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 23 December 2015

Poor Year for Blue Tits

The first signs that this was going to be a poor year for  Blue Tits came from our nest box studies. Of the 50 pairs that occupied my boxes,  laying was 12 days later than average.  Brood size was   1.5 young down on 2014 and only 26 of the 50 occupied boxes produced any young. Predation, probably by Weasels played its part but the main reason was probably a shortage of caterpillars at a crucial time due to the cool and wet spring weather.

That this poor productivity has meant lower numbers at all our ringing sites this late summer on. At the site where we catch most blue tits numbers have plummeted. In 2014 we caught 470 birds during the period from early summer to early winter, this year only 209. But even more telling is the percentage of adults in the population. The average over the last 19 years has been 14.5% and in an exceptional year as low as 7%, but this year it is 36% and at another site with smaller numbers ringed it is a high as 55%. Both figures suggesting very low productivity.

On the bright side adults and juveniles from 2014  appear to have survived well at all sites. Our oldest bird this year to date is 6 years and 214 days and we have 3 others at five years. Our record though is 8 years and  15 days. Will be interesting to see what the breeding population is next year.

Wednesday 16 December 2015

Quick OfF the Mark

Since its inception the group has ringed a total of 23,608 Sand Martins mainly at the colonies in the sandy banks of the River Lune. To date we have had  48 recoveries on passage through France mainly caught by French ringers, all were of birds caught as adults or juveniles. Of  the 48  reported 31 were in July, mainly young birds but because they were caught after fledging we had no way of knowing 
exactly how long they took to reach France. However this year Dave ringed 56 nestlings at an artificial site and one has just been reported in Northern France just 33 days after ringing. It probably took 5-6 days before it fledged so it had started its migration south  about 25-27 days after fledging when it was only about 45 days old. Amazing! It had traveled 493 kms SE when caught. John

Saturday 28 November 2015

Long-tailed Tits on the Move

Five Long-tailed Tits which were ringed by Mark in his large garden at Newton on the edge of Bowland on 11 October 2014 have obviously moved as a flock for two were caught near Runcorn in Cheshire 66 km SSW on 16th November 36 days after ringing. A third has now been caught in the same area on 12 November 2015.

Such a movement by this usually  sedentary species is interesting.  The Group has ringed 2693 Long-tailed Tits since 2001 and had  1469 retraps all showing  no movement. During that period we have had only one other recovery showing any movement and this was just 17 km. However going further back we had five birds ringed together on 23 October 1993 and caught together 38 km north 17 days later. Most outstanding though was one ringed on 23 October 1993 and caught 306 km north in North Scotland 19 days later.


Friday 13 November 2015

Goldcrest and Lesser Redpoll Movements

Two species that have been present  our area this autumn in good numbers are Lesser Redpoll and Goldcrests. The later is probably a reflection of the large arrival of continental birds recorded on the east coast. That this was the case  was signaled by the catching of one at Leighton Moss on October 23 which had been ringed 11 days previously  at Whitby North Yorkshire. One ringed on spring migration at Heysham was caught at  Spurn on October 9th. Another bird ringed in mid winter in Somerset was caught at Heysham on October 4th was also probably a continental bird

Another migrant was a Lesser Redpoll ringed in Aberdeenshire on 28th September was caught at Leighton Moss 17 days later. This is our first Redpoll from NE Scotland. A Redpoll ringed in mid winter in Surrey was  caught on August 7th at Newton. This is our 13th bird in winter from Surrey which is obviously a prime wintering area for passage and breeding birds from our area.   We also caught 2 birds from Northumberland and one from Worcester.

A Siskin ringed at Newton on the edge of Bowland on 22 September was caught 39 days later in Hampshire only our second Siskin from that area.


Sunday 25 October 2015

How Many Nuthatch Visit A Garden?

This autumn's ringing in Jerry and Barbara's woodland edge garden at Silverdale has thrown up some interesting findings. With well stocked feeders close to the house they can easily observe all the visiting birds. The most Nuthatch's they usually see is three at once occasionally, but usually just two. Kevin Briggs  has started a RAS on Nuthatch this year with a colour ringing scheme. Since mid September we have  colour ringed 11 Nuthatch in the garden. Over this past week Barbara has seen nine of these birds visiting regularly . She has also seen two unringed birds together and a ringed but not colour ringed bird making12  birds visiting regularly  and  two others occasionally making at least 14 birds in all. Will be interesting to see  what happens over the  winter and into spring. Last spring one pair nested in the garden.

