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)

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.