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)

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.


Monday, 21 August 2017

Reed Bunting Movements

The recent catching of a Reed Bunting at Middleton Nature Reserve which had been ringed while wintering in Shropshire set me looking at the movements we have recorded for this partial migrant. Reed Buntings feature in our ringing at Heysham Middleton and Leighton Moss reserves. Over the years we have ringed 4553 up to 2016.The recaptures and recoveries of these show that a number winter around the Gt.Manchester/Merseyside /Cheshire area with 9 recoveries there in winter. Others move a further with 3 reports from the Midlands and 5 along the south coast from Dorset through to Kent.The only bird to buck this southward movement was a bird ringed by us in October and recaptured in Tyne & Wear in the following January.

Of birds ringed in spring and summer only 10 were retrapped at the ringing site, 8 in November and one each in December and February. But we have four records of birds moving to local feeding stations one flew into a window and 2 were caught by cats!

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Sedge Warblers on the Move

A report of a Sedge Warbler ringed by the Group on July 25th this year and caught 12 days later in Kent 412 km SE set me looking at all the similar quick recoveries we have for this species. Over the years we have ringed just over 14,000 Sedge Warblers which has produced 172 recoveries most at ringing stations on the south coast with some further a field in France (51)Spain (3) Portugal(1) and Senegal (1).

Our quickest mover was one ringed on August 13th 2004 at 10.00 and caught next day at Coventry at 05.50 a distance of 220 km. Sedge Warblers are night migrants so this gives some idea as to how far they can fly in a night. It weighed 12.7 gms at ringing but only 11.7 on re-capture.

Of other short time(under 10 days) recaptures we have two each at 4 and 5 days,4 at 6 days and one each at 9 and 10 days all along the south coast from Devon to Kent. Other than one in late July all the others were ringed and re-caught in August. Not all the birds we ring are local birds for we have caught three ringed in Perthshire ,two 7 days previously and one 14 days.

Two short time recaptures from France were 6 days after ringing, a distance of 677 km and 12 days a distance of 563 km. Remember most of these are young birds making their first migration at around three months old. Amazing!

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Nest Box Statistics

Further to my last post where the Group had 141 nest boxes occupied by Pied Flycatcher of which 121 were successful I now have data for the occupation rate of Blue and Great Tits in 24 of the woods we record they show some interesting differences.
The 11 woods at lower altitude mainly on the limestone where Ash is the dominant tree species and Pied Flycatchers do not nest Great tits outstrip Blue tits. In total in these woods we had 113 Great tits but only 62 Blue Tits. In contrast in the higher altitude woods with Oak dominant and where Pied Flycatchers also occur we recorded 143 Blue Tits but only 62 Great Tits.
To what extent this is due to the number and size of natural holes is difficult to assess. But the differences occur in comparatively new woods in both areas. Productivity was good as it was with Pied Flycatchers with very few nests lost to predation or dead young in the nest.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Pied Flycatchers on a High

Now got full results of our Pied Flycatcher study. In total we had 141 occupied nests of these 121 successfully produced some young. This compares with 120 and 65 last year. Although we missed ringing a few broods we managed a record total of 722 nestlings 223 up on 2016. A total of 65 new adults were ringed and 113 adults retrapped. Most of these were birds first ringed in our area but we had two from Durham and one from North Yorkshire ringed as nestlings there, but now nesting in our woods.
There was little predation this year compared with 2016 when weasels played havoc in some woods. Perhaps due to this year being a good vole year. Brood size at ringing averaged 6.5 compared with 6.0 last year with 20 broods of 8 nestlings and one of nine.
Of the retrapped birds, 17 were 3 years old, six four years,one five and three six years.Interesting to see how many return to nest next year after this record year.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

A Good Morning at Last

The recent wet and windy weather has delayed the start to our Reed Warbler and Bearded Tit RAS Studies at Leighton Moss RSPB. But today was great, we could only set four nets but we caught 15 Reed Warblers, all except a short tailed juvenile were adults.One of the adults had a Spanish ring. We all thought it was one we caught at the same site last year but IPMR showed it was a different bird. So we await details with interest.