The  abundance of Coal tits this autumn is well shown by our latest catch in the garden we caught  19 but the scarcity of Blue Tits is shown by  a catch of only 13. Last year a little later we caught 29 Blue Tits and 19 Coal Tits. The scarcity of Blue Tits following a disastrous breeding season is being commented on by many observers.


Thursday 22 October 2015

Cetti's on the Move

Cetti's Warbler  has only recently colonised our area.  We first ringed one in 1995 then singles in 2007 & 08. But from 2009 on  we averaged 5 or 6 annually until last year we ringed 16. To date we have only caught 39 birds but we have had two recoveries and recaptured 2 birds ringed elsewhere.
The most outstanding of these is shown on the map it was ringed at Leighton RSPB on March 13th 2010 and  found breeding at Farlington Marsh Hampshire on 25th April 2011 and again on several dates over the next two years. It is one of the longest distance recoveries within Britain.

Our most recent recovery is  as interesting, it was ringed at Wood Walton Fen  Cambridgeshire  on September 2nd 2015 and caught at Leighton Moss 259 km NW 38 days later. Last years control was similar -ringed at Wintersett Reservoir in West Yorkshire and caught 68 days 106 km WNW at Middleton. The other  also showed a similar movement, ringed at Leighton on 4th November 2014 and caught 164 days later at Woolston Eyes in Cheshire.

All  these movements are part of the dispersive tendency of young birds in this species which has contributed to the spread of the species in Britain. Once established as a breeder they appear to be  sedentary- we have had retraps of two birds 3 and 4 years after ringing at Leighton Moss.

Monday 12 October 2015

An Interesting Autumn at Leighton Moss

So far with  decent ringing weather this autumn has produced some interesting results. Pride of place goes to Lesser Redpoll with 161 ringed so far compared with just 50 in the whole of autumn 2014. To date we have had only 2 re-traps and one control suggesting a migratory population.
 The Bearded Tit gritting season is well under way. Thanks mainly to the dedication of Alan,Pauline and Judith Gallagher we have logged 130 sightings of our colour ringed birds involving 48 different birds. Of these 33 were adults and 15 birds of the year. For adults to grit earlier than juveniles is usual. To date though we have recorded only 1 un-ringed bird. the most interesting sighting is of male blue over yellow on  the left leg and yellow over BTO on the right leg. This bird was ringed as a nestling at Leighton on 14 April 2014. It was last re-trapped there on 28 September  and 16 days later it was sighted in a small area of reeds at South Walney 30 km SSW but on 9th October this year it was on the Leighton grit trays.
Regular ringing over the years certainly gives a good idea of the productivity and population levels. Two species doing well this year are Goldcrest and Wren. To date we have ringed 115 Goldcrest compared to 77 over the same period last year. Wren  totals are 105 this year and 98  last. By complete contrast Blue Tits were 440 last year but only 193 this year.

The Reserve's most recent colonist is Cetti's Warbler with ca 5 singing males this year . To date we have caught 8 including a control from elsewhere compared with 7 last year. We  had only our 2nd ever Yellow-browed Warbler this weekend just to add some spice.

Wednesday 30 September 2015

Reed Warbler RAS End of Term Report

 I have already reported that it has been a disappointing season for Reed Warblers at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve, this I am sure is due to the poor weather throughout much of the season. This has rather restricted our activities and number of ringing sessions is down to 46 compared to an average of 61 over the past five years. Numbers of adult birds caught were only slightly down  at 140 compared to an average of 156. Of these 56 were re-traps from previous years. Our oldest bird was 7 years and 295 days from first ringing as a juvenile. Surprisingly it had not been re-trapped  until this year. We had 2 other birds in their 6th year.

Productivity was well down with only 263 juveniles ringed compared to 976 in 2014 and a five year average of 687. One can only assume that the cool, wet and windy weather during the bulk of the breeding season has taken its toll.

Our main study is Bearded Tits and these are also well down with only 31 juveniles ringed this year compared to 69 last year. To date we have sighted or re-trapped 16 adult males and 17 adult females compared to 21 males and 20 females last year. But there may be more to come as we get more grit tray sightings. The first high flying  behavior was seen yesterday- just a short flight then back into the reeds. Last Saturday we caught 24 Bearded Tits but only 1 was un-ringed. Recent ringing has produced good numbers of Lesser Redpoll, Goldcrests and Chiffchaff.


