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!