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.

Have Arctic-breeding Waders had a poor breeding Season?

Posted on - In North Lancs Ringing Group
In a change from the usual North Lancs RG blog posts we have a guest blog written by Rose A. Maciewicz & Peter J, Knight about the early results of colour ring sightings of Knot caught near Formby last winter:

Recent reports that NE Greenland was blanketed in snow in the breeding season suggested that 2018 might be a wipe out for Arctic-breeding waders, and this coming after very poor breeding productivity for Red Knot (Calidris canutus islandica) in 2017. The juveniles aren’t due to arrive in the UK just yet, but there may be a glimmer of hope from analyzing the biometrics of colour-ringed adults resighted just after they returned from the north.

On 22nd September 2017 and 30th March 2018 a team including many members of South West Lancs, North Lancs and SCAN Ringing Groups fitted about 1,000 Red Knot with coded orange flags at Altcar Training Camp near Formby, Merseyside and recorded their wing and bill lengths. Since the middle of July we have been observing their return to the beaches around the ringing site. Arrival started on 15th July and numbers grew over the next weeks. By reading the flag codes we could identify which individuals had returned.

Looking at the biometrics of the Red Knot that we read between 22nd and 31st July we were intrigued to see that on average they had statistically longer wing and bill than the whole catch population (see graph). Furthermore, flagged Red Knot that were newly observed on 3rd and 6th August had an average smaller wing and bill than these early arrivals. Since female Red Knot are on average larger than males this is an indication of the females arriving back before the males. As female Knot leave the breeding grounds shortly after the eggs hatch whereas the males remain until the chicks fledge this, in turn, is an indication of probable breeding success.

Time will tell, but maybe our readings of flagged Red Knot offer hope that although NE Greenland had nil productivity, there has been success elsewhere in islandica Red Knot’s breeding range, which extends across Arctic Canada.

Red Knot Of-EHT digiscoped at Formby Point on 22nd July, having recently returned from the Arctic. Wing length when flagged was 178mm - well above the catch average (see graph), so most likely a female.

Our analysis of Red Knot arrivals would not have been possible without colour ringing and all colour ring sightings are valuable. Many of these Red Knot were observed in Iceland on their Northwards migration. As such, interesting life histories are building up in a short space of time. If you see a colour ringed bird please report it via www.ring.ac or contact the ringer directly. For waders, the Register of colour-ringing schemes maintained by the International Wader Study Group (IWSG) is a good way to track down the ringer, at the Wader Study Group register.

Rose A. Maciewicz & Peter J. Knight 10th August 2018

Colour Ringed Mediterranean Gulls at Heysham

Posted on - In North Lancs Ringing Group
The numbers of Mediterranean Gulls appearing in late summer to mid/late September around Heysham outfalls has increased markedly in recent years, in contrast to the status at other times where there has in fact been a decline (spring passage) or no change (winter) for many years.  At least 70 birds were involved in 2017 and an absolute minimum of 74 have been seen in 2018.  This figure is reached by adding together the maxima for each age class with the highest day count of 62 being in early August 2018.

Unfortunately, as regards deciphering the darvic numbers, the immediately local birders/ringers have struggled with ring reading and we have had to rely on better eyesight and better optics/cameras from outside in order to read all but the very occasionally obliging individuals.  Double-figures of Mediterranean Gulls were read in the "Bonaparte's Gull year" of 2013, where the occurrence pattern of this vagrant mirrored the moulting Med Gulls.  In the absence of any subsequent notable mid-summer 'draws', ring reading has been very intermittent and this explains the 'gap years' for some of the returning birds.

They are quite difficult, even for the best optics, especially on Red Nab where they tend to congregate on the south-western area of the rocks and any attempt to approach them leads to mass flushing of eg closer Black-headed Gulls and they are also disturbed by the alarm-calling habits from recently nesting large gulls being difficult to break!  They also tend to clear off south well before the tide reaches the rocks.  The most favoured ring-reading area is on the mudflats between Heysham one outfall and the wooden jetty but even here a lot of patience and luck as they move closer on the incoming tide instead of flying off is needed

However, the rewards for a successful ring-read have been very interesting.  There are clearly a number of adults, third and second calendar years which move in a north-westerly direction in late June/July from breeding areas between France and Poland, including Czech Republic, and complete their moult at Heysham Power Station outfalls and surrounding areas (eg outer Lune Estuary where Heysham birds are displaced on high spring tides). Slightly later in the summer, we receive decent numbers of juveniles which often remain to partially moult into first winter plumage.  Logic might then suggest that these birds move onwards at a similar latitude and become part of Ireland's significant wintering population.  However, this has not been the case with any of the Heysham ringed birds, although the vast majority, of course, are not ringed.  After moving north-west to moult, several have been traced back south to the French and Iberian peninsula coasts during the winter months.  Why do they come so far NW to moult!

Note that one of the dispersing juveniles in 2003, ringed in he Czech Republic, has returned here outside the breeding season every year but it is going to be hard to locate in 2018 with access changes (and absence of food from anglers) in its favoured location on the north harbour wall

Please do visit Heysham at or near low tide or the early stages of the incoming tide - not at high tide on a spring tide when you will see a big fat zero - and try and check the Med Gulls for rings.  Thanks to Richard du Feu, Pete Woodruff and Margaret and Mark Breaks for efforts in 2018 and many others (including Ian Hartley, Mark Nightingale, Mark Prestwood, Jon Carter, Gav Thomas, Chris Batty) for efforts in previous years    

Pete Marsh

Early Population Indications

Posted on - In North Lancs Ringing Group
One of the great things about reasonably standardised ringing is that it gives you some insight into the productivity of the most frequently ringed species. It's early days yet but there are a few indicators from our two regular ringing sites in the Silverdale area. Two species stand out -Treecreeper we have already caught 29, the best we have ever achieved in a full year was  27 and weve still five months to go. We have already also caught 29 Long-tailed Tits two more than in the whoe of 2017.