Sunday 20 September 2015

Bearded Tits Gritting Season Gets Underway

Bearded Tits have started gritting early this year at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve. The first birds on the grit trays  were reported on  the 15th with up to 9 by the 18th. This is two weeks earlier than in 2014 when the first birds were recorded on the 27th. Last September was warm with lots of insects around, this last week mornings  have been cold and insects seem scarce. Bearded Tits feed on insects in summer but change to reed seeds in autumn for which they need grit in their gizzard  to grind up the harder reed seeds. It appears as though the diet change is underway earlier this year.

Today several small groups were gritting on both the trays and the gravel  path. We got the colour ring combinations of 10 birds of which 8 were adults. A tendency for adults to grit first has been noted in previous years. All 8 adults had been recorded gritting on the trays last year.  Birds often grit in pairs for in Bearded Tits there is strong pair fidelity and young birds  appear to pair up early in life.
At the moment most sightings have been between 8.30 and 10.00  although today a pair were still on the trays at 12:15. The trays are located just off the Public Causeway.


Wednesday 16 September 2015

The Disappointing Season Continues

Despite reasonable ringing weather our catches at Leighton Moss are down for most species.In our main study Bearded Tits, the catch of juveniles stands at 28 compared to 63 by the same time last year. But Blue Tits are reaching an all-time low with just 12 caught in the first half of September compared to 118 in the excellent productivity year of 2014. A visit to our woodland feeding station where Blue tits are usually the commonest species, we only caught 3 and both Great tit and Coal Tit exceeded them. Coal tits appear to have done well for at Leighton Moss we have ringed 18 in the first half of September compared to just 6 last year. Another mainly conifer breeding species Goldcrest is also doing well with 53 this September compared to 55 last year.

On a brighter note a visit to Jerry's Woodland edge garden produced a record catch of 9 Nuthatch. Kevin Briggs is starting a project on this species so we colour ringed all 9. Jerry has been recording the birds visiting his well stocked feeders and beside the 9 colour ringed birds he has seen a ringed only bird and two unringed together making a total of at least 12 visiting his feeders.


Sunday 6 September 2015

A Dissapointing Season

As we approach the end of the warbler season its time to take stock of the ringing totals for this year in our study at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve.

Reed Warblers are our most abundant breeding bird but productivity this year has been exceptionally poor. We have caught to date only 245 juveniles compared with 885 last year and a five year average of 695. Early in the season Sedge Warblers, which are mainly a migrant here appeared to be doing reasonably well but numbers have dropped and to date we have only ringed 95 juveniles compared to 252 in 2014 and a five year average of 255. Willow warblers have done better with 262 caught compared to a five year average of 324. Blackcaps  have a five year average of 43 but this year has produced 25.

Of resident birds, Blue Tits are well down with only 106 juveniles compared to 376 in 2014 and a five year average of 269. Todays catch of 43 birds included only 1 Blue Tit this compares with an average catch  of 15 birds in early September last year.  Goldcrests though are doing better we caught 12 today to bring this year total to date to 42 compared with 52 for the whole year over the past  five years.

Our main study is Bearded Tits  which go very quiet as they moult in August .  Today we caught 2 bringing our total young to date to 27 again well down on previous years.


Sunday 23 August 2015

Pied Flycatcher End of Term Report

We run a Pied Flycatcher RAS on our nest box  schemes in 12 upland woodlands in the Lune valley North Lancashire. This year saw a record population with 90 occupied boxes four  up on 2014. It was rather a mixed season with 51 successful nests compared to 77 in 2014. Two of the larger woods suffered predation of eggs and young probably by weasels. In one wood  only part of the wood was affected. In two woods, young died  about a  week after hatching suggesting a shortage of caterpillars. In one of these woods the four pairs nesting in the mature alder  part of the wood lost their broods but the one in the oak section  reared six young. Brood size overall was also down from 6.9 last year to 5.4 this year but we managed to ring  293 nestlings.
We re-trapped a total of 85 birds from previous year's ringing.  Of the 53 originally ringed as nestling in the valley,  15 returned to nest in their natal wood  and 27 moved to other woods within the Lune valley and 11  either moved outside the valley to breed or had been ringed as nestlings outside the valley. One of these had been ringed in a nestbox in Wales  242 km SSW. 
Of  adults  27 returned to breed in the same wood and just 5 moved to a new wood within the valley.


