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

Sunday 17 December 2017

A Robin Morning

Visited our small woodland feeding station yesterday morning and was amazed that with just two small nets set only 5 metres apart we caught 9 different Robins of which 7 were new birds. The two retraps were one from last year which has been a regular this autumn and another ringed as a bird of the year in October. So far this autumn we have paid 5 visits and on the previous four visits we have caught 2 on two of them and 3 on one and none at all on an October visit.So far this autumn we have caught 14 different birds. This compares with just 5 in the same period last year.

I realize that the territories of this normally territorial bird often break down with an abundant food supply but I have never caught so many Robins. It could be that food is short in the surrounding woodland and farmland, but there are other feeding stations in the gardens close by. Or has there been an influx of continental birds?

Monday 11 December 2017

Bearded Tit Gritting Report & Reed Warbler Survival

The Bearded Tit gritting season at RSPB Leighton Moss, has just about finished. In total I have received details of 355 colour ringed sightings of 69 different birds. Of these 41 are adults and 28 birds of the year. Gritting started early this year in mid September and it appears to have finished earlier than usual. The number of times that birds visit varies considerably. Two birds both adults, were recorded on 15 days. While 20 birds were recorded just once. The ones that visit the most usually follow the pattern of gritting for a few days early in the season and then have a second bout of gritting, probably to top up later in the season.
One of the joys of watching the birds so relatively close is the pleasure visitors get out of seeing these usually difficult to see birds so close and for so long. Last week I had three people who had been visiting the reserve for 20 year but this was the first time they had seen Bearded Tits.Their joy knew no bounds.

The high water levels following heavy rain has restricted our ringing activities so I had time to look at our Reed Warbler data. Reed Warblers are one of our longest lived small birds. Of 1173 recaptures of adult birds I found the numbers of each age class from one to ten years as follows- One year 622, 2 year 239, 3 year 147, 4 year 85, 5 year 38, 6 year 23 ,7 year 7,8 year 8, 9 year 2 and 10 year 2.
The thought of a small bird making 10 return journeys to West Africa is really amazing. Their navigation skills are incredible.

Knot update

On the 22nd September 2017 519 Knot were colour ringed at Formby point (see previous posts).  In the first couple of weeks we received about 100 sightings from the local area with good numbers feeding in land at Caldy wildfowl collection.  I knew Black-tailed godwit fed on swollen grain readily however I had never heard of Knot doing this.

In the 74 days since ringing we have now received over 860 resightings of over 350 individuals from 15 observers.  So far four birds have been seen in Ireland (Dublin bay and Wexford) and five to Morecambe bay with the remainder remaining around Liverpool bay. 

To put some some of scale on these data in the last 10 years a total of 328 Knot have been re-encountered (mostly retrapped) within the same estuary as their ringing site. In just over 2 months the efforts of 4 main observers have nearly tripled that total.  Assuming the level of observer effort continues and ideally increases we will be able to achieve estimates of survival at a resolution never before achieved on a UK knot population before. 

Additionally with a moderately consistent observer effort periods of emigration from the population should be detectable by seeing an increase in relative frequency of observations of the remaining birds.  Immigration is much harder to detect unless there is an arrival of colour marked birds from elsewhere.  Using sightings of these birds going elsewhere and observed emigration we will build up a picture of how individuals that moult in Liverpool bay use other wintering grounds in Northern Europe. 

As always any sightings of colour marked Knot with an orange engraved flag should be sent to Jim Wilson who co-ordinates this colour mark scheme.  Many thanks to Rose Maciewicz, Peter Knight, Richard Smith, Steve Hinde and the 11 other observers of colour marked Knot so far. Every sighting is valuable to the project and the results are so dependant on individual observations.

Many thanks to Richard Smith for the photo.

Saturday 11 November 2017

Bearded Tit Update

Our birds continue to use the grit trays at Leighton Moss RSPB reserve. So far this season we have had reports of 307 sightings of invidually colour ringed birds. Of these 183 were males and 124 females. This involves 31 Males and 28 females. Of these 7 are 3 years old, 8 2 years,21 one year and 23 are this years juveniles.

