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 7 December 2016

Nuthatch Colour Ringing study

We started the study in September 2015 . The main focus is Jerry and Barbara's woodland edge garden at Silverdale. To date we have ringed 29 Nuthatches in their garden.Only 2 and very occasionally three birds are ever seen at once in the garden. Just got the colour ring sightings for November. These total 107 sightings recorded over 27 days and involve 11 different birds plus at least one un-ringed bird. Five are birds ringed for the first time this late summer /autumn including two originally ringed as nestlings in the same nest box ca 3 km away.

One bird, white/blue has been recorded on 26 days this November. Birds seem to fall into two groups those that visit regularly with two other birds recorded on 18 and 19 days and two on 11 days, and those that visit only infrequently, usually under five days.

We have spent a morning ringing on two occasions each month and it is fascinating to compare the survival rates from colour ring sightings and from retraps in mist nets. Of 16 birds colour ringed in August/September 2015 no fewer than 11(69%)have been re-sighted a year later, but only 2 (12.5%) have been re-trapped. Shows the value of colour ringing and of course the value of dedicated re-sighting.

Wednesday 30 November 2016

Bearded Tit Gritting Season Draws to A Close

The last few days have seen very little activity on the gritting trays at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve. From September 23rd to November 27th we have recorded a total of 307 sightings of colour ringed birds involving 64 different individuals. Of these 36 were adult birds and 28 this years young.
We don't record every day but we have some interesting statistics on the number of visits birds make to the trays.Sixteen have been recorded on only one day. At the other end of the scale the most recorded bird was a juvenile female which visited on 15 days visiting first on September 30 and last on November 27th.
At each visit the birds sort through the grit which is mainly builders sharp sand. They can stop on the trays for up to 10-15 minutes and they appear to swallow regularly. This is in line with some research in Germany where they found an average of 609 small stones and a maximum of 850 stones in the gizzard in early winter when they are feeding mainly on reed seeds, but only 38 in spring when they turn to invertebrates.
One question I am often asked- Does this consumption of grit increase the birds weight. I looked at the weights of birds we have caught and weighed this year. In July the average weight of 22 birds was 14.1 gms. in October the average weigh of 40 birds was 15.2 and of 22 birds in November it was 15.7. So they have certainly increased their weight by around a gram and a half.Would need a much larger sample and a statistical test to prove the increase. But its interesting and does at first sight suggest that taking grit may well play a part in the increase.We have checked birds for any fat and there is very little.

Sunday 13 November 2016

Bearded Tits Still Gritting

Gritting continues especially on cold mornings. On Monday I recorded 14 different birds including 10 at once spread across the three grit trays at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve. Difficult with so many birds present to work out pairings, all your attention goes into recording the colour ring combinations. They performed for ca ten minutes for an audience of 12 delighted birders, some who had never seen bearded Tits before. To date we have recorded 298 sightings of colour ringed birds involving 61 different birds. Of these 34 were adults and 27 birds hatched this year.Of the 61 35 were males and 26 females.

Yesterday though there were just four birds present, two apparent pairs. They gritted as pairs on separate trays. If any of the other pair attempted to join the other pair they were chased off.On checking their records I found they further proved what we have recorded on many occasions that Bearded Tits form pairs in their first autumn and if they survive they stay together through the year.

The first pair were hatched in spring 2015. They were first recorded together on 26th September and were recorded together on 5 occasions on the grit trays in October and November that year. This year they have been recorded together, either retrapped or sighted on the grit trays on 11 occasions.

The other pair were recorded together on seven occasions from late September to November in 2015.They we caught together on June 6th this year and have been recorded together on five occasions this October/November.

Very few other species form pairs early in life or remain together in successive winters.

Wednesday 2 November 2016

Bearded Tit Gritting Season Continues

Since late September through to today we have recorded 255 colour ringed sightings of Bearded Tits almost all of them on grit trays along the Causeway at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve. These have involved 59 different birds. Of these 33 were adults and 26 birds of the year. Of the 59, 33 were males and 26 females.

In our long term study of this species we have this year through retraps and sightings recorded 23 adult males and 18 adult females and 30 young birds making a total of 71 birds, so the 58 recorded gritting so far this season represents quite a large proportion of the known total population. These figures and those of the grit trays suggest that there are more males than females in the population. The catching of only 30 young suggests that productivity this year has been low and to date no unringed birds have been seen on the trays.

Past studies has shown that most birds visit the trays on under five days, but others make more visits with a record of 24 days by a first year female. Some birds visit early in the season then visit later presumably to top up the grit in their gizzards which they need this time of year as they change their diet from insects to the much harder reed seed. A German study found that in winter the average number of small stones in the gizzard was 609 with a maximum of 850, by contrast in spring they only averaged 38.