Wednesday 19 August 2015

The Poor Season Continues

July was a disappointing month  especially for Reed Warblers and Blue Tits August has continued in the same vain.  Reed Warbles  are having a very poor season at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve. By this time last year we had ringed 635 juveniles,  this  year just 165 despite similar effort. Sedge Warblers are mainly passage birds here and a similar comparison  shows a  small increase,  87 in 2014 and 103 juveniles this year. Willow Warblers  have also done better with 193 last year and 201 this  year.

Blue Tits are down  from 132 in 2014 to 98 this year. Over the past five years in summer we have averaged 11% of adult Blue Tits in our catch. This year it has risen  to 30.5% suggesting very poor productivity which reflects what we found in our nest boxes.

To date we have only caught 3 adult Reed Warblers in August. they seem to have made an early  move out. A conclusion backed up by one adult that we caught on the 15th . It weighed in at 14.4 grams compared to the usual 10-11 grams. It had a fat score of 5 and was obviously preparing to leave.

Today we moved away from the reed bed to Jerry's well stocked woodland edge garden and caught 100 birds including 8 Great Spotted Woodpeckers. In past visits Blue Tits have been the commonest bird but today  Great Tits surpassed them .Of the 20 Blue Tits caught 13 were adults confirming the poor productivity this year.


Friday 31 July 2015

A Disappointing July

July has been a rather disappointing month for our ringing studies at  Leighton Moss  especially our normally most ringed species, Reed Warbler . Because of the windy and at times wet weather we have only been able to ring on 13 days compared to an  average of 19 over the past 5 years. Inevitably this had led to lower total catches.

Our main study species Bearded Tit  is doing reasonably well with 8 adult males and 9 adult females identified so far and a total of 24 juveniles ringed to date. Past experience suggests that the total breeding population is around 13-15 pairs. the numbers of juveniles ringed to date suggest a late poor first brood but second brood birds are now appearing.

We also run a RAS  for Reed Warblers, to date we have caught 131 adults which given the decline in effort is around average. However productivity appears low to date.  The 5 year average for our catch of juveniles in July is 223, this year it is only 93.  The Sedge Warbler 5 year average is 74, this year we have caught only 30. Willow Warblers averaged 75  so allowing for the decline in effort this years catch of 58 juveniles is reasonable.  Blue Tits despite their poor productivity in our nest box schemes also  appear to be doing reasonably well with this years catch of 54 juveniles- 5 up on the five year average. Lets hope August brings both better weather and more birds.


Wednesday 22 July 2015

A Dissapointing Season So Far

The poor season continues in the  reed bed at Leighton Moss. To date we have only ringed 18 juvenile Bearded Tits  this compares with 53 in the same period  last year. Our Reed  Warbler RAS is going well in catching adults, 106 so far  compared to 115 in the same period last year, half of which are retraps from previous years. But juveniles are disappointing, only 39 to date compared to 230 by this time last year.

Other warblers are doing better with similar numbers to last year of Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Sedge Warbler. Although the main influx for these species is usually  from late July on.

Why Reed Warbler productivity should be so low when the adult population appears normal is interesting. Is it due to the poor  spring weather or is it a late start to the season? One other factor is that for the first time half the reedbed is being dried out in an attempt to re-invigorate the reed in future years, the other half is being held at normal water levels. To date we have caught most of the juvenile Reed Warblers in the wet area.

Will be interesting to see how the season progresses. We will continue to study these important reed bed populations and their productivity This is the 19th year of our study

Sunday 12 July 2015

North Lancs Ringing Group annual report 2014

For the last three years North Lancs Ringing Group have produced annual reports.  The 2014 one can be found here:

North Lancs RG annual report 2014

Many thanks to everyone who contributed to the report and in particular to all the land owners who permitted ringing on their land.

Previous reports are available here:
North Lancs RG annual report 2013
North Lancs RG annual report 2012

The Sand Martin that went away... and came back

Most years I will post something about a Sand martin being recaught in France, Spain, Senegal or Sussex.  These are always nice but of relatively little value beyond saying how quickly Sand martins leave the UK.  Incidentally for getting to France it's fairly quick with the first broods almost certainly heading south now and most juveniles being through France within a month of fledging.

