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

Wednesday 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.

Friday 4 May 2012

Bee Warned

I visited Louise's boxes in middle Hindburndale tonight as she is away on holiday. She had registered some uncertainty about Box 8 on last week's visit as it appeared to be a "mass of tit nesting material but not in the form of a nest"

This material had appeared at the end of March and prompted an extra box (No 12) about 15m away as this was a 2011 Pied Fly territory (nesting in Box 8) and all the boxes in that area were occupied, or seemingly occupied, by tits.

This last week has seen the belated arrival of most of the Pied Flys and the new box (12) had a 1/2 built nest which was assumed to be this species. However, a male Pied Fly was sitting on the roof of Box 8 this evening. It then entered the box, then shot out alarm calling, as though startled by the contents

On investigation, there was a 'mass of nesting material', as described by Louise and laying on the top of this was a 'stiff' corpse of an un-ringed 2CY female Great Tit. I carefully searched underneath this bird and felt a round object, at first thought to be a covered egg. Then it wriggled. Then it stung me before blundering out of the box. Seemingly a queen Bombus lucorum or similar species.  ** I have since been informed that it would have been unusual for a queen bumble bee to have left the sting in as they are apparently not barbed.  It looked too large for a (solitary) worker bumble bee.  Any comment?

I removed the sting from my finger and then weighed up the options. Further careful (!) investigation suggested that it indeed was an original tit nest, presumably "modified" into a mass of wool and moss by the bumble bee to form a nest, but there was no sign of any larvae or worker bees. However, the queen had stung and was therefore surely going to die in the near future. Therefore end of bumble bee nest and well as end of Great Tit nest.

Therefore I took the decision to completely clear out the box. Was that correct, or would it now wrongly influence/facilitate a scenario where a/the female Pied Fly had 1/2 built a nest in a nearby box and the male would now try and entice her into the now available Box 8?

Would be interested to know what you would have done (assuming you, too, were stung by the bee!)?

Pete Marsh