Siskin Movements

Posted on - In North Lancs Ringing Group

The Group has over the years ringed 3390 Siskin, these have produced 112 recoveries or controls. We have just received our first recovery from Norway as shown on the map below. It fell victim to a cat on May 6th just 43 days after ringing in Dave's garden, a distance of 1151 km NE.We had one previous recovery from Sweden. Most of our ringing of this species is done in winter and early spring although in recent years numbers have started to breed in our area. The recoveries suggest that the bulk of our wintering birds  breed in Scotland with  34 reports from Northern Scotland and 15 from Galloway during the breeding season, almost all caught by ringers.

Comparing our data with the national picture shown in Online Ringing Reports one would have expected more Scandinavian reports from the numbers we have ringed and had recovered Nationally there has been 425 reports from Norway and Sweden. Perhaps the Scandinavian birds winter mainly in  the east and south of the country.


A Record Breaking Reed Bunting

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Over the years our Group has ringed 4674 Reed Bunting mainly during or just after the  breeding season. These have shown a southward movement in winter with seven recoveries in the Cheshire/Merseyside area, three in Shropshire and singles in Kent, Dorset, Nottingham, South Wales and Sussex. The only birds showing any significant  northerly movement was an April ringed bird  found a day later 60 km north in Cumbria and a Tyneside bird in January.

So the report of one ringed on October 9th 2016 at Middleton Nature Reserve and caught at Fair Isle in Shetland, 698 kms. north on April 24th this year was completely unexpected. It was however caught during a period of marked easterly movement.

The BTO online Ringing Report shows this recovery to be the second longest recorded movement of Reed Buntings within Britain. The only one to exceed it was also caught at Fair Isle and ringed in Suffolk in 2007. These were probably birds heading for Scandinavia  as there are  37 reports from Norway and 20 from Sweden of birds ringed or recovered in Britain.

Colour ringed Avocets

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Over the last 16 seasons an account of the Avocets at Leighton Moss has been kept and is available at Jim Shep's webpage.  The account gives excellent information on how many Avocets have attempted to breed at Leighton over the years and also the highly variable success they have enjoyed or, more often, endured.

Over the years a handful of colour ringed birds have appeared at the colony.  The first being a French bird (Red/White(O), Red/Lime).  From this record it would be very easy to assume the birds populating Leighton Moss were from the Southern populations spreading Northwards.

RWO-RL - The French Avocet

Last year two more colour ringed birds appeared (Red/Blue, Black/Black and White/Blue, Red/Green).  Interestingly these were ringed on the same day in 2015 at the same site on Teeside as chicks but not from the same brood even though the ring numbers are consecutive.  Further to this a third bird ringed on the same day, site etc appeared on the Ribble strongly suggesting many of the birds are populating from the East.

WB-RG - The second Cleveland bird

This year the French bird and Red/Blue, Black/Black have returned to breed.  Sadly the first breeding attempt of the French bird failed after 4 eggs were laid.  Additionally a metal ring only bird has had the ring number read.  This bird was ringed at Spurn in July 2013 as a chick adding further to evidence of birds populating Leighton are coming from the North-East.

RB-NN - The first Cleveland bird
In the last couple of days two 'new' colour ringed birds have been seen, firstly Lime/Blue, Lime/White which was ringed in May 2011 in Cleveland and a second bird appeared this morning (28th April) carrying a white engraved colour ring on the left tibia and green/metal on the right.  This appears to be a bird ringed as a chick in the Netherlands, exact details as yet unknown.

LB-LW - The third Cleveland bird

Once again these two records appear to add to the evidence of most of the population at Leighton are coming from the East and North-East confused by the first record being of a Southern bird.

Perhaps the origin of the birds being from the North-East is not quite so simple.  Does this reflect more on the ringing effort of Avocets than where they are coming from?  I took a look at where Avocets are ringed in the UK:

Of the 585 nestling Avocets ringed in the UK between 2010 and 2016 30% have been ringed in North Yorkshire and Durham however a tiny proportion of the breeding Avocet in the UK breed there.  Additionally most of the chicks raised in the North-East have been colour ringed so it is far more likely any from the North-East are marked whereas the probability of an East Anglian bird being marked is much lower.  In conclusion the movements suggest we are getting a lot of birds from the East but suggesting they are mostly from the North-East is ignoring the 90% of unmarked birds.