Gritting takes place usually between 08.00 and 12.00 and continues into mid December.

Sorry I have lots of photographs of the gritting behavior but for some reason the blog will not accept them.

Thursday 20 October 2016

A Record Day

Yesterday was something of a record day. We caught 4 Cetti's Warblers in one net line. We have only caught singles before of this recent colonist. Up to 5 or 6 birds have been singing at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve. One assumes that our catch originates from these breeding birds. However last October we controlled a bird which had been ringed just 38 days previously at Wood Walton Fen in Cambridgeshire a movement of 299 km in 38 days. So you never know.

We also caught our third Yellow-browed Warbler of the autumn and 8 Siskin the best catch so far this autumn.

But the most unusual catch was of a pair of Bearded Tits with consecutive ring numbers. I was amazed to find that they had been ringed as nestlings in the same nest in April 2014. We have ringed 673 nestling Bearded Tits as part of our long term study of this species. Many have been retrapped as adults but this is the first time we have recorded siblings as an apparent pair. Our observations do suggest that Bearded Tits do form lasting pairs. Interestingly neither of these birds have been recorded on the grit trays over the past two years.

Saturday 15 October 2016

Bearded Tit Gritting Season in Full Swing

To date we have recorded 50 different colour ringed Bearded Tits using the grit trays at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve. Of these, 27 are adult birds and 25 of this years young. No un-ringed birds have been recorded to date.

The first birds have been arriving on most days around 08.00 and the last leaving around 11.30. Wednesday the 12th was the best day this week when due to dedicated coverage by Alan, Pauline and Judith Gallagher no fewer than 28 birds visited the tray to stock up on grit as they change their diet from soft insects to the much harder reed seed.

To date in our ringing study this year we have identified 21 adult males and 17 adult females. Of these 38, at least 27 have visited the grit trays. Productivity appears to have been rather low as to date we have only caught and colour ringed 27 young birds of which an amazing 25 have visited the grit trays. We have this year been restricted to just three sites due to difficulty of access so we may have missed some but you wold expect unringed birds to start appearing.

Monday 3 October 2016

A Bearded Tit Weekend

A great weekend for the 24th year of our Bearded Tit study at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve. With excellent ringing weather on Sunday and much activity on the grit trays. In total we recorded 43 birds. This included 21 mist netted including six not ringed before and 22 on the grit trays. All the grit tray sightings were of colour ringed birds, not an unringed bird in sight! So far for our RAS study we have caught or sighted 30 adults- 16 males and 14 females. Two were first ringed as juveniles in 2013, 13 in 2014 and 15 in 2015. We usually pick up more adults over the next 10 weeks or so of the gritting season. I estimate that the breeding population this year is ca. 25 pairs.

Most of the birds visiting the grit trays at the start of the season are adults. This was true of a party of five today.A male and a female gritted together and were obviously a pair. They gritted together in early October 2015. If they both survive Bearded Tits seem to pair as juveniles and remain together for life. We keep detailed records of all sightings. Many birds are recorded gritting on only one day but some occur on up to 17 days. Often birds grit early in the season then have a break and return later.


Wednesday 28 September 2016

Nuthatch Project Latest Report

The Group started colour ringing Nuthatch in spring 2015 with the view to starting an RAS (Retrapping Adults for Survival) on this species.Our activities have been centered round the well wooded Silverdale area where we have two feeding stations and seven nest box schemes. In total we have colour ringed 75 birds of which 44 have been nestlings.

Most of the adults have been ringed in Jerry and Barbara's woodland edge garden. They have meticulously recorded almost daily sightings. Between mid August and early April we colour ringed 22 adults there.Of the 16 ringed in August and September 2015 no fewer than 11 were still visiting the feeders a year later. This gives a yearly survival of 69.8%. We have had five ringing sessions in their garden since late summer and have only retrapped two giving a survival rate of only 12.5%. Certainly shows the value of colour ringing and close observation and recording and plenty of bird food!.

We did however catch and colour ring seven new birds on our five ringing sessions. Obviously young birds moving in. Two of them were from the same brood and had been ringed in a nest box two km. away. A bird ringed for the first time in late February and not seen again was sighted at feeders 3 km away from July on.

Friday 23 September 2016

Bearded Tit Gritting Season Gets Underway

Spent nearly two hours watching the grit trays at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve this morning, hoping to get sightings of our colour ringed Bearded Tits. Just about to pack up when a male appeared at 09.33 and spent ca 4 mins gritting.

