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

Sunday 31 March 2013

Colour Ringed Avocet Returns

The colour ringed Avocet which bred on the Allen Pool at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve last year has returned this week. It was originally ringed as a nestling at Bas Boulais Saint-Molf France on 30th June 2008. It spent its first winter quite close to the ringing site. In 2009 it was sighted from the 2nd of April  to 21 December  again within the same area.  In 2010 it also occurred in the same area from 4th March to 22nd of December. It was not sighted at all in 2011 but arrived at the Allen Pool in late March 2012 and bred successfully rearing three young. We have been in contact with the ringer in France and hope to get further details of any recent sightings.
Thanks to Brian Howson for the photograph.


Saturday 30 March 2013

How good are you at ageing/sexing Twite?

The Heysham wintering Twite, with perhaps a mix of  larger north Scottish birds and smaller south Scottish/the odd Pennine bird are not easy to age/sex.  Have a go at these.  Wing length given as a clue/misleader.

All these pics were taken on 29th March 2013

Please dont respond with a 'Comment' as this might influence others.  Please post to Pete Marsh at

Please do comment on the pics and please say whether you want to remain anonymous when I post the answers & your comments in about a month's time.  Thanks.

Pic one:Wing length 76mm
Pic 2:Wing 78 mm
Pic 3:Wing 76mm
Pic 4: Due to a mix-up, not sure which bird this is!

Pic 5: Wing 79mm
Pic 6: Wing 81mm
Pic 7: Wing 76mm

Monday 18 March 2013

Feeding Station Statistics

At a recent group meeting we discussed the results of ringing at feeding stations. I analyzed the results from two of our sites. One is a typical small garden in the  village of Over Kellet and operated by Andrew. The other which I operate is a woodland station at Teddy Heights near Arnside. The results for some of the species caught this winter compared with the previous five winters are given below. Ringing effort has been roughly similar over the years.

Coal  Tit.
This winter has seen the largest  catches to date at both sites with Teddy Heights at 164 being  34 up on the five year average and Over Kellet at 40 compared with 22. At both sites there was a very marked influx from September on right through until late December . Numbers then declined until a small further influx in early March. A first calendar year bird caught at Teddy Heights had been ringed 63 km to the  north in Cumbria in early October giving some clue as to where these birds come from. The oldest bird caught was three years and 28 days after ringing

Blue Tit
The 120 caught at Teddy Heights was the lowest number over the 20 years I have been operating the site and was well down on the average of 180 of recent years. By contrast Over Kellet at 145 was only 14 down on recent averages. Data from the Groups nest box studies suggested rather poor productivity last spring and the poor summer and autumn weather would probably not have helped survival. The oldest bird recaptured was eight years and 15 days after ringing.

Great Tit
The Teddy Heights catch at  84 was well down on the recent average  of 141. The smaller sample at Over Kellet at 28 was  only slightly down on recent years. Again nest box studies suggested well below average productivity. The oldest bird was five years and 115 days after ringing.

Total catches at both sites were slightly up on recent years, suggesting a good population. The oldest bird was six years and 12 days.

This species is only captured in numbers at Over Kellet. The population was quite high  until a collapse in the 08/09 winter reaching a low of only 15 in the 09/10 winter. It was thought the the disease Trichomonosis was the cause of the decline. However  they then bounced back to a total of 142 in  both of the next two winters. But this winter has seen a decline again to only 33.

This attractive species has been the star turn at Over Kellet with 144 caught, slightly up on the average catch of recent years although somewhat down on the 250 recorded in the 2010-11 winter. One notable feature of the catch is the low re-trap rate with very few returning in successive winters. Of 1244 ringed over the last 12 years only three have returned in successive years.

This species  first started visiting feeders at Over Kellet in the 2006/.07 winter and ten were caught. They fluctuated over the next few winters to reach a peak of 43 in the 2011/12 winter. This winter though they have declined with only three caught. At Teddy Heights in a Bullfinch breeding habitat the numbes were around the average.


Tuesday 5 March 2013

Fishermen Let Their Side Down

A Twite ringing session this morning resulted in a catch of 23 retrap/controls and 4 new birds. Around 80 birds were present and feeding first thing, but as the whoosh net was assembled and set, the birds lined up on the fence to stare at it but declined to feed. After a time, a few were bold enough to drop onto the feeding area and allow a catch.  The first ones down are invariably, and unsurprisingly, the unringed birds that pull a few of the bolder ringed individuals with them.  A second small catch later made up the numbers.

After the net was packed away, although the cars and ringers were still present, 60 birds were on the seed within 15 minutes.

Whilst awaiting further action, and gazing over the sea wall a movement was noted down the stone slope - it was a gull trapped by a fishing hook attached to abandoned tackle.  A lead weight was jammed between the blocks part way down the wall and two hooks, still baited were attached to this weight by a length of line.  The gull had its lower mandible pierced through from inside to out by one hook.

On retrieving the bird it was found to be the Belgian-ringed Mediterranean Gull that Pete, Janet et al had just spent days ring reading.  At least the ring number was confirmed! Some first aid was applied to the bill which was not badly damaged, a yellow darvic ring (2P96) was fitted to the lower left leg and the very fortunate bird was released in good health.  The condition of the bird suggested that it had not been trapped for long.

On our arrival earlier, we had noted that masses of debris and rubbish left by fishermen was present.  I am sure it is only a minority, but these people seem to have no regard for their surroundings or for the wildlife around. The abandoned weight was not too far down the wall to be retrieved, but it was far enough for the bird to be drowned by the tide if it had not died in the meantime through exhaustion/starvation.


Why didn't the fisherman bother to retrieve his tackle?  Why can't these rogue fishermen take home their food debris, cans, cigarette packets, tackle packaging, plastic bags, abandoned line and tackle etc? 

They are an absolute disgrace to their sport (!) and to their more thoughtful colleagues.


Sunday 3 March 2013

North Lancs 2012 Ringing Report

North Lancs Ringing Group has produced a ringing report for group activities during 2012.  It can be downloaded here.  We hope it provides additional information about our activities over the last year than the blog.