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)

Thursday 29 December 2011

How Long Do Birds Live?

One of the most fascinating things about ringing over a long period is that you assemble data on how long birds live. I have always kept a file detailing the longevity records of the group. This time of year I search our data base to see if any of the birds we have re-trapped or have been recovered, have improved on the records we have.

I always check out Reed Warbler first for not only do we ring large numbers each year (980 this year), so improving the chances of getting a new record but also because among small passerines Reed Warblers are well known for being long lived. I was not disappointed for we re trapped one this year nine years and 314 days after ringing. This extends the groups record of the oldest Reed Warbler by just 21 days.

I then turn to another frequently ringed species Blue Tit (1910). The oldest this year was one re-trapped seven years and 326 days after ringing. Another record, 120 days longer than our previous oldest bird.

Great Tits are ringed in smaller numbers (920) but our previous record was 13 years and 339 days not only a record for the group but also for the whole BTO ringing scheme. This year's oldest was four years and 74 days so something of a come down.

Coal Tits (380) have been present in good numbers this year and the oldest at 6 Years and 314 days, beat our previous record by 24 days.

Paul in our last posting highlighted a Dunnock at five years 57 days. Very good, but well short of our oldest record of six years and 205 days.

The species we have ringed most of this year is Sand Martin at 2140 with 648 re traps. Our oldest bird was four years and 216 days but our all time record is five years and 355 days.

These are this year's high lights, remember though that except for the Dunnock which was found dead, all the others were re trapped so hopefully are still going strong. One final thought with our data base it took me ca 35 mins to check through all our re traps. In the days before computers with all paper records it would probably have taken me at least 35 hours to check and then I would probably not have been as accurate.

But the last word should go to the birds, think of that Reed Warbler making at least nine journeys back and forth between Leighton Moss and West Africa. Quite a feat for such a small bird weighing just 12 grams or so!

Sunday 18 December 2011

Dunno what you been up to?

We are told the prime value in ringing comes from the data that can be used in population modelling and much of the significant information that the BTO produce falls under the Integrated Population Modelling programme and thus retrap and recovery data are much appreciated by ringers, even if sometimes, such records lack the glamour of records of oddities - but at this season, most of us know that not all that glitters is gold.

Fitting this is a record of a Dunnock, caught as a juvenile in September 2006 in Hala and caught by a cat five years later in November 2011 in a garden less than 100 metres away. Interestingly, this bird had never been recaught in numerous ringing sessions since then. Short scale movement is the norm for this species (95% of recoveries are within 5km of the ringing site) but this does not mean that records ssuch as this are dull - as Ian Hartley writes in the Migration Atlas, "there are still unanswered questions about the species' local movements"!


Friday 16 December 2011

Bearded Tit End of Term Report

With the water level at Leighton Moss now extremely high precluding any further ringing, its a good time to take stock of this years study.

Following the harsh 2010/11 winter and very extensive trashing of the reed beds by roosting Starlings the breeding population declined from 30 to 12 pairs, Productivity has been quite reasonable and we have ringed 32 juveniles.

Crude survival figures from last year explains the population decline. Adults had a 22 % survival but young birds only 4%. This compares with an average of ca 60% for adults and 40% for juveniles since our study started in 1992

Grit tray sightings have been good thanks to the dedicated work of Keith Kellet and Alan Gallagher and family.Between September 14th and December 8th a total of 382 sightings of colour ringed birds were logged. All the 21 adults recorded this year were sighted on the trays.

Two adult birds equalled the record of visiting the trays on at least 22 days. But a bird of the year set a new record by being recorded on 24 days.

Many thanks to Tim Munsey for the photograph.

Wednesday 7 December 2011

What's Happening to Blue Tits ?

There appears to be a marked scarcity of Blue Tits this autumn and early winter. i have looked at two sites we work regularly.

At our woodland feeding station, of Teddy Heights near Arnside we have caught only 63 so far compared to 164 in the same period last year. Of these 46% are adults compared to 17% last year.

At Leighton Moss in the reed beds and willow scrub this years total to date is 323 compared with 594 last year. Adult percentage has gone from just 4.7 in 2010 to 25% this year.

These low numbers and high percentage of adult birds suggest that survival of young birds has been poor. Almost all our nest box sites had good productivity up to the fledging stage so any high mortality must have been after fledging.

Talking to other ringers from Nottingham, South Lancs, and Yorkshire at the BTO conference last weekend I got a similar story of low Numbers and high adult percentages. Also talking to other members of the Group and local garden bird feeders they are experiencing similar low numbers.

Tuesday 6 December 2011

North West Ringers' Conference update

The programme and booking form is now available for download.

The conference is being sponsored by Vine House Farm.

Wednesday 30 November 2011

North West Ringers' Conference

On the 18th February 2012 North Lancashire Ringing Group will be hosting the North West Ringers' Conference at Arkholme Village Hall.

The booking forms should be sent out in the next week or so, the cost will be £17 which includes teas/coffees and a hot lunch. The programme is more or less finalised and currently looks like this:

0915 - 0945 Coffee and Registration

0945 - 1000 Introduction and Welcome - Paul Cammack
1000 - 1025 Biometrics - Why should I bother? - Chris du Feu
1025 - 1050 Bearded Tits and Leighton Moss - John Wilson
1050 - 1110 Sand Martins RAS on the River Lune - Richard du Feu

1100 - 1145 Coffee

1145 - 1215 Ringing in the wider countryside - HLS and farm monitoring - David Morris
1215 - 1245 Getting more out of ringing - Rob Robinson

1245 - 1400 Lunch

1400 - 1430 Black magic: Secret movements of North-West Coot - Steve Christmas
1430 - 1500 Bird Ringing - the next 100 years? - Ken Smith

1500 - 1545 Coffee

1545 - 1645 Ringers' Meeting
1645 - 1700 Raffle draw, competition results and close of conference

For more information please contact

Saturday 26 November 2011

A Tufty with a Difference

Bird Watchers visiting Leighton Moss have been surprised to find a male Tufted Duck with a bright blue upper bill. Closer inspection revealed that it was a nasal saddle with the letters ZH.

We have traced this bird and it was ringed as an adult at Saint Philbert-de-Grand-Lieu in France. this is a large lake in western France just south of the Brest peninsular. it was marked on 15/02/06 as part of a study of this species.. Further sightings showed it is quite a wanderer. In September 07 it was still in France but by March 08 it was found in Lincolnshire and in January 09 in Bedfordshire. December 10 found it back in France not far from its marking locality then finally to Leighton Moss this month.

I've been asked wether the nasal saddle in any way affected its survival. Obviously not for this bird is at least six years old . Will be interesting to see if it stops long at Leighton Moss.
Thanks to Brian Howson for the photo


Wednesday 23 November 2011

Swinging Ringing

Dawn Monday 21st calm cloudy excellent ringing weather. We worked a site in the middle of Leighton Moss reed bed in the hope of catching Bearded Tits. We were not expecting a great catch as the Bearded Tit population is low this year after last winters severe weather. First round of our three nets produced nothing. Second round a Wren and a Penduline Tit. A ringing tick for the group and only the second record for the Moss and North Lancashire. Out came Svenssoon and on the data there it was a male on the amount of black around the eye and a first winter bird on the colour of the greater coverts. Duly ringed processed and photographed. Unfortunately the images from my mobile phone camera were not so good so I include one that I prepared earlier from my friend Janusz Stepniewski with whom I ringed Penduline Tits in Poland in 2009. Our session ended with the only Bearded Tits of the morning - a pair with consecutive ring numbers, ringed together in mid October re-trapped together 10 days later and together again today. Very typical of Bearded Tits . From our ringing they form pairs shortly after fledging and remain together, if they both survive of course, right through the winter ad breed together in spring.

At home entering the data for the last two days ringing on the IPMR programme found that we had retrapped a Marsh Tit at our woodland feeding station that was ringed five years and 35 days ago. The Group's oldest Marsh Tit by far.


Sunday 20 November 2011

Sand Martin recoveries

We've had another batch of Sand Martin recoveries and leaves just one bird we caught this year as having an unknown origin (well unknown beyond Spain or possibly Senegal anyway).

