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 19 December 2019

Feeding Station Ringing

Our two woodland edge feeding stations have seen  some interesting changes this season. The most unexpected is the appearance of Tree Sparrows at the Challan site. In five years of ringing we have not caught a Tree Sparrow but this season so far we have caught four. House Sparrows are rare at both sites with only 11 caught over the past five years.

 So far it has been a rather poor season for Coal Tits at both sites.The average autumn catch at the Teddy Heights site over 12 years has been 85 but this year it is only 40. Challan has also seen a decline but not quite as  bad. The retrap of a Coal Tit in its sixth year shows site faithfulness. Both Blue Tits and Great Tits are slightly down. Marsh Tits are a speciality of this area, last year we caught 29 different birds at Challan. To date they are slightly below average at both sites. Judging by the amazing number of berries there are this autumn there is probably a good supply of natural foods available.

Long-tailed Tits though are doing well with 31 so far this season at Teddy Heights compared to an average of 12. On our last visit we caught  13, of these two had been ringed together four years previously.

Our colour ringed study of Nuthatch at  Challan  shows there are eight birds visiting the feeders. But it is the usual pattern of  about half visiting regularly which probably have local territories and usually come in   pairs. While others visit much less frequently and have their territory further away. There are also unringed birds visiting.

Starling have become regular feeder visitors  at Challan over the past two years. In a catch of seven this week we had a Stavanger (Norway) ringed bird.


Friday 6 December 2019

Bearded Tit Update

The gritting  season is now almost over . To date we have recorded 153 sghtings of colour ringed birds mostly on the grit trays  In total we have identified 27 adult males(five more than in 2018) and 14 adult females. We have two males which are in their 6th year. 
I have been able to work out crudesurvival rates, and both adults and juveniles from last year had a survival rate of 60%. One of the best rates since our study started 27 years ago.

Really pleased that the high water levels of early October when all the visitor paths were under water are now back to normal. In the winter of 2000 we had really high water levels from October through to mid December followed by a cold spell. The Bearded Tit population went from ca 65 pairs to just seven in the spring of 2001. In 2000 we identified 119 adults and ringed 275 young. Next year we found only 9 adults and ringed only 18 young. They recovered quickly but have never reached the 2000 population.

I have published four papers on the results of our study. There is still plenty to write up yet, but need someone good at statistics to help out. Not my strong point! I just enjoy studying these wonderful birds!

On another subject Stuarts colour ringed study of Dippers in the  upper catchment of the River Lune has shown a strong attachment to this area. However one bird colour ringed as a nestling on April 7th this year moved 34 km north to the River  Eden catchment. Unfortunatly it was killed flying into a window.

Monday 4 November 2019

Bearded Tit RAS Update

Its been a rather difficult season for our study. Late season ringing has been impossible because of high water levels which flooded all the access paths at Leighton Moss RSPB reserve making out  boardwalks dangerous  to use. However the high water levels meant that the Bearded Tits had to get their grit,(which they need at this time of year as they move from  insects  to a rmainly reed seed diet) from our  specially prepared grit trays. So far we have  had 113 sightings of colour  ringed birds mainly on the trays and almost all of them were adults  from previous  years.

In total we have identified 24 adult males and 13 adult females. This compares with 23 males and 14 females in 2018.  We invariably get more males than females,partly because males are easier to mist net and also  males have a somewhat better survival rate than females.

Of the 37 adults, the oldest was  five years, one was four years, three  were three years old, 12 two years and 20, one year after ringing as juveniles. This gives a crude survival rate of 46%. But we may yet identify one or two more . We have a motion activated video of one set of trays yet to check through.

Since the water levels have dropped, exposing the visitor paths the reserve staff have topped up  some of the paths with fine limestone and some birds have been gritting here . This means that colour rings are more difficult to  record.

