NLRG was formed in 1957 to help in the study of birds in the Lancaster and District Birdwatching Society area. There are currently 12 active ringers. Species currently being studied include: Pied Flycatcher, Bearded Tit, Sand Martin, Twite, Goosander, Oystercatcher and Grey Wagtail. Migration has been studied for 28 years at Heysham. We welcome anyone who wants to observe, help or perhaps wish to become a ringer. Photo: A Heysham-ringed Twite on the Mull of Kintyre (thanks to Eddie Maguire)

Friday 28 December 2012

Some Recent Recoveries

 A recent batch of recoveries included several interesting ones. Quick movements are often interesting  and there were two in this batch. A Goldcrest ringed at Heysham on October 1st was caught 12 days later in Hampshire a movement of 354 km SSE. It was one of 90 ringed at Heysham this autumn.

A Goldfinch ringed on the Isle Of Man on  October 16th was caught at Heysham 3 days later having moved 98 km. We have had one previous  Isle of Man ringed bird found wintering in our area. Other  past Goldfinch recoveries show a marked SE movement with winter recoveries in  Sussex, Berkshire, Nottingham and Northants.

Sand Martin recoveries included a first, a bird ringed as a nestling. This bird was ringed  in an artificial colony  near Lockerbie (Dumfries & Galloway) by the North Solway RG on June 22nd and caught 65 days later at  Middleton , a movement of 129km.  This is our 10th Scottish recovery.

The other four were from areas where we have had many previous recoveries with two from Western France bringing our total French recoveries to 38. A Sussex recovery  was the 124th from that county and one in Kent was the 14th.

Other recoveries included a Sedge Warbler in France and a Lesser Redpoll from  Worcestershire . Finally we heard that the Cetti's Warbler that was ringed at Leighton  on 13th March 2010 and caught  390 km  away at Farlington Marsh near Portsmouth on 2th April 2011 was still  at Farlington in  October 2011 and January and February 2012.
Thanks to Alan Gallagher for the photos.

Sunday 16 December 2012

Recent wader recoveries

We've received a batch of wader recoveries recently which cover birds caught at Heysham.  Only two species were in the batch which is unsurprising since we have only caught two species on the Lancashire side of the bay for many years.

Firstly there is a map of Knot recoveries.  The blue blob is the ringing site, red markers where they have been recovered (2 to Iceland, 4 to Snettisham and 1 to Wainfleet).  Finally the two green markers are for one bird which was ringed at Heysham in 2004, caught and colour ringed in Northern Norway and then resighted on the Waddensea this summer.

The Icelandic and Norwegian recoveries highly the two migration routes to the breeding grounds in Greenland and Canada of the Icelandica race of Knot. 

The second species with recoveries is Oystercatcher.  The red markers are where birds ringed at Heysham have been recovered, the yellow markers where ones we have caught were originally ringed. These are pretty much what we would expect for birds wintering on the West cost breeding in Iceland, Faroes, Orkney and Shetland. 

Yesterday I went to Fleetwood to try and find a Sanderling with a blue flag that was seen there a few weeks ago.  I failed however did find two birds originally ringed in Greenland.  With Sanderling it is always worth looking for colour rings and many have very interesting life histories.

Saturday 15 December 2012

Bearded Tit Gritting Season

The gritting season at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve appears to be over for this year and I have just finished analyzing the 303 sightings of colour ringed birds  that we have recorded between September 29th and November 28th. In total 40 different birds were recorded gritting this year. Of these 29 were adult birds and 11 birds of the year, the latter a reflection of the poor breeding success this year due to the very wet  weather and resulting high water levels.

Like previous years there was considerable differences in the number of days that birds visited the trays. In total 35% were recorded on 1-3 days only. But the record  this year was  twenty two days with another bird close at 21 days. Both these birds visited regularly early in the period then disappeared only to return towards the end of the season with another sustained bout of gritting.

Despite the large numbers of birders visiting the reserve there was only one record of Bearded Tits gritting on the reserve paths. This was on October 29th when nine birds, all birds of the year, were gritting on the public causeway. Of the seven colour ringed, six were seen on the grit trays subsequently.

This year we attempted to record the time birds spent gritting. In October it was 9 minutes and in  November 11.6 minutes. If one or two birds were present they gritted without disturbance, but if more were present there was considerable chasing and birds then stopped longer in the area of the trays. The largest number recorded at once around the trays was 13.

Bearded Tits appear to remain in pairs throughout  the year and also form pairs a few weeks after fledging. Of the 29 adult birds  seen on the trays we recorded 12 pairs which visited together on at least three occasions. Included in these were two pairs that bred successfully together in spring and they were seen on eight and 13 times together on the trays.

Many thanks to those who helped in recording sightings especially Keith Kellet, the Gallagher family, Andrew Cadman, Pat Bowskill and Ken Harrison.


Saturday 8 December 2012

A few preliminary observations on this autumn's Coal Tit irruption

1985 saw the first major Coal Tit irruption along the Lancashire coast, recorded at Heysham and Fylde sites.  These were in typically irruptive mode, mainly on 'vis mig' in high-flying noisy southbound flocks but with the occasional temporary landfall on the top of a bush before setting off again.  No tapes were used in 1985, therefore very few were caught and ringed

The intervening years saw a few smaller irruptive movements and then this last autumn has seen the largest numbers since 1985

As was also the case in 1985, southbound movements were recorded at Lancashire coastal sites, notably Heysham and Rossall but there was little evidence, perhaps surprisingly, of anything comparable happening at Walney, usually a major funnel for landbirds on 'vis mig'.  Reports from the remainder of the British Isles, however suggested at huge movement in Ireland with one Kerry site reporting "500 birds" and suspected Irish birds reaching the Scillies and perhaps mainland Cornwall.  Elsewhere there were reports of continental birds along the east and south coasts

Were these movements connected?  Noting 'preliminary' in the title, I have no idea why Coal Tits were moving in such numbers along the Lancashire coast this autumn and indeed in a relatively restricted time period, peaking on 8th-10th October.  This time we taped lured a decent sample and they were ALL juveniles.  Indeed, a high proportion of them retained significantly yellow cheeks, more akin to late July/August captures, perhaps suggesting a delayed breeding season/fledging courtesy of the June weather and known delays to Blue Tit broods in our own nestboxes.  Another part of the "no idea why" relates to where they came from!  An 'easy' theory is that the planting of upland conifers has created a population of Coal Tits where a proportion (of exclusively juveniles?) in some years may be forced to move due to altitude/excellent breeding season producing too many birds for the woodland to support and/or serious cone failure.  There are some previous recoveries to back this up e.g. a bird caught in our area in winter which had been ringed in Hamsterley Forest, Durham

We need to find out if extensive areas of likely-source conifers such as Kielder have indeed a) had a decent breeding season, despite the weather and b) "lost" a fair proportion of their birds since the end of September.  Any upland conifer surveyors/feeding station operators able to help here? 