Once again France have excelled themselves and sent us details of two birds we caught:

Paris 6243026
Ringed 14/08/2009 Lentilles, Aube, France
Retrapped 11/07/2011 Arkholme, Lancashire 806km NW

Paris 6452590
Ringed 17/08/2010 Lentilles, Aube, France
Retrapped 26/07/2011 Alston Reservoir, 777km NW

While both of these are nice they are very unsurprising given the number of Sand Martins ringed in France and it is the only viable route to Africa for British Sand Martins. The bird caught at Alston is out of our normal area however was caught as part of a mission to see where the Alston colony had been populated from. The answer is clear - not the Lune valley!

Details of two birds we ringed as Juveniles at Whittington have also been sent through:
Ringed 29/06/2011 Whittington
Retrapped 01/07/2011 Weather Hills Pond, North Yorkshire 74km E

Ringed 14/06/2011 Whittington
Retrapped 26/06/2011 Whittington
Retrapped 01/07/2011 Weather Hills Pond, North Yorkshire 74km E

These movements once again show that Juvenile Sand Martins move very quickly. Y150440 moved 74km in 2 days while Y150149 did it in 5 days having stayed around for two weeks from ringing.

I have no doubt there are many more Sand Martin details to come through from 2011s ringing, hopefully with several in Senegal.


Friday 18 November 2011

Which Way Africa?

A recent batch of recoveries from the BTO included details of three Sedge Warblers. Two juveniles ringed at Leighton Moss took the expected southerly direction. One ringed on 23 August was caught just 12 days later at Orfordness in Suffolk a distance of 372 km SE. The other ringed 1st September turned up 15 days later in a net at Titchfield Haven Hampshire 387 SSE. Nothing unusual in these two for we have had 69 previous recoveries of Sedge Warbler from late July to early September in Southern England. The recovery locations, almost all of them controlled by ringers, ranging from Cornwall to Suffolk and all counties in between.

But Y223110 was different . It was ringed on 23 July 2011 at Belvide in Staffordshire and caught at Middleton NR just 26 days later on 18th August, 154 kms NNW. Its our first example of reverse migration in this species. This regularly occurs in a number of species, ringing has shown that some at least retun to the usual migration route.


Thursday 17 November 2011

Goose alert

Please check this site out for neck-collared Greylags and speculation as to their origin. As we are also receiving reasonable numbers of displaced Scandinavian/north Russian Geese, this may include a Greylag or two of extremely interesting origin

Please check the flocks carefully for neck collars. The Greylags seem to be mainly on the Lune estuary saltmarshes or further up river at the moment with none/hardly any around Carnforth Marsh/Leighton. Or are there also loads on the Kent/Foulshaw areas?



Sunday 13 November 2011

Blue Tit movement

Over the last week I've had a couple more ringing sessions in my garden. The large number of Coal Tits has continued, Blue and Great Tit numbers have also gone up with other species caught include Chaffinch and Bullfinch. There have been a couple of near misses with Sparrowhawk and Jay. Not at all bad for a small urban garden.

The most interesting capture was a Blue Tit ringed at Heysham Nature Reserve on the 15th October arrived in my garden on the 8th November with a movement of 10km. This movement although relatively small is in the 20% of recorded movements of Blue Tits and given recapture movements of less than 5km are not reported in national reports this is quite a good one.

Saturday 12 November 2011

North Harbour Wall Twite

The first birds of the Autumn turned up in the harbour area on around 9th October this year. Since then numbers have built up, but are quite mobile and perhaps more unsettled compared with earlier years. Larger numbers seem to be frequenting Ocean Edge foreshore than the harbour feeding area, although much movement back and forth occurs throughout the day. Increasing vegetation on the north harbour wall mounds may be leading to more natural seed for the birds, less dependency on the nyger and hence less certainty of finding the birds on the seed.
Today, 63 were counted on OE and then in early afternoon, after the nyger seed was replenished (the morning supply having been eaten by rabbits and feral pigeons - and probably Twite too!), 14 were on the food (of which 5 were unringed).
So far, 41 new birds have been ringed during October and November and two controls caught, both of which had been ringed in early autumn at Machrihanish Bird Observatory.
A catch at Askham-in-Furness today included a Heysham bird ringed only 14 days ago at Heysham. This would suggest movement across the bay occurs in both directions at this time of year. Similar movements were recorded from Heysham to Askham and to Walney at this time last year.
ajd 11/11/2011

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Gritting Continues

The Bearded Tit gritting season is in full swing at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve. Birds have been visiting the grit trays since 14th of September and up to 14 different birds have been recorded visiting the trays recently on one day. We know how many, because almost all our birds are individually colour ringed and are logged almost daily by dedicated local birders especially Keith Kellet. To date we have identified 12 adult males and nine adult females. We estimate that the breeding population this year was 12 pairs so almost all the adults have visited the trays. This season we have ringed 33 young birds , of these 24 have visited the trays. To date one bird, an adult female, has been recorded on the tray on 20 days . Last years record was 22 days but there is time yet, for gritting can go on until mid December.

Birds regularly visit the trays in pairs including the young birds, for Bearded Tits appear to form pairs soon after fledging and remain together ,if they survive of course, to the breeding season.


Sunday 6 November 2011

More on Coal Tits

John posted yesterday about the large number of Coal Tits being seen locally. I have also seen this in Lancaster and so decided to do a bit of ringing in the garden today to see how many birds were using the feeders. After 3 hours the wind picked up to be enough to drop leaves into net rather than either side of it so I gave up at that point. Anyway 32 birds in 3 hours made up of:

Coal Tit - 12 New
Long Tailed Tit - 10 New, 1 Control (Probably from the University via Paul's garden)
Bullfinch - 3 New
Great Tit - 2 New, 1 Retrap from November 2010
Blue Tit - 1 New, 1 Retrap from November 2010
Chaffinch - 1 New

Since taking down the net very few of the Coal Tits coming to the feeders are ringed so I only ringed a small proportion of them. The biggest surprise were the Bullfinch which, until today, were not on my garden list.

Perhaps the huge number of Coal Tits explains why the sunflower seed feeder needed refilling 3 times yesterday. I've since upgraded to a bigger model so hopefully they will last at least a day between refills.

Are the large Coal Tit numbers a North West thing or is this being seen nationally?


Saturday 5 November 2011

A Coal Tit Winter?

Had quite a few comments this past month from garden bird enthusiasts that there are many more Coal Tits around this autumn. Typical was today where one lady had seen six together on her feeders in a site some distance from woodland, she added that they were more numerous than Blue Tits.

This sent me scurrying to check out our ringing stats for this autumn. The best data was from one of our woodland feeding stations. So far this autumn we have had 124 handlings of Coal Tits this compares with only 32 in the same period last year although we have had one more visit this year during the period late September to early November. During the same period this year we had only 45 Blue tit handlings. So it looks like a good winter for Coal Tit numbers, Will be interesting to see what happens through the winter.

One of the Coal Tits caught this year had been ringed at the same site six years and 314 days previously. Certainly our record for a ringed Coal Tit. This autumn we have had two Blue Tits which were ringed as nestlings in the high altitude Oak woods in the Lune Valley as nestlings in our nest box schemes, caught in lowland areas, one at a garden feeding station the other in the Leighton Moss reed bed the later showed a movement of 16 km.


Wednesday 26 October 2011

More sand martin recoveries

Every blog post I make covers one of two things - Oystercatchers or Sand Martins. Tonight is, once again, Sand Martin recoveries. Today's batch from the BTO contained details of 3 birds ringed or controlled by North Lancs Ringing Group.

Paris 6478949 - Juvenile
Ringed Loire-Atlantique, France 18-Aug-2010
Retrapped Whittington, Kirkby Lonsdale, Lancashire 05-Jun-2011

Y150466 - Juvenile
Ringed Whittington, Kirkby Lonsdale, Lancashire 29-Jun-2011
Retrapped Loire-Atlantique, France 09-Aug-2011

These two are pretty unsurprising really given that 60% of the Sand Martins ringed in the UK recaught in Europe are caught in France with a further 30% in Spain.

