesting finding is that pairs regularly visit together.Male X579210 and female X579211 ringed together as juveniles on 6/8/09 are typical. Probably second brood youngsters in 2009 they were only recorded on three days in early November at the trays but in each other’s company. This year they have been recorded- always together on 13 days between early October and early November.


Tuesday 2 November 2010

A Look Back at the Summer and Autumn

Given that the ringing at our three main sites tends to be reasonably consistent from year to year our catches of many species should give an idea of productivity for those species which we catch in reasonable numbers.

With all returns now in all the indications are that 2010 was a good breeding season for most of our warblers. Below I list the numbers of new birds ringed this year compared with the average catch over the past three year which are shown in brackets.

Willow Warbler 570 (330)
Chiffchaff 219 (140)
Reed Warbler 648 (700)
Sedge Warbler 369 (310)
Grasshopper W 27 (14)
Whitethroat 93 (45)
Lesser White. 53 (25)
Blackcap 80 (79)

Catches of many of our residents also suggest good productivity especially Blue, Coal, and Long-tailed tits and Goldfinch.


Sunday 24 October 2010

Machrihanish Twite updated

Given that 500 have been ringed there this autumn and several of our birds have been seen there over the last few years, it was no surprise to find one of their birds under the whoosh net at Heysham north harbour wall on 24th October. Given the good arrival weather (and poor subsequent forecast), it was decided to also catch Twite on 25th October and this produced just the one retrap from the previous day.........the Machrihanish bird! It or another was then seen at nearby Walney two-three days later and there have been no further signs of any Machrihanish birds at Heysham by 2nd November, but quite a bit of turnover with e.g. 6/10 in the gale this morning (2nd) being unringed. Based on previous years, the next weather window should see a big arrival and hopefully there will be a suitable morning later this week, unfortunately coinciding with potentially large numbers of early-morning anglers (it only needs one to have a dog.....)

Details: Ringed at 3M at Machrihanish on 27/8, retrapped there on 21/9 and caught at Heysham on 24 & 25/10

The Machrihanish birds have green/white colour rings on BOTH legs. Therefore please take careful note of any birds you see with colour rings on both legs - they may either, for example, be from the Mull of Kintyre or birds ringed as pulli at Pennine sites

It does seem from our experience this autumn that having someone wandering around the mound/sandworks considerably 'speeds up' the process of getting the birds around the feeder and under the net

Wednesday 20 October 2010

Bearded Tits Make the Ton

The ringing this morning of three new Bearded Tits makes 101 for the year, only one to go to equal last years record.

We consider that all of these are this years birds partly because 99% of our adult birds are already ringed (This year we have caught 70 adults and only one was un-ringed). Also using moult and eye colour we can allocate most birds to early or late broods. Of the three caught this morning two had almost completed their moult and had pale eyes. Our data suggests that they fledged probably around mid August. It has been a good year for late broods and there are probably quite a few birds yet to ring.

Besides the Bearded Tits we also caught the third Cetti's Warbler of the autumn. Cetti's are an increasing winter visitors to Leighton Moss. They have yet to breed although one of the birds caught this autumn was first ringed in September 2009.At least two other birds were singing this morning elsewhere on the Moss


Friday 15 October 2010

They're Back - Twite That Is

In the last couple of days the first returning passage Twite have arrived at Heysham Harbour. Having, by chance, previously decided to set out the whoosh net and fix the hole positions etc. this afternoon, I left the net set for a while and managed to catch 3 Twite and 8 Linnets.

A number of Heysham birds have previously been seen at Machrihanish Bird Obs. and during this autumn the staff there have been catching and colour ringing Twite themselves (they have ringed more than 400 so far, a splendid effort!).

It seems logical that we should see some of their birds at Heysham during the passage and winter periods, although they are hoping that some will also be found in Ireland. We should all keep alert for colour ringed Twite in the area. Each bird is normally ringed with a single colour plus a split double colour ring on one leg and a BTO metal ring on the other - the single colour represents the ringing site and the split colour the period of ringing. Heysham's site colour is Pale Blue so any other colour will be particularly interesting. The Machrihanish team have so far used the slightly different combination of a split Green/White ring on each leg, with the BTO metal ring fitted above the colour ring on the left leg.

alan draper

Tuesday 12 October 2010

True Grit

The Bearded Tit grit trays at Leighton Moss are now in full swing. To date we have had 225 sightings reported of our colour ringed birds. mainly be Keith Kellet and Alan Gallagher and family.

The pattern of use has been very marked this year with adults coming in early September, followed by the first brood in early October and now the latter broods are just starting to appear. In total to date we have identified 72 individuals, 40 adult birds and 32 birds bred this year.They are all in superb plumage.

The birds regularly appear on the grit tray in pairs.Bearded Tits regularly form pairs as juveniles and our ringing and sightings show that these early pairs can, if they survive, stop together for life. We recorded one pair formed as juveniles which were caught or sighted together throughout almost three years.

Our ringing this year has been most interesting, we have caught or sighted 43 adult males but just 25 adult females and to date we have caught 94 juveniles.


Monday 4 October 2010

Weight Watchers

The catching this morning of a Sedge Warbler which weighed in at 17.5 grams set me looking back through our records. Sedge Warblers usually weigh between 10 to 11 grams so this bird had put on weight mainly in the form of fat amounting to an increase of approximately 75% of its body weight. Fat is the fuel that the bird will use on its nocturnal migration towards its wintering area in Africa.

