Recent Highlights

Posted on - In North Lancs Ringing Group
Our best recent highlight was a Chiffchaff caught at Poole Harbour in Dorset just four days and two hours after ringing at Middleton NR,a movement of 370 km S. It weighed 9.4 gms when caught, a good weight for a Chiffchaff but only 8.1 grams when caught in Dorset.This is only our second Chiffchaff from Dorset and only our third record from the south coast. We have  had single birds from the Channel Islands, Portugal,Morocco and Senegal. Contrast that with a Sedge Warbler caught 484 km SE in Pas-de-Calais France just 16 days after ringing in late July at Leighton Moss.  It is our 54th Sedge Warbler from France 38 of which have been in August. To date we have ringed 4500 Chiffchaff and 14500 Sedge Warblers.

I have posted recently about how faithful Bearded Tit pairs are once formed. Another pair seen recently on the grit trays is a good example. First caught together as juveniles in  early October 2016 they were recorded together on 11 other occasions in 2016, on 17 occasions in 2017 and seven occasions so far in 2018.

We have ringed good numbers of Reed Bunting at Leighton Moss this year 139 so far compared to 56 in 2017.We get very few retraps suggesting movement through the reed-bed. Looking at our retrap data I was surprised to find our oldest record was just 10 days short of eight years after ringing. It had been retrapped seven times. We had no records of other birds past five years. The national record is just 22 days short of ten years.
John                  

Reed Bed Ringing Update

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In a spell of  windy days it was great to have a calm morning on Wednesday this week allowing a visit to the best site for catching Bearded Tits. We were not disappointed, for we caught this years record catch  of 14 of which 11 were new birds all probably this years young. One of the retraps was an adult which we had not recorded this year, bringing our totals to 16 adult males and 10 adult females and 26 young birds. We normally add more adults to the totals this time of year from grit tray sightings of our colour ringed birds.

The other major catch was 18 Reed Buntings all new birds. It appears to have been a good year for this species for we have ringed 154 this year so far, compared to just 58  last year. We caught surprisingly few tits just one Blue Tit, one Great Tit and three  Coal Tits. Flocks normally move into the reed beds at this time of year to exploit the insects over wintering  in the reed stems, however there is so much food available in the surrounding woodlands with all tree species producing a bumper harvest.

John

Bearded Tits Gritting Season Gets Underway

Posted on - In North Lancs Ringing Group
It was great this morning for my arrival at 09.00 coincided with the  first birds of day on the trays at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve. Up to now there had been very few sightings. In the end there were three pairs each with their own grit tray, which was great for we could tell who was paired to whom.If you got three or more birds on a tray there was much aggression and chasing.

On my return home I quickly looked up the colour combinations of these three pairs and their sighting history. The oldest bird, a male was  first ringed in 2014 so is in his 4th year. His mate was first ringed as a  juvenile in July 2016. In 2016 they were both paired to other birds but by October 10th 2017 they were obviously paired and we seen on the grit trays together on 5 days in October and early November.  One assumes that their previous mates had died. On May 4th this year they were recorded feeding a brood in one of our nest boxes and the sighting  today proved they were still together.

Another pair were both first ringed as juveniles in 2017. They had formed a pair on their first sighting on the grit trays on 18th October and were recorded together on four other occasions to early November. The male was seen on May5th near one of our nest boxes but the female was not identified. But today's sighting shows they have remained together.

The third pair is the one I posted about 10 days ago when they were the first pair to be recorded gritting this season. They were both 2016 birds and were  seen together on 8 times  in the 2016 season and no fewer than 13 times in the 2017 season. They were  seen together at a nest box on March 4th this year and have already been recorded together on four days this September.

These sightings conclusively prove that Bearded Tit pairs remain together as long as they both survive of course. Few other passerine species exhibit this behaviour.
John

Knot in odd places… part 2 – The Azores.

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In early September I had a message from a friend near Liverpool with a photo of one of the Knot from Formby.  After a quick exchange explaining it was one from Formby and asking where he had seen it Peter told me it was taken by someone on the Azores!  Yesterday it was seen again a couple of km away from the previous sighting on São Miguel Island.


It will be interesting to see what happens to this bird. If it has survived for a couple of weeks there is a chance it could survive long term and perhaps reorientate to find it's way back to the Dee, Mersey and Alt estuaries where it spent last winter.  Time will tell however it certainly needs to update its satnav. 