Tuesday 24 September 2019

A Chaffinch in Sweden and a Sedge Warbler in France

 Although we have ringed 9620 Chaffinch up to the end of 2018 we have just  had our first recovery in southern Sweden. It was caught by a ringer on 4th April this year and was originally ringed  at a garden feeder on 26th November 2016. It had travelled 1129 kms ENE. Our only other foreign recoveries of Chaffinch have been singles in Norway and The Netherlands.
By contrast we have ringed 14,117 Sedge Warblers and the latest recovery in SW France in August is our 55th Sedge Warbler from France, of these 39 have been in August, almost all caught by ringers. We have had three from Spain,one from Portugal, seven in Belgium and one in Luxembourg all on migration usually in late summer/autumn. Our only recovery in winter is one from Senegal West Africa in December.

Friday 9 August 2019

Garden Ringing update

Paid our third visit this summer to Jerry and Barbara's woodland edge garden in Silverdale. With only one 40 ft net we caught 80 birds. Our main interest in this garden is a colour ring study of Nuthatch, so we were pleased to catch two unringed young birds which brings the total so far seen in the garden since the end of June to twelve.Since we started this study in 2015 we have amassed 2402 sightings.

Blue and Great Tits seem to have done well with 56 and 23 respectively, almost all juveniles. Coal tits though at only four are low. This species breeds locally in only small numbers and our ringing has shown that many of our birds come from Lakeland so will be interesting to see if numbers pick up at our next visits.

The most surprising species was Bullfinch with 22 caught so far this summer. This compares with just 21 in the period July to March last year. Even more interesting is that we have caught only four juveniles. On this last visit we caught six adult males all just starting to moult. Perhaps the juveniles have not discovered this easy source of food yet.


Sunday 4 August 2019

Reed Warbler & Bearded Tit RAS Update

The last two days has seen two good catches to bolster our returns for our Bearded Tit and Reed Warbler RAS at Leighton Moss RSPB reserve.

A male Bearded Tit first ringed as a juvenile  in 2014 was retrapped five years and 50 days after ringing. This is our second oldest Bearded Tit ,(the oldest was seven years and 93 days). Interestingly this bird had been sighted ten times on the grit tray between 2014 and 2016. It was retrapped in 2017 but not recorded at all in 2018 so it was  great to catch up with it again. To date we have identified 10 adults but it is early days as we get most sightings from the grit trays late September to December.

In the two sessions we caught 55 Reed Warblers, mainly juveniles suggesting a good breeding season. But the most interesting was an adult male first ringed as a juvenile in June 2011 , eight years and 43 days ago. Interestingly it has been retrapped most years since in the same area of the reed bed but on 28th July 2018 it was caught on the south coast at Titchfield Haven Hampshire on its way to the African wintering grounds. It was a bit late setting off this year, but it was getting ready  for it had a fat score of two.

Wednesday 17 July 2019

Another Record Pied Flycatcher Season

Now got all the results in for our Pied Flycatcher  RAS based in 20 upland woods in the Lune Valley. We had 104 occupied nest boxes four  down on 2018 but success rate was better  with 79 producing young compared to 68 last year. Predation was as usual patchy with one wood losing all its young probably to a weasel while other woods  had a 90%+ success rate

The Group also has other boxes in the Bowland area and in total we recorded 1020 handling made up of 821 nestlings 82 new adults and 117 retraps. This is 195 up on 2018.

Retraps followed the usual pattern with a few ringed as nestlings returning to their native wood ,  but most moving to other woods within the  Lune valley or Bowland. While adults generally stayed faithful to the same wood each year.

We do though get birds ringed as nestlings  elsewhere breeding in our area with  two from North Yorkshire and one from Durham this year. But most surprising was one ringed as a  nestling near Swansea South Wales in 2016. It was  found as a breeding female in the Lune valley  this year ,a movement of 275 km


Friday 31 May 2019

A Pied Flycatcher First

Over the years our Group has ringed 11,557 Pied Flycatchers mainly as part of our RAS in the Lune Valley. We have had many recoveries and controls but a recent recovery was our first on spring migration in Britain. It had been ringed as a nestling in June last year and was caught on 21st April this year at Eccles -on-Sea Norfolk 315 km.ESE.It was a male.

Our only other spring report away from the breeding area was one caught in the Netherlands on May 5th 1991. Amazingly this bird was found nesting in Denmark the following June. I suppose the reason for so few spring recoveries is that   the spring movement is so quick. It  will be interesting to see if the bird caught in Norfolk turns up in our nest boxes in the RAS study. We are just starting to to ring nestlings and catch males. To date they have done well with good sized broods but the recent cold wet weather may not have helped.

