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)

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.