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)

Tuesday 19 May 2020

Pied Flycatchers on a Roll

With the BTO lifting some of the restrictions on ringing, we decided to make our Pied Flycatcher RAS in the upland woods of the Lune Valley our priority. First impressions have been exciting. In two of the larger woods with 110 nest boxes, we found 43 boxes occupied by Pied Flycatchers compared to just 28 last year.
To date we have caught 31 females of which 21 were already ringed. The most interesting of the these was one which was ringed as a nestling near Swansea in South Wales. It bred in our woodlands last year and has returned to the same wood this year. Another is almost six years old, it is breeding in its natal wood although for its first year it bred in another of our woods before returning to its natal wood the next year.
Our RAS covers 20 woods in the Lune valley , we also ring in other woods a little further south. Last year we ringed 952 birds of which 864 were nestlings and we had 121 retraps. The Pied Flycatcher population in the Lune valley has increased dramatically since we first started putting up nest boxes in 1966 with only two pairs. Most of our woodlands, probably due to past cutting to make charcoal have very few natural holes so the provision of nest boxes has ben a great conservation benefit. Over the last decade the numbers of pairs has increased from 54 in 2009 to 109 in 2019, partly because of more boxes being installed.
We have looked at our data over the years. We have found that 32 % of nestlings return to breed in their natal wood, 55% return to other woods in the Lune Valley and 12% move outside our area. For males 40% return to the natal wood 59 % move to other Lune Valley woodlands and only 1% move further afield.
Birds which move further afield have been reported breeding in Cumbria, Yorkshire, Northumberland, South Wales, and Northern Scotland. But the most surprising was F431440 . It was ringed as a nestling in 1990 in our woods, then on 4/05/91 it was caught in Noord Holland The Netherlands, then 33 days later it was caught in Jylland Denmark. It was identified as a male but no other details are given on the recovery sheet, but one assumes it was breeding.
The same year F431397 also a male, was caught at a nest box with 4 young on 28th June in North Germany. Both birds had been ringed as nestlings the previous year. That same year one was found dead in Northern Italy on May 15th. It is fascinating that these three long distance movements occurred in the same year, were they the result of some adverse winds on migration?
We look forward to finding out what has happened in our other woods this year.