Over the past ten years we have only caught eight Sedge Warblers in October of these 50% show signs of accumulating fat. But today's bird was the heaviest. It is not however the heaviest we have recorded, this is one trapped on 24/9/04 which weighed 18.1 grams. How long does it take a bird to accumulate this amount of fat? We have a good pointer in a bird ringed on 24/9 weighing 12.9 grams and 7 days later it was re-trapped and weighed 16.5 grams.

However Ian Newton's superb book on Bird Migration gives some figures for Sedge Warblers migrating through Kenya in spring. The maximum rate recorded was a bird which went from 12.2 grams to 19.6 grams in just three days another bird more than doubled its weight in 17 days.

We also caught two Reed Warblers today one was a normal weight of 10.6 grams the other weighed 13.1 grams. Looking back through our records the heaviest Reed Warbler I could find was 14.8 grams.


Monday 27 September 2010

Bearded Tit Bonanza

The grit tray season is well under way with a total of 62 sightings recorded,mainly from Keith Kellet and Brian Howson, over the past five days. We have also caught a further 30 birds at three different sites around the Moss, To date we have ringed 82 juveniles and 38 Adult males and 21 Adult females. So the imbalance between the sexes continues.

Perhaps the most interesting finding was the catching of a female which had been ringed as a nestling in one of our wigwam nest boxes on 20/5/04 making it six years and 129 days old. Certainly our oldest female to date, and probably a British record. The Oldest male this period was five years and 59 days. Although our oldest Bearded Tit of all was a male at 7 year and 42 days a British Record it was still alive in October 2009.

Another interesting observation was the catching of three birds (2 males and a female) with consecutive ring numbers, they had all been ringed as nestling's in the same brood in May 2009. This shows excellent survival but it is most unusual for siblings to be found together after such a period.

The 62 grit tray sightings involved 33 birds, of these only 8 were birds hatched this year. This preponderance of adults early in the gritting season has been recorded in all previous years studied - the young birds only appearing in numbers by mid October.


Better day in the woods

after the poor show a fortnight earlier, Saturday was more like it, even though I slept in and didn't get to the woods til 8.30 after having to scrape ice off the car.

51 birds of 9 species caught, including Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Goldcrest, Robin, Marsh, Great, Blue, Coal and Long-tailed Tit.

Interestingly, very few Blue Tits on the feeder but plenty in the canopy - there is probably still plenty up there for them to feed on at the moment.


Tuesday 21 September 2010

How to catch Grey Wagtails

The simplest and most efficient way of catching Grey Wagtails at Heysham is to create a 'corridor' pointing north-westerly in an otherwise fairly enclosed mist net ride (or whichever degree of northerly is the favoured direction of autumnal migrants at your site) and place a CLEAR tape (Roche works very well) under or behind the net. Try and make sure that the location does not have an easy perch behind the net (a nice dense bush without obvious open branches is best - also giving the net shelter/background), or the birds may fly beyond and see/then avoid the net

There is absolutely no need to "make the site open" for an "open area-loving" species. Grey Wagtails dont mind enclosure at all, indeed quite the opposite e.g. along the gloomy 'gorge' section of the Hindburn at Millhouses, therefore it is not a problem bringing them into a relatively enclosed area where your mist net has the necessary 'background'. Creating the corridor along the natural flightline of the autumnal migrants is a similar principle to landing an aircraft!


Saturday 18 September 2010

A Morning to Remember

With all our ringing gear packed and ready to go with a good weather forecast - light winds and cloudy. I woke at 05.30 to the sound of steady rain but this had stopped by 06.15. With Andrew and Aidan we set the nets, very little to start with then two un-ringed Bearded Tits both still in full juvenile plumage were caught making 74 young for this year. It is somewhat unusual to catch Bearded Tits in juvenile plumage in September. Over the last 18 years we have only caught a total of 47 juveniles in this distinctive plumage in September and interestingly in only seven of those years did they occur. This suggests that they have late broods in some years only. Judging by the eye colour ( which changes as they get older) and the fact they had just started to moult these birds probably fledged in early August. Bearded Tits can breed quite late we have also caught 6 in juvenile plumage in October in past years which must have fledged in early September.

A flock of Long-tailed Tits were caught next, rather unusually well out in the reed beds with them were four chiffchaffs and two Willow Warblers but as we returned along the nets Aidan shouted Cetti's Warbler and sure enough there was one in the end net and surprise surprise it was already ringed. Its measurements were taken and it fitted the biometrics given for females in Svensson( Identification Guide to European Passerines.

Later we caught a further seven Bearded Tits all ringed as juveniles in June and resplendent in their new plumage.

On returning home I dashed to the computer to see if the Cetti's Warbler was one of the four we ringed at Leighton Moss last year. Yes it had been ringed at exactly the same spot on September 22nd last year. So this raises the question where had it been over the past year? There were no records of singing males at Leighton this spring. Did this presumed female not find a mate? Or has it bred elsewhere and returned here to winter?

All but one of the eight Long-tailed Tits were ringed -they had been all ringed together in late June and this suggests that they have survived the summer well.


Monday 13 September 2010

An Exceptional Blue Tit

We recently received details of a Blue Tit that Paul ringed in his garden in Lancaster during the cold weatherin late January. It was found freshly dead in early April at Catterick Camp North Yorkshire 80 kms. NNE. What makes this exceptional you say?