A Cetti's Warbler we ringed as a juvenile in September was caught in May in Merseyside . This is the third Cetti's to move south after ringing, the most amazing one was ringed in March 2010 and caught just over a year later in Farlington Marsh Hampshire 389 km SSE.

Another interesting movement was  a colour ringed Grey Wagtail from our study at Heysham and Middleton. It was breeding in East Lancashire to the 51 km SE  of our autumn  ringing site. The third record  we have had of birds to the SE of our passage ringing site. Thanks to Craig Bell for the photo.


Monday 20 May 2019

Pied Flycatchers in Potts Wood

Following on from John's post, I paid my first trip to the nest boxes in Pott Yeats, Littledale today.  There are 43 boxes there that have held small numbers of Pied Flycatchers in recent years, 2018 was typical with 5 pairs all successful.  Today nine nests were found with eggs in all and females incubating in three of them (One nest contained 10 warm eggs).

Two further Redstart nests were found with incubating females in place.  Interestingly, both nests were in boxes with ‘normal’ circular entrance holes.  The small number of boxes with ‘shuttlecock’ shaped holes intended for Redstarts have never attracted any of that species over the last few years but one of this year’s Pied Flycatchers has occupied  a ‘shuttlecock’ box.

Blue Tit and Great Tit numbers this year so far are about average. 

Monday 13 May 2019

Pied Flycatcher Study gets Underway

With a couple of visits to most of our woodland sites in the Lune valley we are getting first impressions of this years Pied Flycatcher population. Last year we had 108 pairs in nest boxes in our 16 woods providing a RAS study. First impressions are that population are similar or in  5 cases slightly up on last year and it is still early days. The one exception has been our 12 nest boxes in a mainly alder wood. There has been clear felling of larch right next to the site and two boxes right next to the conifers in Oak which have always been occupied by Pied Flycatchers were empty this week but a male was singing close by. In some other years we have had a second later arrival, so lets hope. Similar on a visit today to the site with the smallest population there were two females incubating and a male singing round empty nest boxes.

First impression for other nest box species is that Great Tits are about normal but Blue Tits are well down. Both species have broods hatching and appear to be doing well but the next two weeks will reveal all.

Sunday 14 April 2019

Birds on the Move

It appears to be an early spring with both Reed Warbler and Pied Flycatcher  for example arriving very early. Our ringing has shown some quick  movement in Lesser Redpolls. One ringed in a Cheshire garden on March 24th was caught at a feeder five days later on the edge of Bowland , 51 km north. Another ringed at the same feeder on March 30 was in southern Scotland ten days later a distance of 218 km north west.

Waders are massing along the edge of Morecambe Bay waiting for good weather to make the journey to Iceland. Careful searching of the 3000+ Black-tailed Godwits on the Eric Morecambe Pools at Leighton Moss has revealed at least seven birds originally colour ringed  in the breeding season in Iceland.

Searching of the large numbers of Knot roosting at high tide on the Lune  Estuary has produced at at least six Knot originally colour ringed in Iceland.Today's cold ESE wind means they will probably wait for a change in the weather before setting off on their epic journey.

Other interesting recoveries have included a Chiffchaff  caught on Alderney on the Channel Islands on March 21st from our September ringing and a juvenile Cetti's Warbler ringed in South Yorkshire in early July and caught in late March at Leighton Moss, 134 km north west.


Saturday 23 March 2019

Black-tailed Godwit Update

Today there was at least 2300 Godwits on the Eric Morecambe Complex on the edge  of Morecambe Bay. But with high spring tides most were on the flooded salt marsh. During the first half of March we have sighted  five colour ringed birds.  One from the Montrose Basin, two from the Humber, one from Kent and one from Iceland.  

The Icelandic one is the oldest and the most interesting with 102 sightings since it was ringed  as an adult male in Iceland in July 2011 . It has wintered on the Dee estuary every year since. In April 2013 it was sighted in North Holland. From  2014 it has established  a pattern of calling in at Morecambe Bay on the Eric Morecambe Complex in late March and April. This year though it was seen on 23rd February its earliest record and is still there gradually getting its summer plumage. Surprisingly it has never been seen again in Iceland.