What an islandica Knot is doing on the Azores is somewhat of a mystery.  On the Azores Knot occur regularly but in very low numbers.  Given the location it is likely most records are rufa Knot that have been caught in storms and blown over the Atlantic. Given the proximity of the breeding ranges of rufa and islandica it is likely there is occasional mixing of immature birds in autumn however an adult is quite a different matter.

This is the first record of a BTO ringed Knot on the Azores and is only the 3rd British ringed Knot to be found in any of Portugal.  Only one Portuguese ringed Knot has been found in the UK which was found in August 2013 in Lincolnshire which, remarkably, I was also involved in catching.  These low totals are probably not surprising as few islandica knot make it as far south as Portugal and relatively few canutus Knot stop off in the UK in spring and autumn.  

Many thanks to Peter Fearon, Carlos Ribeiro and Tiago Rodrigues for photographing this bird and getting the data submitted.

Bearded Tit Gritting Season gets Underway

Posted on - In North Lancs Ringing Group
The sighting of a pair on the  grit trays at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve today signals the start of the gritting season. The pair sighted proved most interesting.

They were  both 2016 youngsters, the female having been ringed as a nestling in May and the male as a juvenile in July. The were first recorded together on October 2nd 2016 when they were recaptured. They were them recorded gritting together on 10 occasions up to  November 11th. The next  sighting was on the grit trays on 17 September 2017 and over the next months they were recorded gritting together on 14 occasions up to November 14th. On April 3rd this year they were sighted together near a nest box and the female was seen at the same nest box on April 27th.

These sightings again prove that Bearded Tits pair in their first autumn and remain together as a pair as long as they survive of course.They were the first birds to be recorded on the grit trays in 2017 and the first birds this year although three days late!  They were also the pair which was recorded on most occasions on the grit trays in 2017.

The Grit trays are just off the main public path leading to the Causeway Hide. A new viewing  platform  been installed by the RSPB, giving brilliant views of the three grit trays. I you visit and get details of the colour ringed birds please send them to johnwilson711@btinternet.com and help in our research on these amazing birds. Birds are best seen on reasonably calm days between 08.00 and 11.00 from now to late November.
John
                   

This Years Ringing at Leighton Moss

Posted on - In North Lancs Ringing Group
With poor ringing weather  for the next few days, if the forecast prove correct, thought I would check how we are doing so far this year. With 1469 new birds so far we are already well past last years total for the full year of  1315.

Including retraps Reed Warblers head the list with 474 compared to 345 last year. A close second is Willow Warbler, with 345 an increase of 182 on last year . Sedge Warblers at 130 saw an increase of 25 but Chiffchaff at 81 are still 20 behind last year although September is  usually good for this species, as it is for Reed Bunting which is already 28 up on last years 58.

Of the less frequently ringed species Treecreeper  are amazing with 43 this year compared to just 27 in the whole of 2017. Blackcap went from 21 to 36 this year. Species which are down are mainly the tits  which usually come into the reed bed and willow scrub later in the year. Blue Tit is a good example being 54 down on last years total of 227.

Bearded Tits are our main study and we appear to have been a bit unlucky with catches. Last week was typical  a flock was calling near the nets but the wind got up and we had to take down. To date we  have recorded 29 birds but September/October are usually the best months and grit tray sightings of colour ringed birds  should  get underway shortly.
John


An Amazing Sedge Warbler

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A clear calm interval on Saturday morning gave us the opportunity to visit the Spring ride at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve. The first round of our six nets produced a good variety, including a Cetti's warbler and a Nuthatch and four Sedge Warblers these were weighed  and  none showed any sign of fat. The average weight was 10.7 grams. The next round produced two more  Sedge Warblers one at 10.2 with a fat score of 1. Kevin extracted the other and was amazed  when he examined it , its body was completely covered in fat including the breast and he gave it a fat score of 8. We all guessed at its weight and the highest suggestion was 16 so we were all amazed when it came in at 19.3.grams. When I entered this weight on IPMR it came up with a warning that the usual highest weight was 17.9. So quite an intriguing bird

According to the migration Atlas Sedge Warblers mainly fatten up for their journey across to France along the English south coast or the South Wales coast. We have ringed as a group just over 14,000 Sedge Warblers so  just about impossible to search through these  but we only occasionally get birds above 13 grams. However a search of September catches revealed one  at 15 grams in late September and this appears to be the heaviest we have recorded up to now.