The number of visits they pay to the grit trays varies greatly.Nineteen have been recorded on one day only. At the other extreme one male has been seen on 14 days. At each visit birds usually stop for 2 to 10 minutes scratching through the grit before moving on to feed on the reed seed.

Up to 3 unringed birds have been seen at the trays recently so we were very pleased to catch 3 unringed birds today bringing our total of new birds ringed this year to 33. One question observers at the grit trays often ask is wether taking on so much grit at this time of year increases the weight of the birds.Out of interest the average weight of the 6 birds caught today was 15.7 gms. The average weight of birds in June is just 14.1. Small sample but suggestive!

The reserve staff have put out three new trays in another area of the reserve but there has been no sightings over the past three weeks. It obviously takes them time to locate them. My friend Janusz in Poland put out trays three years ago with no success until this year but now they are using them regularly.

Thursday 26 October 2017

A Record Day for Bearded Tits

Just got full details of Steve and Jan's sightings at the grit trays yesterday. In total they identified 39 different colour ringed birds and a minimum of three unringed birds making 42 in all a record for one day. They spent just over 2 and a half hours to amass this data. Best of all they identified three adult females that were new for the year so we now have recorded 24 adult males and 17 adult females. They identified 2 other birds which had not been recorded on the grit trays so far this year making 59 in total. Not far off last years total of 65 and they continue gritting well into December.
There is much chasing mainly by the males but we have three grit trays close together so chased birds usually move to a different tray. Some birds have been taking reed seed from the seed heads right after gritting. My impression is that more are feeding on the reed this year. Could it be that the present really high water level has covered the reed litter where they usually catch insects?

Thanks to Steve and Jan for their hard but enjoyable work. Their only grumble was they got repetitive strain injury from writing down all the colour ring details!

Saturday 21 October 2017

Bearded Tit Gritting Latest Results

Gritting is now in full swing at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve especially on fine reasonably calm days. Although a few have ventured out on less attractive days. To date I have received 201 daily sightings of colour ringed birds although there are a few unringed birds around.

To date we have recorded 52 different birds visiting the trays, the make up of the sightings is shown in the table below.

Year 2014 2015 2016 2017 Total
Male 3 2 14 10 29
Female 4 3 6 10 23
Total 7 5 20 20 52

To date we have colour ringed 30 young birds in 2017 so two thirds of these have visited the trays. The reserve staff have now put out trays in two new areas near the Griesdale and Jackson Hides. To date there has been no reports of birds using these.

This season is following the usual pattern that some birds visit infrequently while others visit often. To date we have 13 that have been recorded once but at the other extreme two birds have been recorded on 12 days. However these two are a pair and have been recorded gritting together on all 12 occasions. They were 2016 juveniles and obviously formed a pair early for they were recorded gritting together on 11 occasions from mid October and late November 2016.

The amount of grit that they take at this time of year was well shown by a German study of 12 gizzards. In autumn when they are feeding mainly on reed seed they averaged 609 tiny pieces of grit with a range of 420-850. In spring when they are feeding on insects they averaged only 38 stones


Friday 13 October 2017

Early Results from Feeding Stations

With seven ringing visits to our two feeding stations between late July and early October comparisons with previous years shows some interesting trends. Perhaps most satisfying is the re-resurgence of Greenfinch. We have already caught 42 since late July. This compares with just 28 and 23 in the whole of the last two seasons and we have at least another 8 visits to go to be comparable.

Coal tits also are doing well we have caught 60 so far compared to 90 in the whole of last season.But Blue tits are down, only 73 to date compared with 243 last season. Perhaps there is so much natural food around this year for they did really well in our nest boxes.

Our colour ringing study of Nuthatch is going well. So far this season Jerry and Barbara have identified 18 birds visiting their feeders compares with 22 in the whole of last season. Our seven ringing visits have only accounted for 7 birds, shows the value once again of colour ringing and sighting.

Goldfinch at 36 already looks like being well up overall on the 35 of previous years. Chaffinch are also doing well as are Robins and Goldcrests, but Great Tits like Blue Tits are well down. Will be interesting to see what the winter brings.

