Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Further Radio Silence and a Handful of Recoveries

I seem to be apologising a lot recently about a lack of postings and I am doing it again! I have been in the field a good deal of late, but it has been business rather than pleasure. Then over the next week or so there will be more radio silence from me as I spend some time on Orkney. Normal service will be resumed in early July.

We had a handful of recoveries recently from the BTO and two stood out as particularly interesting. Not long distant movements but helping to paint the picture of where birds from local populations move to.

Over the past few years we have had an exchange of birds with ringers in the Isle of Man and these in the main have concerned Carduelis finches, namely Goldfinch, Lesser Redpoll and Linnet. We were recently notified about Goldfinch L141677 that we ringed at Rossall School, Fleetwood, Lancashire on 4th October 2010 and this bird was recaptured by members of the Manx Ringing Group on 10th April 2013. Please see Google Earth image below.

It seems likely that when we ringed this bird on 4th October 2010 it was probably heading south and west to winter quarters and this may have been the Isle of Man. When the Manx ringers caught the bird on 10th April 2013 it was probably heading back to breeding grounds on mainland UK. Interesting stuff!

The second bird concerns Tree Sparrow TS97113 that was ringed as a chick by Paul from one of his boxes near Staining, Lancashire on 20th June 2012 and captured by members of Southwest Lancs Ringing Group at a winter feeding station 19 km to the southeast at New Longton, Lancashire on 16th January and 9th February 2013. See Google Earth image below.

Having fledged from the Staining area this bird was obviously spending the winter further southeast at a farmland bird feeding station near New Longton. It is important to have data like this to help in Tree Sparrow conservation as it gives information on how far birds move to winter and where to locate winter feeding stations or encourage farmers to take up agri-environment schemes to create winter feeding areas on their farms.

Saturday, 15 June 2013


Just a brief update today. Ian and I checked the Kestrel box and there were five chicks and we managed to ring them all. This year the runt was only a little smaller than it's siblings. Interestingly we ringed them about a week later than last year and they were at a similar stage of development as last year, or even a little behind, so this cold Spring has affected raptors as well as insectivores in terms of timing of breeding. Kestrels do seem to be struggling a bit nationally, but this pair always seem to do well and I think it is the choice of prey items that they have; small mammals in the rank grassland, Common Lizzards from the dunes and waders from the shore.

 Kestrel chick

The forecast is a bit marginal for mist netting tomorrow, so I will just concentrate on birding around the obs. However, even if it wasn't marginal I don't think that I would have a ringing session in the reedbed and scrub because 'everything' is late this year and there would probably be few juvs about. It looks like the start of autumn will have to wait for a couple of weeks!

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

May Ringing Totals

Before I get in to the ringing totals for Fylde Ringing Group up until the end of May I wanted to apologise for a lack of postings of late. A lack of postings means more work, so being self-employed I suppose I shouldn't complain, but being a keen field naturalist I do! Things should quieten down a little work wise once I have returned from Orkney (holiday not work!) at the end of June and hopefully I should be out in the field more.

Over on the right you will see that I have updated the totals for Fylde Ringing Group up until the end of May. At 1,129 birds ringed of 52 species we are just 219 birds shy of last year's totals. New species ringed in May for the year were Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Redshank, Tawny Owl, Dipper, Mistle Thrush, Pied Flycatcher and Carrion Crow. Most of these were pulli and June will see more pulli ringed as it is the main month for breeding birds.

The top ten 'movers and shakers' are as follows:

1. Chaffinch - 115 (same position)
2. Willow Warbler - 114 (down from 3rd)
3. Goldfinch - 113 (down from 2nd)
4. Lesser Redpoll - 79 (up from 9th)
5. Meadow Pipit - 56 (down from 4th)
    Reed Bunting - 56 (same position)
7. Brambling - 55 (down from 5th)
8. Tree Sparrow - 54 (straight in)
9. Goldcrest - 48 (down from 7th)
10. Great Tit - 44 (down from 8th)

The top five birds ringed in May were as follows:

1. Lesser Redpoll - 43
2. Tree Sparrow - 33
3. Sedge Warbler - 27
4. Reed Warbler - 10
5. Blackcap - 9
    Willow Warbler - 9

During May we ringed 224 birds of 34 species, which was the second best month of the year so far in terms of total number of birds ringed and the best based on the number of species.

Yesterday Dave (from Orkney) and I finished the boxes off in the Hodder Valley ringing 17 Pied Flycatcher pulli and one recently fledged Nuthatch.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Springwatch - Fylde Ringing Group Style

Gail and I were back up the Hodder Valley this morning for another check of our boxes and we expected that most of the P:ied Flycatchers would be ready. The weather has been perfect this week with warm sunny conditions hopefully meaning that adults will have been able to find plenty of invertebrate food to feed their chicks with.

 A box full of healthy Pied Flycatcher chicks                        

In total we ringed six Great Tit pulli, 38 Pied Flycatcher pulli and 17 Blue Tit pulli. We have a further two pairs of Pied Flycatchers still on eggs and three broods that were too small to ring.

 Great Tit pulli

Blue Tit pulli

A pair of Blue Tits were still on eggs and sadly one box had seven dead small young it. We speculated as to the cause and then only a few yards from the box were Blue Tit feathers on the woodland floor, so I suspect that one or both of the adults have been predated and unfortunately the chicks will have starved to death.