Well our group has ringed just over 26,000 blue tits over the past 35 years and of those that have been recovered only 12 have moved more than 20 kms. Of these only three (including the present bird) have moved more than 40km. The other two moved 82 kms to near Leeds and 87 kms to near Carlisle.

The Catterick bird probably originated in that area and moved south during what was our coldest winter for several years. The other two birds exhibited similar weather motivated movements. If our recoveries show anything it is a general movement south mainly from South Lakeland to our relatively milder climate near the coast. The numbers of well stocked feeders also probably playing a part.


Bad Day at Wray

It all looked so promising! Relatively calm in the woods, plenty of birds around when I checked the feeders earlier in the week, but only 6 birds caught!

Well, that is what happens sometimes. Ringing isn't all action-packed fun!


Thursday 2 September 2010

Willow Warblers Have a Bumper Season

Willow Warblers appear to have had a most successful breeding season, at least judging by the numbers ringed by the group. At Leighton Moss where ringing effort is similar each year we ringed only 75 in August 2009 but no fewer than 315 this year. There was a very marked passage during the last few days of August which has continued with slightly lower numbers into early September by the 4th we had ringed 393in total. At Heysham and Middleton there has been a simialr increase, only 10 in August 2009 but 43 this August.

Chiffchaffs have also been passing through although in smaller numbers. Their main passage is usually early to mid September but we ringed 42 this year in August compared with 32 last August.

By contrast Reed and Sedge Warblers after an excellent early season have droppedoff markedly in August compared to other years, possibly the second broods failed during the wet weather in July and August.

Tuesday 24 August 2010

Little Egrets Move North

Photo Brian Howson

i am certain every birder is aware of the build up of Little Egrets over the past few years. Locally numbers have reached a peak this August with a least 80 roosting at Leighton Moss and foraging mainly along the coast. Already this year we have sighted four birds carrying colour rings and have received details of two of these. Both were ringed as nestlings near Bangor in North Wales. The first was ringed in June 2009 and seen on the Lune estuary the following June. The second was ringed in June 2010 and was seen on the Allen Pool near Leighton Moss on 20th August. This bird shows that some at least move north shortly after fledging. Quite a lot of the birds feeding on the salt marshes are juveniles. Previous sightings involved birds ringed as nestlings in Kent and in South Wales.

We await with interest receiving the details of the other two birds and would welcome any further sightings of colour ringed birds. They are ringed above the knee(see photo)so are easy to see. The colour ring has a number or letter engraved on it. Please note on which leg each colour ring is present.

We received today ringing details of the other two colour ringed birds. One was ringed as a nestling at Bangor in North Wales in June 2009 and see at Runcorn in Cheshire on 3/1/2010. So this makes three birds from this site. The other was ringed on May 31st this year, as a nestling, near Louth in Lincolnshire and again shows how quickly birds move after fledging.


Thursday 19 August 2010

Warblers Mixed Fortunes

It has been an excellent year to date for numbers of Willow Warblers ringed. The Group as a whole has ringed almost double last years total and there is still some time to go yet. That they are getting ready to depart was shown by this mornings capture of 31 birds of these 6 had started to accumulate fat. The heaviest was one at 9.8 with a fat score of 3.

By Contrast Reed Warbler and Sedge Warblers after a very successful first brood during the dry weather earlier in the season appear now to have had a very poor second or late broods with unusually low numbers being ringed over the past two weeks. One can only assume that this is due to the very wet July when we had 180% of normal rainfall.

Juvenile Reed Warblers are also showing signs of getting ready to migrate, one caught this morning had a fat score of 4 and a weight of 14.7 almost 3 grams above normal fat free weight.

Although we are talking about much smaller numbers ringed,it does appear that Grasshopper Warblers have also had a successful season


Wednesday 4 August 2010

Bearded Tit And Reed Warbler Latest News

Bearded Tits are doing well this year, to date we have caught 27 adult males the same as in 2009 and 10 adult females compared with 18 in 2009. We continue the study into November so there is still plenty of time to catch or sight more. To date we have ringed 69 young birds compared with 103 last year. Birds start to use the grit trays in early September and we usually get up to 300 sightings of our colour ringed birds between then and December.

Reed Warblers also appear to be having a successful season To date we have caught 217 adult birds which is the third highest in the 14 years of the study- and there is some time to go yet-although some adults are showing signs of leaving with several birds having fat scores of up to three during the last week of July.

Of the 217 adults 115 are new birds 97 had been ringed in previous years and two are controls.

Of the 97 ringed birds one is eight years old, one seven, two six, five five, four four years 20 three and the rest one or two years old.

To date we have ringed 253 young reed warblers but have been rather frustrated by the weather in recent days.


Saturday 24 July 2010

Pied Flycatchers Have a Successful Season

Our Pied Flycatcher study in the Lune Valley Woodlands has had a very successful season. In total we have ringed 278 nestlings from 40 broods. we also caught 55 adults. Of these one had been first ringed in 2005, six in 2007 ten in 2008 and 13 in 2009.
Many birds ringed as nestlings return to the area in succesive years . Of 11 birds ringed as nestlings in 2009 only three returned to breed in the wood in which they were reared with eight moving to diferent woods. Adults were quite site faithful though, of 18 caught as adults in 2009 all but four returned to the same wood to breed again.
Perhaps the most interesting finding this year was made by Kevin Briggs. He proved that pairs do occasionally have second broods. A pair which fledged their first brood in early June and were both caught at the nest box had a second brood in the same wood with the young flying in mid July.