Perhaps the most surprising bird we had details of today is:

L597913 - Juvenile
Ringed Wintersett Reservoir, West Yorkshire 24-Jun-2011
Retrapped Whittington, Kirkby Lonsdale, Lancashire 29-Jun-2011
99km North West 5km

This is the 5th Sand Martin to be caught on the Lune this year from Wintersett although the only one ringed in 2011. Such a rapid movement in completely the wrong direction for Africa shows that, just like juvenile Swallows, Sand Martins have a wandering phase looking for suitable breed areas before heading south for the winter. With a wing length of 102mm this bird was in the largest 20% of juveniles we caught this year and is currently the best guide we have as to whether the bird is a 'local' bird or a wanderer. Shorter winged birds are more likely to be local as they are yet to be fully grown.

I would also like to congratulate the French ringing scheme for getting the details back of these birds so quickly. Not so many years ago the wait for details of bird ringed in France was several years.

Cetti's Warbler The Next Installment

Cetti's Warbler are certainly a potential colonist in our area but to date there is no definite proof of breeding. The first bird was caught at Leighton Moss as long ago as 1995. This was followed by singles in 2007 & 2008, three in 2009 and seven in 2010. To date this autumn we have caught four, two each of males and females. One of the females had been ringed in October 2010. In the 2010 autumn we also retrapped two birds from previous autumn's one from two autumn's previously. Are these birds returning to a prefered wintering area or have they bred undetected close by?

That they are capable of quite long movements was shown by a male which we ringed on 13/03/10 which was caught on 25/04/11 near Portsmouth 389 km SSE. This is the second longest movement of any British ringed Cetti's Warbler.

The group also ringed another Cetti's at Heysham earlier in the month making five for the areas so far this autumn


Friday 14 October 2011

True Grit

Despite a marked decline in the Bearded Tit population at Leighton Moss following last winter's hard weather and trashing of the reed bed by roosting starlings, Numbers of birds visiting our grit trays has been good. Our best day to date is 18 different individuals (identified by their colour rings).

To date eight adult males and seven adult females have visited the tray along with 20 different this years juveniles. This is out of a total of 26 juveniles ringed to date. There has also been at least three un-ringed birds two of which are still in partial juvenile plumage. Our ringing activities have been rather curtailed by the extremely high water levels and the recent rather wet windy weather.

Thursday 29 September 2011

Another African Sand Martin

The best of a large batch of recoveries received from the BTO is our second Sand Martin from last winter from Senegal in West Africa. Both birds were caught and released in mid December just two days apart. This one was caught in Djoudi National Park. The first reported bird has been caught back at its natal colony on the River Lune this June, This is the groups sixth Sand Martin recovery from this area in mid winter. Another Sand Martin caught on the Lune in June had been ringed on the French coast last September.

Other recoveries included a juvenile Reed Warbler ringed at Leighton Moss this late June and caught and released in Portugal 48 days later. Another recovery in Portugal was of a Redwing ringed on passage at Heysham in early October and found wintering in Portugal in January. Probably escaping last winters cold weather only to be shot in Portugal.

Two Siskin recoveries show the wintering and the breeding areas of Siskins using our area. One ringed at Brandon in Suffolk in January was caught at Thrushgill in July, probably one of our increasing breeding birds. The other was ringed in March in our area and caught near Lairg during the breeding season. This is our fourteenth Siskin to be found in Northern Scotland during the breeding season

Finally a Twte ringed at Heyham in early November last winter was caught at Blaen-Y-Nant in Gwynedd on April 17th. This is our first recovery of a Twite in Wales and suggests onward movement in early winter from our feeding station at Heysham

Tuesday 20 September 2011

The Gritting Season Has Started

The Bearded Tit gritting season has started earlier than usual this year. The first bird reported to me was on September 14th compared to the 20th in 2010. As usual the first birds to come to the trays are adults. One interesting feature as shown in Mike Killelea' s photographs taken on the 18th some of these birds are still moulting, the head is not fully feathered and the black beard has not fully formed. I can't remenber birds in this state of moult being recorded on the trays before.

From the colour rings we know this bird was ringed in September 2009 . It was recorded on the grit trays on six days in autumn 2009 and on ten occasions in 2010. Then this May it was found feeding a brood in one of our nest boxes ca 150 metres away from the grit trays.

By the 20th four birds were seen together on the trays. however the breeding population is down this year following the cold winter so fewer birds are expected to visit the trays this year.

Friday 16 September 2011

Little Egrets Move North

We have just received details of two colour ringed sightings of young Little Egrets which were seen together on the Eric Complex Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve Silverdale. Both were seen there on 21st of July this year and for several other days around that period. They had both been ringed as nestlings near Bangor in North Wales on June 5th this year although they were from different broods.

This now brings to at least nine different birds from the Bangor colony which have been seen in our area over the last three years. All nine were reported at least at first in either July or August after ringing, establishing that there is a marked movement north fairly soon after fledging. A search of the BTO Online Ringing Reports reveals that young birds from this colony move even further north at this time of year with three reports from the Clyde estuary in Scotland, two from Norhern Ireland and one from the Isle of Man. Some of the colour ringed birds have remained in our area in winter and at least two birds were sighted the following spring but the Online Reports show that one of the Bangor birds rather sensibly, given last years cold weather moved to the Canary Islands in December.


Sunday 4 September 2011

Reed Warblers Have a Good but late Season

With ca 95% of the Leighton Moss reed-bed trashed by roosting starlings last winter, we were rather concerned that Reed Warblers might have a poor season. They arrived in late April to find almost all the reed bed under a metre high and our impression was that the few good reed areas were colonised first.

However this has turned out to be a good season . To date we have caught 246 adult birds and 806 juveniles making it the best year since 2003. However breeding does seem to have been later than usual. By the second half of August almost all the adults have usually left. Over the past 11 years we have averaged just seven adult birds in the second half of August but this year we have caught 23. A few were fattening up ready for the off but a female(ringed as a juvenile in 2010) we caught this morning( September 4th) was typical, it still had a marked brood patch.- no fat and weighed 10.3 grams. We are also catching a number of young birds still in post juvenile moult.

Did the poor condition of the reed delay the start of the breeding season so making second broods later than usual.?


Sunday 21 August 2011

The Data Builds Up

A recent batch of recoveries added a little more to our knowledge of the movements of birds in our area.

A Sedge Warbler originally ringed in Oxfordshire in July 2010 was found breeding at Leighton Moss. This is our first Sedge Warbler recovery from Oxfordshire. By contrast a Reed Warbler also found breeding at Leighton Moss and ringed at Icklesham in Sussex in late August was our 34th Reed Warbler in Sussex.

Sand Martins have been our most ringed species this year with 2101 new birds ringed. We received details of some of the 648 ringed birds we caught while breeding in the sandy banks of the River Lune. These added to the data we already have brings the total recoveries from Sussex to 117, 13 in Kent, 18 in Yorkshire seven in Cheshire but only our second from Wiltshire. Most have been caught at reed bed roosts but a good number have been caught roosting in established colonies as they make their way south,


Wednesday 10 August 2011

Bearded Tits Suffer While Reed Warblers Prosper

Following the really cold winter and the trashing of 95% of the Leighton Moss reed bed by roosting Starlings we were rather fearful of the effect on these two reed bed breeding species. Both species are the subject of RAS studies

The bad news is that the Bearded Tit population has declined from at least 30 pairs last year to under 10 this year. To date we have only ringed 16 juveniles compared to 104 last year and although we will probably catch more in the September/October period they are obviously well down. To date we have caught/ re-sighted five adult males and only two adult females we usually catch or sight more adult birds in autumn and on the grit trays but the population has obviously suffered. Last year we caught/sighted 49 males and 28 females.

By contrast Reed Warblers are doing well. To date we have caught 222 adult birds (124 new and 96 re traps from previous years) compared to 224 in 2010 and we have a few more weeks to go although adult Reed Warblers start to migrate in August. To date we have ringed 477 juveniles compared to 515 in the whole season of 2010 and we have what is usually the most productive period of August to early September to come- if only the weather cooperates!

The Starling trashing though seems to have had some effect on the distribution of Reed Warblers, with sites that have at least some standing reed producing the bulk of the adult birds.
Another possible effect is that there has been a re-distribution of the breeding population with a number of old adult birds re trapped this year but not in the intervening years. A extreme example of this was P503386 originally ringed in August 01 as a juvenile- re trapped in 07 and twice this year but not in the intervening years. Two birds first ringed in 05 were also re trapped for the first time this year.


