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 30 September 2018

Bearded Tits Gritting Season Gets Underway

It was great this morning for my arrival at 09.00 coincided with the  first birds of day on the trays at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve. Up to now there had been very few sightings. In the end there were three pairs each with their own grit tray, which was great for we could tell who was paired to whom.If you got three or more birds on a tray there was much aggression and chasing.

On my return home I quickly looked up the colour combinations of these three pairs and their sighting history. The oldest bird, a male was  first ringed in 2014 so is in his 4th year. His mate was first ringed as a  juvenile in July 2016. In 2016 they were both paired to other birds but by October 10th 2017 they were obviously paired and we seen on the grit trays together on 5 days in October and early November.  One assumes that their previous mates had died. On May 4th this year they were recorded feeding a brood in one of our nest boxes and the sighting  today proved they were still together.

Another pair were both first ringed as juveniles in 2017. They had formed a pair on their first sighting on the grit trays on 18th October and were recorded together on four other occasions to early November. The male was seen on May5th near one of our nest boxes but the female was not identified. But today's sighting shows they have remained together.

The third pair is the one I posted about 10 days ago when they were the first pair to be recorded gritting this season. They were both 2016 birds and were  seen together on 8 times  in the 2016 season and no fewer than 13 times in the 2017 season. They were  seen together at a nest box on March 4th this year and have already been recorded together on four days this September.

These sightings conclusively prove that Bearded Tit pairs remain together as long as they both survive of course. Few other passerine species exhibit this behaviour.

Sunday 23 September 2018

Knot in odd places... part 2 - The Azores.

In early September I had a message from a friend near Liverpool with a photo of one of the Knot from Formby.  After a quick exchange explaining it was one from Formby and asking where he had seen it Peter told me it was taken by someone on the Azores!  Yesterday it was seen again a couple of km away from the previous sighting on São Miguel Island.

It will be interesting to see what happens to this bird. If it has survived for a couple of weeks there is a chance it could survive long term and perhaps reorientate to find it's way back to the Dee, Mersey and Alt estuaries where it spent last winter.  Time will tell however it certainly needs to update its satnav. 

What an islandica Knot is doing on the Azores is somewhat of a mystery.  On the Azores Knot occur regularly but in very low numbers.  Given the location it is likely most records are rufa Knot that have been caught in storms and blown over the Atlantic. Given the proximity of the breeding ranges of rufa and islandica it is likely there is occasional mixing of immature birds in autumn however an adult is quite a different matter.

This is the first record of a BTO ringed Knot on the Azores and is only the 3rd British ringed Knot to be found in any of Portugal.  Only one Portuguese ringed Knot has been found in the UK which was found in August 2013 in Lincolnshire which, remarkably, I was also involved in catching.  These low totals are probably not surprising as few islandica knot make it as far south as Portugal and relatively few canutus Knot stop off in the UK in spring and autumn.  

Many thanks to Peter Fearon, Carlos Ribeiro and Tiago Rodrigues for photographing this bird and getting the data submitted.

Thursday 20 September 2018

Bearded Tit Gritting Season gets Underway

The sighting of a pair on the  grit trays at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve today signals the start of the gritting season. The pair sighted proved most interesting.

They were  both 2016 youngsters, the female having been ringed as a nestling in May and the male as a juvenile in July. The were first recorded together on October 2nd 2016 when they were recaptured. They were them recorded gritting together on 10 occasions up to  November 11th. The next  sighting was on the grit trays on 17 September 2017 and over the next months they were recorded gritting together on 14 occasions up to November 14th. On April 3rd this year they were sighted together near a nest box and the female was seen at the same nest box on April 27th.

These sightings again prove that Bearded Tits pair in their first autumn and remain together as a pair as long as they survive of course.They were the first birds to be recorded on the grit trays in 2017 and the first birds this year although three days late!  They were also the pair which was recorded on most occasions on the grit trays in 2017.

The Grit trays are just off the main public path leading to the Causeway Hide. A new viewing  platform  been installed by the RSPB, giving brilliant views of the three grit trays. I you visit and get details of the colour ringed birds please send them to and help in our research on these amazing birds. Birds are best seen on reasonably calm days between 08.00 and 11.00 from now to late November.

Wednesday 12 September 2018

This Years Ringing at Leighton Moss

With poor ringing weather  for the next few days, if the forecast prove correct, thought I would check how we are doing so far this year. With 1469 new birds so far we are already well past last years total for the full year of  1315.

Including retraps Reed Warblers head the list with 474 compared to 345 last year. A close second is Willow Warbler, with 345 an increase of 182 on last year . Sedge Warblers at 130 saw an increase of 25 but Chiffchaff at 81 are still 20 behind last year although September is  usually good for this species, as it is for Reed Bunting which is already 28 up on last years 58.

Of the less frequently ringed species Treecreeper  are amazing with 43 this year compared to just 27 in the whole of 2017. Blackcap went from 21 to 36 this year. Species which are down are mainly the tits  which usually come into the reed bed and willow scrub later in the year. Blue Tit is a good example being 54 down on last years total of 227.

Bearded Tits are our main study and we appear to have been a bit unlucky with catches. Last week was typical  a flock was calling near the nets but the wind got up and we had to take down. To date we  have recorded 29 birds but September/October are usually the best months and grit tray sightings of colour ringed birds  should  get underway shortly.