Wednesday 14 July 2010

Whitethroat parity

A quick perusal through the Heysham NR/Middleton NR ringing totals so far this year sees Lesser and Common Whitethroat both registering at 32 new-ringed birds each. I'll produce a graph of the Whitethroat ratios at Heysham over the years when I get some time, but it will almost certainly show a general trend of significant increase in the numbers of Lesser Whitethroat in relation to Common Whitethroat. In this respect, the ringing totals so far this year seem to be a reflection of local breeding birds & offspring with any 'pure' spring passage birds appearing to be non-existent (Common Whitethroat)and less than five (Lesser Whitethroat). This seems to be an especially good year for Lesser Whitethroat, notably on the Heysham NR CES where it has almost been the commonest bird!

Tuesday 13 July 2010

never-ending excitement

For those of you who think ringing is guaranteed non-stop fun, this next item will come as a big surprise.

Richard and I tried out a new tactic yesterday evening: choose a level field on a floodplain away from a colony, wait for a calm, dull evening, put up four 60 ft nests in the shape of a cross and play a tape of Sand Martins or mixed hirundines.

The result? No birds in two and a half hours.

Still, we learnt something: two of us can put up this pattern of nets quite quickly (but three people or more would be better) and the tactic doesn't work in the Lune Valley in July but it might be worth doing again sometime (maybe in passage time?)

Now, what can we try next?


Saturday 10 July 2010

Sand Martin success

This year has been a record breaker for Sand Martins and the season is far from over. So far a total of 1798 captures have been made at 2 large colonies on the Lune and a small colony on the Hindburn.

The totals so far are:
New adults 660
New Juvenile 794
Controls: 5
1 from Spain in 2008 (Caught in 2009 on the hindburn)
2 carrying French rings
1 from Sussex
1 unknown

This compares to a total from 2009 of 166 Juveniles and 205 adults.
While a direct comparison in totals is not valid as the weather this year has allowed visits at times when most juveniles are about there is clearly a huge increase in Sand Martin population in the Lune valley this year.

46 birds ringed in 2009 have been recaught this year. This is broken down as follows: 9% of juveniles ringed last year in the Lune valley have been retrapped this year and 15% of adults. On the face of it this is a low survival rate of adults however as the colonies have grown we are not managing to cover 100% of the holes. An additional complication is a new colony has appeared with about 400 holes between the two main colonies on the Lune. A visit is planned to see how many of 2009 ringed birds are breeding there.

A much fully report will appear here at the end of the season.

Friday 9 July 2010

Bearded Tit And Reed Warbler Latest News

Our study of these two species At Leighton Moss continues well
To date we have caught 27 Adult Male Bearded Tits the same as in the whole of the 2009 season which extended to late November. We have only caught 10 adult females again suggesting there is a surplus of males. Of these 37 adults only one had not been ringed in previous years.

Three catches of juveniles resulted in 41 being caught and colour ringed, well on the way to last years total for the whole season of 104 juveniles.

To date we have caught 146 adult Reed Warblers of these 72 were ringed in previous seasons as follows

2002 1 Seven years and 259 days after ringing
2003 2
2004 4
2005 2
2006 3
2007 16
2008 11
2009 35

Juveniles are now appearing but first impressions are that they are latter than 2009


Wednesday 7 July 2010

Many Resident Species have had an Excellent Breeding Season

Feedback from Group Members suggests that many of our resident passerine species have had a very successful season judging by the numbers of young birds being ringed. Tits especially are present in very good numbers. Catches of Blue, Great, Marsh and Long-tailed Tits at Leighton Moss for example are up between 50 and 60 % on last year. There also seem more Treecreeper, Dunnock and Goldcrest than usual although the numbers in both years are smaller than the previous species.

First impressions also are that Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Blackcap are also present in good numbers. But it is quite early to be fully certain for these migrant species.

Most of our breeding waders seem to have had a successful season on the upland and river valley areas but numbers are very poor on the salt marshes which have dried up completely this year.


Pied Flies on the telly

It is typical of John's modesty that he hasn't told us that he was on the TV recently demonstrating the Pied Flycatcher boxes - you can watch the report (originally on North-West Tonight in mid-June) by following this link:


Monday 5 July 2010

Never mind the bollocks here's the bullocks

A few nestbox items

I went to clear out my Hindburndale clough boxes by Park House Farm and there was a reception committee and subsequent entourage of 14 bullocks. Most of the box checking involved leaning over a barbed wire fence. I cleaned out the inside and then the bullocks followed suit by copiously licking the outside of each box, once their attention had been drawn. This would obviously have ben more serious if they had been able to rub against them as well

The nestbox which earlier in the season had a half-completed tit nest topped by a dead ringed 2CY female Pied Flycatcher (ringed Outhwaite) had a happier ending. All the above was cleared out and a latish brood of 6 Pied Flys have now fledged

Finally, visit u-tube and type: Tree Sparrow attacks baby Blue Tits in the search.
apparently this happened at/near Wennington

Friday 25 June 2010

Bearded Tit & Reed Warbler Progress Report

With the fine weather meaning we can ring regularly the numbers of these two species caught has increased steadily.

To date we have caught 25 adult male Bearded Tits this compares with 27 in the whole season through to November in 2009. However we have only caught 8 adult males (compared with 18 in 2009. So the excess of males continues.

