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)

Saturday 25 May 2013

700 down!

An indication of the lateness of this year's breeding season is that by this time last year I'd ringed over 700 pulli but this year I still don't have any pulli in my nest boxes in the Lune Valley.

Overall numbers of Blue Tit are well down and Great Tit are almost non-existent. Oddly enough, there are some very large clutches this year, including one of 15 eggs - can't remember seeing one this large before. Pied Flycatchers are still starting nests despite there being almost no singing birds in the woods this week or last week but a number of females are already incubating.

Its certainly a very odd season up  here!


Thursday 16 May 2013

Lesser Redpolls on the Rise

The groups ringing totals for the year have just passed the 3000 mark including retraps and controls. Blue Tits  usually head the list at this time of year as much of our ringing is in gardens. So it was a pleasant surprise to find that we had handled  just 318 blue tits but  504 Siskin and 438  Lesser Redpolls. I have detailed our Siskin ringing in a previous posting. So I looked at Lesser Redpoll in some detail. Most were ringed in three gardens, Mark and Dave's  around the Bowland fringe and Andrew lower down in Over Kellet and also on the coast on passage at Heysham .

To put these numbers into context taking the previous 10 years we have averaged just 97 per year. The increase reflects the recent move to garden feeders. What is outstanding this year though is the lateness of the feeding activity and the passage at Heysham. In the first 10 days of May 2012 we ringed just 8 Lesser Redpolls, the tail end of the passage at Heysham, This year we handled 210 - a reflection of the lateness of the season in this very cool spring.

What has been so pleasing is that to date this year we have caught  20 controls-(birds nor ringed by us), We await details from the Ringing Office. Previous spring   recoveries have been of birds ringed while wintering in the south of Engalnd and then moving through to breed in Scotland but with one recovery in Norway.


Tuesday 14 May 2013

Bearded Tits Do it Again

Unlike many other species our Bearded Tits at Leighton Moss seem to be reasonably up to date this year, despite the poor weather. We already have at least four fledged broods. We  got the colour ring  combinations of another pair today which have just started incubating. I was surprised to find it was a pair which had already fledged one brood of four. they had moved ca 185 m to another wigwam nest box. The young fledged on April 30th and the first egg of the second clutch was laid just four days after the young had fledged equaling our record from previous observations. Over the weekend we found a further four nests  and we  await details of their colour combinations, one can only assume that most of these are second broods. In past years pairs have had second clutches in the same box while others have moved up to ca 400 m. Bearded Tits are not territorial and have been known to nest just 10 m apart. However some interesting observations have come to light from the RSPB web cam which has been on two nests recently. Bearded Tit enthusiast Alan Gallagher has been logging sightings. At the nest which was still incubating on 4 May at approximately 0520 hours the nesting male was perched in the reeds to the top right of the nest box. An intruding male  enters the frame from the reeds to the left of the nest box. As the intruding bird makes its way through the reeds towards the opening of the nest box the sitting female exits the nest box and chases the intruding bird away from the nest box. Simultaneously the nesting male descends from his perch and enters the nest box. About 1-2 minutes later the nesting female returns and enters the nest box. She then leaves the nest box about 30 seconds later.

Two days later at 0705 hours on  6 May an intruding female bearded tit arrives in close to the nest box. As this bird is making its way past the opening of the nest box, the sitting female emerges, attacking the intruder and chasing it off through the reeds. The sitting female resumes her incubation duties a couple of minutes later.

These observations fit in well with others in past years, that  nesting birds only chase intruders away from the immediate vicinity of the nest. On one occasion 4 males were round a box and the female ignored them until any  came close to the nest box entrance.

Allan also collected some data on the number of feeding visits when the young were close to fledging .In seven hours of watching on April 17th the adults   averaged 29 visits per hour. in four hours next day they averaged 37 visits per hour. On both days the first feeding visit was at 05.50.

Sunday 12 May 2013

Ready .. Steady .. not quite go (yet)

In common with many other sites in the country, this year the nest boxes in Roeburndale are far behind recent years. All of my boxes have been checked and there is not a single complete nest yet for any species - on this date last year, there were hatched young in some boxes. Pied Flycatcher and Redstart have returned in small numbers and some have started laying (as in previous years many of these species normally start laying in mid-May so they don't seem too delayed) but it is the Blue Tit and Great Tit that seem to be most delayed compared to recent years. The late start to laying means that it is difficult to comment about the size of the breeding tit population after two severe winters and a poor breeding season last year.