Thursday 4 August 2011

A Visitor From Lithuania

We have just received details of a ringed bird reported to us by a visitor to Leighton Moss. All he found on January 1st this year was a leg and ring on the path behind the Public Hide. But he realised it was a bit different for it was a Lithuanian ring, number KV76449.

We now know it was a Starling ringed at Ventes Regas Silute Lithuania as a young bird on 16/07/2010. The bird had flown 1546 km, only to end up as a meal for a Sparrowhawk.

This is the third Starling that the group have had reported from Lithuania and gives a clue as to where the 100's of thousands of Starlings which roost at Leighton Moss in the winter come from.

From ringing of Starlings in past winters we have had reports in the breeding season from Russia (11) , Finland (3) Estonia (6) Latvia (3) Lithuania (3) Poland(1) Norway (7) Germany (9) and Denmark (10).


Tuesday 26 July 2011

Pied Flycatchers on the Up

Have finally got together all the data on our Pied Flycatcher Retrapping Adults for Survival study in 13 woods in the Lune valley.

This year we had 92 nest boxes occupied. This compares with only 63 in 2010 and 54 in 2009. Most of the increase has come from the peripheral woods which have had nest boxes for several years. In two of these woods the population increased from just four pairs in 2009/10 to 11 this year. Of the 92 occupied boxes 76 were successful. In total we ringed 455 nestlings.

A total of 71 females and 19 males were caught. Three of these males were proved to be polygamous with the two boxes serviced being approximately 50, 75 and 100 metres apart.

Birds ringed as adults mainly returned to nest in the same wood in successive years. Out of 21 only 2 changed woods. But of 31 birds breeding for the first time only seven nested in the wood in which they were hatched the others moved to other woods. Birds ringed as nestlings in Durham and Derbyshire were found nesting in our boxes.


Sand Martins (again)

A very brief update on Sand Martins. It looks like the first brood or two of Juveniles are well on the way south as we had no retrap juveniles from previous sessions last night although about 70 retrap adults. The highlights from the last couple of nights have been:

N 3J New Bird 21/06/10 R Lune, Whittington (NOR), Lancashire
C 3 Recaptured 03/08/10 Tour aux Moutons, Loire-Atlantique, France (764 km, S, 43 days)
C 4M Recaptured 25/07/11 Nether Burrow, Lancashire (2 km, S, 1 yr 34days)

X836637 - appears to be the 5th Control from Wintersett Reservoir this year, following on from 3 last year.

This series of 8 movements is very interesting. Wintersett is in effect on the other side of the Pennines and for most summer migrants not an obvious route south. The Pennine rivers do provide excellent breeding habitat for Sand Martin so I would guess these birds are in their wandering phase in June/July when caught in West Yorkshire.


Saturday 23 July 2011

Preparing to Leave

Our ringing of Reed and Sedge Warblers over the past two days produced the first signs that adults of both species are preparing to leave on migration by putting on fat prior to their departure.

Three adult Reed Warblers showed this very well .They normally average around 11.5 grams but these three weighed in at 13.8, 14.2 and 14.6 grams and had significant signs of fat accumulation with fat scores of between 3 and 5. In total we caught 17 adult Reed Warblers but only these three showed any signs of fat accumulation.

We caught smaller numbers of Sedge Warblers but one had a fat score of 3 and a weight of 12.6

Past recoveries of both species have shown how early these birds move with several recoveries of adults along the south coast of England from late July on and even in Northern France as early as August 8th


Saturday 16 July 2011

Cetti's Warbler-The Mystery Deepens

Cetti's Warbler has been moving north in Britain over recent years . This is reflected in the numbers ringed at Leighton Moss- singles in 1995, 2007 and 2008, then 4 in 2009 and 7 in 2010. Males have stopped and sung until early spring in the last two years but then apparently disappeared.

Of the seven caught in 2010 two were retraps from previous years, one each from 08 and 09. But male X945739 produced a totally unexpected recovery . It was ringed at Leighton on 13th March 2010 and caught at Farlington Marsh near Portsmouth presumably on territory on 25 April this year a distance of 390 km to the south. This appears to be one of the few long distance movements recorded for this species, which according to The Migration Atlas are highly sedentary after establishing a territory. Did this bird fail to find a mate in spring 2010 and so moved on? We await this autumn to see how many arrive.

Other recoveries reported recently included three more Sand Martins in France on autumn passage including one in Loire Atlantique on 29th July our earliest on autumn passage in France and just 18 days after ringing. Another was found in southern Spain in mid September.

Female Pied Flycatchers nesting in our nest boxes had been ringed as nestlings in Derbyshire and Durham. Showing good mixing of the population.

Four Twite ringed while wintering at Heysham were caught at Machrihanish Seabird Observatory Argyll bringing the total to nine from this site.

Lesser Redpoll caught on passage in April had been ringed in winter in Suffolk, Hampshire and Nottingham.

A Reed Warbler ringed as a juvenile at Leighton in August 206 was caught at Chew Valley Lake in mid April.

Most satisfying of all was that all the above recoveries were of birds caught by other ringers and so may go on to produce other recoveries.


Saturday 9 July 2011

Sand martin update

I could put a load of mindless trivia in this blog posting like retrapping 9 birds with successive ring numbers or controlling a bird where a reversal of two digits of the ring number would have made it one of ours, or even taking L333271 and L334271 out of successive bags when neither had been ringed at that colony (one moved 2km and the other 4km) however all these are just fairly uninteresting chance events. Of much more significance is the overall pattern of captures.

In 2011 we have caught a total of 1372 individuals so far, of which 1191 are new birds and the remainder are retraps or controls. These 181 birds are of most interest to the project. The tables below show where the birds were ringed in 2010 and where we have recaught them in 2011, with NOR and SOU being two colonies near Whittington, ARK being near Arkholme, NETB being near Tunstall and CDB being deep inside the Bowland fells.

82 were ringed as juveniles in 2010:

NOR 28 9 7 44
SOU 2 2
ARK 1 4 5
CDB 2 2 2 6
NETB 13 4 8 25

Total 44 15 21 2 82
9% of Juveniles ringed in 2010 have been recaught this year.

Adults ringed in 2010:

NOR 45 4 2 51
SOU 1 1
ARK 7 7
CDB 5 5
NETB 1 5 3 9

Total 46 10 12 5 73
10% of adults ringed in 2010 have been recaught this year.

A further bird ringed in 2010 by the group at Gressingham swallow roost has been caught at Tunstall. We have also retrapped 13 birds from 2009 and one from 2007.

Note the adults have been highly site faithful with the exception of those at site SOU. This colony is largely abandoned probably due to predation by rats and stoats last season with only a small part active this year. The adults could have moved 200 metres along the river to the northern colony however it appears like more have gone to Tunstall around 2km away. Last year we did not ring at the Tunstall colony so made two visits this year to find out how many of the birds at our existing RAS sites use it. The answer is clearly a lot (around 10% of adult birds caught were retraps from last year) and as a result we plan to extent our RAS scheme to include this colony.

The totals for 2011 for each site are as follows with the retrap figure excluding within year retraps and controls:

New Adult New Juvenile Retrap Adult % (adult) retraps
NOR 260 318 95 27
SOU 17 6 3 15
ARK 41 0 12 22
CDB 50 39 11 18
NETB 320 140 34 10

Of the 11 controls the most interesting is likely to be L597913 which we caught on 29th June and is a Juvenile. My guess is it is from Scotland however we will have to wait for the ringing unit to get back to us. Juveniles do make rapid movements in late June and July often visiting active colonies in search of sites to breed. Will this one return next year?

Sunday 3 July 2011

A Record at Last

The further re-trapping of Reed Warbler P503386 this morning means it establishes a new Group longetivity record for this species. When it was first re-trapped this year on 27th of June it was just 2 days short of beating the previous record. ( See my posting Almost a Record) But to days re-trap extends its time since ringing to nine years and 314 days and its still going strong.

It is not the oldest small passerine recorded by the group, this is a Great Tit ringed as a nestling and found dead 11 years and 97 days later.