There was still plenty of bird song in the woodland from several pairs of both Willow Warbler and Blackcap, and Siskins frequently called flying over heading to the feeding station.

Standing deadwood

Wednesday, 5 June 2013


Over the past couple of days my ventures into the field have been work related. On Monday I was back on the crags in south Cumbria and it was absolutely glorious. Whilst carrying out my task for the day I managed to record a few birds as well.

 The view from my office today!

There were good numbers of Willow Warblers singing and my notes say ten singing males but to be honest there were probably at least twice as many as this. It was good to hear some Cuckoos and I heard three singing birds, so was pleased with that. I had a little vis in the form of six Crossbills heading north. To my knowledge they don't breed in this area and as far as I know there isn't any sutable breeding habits close by. Other notable species were Raven, Bullfinch, Song Thrush, and Yellowhammer. There were a number of flowers out including lots of Primroses and odd Early Purple Orchids. Everything is late this year!


Yesterday I met up with some old FWAG colleagues for some botanising, a social and a meeting to disuss setting up a loose association of ex FWAG advisers in the north and midlands. We had a cracking day lead by Jeff in the morning and Bill in the afternnon.

Before the day started I met up with my good friend and colleague from Northumberland, George, and we had an hour or so at the Allen Pools at Leighton Moss. I still can't get used to seeing lots of Avocets and Little Egrets here and we had 48 Avocets (including 11 chicks) and three Little Egrets. Adding to the continental feel was a singing Cetti's Warbler that was very close at times, but yet it still remained out of view.

An Osprey being mobbed by Gulls over the saltmarsh was nice and 26 summer plumaged Black-tailed Godwits added to the mix. The rest of the day was spent looking at plants at Warton Crag and Gait Barrows NNR before retiring to a pub in Arnisde. We did record a few butterflies as well including Dingy Skipper, Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary, Duke of Burgundy and High Brown Fritillary. An excellent day in some excelent company!

 Birdseye Primrose

Sunday, 2 June 2013


Gail and I checked our boxes in the Hodder Valley and from the original 39 the round is down to checking just 20 boxes. Out of the ten boxes occupied by Pied Flycatchers three were still on eggs, six had hatched and had small young, and one had a mix of eggs and hatching young. I lifted another female off the nest bearing a ring and when I checked on the computer I had ringed her as a chick in 2010 and in 2012 she had been lifted off the nest in a box as a breeding female. What's interesting is that because I ringed her as a chick I know exactly how old she is and exactly where she hatched, providing some very detailed and useful information.

Four boxes were occupied by Great Tits and all had young. I ringed a brood of four and five respectively, which is very small for Great Tit. The brood of five, were a brood of six last week and another brood of five that I ringed last week just had two birds left in the nest. The rest hadn't fledged as these birds flight feathers were only two thirds emerged, so unfortunately the other had probably died and been removed by the adults. Mid-week last week we had two days of very wet weather and the adults probably struggled to provision them with food.

 Great Tit

The five boxes occupied by Blue Tits were all full of chicks too small to ring, so next weekend is going to be the busy ringing weekend. The Nuthatch box was full of large fully grown chicks and I have to assume all eight were present and correct as they would have 'exploded' from the box if I had lifted the lid fully to count them. The Nuthatches always do well.

 Blue Tits

The woodland was full of flowering Bluebells, Ramsons and Lesser Stitchwort and of course all very late due to the cold weather this spring.

 Bluebells and Stitchworts

By the way did you hear about the phenomenal numbers of Spotted Flycatchers at Portland Bird Observatory yesterday? Between 800 and a 1,000 headed north over the obs! Have a look here for the details.

Saturday, 1 June 2013


I wanted to be at the Point by 0530 today so I could count the Sanderlings roosting at high tide on the shingle bank. At this time of year birds from the Mauritanian wintering population are passing through on their way to Greenland and they can be in quite large numbers. Although 0530 is a bit of a lie in as first light is a good hour before that, but after a few pints of real ale the night before 0530 is early enough!

Sure enough I was standing at the point by 0530 in the cold 15-20 mph northwesterly complete with woolly hat and gloves, so much for flaming June! And as expected there was a good number of Sanderlings roosting, 689 to be precise. At this time of year there isn't a great deal else roosting with the Sanderlings and this morning there were just a single Dunlin, 14 Ringed Plovers and two Turnstones.

Swallows and House Martins were still moving east and I had 22 and three of each respectively. For the first hour and a half there was some movement on the sea and if I had been here for first light there would probably have been a bit more. From the title of my post you will have guessed that Auks featured and I had 42 Auk sp. head east along with three Razorbills and five Guillemots. Other movements on the sea included a Fulmar east, 116 Common Scoters, six Sandwicch Terns, east, two Shelducks east, nine Gannets east, two Kittiwakes east and two Red-breasted Mergansers east.

After a couple of hours I headed over to the cemetery to see if I could find any late grounded migrants but I drew a complete blank. I did have a very confiding pair of Mistle Thrushes feeding three recently fledged young and of course my camera was in the car!

It's more nest boxes for me tomorrow again and a treat for Gail as my assistant!