Stats: the first noticeable irruptive birds at Heysham Obs were 19 on 27/9 and early/mid October saw 426 with a maximum of 164 passing through on 9th.  However, the Rossall peak was on the previous day and there is indeed some evidence that the vis mig coverage at Heysham on 8th was not as conscientious as it could have been!  Rossall had 92 heading south on 8th and 'just' 49 on 9th.  The 'tap' was very much turned off after the 19th October, despite reasonable weather inducing some noticeable Long-tailed Tit movements - these, however, tend to continue to move later in the autumn than Coal Tit

The annual ringing total at Heysham was c175 (previous highest annual total of 61 in 1994) with most of these being taped-lured autumnal vis mig birds.  In contrast, there were no flocks of Blue Tit in the whole of the autumn at Heysham - they were in unbelievably low numbers, with just a dribble of ones and twos, despite a well-stocked feeding station in operation.  Two protocols needed to be observed here.  First of all, not to blunder over to the mist nets until the flock had all found its way in.  'Watch them and delay the visit as long as is possible within mist netting protocol' was the order of the day. 

This is so you have maximum chance of being able to release them as the same entity and therefore hopefully retaining the same irruptive mode as prior to capture.  Releasing them individually could radically alter their behaviour pattern, as was indeed suspected with one or two birds which were subsequently regularly retrapped.  However, this could have happened anyway - in this respect, I cannot find any references showing what happens when irruptive behaviour of this species ceases.  Does the whole flock settle down together, or do individual birds gradually lose the urge and are left behind?  There must surely be something on this somewhere - any help? 

Evidence from feeding stations such as Teddy Heights near Arnside from mid-October suggested that much larger numbers (of obviously "relatively settled" birds which may indeed never have been in irruptive mode) were being ringed than in previous years with some evidence to suspect multiple arrival, rather than a slow accumulation of individuals (retrap data).  Defining birds attending a feeder as "relatively settled" can be inferred from the Heysham situation where the tape-luring location was no more than 20m from the feeding station, but the irruptive birds were not in the least bit interested in nyger and sunflower hearts

Finally, I was pressed into publishing this on the blogsite before I really had any time to research properly, so please hit the comment button if you can help answer some questions posed here

Pete Marsh

Sunday 2 December 2012

A Record Breaking Marsh Tit

Marsh Tits are very much a feature of the Arnside/Silverdale woodlands, well distributed and regular visitors in small numbers to my woodland feeding station near Arnside where I have been ringing for the past 14 years, in that time I have ringed  101 Marsh Tits. Many are re-trapped, and up to this morning the oldest bird was five years and 35 days. But this morning I re-trapped T262102 seven years and 349 days after ringing on 19 December 2004. The interesting thing is that this was the first time it had been re-trapped in the eight years. The only other Marsh Tit caught today was only ringed in September but has already been re-trapped four times since then. Marsh Tits are very local and sedentary and quite  territorial  so the older bird has probably spent its time in another part of the wood but may have been driven to my feeding station by todays cold weather. This is a group longevity record for this species  but the oldest British ringed Marsh Tit was ten years and 57 days. Still ours is still going strong!

At the same feeding station I have ringed 1535 Blue Tit, the longest liver was seven years and 221 days so T262102 beats this by 128 days!


Sunday 18 November 2012

Bearded Tits End of Term Report

 It has been a difficult year for most ringing studies and our Bearded Tit RAS at Leighton Moss  RSPB is no exception with poor weather and the resulting high water levels reducing our activities. However with re-traps and sightings  of our colour ringed population we  have a reasonable insight into the size of the breeding population, the survival through last winter and the productivity this season.

Breeding Population and  Survival
This year we have either re-trapped or re-sighted a total of 16 adult females and 15 adult males. Past experience is that we always miss a few and this would suggest a breeding population of ca 18 pairs.
Survival this year has been most interesting. Of 21 adults known to be alive in 2011, 10 were present in the breeding season of 2012. This gives a crude survival rate of 48%. This is about average for adults in years with reasonable winter weather. However of 32 juveniles ringed in the 2011 breeding season no less than 21 survived to the 2012 breeding season, a survival rate of 66% and the best survival rate yet recorded for juveniles and only the second year in the 21 years of the study that juvenile survival has been better than adult survival. Overall this gives a survival rate of 60%, the highest yet recorded.

 Productivity was very poor this year with only 17 juveniles ringed. Although at least two un-ringed birds have been seen recently suggesting we have missed a few. If the results from the wigwam nest boxes are anything to go by predation was a feature in the first broods with four of the six occupied boxes predated. Later broods suffered from heavy rain and especially the resulting high water levels and many natural nests were undoubtedly flooded out with July recording record high water levels.

Grit Tray Sightings 
With 284 sightings of 37 different birds so far on the grit trays and still probably more to come it is too early to do a comprehensive analysis. But birds seem  to fall into two groups-those that visit a lot -( the record so far this year is 20 days) and those that seem to get by with two or three visits. Of the first group female Y151875 is typical. From 27/9 to 12/10 it visited on 13 days . Then was not recorded for 22 days but has been back on five days recently.


Monday 12 November 2012

Quick trip to Portugal

While the North Lancs Ringing Group blog mainly covers North Lancashire group members do occasionally ring out of the area.  In my case last week I was in Portugal working with Farlington ringing group with the  aim of colour ring Sanderling and Black Tailed Godwit, and resighting colour ringed birds present in the Tagus estuary.

There were many highlights so I'll go through a few roughly in date order.  First of all we had a day ringing passerines. I have ringed a fair few birds in Portugal so it was nice to handle species like Serin again however the nicest birds were the ones we also catch here such as Goldfinch and Greenfinch.  Both of these appear to moult much more as juveniles in Portugal than they do in the UK.  One juvenile Goldfinch we ringed had moulted all but two of its primary feathers. All the other finches had moulted all their greater coverts whereas in the UK some certainly would not have done.  We also caught some late Reed Warblers and a very late Willow Warbler.  Other notable captures were a Crested Lark, many Bluethroats including a nice adult male and a flock of Spotless Starlings.