It is thought that Sedge Warblers fatten up on Plum/reed aphids which is abundant in many parts of the reed bed this year. But it is still amazing that this bird should accumulate so much fat especially when only one of the 89 other  birds caught this year so far, exceeded 13 grams and that by .1 of a gram.
John

Knot in odd places

Posted on - In North Lancs Ringing Group
My short working description of the purpose of the ringing scheme is 'Finding out what normal birds normally do rather than what rare birds rarely do' and similarly most BTO surveys are about 'what's there, what's not there but not what's rare'.  Just occasionally odd things do happen and they can be interesting too.  They're often what sparks an interest that lasts a lifetime.

My interest in Knot began one evening in late September 1999 when I handled my first Knot at Wolferton, Norfolk.  What made this juvenile Knot interesting was it had a metal ring above the knee and by the time I had read as far as 'Buda' on the ring it was in someone else's hand.  For me this is a moment that I'll never forget and also a lesson I pass on to everyone starting out wader ringing - Always check above the knee for rings.  It would have been easy to miss, particularly in the dark at the end of a long week of wader ringing.

The 'Bird ringing in Britain and Ireland in 2001' report mentions this bird:

HGB KX5227 is unprecedented. Few Knot are caught in Hungary each year, only 20 were ringed between 1985 and 1998 (Varga pers comm), and this bird was one of only two Knot, both juveniles, which were caught in walk-in traps on autumn passage in 1999. Just 10 days later the bird was mistnetted on the Wash. This will have been a canutus Knot from the Siberian population on passage to the wintering grounds in Africa. Given the number of Knot passing through Hungary and the scarcity of canutus now visiting Britain (Boyd & Piersma 2001), this recovery is quite amazing. SVS 4294422 is the eighth Swedish-ringed Knot to be reported in Britain & Ireland.

Since this exceptional record another Hungarian ringed Knot has been caught in Porsangerfjord, Norway in spring suggesting that at least some of the Knot reaching Hungary are islandica. I would guess they have overshot the west coast of Norway on the way south, gone down the east coast of Sweden and through central Europe however this is pure speculation.

Broadly speaking all the sightings of the Formby Knot have been as we expected with many in Iceland in spring, the odd one in Norway both in spring and autumn, a couple of the Netherlands, many in Scotland and Ireland but without exception on the coast.  This weekend Twitter sprung into life with a photograph of a flagged bird at Blithfield reservoir in Staffordshire.  Sadly the Knot was too far to read the flag so I thought we would just have a cohort record rather than an individual.  Luckily another photographer had a closer photograph and we now know this bird's identity.  Up until this record this Knot had done what we expected - stopped over in Iceland in May after spending at least some of the winter on the Sefton coast.  This is the first recovery of a Knot in Staffordshire.

With the big tides this weekend I'm sure a lot more sightings will be made and maybe this one will have reappeared in a more expected place.

How Long Do Birds Live?

Posted on - In North Lancs Ringing Group
With poor ringing weather I spent sometime updating our longevity records for our most regularly ringed species.I find it fascinating how this varies from species to species. Not only did I record the oldest bird but all birds surviving five years and above after ringing.


The most amazing species is Reed Warbler with a record of 9 years and 314 days after ringing and with 44 records over five years. Compare this with Sedge Warbler with a record of only 5 years and 51 days and  the only one making 5 years. Granted we have ringed 17, 234  Reed Warblers almost 7000 more than Sedge Warblers and the retrap rate for Reed Warblers is 23% compared to 12% in Sedge Warblers. The high retrap rate suggests we are mainly catching a breeding population of Reed Warblers although recoveries show a small number passing through our sites from the few small colonies to the north with 22 in Cumbria (mainly at nearby Helton Tarn) but only one in Scotland. Sedge Warblers by contrast have  ten spread around Scotland and 11 from Cumbria. So in the case of Sedge Warblers quite a proportion are from a  transient  migratory population  where the chance of retrapping in following years is low  One wonders why there is such a difference between these closely related species? Is it conditions in the wintering areas in Africa or different migration or breeding  strategies?
Of the other warblers the Lesser Whitethroat  record is  5 years and 19 days with another one at five years with only 844 ringed. Next best is Willow Warbler with four at five years from 10964 ringed,  but like Sedge Warblers a good number of the birds caught are migrating through our area with 14 reports from Scotland and four from Cumbria.
Bearded Tits with 17 birds five plus years and a national record of 7 years 93 days are also exceptional. These are the results of an intensive RAS study based on 2458 new birds and 7618 colour ring sightings or retraps.
Of the resident species Chaffinch (oldest 9 years and 246 days) has 17 records of five years plus, as does Blue Tit (oldest 8 years and 15 days) but  we have handled over 31000 more Blue Tit than Chaffinch! Of the other tits Marsh Tit is also outstanding with a record of 8 years 220 days and four over five years plus from only 725 handled. Long-tailed Tits(oldest 7years 285days) has 6 over 5 years from 3169 handlings.
 The table below details my findings with details  of numbers ringed, retraps/sightings. Numbers of birds  above 5 years and for comparison the national longevity record.