Just occasionally we have birds recaught more locally but on passage.  One such bird was D335186 which was ringed near Kirkby Lonsdale in June 2013 as a breeding male.  On the 25th July 2014 it was caught at Walney bird observatory, presumably fattening up for the migration to West Africa although could have been breeding closer to Walney in 2014.  On the 9th July D335186 returned to Kirkby Lonsdale at the same colony as it was in during 2013.  This, more or less, confirms it was on passage at Walney and adds another small bit of information into the puzzle about what Sand martins do between breeding and migrating.

Saturday 11 July 2015

Reed Bed Ringing Latest Results

Still proving a rather difficult and disappointing season at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve. Our main study species Bearded Tit is well down,  60 juveniles by this time in 2014 only 16 so far this year. Reed Warblers, 70 juveniles last year only 17 to date this year. Sedge Warblers a little better,12 last year 8 this year. Blur Tits though are disastrous, we ringed at our normally most successful  site along the reed edge and for the first time in 25 years did not catch a single  blue Tit. Last year  we had ringed 80 juveniles, this year only 24.

I am certain that the cold ,wet and windy spring is the main factor behind these poor figures for ringing effort is only marginally down. Lets hope that  in the case of Bearded Tits and the warblers it has just delayed the start to the breeding season.  One complicating factor is that half the reserve is being dried out in an  effort designed to re-invigorate the reed in future seasons.There does  appear to be less insect life in the dry areas than the still wet areas. What effect this will have on productivity will be interesting to see.


Friday 3 July 2015

Thats More Like It

The good weather of the last two days brought good ringing conditions and a marked improvement in catch size. Highlights were the  9 juvenile Bearded Tits, six of which were new bringing our total for the year to only 9 compared with 64 in the same period last year.

In our first round on the first day we caught a French ringed  Reed  Warbler and later a British  Reed Warbler  control.  To date for our RAS study we have caught 68 adult Reed Warblers. This compares to 82 in the same period last year. The first bird caught today was an adult female Cetti's Warbler our first for this year, there are at least 5 males singing on the reserve. We also caught the first juvenile Blackcap , Willow and Sedge Warblers and Chiffchaff of the season.

Blue tits were  a little better  with 6 juveniles caught still down on  the 42  caught in 2014 and surprisingly 5 juvenile Coal tits, we only ringed 2 in the whole of July last year.


Monday 29 June 2015

Reed Bed Blues

Been a difficult and disapointing month for our Bearded Tit and Reed Warbler RAS study at Leighton Moss. Ringing has proved difficult due to the poor weather but the Bearded Tit population appears to be well down . In June 2014 we caught 65 Bearded Tits of which 54 were juveniles, this year with admittedly less effort we have only caught 7 birds of which only 3 are juveniles.

Reed Warblers  are also down, in June last year we caught  115 , this year only 58. Part of the decline  is due to  the late fledging . We caught the first juveniles(2) this morning 10 days later than in 2014. The highlight of this mornings catch was a Reed Warbler in its 8th year, ringed as a juvenile in 2013 it had not been re-trapped until this morning. It is our 8th oldest Reed Warbler, the oldest was just short of 10 years.

Blue Tits are incidental to our study but they to are well down,34 last year almost all juveniles this year only 5 and not one juvenile. this fits in well with our nest box studies which reveal the lowest productivity since we recorded nest records on IPMR in 2001.

Some of these declines are due to less effort due to poor ringing weather. Last year we netted on 13 occasions compared with 9 this year. But low productivty brought about by the poor spring weather must be the main reason. Lets hope for a more productive July.

Saturday 20 June 2015

Nest Box Blues

Its certainly been a disappointing season for the tits in my nest boxes. I study 5 schemes spread through woods from the coast, through the willow scrub of Leighton Moss to the Oak woods of the Lune valley. I have compared the results for this year with 2014 which was an excellent year. In total this year I had boxes occupied by  58 Blue Tits and 53 Great Tits, compared with 60  Blue Tits and 71 Great Tits in 2014.

Total failures due to predation, desertion or the young dying increased markedly this year. In 2014 total failures was only 10% in Blue Tits and 15 5% in Great Tits . This year this has increased to 40% and 53 % respectively . The increase has been mainly in the whole brood of  chicks dying usually a few days after hatching or to desertion in the egg stage.

Brood size at ringing was 8.5 in Blue Tits in 2014 but only 6.2 this year. Great Tits declined from 8.5 in 2014 to just 4.4 this year.