We also caught two Bearded Tits-the first juvenile of the year and an unringed adult male. We rarely catch unringed adults as we are so successful in catching juveniles. in 2016 we caught 41 adults and all were already ringed. Observations over the past few days suggest that the second broods are fledging. The weather looks good for next week so hope we can catch up on our studies.

Pied Flycatchers seem to have survived the poor weather. Went yesterday to a wood which being at a higher altitude than our other woods is usually a bit later and unlike the other sites is mainly alder. Two years ago the four nests in the alder area lost all their young although the two in the oak woodland survived. This year one nest box had dead young but another had already fledged and the remaining five looked Ok.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Pied Flycatchers Record Year

Now got all the data in for our Pied Flycatcher RAS for the 18 woods we survey in the Lune Valley. We have a record 98 occupied nest boxes 19 up on last year and 8 more than our previous best year of 2015.
To date they are doing well.We visited nine nests yesterday all had young and seven were old enough to ring with an average brood size of 7.2 including two with eight young.Have got the first details of the adults that we have caught. They show the usual pattern of adults mainly returning to the same wood in successive years but birds ringed as nestlings mainly move away from the natal wood to other woods in the Lune valley with a few moving outside our area. The two extremes from past years were birds found breeding in Denmark and Germany after being ringed as nestlings in our boxes.
We have many broods yet to ring hope that the heavy rain forecast for early next week doesn't harm them.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Pied Flycatchers and Barn Owl do Well

Yesterday's visit to my main wood for Pied Flycatchers saw a further increase. We now have 16 pairs compared to just 11 last year. One at least already has young. Reports from other members of the Group who monitor nest boxes suggest a similar increase. Last year we had a total of 79 occupied boxes. Our peak was 90 in 2015. Good chance of reaching 100 this this year! The only downside was a blue tit nest which had been woodpeckered. Removing the young after enlarging the nest hole.

We checked our Barn Owl box and were surprised to find 5 young and two eggs. Last year they had only two eggs and reared one young. We ringed the two oldest chicks. A clue as to their success this year was the pile of ca 10 voles or mice in the box, obviously a good year for small mammals.
On the way home we ringed a further 3 Lapwing chicks and our first Curlew of the year, it dashed across the road in front of us.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Pied Flycatchers Increase

Visited my main wood in the Lune valley for Pied Flycatchers yesterday and it was good news. There were 14 nests most at the laying stage but a few incubating. Last year we had ten nests.Numbers in this wood have usually been under ten although in 2015 they peaked at 15. At a smaller wood there were 4 pairs compared to 3 in 2016. Tits have also increased in the larger mainly Oak wood which has 66 nest boxes. Last year we had only 6 Blue Tit nests this has increased to 16 this year although Great Tits are the same at 3 pairs only. We spent sometime watching for Lapwing chicks in the surrounding fields and ringed a further 6 but our impressions were there are fewer young so far this year possibly due to the very dry weather which has left the fields bone dry although we caught a brood of 3 which was only about a week from fledging.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Siskin and Lesser Redpoll Ringing

Its been a good winter and early spring for ringing Siskin and Lesser Redpoll mainly at garden feeders. So far we have caught 354 Siskin and 283 Lesser Redpolls including a good number of controls and they have already generated several recoveries. Looking at all our recovery data over the years there is quite an interesting difference between the two species.
The breeding area for our wintering Siskin is mainly in Highland Scotland with 30 recoveries there. Next was Galloway SW Scotland with 15.Only one has been reported abroad, killed by a cat in Southern Sweden. Birds ringed on passage have been found wintering mainly in the South East of England with 12 reports along with two in Northern France.One unusual recovery was one ringed as a juvenile in Powys in July and caught in our area in mid March the following year.
Lesser Redpoll breeding area appears to be Galloway and perhaps surprisingly the Isle of man with six recoveries each.In contrast to Siskin we have only one return from Highland Scotland and one in Norway. Wintering areas of passage birds are mainly in SE England with 10 in Suffolk 5 Norfolk and 12 in Surrey.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

No Pied Flycatcher Housing Shortage in this Wood

A visit this week to my main Pied Flycatcher wood in the Upper Lune valley found at least 10 male Pied Flycatchers either singing or visiting nest boxes.There were seven completed nests but none with eggs and at least three others just starting.So it looks as though the population is going to be similar to last years count of 11 nests. Tits though have increased after last years low of only 9 there were at least 14 occupied nests mainly at the laying stage and 4 others just building, this leaves at least 25 unoccupied nest boxes.