Monday 9 October 2017

Bearded Tit Gritting Season in Full Swing

I posted in late September that the Bearded tit gritting season had started early this year. Now it is full swing, up to October 6th we have recorded 77 sightings of colour ringed birds on the trays at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve This involves 33 different birds of these 28 are adult birds and only 5 birds of the year. This pattern of the adults starting gritting first is quite normal and as the season goes on into December the young birds become much more abundant later in the season.

Up to 9 birds have been seen at once on the three trays which are located just off the central causeway of the reserve.However it is very obvious that most birds are in pairs and as I posted before they form pairs when still in juvenile plumage. A good example of this was a pair seen together today they were first colour ringed together on 21st July 2016 and have been recorded together on 16 occasions since.Birds have also been recorded taking seed from the reed heads the reason they need grit to grind up the hard seeds in their gizzard.
Many thanks to Alan, Pauline and Judith Gallagher from Belfast for their devoted work in recording the colour sightings this week and to Steve and Jan for the early sightings.

Friday 6 October 2017

Remarkable day's ringing - Part 2 - Knot

In the previous blog posting I made reference to an article about Knot at Formby on the 22nd September. Here it is!

The West coast of the UK, particularly Liverpool bay and Morecambe bay, are important areas for wintering Knot in the UK.  Additionally Liverpool bay hosts a large summer flock of second year birds.  A lot of Knot have been ringed on the West coast historically (1970s) however relatively few have been caught and ringed in August, September and April.  This leaves some gaps in our knowledge of Knot and in particular we have limited data after the period after their rapid decline in the 1980s.

Knot have been worked on in the flyway for many years and from recent colour ringing studies some interesting things have been observed. Firstly in Winter birds colour marked on passage in Iceland, Norway and those moulting on the Waddensea are arriving in the North West.  Secondly in August, September and April only Icelandic spring passage birds are seen.  A study was started on the Formby to Ribble coast in 2015 to read flags throughout the year - mainly of birds caught on the early spring staging areas in Iceland and Northern Norway and from the moulting and wintering areas in the Netherlands.  An analysis of the WEBS count data showed that there has been an almost continuous decline in the Autumn and Spring populations since the 1970s.  This study showed that it was necessary to catch Knot on the Formby-Ribble coast to answer several questions:

1 - What do the second year birds do after moulting in the North West?
2 - Where do the adult Knot moulting in the North West go for winter?
3 - Have there been large changes in wintering behaviour of Knot since the work 40 years ago?
4 - Do Knot that remain in the North West until April only migrate via Iceland or do some also go via Norway too?

On the 22nd September 519 Knot were individually colour ringed at Formby in an effort to answer these questions. All the Knot marked have an orange flag and a pale blue ring below on the left tarsus. All the flags have a 2 letter engraved code.

Of the 519 birds colour ringed biometrics were taken from 330, of these 3% are known juveniles, 50% are probable 2nd year birds and the remainder are certainly full adults.  With enough resightings of these Knot most of these questions should be answerable.

In total we caught 1,155 Knot on the 22nd September with all birds being released within 4 hours of capture (for most of this time their feeding grounds are covered by the tide).  Of these only 8 had been ringed previously. The details of these are:

SR74689 - Beaumaris (Anglesey) 17/01/2010 First winter
ST10890 - Seal Sands, Teesmouth 24/08/2015 Juvenile
ST32171 - Wainfleet Marsh (Lincolnshire) 17/09/2016 Juvenile
ST32200 - Gedney Drove End (Lincolnshire) 15/09/2016 Juvenile
ST50909 - Ythan Estuary, (Aberdeenshire) 26/08/2016 Juvenile
SV24636 - Heysham (Lancashire) 21/02/2004 First winter
SV33056 - Wig (Gwynedd) 30/01/2006 First winter
SV56579 - Hoylake (Merseyside) 14/10/2012 Juvenile

In the two weeks since the catch over 100 colour ringed Knot have been reported to Jim Wilson (the project coordinator). All of these sightings have come from a single site on the Wirral or within 2km of the ringing site.   Any sightings whether from Liverpool bay or anywhere else are really valuable to help answer the above questions.

Many thanks to the huge number of people who made this catch possible, particularly the MOD, South West Lancs RG, Jim Wilson, Peter Knight, Rose Maciewicz and the large team that assembled on the day.  Also thanks to Ian Hartley for the photo.