We had a most welcome increase in Pied Flycatchers with 26 occupied boxes compared to 16 in 2014. Total losses though have risen from just 6% in 2014 to 41% this year. This was due mainly to predation (probably weasel) in the higher section of the main wood. The only losses of young were of three nests in an alder wood. Brood size was similar with 6.6 in 2014 and 6.3 this year.

This years poor results  must be due to the cool wet spring  producing a decline in caterpillar numbers especially early in the season when most of the losses occurred.



Wednesday 17 June 2015

A remarkable evening's ringing

As part of North Lancs Ringing Group's Sand martin Retrapping Adults for Survival (RAS) we are regularly catch Sand martins ringed in the UK and France.  Consequently the first two retraps in a recent visit being from the UK (Lune valley) and a bird from France were of no surprise. The next bird had a ring had an address of 'Icona, Madrid' which is our 9th from the main Spanish ringing scheme.  Amazingly the fourth retrap to be caught was carrying a ring was addressed 'San Sebastian, Aranzadi'.  This is the first Sand martin we have caught from the Basque ringing scheme in Spain and only the second bird the group has caught from it (the first being a Reed Warbler in 2010 near Heysham).

While it is always nice to catch birds from elsewhere the RAS project is all about returning birds to their breeding sites.  As I have said many times it is no surprise that Sand martins from the Lune go through France (in fact, it would be a surprise if one did not).  Spain, again is no surprise, however some Sand Martins do go to Africa via Italy.

So far this year NLRG has retrapped around 100 adults from previous years in two colonies with around 450 pairs. The oldest bird was originally ringed in 2010 as an adult with several captures since.  For a Sand martin this is getting to be a good old age.

Two more major colonies are much further behind in their breeding cycles so are yet to be visited.

As always, many thanks to everyone who makes this project possible.

Sunday 7 June 2015

A Unique Redwing ?

Recent recoveries from the Ringing Office included the Group's first Redwing in Iceland. This bird was ringed by Mark on the edge of Bowland on Boxing Day 2014 and found dead in cold weather in SE Iceland on 26 April this year. Whats unique about that? Well its the Group's first passerine to be reported from Iceland but the interesting question is, was it one of the Icelandic race coburni? The Migration Atlas (2002) says that the Icelandic race winters exclusively in Ireland and  Northern Scotland and there were no ringing recoveries of this race in England or Wales so this bird may be one of the first. However the timing of the recovery does not rule out vagrant spring passage of the continental race iliacus.

In total the group has ringed 2733 Redwing most of them at winter roosts. The map below shows the recoveries of this wintering thrush. The black spots are birds reported in the same winter as ringing showing that some birds move to Ireland and France in  severe winters. The red dots are birds reported in subsequent winters proving conclusively that  birds can change their wintering areas from winter to winter. Not a good idea really as all the southern European birds and the one in Azerbaijan were shot!


Saturday 30 May 2015

Tits Struggle in the Poor Weather

Just finished the first tranche of  ringing  in the nest boxes. To date have ringed 142 tit nestlings. Both Blue and Great Tits are a week to 10 days later than last year. Have compared  the brood size with last year for May ringing.

Great Tits in 2014 averaged 5.9 young per brood, this year it is down to 4.9. Last year I had only one nest  box where all the young were dead, to date this year I have had six. Blue Tits averaged 7.9 young per brood in 2014, this year it is down to 4.9 although to date I have had only one with all the brood dead.

Only have two Marsh  Tits in boxes but both have fledged 7 young and my two Nuthatches have 7 young each.

Our Pied Flycatchers are just starting to hatch so hope the forecast of better weather by mid week turns out to be right.

Wednesday 27 May 2015

Cetti's Warblers on the Move

Cetti's Warbler have only recently colonised our area, mainly at Leighton Moss RSPB. Although we ringed single birds in 1995, 2007 and 2008. It was not until 2009 that we caught more than one in a year. In total we have only ringed 31 birds but three of these have been controlled  elsewhere. The latest was a bird ringed at Leighton in early October 2014 and controlled presumably breeding at Woolston Eyes  Cheshire in mid April 2015 a movement of 89 km south. One controlled at Middleton NR on 28th September  had been ringed 68 days previously and 106 km ESE at Wintersett Reservoir in West Yorkshire. Pride of place though goes to one ringed at Leighton on 13th March 2010 and caught just over a year later at Farlington Marsh Portsmouth 389 km SSE. It was re-trapped at this site  on four other occasions over the next year so was probably breeding there. This is one of the longest movements recorded within Britain.