Next we moved onto some wader colour ring reading and finding sites to catch on.  In the first flock of birds I looked at I found a Dunlin with a yellow inscribed flag which turns out to be a bird ringed in Swedish Lapland as part of a study of breeding Dunlin. As far as within Europe movements on birds go this is pretty much as long as they get.  We also saw many locally ringed Sanderling and one from Greenland.

The next day we caught around 80 Sanderling adding colour rings to the new ones.  The ratio of juveniles to adults in Portugal is much lower than that on the Wash earlier this summer (65% on the Wash, 20% in Portugal).

We then had some visitors from Spain to see cannon netting of waders.  As a result a small catch of 26 birds was taken which included Turnstone, Sanderling and Ringed Plover.  For me this was the biggest highlight of the trip when a Sanderling I was involved in catching on the Wash turned up in the catch in Portugal. It is always nice when that happens however it is more normal to be a few kilometres away and not 1,700km away.

Next we had a day on colour ring reading which gave about 25 Sanderling sightings, a good number of gulls and a recovery of a Lesser Black Backed Gull (5.H8) on the tide line which turns out to be from Guernsey and a star of the Guernsey Gull blog:

Our final catch was another nice one of 26 birds. We were going for Black Tailed Godwits however they did not arrive in the numbers they had on previous days so ended up with one and a Black Winged Stilt which were both colour ringed as part of on going projects.  Other birds included Redshank, Greenshank, American Golden Plover and a Grey Plover.

We ended the day with a couple of hours Gull ring reading.  This included a Mediterranean Gull from Serbia, Black-headed Gull from Belgium and a Lesser Black Back from Norway.

Overall a fantastic trip full of unforgettable moments.  Thanks to Farlington RG, the Portugese ringers and everyone else who made the trip so enjoyable.

Thursday 8 November 2012

Two Survivors

Kevin Briggs has been studying a small population of Ringed Plovers nesting on the River Lune shingle banks at Arkholme for many years. Many of his study birds have been colour ringed. In recent years the number  of pairs nesting on the shingle beds has declined, mainly due to  a series of years with high water levels in spring and also changes in the shingle banks . However some of these birds have taken to nesting in  newly sown maize fields close to the river.

This year Kevin located two of his birds on maize fields and was able to read their colour rings. One an adult male had been ringed in May 1996 and was found this year ca  2 km from its ringing site but 16 years later. The other, an adult female was ringed in May 2000 and found nesting this year ca 4 km from its ringing site and 12 years later. Both  pairs hatched young but Kevin is not certain if they survived to fledging.

The national longevity record for Ringed Plover is 19 years and 8 months  set in 2000 so these two are somewhat behind  but I have checked  the on-line ringing reports  for the past six years and the oldest during this period is just 12 years so these two are doing well and still going strong.

Tuesday 30 October 2012

Bearded Tit Gritting Season Continues

Thanks to the hard work of  Keith Kellet , the Gallagher family and other helpers we have achieved coverage of the grit trays on almost every suitable morning since the season started on September 29th. To date we have recorded  230 sightings of 35 different colour ringed birds using the trays. Of these 23 are adults and 12 birds of the year. This year has followed the usual pattern of adults coming early in the period and young birds  waiting mainly  until the end of October.

This year we have been recording how long  each bird stops on the tray sorting through the grit.This has varied between two and 15 minutes with an average of about 7.5 minutes. One bird seems quite addicted, it has been recorded visiting the tray on 19 days so far this year, and on some days it has visited on up to three occasions. It is a three year old female and in 2010 it was recorded as visiting on 21 days and in 2011 on 22 days just two days short of the record. On  nine occasions it has been accompanied by a two year old male.

This year for the first time  since 1997 irruptive behavior has been recorded. This involves excited calling from the reeds, then the birds take off gaining height up to ca60 feet above the reeds. On two occasions they were seen to drop back into the reeds but on one occasion on 20th October 4 appeared to leave. Two theories have been put forward to explain this behavior. One that it is a reaction to a high population. The other that it occurs in years when there is a poor reed seed crop. Certainly the first theory does not apply this year for the productivity has been very low due to the wet summer and the resulting high water levels. This may also have affected seed production so in-line with the second theory.

Sunday 28 October 2012

Great Tits Prosper but Blue Tits Falter

Our recent postings have shown  how abundant Coal tits have been this autumn. But what about the other tits, how are they faring?

I looked at the catches of Blue and Great Tits at four of our regularly manned sites- Teddy Heights, Leighton Moss, Over Kellet and Heysham. Effort between years has been similar.

 The Great Tit catch this autumn has been 118 compared to 129 in 2011. So very similar between the years.

By contrast Blue Tits totaled 280 this year compared to 664 last year, a decline of 58% between years.

Why there should be such a contrast between the species is interesting. A quick look at our nest box results suggested that both species produced fledged young somewhat below average but certainly not catastrophic. It looks as though post breeding survival in blue tits must have been very poor.

Will be interesting to see what happens this winter and especially  next spring to see  what the occupation rate will be in  our nest boxes.

Sunday 21 October 2012

Coal Tit update!

Just in case any reader is not fed up with hearing about Coal Tits in the North Lancashire area here is another update!  Today's ringing in the garden had a total of 41 captures (99 for the weekend).  Of these 16 were Coal Tits, the rest being Dunnock (1), Blue Tit (3 new, 2 retrap), Great Tit (3 new, 3 retrap), Nuthatch (1 new), Chaffinch (5 new), Greenfinch (2 new), Goldfinch (4 new) and a retrap Bullfinch from May 2012.

Going back to the species of the month (Coal Tit), yesterday's population estimate was 41, today's is 35.  Combining the captures from both days gives an estimate of 40.  This feels about right as when counting birds on the feeder about 3 out of every 5 visits were by ringed birds and there are at least 24 marked birds using the garden at the moment.

Anyway, the good news is there isn't enough light in the morning or evening at the moment to ring before or after work so updates on Lancaster's Coal Tits will be limited for a week or two.


Saturday 20 October 2012

More on Coal Tits

Several people have commented on the vast numbers of Coal Tits about this autumn locally.  Today I decided to ring in the garden with a single 9 metre net to see just how many Coal Tits there are using the garden.  In 3 hours this morning and a further hour and a half this afternoon I caught 58 birds.  The catch totals were:

Dunnock - 1
Blackcap - 1
Goldcrest - 1
Long Tailed Tit - 1
Coal Tit - 11 and 9 retraps
Blue Tit - 5 and 2 retraps
Great Tit - 7 and 4 retraps
Chaffinch - 8
Greenfinch - 3
Goldfinch - 4
Bullfinch - 1

Over one third of the catch being Coal Tits is pretty stunning however 4 of the retraps were 'same days' which I always record as doing population estimation is much easier with them.  Ringing and Migration volume 4 page 225 has a really handy table for population estimation and taking the numbers I have suggests there are about 40 coal tits using the garden today.  My captures for October (33 individuals encountered, 11 re-encountered) suggest a population of around 70.  Although the sample sizes are small such different estimates could suggest quite a bit of turnover within the garden. 