At home checked its details on IPMR. It had been ringed as a juvenile in June 15th 2015 and had been seen at a successful nest in one of our reed wigwam nest box in early June 2016. The fascinating thing is that it was one of the first birds to start gritting in 2015 being seen on the trays first on 20th September.In total it was recorded on the trays on 11 days in autumn 2016 between September 20th and 23rd October.Bearded Tits need grit in the gizzard because this time of year they change their diet from insects to the much harder reed seed. A German study found up to 850 pieces of grit in one gizzard in autumn but only 35 in spring.

Like last year it looks like an early start to the season. In the three years 2012 to 2014 gritting didn't start until September 29th. When in full swing gritting usually starts ca an hour after sunrise and last for around 2-3 hours from late September to mid December. The grit trays are along side the path which crosses the reserve.


Sunday 18 September 2016

Reed Warbler RAS Results

Just about the end of the Reed warbler season and a chance to compare this season's results with previous years. This is the 20th year of our study at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve where we run a Reed Warbler RAS as a side line to our main study of the Bearded Tit populations.

Due mainly to poor ringing weather especially early in the season our visits at 33 have been lower than usual,this compares with 46 in 2015.

We caught 104 adults(61 new and 43 retraps). This compares with 140 (84 new and 56 retraps) adults last year, but allowing for the drop in effort early in the season it does suggest a possible small drop in the breeding population. Productivity though has been better with 350 juveniles ringed compared to 267 last year and possibly a few yet to come if we get out in the next few days.

Of the retrap adults the oldest was 8 years, one at 5 years and 5 at four years. A highlight was the catching of a Spanish ringed bird ringed on autumn passage in North Spain, only our fifth from that country although we have had 29 from France, 8 from Portugal and 4 from Morocco.One of our juveniles ringed on July 6th was caught 31 days later at Icklesham East Sussex making 51 Reed Warblers we have had reported from Sussex.

Tuesday 6 September 2016

Good Productivity by Resident Species

It certainly looks as though most of our resident species have had a good breeding season. To date we have made four post breeding season visits to Jerry and Barbara's woodland edge garden and caught 375 different birds. This compares with last seasons 13 visits between August and April when we handled 571 individuals. We are using the same 100 foot of mist nets throughout

So far this season we have caught 90 Great Tits compared to 85 in the whole of last season. Bullfinch at 25 compared to just 21 last season and we have already caught 22 Great Spotted Woodpeckers the same as last season. Blue Tits totaled 153 last season but already this season we have caught 133. Most other species have done really well the one exception is Coal Tit with only 16 so far this season compared to 115 last season in total. Few Coal Tits breed locally and we usually get an influx from breeding areas further north later in the season.

Good productivity is shown by the high numbers of juveniles in the catch. Blue Tits are typical 91% were juveniles compared to 63% last season after poor productivity.


Sunday 28 August 2016

Blue tits have Excellent Productivity

After an excellent breeding season in our nest boxes with good sized broods and very few dead youngsters we expected good numbers of tits this summer in our mist netting sites. Our predictions proved true and although I have not got full details from all Group members as yet, all report good numbers of young birds, especially Blue Tits during August. For the catch of 240 that I have the data for, the percentage of adult Blue Tits in the catch is very low at just 5% suggesting excellent productivity. This compares with 2015 when after a poor breeding season the adult percentage was 37 % suggesting very low productivity.

Great Tit suggest a similar pattern although we ring smaller numbers (74) but Adult percentage is 16% compared to 31% last year.

Willow Warblers continue to pass through in good numbers, although as would be expected in smaller numbers than mid month but Chiffchaff have increased.


Tuesday 16 August 2016

Willow Warblers Still on a Roll

A record catch of 88 Willow warblers today at Leighton Moss brought our total catch for the year to 382, 97 more than the whole season in 2015 and they usually continue to pass through to early September. Suggests an excellent breeding season for this species. Included in today's catch was an adult control, will be interesting to see where it originates from. Other birds caught included 42 Reed Warblers and 17 Sedge Warblers, a Tree Pipit and a Whitethroat added variety.

Wednesday 3 August 2016

Willow Warblers on a Roll

Our recent catches at Leighton Moss have been dominated by Willow Warblers, partly because the nets in the reed bed have been exposed to wind reducing the catch of Reed Warblers and Bearded Tits but the  nets near willows are more sheltered. However its interesting to compare this years catch with the  same period over the past three years. To date this year we have caught 225, this compares with an average catch of just 107 over the past three years. This suggests good productivity this year in common with many other species. Our local Willow Warblers  have maintained their populations. However ringing recoveries from previous years suggest that  the bulk of the passage population originates in Scotland with 15 recoveries there mainly in the breeding season. We have also ringed more Chiffchaff although their main passage period is usually a little later.