Of the species ringed in larger numbers Willow Warblers are doing well with 110 ringed and the best period for passage yet to come. We have caught a good number of moulting adults. After a slow start both Reed and Sedge Warbler are doing well. I feel that both these species  had a protracted arrival this past spring and this is reflected in an extended breeding season with numbers of young coming through now. Blue Tits and Reed Buntinga are well above average so far this season. The only regularly ringed species which appear to be lower than usual are Goldcrest  and Wren.

One further thought, in this very dry summerr with many streams and pools dry, both our sites still have water which may be proving attractive and rather inflating numbers around our net sites.


Pied Flycatcher End of Term Report

Posted on - In North Lancs Ringing Group
Our Pied Flycatcher RAS spread across 19 upland woods in the Lune valley in Northern Lancashire has been completed for this season.Following last seasons good productivity we hoped for an increase in the breeding population. We were not disappointed, there was an increase of seven occupied nest boxes to 107 for the year,an all-time record. Of these 69 successfully produced young, down somewhat on last years total of 89. Predation by Weasels and Stoats was a problem especially at two sites.

However we ringed 448 nestlings and caught 70 adult females and 34 males. Males are always harder to catch at the nest than females as they do not incubate and can be only caught for a limited time  while they are feeding the young.

Our oldest bird was ringed as a nestling and caught  5 years and  362 days after ringing this year, so it was in its 6th year. It was a male and surprisingly it had only been caught twice in the last five years in both years in the same wood.The next oldest was first ringed as an adult female in 2013. It bred in the same  wood for three years then moved four km to another wood in 2017 and then 3 km to another wood this year. Another five year old female returned to breed in its first year to its native wood, but since has flitted between three woods.

I wondered if there was any difference between males  and females in returning to the same wood in successive years. I checked our retrap data for birds caught breeding as adults. Males turned out too be more site faithful with only 12% of 80    moving to other woods while 25% of the 183 females recorded, changed woods. Males usually arrive first and start defending a nest box almost straight  away to attract a female so the difference between the sexes is to be expected.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Reed Warbler RAS Report

Posted on - In North Lancs Ringing Group
Yesterdays ringing on our Reed Warbler and Bearded tit RAS studies at Leighton Moss RSPB was rather spoilt by a sudden upsurge in wind mid morning. However of the three Reed Warbler retraps two were very interesting. The first had been ringed at Leighton Moss as a juvenile in late July 2016 and caught  45 days later at the foot  of the Pyrenees in the south west corner of France a distance of 1195 km. It was not recorded in 2017 but had returned this year to the same ride where it was first caught in 2016. We have 28 other Reed Warbler recoveries from Western France

The other retrap  was first ringed as a juvenile in late August 2011 so it was 7 years old . It had not been caught since 2014. Although a good age it is not our oldest Reeed Warbler. We have two at 10 years, two at nine and three at eight years all still going strong when retrapped.  Reed  warblers seem to live longer than the other warblers we handle.                              

Garden Ringing

Posted on - In North Lancs Ringing Group
Another visit to Jerry and Barbara's  woodland edge garden brought 57 birds in two short nets in just two hours. Almost all were young birds  suggesting a successful breeding season. Of the 33 tits only one, a Great Tit was an adult. The one exception was Bullfinch  with nine caught of which only three were juveniles. A few more young birds than our last visit two weeks ago,when we caught only one juvenile out of 11 birds.This means that so far this season we have caught 20 Bullfinch compared with  only seven in the whole of last season.Other members of the group have reported good numbers of Bullfinch in their gardens

Looking back at July catches in past years gives a very similar picture of low numbers of adults with the marked exception of Bullfinch. It is not until mid August that we start to get a good numbers of adult tits. The adult birds will be in wing moult and appear to prefer to remain in the surrounding woodlands.

The catching of four  juvenile Nuthatch was the highlight of the morning to further our colour ringing study of this attractive species.

A Bullfinch Morning

Posted on - In North Lancs Ringing Group
Paid our first post breeding season visit to Jerry and Barbara's woodland edge garden. With just two short nets we caught 50 birds. We expected to catch young tits and of  25 tits caught only one was an adult. We also caught 3 young Nuthatch which is great for our colour ringing study of this species.

 The big surprise though was Bullfinch, we caught 11, especially when you consider that  we only caught seven over the  previous 12 months! Interestingly only one was a juvenile, the others were adults including four we had ringed before. One of these had been ringed as a juvenile almost three years previously. Does this mean that Bullfinch have had a poor breeding season, or that juveniles do not visit feeders at this time of year? Future visits may  throw light on the situation.

Pied Flycatcher RAS Interim Report

Posted on - In North Lancs Ringing Group
Now got the data for about half our RAS study of Pied Flycatchers in the Lune valley woodlands.So far it has been a good season although there has been three reports of nest box predation by either weasels or stoats.

So far in total we have ringed or retrapped 369 birds  made up of 33 males, 60 females and  286 nestlings. The later have survived well in the excellent June weather, the number of caterpillars on the Oak especially appears to be high, and the numbers of insects especially midges is amazing!

A quick analysis of the retrap data shows that although 13 of the birds ringed as nestlings in previous years and retrapped breeding this year returned to their native wood, but 27 moved to other woods within the Lune valley. But  of adult birds 13 returned to the wood they breed in last year and only  two changed woods. There were several examples of birds returning to the same box to breed.

Our oldest bird  is in its seventh year and was originally ringed as an adult. This female bred in the same wood for three years,was missed the next year, then moved 4 km to another wood and this year moved 3km. We have two others in their fifth year.

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.