Remarkable day’s ringing – Part 2 – Knot

Posted on - In North Lancs Ringing Group
In the previous blog posting I made reference to an article about Knot at Formby on the 22nd September. Here it is!

The West coast of the UK, particularly Liverpool bay and Morecambe bay, are important areas for wintering Knot in the UK.  Additionally Liverpool bay hosts a large summer flock of second year birds.  A lot of Knot have been ringed on the West coast historically (1970s) however relatively few have been caught and ringed in August, September and April.  This leaves some gaps in our knowledge of Knot and in particular we have limited data after the period after their rapid decline in the 1980s.

Knot have been worked on in the flyway for many years and from recent colour ringing studies some interesting things have been observed. Firstly in Winter birds colour marked on passage in Iceland, Norway and those moulting on the Waddensea are arriving in the North West.  Secondly in August, September and April only Icelandic spring passage birds are seen.  A study was started on the Formby to Ribble coast in 2015 to read flags throughout the year - mainly of birds caught on the early spring staging areas in Iceland and Northern Norway and from the moulting and wintering areas in the Netherlands.  An analysis of the WEBS count data showed that there has been an almost continuous decline in the Autumn and Spring populations since the 1970s.  This study showed that it was necessary to catch Knot on the Formby-Ribble coast to answer several questions:

1 - What do the second year birds do after moulting in the North West?
2 - Where do the adult Knot moulting in the North West go for winter?
3 - Have there been large changes in wintering behaviour of Knot since the work 40 years ago?
4 - Do Knot that remain in the North West until April only migrate via Iceland or do some also go via Norway too?

On the 22nd September 519 Knot were individually colour ringed at Formby in an effort to answer these questions. All the Knot marked have an orange flag and a pale blue ring below on the left tarsus. All the flags have a 2 letter engraved code.

Of the 519 birds colour ringed biometrics were taken from 330, of these 3% are known juveniles, 50% are probable 2nd year birds and the remainder are certainly full adults.  With enough resightings of these Knot most of these questions should be answerable.

In total we caught 1,155 Knot on the 22nd September with all birds being released within 4 hours of capture (for most of this time their feeding grounds are covered by the tide).  Of these only 8 had been ringed previously. The details of these are:

SR74689 - Beaumaris (Anglesey) 17/01/2010 First winter
ST10890 - Seal Sands, Teesmouth 24/08/2015 Juvenile
ST32171 - Wainfleet Marsh (Lincolnshire) 17/09/2016 Juvenile
ST32200 - Gedney Drove End (Lincolnshire) 15/09/2016 Juvenile
ST50909 - Ythan Estuary, (Aberdeenshire) 26/08/2016 Juvenile
SV24636 - Heysham (Lancashire) 21/02/2004 First winter
SV33056 - Wig (Gwynedd) 30/01/2006 First winter
SV56579 - Hoylake (Merseyside) 14/10/2012 Juvenile

In the two weeks since the catch over 100 colour ringed Knot have been reported to Jim Wilson (the project coordinator). All of these sightings have come from a single site on the Wirral or within 2km of the ringing site.   Any sightings whether from Liverpool bay or anywhere else are really valuable to help answer the above questions.

Many thanks to the huge number of people who made this catch possible, particularly the MOD, South West Lancs RG, Jim Wilson, Peter Knight, Rose Maciewicz and the large team that assembled on the day.  Also thanks to Ian Hartley for the photo.

Remarkable day’s ringing – Part 1 – Sanderling

Posted on - In North Lancs Ringing Group
Slightly out of the North Lancs RG area however a large team of ringers including many from North Lancs made a trip to the Sefton coast to ring and colour ring Knot as part of a study run from Norway looking at how Knot use the West coast of the UK to moult and winter and then to look at how this effects their migration route back up to Greenland and Canada to breed.  More on this project in part 2 which will follow in the coming weeks.

While we specifically targeting Knot we also caught some Sanderling.  In the last decade under 10 Sanderling have been ringed in North Merseyside and Lancashire so any Sanderling caught will be interesting and add to our understanding of their movements.  Out of the 370 Sanderling we caught 45 were already carrying rings.  The bulk of these 45 are from ringing in North Wales around Rhyl which is around 35km away.  These movement data are valuable as it is proof of the connectivity between moulting populations of Sanderling in autumn and their wintering grounds and how strong the link between the two are.

Three of the Sanderling were carrying colour rings.  All 3 were ringed in Iceland in May 2016 as part of a long running study of Sanderling.  Out of the thousands of Sanderling colour ringed on migration, breeding and wintering sites on our flyway all 3 we caught came from the same site.  Once again this strongly links the moulting population on the Sefton coast to the migration stop over site in Iceland.  One of these birds has also been seen near Rhyl in previous winters.

Having knowledge of inter-site connectivity is valuable in the conservation world because we can say, conclusively, that the loss of one site or habitat will have an impact on how the birds at one site use sites elsewhere.  Without such data and being limited to count data it would be easy to say the loss of one site would impact the peak count number of birds however with the connectivity data and count data there is a lot more evidence of a wider impact of the loss of one site. Luckily none of the sites in question here are under any threat.

For me this highlights the value of the ringing scheme; it's all about what the normal bird normally does rather than what the rare bird rarely does.

Bearded Tits Form Pairs When Juveniles

Posted on - In North Lancs Ringing Group
In today's windy conditions only two Bearded Tits were recorded on the grit trays by Steve & Jan but they were obviously a pair gritting together on two occasions. They were both first colour ringed as juveniles in July 2016. By early October they had obviously formed a pair for they were recorded together on the grit trays on no less than 12 occasions into November 2016. So far this autumn they have been recorded together on five occasions.

We have recorded similar behavior on many occasions over the years proving beyond all doubt that Bearded Tits form pairs in their first late summer/early autumn and if they survive they retain good pair fidelity. We have records of three pairs that remained together for three years and we have no records of pair divorcing!

Bearded Tit Gritting Season Gets Underway

Posted on - In North Lancs Ringing Group
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.


A Quick Dispersing Merlin

Posted on - In North Lancs Ringing Group
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.


Reed Bunting Movements

Posted on - In North Lancs Ringing Group
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.

Sedge Warblers on the Move

Posted on - In North Lancs Ringing Group
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!

Nest Box Statistics

Posted on - In North Lancs Ringing Group
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.

Pied Flycatchers on a High

Posted on - In North Lancs Ringing Group
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.

A Good Morning at Last

Posted on - In North Lancs Ringing Group
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.