This wood is ideal Pied Flycatcher habitat, a steeply sloping mature Oak wood with a stream in the bottom and ground flora dominated by Bluebells which because of the altitude were only just coming out. Amazingly we found a female pheasant tucked up in the bluebells and incubating 18 eggs surely the product of two females!

Large numbers of Lapwing nest in the fields close by and we managed to ring 14 young.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

2016 North Lancs Ringing Group report

North Lancs Ringing Group have published their annual report for 2016.

Many thanks to all contributors to the report.
Update - The link is not all that clear in some browsers; if it isn't visible click here.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Housing Shortage for Pied Flycatchers?

Just returned from a visit to one of my nest box schemes in the Lune valley. Over the past 10 years the number of nesting Pied Flycatchers has increased from one to a high of six pairs in 2016. Today of the 39 nest boxes only four were unoccupied.Of the occupied ones 33 were tits, mainly Blue Tits most of them at the laying stage only two were incubating and two Pied Flycatchers both with only males in attendance.Tit numbers appear to have increased dramatically from just 26 last year to 33 this year and the highest occupation rate to date. It looks as though the tits have survived well over the past mild winter. The high tit occupation rate means there are only 4 empty nest boxes for the later arriving migrant Pied Flycatchers unless they take over the two tit nests which were not yet fully built. Seriously wondering if we should take some more boxes on our next visit. Will check my other Pied Flycatcher wood next week where we have had a peak of 15 in recent years, but there has been plenty of empty nest boxes.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Two More Colour Ringed Avocets

Three of the 40 avocets on the Allen Pool at Leighton Moss and Morecambe Bay RSPB Reserve are colour ringed. One ringed in Brittany as a chick in 2008 has been breeding there since 2012. This year two more appeared and we have just discovered that they were both ringed as chicks on the same day (24/5/15) at the same site at Seal Sands Teesmouth although not from the same brood. After leaving Teesmouth one was seen in Lincolnshire and the other in the East Riding both in mid July. But there has been no further sightings until now. Both now appear to have mates and are nesting on the same island. This is almost certainly their first breeding attempt as many waders do not breed until their second year. It also shows ,along with the French born bird the dispersal of this species.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Bearded Tits Colonise New Areas

Over the past 15 years the RSPB has been creating two new reed beds from former grazed meadows. These are satellite reed beds to Leighton Moss.Barrow Scout being ca 400metre away the other Silverdale Moss 2 km away. Both are now supporting good areas of reed. Bearded Tits were seen for the first time in both sites last autumn. Yesterday a pair were seen and probably breeding at Barrow Scout. Nick and Connor managed to get the colour combinations. Both were birds ringed in juvenile plumage in 2016. The female had been ringed as a nestling in one of our nest boxes. They had been re-trapped together in early October and were seen together on four occasions on the grit trays in late October and November. This again shows what we have found many times that Bearded Tits form pairs while still juveniles.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Colour Ringed Avocet and Black-tailed Godwits

The French ringed Avocet has again returned to the Allen Pool at RSPB Morecambe Bay Reserve. It was first colour ringed as a young bird on 20th June 2008 at SAINT-MOLF Bas Boulais in Brittany. It spent the next three years around its natal area being sighted 38 times in spring and summer and nine times in the autumn/winter. It was seen in Brittany on 25th February 2012 then for the first time on the Allen Pool on 26th March 2012. It returned to winter in its natal area by 28th September that year. It has followed this strategy for the past four years returning to the Allen Pool in late March/early April.It is now nearly nine years old.

Three recent sightings of colour ringed Black-tailed Godwits show how these Icelandic breeding waders seem to be quite flexible in their choice of passage and wintering areas. The first was seen in the Morecambe Bay area February to April 2013 but has spent this last winter in SW Ireland.The next was sighted on autumn passage in the Wash but spring passage on the Bay. The third wintered o the Dee estuary but in December 2014 flew across to Dublin then back two days later. Spent the following late March and all of April on the Bay. Returned to the Dee the following September but by late September was back in the Bay.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Goldcrest Movements

Two recent Goldcrest recoveries show how much they are moving around in winter. Both were ringed in our area in early October when there was a marked movement of Goldcrests and both were retrapped in mid December. The first went 137 km east into Yorkshire,while the other went 330 km. SSE to Greater London.