With the rapidly rising population of Avocet in the North-West it is not at all clear were the nestlings will disperse to.  Is Ireland a likely option or perhaps the Cumbrian coast spreading into Dumfries and Galloway?  With so much effort being put into understanding declining species it is easy to ignore the questions surrounding rapidly increasing species and as such perhaps an effort to colour mark chicks raised in the North-West should be made.

Selected histories of the 6 individually identified birds at Leighton Moss:

RWO-RL (The French bird, over 100 sightings in total):
20/06/2008 - Ringed as chick, Bas Boulais, France
Arrival/last sighting dates at Leighton Moss with next sighting for that year:
26/03/2012 - 17/04/2012 (France September)
28/03/2013 - 25/04/2013 (France July)
22/03/2014 - 29/04/2014 (Scunthorpe July, France Febuary 2015)
11/04/2015 - 18/04/2015 (20/04/2015 France!)
03/04/2016 - ?? (16/04/2016 Hesketh Out Marsh), no winter records
28/03/2017 - 23/04/2017 (November France)
05/04/2018 - 28/04/2018
If there is ever an example of why every sighting is valuable this bird is it.  In 2015 the last record at Leighton was 2 days before it appeared back in France.  Had we just had the first sighting of the season how long it stayed would be a complete mystery and whether it went directly back to France would be unknown.

RB-NN (EY98058):
Ringed 24/05/2015, Teesmouth
Sighted Alkborough, North Lincs 17/07/2015
05/04/2017 - 26/04/2017 - Leighton Moss
29/03/2018 - 26/04/2018 - Leighton Moss

WB-RG (EY98059):
Ringed 24/05/2015 - Teesmouth
Sighted Alkborough, North Lincs 19/07/2015
22/04/2017 - 26/04/2017 - Leighton Moss

LB-LW (EX15786):
Ringed 23/05/2011 - Teesmouth
Sighted Alkborough, North Lincs 08/08/2011, 13/07/2012, 30/08/2013
27/04/2018 - 28/04/2018 - Leighton Moss
Where has this bird been for the last 5 years?

EY21410 (No colour ring)
Ringed 03/07/2013 - Spurn Bird Observatory
27/04/2018 - Leighton Moss

White(EK) - Holland. More details to follow
28/04/2018 - Leighton Moss

Grey Wagtails Suffer from the Cold Weather?

Posted on - In North Lancs Ringing Group
Over the last 18 years we have ringed 988 Grey Wagtails. Since 2008 we have been colour ringing those caught on passage along the coast at Heysham. Up to this year we have had 18 recoveries with all being either colour ring sightings, or recapture by other ringers, no birds have been reported dead. These recoveries show that our birds winter mainly in the  Chesire/Merseyside/ Greater Manchester area with single birds reported  from Wiltshire, Staffordshire and Pembroke.

However  this March we have had two reports of dead birds. The first was in Shropshire on March 1st. It was reported as being in poor condition indicating cold  weather. It had been ringed as a juvenile on September 25th 2017 at Heysham and had moved 137 km. The other was killed by flying into a balcony window in Conwy North Wales on March 13th. One can only assume that this bird was searching for food in an unusual  habitat during cold weather. It had moved 99 km and had been ringed on September 14th 2016.

So far the only local report of a dead bird during the cold spell was a Blue Tit . However we have been fortunate with only a short lived  covering of snow.

Bearded Tit Pair Remain Faithful

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A regular visitor to Leighton Moss was very lucky to see a pair of Bearded Tits on the grit trays at 08.00 this morning. Visits to the grit trays are  most unusual at this time of year. Over the past 15 years of our colour ringing study at Leighton we have only had six grit tray sightings in March. Fortunately he  took some photos and we were able to work out their history.

They were both ringed as juveniles in July 2016  and first seen together on the grit trays on 2nd October 2016. Since then they have been recorded together on 28 occasions including 13 sightings between early October and late November 2016 and 15 times between late September and late November 2017.

Another excellent example of Bearded Tits forming pairs in their first autumn and remaining faithful in subsquent years.We have recorded such behaviour on many ocasions but this is outstanding.