The Bullfinch is the first I've seen in the garden since September.  Another one was present although not caught.  The goldcrest is a new species for the garden although I've seen and heard some before there.

Perhaps the highlight was the Blackcap which weighed in at a massive 24.4g.  Looking through the group's records of Blackcap only 5 have been heavier out of over 1,500 that have been weighed.  All the previous ones have been at Heysham on autumn passage.


Friday 19 October 2012

Twite Season Begins

The first whoosh netting attempt of the Autumn for Twite at Heysham Harbour this morning.  A few Twite have been present over the last week, together with Goldfinch and Linnets.

This morning's session saw 41 new + 1 retrap Goldfinch,  2 new + 1 retrap Linnet and 5 Twite captured.  Almost 50% of the Goldfinch were aged as still being 3J, notwithstanding the lateness of the season.

The colour combination in use for Twite on the left leg below is Red/Blue split colour over Pale Blue plain  (on the right leg BTO metal only).

We would ask any observers finding Twite in the area to look out for colour rings and, if possible, report an estimate of the ringed/unringed ratio of birds in the flock together with colour combinations if they can be seen. The split colours can be hard to read in the field but the plain colour itself indicates the ringing site (i.e. Pale Blue for Heysham,  Yellow for Duddon Estuary etc.) so reading this colour alone is very useful.


Thursday 18 October 2012

Coal Tis Prosper. But Where are all the Blue Tits?

A quick look at the recent catches at two of our feeding stations revealed that Coal Tits have been the dominant tit so far this autumn with 72 caught from late September compared with only 40 Blue Tits. In previous years Blue Tits have been the commonest tit by far. This is reflected in reports from several other feeding stations in the area.

Goldfinch also appear to have had a successful season with 71 ringed during the period. One feature is that many are still in juvenile plumage suggesting late broods.

However one of the re-trap Blue Tits turned up trumps it had been ringed seven years and 221 days previously at the same feeding station and breaks the record for our oldest Blue Tit by 101 days!

Wednesday 17 October 2012

Reed Warblers Have an Average Season

Just worked out the results of our Reed Warbler RAS study at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve. This is the 12th year of our study and proved to be one of our most difficult due to the wet weather this spring and summer and the resulting high water levels. In all we managed 50 visits but this is 14 down on 2011 and then on some visits we could not set the usual number of nets due to the high water levels.

Despite these problems we still caught 201 adults which is six higher than the 12 year average although 37 less than in 2011. Considering that July, usually the best month for catching adults, gave us the most weather related problems this suggests a good breeding population. The oldest bird re-trapped this year was in its ninth year.

Productivity as measured by juveniles caught (504) was 90 down on the 12 year average but again quite good considering the decline in ringing effort. Lets hope the weather improves next season.


Sunday 7 October 2012

Never mind the migrants - here's a rarity!

A quick trip to the woods in Roeburndale yesterday for the first ringing session of the autumn turned up few birds, probably because there is still plenty of natural food (including plenty of midges) and the birds aren't hungry yet for artifical food.

But it did turn up a ringed Goldcrest complete with a very shiny ring. Fortunately, this didn't mean it had recently been caught on migration - instead it was a bird that had been ringed in the same wood last year (15th October).

There might be some readers who would be disappointed by this, but the essence of ringing at this site is to retrap birds that have been ringed here, in this wood, before. This is because one of the most important (some would say, THE most important) aims of ringing is for population monitoring. Data from ringing is fed to the British Trust for Ornithology where it joins other scientific data (such as Nest Records, census data and so on) as part of a scheme that is called Integrated Population Monitoring (see the BTO website for details). For the purposes of IPM, birds that are recaught where they are ringed are much more important than birds that wander off elsewhere.

Very few Goldcrest are ever recaught - small birds often present very low percentages of ringing recoveries - and this is the first Goldcrest that I have retrapped in this wood and thus, it was a 'real' rarity!


Monday 1 October 2012

Bearded Tit Gritting in Full Swing

Just five days after the first bird was seen visiting the grit trays numbers have really built up . To date we have identified from their colour rings 23 different birds visiting the trays. Of these 16 are adult birds and seven birds that fledged this year.

This is quite usual for the start of the season with adults, which know the position of the trays from previous years, visiting early in the season. One bird, a three year female has been recorded visiting on all five days.

When they visit the tray, birds will remain there sorting through the grit for up to 5- 7 minutes. When numbers visit the tray at once there can be quite a bit of aggression with males chasing each other off the trays.

I have been studying the Leighton Moss population since they colonised in 1973. We try to work out the breeding population from ringing studies and the colour ring sightings on the grit trays are vital. So far this year we have identified 10 males and 14 females.

I have been asked what grit we put out. It is a mixture of sharp builders sand and pheasant grit.

Many thanks to Keith Kellet for his patience in recording many of the grit tray sightings.

Wednesday 26 September 2012

The Bearded Tit Gritting Season has Started

A little later than usual the first two birds were recorded visiting the grit trays this morning (26/9) at Leighton Mos RSPB Reserve.

They were both females and came separately but both stopped some time on the trays. Both were colour ringed so we know their history.

X439755 was ringed as a juvenile on 10/7/09. It was not recorded on the grit trays in 2009. But in 2010 it was recorded gritting on 21 days between 27/9 and 11/12. In 2011 it visited the trays on 22 days between 3/10 and 19/11.

L714677 was ringed as a juvenile on 2/7/11. It was recorded gritting on a record 24 days between20/9 and 24/11.

These two birds were the most regular visitors to the grit trays in 2011 so it will be interested to see if they follow the same pattern this year. Most birds are recorded on under ten days throughout the gritting season from late September to mid December.

Bearded Tits need grit at this time of year because they are changing their diet from soft insect food of spring and summer to the much harder reed seed diet of autumn and winter. Some idea of the numbers of small stones that they ingest is given by a German study when the contents of 12 gizzards averaged 609 stones.

The grit trays are positioned in the first bay on the right as you go down the Public Causeway. This year the reserve has a camera on the trays so you can also sit in comfort in the tea room and watch proceedings!


Tuesday 18 September 2012

A Coal Tit Autumn?