Once established Cetti's Warblers are thought to be sedentary. But  there appears to be some dispersal of young birds presumably mainly in their first summer and autumn as is shown by the  Woolston Eyes and Wintersett birds detailed above , that this can continue into late winter and spring is shown by the Farlington Marsh bird.


Sunday 17 May 2015

A Pied Flycatcher Bonanza

With our  some of our first two visits to our nest box schemes in woodlands by the tributaries of the Lune now completed it is turning out to be an amazing year for Pied Flycatchers. We run an RAS scheme spread over 11 woods, last year we recorded 86 pairs. First returns suggest that we could well exceed a hundred pairs this year.  Typical of this year  are the following numbers of occupied boxes in a surveyed woodland.                               
                                                 7 pairs 2014 - 14 so far this year
                                                 3    "        "        8   "        "
                                                 2    "        "        5   "        "
                                                 2    "        "        6   "        "
We still need the details from some of the larger woods but first reports suggest a similar increase. When we start to catch the adults it will be interesting to see if the increase is due to good survival of adults or of good numbers  of last years young returning or of course a combination of both.

Over the years the Group has ringed 9085 Pied Flys. Birds ringed as breeding adults manly return to the same wood but 15% moved within the Lune Valley and a very few move further afield. Only 3.9% of birds ringed as nestlings  are traced again. Of the returning birds 34% breed in their natal wood, 50% moved elsewhere in the Lune Valley and 16% move further afield to northern England south west  Scotland and Wales . One though was found nesting in western Germany and another caught on spring passage in Holland on May 4th and then found 33 days later in a nest box in Denmark.


Monday 4 May 2015

A Late Breeding Season 2

I have visited two of my nest box schemes over the past two days. Both are much later than last year but there was a interesting attitudinal difference . In the one at sea level out of 20 occupied boxes 6, all Great Tits were incubating, although they have only just got started. By this time in 2014 almost all were well into incubation.

In the scheme at around 200 metres no tits were incubating and only 9 had incomplete clutches. On the same day last year 8 were incubating and 6 had incomplete clutches. The great thing though at this upland Oak woodland was the numbers of Pied Flycatchers singing and entering nest boxes with 13  nests many of them complete.Some of these will turn out to be 'cock nests' but this compares with just seven pairs in 2014. This wood is part of our RAS Pied Flycatcher study and it was great to see 4 of the birds we got a good look at were ringed.

It was a great morning though. We ringed a further 11 Lapwing nestlings and it was great to see 2 families of 3 each, which we ringed a week ago were all still alive and sporting their rings! A visit to a farmer friend to inspect a  Barn Owl box we gave him last year produced a clutch of 4.  Cuckoos were calling and many Snipe drumming.

Tuesday 28 April 2015

A Late Breeding Season

Despite the few days of warm weather last week the spring here has been cold and many species appear to be having a late start to the breeding season. Have checked 175 nest boxes this week and only one Great Tit is incubating. Many of the others have just started to lay and in several cases they  have not laid an egg a day which is the usual pattern. This time last year the bulk of the population of both Blue and Great Tits were incubating.  However Pied Flycatchers  appeared well on time and already three have built nests.  Usually they arrive when most of the tits are incubating or laying.

Other species appear late, we ringed our first brood of Bearded Tits on on the 26th. The first brood in 2014 was ringed on April 14th. To date we have ringed nestling Song Thrush, Blackbird, Robin  and Lapwing.
Young Bearded Tit

Monday 20 April 2015

Avocet Returns to breed for the Fourth Year

A colour ringed male Avocet has returned to breed at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve for the fourth successive year. It was first ringed, presumably as a chick on 20th June 2008 near Nantes in North West France. It was sighted 45 times in this area in  all seasons and was last seen there in 2012 on 25th February. It then appeared at Leighton Moss on 26th March 2012. It was back in France in late September and was sighted eight times over the winter until it returned to Leighton Moss in late March 2013. It again wintered in North West France before returning to Leighton in late March 2014 and again successfully hatched a clutch. On its way south it was sighted in Lincolnshire on 31/7 before returning to France for  the winter. It was still in France on 18th March and was first sighted at Leighton on April 11th.