Tuesday 26 September 2017

Remarkable day's ringing - Part 1 - Sanderling

Slightly out of the North Lancs RG area however a large team of ringers including many from North Lancs made a trip to the Sefton coast to ring and colour ring Knot as part of a study run from Norway looking at how Knot use the West coast of the UK to moult and winter and then to look at how this effects their migration route back up to Greenland and Canada to breed.  More on this project in part 2 which will follow in the coming weeks.

While we specifically targeting Knot we also caught some Sanderling.  In the last decade under 10 Sanderling have been ringed in North Merseyside and Lancashire so any Sanderling caught will be interesting and add to our understanding of their movements.  Out of the 370 Sanderling we caught 45 were already carrying rings.  The bulk of these 45 are from ringing in North Wales around Rhyl which is around 35km away.  These movement data are valuable as it is proof of the connectivity between moulting populations of Sanderling in autumn and their wintering grounds and how strong the link between the two are.

Three of the Sanderling were carrying colour rings.  All 3 were ringed in Iceland in May 2016 as part of a long running study of Sanderling.  Out of the thousands of Sanderling colour ringed on migration, breeding and wintering sites on our flyway all 3 we caught came from the same site.  Once again this strongly links the moulting population on the Sefton coast to the migration stop over site in Iceland.  One of these birds has also been seen near Rhyl in previous winters.

Having knowledge of inter-site connectivity is valuable in the conservation world because we can say, conclusively, that the loss of one site or habitat will have an impact on how the birds at one site use sites elsewhere.  Without such data and being limited to count data it would be easy to say the loss of one site would impact the peak count number of birds however with the connectivity data and count data there is a lot more evidence of a wider impact of the loss of one site. Luckily none of the sites in question here are under any threat.

For me this highlights the value of the ringing scheme; it's all about what the normal bird normally does rather than what the rare bird rarely does.

Bearded Tits Form Pairs When Juveniles

In today's windy conditions only two Bearded Tits were recorded on the grit trays by Steve & Jan but they were obviously a pair gritting together on two occasions. They were both first colour ringed as juveniles in July 2016. By early October they had obviously formed a pair for they were recorded together on the grit trays on no less than 12 occasions into November 2016. So far this autumn they have been recorded together on five occasions.

We have recorded similar behavior on many occasions over the years proving beyond all doubt that Bearded Tits form pairs in their first late summer/early autumn and if they survive they retain good pair fidelity. We have records of three pairs that remained together for three years and we have no records of pair divorcing!

Wednesday 20 September 2017

Bearded Tit Gritting Season Gets Underway

This year has seen an early start to the visits by Bearded Tits to the grit tray at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve. The first birds were seen on the 17th which is 6 days earlier than last year. On the 19th there were at least 9 birds at 10.25 including rather surprisingly 2 birds still in juvenile plumage. Of the colour ringed birds identified there was a female ringed as a nestling in May 2016. Another female from the same brood has been re-trapped earlier this year.

To date we have identified 21 adult males and 11 adult female Bearded Tits but we have only ringed 22 juveniles as ringing has been restricted this year by bad weather and access difficulties and at the moment by high water levels.

The birds need the extra grit in their gizzard for at this time of year they change their diet from insects to mainly the harder reed seed.


Thursday 7 September 2017

A Quick Dispersing Merlin

Mark and team were mist netting Meadow Pipits on the edge of Bowland and to their surprise they caught a juvenile male Merlin. They were even more surprised when they found it was already ringed!We have just got the ringing details. It was ringed as a nestling from a brood of four on July 5th at a confidential site in Swaledale North Yorkshire. It had moved 57 km SSW in 51 days since ringing.But it had probably been ringed a few days before it fledged so it is an amazing quick dispersal for a young bird. Marks superb photo is shown below.


Monday 21 August 2017

Reed Bunting Movements

The recent catching of a Reed Bunting at Middleton Nature Reserve which had been ringed while wintering in Shropshire set me looking at the movements we have recorded for this partial migrant. Reed Buntings feature in our ringing at Heysham Middleton and Leighton Moss reserves. Over the years we have ringed 4553 up to 2016.The recaptures and recoveries of these show that a number winter around the Gt.Manchester/Merseyside /Cheshire area with 9 recoveries there in winter. Others move a further with 3 reports from the Midlands and 5 along the south coast from Dorset through to Kent.The only bird to buck this southward movement was a bird ringed by us in October and recaptured in Tyne & Wear in the following January.