Thursday 28 July 2016

Further Evidence of an Excellent Breeding Season

I have already reported about the good productivity of our nest box schemes,  now our ringing sessions provides further proof . A  further visit to Jerry and Barbara's garden brought the total Great Tit catch  for the month to 81 which compares to  last years total from August to April of 85! Blue Tits were 91 compared to 153 in the whole of last season. Great Spotted Woodpeckers an amazing 21 one short of last seasons total and Bullfinch 24 last month compared to  only 21  last year. All proof of an excellent season with almost all of these birds being juveniles.

At our reed bed site at Leighton Moss  because of poor weather we visited in July on four less occasions than in 2012 but allowing for this Willow,  Sedge  and Reed Warblers are all well up as  are Blue Tits. Blue Tits are interesting, the percentage of adults in last seasons catch was17% this year it is only 2.5% a sure sign of good productivity.

Just got the results of our Pied Flycatcher RAS in the Lune valley. We  ringed 483 nestlings which is 163 up on 2015 even though the breeding population was ca 10 pairs lower this year. and there was high predation at two sites.

Will be interesting to see if this good productivity results in good ringing catches as the season progresses .


Sunday 17 July 2016

A Woodpecker Morning

A stronger than forecast wind made us change locations from our reed bed site to the more sheltered woodland edge garden of Jerry and Barbara. Even here we could  set only two nets and the wind was not helpful but we caught 76 birds. The highlight was the catching of a record 10 Great Spotted Woodpeckers. Taking the catch earlier in the week this was a total of at least 16  visiting the well provisioned feeders. This was made up of 3 adult  males, one adult female and 12 juveniles. In total all of last season in 15 visits from August to April we only caught 20 different birds so like many other species productivity appears to be good this year. We also had Green Woodpeckers regularly yaffling and were rewarded with several excellent views, but not near the nets unfortunately.

Other catches brought the total of Bullfinch over the two days to 23 which is three more than the whole of last season. Great Tits at 61 different birds is 24 behind last seasons totals. Blue tit at 52 compares with 153 last year. Again showing what a productive season it has been. Perhaps the most interesting catch was two each of House Sparrow and  Starling. Last season we only caught three House Sparrows and no Starlings!

Friday 15 July 2016

A Nine Year Old Reed Warbler

The catching yesterday of Reed Warbler X091217 produced interesting findings. It had been first ringed 7 years 359 days previously  as an adult so it was at least 9 years old. Perhaps the most interesting finding was that it had not been retrapped since 2008 despite  our RAS study on Reed Warblers at Leighton Moss in which we catch around  160 adults each year, although there are probably 200+ Reed Warbler pairs breeding at Leighton. Our oldest ringed Reed Warbler was  9 years and 293 days after ringing as a juvenile. The national record is 13 years. Always intrigues me that Reed Warblers appear to live quite a bit longer than other warblers. Our record for Sedge Warbler, Willow Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat is 5+ years and Blackcap 4 years. Amazing  that yesterdays bird has made the trip to West Africa and back 9 times.

The highlight of the previous days ringing was the catching of  a Reed Warbler  with a Icona Madrid ring. This is only our fourth Reed Warbler from Spain.  It was extracted from the net by Javier who comes from Spain, we thought at first he was having us on until he produced the bird!

Tuesday 12 July 2016

A Good Start to the Season

Paid our first visit of the season today to Jerry & Barbara's woodland edge garden as part of our colour ringed Nuthatch study. In total with only two nets set we caught 125 birds. Six were Nuthatch, of which 4 were juveniles and so were colour ringed. A total of  43 Great Tits and 31 Blue Tits almost all of which were juveniles, was further evidence that tits have had an excellent  season in our area. The 43 Great Tits compares with a total catch of 84 over last autumn and winter. Perhaps the most unexpected catch was  of 17 Bullfinch, again suggesting a good season. this compares with only 21 in total last season. Other highlights were 6 Great Spotted Woodpeckers. Quite a morning and it certainly kept all four of us busy.


Monday 4 July 2016

An Excellent Year for Nest Box Species

This has been an excellent breeding season for the three main specie nesting in the six nest box schemes that I record. After last years abysmal productivity, I expected  numbers to be down and this was the case in all species -Great Tit declined from 48 pairs to 41, Blue Tit from 50 to 45 and Pied Flycatcher from 26 pairs to 19.

Productivity though was excellent 88% of Great Tit nests were successful compared to just 49%in 2015. Blue tits were 83% compared to 49% and Pied Flycatcher 84% compared to 55%. In consequence  numbers fledged were well up as brood sizes were also larger. In total 202 Great Tits fledged compared to 108 in 2015,  Blue Tits 243 compared to 158 and Pied Flycatchers  97 compared to 39.

