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)

Monday, 11 December 2017

Bearded Tit Gritting Report & Reed Warbler Survival


The Bearded Tit gritting season at RSPB Leighton Moss, has just about finished. In total I have received details of 355 colour ringed sightings of 69 different birds. Of these 41 are adults and 28 birds of the year. Gritting started early this year in mid September and it appears to have finished earlier than usual. The number of times that birds visit varies considerably. Two birds both adults, were recorded on 15 days. While 20 birds were recorded just once. The ones that visit the most usually follow the pattern of gritting for a few days early in the season and then have a second bout of gritting, probably to top up later in the season.
One of the joys of watching the birds so relatively close is the pleasure visitors get out of seeing these usually difficult to see birds so close and for so long. Last week I had three people who had been visiting the reserve for 20 year but this was the first time they had seen Bearded Tits.Their joy knew no bounds.

The high water levels following heavy rain has restricted our ringing activities so I had time to look at our Reed Warbler data. Reed Warblers are one of our longest lived small birds. Of 1173 recaptures of adult birds I found the numbers of each age class from one to ten years as follows- One year 622, 2 year 239, 3 year 147, 4 year 85, 5 year 38, 6 year 23 ,7 year 7,8 year 8, 9 year 2 and 10 year 2.
The thought of a small bird making 10 return journeys to West Africa is really amazing. Their navigation skills are incredible.
John

Knot update

On the 22nd September 2017 519 Knot were colour ringed at Formby point (see previous posts).  In the first couple of weeks we received about 100 sightings from the local area with good numbers feeding in land at Caldy wildfowl collection.  I knew Black-tailed godwit fed on swollen grain readily however I had never heard of Knot doing this.

In the 74 days since ringing we have now received over 860 resightings of over 350 individuals from 15 observers.  So far four birds have been seen in Ireland (Dublin bay and Wexford) and five to Morecambe bay with the remainder remaining around Liverpool bay. 



To put some some of scale on these data in the last 10 years a total of 328 Knot have been re-encountered (mostly retrapped) within the same estuary as their ringing site. In just over 2 months the efforts of 4 main observers have nearly tripled that total.  Assuming the level of observer effort continues and ideally increases we will be able to achieve estimates of survival at a resolution never before achieved on a UK knot population before. 

Additionally with a moderately consistent observer effort periods of emigration from the population should be detectable by seeing an increase in relative frequency of observations of the remaining birds.  Immigration is much harder to detect unless there is an arrival of colour marked birds from elsewhere.  Using sightings of these birds going elsewhere and observed emigration we will build up a picture of how individuals that moult in Liverpool bay use other wintering grounds in Northern Europe. 

As always any sightings of colour marked Knot with an orange engraved flag should be sent to Jim Wilson who co-ordinates this colour mark scheme.  Many thanks to Rose Maciewicz, Peter Knight, Richard Smith, Steve Hinde and the 11 other observers of colour marked Knot so far. Every sighting is valuable to the project and the results are so dependant on individual observations.

Many thanks to Richard Smith for the photo.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Bearded Tit Update

Our birds continue to use the grit trays at Leighton Moss RSPB reserve. So far this season we have had reports of 307 sightings of invidually colour ringed birds. Of these 183 were males and 124 females. This involves 31 Males and 28 females. Of these 7 are 3 years old, 8 2 years,21 one year and 23 are this years juveniles.

The number of visits they pay to the grit trays varies greatly.Nineteen have been recorded on one day only. At the other extreme one male has been seen on 14 days. At each visit birds usually stop for 2 to 10 minutes scratching through the grit before moving on to feed on the reed seed.

Up to 3 unringed birds have been seen at the trays recently so we were very pleased to catch 3 unringed birds today bringing our total of new birds ringed this year to 33. One question observers at the grit trays often ask is wether taking on so much grit at this time of year increases the weight of the birds.Out of interest the average weight of the 6 birds caught today was 15.7 gms. The average weight of birds in June is just 14.1. Small sample but suggestive!

The reserve staff have put out three new trays in another area of the reserve but there has been no sightings over the past three weeks. It obviously takes them time to locate them. My friend Janusz in Poland put out trays three years ago with no success until this year but now they are using them regularly.
John

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!
John

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

John

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.
John


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.