Of birds ringed in spring and summer only 10 were retrapped at the ringing site, 8 in November and one each in December and February. But we have four records of birds moving to local feeding stations one flew into a window and 2 were caught by cats!

Saturday 12 August 2017

Sedge Warblers on the Move

A report of a Sedge Warbler ringed by the Group on July 25th this year and caught 12 days later in Kent 412 km SE set me looking at all the similar quick recoveries we have for this species. Over the years we have ringed just over 14,000 Sedge Warblers which has produced 172 recoveries most at ringing stations on the south coast with some further a field in France (51)Spain (3) Portugal(1) and Senegal (1).

Our quickest mover was one ringed on August 13th 2004 at 10.00 and caught next day at Coventry at 05.50 a distance of 220 km. Sedge Warblers are night migrants so this gives some idea as to how far they can fly in a night. It weighed 12.7 gms at ringing but only 11.7 on re-capture.

Of other short time(under 10 days) recaptures we have two each at 4 and 5 days,4 at 6 days and one each at 9 and 10 days all along the south coast from Devon to Kent. Other than one in late July all the others were ringed and re-caught in August. Not all the birds we ring are local birds for we have caught three ringed in Perthshire ,two 7 days previously and one 14 days.

Two short time recaptures from France were 6 days after ringing, a distance of 677 km and 12 days a distance of 563 km. Remember most of these are young birds making their first migration at around three months old. Amazing!

Wednesday 9 August 2017

Nest Box Statistics

Further to my last post where the Group had 141 nest boxes occupied by Pied Flycatcher of which 121 were successful I now have data for the occupation rate of Blue and Great Tits in 24 of the woods we record they show some interesting differences.
The 11 woods at lower altitude mainly on the limestone where Ash is the dominant tree species and Pied Flycatchers do not nest Great tits outstrip Blue tits. In total in these woods we had 113 Great tits but only 62 Blue Tits. In contrast in the higher altitude woods with Oak dominant and where Pied Flycatchers also occur we recorded 143 Blue Tits but only 62 Great Tits.
To what extent this is due to the number and size of natural holes is difficult to assess. But the differences occur in comparatively new woods in both areas. Productivity was good as it was with Pied Flycatchers with very few nests lost to predation or dead young in the nest.

Friday 21 July 2017

Pied Flycatchers on a High

Now got full results of our Pied Flycatcher study. In total we had 141 occupied nests of these 121 successfully produced some young. This compares with 120 and 65 last year. Although we missed ringing a few broods we managed a record total of 722 nestlings 223 up on 2016. A total of 65 new adults were ringed and 113 adults retrapped. Most of these were birds first ringed in our area but we had two from Durham and one from North Yorkshire ringed as nestlings there, but now nesting in our woods.
There was little predation this year compared with 2016 when weasels played havoc in some woods. Perhaps due to this year being a good vole year. Brood size at ringing averaged 6.5 compared with 6.0 last year with 20 broods of 8 nestlings and one of nine.
Of the retrapped birds, 17 were 3 years old, six four years,one five and three six years.Interesting to see how many return to nest next year after this record year.

Wednesday 14 June 2017

A Good Morning at Last

The recent wet and windy weather has delayed the start to our Reed Warbler and Bearded Tit RAS Studies at Leighton Moss RSPB. But today was great, we could only set four nets but we caught 15 Reed Warblers, all except a short tailed juvenile were adults.One of the adults had a Spanish ring. We all thought it was one we caught at the same site last year but IPMR showed it was a different bird. So we await details with interest.

We also caught two Bearded Tits-the first juvenile of the year and an unringed adult male. We rarely catch unringed adults as we are so successful in catching juveniles. in 2016 we caught 41 adults and all were already ringed. Observations over the past few days suggest that the second broods are fledging. The weather looks good for next week so hope we can catch up on our studies.