Over the years we have recorded ca 70 Icelandic ringed Godwits in Morecambe Bay mainly in spring but at least 17 have been recorded in autumn. Some have  wintered as far south as SW France, others in Hampshire and Se Ireland, but the bulk winter on the Dee



Thursday 28 February 2019

Godwit arrival dates

Black-tailed Godwit have started arriving in reasonable numbers at Leighton Moss in recent days.  Several of these have long histories of spring sightings at Leighton and other very local sites having spent the winter further south on the Dee.  Two are of note with several years of good arrival data for Leighton Moss.  The first seen date is listed below for each year they have been seen at Leighton:







It would be very easy to say 'global warming' or 'unseasonably hot weather' is driving the early arrival date however I think it's more complex.  This winter has been fairly dry and many of the sites used early in spring by these birds (Lytham Hall, fields on the field) are only good feeding in wet conditions so maybe the early arrival is more a case of lack of good feeding throughout the tidal cycle rather than an early migration north.

Thanks to all the observers at Leighton Moss for seeing and reporting these birds to the ringers (in this case in Iceland).  The arrival and departure dates are really useful so even if the bird was seen yesterday reporting it again is important to understand how the Godwit use different landscapes in a changing world.

Sunday 3 February 2019

Our Nuthatch Study

We have continued our colour ringed study of Nuthatch visiting Jerry and Barbara's woodland edge garden at Silverdale. They usually see no more than two birds visiting their feeders at once but since late summer 2018 we have seen or caught 19 birds. In January at least 11 different birds have visited the feeders. They basically fall into three categories based on our sightings.

There is obviously a resident pair which have each been seen 14 days,very often together. Three other birds have been seen less often but still regularly  probably from adjoining territories close by. But the remaining six are only infrequent visitors only being recorded once or twice a month but obviously attracted by the abundance of bird food on offer. One assumes that they have territories some distance away in the surrounding woodland.

Sunday 6 January 2019

End of Year Summary

 With almost all the data in for the year we have ringed  10750 new birds, although with retraps and sightings we have details of almost 14000 captures.Top of the pile as usual is Blue Tit with 2263 followed by Goldfinch at 1059 and Pied Flycatcher at 773. Of the warblers,  Willow Warbler was top with 584 followed by Reed Warbler at 577, Sedge Warbler at  247,Chiffchaff at 225 and Blackcap at 216.

Our  colour ringed studies of the  Nuthatch and Bearded Tit produced 415 and 150 sightings and furthered our knowledge of the behaviour of these two resident species. Our other colour ringed studies of Grey Wagtail produced sightings in Shropshire and Conwy in early spring and Hampshire in winter.While Common Sandpiper sightings were from Herts, Lincoln and Surrey all on their way south in late summer

Recovery highlights included a Robin  ringed  in early March in the Highland Region  and caught at Middleton on May 1st- a time you would expect Robins to be moving north. A Blackbird in Norway in late March was our sixth from Norway, but a first for Norway was a Brambling ,ringed 30 September and caught 33 days later at Newton. Although we ringed twice as many Reed as Sedge Warblers we had only one foreign recovery  in Spain, but three Sedge Warblers in France  and one in Belgium. Interesting that this brings our Sedge Warblers from France to 54 but only three in Spain. By contrast  29 Reed Warbler have been found in France but 5 in Spain. The groups all-time totals for Reed Warbler is 20.450, 6000 more than Sedge Warbler.

Colour ring sightings of birds ringed elsewhere has  generated more interesting recoveries. We sighted no fewer than five colour ringed Avocets  in the small colony at Leighton Moss. A  French ringed nestling ringed ten year ago has bred here for the past six years. A nestling ringed in The Netherlands in 2016  bred this year as did two reared  in Teesmouth and one in South Yorkshire.

Mediterranean Gulls mainly at the power station outflow at Heysham came from Germany (2), France, The Netherlands and Poland (2) all  except one Polish bird were  colour ringed as nestlings. The French bird is now in its tenth year.