The first visit this autumn to my woodland feeding station suggested that Coal tits have had a good breeding season. My ringing totals were 21 Coal Tits compared to only seven Blue Tits and four Great Tits.

Looking back to last September, in two visits I ringed 28 Coal Tits 14 Blue Tits and 10 Great Tits and Coal Tits continued to be the commonest tit through to early December. In all previous years Blue Tits have been the dominant species.Will be interesting to see what happens in the coming months.

Sunday 16 September 2012

Heysham CES 2012

2012 has been a difficult year for many CES sites, the weather making the 12 visits required hard to achieve and catches lower than normal.

At Heysham we did achieve the 12 visits, largely because we are normally able to pick any day of the week, unlike ringers who may be confined to weekends. Catches were not particularly low either (for this site) at 134 new-for-year birds.

Birds captured in all 12 visits have ranged between 85 and 146 over the last 13 years. These overall numbers are terribly low for the effort involved and are way below the recommended level of 250 new-for-year birds, but the BTO tell us that it is still a viable site producing useful data so please 'Keep Going'. I am often amused by comments in CES News where ringers complain of poor catches in a visit that are more than our yearly catch - the chance would be a fine thing!

Numbers of local breeding birds such as Blackbird, Dunnock and Wren were up this year with plenty of young captured. Blackcap numbers were reasonable with 4 birds being retrapped indicating breeding on the site. Bullfinch are always caught in reasonable numbers and this year was average. Common Whitethroat were down with only a single young bird caught as were Lesser Whitethroat (7 were caught, of which 4 were juveniles, with no retraps). This latter species normally breeds on the site and more are trapped. Chiffchaff, at 14, were up on last year.


Monday 10 September 2012

Reed Warblers Move Out

The re-trapping this morning (9/9) of an adult Reed Warbler may not at first sight appear unusual, but is is only the sixth adult to be caught in September in the 12 years study of the Reed Warblers of Leighton Moss in which we have ringed 13701 birds.The bird was a female still with a very marked brood patch.Our catching and recovery statistics shows that adults start to leave in late July and on through August. Totaling the 12 years we have handled an average of 485 adults in each of the three ten day periods in July. By early August this had dropped to 316, and during the second 10 day period to 108 , then just to 53 in the last ten day period. Showing a marked move out over the period.

To further support these findings we have had 18 adult Reed Warblers controlled on the south coast of England on migration, the bulk at Icklesham in Sussex. Of these four were in the last few days of July, ten spread though August and just three in September. Juveniles remain quite a bit later, with the period late July through August giving the largest catches. Early September sees a slight decline, followed by much lower numbers through to early October. Recoveries of juveniles on the south coast also peak later than the adults with the most in the last 10 day period of August and early September but with some birds turning up on through to late September. The adult female caught today was obviously a late breeder.

Wednesday 5 September 2012

Warblers on the Move

In a batch of recoveries received yesterday there was two recoveries in France showing the early movements of Sedge and Reed warblers. The Sedge Warbler was ringed on 19th July as a juvenile this year and 20 days later, on August 8th it was controlled 1113 km south at La Maziere Lot-et-Garonne on the French coast. An adult Reed Warbler ringed in August 2011 was also controlled on August 9th a 100 km further north. This brings our total of Sedge Warblers recovered on migration in France to 35 and Reed Warblers to 16.Two other Reed Warbler controls show local movements. A Juvenile ringed on 31 August 2011at Little Crosthwaite 58 km to the north was found breeding at Leighton Moss in early July. The other was ringed as a juvenile at Leighton Moss on July 19th 2007 and was found breeding at the Brockhole Reserve near Preston. A Pied Flycatcher ringed as a nestling in Pembrokeshire last year was found breeding in one of our nest boxes in the Lune Valley. It was a female. This is our third interchange with Welsh birds. The others were a bit further north in Powys. So this at 267 km SSW is the furtherst movement we have recorded in the breeding season. John

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Bearded Tits and Reed Warblers Mid Term Report

Our two RAS studies at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve have been difficult this year because of the foul weather and high water levels during July cutting our normal ringing effort by half. However the Bearded Tit population
appears to have recovered somewhat from last years low point of 12 pairs. To date we have caught or identified by their colour rings ten adult females and eight adult males. We would expect to pick up several more in our autumn ringing and especially on the grit trays from mid September on. So a conservative estimate is 15+ pairs. However the high water levels appear to have flooded out some nests for to date we have only caught 16 free flying young compared to 22 during the same period last year, although of course the reduced ringing effort should be taken into account. Reed Warblers are the commonest breeding bird at Leighton Moss, to date we have caught 189 adults. This compares to an average catch of 177 over the past 15 years. Of these 77 are retraps from previous years including a nine year old bird first ringed in 2003 and two five year old birds. We have also had two birds from elsewhere in Britain and a French ringed bird, we are awaiting full details. To date we have ringed 340 young birds although there is over a month to go yet it does look as though they too have suffered during July's poor weather for last year we ringed 821 young. Our catches of adult birds has declined over the last week. They appear to be preparing to leave for one we caught today weighed 14.2 grams at least 3 grams heavier than usual and it had a fat score of 4 John

Saturday 11 August 2012

Rapid swallow movement

Last night was our first visit to the maize field of the autumn. Swallow roosts in the North West are normally made up of a lot of new juvenile birds and relatively little else (Typically we get one control per 750 juveniles). As a result a ringed juvenile swallow early in the session was a welcome surprise. The ring looked very new, almost as if it had been put on a few minutes before. One of the team thought it sounded familiar and a similar ring number to ones used at Heysham earlier in the day. It turns out that the swallow had been ringed at Heysham Nature Reserve at 14:15 and caught near Hornby at 19:30. A movement of about 20km East North East in 5 hours. Not the longest of movements for a swallow however one of the fastest. Richard

Friday 3 August 2012

Birds Do the Unexpected

In our recent batch of recoveries there were three which appear quite unusual. The first was a Lesser Whitethroat ringed at Middleton Nature Reserve as a juvenile on 27th July last year and presumably a locally bred bird. It was caught on 5th June this year at Icklesham in East Sussex 423 km to the south. It was identified as an adult female, presumably on brood patch, suggesting it was breeding there as indeed you would expect in early June. It appears as though this bird has not returned to its natal area but is breeding some 420 km to the south. A similar scenario is possible with another Middleton ringed bird - a Sedge Warbler ringed as a juvenile on 26th June last year. It was caught at Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire on May 5th this year 285 kms. SE. Although possibly this bird could still have been on spring migration when caught. The third was a Lesser Redpoll ringed at Heysham on April 1st this year at a time when many Redpolls are moving north. However this bird was caught six days later 72 kms. to the south at Bidston in the Wirral. Just a postscript to my last post on the low numbers of Sedge Warblers. Early August saw no improvement in the situation but we did catch a French ringed adult to add to the Dutch one we caught last week. John