Young birds are starting to flock and to date we have caught 29 juveniles.

To date we have caught 113 adult Reed Warblers and with 6 weeks or so of the season to go yet this compares well with the 166 caught last year. Juveniles are now appearing in numbers a few days earlier than in 2009.

John Wilson

Wednesday 23 June 2010

they think its all over .... ?

Just when I thought all my nestboxes were finished I find today another Pied Flycatcher on eggs, a Redstart on eggs and another Redstart with a clutch just hatching. This last bird had already successfully fledged a clutch from this box and must have re-laid only a few days after the others left the nest.

131 young Pied Flycatchers have been ringed in my boxes so far from 21 successful nesting attempts (including some from Richard's boxes).


Friday 18 June 2010

Reed Warbler Progress Report

Our Reed Warbler RAS (Re-trapping Adults for Survival)at Leighton Moss is going well. To date we have caught 71 adults. Of these 43 were already ringed in previous years. The breakdown when first ringed is detailed below-

Year of Ringing Number
2002 1
2004 2
2005 2
2006 3
2007 12
2008 9
1009 19

Of the 19 from 2009 seven were ringed as adults and 12 as juveniles.

The oldest bird is eight year old with the two 2004 birds both ringed as adults so are at least seven years old. Our oldest Reed Warbler to date was just short of ten years.

This is the 14th year of our study and we average around 165 adults a year but with the rest of June and the whole of July yet to go it looks as though we are on track to achieve this total. Most adult birds have left by the middle of August.

John Wilson

Sunday 13 June 2010

Is there a surplus of Male Bearded Tits at Leighton Moss This year?

Our long running study of Bearded Tits at Leighton Moss has continued, but the first indications are that there is a marked surplus of males this year. To date we have caught 20 adult males but only three females. Of the 20 males nine of them did not have a brood patch. In this species male and female share the incubation and both develop brood patches. The implication is that the males without brood patches are unmated. All of the nine were last years birds and several of them have been re-trapped in different sites so are moving around the reedbed.

We usually have a small surplus of males each year. There is quite a bit of evidence, based on retrap data to suggest that males are more likely to get caught than females. In the 18 years of the study in only 3 years 2003,2004 and 2006 did we catch more adult females than males.

However it is early days yet and further catches should clarify the situation. Young birds are now flocking and all indications are that it could be a good season.

One explanation for the apparent surplus of males may be that they survived the past cold winter better than the females. News from Poland is that the breeding population has crashed from ca 50 pairs in my correspondents study area last year to only 2 males and a female this year following an extremely cold and snowy winter. In another site he found four males and one female.


Saturday 12 June 2010

Pied Flycatcher Optimism Short Lived

Like Paul, in his post of 8 June, I too was full of optimism for this season when 11 nests were built in boxes in Littledale. 9 clutches of eggs were laid (the nest in one box did not progress) and one nest, when it was completed was found to be a Redstart. (Compare with last season here when only four nests were started, with not one being successful.)

However, things went rather wrong from then on. 6 of the clutches remain cold and clearly the adults have given up. The eggs are untouched, therefore not predation, but what? One adult female was found dead on the nest - possibly the victim of a night predator. Perhaps the other birds were not fit enough after their winter away to continue?

Three broods of young, however, have either fledged or are about to fledge.

The Redstart is still incubating and I really hope it will be successful as this is a very uncommon nestbox occupant in this wood.


Friday 11 June 2010

Where Do Our Reed Buntings Go in Winter?

Reed Buntings are common breeding birds at a few sites in our area but in recent years they have become quite scarce in winter. A recent recovery of a female ringed at Leighton Moss on 27th September and controlled on 11 March at Northorpe Fen in Lincolnshire is a further clue as to the wintering areas of our birds. Other winter recoveries have been in South Lancashire (3) Cheshire (3) Nottingham, Dorset and Kent.

Tuesday 8 June 2010

Bumper year for Pied Flycatchers

There appear to be really good numbers of Pied Flycatchers this year in the boxes I have been monitoring (this includes three in Richard's boxes in Roeburndale and two, still on eggs, in David's boxes in Littledale) with 29 clutches laid, of which 24 have so far produced young that are likely to fledge.

Tit numbers also appear to have been good, including a brood of 13 Blue Tits ringed yesterday


Tuesday 1 June 2010

Blue and Great Tits have an Excellent season

Returns from four of our lowland nest box schemes suggest an exceptional year for blue and great tits.

After the cold winter we rather expected a decline in breeding populations and there was a small decline in great tits from 53 occupied nest boxes in 2009 to 46 this year. Blue tits on the other hand increased from 34 to 38 pairs, Now doubt the proximity of these four schemes to winter feeding stations helped them survive the winter. Early returns from our upland schemes suggest a small decline in both species.

Despite the cold dry spring clutch sizes were normal. Although in a few cases there was a short gap in the laying cycle which is most unusual. Brood sizes have been very high and they seem to have grown and feathered very quickly.

One unusual event was the finding of a young blue tit in a brood of 6 great tits. It was as far advanced as is larger siblings when ringed.

John Wilson

Tuesday 25 May 2010

Pied Flycatchers hatch

The first broods of flycatchers have started hatching. Seven yesterday in a box in Roeburndale looked to have hatched just that day - this would suggest an arrival at the end of April with a very rapid building of the nest and laying started at the start of May.

Lets hope the good weather continues!


Friday 21 May 2010

nest box update

I make no apology for repeating the posting of this photo - it looks so good!