Thursday 30 June 2011

Chiffchaffs on the Up

Many people have commented on the good numbers of Chiffchaff singing this spring. The first returns from our ringing sessions at Leighton Moss support this view. Looking back over the period 2000 to 2010, in these 11 years we only ringed a grand total of 23 Chiffchaffs in June. This June we have ringed 20 all juvenile birds suggesting good productivity.

These early returns from a difficult month weather wise also suggest that it has been a good breeding season for Willow and Reed Warbler and also Blackcap. However for our main study species -Bearded Tit the population has obviously suffered during the past cold winter. We have only caught 13 this June compared to 77 in June 2010.


Wednesday 22 June 2011

Poor Season in Aughton Woods

The breeding season got off to a promising start but soon went downhill and ended up being, sadly, rather a disaster.

The current total of nestboxes is now 33. These consisted of 29 boxes existing (odd ones have been added over the past couple of years), together with 7 new boxes erected early this spring. These new boxes are part of a batch of 12 made this year and kindly financed by the North Lancs. Naturalists’ Group. Of these 12, there are 3remaining as spares for failing boxes, 2 were used to replace rotted boxes and 7 new boxes were erected.

There is an unofficial view that Pied Flycatchers like to use new boxes, and indeed, one of the new ones (which had only been erected a couple of weeks earlier) did attract a Pied Flycatcher this year - the first in these woods since 1 in 2008. A part clutch of eggs was laid but unfortunately was predated. Another clutch of eggs, possibly of a Redstart, was predated plus 5 clutches of Blue Tit eggs.

In each case there remained only many small pieces of eggshell in the nests – this suggests that the culprits may have been Wood Mice. These nests were spread throughout the area, rather than in one particular group.

The takeup of boxes was:

Blue Tit 13 3 successful, 5 predated eggs, 4 failed eggs(reason unknown).
Great Tit 3 2 predated eggs, 1 failed eggs(reason unknown).
Pied Flycatcher 1 1 predated eggs.
Redstart?? 1 1 predated eggs.
Other nests were begun in 5 boxes but did not progress.
10 boxes unused.

As can be seen, only three broods of young were successfully fledged from the 33 boxes.
The weather during the breeding period was generally rather cool, windy and wet at times. However, the Aughton Woods complex is not especially exposed and faces approximately south-east. The woods are fairly dense and boxes around 1.5metre above ground level would be somewhat protected from the elements.

A disappointing outcome from four monitoring trips of 3-4 hours each undertaken from the Crook O’ Lune!


Saturday 18 June 2011

The Long Lived and the Quick Mover

A further batch of recoveries included two outstanding records.

The first was an Oystercatcher ringed by the Devon and Cornwall Wader Group while wintering at Dawlish Warren on the Exe Estuary in Devon. Nothing outstanding about that as we have had several Oystercatchers from Devon but this bird was ringed in 1989 and was killed by a raptor at Arkholme 21 years and 158 days after ringing. Making it the Groups oldest recovered bird. However it had a long way to go to reach the British record of 36 years and eight months!

The other outstanding recovery was of an adult Sedge Warbler ringed at Middleton NR on 18th July 2009 and controlled 15 days later in Loire-Atlantique France a distance of 745 km. this shows just how early some of our breeding Segde Warblers start to migrate.We also had another adult Sedge Warbler which was ringed on 16the June 2010 and controlled at the same site in Loire-Atlantique 64 days afrer ringing.

Other recoveries included two Siskin ringed in winter and both controlled at the same site in Dumfries in early March. A Lesser Redpoll ringed in February was on the Isle of Mull in late April showing the breeding area of some of our wintering birds. The ring number was read through a telescope.

Friday 17 June 2011

Sand Martins - an update of the first 700 captures

2011 has started with sand martins where we left off. We've been catching large numbers of birds at regular colonies on the lune. We still have some new colonies to try and see how many of our birds from last year are using them.

The highlight of the year so far is L334091 which we ringed at Whittington in 2010, was controlled in December in Senegal and then retrapped on Wednesday back at the same colony in Whittington.

Out of the 737 birds caught so far this year 560 have been new birds (256 juveniles, 304 adults), two have been ringed in France, 2 have been controls from the UK. The retraps have been very interesting, the break down of years are below:

2007 - 1, ringed as a juvenile and not seen since ringing
2009 - 10, 8 ringed as adults, 2 as juveniles
2010 - 107, 56 ringed as adults, 51 as juveniles

The 2010 retraps show that the juveniles have so far had a 5% return rate and the adults a 8% return rate. This is significantly lower than last year however the season is yet young and we have more sub colonies to ring at when the wind finally drops.

We have been eagler waiting for details of two French ringed sand martins we caught last year. Sadly the details are yet to arrive from the BTO however in the latest batch of recoveries we have 7 Sand Martins we ringed in 2010 that have been recaught in autumn in France and a further sand martin caught in Shropshire on spring passage. More details of these to follow soon.

Sunday 12 June 2011

Israeli-ringed Lesser Whitethroat updated

What was thought to be a 2CY male Israeli-ringed (Tel Aviv University Y60214) Lesser Whitethroat was caught during the Middleton Nature Reserve CES this morning. It was 'loosely' associating with some independent but recently fledged juveniles and, as also suggested by the date, is a local breeding bird

Provisional information relayed to suggest that it was ringed at Eilat on 10/3/09 - this was a surprise given the seemingly brand new ring, muddy iris and tail feather features. Thanks to Pete Kinsella for alerting me to this site & posting

Richard has informed that this is the 7th Israel-ringed bird to be found in the British Isles with 9 British-ringed birds found in Israel. These are all caught during spring passage in Israel which is a more easterly route than the autumn passage. Ringing recoveries suggest that autumn passage involves a stop-over in north Italy before a more direct route to the presumed Kenyan (and surrounding countries?) wintering area (per Migration Atlas)

Rather overshadowed by this, but perhaps equally unlikely, was the fact that the first Swallow capture of the year on the nearby Heysham NR CES was also a (British) 'control' (contrast with one 'control' out of 1000+ in last autumn's roost ringing!)

Saturday 11 June 2011


The catching yesterday of an adult reed Warbler with ring number P503386 sent me racing to my computer when back home. I knew that P rings were used about 10 years ago so this bird was obviously quite old but would it be a record age for our study at Leighton Moss? I quickly discovered that it was ringed as a young bird on 23/08/01 so it was 9 years and 261 days since it was first ringed. But it was obviously 10 years old, Would this be our record for longevity in this species? A quick look at another file and I discovered that our previous oldest bird was 9 years and 263 days after ringing! So it had missed the record by just two days.

Nationally the oldest British ringed Reed Warbler was 11 days short of 13 years so our bird has a bit to go yet. Reed Warblers are well known for their longevity, in the same catch we had one bird 6 years old and 2 each at 5 and 4 years old.

Visiting I found that the oldest British ringed Sedge Warbler was only 8 years and 8 months. Blackcap and Willow Warbler both 10 years and 8 months. Why Reed Warblers should be so long lived compared with these other warblers is interesting .But most amazing of all is the thought that this little gem has navigated to West Africa and back on 10 occasions!
Thanks to David Mower for the photo.

Pied Flycatcher on autopilot?

Whilst checking nest boxes/utilising the energy provided by a piece of Bakewell tart/walking off the fat-store remnants of a triple-headed cone from Mr Whirl at Hartlepool headland, I approached Box 56 along the stream below Thrushgill clearfell

This seemed to be a clear cut case of empty box, flattened heavily soiled nest, no sign of any birds in the vicinity - typical of a Pied Flycatcher brood which would have left about 5 days ago. The nest was thrown out and the box cleaned. As soon as this was done, a/the male Pied Flycatcher suddenly appeared, making a racket and wing-flicking - the usual anxiety behaviour around an occupied nest

Furthermore it then followed me for a good 70m to Box 57 where an ex-Great Tit nest was similarly removed. During this process, the PF "defended" this box as though it was its own, calling,wing-flicking and approaching within about 2 metres

I moved on further up the river and it immediately lost interest. All previous alarm-calling had been limited to examination of/proximity to Box 56 with no prior example of being followed so far upstream to the vicinity of Box 57

Two pristine boxes if it wants to commandeer the/a female for a second brood!
Or is this just 'autopilot' behaviour?