Tuesday 31 July 2012

Where Have All the Sedge Warblers Gone

This season is turning into the most difficult we have experienced in the 16 years we have been doing our reed bed ringing at Leighton Moss. We usually rotate our ringing round four main sites, but this year due to the poor weather and the resulting high water levels we have only been able to make 12 ringing visits compared to an average of 24 in previous years. Allowing for this fall in activity Sedge Warblers are well down with 39 ringed this July a 37% decline on 2011. Reed warblers with 261 ringed are also down by 13%. By contrast Willow Warblers with 82 ringed are similar to 2011. Will be interesting to see what August brings- it may be that the season is later this year, in fact the last two days of July were our best day for Sedge Warblers. We also caught a Dutch ringed adult Sedge Warbler presumably ringed on passage in the Netherlands. John

Friday 20 July 2012

Pied Flycatchers Have a Successful Season

In a year when many species have had a rather difficult season, due to the cold wet spring, it is great to be able to report on one species that to fledging at least has had a very successful season. Our RAS in the Lune Valley covers nest box schemes in 11 mainly upland oak woods. The population this year was 87 pairs, just five down on the record population of 92 in 2011. Of these 72 or 83% successfully produced year making it one of the best years since our study began. We ringed 427 nestlings with the average brood size at ringing being 5.8. We also caught 73 females and 38 males. Two of the males were proved to be feeding at two adjacent nest boxes. Many of these had been ringed in our nest boxes in previous years. Our oldest bird was V469347, ringed as an adult female in May 2007 so it is six years old at least. It has bred successfully every year in the same wood for the past six years although it has used four different nest boxes, all within ca 100 m of each other. It also has had different males each year. Almost all returning adults breed in the same wood in successive years although this year we had two move four km. A few of the birds ringed as nestlings return to breed in their natal wood, but most move just a short distance to another wood. Some though move further as shown by five adults we caught this year, these had been ringed as nestlings in Cumbria (2)Northumberland, Durham and Derbyshire. John

Saturday 14 July 2012

A Difficult Season

The poor weather with heavy rain and wind and the resulting high water levels has seriously curtailed our ringing efforts at Leighton Moss. Last year in the first half of July we managed 11 ringing sessions , this year we have managed only five. Average catch last year was 35- this year only 18. It is however early days at least for Reed Warblers although there appears to be fewer young around so far this year. Reed Warblers and Bearded Tits are our main study with an RAS done on both. Today we passed the 100 mark for adult Reed Warblers - by this time last year we had caught 137 and ended up with 236 for the year. Of these ca 50% are already ringed. To date we have only ringed 12 juvenile Bearded Tits about half last year total and there appears to be a higher breeding population this year. Todays star bird though was a juvenile Cetti's Warbler giving the first positive proof that this expanding species has finally bred successfully at Leighton Moss. For the past three years we have caught up to five birds in September/October but although they have wintered and males have sung in March they appeared to leave after that. This year possibly four males have been singing right through the spring. Will be interesting to see how many more we catch. John

Monday 9 July 2012

A Better Morning

The record high water levels at Leighton Moss continue to hamper our ringing but we did manage to erect three nets this morning at a site where we usually have at least double that number. Some more juvenile Reed Warblers were caught and eventually we caught eight juvenile Bearded Tits. From their eye colour all were from early broods and this was confirmed by the fact that four had been ringed in the nest boxes in late April. Despite this welcome catch making 12 for the year,
I still feel that breeding success has been poor, usually by this time we would have caught 40- 50 young although this years difficult conditions mean we have not been able to put in as much effort. John

Saturday 7 July 2012

A Difficult Season

The recent torrential rain has raised the water levels at Leighton Moss to a record summer high and several of our ringing sites are inaccessible. We managed a short session this morning with fewer nets than usual and a later start due having to spend twenty minutes bailing out the boat. We caught our first juvenile Sedge Warbler along with a few Juv.Reed warblers. But the only Bearded Tit was an adult female and we did not hear any other birds in what is usually one of our best sites for juvenile Bearded Tits. I rather fear that the rise in the water tables last month had flooded out the majority of the nests. Reed Warblers also appeared scarce with none of the usual calling from the reeds. The bird of the morning though was Reed Warbler R510202 it was ringed as a juvenile in August 2003 so it is nine years old. This is the third oldest Reed Warbler in our study only being beaten by two ten year old birds. Interestingly it had not been re-trapped since 2009. Reed Warblers are well known for surviving well compared with other warblers. Of the two other species we ring in good numbers, Sedge and Willow Warblers, our record stands at five years for both species. John

Tuesday 26 June 2012

A Poor Breeding Season?

Today dawned calm and clear, an excellent day for mist netting in the reed beds of Leighton Moss . So we went to one of our best sites with good expectations. After four hours we had caught only ten birds. Seven adult Reed Warblers and one each of Reed Bunting, Blackbird and Blue Tit. Returning home I checked our catches for the same period last year and we were catching 35 to 50 a day including the first batch of young Reed and Willow Warblers. It has been a rather late season this year. However one wonders if the atrocious weather over the weekend with heavy rain which had pushed the water levels up by ten centimeters and strong winds was the main reason for the low numbers.Catches over the next few weeks should give us the answer. To date we have caught 77 Adult Reed Warblers 12 Adult Bearded Tits our two main study species. These numbers are very similar to the same time last year. John

Thursday 21 June 2012

Nest Box Round Up

A wet and windy morning allowed me to sort out the nest box details for my three lowland study areas in the Arnside/Silverdale AONB. My impressions were that it had been a rather poor season so it was interesting to look at the figures for Blue and Great Tits. Of the 50 Great Tit nests recorded 37 (74%) produced some young. However brood size at fledging was only 4.3. The lowest I have recorded over the past 12 years. Blue Tits occupation rate is always lower with 35 nests of which 21 (60%) produced young. Brood size was higher than Great Tits at 5.9 but still well down on previous years. The very changeable weather this spring has certainly taken its toll. One other factor has been the number of broods taken by Great Spotted Woodpeckers enlarging the hole and taking the chicks. A total of six in all, three of each species. No doubt the young tits shouting for food attracts the woodpeckers which also may have been struggling to find food. John

Saturday 16 June 2012

More Pied Flycatcher News

Visited my two smaller woods which are part of our RAS project on this species. These woods  along the upper Lune valley have seen a marked increase in  numbers using our nest boxes over the past two years.