Good news and bad news from my visit to the boxes with Tony Moriaty last night. Robin nest predated at young stage. First brood of Great Tit ringed (9 out of 9) and a warning for nest box checkers: Tits with black heads hissing in a box might not be what they first appear - two Marsh Tit acting in an agitated manner next to a box where the pulli had been 'identified' as Great Tit turned out on closer inspection to be Marsh Tit - and were duly ringed. Other boxes appear to be doing well so far.


Tuesday 18 May 2010

Pied flycatcher update

The positive start to the season continues. My three sites in Roeburndale now have 23active Pied Flycatcher nests with 15 Great Tit, 22 Blue Tit (one nest predated since last week), 1 Redstart and 1 Robin. There are another 3 Pied Flycatcher, 10 Blue Tit and 2 Great Tit in Richard's boxes - I'm monitoring these whilst he is in America.

Robin has hatched and Great Tits are starting to do so (some days behind the box in my garden in Lancaster).

Highlight of the weekend for me was finding two Woodcock pulli and ringing them in Roeburndale.


Saturday 15 May 2010

Where Do Our Little Egrets Come From?

Little Egrets have been the success story of recent years. With only six records up to 1993 Numbers have built up since then and last autumn saw up to 100 roosting at either Leighton Moss or the Lune estuary Two recent recoveries of colour ringed birds reveals something of the source of these birds

The first was ringed as a nestling in Gwent South Wales in May 2009 and was first sighted at Leighton Moss on 16th August 2009 a distance of 291 kms in 80 days. This suggests that some at least of the late summer early autumn influx are birds of the year.

The other though shows that adult birds are also involved. It was ringed as a nestling in Kent on 11th May 2003 and reported at Leighton Moss on 9th October 2009.At over six years old it is the oldest Little Egret reported by the British Ringing Scheme ad still going strong.

John Wilson

Tuesday 11 May 2010

Nest boxes - start of the season

Early indications are that this is a good season for birds using boxes in some of our schemes. Boxes in Roeburndale already have more nesting attempts than they had last year with increased numbers of Blue Tits despite the harsh winter weather. Pied Flycatcher numbers already appear to be at the same level as last year but it is early and there may be more to come.

Paul Cammack

Saturday 10 April 2010

Quartet of radio-tracked Ospreys

Four out of the five radio-tracked adult Ospreys have passed over our area this spring - the other one, Beatrice, flew north just east of Settle.

Morven (female) and Talisman (male) are a breeding pair. Morven roosted at Kirkby Lonsdale on the night of 6/7th. Talisman was recorded either over or just to the west or east of Morecambe/Heysham at c1400hrs on 7th, whilst Red 8T went over upper Roeburndale (Wolfhole Crag) the previous weekend. Nimrod was later on and roosted near Garstang before passing over the Bowland Fells and then Kirkby Lonsdale

Check out the Highland Foundation for Wildlife site for more detail

Pete Marsh

Tuesday 6 April 2010

Variation on the two bird theme

The two bird theory was turned on its head with the following Great White Egret which was recorded in Lancashire and South Wales at the same time, as well as an apparitional lengthy stay at a site which is covered 24/7! These have been excluded/resolved and here is the amended account of its travels with the first of April final date having no ulterior significance! Thanks to Chris Batty for sorting most of this out.

Metal CA 69229 & CRs
Ringed: Pullus: Besné (in Brière, Loire Atlantique, France) 06/05/2009

Seen at the following sites:
Banks Marsh, Lancashire 24/09/2009
Brockholes Wetland, Lancashire 25/09/2009
Hesketh Out Marsh, Lancashire 26/09/2009
Crossens Marsh, Lancashire 26/09/2009
Banks Marsh, Lancashire 27/09/2009
Leighton Moss, Lancashire 30/09/2009 until 07/11/2009, then 10/11/2009 until 04/12/2009
Crossens Outer Marsh, Lancashire 08/11/2009 (location unknown on 09/11/09)
Bolton-le-Sands, Lancashire 12/12/2009
Crossens Outer Marsh, Lancashire 13/12/2009 until 28/12/2009
Churchtown Moss, Lancashire 29/12/2009
Marshside, Lancashire 01/01/2010
Churchtown Moss, Lancashire 08/01/2010
Hendre Lake, St Mellons, Cardiff, Glamorgan 19/01/2010 until
Peterstone Wentlooge, Gwent 21/02/2010
Peterstone Wentlooge, Gwent 26/02/2010 until 27/02/2010
Peterstone Wentlooge, Gwent 11/03/2010
Ashleworth Ham, Gloucestershire 17/03/2010 until 27/03/2010
Frampton-on-Severn, Gloucestershire 28/03/2010
Slimbridge, Gloucestershire 28/03/2010 until 31/03/2010
Ashleworth Ham, Gloucestershire 01/04/2010

Sunday 4 April 2010

Record Breaking Reed Bunting

An adult female Reed Bunting ringed by Paul Robinson at Helton Tarn on 11 May 2009 was caught by Bill Jones at Kingsnorth Power Station, Hoo St Wexburgh in Kent 0n 2 February 2010. This is a movement of 392 km and the longest movement recorded for a Reed Bunting within our area. We have one other similar movement to Dorchester in Dorset a movement of 386 km. It also was a female but was found in early October.