Wednesday 8 June 2011

Another Nest Box Scheme has a good year

Following on from my previous report showing good productivity from my nest box scheme near Kirkby Lonsdale and also Paul's report on Roeburndale my Leighton Moss scheme has also had a successful season. Results as follows-

Of 13 Great Tit nests 11 were successful.
Eleven Blue tits had only one failure.
Single nests of Coal Tit, Nuthatch and Tawny Owl were all successful.

Yesterday I visited the boxes of a small scheme in Barbondale. Here six Pied Flycatchers have nested, just one failed but the other five were all feeding young.
Many thanks to Tony and June Moriarty for checking the bulk of the Leighton Moss boxes.

Sunday 5 June 2011

Osprey passes through our area

This link is to Rothiemurchus, a two-year-old Osprey on its first northbound migration. It roosted overnight either Wenning or Greta Foot area, having flown from the Blackpool direction in late evening. Unlike 2010, all the satellite tagged adults, with their much earlier migration being mainly during a period of westerlies, chose routes to the east of our area in 2011.

Keep checking - part 2

.... and in Roeburndale, a Redstart pair have just laid their second brood but not in the same box as the first. This time, they are using an adjacent box that had a Blue Tit nest in when they staarted their first nest. Pied Flies still singing in some areas of the woods sso there maay be more to come.

Provisional totals from the boxes I've checked - 174 Fied Fly pulli and 29 adults (best ever year for me), 24 Redstart pulli, 177 Great Tit pulli and a wopping 330 Blue Tit pulli. Total so far (of all species) 730 pulli!



Early sand martin ringing

We've made the first visit to a couple of sand martin colonies that have been well watched over the last few weeks. We time our first visit to be a few days after the first juveniles have fledged. This ensures the colony is very well established and gives us a good chance of catching locally grown juveniles and catching a good number of adults.

Our first visit to the Burrow colony was a quiet affair with just 3 of us there so only covered a small proportion of it however in return we caught 82 new birds of which 11 were juveniles. Of far more interest were the 30 retraps and two controls.

17 of the retraps were ringed as juveniles (16 from 2010 and 1 from 2009) at colonies along the Lune. Most of these were early season birds (up to mid June) suggesting that juveniles at colonies early in the season will return there. Later in the season a lot of the juveniles are wandering between sites so have a much lower return rate.

13 of the retraps were ringed as adults, mostly at Burrow in 2010 with a couple from Arkholme (6km away) with 3 from 2009.

The two remaining birds were controls (ie not ringed locally). One was carrying a French ring which has a very similar ring number to one ringed in September 2007 in Charente-Maritime (Thanks to the on line reports on the BTO website). The other is a complete mystery - L088327.

At the same time Pete made a visit to a small colony in the Bowland fells and caught a total of 32 birds including 4 retraps from previous years (all ringed as adults), and 3 controls (in this case moved more than 10km) which were from Arkholme (2) and Burrow. One ringed as an adult female in 2009 and the other two as juveniles in 2010.

We hope to make visits to more smaller colonies this year to try and find out where more of our 918 juveniles from 2010 have gone.

Saturday 4 June 2011

Permutations - see update 12th June

Box 51 in upper Hindburndale seemed to have ended its 2011 season rather sadly with a clutch of dead Pied Flycatcher young which had "seemed only to be being fed by the male", backed up by the growth being much slower than the nearby Box 56 PFs. Their deaths seemed to be a case of female predation and the male not being able to the weather didnt help. Indeed I had phoned Mark Breaks earlier this evening to say that the female was probably dead (ringed as a nestling in 2009 at Marks home at New Laithe Farm, Newton in Bowland, nested in 2010 in Sykes, Slaidburn before moving further north in 2011)

The nest and contents were removed. Following reports of late PF nests and knowing that two seemingly unmated males were holding territory nearby, I checked all the empties this evening.

All remained empty except Box 51 which contained a new PF nest with two eggs

Is this the original pair re-laying, the original male (which was ringed on the left leg) with a new female, one of the nearby unmated birds pairing with a late migrant female or some other convolution. Examination of the female if/when the clutch of 7 is reached will help solve this as will views of the male to see if it is or isnt ringed on the left leg

Haven't had a decent view of the male to see if it is the left-leg-ringed original, but can confirm that the female is an unringed 2CY - ringed today (12th June) sitting on a small apparently full clutch of 5 eggs

Keep checking you 'empty' boxes!


Friday 3 June 2011

A Successful Season

Have been getting reports that some nest box schemes have been experiencing a poor season. Have just returned from one of my schemes in a private wood near Kirkby Lonsdale. Here it has been a very successful season. Of the 36 boxes a record number of 32 were occupied. Of these five are Pied Flycatchers ( Compared to only one last year) All five have young and the first brood are ready to fledge. Two of the adult birds have been ringed as nestlings last year in one of the Groups nest boxes on the other side of the Lune Valley

Blue tits had 13 nests of which 10 were successful. The three lost were all due to predation by Great Spotted Woodpeckers. Great Tits had 14 boxes of which 13 were successful.

The wood has many mature mainly Oak trees but also a variety of other trees, it is also south facing so has been reasonably well protected from the recent cold NW winds.


Friday 27 May 2011

Redpolls on the Move

A recent batch of recoveries included details of most of the Lesser Redpolls that we controlled in March/early April. They show that the birds are moving through at this time of year from wintering areas in the south of England up to the Cheshire area. One had wintered in Surrey. Another had been ringed at Shooters Hill Greater London on March 21 and caught at our feeders 11 day later.

The breeding areas of these birds also featured with a control of a bird ringed in Southern Norway in late April 2009 and controlled here on March 21st. We have also had news of a bird we ringed in mid February and the ring was photographed in Mull this May, full details to follow. The Redpolls appear to be quite mobile at this time of year with several movements between three of our feeding stations.

Other recoveries included a Leighton Reed Warbler controlled in France in August 2009. A Coal Tit ringed in Swinton Gt. Manchester in January moving 44 km to our area in March. A Chaffinch ringed in November at Heysham and controlled 86 km north in North Yorkshire in mid March.

A Nuthatch ended its days almost five years after ringing flying into glass having moved just 8 km,


Thursday 19 May 2011

Bumper year for nestboxes

This appears to be the best year for a long time, possibly even the best year ever for Pied Flycatchers.
Provisional results from four woods in Roeburndale are that there are 29 nesting attempts by Pied Flycatchers (some of which have just hatched) with 5 Redstart - all in one wood (the best I can remember). Also 2 nuthatch (uncommon in my boxes) .... oh, and 47 Blue Tit and 21 Great Tit attempts!


an update - another wood checked yesterday - and 5 more pairs of Pied Flies, 4 more Blue Tit and 2 more Great Tit

Saturday 14 May 2011

Upper Hindburndale, updated on 19/5/11

Up here the most noticeable feature has been the number of Blue Tits, usually relatively scarce this far up the valley. Out of 67 boxes:

4 x tit spp (part-clutches at last check, updated details not to hand (19/5))
9 x Great Tit
17 x Blue Tit
17 x Pied Flycatcher (one seemingly deserted, rest active)
1 x Redstart (unfortunately predated (in 'open'-front box))
1 x Nuthatch
& a few boxes with bits of moss and grass stems, now presumed abandoned

The deserted Pied Flycatcher (5 eggs) is c6 metres from a nest with 9 eggs! Only one male seen in this area. All the female Pied Flycatchers bar two with incomplete clutches have been examined (by 18/5). 9 were already ringed and 5 were fitted with rings. Of the 9 already ringed, most were from the nearby Roeburndale catchment (full details not in yet for birds caught on 18/5), one seemingly from elsewhere and one ringed as a nestling at New Laithe Farm (Newton-in-Bowland) in 2009, caught as a nesting female at Sykes (Slaidburn) in 2010 and now moving even further north and nesting near Botton Mill, upper Hindburn in 2011 (16km from original ringing site).

Thanks to Colin Middleton, Jenny Batty, Kate and Mick Lewis and Liz Whitfield for permission to put up the boxes and access the land for monitoring. Also the monitoring team of Jean Roberts, Louise North, Kate Lewis, Paul and Tess Adams

Pete Marsh

Friday 13 May 2011

Pied Flycatchers Have a Record Year

To add to other comments about the abundance of Pied Flycatchers. Two woods in the Kirkby Lonsdale area, always considered rather marginal for this species and usually holding only one or two pairs over the last few years, this year have seven and three pairs respectively.