Pied Flycatchers seem to have survived the poor weather. Went yesterday to a wood which being at a higher altitude than our other woods is usually a bit later and unlike the other sites is mainly alder. Two years ago the four nests in the alder area lost all their young although the two in the oak woodland survived. This year one nest box had dead young but another had already fledged and the remaining five looked Ok.

Sunday 4 June 2017

Pied Flycatchers Record Year

Now got all the data in for our Pied Flycatcher RAS for the 18 woods we survey in the Lune Valley. We have a record 98 occupied nest boxes 19 up on last year and 8 more than our previous best year of 2015.
To date they are doing well.We visited nine nests yesterday all had young and seven were old enough to ring with an average brood size of 7.2 including two with eight young.Have got the first details of the adults that we have caught. They show the usual pattern of adults mainly returning to the same wood in successive years but birds ringed as nestlings mainly move away from the natal wood to other woods in the Lune valley with a few moving outside our area. The two extremes from past years were birds found breeding in Denmark and Germany after being ringed as nestlings in our boxes.
We have many broods yet to ring hope that the heavy rain forecast for early next week doesn't harm them.

Tuesday 23 May 2017

Pied Flycatchers and Barn Owl do Well

Yesterday's visit to my main wood for Pied Flycatchers saw a further increase. We now have 16 pairs compared to just 11 last year. One at least already has young. Reports from other members of the Group who monitor nest boxes suggest a similar increase. Last year we had a total of 79 occupied boxes. Our peak was 90 in 2015. Good chance of reaching 100 this this year! The only downside was a blue tit nest which had been woodpeckered. Removing the young after enlarging the nest hole.

We checked our Barn Owl box and were surprised to find 5 young and two eggs. Last year they had only two eggs and reared one young. We ringed the two oldest chicks. A clue as to their success this year was the pile of ca 10 voles or mice in the box, obviously a good year for small mammals.
On the way home we ringed a further 3 Lapwing chicks and our first Curlew of the year, it dashed across the road in front of us.

Friday 12 May 2017

Pied Flycatchers Increase

Visited my main wood in the Lune valley for Pied Flycatchers yesterday and it was good news. There were 14 nests most at the laying stage but a few incubating. Last year we had ten nests.Numbers in this wood have usually been under ten although in 2015 they peaked at 15. At a smaller wood there were 4 pairs compared to 3 in 2016. Tits have also increased in the larger mainly Oak wood which has 66 nest boxes. Last year we had only 6 Blue Tit nests this has increased to 16 this year although Great Tits are the same at 3 pairs only. We spent sometime watching for Lapwing chicks in the surrounding fields and ringed a further 6 but our impressions were there are fewer young so far this year possibly due to the very dry weather which has left the fields bone dry although we caught a brood of 3 which was only about a week from fledging.

Tuesday 9 May 2017

Siskin and Lesser Redpoll Ringing

Its been a good winter and early spring for ringing Siskin and Lesser Redpoll mainly at garden feeders. So far we have caught 354 Siskin and 283 Lesser Redpolls including a good number of controls and they have already generated several recoveries. Looking at all our recovery data over the years there is quite an interesting difference between the two species.
The breeding area for our wintering Siskin is mainly in Highland Scotland with 30 recoveries there. Next was Galloway SW Scotland with 15.Only one has been reported abroad, killed by a cat in Southern Sweden. Birds ringed on passage have been found wintering mainly in the South East of England with 12 reports along with two in Northern France.One unusual recovery was one ringed as a juvenile in Powys in July and caught in our area in mid March the following year.
Lesser Redpoll breeding area appears to be Galloway and perhaps surprisingly the Isle of man with six recoveries each.In contrast to Siskin we have only one return from Highland Scotland and one in Norway. Wintering areas of passage birds are mainly in SE England with 10 in Suffolk 5 Norfolk and 12 in Surrey.

Thursday 4 May 2017

No Pied Flycatcher Housing Shortage in this Wood

A visit this week to my main Pied Flycatcher wood in the Upper Lune valley found at least 10 male Pied Flycatchers either singing or visiting nest boxes.There were seven completed nests but none with eggs and at least three others just starting.So it looks as though the population is going to be similar to last years count of 11 nests. Tits though have increased after last years low of only 9 there were at least 14 occupied nests mainly at the laying stage and 4 others just building, this leaves at least 25 unoccupied nest boxes.