Obviously caterpillars must have been abundant at the right time with very few dead young in the nest. Also with broods being well fed they were not calling for food so  did not attract the attention of predators. Certainly lots of young tits around in the woods at the moment.


Monday 27 June 2016

Our Nuthatch Study

I have reported several times about  our Nuthatch colour ringing study in Jerry and  Barbara's garden at Silverdale. Since September 2015 we have caught a total of 21 Nuthatch coming to their well provisioned feeders. The most birds they see at once  on the feeders is usually two.
Numbers recorded each month have varied a little with 12 in December and January, 13 in February and a peak of 15 different birds in March. We rather expected numbers to decline  in April but13 were recorded in April and 11 in May. These are minimal numbers as un-ringed birds have  seen throughout.
The May figure of 11 included 8 which were regular visitors suggesting four pairs breeding in the surrounding woodland with  three others visiting very occasionally possibly birds from further  afield tempted by the abundant fare in the feeders.

Sunday 19 June 2016

An Excellent Breeding season

Judging by my nest boxes it has been an excellent breeding season. Tits have done well with  little predation and  only one  dead young in the 90 occupied boxes I have checked and brood size has been quite high.This week ends ringing produced 21 young Blue Tits  also the first young Reed Warbler and Willow Warblers, ten days earlier than last year. Of the 20 Pied Flycatcher nests two still have young to  ring and two were lost to predation. Of the others, brood size was good  averaging 6.8.
The other woods in our Pied Flycatcher RAS report similar findings although two have experienced heavy predation probably by weasels.

Over the next few months  will be working on our Bearded tit and Reed Warbler RAS. So far have caught 46 adult Reed Warbler and 16 adult Bearded Tits.

Wednesday 8 June 2016

Sand Martin Ringing On The River Lune

The Sand Martin ringing season is about to get underway. I have prepared an account of our activities at the colonies on the River Lune to  to to provide information to those landowners and farmers  who have kindly given members of the North Lancashire Ringing Group access to their land to undertake our studies. I thought I would share this on the Blog.

We carry out a census each year of the breeding colonies from Skerton Lancaster  to Kirkby Lonsdale by counting occupied nest holes. Over the past five years the population has ranged between 3026 pairs (2011) and 1309 (2014). We have 40 years of counts and historically the population has varied between 370 (1984) and the recent high of 3026 in 2011. It is  thought that these fluctuations are mainly due to drought conditions in their African wintering areas causing high mortality, but river floods during the breeding season and lack of suitable nesting banks have also played their part.
Since 2001 we have caught nearly 27,000 Sand Martins mainly at the Lune colonies. The recovery locality of those reported away from the Lune is shown in the table below. Around 99% of these are birds caught be other bird ringers and released both in Britain and abroad.
Recovery  Localities of Sand Martins Ringed on the River Lune 











South Coast


East Anglia










The late summer migration is well shown with  first brood juveniles already in East Anglia and the Midlands in late June and on into July many of these are caught on migration ,roosting in colonies on their way south, until the colonies are vacated in early August then they roost in reed-beds or maize fields  with Swallows.  The recoveries from Scotland are mainly .of juveniles  caught roosting in our colonies on their way south. The speed of departure was well shown this year by-one of the few birds we have ringed as a nestling. It probably left the nest about the 18th of June but it was caught27 days later in Northern France a distance of 493 km SE, certainly a quick mover.  By . July many birds are along the south coast and into France, a movement that continues throughout July and reaches a peak in August then on to early September with adults and second brood youngsters joining in. August is the peak month for passage through western France and on into  Spain. Smaller numbers occur in France in September with none at all in October by which time they have moved in to Eastern Spain to eventually reach their wintering areas in West  Africa where we have six recoveries from Senegal.
Spring migration is not well documented as  little ringing takes place, also birds are moving through quickly and return to the  colonies where  ringing is not attempted to avoid disturbance at this critical time. Returns from Spain and France suggest a similar route to autumn.


Sunday 5 June 2016

Pied Flycatchers Do Well

Have 21 pairs of Pied Flycatchers spread over 3 woods in the Lune Valley. One pair down on 2015 but all are doing well with no losses to predation. Have ringed seven broods so far six had seven young and one six.
 Interesting behavior at two  nests while we were catching the males. At one two males were around the nest box and another there were three males. Quite a bit of chasing between the males. Never seen this behavior before.

Both tit species are down following last years poor productivity but they are also doing  well with little predation and reasonable brood size.