Prior to 2011 we never had more than two pairs in both woods, but last year both woods had five pairs and this year  one has six pairs and the other five pairs. Ringing of the adults has shown excellent survival. At one wood we ringed all five males in 2011. This year we managed to catch four males and three of them were returns from last year. Similarly for females with two out of four caught this year being returning birds.This wood is rather unusual for Pied Flycatchers, not the usual mainly mature Oak woods they seem to prefer elsewhere in the area but it is a mature alder wood. On our last visit all 11 nests had broods of healthy looking young, only hope that the forcasted bad weather of the next two days has no bad effect.

 At the end of the season Kevin Briggs is collecting Pied Flycatchers nests to see what materials they use. Will be interesting to find if nests from the alder wood vary from the Oak woods in their composition. Many thanks to  Pete Woodruff  and Sheila and Mac Cooper for help in recording these woods.


Wednesday 13 June 2012

A Pied Flycatcher Round Up

Spent four hours yesterday with Ian Hartley catching the male Pied Flycatchers in one of Paul's nest box study areas in Roeburndale. In total we caught males at 11 boxes and also two females that Paul had missed. The first discovery was that one hard working  male was feeding young at two adjacent boxes. This is the third time that we have proved this to happen in our study.

Of the ten males that we caught all bar one was already ringed! A quick check on our database showed that they had all been ringed  as nestlings either in Roeburndale or the adjacent valley of Hindburndale so had not moved very far at all. This is admittedly a small sample but taken with data from other woods  it appears that male Pied Flycatchers are more likely to return to their natal areas than the females.

Most of the nests had well grown young. That there was plenty of insect food within the wood was very clear to us- we were almost eaten alive by midges!  You had only to brush against  foliage to  have caterpillars on your clothing. The highlight of the day was the discovery of a Woodcock nest with four eggs.


Wednesday 30 May 2012

An Unusual Clutch

I have several pairs of Bearded Tits nesting in my reed wigwam nest boxes this year. I visited one on May 4th and it had two eggs. When I next visited 20 days later  I estimated the clutch by feeling gently  at 7-8. but some eggs were piled on top of others. It is impossible to see into the nest through the small entrance hole as shown in the photo to get a more accurate count. When I went to ring the young today I was amazed to find five healthy young and five eggs . The largest clutch I have recorded before has been 7 and the usual clutch is 5/6. One can only assume that two females had laid in the one nest. I watched the  colour ringed adults feed the young  for one and a half hours and only recorded a male and a female feeding ca every four minutes.  They were both 2011 young birds and they had been recorded together acting as a pair on seven occasions in October/November last year. Another example of early pair formation in this species.

John ,

The strange year continues

although Alan reports a good year at Aughton, the boxes in Roeburndale are having a very poor year. Nesting attempts  are higher than previous years, reflecting good productivity and survival from last year, but nest success is much poorer than in previous years.

Many clutches of Blue Tit and Great Tit are smaller than previous years and fewer birds have been hatched than 'normal'. Fledgling survival is poor with many instances of small broods (typically 4 or 5 this year, rather than 8-12 in 'normal' years) and of those fledgelings, many are predated by a number of culprits - possible because young in nests are much more vocal, this year, as if begging ludly for food that parents are finding it hard to find.

Trees in these upland woods were very late in putting out leaves this year (and many trees still do not have complete canopies) so presumably there are fewer caterpillars around? Lowland woods may be faring much better this season than upland woods, although the large nestbox scheme at Lancaster University also seems to be having a poor year.

Migrants, such as Pied Flycatcher appear to have been late arriving, yet have returned in big numbers. Their broods, by being later than the Tit ones, may benefit from the later leaf emergence this year - we wait and see


Monday 28 May 2012

Aughton Woods Nestboxes

After a very disappointing year in 2011 which saw at least 9 clutches of eggs predated and very poor productivity (only three broods successfully fledged from  33 boxes), this season is much more promising.

The take up of boxes includes 10 Blue Tits and 5 Great Tits, which are at various stages of development with only one brood lost so far.  No egg predation has been experienced so one wonders what was the problem last year?  So far, 8 broods of young have been ringed.

A Pied Flycatcher pair has built belatedly in one box and currently has four eggs.

The Treecreeper nest reported previously has had a positive outcome - five eggs were laid and five young have now fledged successfully.


Wednesday 23 May 2012

up and down so far

This has been a very strange year for the nestboxes in Roeburndale. There are very good numbers of Blue Tit nesting (29 in one wood alone - higher even than last year's bumper year) but fewer Great Tit (only 8) but there is worse predation than in many previous years and quite a few broods starved last week when it was rainy and cold - there are still relatively few leaves on the trees and thus probably few caterpillars for food.
After a slow start, numbers of Pied Flycatcher have built up with 17 active nests in one wood including a returning female that was ringed as a nestling in Derbyshire and other birds from neighbouring woods in the vicinity

outside the woods, numbers of breeding lapwing appear to be much lower than normal in the areas I pass through - is this the same elsehwere in the district?


Friday 18 May 2012

Pied Flycatcher reacquaintence

Perhaps predictably, the first Pied Flycatchers off the mark with full clutches in upper Hindburndale were these two old stagers:

T367170 – This was ringed at Colleyholme Wood, nr Stock's reservoir, Slaidburn as a nestling on 10/6/08.  Its whereabouts during the 2009 season were unknown, but in 2010 and 2011 it nested in the same box – in Box 21 at the top of the wooded section of road between Botton Mill and Summersgill.  The current (2012) box is about 350m from Box 21.

V470146 – This was ringed at Wray as a nestling on 5/6/07.  Its whereabouts in 2008 and 2009 were unknown, but in 2010 it nested in Box 24 Botton Mill and in 2011 it switched to Box 25 Botton Mill.  .  It is currently (2012) in Box 36, about 250m from Boxes 24/25

I have not had time to check any other 'family tree history' of these two, but V470146 was the mother of X947707 in 2010.  This was a nesting female in Box 31 in 2011, but unfortunately deserted a hatched brood.  This was presumably due to it being predated, rather than all the young dying for another reason as there was no obvious food shortage/temperature problem affecting any other tit/PF boxes


Tuesday 15 May 2012

Destination Iceland

Up to 2000 Black-tailed Godwits have been recorded regularly on the coastal lagoons this spring, many of them resplendent in summer plumage. On March 31st Richard  identified six colour ringed birds from the Eric Morecambe Hide. We have now got the details of these . All six were  colour ringed in Iceland either as breeding adults or as nestlings.  Five of them had been reported in winter  mainly on the Dee or Ribble Estuaries  but one had wintered in one winter in Waterford Ireland.