One can only assume that following last years good productivity they have survived well in their African Wintering Quarters

Wednesday 11 May 2011

Pott Yeats, Littledale

As others have reported, it seems there are good numbers of Pied Flycatcher and Redstart about this spring. My nestboxes in Littledale have not been too successful for these species over the last 2 to 3 years, with only 1-2 broods being successful. With my tongue firmly in my cheek, I have blamed this on other members of our group for putting up too many new boxes in prime habitat and stealing all the birds!
However, this year (with even more new boxes in other woods) mine are better occupied.
There are 39 boxes which so far contain 15 Blue Tit, 9 Great Tit, 5 Pied Flycatcher, 1 Redstart and 1 Nuthatch. 7 Boxes are unoccupied thus far (some of which have been seriously "squirrelled"), although there could still be the odd late starting Pied Flycatcher. It is unusual here to see more Blue than Great Tits. 2 of the Pied Flycatchers are only at the nest building stage and so may not progress.
Last year only 2 broods successfully fledged from the whole wood so let's hope that this year is better.
Alan D

Sunday 8 May 2011

Recent sand martin movements

In 2010 North Lancs RG ringed 1,659 and retrapped 449 Sand Martins. This was 100% of the Lancashire total and just 5 birds shy of 10% of the UK total. With this kind of number ringed I hoped for two things, firstly a lot returning this year and secondly some nice recoveries. Given we are yet to have our first sand martin session of the year I will have to wait a bit longer. In the latest batch of recoveries we did have a Sand Martin recovery to Senegal which is the fifth we've had to Senegal from North Lancs RG.

Shortly afterwards we had another recovery of a Sand Martin ringed in 2009 which was controlled in Somerset at a spring roost.

We are still waiting on two French ringed birds that we caught last year. Hopefully we'll hear about these soon and with luck catch some of the Sand Martins ringed in Africa over winter and further south during their migration.

Saturday 7 May 2011

Latish Redstarts and Pied Flycatchers

Despite a load of birds arriving in record early time, notably Pied Flys, male Willow Warblers, Redstarts and the two Whitethroats, the last two weeks have not been plain sailing by any means for migrants arriving via west Africa/Iberian peninsula/France. Quite a lot have filtered through in recent days, however, including an influx of female Willow warblers in last week's easterlies (see e.g. Hilbre blogsite)

A box was checked today, which was one of an "out of the way" cluster of four previously unused boxes. This check was inspired by a 'new' singing male Redstart in the area. In five days, the box had gone from empty to Redstart with single egg! The last five days has also, in the same area, seen the arrival of at least two male and one female Cuckoo and at least one, probably two further additional singing male Redstart (one near an empty box). A similar incident last week at a nearby site involved removing a queen wasp from of a box which had been only fitted with a blue tit-size hole. This hole was then enlarged by Paul Adams and the box was immediately commandeered by a newly-arrived Pied Flycatcher with a nest already completed!

So keep checking your 'empties', even if they are a bit out of the way!

A couple of local movements as determined by female Pied Flys caught on the nest today by Jean R. at Botton Mill, upper Hindburndale: V470146 ringed as a pullus at Wray in 2007, also nested at Botton Mill last year. X578116 ringed as a pullus at Outhwaite, Roeburndale in 2009


Threes a Crowd

Kevin Briggs had an interesting nest box visit today. Looked in a box to find two Blue Tits sitting on top of one another. One bird flew out and joined another on a nearby branch. The third bird then left the nest box to reveal 19 eggs. Obviously two females mated to the same male. Will be interesting to see how many young they rear.


Friday 6 May 2011

Good year for Redstart and Pied Flycatchers

This is the best year so far for Redstart with 5 clutches in one of the woods in Roeburndale, including one with a female that had been ringed as a breeding female in 2008. It is also a good year so far for Pied Flycatchers with 13 clutches (six up from last week), including this one with the smallest egg I have ever seen. One female was ringed in a nearby wood in 2006 - amazing that a bird this small can make it to Africa and back five times

Lets hope the cool, wet weather next week doesn't knock these birds back


Wednesday 4 May 2011

Ringed Arctic Terns

During the easterlies this last few days it has seemed like the whole northern European population of Arctic terns has been dropping in to feed on Heysham Power Station outfalls before heading off north-east!

Yesterdays phenomenal minimum of 8,153 birds included a group of about 80 resting on the beach within ring"examining" range

They included 5 with what were presumed to be British C2 rings and these obviously contrasted with 3 birds bearing bulkier rings. Potentially the most interesting was one which initially appeared to have metal rings on both legs. On 50 x, this appeared to be a "long white ring" with some inscription on the right leg and a 'bulky' (c/p C2) metal ring on the left leg. The only possibility on the Dirk Raes site is one from a Dutch RAS scheme. Odd? - until you note the 50 Black Terns accompanying these birds

Are a proportion of these Arctics also overshooting? We will never know - if only they had been 50 metres on so closer!

Monday 2 May 2011

An Excellent Nest Box Season

This looks like being one of the best nest box seasons ever. Have visited my six schemes and all have record numbers of occupied boxes in two schemes this is almost 95%. A little early to give a full breakdown by species as some especially Pied Flycatchers are still at the building stage but already I have four Tawny Owls compared to only two last year. There is a good spread of start dates over these four, the first is pictured - a brood of three that I ringed today. Two others still have eggs although close to hatching and the other has chicks which will be ready to ring in ca a weeks time. Nuthatch's are doing well with five nests compared to only three last year, again quite a spread with three incubating and two completing laying.
There was a general expectation that tits might has suffered in the cold winter but they have apparently survived well and numbers are well up. Marsh Tits are not regular nest box users but located one today also have my first Coal Tit using a nest box.


Thursday 28 April 2011

Nests underway!

100 boxes checked yesterday and 32 definite nesting attempts (in addition to the 20-odd in my other wood), including this Nuthatch and one Redstart in the same box as for two previous years. Seven Pied Flycatcher clutches so far with other possible nests on the go. As Pete suggests, there may be many more birds coming ... it is still April (just!) and yes, Redstart are very inconspicuous when at the egg stage.


Wednesday 27 April 2011

Hindburndale nestboxes

Big difference between the upper and lower valleys. Haw Wood revealed 11/11 boxes occupied with 9 of these being tits, including a full clutches of 12 + 9 being incubated with the rest containing 3, 4, 7, 8, 8, with 2 incomplete nests. Pied Flys comprised one completed nest and one just started

At the other end of the valley, a set of newly-erected boxes alongside Mill Stream by the northern fringe of Thrushgill clearfell comprised: one presumed inexperienced tit spp with 3 eggs in a barely completed nest, another tit with just one egg, a very rapidly completed Pied Flycatcher nest with noisy male in attendance, two nests presumed to be completed Redstart and another 3 containing bits and bobs of material, hardly deserving the term "nest", which suggested Redstart or Pied Fly. Are Redstarts always elusive during pre/early egg-laying stage - no birds anywhere near the completed nests? 6 boxes were completely empty

Not sure about the ones in between the lower and upper extremes as I am not involved in the monitoring, but at least 5 Pied Fly nests reportedly involved

By no means certain all the females are in yet for either Pied Fly or Redstart as, despite an early mass arrival e.g. 9th-10th April, the recent weather has really blocked stuff - e.g. Swallow numbers are still very low.

Tuesday 26 April 2011

Second nest box visit

A week later, a different wood ... still no Pied Flycatcher clutches (though a couple of nests look ready for eggs) but over 20 Tit clutches (out of about 75 boxes!) One clutch unusually lined completely with badger hair - must be a baldish one out there somewhere!

Looks like it'll be a bumper (and expensive) year for the committed pulli ringers out there. Maybe I should join the Half-way Harries and not ring tit pulli?