As Dr Dave Leech writes in the latest newsletter of the Nest Record Scheme, more nest records of common species such as Blue Tit and Great Tit (especially in urban and park environments) are needed if we are to be able to monitor breeding trends - even for common species.


Treesparrows Sit Tight

My first visit, yesterday, to a group of 13 nestboxes at Thurnham revealed  8 containing Treesparrow nests.   This is one less than last year at this stage.

On approach to these boxes in previous years the adults have invariably left the nest before or whilst the ladder is erected and the box opened.  Even whilst examining the first box, the remaining boxes are normally vacated too.   This year, of 8 occupied nests, 5 still had a sitting adult after the box was tapped quite vigorously and opened up.  The progress of these nests was not recorded since it is unwise to touch or lift this species from the nest. 

We have experienced an extremely cold and windy early spring so far and, subjectively, it did seem that the nests were particularly bulky this year, with the boxes being completely packed with material and nest cup very close to the base.  It seems possible that this, together with the tightly sitting adults, may be a result of the cold conditions and that the birds have reacted to the weather to provide maximum protection for their eggs and young. 

In those nests where the adult was not sitting, the development of eggs and young was only slightly behind  last year in spite of the cold and windy conditions this spring.  The progress of the 5 nests will hopefully be revealed once feeding begins.

Thursday 9 May 2013

Captive-reared Lesser Redpoll traced

There have been a few examples of Lesser Redpoll and Siskin bearing aviculture rings and then migrating with wild birds and being subsequently caught by ringers.  We have had two examples of Lesser Redpoll in the last two springs at Heysham Obs

The 2012 bird was traced to 'ornithologiste francais' (uncertain of the actual spelling here as cannot find a google link), but there were no responses to enquiries

A further individual bearing a closed ring was part of a northbound movement of Lesser Redpoll on the morning of 7th May 2013.  Professor David Norman alerted us to the origin of this bird and contact was made with the secretary of the International Ornithological Association, Alan Robinson.  Alan acted immediately to trace origin of the bird within the limitations of the Data Protection Act (town or general area only) and the bird was traced to Chelmsford, Essex where it was ringed as an aviculturally-reared nestling in 2011

This is also the general direction from which many of our long-distance Lesser Redpolls bearing BTO rings have come.  Therefore presumably this bird joined wintering Lesser Redpolls on feeders and became part of the subsequent spring migratory movement.

Thanks to Professor Norman and Alan Robinson for help determining the origin of this bird   The IOA website can be seen here:

Saturday 4 May 2013

Bearded Tits -Next Instalment

Spent an interesting time getting the colour ring combinations of another pair which have 5 young about 3 days off fledging. They are  nesting in a two year old reed  nest box. We usually replace the reed wigwam nest boxes each year but I had left this one in as it seemed in good condition. Within  three minutes of getting into position the female was back feeding the young and I read her colour rings at the first visit. The male though appeared only briefly in the reeds at the back of the nest. I started to wonder if the presence of  my hide was putting him off as the female fed every three to four minutes. But then I realized that he  was entering the nest box via a hole in the back of the nest box to feed the young and all I saw was his head. So the female was using the front door and the male the back door!. After ca an hour I managed to read his ring combinations. The photo below by David Mower is not of this female but was taken several years ago but shows the type of nest box we use.

The female is 4 years old and for the last three years had been paired with the same male and nested in the same area of the reed bed. They were together on the grit trays  up to late November 2012. However this year she is nesting with a different male, a three year old bird. So probably her former partner has died.This is the third brood so far this year and all three had both parents adult birds.

There are three other nests which are only just starting incubating. We got the colour combinations of one pair and they were both ringed as nestling's  last spring so are breeding for the first time. Interesting that they have nested ca three weeks later than the adult birds. They were re-trapped together on July 9th and September 18th and seen together on the grit trays on October 30th so had formed a pair fairly soon after fledging something we have recorded on many other occasions and seems to be normal in this species. This pair is featured on the RSPB Leighton Moss live Web Cam.