We have seven recoveries in winter within the Merseyside/Cheshire area suggesting this is the more usual wintering area for our birds also one a little further afield near Nottingham.
Possibly the severe winter had forced this bird to move further south than usual, although it would find much more snow in Kent this past winter than at Helton Tarn, although there was less on the Grain Peninsula than even the only slightly upland downland nearby!

John Wilson

On the same species, here is a slightly more informative pic of the peculiar ?female Reed Bunting recently trapped at Heysham - see previous posting

Saturday 27 March 2010

Scrabbling through obscure buntings

Didnt want to make a complete fool of myself this morning with the attached so checked all the various eastern buntings as much as possible & came to the obvious conclusion that it was a Reed Bunting with later thought & digestion sending it in the direction of a female with the darker ear coverts & surrounds being replaced by black (see 'normal' pic for comparison - hoicked off the LDBWS site and credited to "peter"). Any comments or similar birds would be very welcome. The wing length was 73mm & there are various other shots of wing formulae etc just to be on the safe side.

It was the ONLY bird caught during a very short pre-work session at Heysham Obs to try and catch Meadow Pipits which were either stratospheric or absent this morning

Pete Marsh

End of the Twite in Sight

The Twite population at the Heysham feeding area had been reasonably stable all winter, the feeding group mostly wearing this season's colours. Things are now changing and recently ringed birds are disappearing (not being retrapped or sighted) and there is an increasing proportion of unringed birds. Both of these observations indicate that movement north to their breeding grounds is in progress. Their behaviour is also noticeably altering - they are more "skittish", there is some squabbling and singing as opposed to the winter feeding calls we are used to. They are also being joined by increasing numbers of Linnets. This seems to occur at the early autumn southward passage and during the current northward movement. The Linnets do not remain with the North Harbour Wall Twite during the winter period.

These birds are clearly becoming unsettled and will surely be leaving us in the next week or so until their return next autumn.

An intesting control was caught at Heysham on 28/10/2009. This individual had been ringed at Southport as a young female on 16/11/2008 and retrapped on Sanda Island (a breeding area) on 01/07/2009.

3 previous birds ringed on Sanda have been controlled at Heysham, and 2 Heysham ringed birds have also been controlled there.

Sanda Island is clearly one of the favoured breeding areas for Twite that winter in our area.


Wednesday 17 March 2010

Migrating Reed Warblers

May seem a bit early to be thinking about Reed Warblers But a recent batch of recoveries included five Reed Warblers controlled at Icklesham in East Sussex. The group has ringed almost 14,000 Reed Warblers over the years, of these 55 have been caught by other ringers on their onward migration in southern England with Icklesham reporting the largest numbers.

Juveniles obviously migrate fairly soon after moulting their juvenile body feathers. The earliest reported in the south of England was on July 30th and the latest on the 26th of September. The quickest movement was just four days after ringing and the longest gap between ringing and recapture was just 35 days.

Adults also move early, the earliest in the South of England was on August 2nd and the last on September 8th.

Onward movement is shown by eleven recoveries along the French coast, five in Portugal, two in Spain and four in Morocco.

On first sight one assumes that the birds we are ringing are either bred in our area or possibly in Cumbria where there is about 200 pairs, or Dumfries where there is about 25 pairs. However there are always surprises thrown up by ringing. A juvenile ringed near Hammarsjon in Sweden on 2/08/97 was caught 22 days later at Leighton Moss. So one has always to be careful in making assumptions

John Wilson

Thursday 18 February 2010

Out Of Bounds Dipper

This superb photo of a colour ringed Dipper was taken by David Talbot on the River Kent in Levens Park on January 10th during the height of the cold spell. We have tracked it down to one ringed by Peter Mawby in his Dipper Study area which is centred on Sedbergh where he ringed 123 nestlings last year.

Although the movement is only about 16 kms it is the first time a Dipper has been recorded moving from the Lune and its tributaries to the Kent. Peter suggests that it seems probable that this winter's severe weather caused more young birds to move away than usual. He also reports that on recent visits to Sedbergh that the breeding territories are only very slowly being occupied. This time last year, despite the cold spell, nesting was well under way.

The BTO Migration Atlas shows that the average dispersal of young Dippers is only about 2.5 km and invariably within the same river system so this Dipper is quite unusual.

Peter would be very grateful for any other sightings of colour ringed Dippers. Please report them to this site.

John Wilson

Monday 15 February 2010

Wintering Redwing

Redwing Recoverie fron Local Ringing
Green =in the same winter as ringing
Red = in following winters except the one in Finland which was in spring.

Redwing appear to be present in low numbers this winter an impression supported by several local birders. A recent ringing visit to one of our local roosts resulted in the catching of only three where in previous winters we have caught 20+. There were good numbers around in late October and early November so presumably they have moved on. Our past recoveries do suggest that some birds pass through our area to winter further south in France or west to Ireland. Our recoveries also show that birds can change their wintering areas from one year to the next with recoveries in Italy (2), Greece France, Portugal and Azerbyzhan in following winters. The down side is that all were shot!

John Wilson

Wednesday 3 February 2010

Record Breaking Bittern

Brian Howson's superb photograph taken on 31st January has enabled us to read the last three numbers of the ring - 702. This is a female Bittern ringed as a nestling at Leighton Moss on the 8th of May 2000 with ring no 1291702. The ring number has been photographed or read through a telescope on 6 occasions over the past three years. This latest sighting means that it is nine years and 268 days since ringing making it the oldest Bittern recorded by the British Ringing Scheme. The bird was sexed as a female by DNA sampling at the time of ringing. It's sibling ringed 03 was also a female and was last identified with certainty at Leighton Moss on 2nd November 2008. We also have a third ringed Bittern a male that was rehabilitated by the RSPCA after being found wandering down a street in Bamber Bridge.It was released at Leighton Moss on 20 February 2009. This bird has a red colour ring also and was last seen on 10th of October.