Thursday 2 April 2015

Black-tailed Godwits on the Move

The spring passage of Black-tailed Godwit is well underway with counts of up to 1750 on the Allen Pool at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve. Careful  scoping of the flock has revealed up to 8 different colour ringed birds to date.
A visit this morning when we saw 2 colour ringed birds inspired me to look up the details of the colour ringed birds we have records for. In total we have details of  51 different birds recorded as visiting our area the majority on spring and autumn migration. Of these 51 no fewer than 42 were originally ringed on the breeding grounds in Iceland between mid April to early August. 28 of them were ringed as adults the rest as chicks. When we report a sighting we receive details of both the original ringing information and also any subsequent sightings. Many of these have been sighted at other localities the record goes to a chick ringed in Iceland in July 1999 and sighted 201 times up to our sighting 15 years after ringing! All this information has given us an insight into the migration of this increasing wader.
Our population in winter usually numbers around the 5-600 mark but in spring numbers have peaked  3000 with up to 2000 on autumn passage. The colour ringing  shows that birds occurring on passage in our area winter further south with good numbers on the Dee and the Solent and down into France and Portugal. Some birds appear to use the same migration route in successive years with the largest numbers using the west coast route to Iceland. Others though  vary in their migration routes  as shown by many reports from The Wash and The Netherlands.
These results certainly show the value of colour ringing in studying the movements of such mobile species. We  look forward to finding

Monday 16 March 2015

Grey Wagtail Ringing

Grey Wagtails are a regular diurnal migrant in comparative small numbers  through North Lancashire from mid August to late October. They have been specially studied  at our ringing sites of Heysham and Middleton Nature Reserves resulting in the catching  and individually colour ringing of almost 400 birds.Interestingly all except one have been juveniles and we have only ever had two retraps.

Although 10 birds have been reported locally in winter there has been significant southerly movement with 4 autumn sightings in the Merseyside/Gt. Manchester area and one at Skokholm  in South Wales. Winter  sightings have been in Cheshire, Wolverhampton and Wiltshire .

There has only been two sightings during the breeding season both in South Cumbria so we have contacted as many people and organizations as possible who visit rivers to check any Grey Wagtails they see for colour rings. Ann  Ord Sykes's great photograph below shows the position of the rings. The  colour ring combinations are detailed below

LEFT LEG - a combination of RED and  BTO METAL  ring (please note which way round)
RIGHT LEGTWO COLOURS – please note which way round and (with blue and green) whether a light or dark colour.

 Please contact or text 07532433043 as soon as possible after the sighting. Thanks

Tuesday 24 February 2015

Recoveries Bonanza

A recent batch of 62 recoveries from the BTO brought some interesting info, all except 4 were of birds re-trapped by other ringers. We had reports of 9 Sand Martins from France bringing the total we have had reported on migration through France to 55. A juvenile ringed at the Lune colonies on 15 July was reported 933 km to the south 24 days later. Three Reed Warbler were also reported in France bringing the group’s total  from France to 30. One of them was 6 years old when re-trapped. More unusual  was a Reed Warbler from Belgium bringing our total from there to 5. Intrigues me that they cross the North Sea so early in their migration south. Four Sedge Warblers from France on southerly migration  brings the Group’s total in France to 50. The recoveries also  included details  of re-sightings of Belgium and Czech Republic Mediterranean Gulls which regularly winter here. The Czech bird is in its 12th year.

Quite a few of the recoveries were of birds that we usually think of as residents or at best short  distance partial migrants. Pride of place must go to 2 Long-tailed Tits ringed from a  group of 5 on 11th October and caught 36 days later 69 km  south in Cheshire. We have many retraps and recoveries suggesting this species rarely wanders more than 15 kms, but obviously some do occasionally. In 1993 we had 2 birds which moved 306 km north in just 19days. A juvenile Cetti’s Warbler ringed in mid-July near Wakefield was caught at Middleton 106 kms WNW  and 68 days later. Goldfinch have become common garden feeding birds in recent year. One ringed at feeder on 5th December 2011 was caught in January 2015 264 km  W in Co Tyrone Northern Ireland. A Bearded Tit ringed as a nestling this year and colour ringed as a juvenile was sighted in early October 30 km WSW , only the third Bearded Tit in recent years to have moved away from Leighton RSPB  Reserve. Finally a Greenfinch ringed October 2nd was found freshly dead 128 km  NW 20 days later.