Monday 18 April 2011

First nest-box check

The first of the season's visits to the Roeburndale Woods yesterday. 100 boxes checked and lots of signs of early activity but only one clutch started so far - and that was a tit rather than a flycatcher so there is no need to panic if you have boxes to put up but haven't started yet, but a sign of how quickly birds take to new boxes was shown by many birds building in boxes that were put up six days previously - and that in an area where there are already plenty of boxes. If you would like to join me when I check my boxes, please let me know (see address at the side) - it will usually take 2-4 hours and entail a bit of a scramble in places, usually in the evening or at weekends Paul

Wednesday 13 April 2011

An exceptional Twite

The above male was at Swales Moor, between Queensbury and Halifax from at least 28th November 2010 until 2nd March 2011, associating loosely with a Linnet flock. It was ringed on Heysham north harbour wall sometime between 15th October 2010 and 22nd November 2010. This is the first definite evidence of a Heysham-ringed bird spending the winter at a Pennine or near-Pennine site. What would be really valuable would be to narrow it down to an individual which is then seen on the breeding grounds, which might be 'Pennine' (caught at Heysham on "reverse dispersal", perhaps early in the autumn ringing period), might be the far north-west of Scotland......or somewhere between the two. At the moment, we havn't a clue where it came from or why it chose to separate itself from the north Lancs coastal population! Thanks to Dave Sutcliffe for the observation and (I think) the photo, taken from the excellent Calderdale Birds blogsite

Pete Marsh

Monday 11 April 2011

Paired for Life

Always a thrill to see your first adult bird of the spring carrying food to its nest especially when its a species which you study intensively. This morning I saw a pair of Bearded Tits with beaks full of insects going into one of my reed wigwam nest boxes. I managed to get the colour ring combinations of both birds, then armed with my disturbance licence visited the nest box briefly to find six young ca 5 days old. Back home I searched my data base for details of these two birds.
They were ringed together on 6th August 2009 ca 150 metres from where they are nesting. Both were in juvenile plumage. Later in 2009 they were seen or re trapped together on three occasions. During 2010 they were recorded together on no less than 16 occasions mainly visiting the grit trays and today they were still together rearing a brood.
Bearded Tits are well known for forming pairs while still in juvenile plumage but this sighting along with several similar ones over the years show that these early liaisons can form lasting bonds. I had one pair that bred together and remained together throughout the seasons for three consecutive years.

John Wilson

Pied Flies return

They're back!

A small ringing session at Wray yesterday produced two Chiffchaff and two male Pied Flycatchers, including one ringed as a pulli in the valley two years ago. Few Tits at the feeding station as most seem to have dispersed into breeding territories.

It will soon be time to start checking nestboxes!


Monday 4 April 2011

2011 - lots of controls so far

So far in 2011 NLRG has caught 24 controls. (a control is generally a ringed bird that has moved more than 5km). This is unusually high for so early the in year. These 24 are made up of:

Grey Wagtail - 1 (sight record in Cumbria)
Coal Tit - 1
Blue Tit - 1
Greenfinch - 1
Goldfinch - 2
Siskin - 4
Common Redpoll - 1
Lesser Redpoll - 14

In previous years by this time we have had rather fewer:
2010 - 2 (Great Tit and Blackbird)
2009 - 4 (Chaffinch, Twite, Blue Tit, Siskin)
2008 - 4 (Great Tit, Blackbird, Blue Tit and Oystercatcher)
2007 - 4 (3x Blue Tit, Blackbird)
2006 - 0
2005 - 3 (2x Great Tit, Chaffinch)
2004 - 2 (Tree Sparrow, Chaffinch)
2003 - 3 (Greenfinch, Great Tit, Blackbird)
2002 - 2 (Long Tailed Tit, Greenfinch)
2001 - 0

I've excluded Wader and Gull sight records as they are largely down to effort rather than a true reflection of how many ringed birds are about.

If we excluded the small finches (Goldfinch, Siskin and Redpoll) we would be at about normal levels. Judging by other ringing group blogs I'm fairly certain we're not the only group catching many more control finches than normal this winter. I look forward to hearing about where all these birds are from.


Saturday 2 April 2011

Mealy Redpoll in the garden

Is this on your wish list? Well this must be the best winter if you have ever wanted to attract one of these chaps to your garden and it’s not too late! In our upland Bowland garden we have had a good passage of finches through March as they start heading north for breeding. The vast majority have been Siskins but we have also had a few Lesser Redpolls and now two Mealy (Common) Redpolls!

The latest bird was spotted by my mother (as was the first!) late on 30th March when she noticed it was ringed! Thankfully the bird was still present the following day visiting the feeders frequently throughout the day. I positioned myself in the kitchen with my telescope and amazingly it didn’t take long until I had read all the number (L704752). Mealy Redpolls are much easier to read rings on than Lesser Redpolls as they seem to have longer legs and don’t cover their rings with feathers!

This individual was originally ringed on 12th March at Gamlingay, Cambridgeshire some 250km to the Southeast.

Mark Breaks

Thursday 31 March 2011

Feeders in conifer plantations

We have been rather puzzled by the erratic nature of the finches in Thrushgill spruce/larch plantation with respect to targeting the nyger and sunflower hearts. I think we have solved the problem! The trouble is that perfect ringing conditions of warmth, stillness plus a bit of sun have prompted the opening up of the larch and spruce cones and hordes of noisy redpolls, siskins and bramblings have been gorging themselves on the accessible food. No amount of seductive taping would bring the birds down to the feeders, they were not interested However, as soon as some wet cloudy weather appeared, down the birds descended on to the feeders. This has been an 'all or nothing' process as presumably has been the situation between either closed or open cones, with no 'half-open' ones to retain a proportion of birds in the treetops Therefore, after a full dry & warm week with the nyger seed untouched, a visit yesterday afternoon, following 24 hours of unsettled weather, saw the nyger seed almost all eaten (48 hours since previous check). Then the following 23 hours saw ALL yesterdays 4 x nyger feeder top-up eaten by 1500hrs this afternoon! Trouble is that you cannot catch birds in a F6-7 wind! Hopefully there will be a small weather window whilst the birds are still around. Pete Marsh

Saturday 26 March 2011

Very Red Crossbill

John and Richard 'borrowed' my ringing site at Thrushgill this morning and they came up with this beastie, probably a 2CY
Pete Marsh

Thursday 24 March 2011

Meadow Pipit

Following discussion last year on ageing spring Meadow Pipit (& pics), 5 out of 6 ringed this morning were clearly 2CY on the basis of retained juvenile greater coverts. The other was an adult (all coverts, tail shape etc), but cautiously left as a '4' The 8 caught this morning exhibited a wide variety of spring plumage options 1) 2 x all feathers fresh adult-type, including all coverts and perceived adult-type tail 2) one with e.g. a mixture of old adult-type and new (adult-type) median coverts and perceived adult-type tail 3) one with e.g. a full set of 2CY median coverts and 1CY/2CY tail 4) 4 with a mixture of old 2CY and new adult-type median coverts and 1CY/2CY tail Obviously 3) & 4) are '5's. However, can 2) be definitely assigned as a '6'? Especially as the older feathers look too worn to be a result of a two-stage replacement of juvenile median coverts during late autumn/winter. Am I too cautious ageing 1) & 2) as 'probable adult' but safer to call '4's?

Wednesday 23 March 2011

Redpolls and Siskins on the Move

Following on from the recent posts about Redpolls I thought it was time for an over=view of the group's activities with these species so far this year. We have been catching at four feeding stations, ringing over 250 Siskin and ca 200 Redpoll since January. To date we have caught eight Redpoll and four Siskin that have been ringed elsewhere.

Pride of place goes to the Stavanger (Norway)ringed Redpoll caught at Thrushgill. But the local movements recorded suggest quite a mobile population with four Lesser Redpolls moving between our feeding stations. Of these two moved 34 kms, one within just three days,

We await with interest receiving the ringing details of the other birds. That is four each of Redpoll and Siskin along with two Goldfinch caught at the same time.


Tuesday 22 March 2011

Ring more Great Tits!

A Great Tit ringed in Winder Wood, Roeburndale as a pulli last year was retrapped near Wray (also Roeburndale) at the weekend.

It might not sound too earth-shattering a question, but where do the Great Tits all go in winter? Winter observations suggest the aren't present in the upland woods, but they aren't retrapped elsewhere in the same way as Blue Tits (which can show surprising movements from the Lune Valley woods to lowland urban areas.)

So if they don't move, and if they don't stay in the upland woods ....... what do they do?

perhaps its time to question the old assumptions ... or to return to the hibernation hypothesis!

maybe we might learn something by ringing all the pulli we can find!