Monday 30 May 2016

A Morning with Bearded Tits

Spent an interesting morning using new technology to  watch a pair of Bearded Tits feeding their brood of six young in one of my nest boxes at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve. This is part of my 17 year study of this species, the results of which have just been published in Ringing &Migration. To get the colour ring combinations of the adults I used to move a hide near to the nest over 3 days or so, quite a task when you had10-15 nests. Recently we have used motion activated cameras but yesterday we positioned a small camera  to give a good view of the entrance and  we could watch what went on on a tablet siting in deck chairs along a nearby ride! With the zoom we could identify most of the prey the adults were bringing in, mainly blue tailed damsel flies. They were feeding ca ever 4-5 mins. and quite unusually the pair came in together almost all the time. We  easily got the colour ring combinations and discovered that they were the same pair which had already reared a brood of five in a nest box 110 metres  away. The young from this nest had fledged on 21st of April and the first egg of this second brood was laid just 11 days later.

Wednesday 25 May 2016

Nestbox Carnage

The first visit to our nestboxes in Pott Yeats Wood this season augered well - 7 boxes with Pied Flycatcher nests out of the total of 43 boxes, a good proportion for this relatively low altitude valley woodland.

However, today's visit told a very different story.  All 7 nests contained many fragments of eggshell, the result of predation probably by a mammal species (possibly Woodmouse).

It was a depressing day, lifting one lid after another to find yet more predation.  In all, 10 clutches had been destroyed (7 Pied Flycatcher, 3 Blue Tit) out of a total of 18 nests (7 Blue Tit, 4 Great Tit, 7 Pied Flycatcher).  The predated nests were spread evenly throughout the wood.  A further visit in a couple of weeks will be made to check for second attempts, although there will be little chance of this unless the weather warms up somewhat - it seems so sad that that the birds have made the long journey from south of the Sahara only to have their eggs eaten and then to return with no young produced.

Perhaps the anti-midge net ordered last weekend will not see any use this year after all!


Friday 6 May 2016

Pied Flycatchers Arrive in Force

A careful count on a morning visit  yesterday to one of our main Pied Flycatcher RAS woods, gave  a total of 19 males but only 1 female. The wood resounded to Pied Fly song and many were visiting nest  boxes although we found only two nests in the early stages. Last year we had 14 pairs using the nest boxes in this wood so the omens look good for this year. We also had a pair of Redstarts around the  box they used last year and for the first time in four years a singing Wood Warbler, while a Cuckoo called at the edge of the wood. A great morning!

Tits though were rather sparse. we had only four nests with eggs, on the same date last year we had nine but this years cold spring appears to have delayed laying both here and at our other nest box schemes.

Richard has done a great job searching for colour ringed Black-tailed Godwits in a flock of around 1750 which frequent the Leighton Moss RSPB reserve area on spring passage. He has sighted at least eight originally ringed on their breeding area in Iceland, and one from the wintering area in France. The information amassed is amazing, one of the colour ringed birds has ben sighted 111 times over six years and has visited four of the major estuaries in Britain. This year  most departed in late  April /early May. Two birds have already been reported from Iceland, both were last sighted at Leighton on 29 April and seen on the breeding areas in Iceland 4 and 6 days later.

Wednesday 4 May 2016

The Movement Continues

A further batch of recoveries and controls of Lesser Redpoll, Siskin and Goldfinch adds more information to my last post on these three species.

Pride of place goes to a Goldfinch recaptured at Nigg Ferry on the Cromarty Firth NE Scotland on 21 April just 13 days after ringing in our area. This is our first Goldfinch from NE Scotland.  A Lesser Redpoll caught on passage at Heysham on April 19th had been  ringed 20 days previously in Staffordshire. Other birds  caught while wintering  in Cambridge and Notts. were also caught in  our  area on spring passage.

Two Siskin ringed in past years in our  area were caught in NE Scotland in mid and late April bringing our  total  of Siskin from this area to 25.

Finally a juvenile  Sand Martin  ringed in mid July on the River Lune was caught 17 days later in Western France bringing the total of our Sand Martins reported from France  to 52.


Sunday 1 May 2016

Finches on the Move

The spring move north of Goldfinch, Siskin and Lesser Redpoll is well underway,although it may be delayed somewhat by the unseasonably cold spring weather. Certainly all three have been coming to garden bird feeders, especially Mark's and Dave's in the south east of our area. In total we have caught around 3-400 of each species so  far this year.

This has produced a nice flush of recoveries adding further to our knowledge of these species wintering and breeding areas and their time of movement.The quickest mover was a Lesser Redpoll ringed in Powys on April10th and caught 6 days later by Mark. It is only our second Redpoll from Wales. Birds which had wintered in Surrey and Berkshire brings our total from   SE England  and the South Midlands to 36 showing this to be the main wintering  area for our passage birds.