Will be interesting to see if there are any more grit tray sightings in this cold spring. Fortunately we have no snow but it has been very cold. Usually by this time of year there are numbers of insects appearing for the Beardies to catch, but not this year so they are probably still  feeding on reed seed for which they need grit in the gizzard to grind up.

Another Good Year

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With all the data now in it was another successful year for the group with total handlings of 15,940 made up of 9152 new fully grown, 2950 nestlings and 3838 retraps or recoveries.

Top of the pile as usual was Blue Tit with 2399 handlings of these 994 were nestlings from our various nest box schemes and 472 retraps. Our RAS schemes featured highly with Pied Flycatcher having their best year ever with 944 handlings made up of 754 nestlings, 115 retraps and 75 adults. Sand Martins had a reasonable year with 757 handlings but Reed Warblers  at 389 were down due to access difficulties

We have five colour ringing schemes. Nuthatch with 773 records of which 651 were re-sightings was the most productive. Bearded Tits with 437 records of which 405 were sightings. These are both local species with only very occasional movements out of the area. Our Grey Wagtail scheme based mainly at Heysham BO is designed to study their movements through our area.We colour ringed 83 this year but had only four sightings out of the area, but our knowledge of the birds wintering area is building up after ten years of study.Stuarts study of Dippers on the Upper Lune resulted in 33 new adults and 193 nestlings being colour ringed . He has started a new study with Thomas, studying Common Sandpipers in the same area, the first year was highly productive with 50 adults and 42   young birds  ringed.

Finches feature highly with Mark and Daves garden ringing in the east of our area producing the most.  Goldfinch  at 944 was amazing when you consider that 10 years ago we ringed only 88. That year we ringed 457 Greenfinch this year we 451. Goldfinch have increased as a breeding bird in our area and really moved into gardens. Other finches included 381 Siskin 386 Lesser Redpoll and 125 Bullfinch .

Garden Ringing

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A visit this morning to Jerry and Barbara's woodland edge garden produced 72 birds of which 50 were new birds and 22 retraps. From late summer to this morning we have caught 501 birds of 21 species in 10 visits to the garden. Top of the pile is Blue Tit with 106 different individuals closely followed by Coal Tit with 90 then Great Tit with 60. These are individual birds so a bird caught several times is only counted once.It is nice to see Greenfinch making a come back we have ringed 53 so far this season double the numbers we ringed in the two previous seasons.By contrast Bullfinch are down with only four ringed compared to 28 last season, surprising for at another woodland feeding station ca 3 km away we have had a record year for Bullfinch. At the other end of the scale we have caught only four Starlings and two House Sparrows.

The woodland aspect of this well provisioned garden is reflected in the species we catch including 9 Great Spotted Woodpeckers and 19 Nuthatch. The later is our main study species with all the birds we catch individually colour ringed and Jerry and Barbara record sightings as often as possible, they regularly record up to 5 or 6 different individuals in a session, but we only caught one today. This was first ringed 3 years and 330 days ago in January 2014. This was the 10th time we had re-trapped it but we have 255 sightings over the past almost 4 years. It is a male and for three years it came regularly to the feeders with its mate but she has now dissapeared.There is also another male sighted 3 years and 66 days after ringing, he also is a regular at the feeders. Of the 19 Nuthatch sighted. Seven are visiting regularly but the other 12 are quite irregular visitors.
Survivial though is interesting. Of the 18 Nuthatch recorded in the 2015/16 winter using sightings the survival rate was 50% using retraps it was only 23%.


A Robin Morning

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Visited our small woodland feeding station yesterday morning and was amazed that with just two small nets set close together we caught 9 different Robins of which 7 were new birds. The two retraps were one from last year which has been a regular this autumn and another ringed as a bird of the year in October. So far this autumn we have paid 5 visits and on the previous four visits we have caught 2 on two of them and 3 on one and none at all on an October visit.So far this autumn we have caught 14 different birds. This compares with just 5 in the same period last year.

I realize that the territories of this normally territorial bird often break down with an abundant food supply but I have never caught so many Robins. It could be that food is short in the surrounding woodland and farmland, but there are other feeding stations in the gardens close by. Or has there been an influx of continental birds?

Bearded Tit Gritting Report & Reed Warbler Survival

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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.

Knot update

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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.