John Wilson

Tuesday 2 February 2010

Oystercatcher ringing

Yesterday we caught some Oystercatchers at Heysham helipad. As the Oystercatchers roosting there have not been caught on a regular basis until relatively recently only about 6% were already ringed. Of these some were very interesting:

1 ringed August 1982 in Lincolnshire
1 ringed August 1993 in Lincolnshire
1 ringed in Iceland (it was also colour ringed)
1 ringed on the Isle of Mull in 1984 and caught last year.
19 were ringed in December 2008 at Heysham
10 were ringed in February 2006 at Heysham
1 from 2001 at Heysham

Perhaps of more interest than the retraps was the age structure of the birds. 97% were full adults and all but one of the remainder were at least 2 years old. This is probably down to the hard weather over the 6 weeks causing immature birds either to die or to be in such poor condition they need to feed in fields over the high tide period.

The 15 dead birds I picked up on Foulney a couple of weeks ago in the cold were all immature birds or adults that had not completed their primary feather moult. All the adults we checked at Heysham had completed their primary moult suggesting that incomplete primary moult is not a big problem in the bay however those that had failed to complete were hit particularly hard by the cold weather.


Wednesday 20 January 2010

Bearded Tits End of Term Report

It has been a very successful season for our Bearded Tit Study at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve.

Breeding Population and Survival
The breeding population increased from 18 pairs in 2008 to 26 pairs this year.In total we re-trapped or sighted 27 adult males and 18 adult females. Suggesting a small surplus of males. Females appear to be harder to catch than males. Survival of adults from 2008 was extremely good with a survival rate of at least 73% - one of the best rates to date. Survival of 2008 young was also good at 59%

This was excellent with 103 fledged young ringed - the best number since the population crash in the 2000-2001 winter.One unusual feature was the catching of 2 birds still in juvenile plumage as late as October 17th. Suggesting a very protracted breeding season.

Re-traps and Grit Tray Sightings
We recorded a total of 323 re-traps and no less that 337 sightings of colour ringed birds. Previous postings have detailed the grit tray sightings. The only addition is that a few birds have continued to visit the grit trays in January, the first time we have recorded them so late in the season. The birds appear to have survived the cold spell well, there were 9 birds around the tray on Sunday.

John Wilson

Sunday 10 January 2010

Historic colour ring sightings

This appears to be turning into a colour ring sighting blog! Recently I have been asked to trace some old sightings of birds from Seaforth. One stands out as worth posting on a blog. A colour ringed Turnstone was seen at Seaforth on the 24th August 2001. After 3061 days of the record being unresolved the Turnstone history was resolved - it was ring just 24 days before in Alert, Canada (82 degrees North).

As always I'm always happy to try and sort out unresolved sight records of waders in the area.

Many thanks to Steve White and Guy Morrison for the details of this bird.


Friday 8 January 2010

Colour ringed little egret

This summer and autumn 2 colour ringed Little Egrets were seen in the area. The first one was ringed in Kent in 2003 and not seen until it appeared in the North West. This equally the longevity for a British ringed Little Egret.

Shortly afterwards another bird (Green F, Yellow T) was seen at Leighton Moss between August and October 2009. This bird was ringed in Gwent in 2008 and represents the second colour ringed Little Egret for the area.

Slightly further south on the Ribble Estuary a 3rd colour ringed bird appeared in October which was ringed near Bangor in June 2009 as a chick.

All these sightings show a Northerly movement of Little Egret however interestingly these are of birds that are 6, 2 and 1 year old. For most species rapidly expanding their range it can be expected that the major movement is in the first year with them settling in an area within the first winter. As Leighton Moss is so well watched I very much doubt these birds have been around locally in any previous autumn/winter.

Many thanks to the Richard Hearn for the details of these birds.

Monday 4 January 2010

Recent wader colour ring sightings

Over the last few weeks there have been several sightings of colour ringed birds. These include:

2 Knot ringed in Norway. Both had a yellow flag with 3 black letters. They were ringed in spring passage near Porsanger in Northern Norway
A total of 12 knot from the Waddensea have been seen at Heysham, Morecambe and Hest bank. Some have colourful life histories including one bird having been seen in the bay 3 years running with additional sightings in Norway.
1 Ringed Plover from Snettisham (Norfolk) which has been seen at Heysham for 3 winters running and also seen on its breeding ground every summer between.
1 Black tailed godwit is dominating the colour ring sightings in the area. Originally ringed in the UK at as yet unknown location was colour ringed in Iceland in May 2009. Since then it has been seen at Leighton Moss, on the Dee and various other sites in eastern side of Morecambe bay.

Many thanks to Tony Riden, John Wood and Pete Marsh for the sightings of Knot, Ringed plover and black tailed godwit. Also thanks to Jim Wilson for details of the Knot from Norway, NIOZ for the details of Dutch ringed birds and Pete Potts/Farlington Ringing Group for details of the Godwit.

As always sightings of colour ringed birds are hugely valuable for understanding the importance of the area for many species of birds.