This wood is ideal Pied Flycatcher habitat, a steeply sloping mature Oak wood with a stream in the bottom and ground flora dominated by Bluebells which because of the altitude were only just coming out. Amazingly we found a female pheasant tucked up in the bluebells and incubating 18 eggs surely the product of two females!

Large numbers of Lapwing nest in the fields close by and we managed to ring 14 young.

Saturday 29 April 2017

2016 North Lancs Ringing Group report

North Lancs Ringing Group have published their annual report for 2016.

Many thanks to all contributors to the report.
Update - The link is not all that clear in some browsers; if it isn't visible click here.

Thursday 27 April 2017

Housing Shortage for Pied Flycatchers?

Just returned from a visit to one of my nest box schemes in the Lune valley. Over the past 10 years the number of nesting Pied Flycatchers has increased from one to a high of six pairs in 2016. Today of the 39 nest boxes only four were unoccupied.Of the occupied ones 33 were tits, mainly Blue Tits most of them at the laying stage only two were incubating and two Pied Flycatchers both with only males in attendance.Tit numbers appear to have increased dramatically from just 26 last year to 33 this year and the highest occupation rate to date. It looks as though the tits have survived well over the past mild winter. The high tit occupation rate means there are only 4 empty nest boxes for the later arriving migrant Pied Flycatchers unless they take over the two tit nests which were not yet fully built. Seriously wondering if we should take some more boxes on our next visit. Will check my other Pied Flycatcher wood next week where we have had a peak of 15 in recent years, but there has been plenty of empty nest boxes.

Saturday 22 April 2017

Two More Colour Ringed Avocets

Three of the 40 avocets on the Allen Pool at Leighton Moss and Morecambe Bay RSPB Reserve are colour ringed. One ringed in Brittany as a chick in 2008 has been breeding there since 2012. This year two more appeared and we have just discovered that they were both ringed as chicks on the same day (24/5/15) at the same site at Seal Sands Teesmouth although not from the same brood. After leaving Teesmouth one was seen in Lincolnshire and the other in the East Riding both in mid July. But there has been no further sightings until now. Both now appear to have mates and are nesting on the same island. This is almost certainly their first breeding attempt as many waders do not breed until their second year. It also shows ,along with the French born bird the dispersal of this species.

Wednesday 5 April 2017

Bearded Tits Colonise New Areas

Over the past 15 years the RSPB has been creating two new reed beds from former grazed meadows. These are satellite reed beds to Leighton Moss.Barrow Scout being ca 400metre away the other Silverdale Moss 2 km away. Both are now supporting good areas of reed. Bearded Tits were seen for the first time in both sites last autumn. Yesterday a pair were seen and probably breeding at Barrow Scout. Nick and Connor managed to get the colour combinations. Both were birds ringed in juvenile plumage in 2016. The female had been ringed as a nestling in one of our nest boxes. They had been re-trapped together in early October and were seen together on four occasions on the grit trays in late October and November. This again shows what we have found many times that Bearded Tits form pairs while still juveniles.

Thursday 30 March 2017

Colour Ringed Avocet and Black-tailed Godwits

The French ringed Avocet has again returned to the Allen Pool at RSPB Morecambe Bay Reserve. It was first colour ringed as a young bird on 20th June 2008 at SAINT-MOLF Bas Boulais in Brittany. It spent the next three years around its natal area being sighted 38 times in spring and summer and nine times in the autumn/winter. It was seen in Brittany on 25th February 2012 then for the first time on the Allen Pool on 26th March 2012. It returned to winter in its natal area by 28th September that year. It has followed this strategy for the past four years returning to the Allen Pool in late March/early April.It is now nearly nine years old.

Three recent sightings of colour ringed Black-tailed Godwits show how these Icelandic breeding waders seem to be quite flexible in their choice of passage and wintering areas. The first was seen in the Morecambe Bay area February to April 2013 but has spent this last winter in SW Ireland.The next was sighted on autumn passage in the Wash but spring passage on the Bay. The third wintered o the Dee estuary but in December 2014 flew across to Dublin then back two days later. Spent the following late March and all of April on the Bay. Returned to the Dee the following September but by late September was back in the Bay.