A Siskin recaptured at Shebster (Highland) on the April 8th had been ringed by Dave  41 days previously and brings our total of Siskin from NE Scotland to 22 showing this to be the main breeding area of our birds for this early breeder.

We have much less information about Goldfinch which have been especially abundant at garden feeders this late winter/spring. Recoveries in spring in Argyll and Galloway bring our reports from these areas to the second and third only. The one recaptured in Galloway on April 2nd had been ringed by Dave just 10 days previously. But Marks retrap of a French ringed Goldfinch in late April breaks new ground as our first foreign report of this species.


Tuesday 19 April 2016

2015 Annual report

The North Lancs Ringing Group annual report is now available for download here.

Many thanks to all who contributed.

Saturday 16 April 2016

A Bullfinch Morning

The highlight of a morning visit to Jerry and Barbara's woodland edge garden at Silverdale was the catching of 12 Bullfinch. This compares with just 10 over the winter in 13 ringing visits. The down side was that we couldn't ring two of them because of warty growths on the legs, the first time we have recorded this in Bullfinch. We have had several Chaffinch with the same problem but on this visit we caught seven all with no problems.One further Bullfinch had been ringed by Andrew in his Over Kellet garden in January 2012 so  it had moved 8 km the longest Bullfinch movement we have recorded. This also was showing slight signs of  leg warts.

The catching of two more Great Spotted Woodpeckers brings the total since August to 22 and reflects the large amount of woodland in the Silverdale area. Nuthatch stand at 19 for the same period. Blue Tits at 152, Coal Tits 115 and Great Tit 83.   These figures refer to the total number of individuals caught with retraps from previous years only counted once.

The Lesser Redpoll spring passage is underway, on the day after the above catch we caught 17 of which two were controls. Of 170  caught to date so far this year by the Group seven have been controls, averaging ca 1 in 25.

Monday 28 March 2016

Garden Ringing Update

Been an interesting winter at Jerry and Barbara's woodland edge garden at Silverdale .  Highlights of our 13 visits  have been the catching of  20 Great Spotted Woodpeckers compared with  only 8 last winter with 8 visits. Nuthatch  were 19 this winter compared to only 5 last winter. We have colour ringed all the Nuthatch and have had 524 sightings logged to the end of February. In total 13 individuals were visiting the well stocked feeders in February. will be interesting to see how many continue to visit as the breeding season approaches.

Following poor productivity last breeding season Blue Tits  at 150  compared to 244 last year are well down,  but Coal Tits are up, 111 compared to 47 last year. Only one Siskin has been caught. Its interesting to compare  the catch at Mark's and Dave's gardens inland in NE Lancashire and close to the Bowland Fells. Up to mid March they had caught 288 Siskins and 185 Lesser Redpolls, but only 5 Nuthatch, 8 Great Spotted Woodpeckers and 54 Coal Tits.


Monday 29 February 2016

A Record Breaking Ringed Plover

Kevin Briggs has just given me details of a colour ringed sighting of a Ringed Plover that he saw  on 22  June this year at Melling on the River Lune. It was originally colour ringed as a juvenile   on 10 July 1993 two kms from where it was sighted this year. Making it 21 years  11 months and 13 days old. It beats the  present oldest recorded Ringed Plover which was ringed as  an adult on The Wash and last recorded  19 years  8 months and 19 days after ringing.

Kevin has recorded this bird for the past four years breeding on  a maize field. This bird is part of Kevin's long term  study of this species breeding on the gravel  banks of the River Lune. He has another bird also ringed as a juvenile which was 13 years and 355 days when last seen also on a maize field.

The Lancaster and District BWS has censused the breeding birds of the lower section of the River Lune each year for the past 41 years. Ringed Plover have declined from a peak of 42 pairs in the 1970's to just  four pairs in  2009 due to  regular spring and summer  flooding  of the gravel  nesting sites.  This year nine pairs attempted to  nest but the only successful pairs were the four pairs nesting on maize fields.

Sunday 28 February 2016

Scandinavian Rock Pipit in North Lancashire

The problem with Scandinavian Rock Pipit in winter is that many individuals are inseparable from our nominate Anthus petrosus petrosus (subsequently referred to as ‘petrosus’).  That has led to several  county and regional bird reports being  a bit reluctant to document Anthus petrosus littoralis unless this relates to individuals (usually in spring) which show a subtle combination of characters which suggest they are not petrosus (e.g. well-defined supercilium, ‘cleaner’ more individual breast streaking and noticeable white (not muddy white) outer tail feathers, with the more clear-cut individuals superficially resembling Water Pipit) 

It has been increasingly apparent in this country that there is a quite specific outer saltmarsh habitat which does not 'proximately overlap' with rocky coasts and shorelines which has its own wintering population of Rock Pipits.  The problem with this habitat is that at many sites the birds are 'impossible' to watch closely and document unless there are high spring tides forcing them to the inner end of the saltmarsh within observational range.   Therefore opportunities to study them can be limited to just two or three tides per winter period month.  This is because they feed in the outer saltmarsh creeks and are very reluctant to leave this area unless the adjoining saltmarsh is completely inundated by the tide.  Birders also tend to ‘ignore’ them as they search for the occasional Water Pipit (or hope for a long-shot Buff-bellied Pipit) during these limited opportunities. 