These six now brings the total Black-tailed Godwits colour ringed in Iceland and sighted in our area to 23. Many of them have been seen on several occasions and several have been reported back in Iceland. Large numbers remained in the area until late April leaving behind a few  apparently non breeding birds mainly young birds still in winter plumage.



Saturday 12 May 2012

Ospreys on The Move

This  stunning shot of a colour ringed Osprey was taken by Mike Roberts at Leighton Moss on the evening of May 7th. it was one of three seen that evening.

My impression is that it has been  a very good spring for Osprey passage through our area with at least 20 reports from both Leighton and the Lune area and several others elsewhere. The early birds are probably from the Scottish and Lake District breeding population. But the later birds, such as this one, are young birds not yet old enough to  breed. The young Ospreys mainly spend their first year in West Africa but in their second year they return to the breeding areas to check out possible breeding sites for the future. This bird was ringed in the Scottish Borders at Elibank Forest as a chick from a brood of two on 12/07/2010. So fits in quite nicely with the general pattern of movement described above. Lets hope it  finds a suitable place to breed in our area  in future years.

The second brilliant shot shows that Leighton's  resident Marsh Harriers don't really welcome Ospreys. The Marsh  Harrier doing the chasing of an un-ringed Osprey is the young female that spent the last winter at Leighton and very distinctly identified by the missing feathers in the wing.

Many thanks to Mike Roberts for allowing us to use his great action shots.

Friday 11 May 2012

Sand Martin movements

We received a batch of bird movements today which included 6 birds that were caught in autumn in France on migration. 5 were ringed as juveniles on the river Lune during June and July 2011. The most interesting one is L334113 which was ringed as a breeding bird in July 2010, recaught in June 2011 at Whittington and then caught in Charente-Maritime, France in mid August on migration. I'm getting increasingly interested in how long after fledging the juveniles leave the colony and then how long before they start a southwards migration. From ringed birds we catch it is clear there is a period after fledging but before migrating south juvenile Sand Martins roam, possibly finding somewhere to breed the following year, and then move quite rapidly south. I hope with the 15-20 birds that are caught on their southward migration from the Lune each year we'll soon be able to look into this.

Thursday 10 May 2012

Aughton Woods' Treecreeper

One of the boxes comprising the nestbox scheme in Aughton Woods is a wedge shaped 'Treecreeper box'.  This box has not been occupied by any species in the last five years, and probably not at all over the whole period it has been in place.  Its original erection date is not certain.
However, this year, a pair of the "correct" species has unexpectedly taken up residence.  The first monitoring visit this year revealed a nest containing five slightly unfamiliar eggs that looked to be almost certainly Treecreeper.  Further checks saw the adult bird entering the nest and the chicks are currently well grown and will hopefully soon fledge satisfactorily.

18-04-2012 Eggs

27-04-2012 |Two Newly Hatched Young

07-05-2012 Five Young at 'FS' Stage

These images taken by John Mason, who has been monitoring the Aughton boxes this season, show stages of the development of this nest.


Wednesday 9 May 2012

Hindburndale nestboxes

Here is a summary of what is happening in the nestboxes in Hindburndale at the moment, other than one or two late possibilities with Pied Flycatcher or Redstart and definite identification of quite a number of the Blue/Great Tit nests!  We are very wary of being presumptuous over clutch size and perceived egg size as a means of separating all Blue and Great Tit, having been caught out previously.  Indeed, there is a slight possibility that one of the uncertain nests is a Coal Tit

There has been a significant influx of Pied Flycatcher during the last eight days and this has contrasted with a very protracted stop/start nesting progress by tit species and one of the Nuthatch nests during April.  Indeed, tits which were still dithering with circles of moss at the beginning of May found, in three cases, the box commandeered by Pied Flycatcher and a fourth looks like going the same way

In at least one case, a box with enlarged hole for Redstart was definitely occupied by this species, one was almost certainly this species (as opposed to Pied Fly) and a third was 'more likely to be Redstart than PF'.  One of these large-holed boxes was occupied by a Great Tit  and another is in the early stages of presumed tit occupation, but the rest have remained empty

The most significant change has been the increase in Blue Tits in especially the upper valley - 1 havn't got the comparative data to hand - will slot it in later - but this has been in the region of 250-300% increase since 2010.  This 'invasion' prompted worries about boxes for the returning Pied Flys and 10 extra boxes were erected in mid-April and now house 5 Pied Fly and one Redstart nests!

86 Boxes:
Pied Flycatcher - 21
Redstart - 2
Probable Redstart - 1
Pied Fly/Redstart - 2
empty boxes with male PF in attendance - 2

Nuthatch - 2

Great Tit - 5
Blue Tit - 9
Blue/Great Tit - 24 (but see above re-slight possibility of one being Coal Tit)
early stages of tit nest - 3

Empty - 15

Here are two examples showing the stop:start nature of April/early May after some birds had built nests in the warm weather of late March.

Presumed Blue Tit:  30/3 (moss circle), 19/4 complete nest, 26/4 (2 eggs), 30/4 (3 eggs), 5/5 (4 eggs), 7/5 (6 eggs) [not visited subsequently]

Nuthatch: 30/3 (complete nest), 19/4 (complete nest - deserted??), 26/4 (4 eggs!), 30/4 (6 eggs), 5/5 (bird sitting) [Not visited subsequently]

A very interesting season so far.  Thanks to the landowners for allowing this study to take place in e.g. private areas of woodland.   .

Jean Roberts, Pete Marsh, Tess & Paul Adams, Louise North

Monday 7 May 2012

Nest Box News

It is turning into a most unusual spring for our nest box study areas. I have just looked at the details for the six schemes that I run and this has been the most extended start to the season I can remember. For tits Warton Crag is typical. A visit yesterday revealed a brood of five Great Tits  over half grown and starting to get their wing feathers while two other nests had incomplete clutches.

A visit today to my Roeburndale scheme at a higher altitude revealed that the first Great Tits had yet to hatch  and some were just starting laying. Pied Flycatchers were present in good numbers with at least nine males singing and visiting nest boxes. However there were only five nests all partially completed. By this time last year two pairs were incubating and almost all the others had incomplete clutches.

One assumes that the warm weather in late March got the early birds started then the cold unseasonable weather since has inhibited them.Will the cold weather mean a shortage of food when the young hatch? The Warton Crag Great Tit brood suggests that they are fine at the moment for they were well fed.