Wednesday 1 March 2017

Goldcrest Movements

Two recent Goldcrest recoveries show how much they are moving around in winter. Both were ringed in our area in early October when there was a marked movement of Goldcrests and both were retrapped in mid December. The first went 137 km east into Yorkshire,while the other went 330 km. SSE to Greater London.

The Group has 37 Goldcrest recoveries and the one showing movement east into Yorkshire at this time of year is a first. The other is more usual for we have eight recoveries showing movement to south east England or along the south coast. the fastest was one ringed on October 1st and caught 12 days later 354 km. south in Hampshire.

The recoveries show that these birds could be continental breeders for we have reports of autumn ringed birds in Norway and Denmark but we also have two caught in the breeding season in North Scotland.

Thursday 16 February 2017

Latest Recoveries

Recovery News
On a visit to southern Portugal in January I was amazed at the numbers of Chiffchaff wintering there. They were the commonest bird in many areas. I felt that some of our breeding birds must be among them. On my return we got news of a juvenile ringed at Heysham in early July and caught in early December in Central Portugal. This is our first Chiffchaff from Portugal but we have others in winter from Morocco and Senegal. Another first was a Willow Warbler on Alderney Channel Islands in early August 34 days after ringing at Heysham. Two Sand Martins ringed on the Lune were retrapped In France, one juvenile just 29 days after ringing, bringing our total for Sand Martins from France to 56. Another French recovery was of a Sedge Warbler our 51st from Western France.
A colour ringed Waxwing, part of this winter’s influx was sighted in Lancaster. It had been ringed just 21 days previously near Aberdeen, showing how they have moved through the country searching for berries. A sighting north of Kendal showed a similar quick movement. In the last major influx in 2010 we had three similar movements one seen at Leighton Moss on 14th December was sighted in Cambridge 10 days later showing how quickly they move through in search of berries.

Monday 30 January 2017

A Successful Year for the Group

2016 was quite a successful year for the group. We handled 17,302 birds made up of 10,843 full grown, 1,746 nestlings and 4,713 retraps or sightings involving 83 species. This is 2544 up on 2015.We hope to shortly publish our annual report online, but this short report gives details of some of the features of our ringing in 2016.

The only species to be ringed for the first time was Long-eared Owl, caught while working a Swallow roost at Middleton. Stuart's outings on dark nights dazzling for Woodcock produced 15 but also 5 Jack Snipe and a Short-eared Owl.It was a good year for Great Spotted Woodpeckers with 41 ringed compared to our best previous catch of 23. Mark did extremely well with Tree Pipits catching 32 compared to just 11 in 2015. Meadow Pipits at 688 ere well up on the 194 in 2015 and was the second highest annual total. Redwing(458) and Fieldfare (52) were our highest annual totals for both species.Sedge Warblers (245)continued their downward spiral of recent years in the mid 2000's we were ringing 7-800, but it was our best year in recent years for Whitethroat at 196.

We shared in the Yellow-browed Warbler bonanza with 11 ringed, bringing the Groups all-time numbers to 26. The775 Willow Warblers was our best annual catch since 1976! Finches have featured in recent years. This year Goldfinch (1055) and Siskin (632) were both records but Lesser Redpolls (488)were down somewhat with a smaller than usual autumn passage.Finally the highest re-trapped species was Nuthatch with 1021 mainly re-sightings by Jerry and Barbara as part of our study on this species.


Wednesday 4 January 2017

A Record Breaking Marsh Tit

The highlight of a one net experimental session in a fallen apple strewn orchard was the catching of 4 Marsh Tits. One had been ringed just 150 m. away, 8 years and 163 days ago making it a group record for longevity, beating the previous one by 160 days but still well behind the national record of 11 years and 92 days.

The groups record for Blue Tits is 8 years and 15 days, behind Marsh Tit despite ringing nearly 39000 Blue Tits but only 540 Marsh Tits! Great Tit comes in at 11 years 97 days a national record. The Group holds another national record with a Bearded Tit at 7 years 42 days.

The other interesting news is the sighting by Javier of a colour ringed Waxwing in Lancaster which had been ringed just 20 days previously by the Grampian Ringing Group at Ballater Deeside Aberdeenshire. Part of the drift south of this winter visitor.