Here is an extract from the Christchurch Harbour Ornithological Group website:  "The location of winter pipits within the recording area can be used as an indicator as to the likely species or race. Rock Pipit seen on the Hengistbury shoreline or Stanpit river bank are almost exclusively Western European petrosus birds, some of which are thought to be resident and form the Hengistbury breeding population.  However, Rock Pipit encountered on the saline marshes of Stanpit are candidates for littoralis race.  Of course, many are simply indistinguishable from petrosus , but there are often individuals that stand out from the crowd".  See also:
for a closer look at the problem of field identification

In north Germany, for example, there are no breeding (or wintering) petrosus Rock Pipit and the species is exclusively of the form littoralis and a denizen of the muddy outer saltmarsh creeks.  Here it feeds on e.g. hydrobia which is, of course, an abundant food source in our own outer saltmarsh creeks and utilised by e.g. Redshank and Shelduck (ref:   Dierschke and  Bairlein: Habitat selection of wintering passerines in saltmarshes)

Here in Lancashire/Morecambe Bay, with one small exception,  we do not have resident  'rocky coast pipits' breeding nearby.  Apart from an isolated pair in at least 2015 on Chapel  Island in the Leven Estuary, the nearest breeding birds are St Bees in Cumbria and North Wales.  The migration Atlas, utilising ringing data, also deems petrosus as 'mainly sedentary', whilst conversely the Scandinavian form is known to be migratory.  However, we do receive the occasional 'dark smudgy-breasted individuals with 'no' supercilium' at rocky sites such as Heysham Harbour with two cases of late spring birds holding temporary territory around Heysham Head/Harbour, including "a few"  observations of parachute flight.   It is presumed that these might be wandering petrosus, but we have no ringing evidence, just a combination of habitat and temporary territorial behaviour

However, by far and away the preferred habitat for Rock Pipit in Lancashire is exactly that of known littoralis in Germany; outer saltmarsh creeks.    We have already had confirmation of this with two previous sightings of Scandinavian birds - one fully documented, the other not narrowed down to an individual.  Now we have a third, but unlike the two previous ones, this was well-photographed.

As can be seen from the photograph of this latest colour-ringed bird, there is little or nothing to suggest that it is any different from our resident petrosus, but, in Lancashire, as in many other coastal counties, it is surely time to assume all the saltmarsh Rock Pipits are littoralis by virtue of clear-cut habitat preference (beware the occasional Water Pipit).  This should be reflected in county and regional bird reports and indeed, in a county such as Lancashire, maybe the ones deserving individual documentation are the occasional rocky habitat individuals suggesting dispersing petrosus!    Caution is obviously needed with birds on passage e.g. small numbers of presumed littoralis pass through Heysham on especially autumn passage and documentation of littoralis should be limited to winter residents flushed out during saltmarsh inundation

Thanks to Chris Batty (photo supplier) and Andrew Cornall for persevering with this bird, leading to documentation and the Lancaster RSPB group for first drawing attention to it

Ring no:Stavanger 8E28835

Yellow colour ring HJP (Left tarsus metal ring. Right tarsus yellow ring with three black letters HJP engraved).

Age/sex:: Adult female (hatched 2013 or before).

Biometrics:  Wing  83 mm. Weight: 19,8 g.

Ringing date: 22.08.2013, 0900 hrs.

Ringing place: Makkevika (62*30'N-006*02'E) Giske, Giske, Møre &Romsdal, Norway.

Remarks: Caught in walk-in-trap at our wader station (Giske Ornithological Station).

Ringer: Sunnmøre Ringing Group.

Finding date: 09.02-12.02.2016, almost certainly the bird seen in January

Observed: Pilling Marsh (53*56'N-002*53'W) Lancashire, England / UK.

Remarks: Photo-documented

Observers: Andrew Cornall and Chris Batty

Distance:1084 SSW.

Further information
Colour-ringing in Norway:
Sunnmøre Ringing Group hope that you will look for flagged Common Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula),  Common Sandpiper(Actitis hypoleuca), Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola)and Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea).  All these species have metal ring on left tarsus, red colour ring on left tibia and yellow flag on right tibia engraved with 3 black letters.

Pete Marsh