The Group has 37 Goldcrest recoveries and the one showing movement east into Yorkshire at this time of year is a first. The other is more usual for we have eight recoveries showing movement to south east England or along the south coast. the fastest was one ringed on October 1st and caught 12 days later 354 km. south in Hampshire.

The recoveries show that these birds could be continental breeders for we have reports of autumn ringed birds in Norway and Denmark but we also have two caught in the breeding season in North Scotland.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Latest Recoveries

Recovery News
On a visit to southern Portugal in January I was amazed at the numbers of Chiffchaff wintering there. They were the commonest bird in many areas. I felt that some of our breeding birds must be among them. On my return we got news of a juvenile ringed at Heysham in early July and caught in early December in Central Portugal. This is our first Chiffchaff from Portugal but we have others in winter from Morocco and Senegal. Another first was a Willow Warbler on Alderney Channel Islands in early August 34 days after ringing at Heysham. Two Sand Martins ringed on the Lune were retrapped In France, one juvenile just 29 days after ringing, bringing our total for Sand Martins from France to 56. Another French recovery was of a Sedge Warbler our 51st from Western France.
A colour ringed Waxwing, part of this winter’s influx was sighted in Lancaster. It had been ringed just 21 days previously near Aberdeen, showing how they have moved through the country searching for berries. A sighting north of Kendal showed a similar quick movement. In the last major influx in 2010 we had three similar movements one seen at Leighton Moss on 14th December was sighted in Cambridge 10 days later showing how quickly they move through in search of berries.

Monday, 30 January 2017

A Successful Year for the Group

2016 was quite a successful year for the group. We handled 17,302 birds made up of 10,843 full grown, 1,746 nestlings and 4,713 retraps or sightings involving 83 species. This is 2544 up on 2015.We hope to shortly publish our annual report online, but this short report gives details of some of the features of our ringing in 2016.

The only species to be ringed for the first time was Long-eared Owl, caught while working a Swallow roost at Middleton. Stuart's outings on dark nights dazzling for Woodcock produced 15 but also 5 Jack Snipe and a Short-eared Owl.It was a good year for Great Spotted Woodpeckers with 41 ringed compared to our best previous catch of 23. Mark did extremely well with Tree Pipits catching 32 compared to just 11 in 2015. Meadow Pipits at 688 ere well up on the 194 in 2015 and was the second highest annual total. Redwing(458) and Fieldfare (52) were our highest annual totals for both species.Sedge Warblers (245)continued their downward spiral of recent years in the mid 2000's we were ringing 7-800, but it was our best year in recent years for Whitethroat at 196.

We shared in the Yellow-browed Warbler bonanza with 11 ringed, bringing the Groups all-time numbers to 26. The775 Willow Warblers was our best annual catch since 1976! Finches have featured in recent years. This year Goldfinch (1055) and Siskin (632) were both records but Lesser Redpolls (488)were down somewhat with a smaller than usual autumn passage.Finally the highest re-trapped species was Nuthatch with 1021 mainly re-sightings by Jerry and Barbara as part of our study on this species.


Wednesday, 4 January 2017

A Record Breaking Marsh Tit

The highlight of a one net experimental session in a fallen apple strewn orchard was the catching of 4 Marsh Tits. One had been ringed just 150 m. away, 8 years and 163 days ago making it a group record for longevity, beating the previous one by 160 days but still well behind the national record of 11 years and 92 days.

The groups record for Blue Tits is 8 years and 15 days, behind Marsh Tit despite ringing nearly 39000 Blue Tits but only 540 Marsh Tits! Great Tit comes in at 11 years 97 days a national record. The Group holds another national record with a Bearded Tit at 7 years 42 days.

The other interesting news is the sighting by Javier of a colour ringed Waxwing in Lancaster which had been ringed just 20 days previously by the Grampian Ringing Group at Ballater Deeside Aberdeenshire. Part of the drift south of this winter visitor.