John


Table 1 Longevity Records for Most Ringed Species 1999-July 2018
Species
New ringed
Retraps  Etc
Oldest
9+ years
8
7
6
5
National
Sand Martin
17076
3334
6 Y 19D



1
6
7y 9m 1d
Swallow
23076
130
3Y 253 D





11y 1m11d
Wren
3467
1162
5Y 290d




1
7y3m6d
Dunnock
3130
1632
9Y 285D
1

1
4
2
11y3m7d
Robin
5203
1715
7Y 95 D


1
1
5
8y4m30d
Great S Wood
301
158
5y 161 D




1
11y5m2d
Blackbird
3494
1239
8Y 155 D

1

6
9
14y9m15d
Song Thrush
1023
152
6Y242 D



2
2
11y8d
Redstart
1363
21
4Y 80 D





8 y8d
Grey Wagtail
1003
78
4 Y70 D





7y1d
Sedge Warbler
10752
1463
5 Y 32 D




1
8y8m8d
Reed Warbler
17234
5325
9 Y314 D
2
2
8
11
21
12y11m21d
Blackcap
3154
437
4 Y 43 D





10y8m15d
Whitethroat
2450
361
4Y 84 D





7y9m5d
L.Whitethroat
844
180
5 y 19 D




2
9y2d
Willow Warbler
10964
774
5Y 337 D




4
10y11m18d
Chiffchaff
3783
400
2 Y 332 D





7Y7M24D
Cetti’s Warbler
65
61
3 Y 344 D





9Y 3M28D
Goldcrest
5184
728
2 Y113 D





5Y1M12D
Pied Flycatcher
9135
925
6 Y 10D



1
3
9Y7D
Bearded Tit
2458
7618
7 Y93D


2
4
13
7Y3M
Long-tailed Tit
3169
1850
7Y 285 D


1
1
4
8Y11M
Blue Tit
31155
8644
8 Y 15 D

1
5
3
8
10Y3M10D
Great Tit
13709
3922
13Y 329D
1


1
2
13Y11M5D
Coal Tit
4282
2975
7 Y21D


1
3
1
9Y2M25D
Marsh Tit
455
270
8Y 220 D

1
1

2
11Y3M
Nuthatch
976
2467
4Y 230D





10Y11M3D
Treecreeper
494
137
4Y 364 D





8Y18D
House Sparrow
1062
67
5Y 327 D         




2
12Y12D
Chaffinch
7044
975
9 Y 246 D
2
3
3
3
6
13Y11M26D
Greenfinch
8862
1105
9 Y
1

1
1
2
12Y8M26D
Goldfinch
6675
1213
5 Y 15 D




1
10Y2D
Siskin
3306
93
3 Y 363 D





8Y1M27D6Y4M2
Twite
1227
1194
3 Y 363 D





6Y4M24D
Lesser Redpoll
2651
1031
4Y 333D





6Y10M11D
Bullfinch
956
488
6 Y361 D



1
1
9Y2M9D
Reed Bunting
3440
433
7 Y 355 D


1

1
9Y4M18D

Quick Movers

Posted on - In North Lancs Ringing Group

  Two controls received today,  both at Icklesham in East Sussex on the south coast are good examples of the  quick movement of our summer visitors at this time of year. - A Sedge Warbler on July 31st just six days after ringing and a Sand Martin on August 6th 12 days after ringing both were juveniles and involved movement of 425 kms. They set me looking back at our data set for these two well ringed species.

The latest control brings the total of our Sedge Warblers controlled along the south coast to 88, 36 of them in Sussex. Of these 19 have been under 10 days after ringing and a further 11 within 20 days. The shortest was just two days after ringing. Further afield we have had 53 controls from Western France of these two were under 10 days and four within 20 days,  the quickest was six days after ringing.

The Sand Martin  in Sussex is the 141st ringed by the group to be controlled there! We have 58 reports from Western France, 16 in Spain and six in Senegal in West Africa. There are fewer quick movers than Sedge Warblers mainly I feel because almost all Sand Martin ringing is at the breeding colony and most birds are recently fledged youngsters. However we have 2 under 10 days and 10 under 20 days. Of French controls we have one 10 days after ringing and another 17 days.
John