Bird Ringing at Watchtree

Watchtree is the venue for a local bird ringing group.

The Watchtree Bird Ringing Group is led by Frank Mawby. The group capture, record and release birds throughout the year in order to monitor populations and aid research. This helps organisations like the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) to record the survival rates of birds and to track their movements. Expanding our knowledge of birds in this manner allows us to better understand why populations of birds are declining and to develop conservation plans.

 

2017

April

Click on link to see Monthly Report Ringing Data April 27-04-17

January

2016

November

Click on link to see Monthly Report nov-16-ringing-report-link    

Oct

Two catches were made on Thursday 20th October in the Wetlands and today Monday 24th October in the NE Corner. As usual a very good species list and today it was nice to capture two Redwing, the first for several years. From appearances, weight and wing length we think some of the Blackbirds are migrants from the continent coming in with the Thrushes. The Song Thrush we captured with the Redwings was also probably a migrant. The other Song Thrush was a recapture from 2014 and it is interesting to speculate that this too is from the continent. The tiny Goldcrest is another species that comes across the North Sea at this time of the year and those we have captured in both sessions could also be new arrivals. We captured a whole family of Long-tailed Tits and this is the third such group this autumn. This is a sedentary species so it seems they have had a successful breeding season. The Great Tit re-captures are interesting with at least three of them over three years old. Ringing birds provides a fascinating insight into the movements and habitat preferences of birds. Added to the significant ringing database from the UK, our records contribute to the nationwide data set the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) collects to provide sound scientific evidence for bird conservation at local, national and international levels ringing-reports-oct-16  

March

7th March - Nice ringing session this morning, star bird a male Nuthatch, will post picture later. Also 7 Redpoll and 4 Woodpeckers. A recapture of a 5 year old Male Chaffinch was best of re-traps. 38 birds in total.

Report

Annual

Watchtree Ringing Group – Annual Report -2015

The group ringed 516 full grown birds, 137 nestlings 122 birds previously ringed were re-trapped Making a total of  819 birds of 37 species. With Liz Stills’ help I found 107 nests of 27 species. These records all go to the British Trust for Ornithology who feed them into the national data set. Our ringing effort was rather less than the previous two seasons partly due to a number of our regular ringers not being able to come so often. The bird topping the list of ringing was Goldfinch at 92 birds relegating Willow Warbler, the list topper most seasons, to second with 72 ringed. However, adding re-traps and nestlings to the totals the overall chart topper was Great Tit with a total of 117, followed by Goldfinch 100 and Willow Warbler 90. The star birds of the year for me were our first ever Grey Partridge, which jumped up into the net in the Wetlands as I did a net round and 5 Tawny Owl Chicks in two broods, one of three in a box in Pow Wood and a brood of 2 in The Sticks. Sadly, we found one chick dead and partially eaten a few weeks after it left the nest, possibly blown off its perch in a gale. Tawny Owl chicks leave the nest site before they are able to fly. Another noteworthy species on the ringing list is House Sparrow, often missed by our many bird watchers but clearly visiting the Wetland feeders in front of the hide. Our Reed Warblers returned for the third season and we ringed 4 new birds and recaptured another 4 a good indicator that we had at least two breeding pairs. Sedge Warblers had an average season judging by our ringing effort of 20 new birds and 5 re-traps. The full table can be found on our web site. The Great Tit also topped the nest list with 18 nest records, perhaps because they commandeer most of the nest boxes. However, despite my efforts to thwart the stoat, by re-siting and placing the boxes in Pond Wood further apart, this tenacious little animal found and ate the chicks of at least five broods. The Tree Sparrow was second with 17 nest records, although they too had a mixed season. The Song Thrush at 15 nests was a surprise in third place. However, only one nest fledged 3 chicks the remainder were taken by predators. These and Blackbirds use the dense cover provided by the small clusters of young Norway and Sitka Spruce but, despite the nests being well hidden it does not take long for the Jays to find them. This canny bird has figured this out and they work systematically through each cluster; few nests survive their attention. Both Blackbirds and Song Thrushes will keep on trying well into the summer and probably find other cover and certainly a few nests, which I do not find, survive. The nest record table will also be on the Web site. The weather gave all species a particularly difficult season. A brief spell of warm weather in mid-April gave a lot of promise but it was short lived and ‘winter’ returned for the latter half of the month and continued through May. June saw an improvement but the damage was done and many species had problems raising young.The Blue and Great Tits actually delayed laying for about 3 weeks and most laid fewer eggs than normal. Our Linnets fared badly but Goldfinches, undeterred at early nest losses, kept on trying and produced lots of late broods, which shows in the ringing results. Willow Warbler and possibly Chiffchaff and other migrants did not fare well. I suspect that Skylark actually had a better than usual breeding season. Oystercatchers returned to breed at Watchtree and one pair nested on the Sand Martin building roof. They hatched three chicks but within a week all three had been taken by a predator. However, the pair that laid on the rough ground by the main road to the Ops Building hatched a single chick, which I later ringed. It took its chick into adjacent cattle grazed fields and I think it survived to fledge. Our Swallow total of 24 and 9 nestlings was well below average. They seemed to avoid our wetlands areas this year. One possible reason is that there were fewer aquatic insects than normal emerging from the water or the timing of emergence was different, because Swallows generally bred well. Whether or not any of this can be attributed to climate change remains to be seen but it certainly was a season with a difference. Frank Mawby Totals Summary  
             Species      Full grown            Pulli          Retraps/                    Recoveries        Total
Sparrowhawk           1               0                0             1
Grey Partridge           1               0                 0             1
Oystercatcher           0                1                 0             1
Snipe           1                0                 0             1
Tawny Owl           1                5                 0             6
Skylark           0                1                 0             1
Swallow           24                9                 0            33
House Martin            1                0                 0              1
Meadow Pipit           35                0                  0             35
Wren           12                0                  2             14
Dunnock            7               4                 5             16
Robin           18               5                 4              27
Blackbird           10               0                  2              12
Song Thrush           3               0                  0                3
Sedge Warbler           20               0                  5              25
Reed Warbler           4               0                 4              8
Whitethroat           6               0                 0               6
Garden Warbler           4               0                 0               4
Blackcap           8               0                  1               9
Chiffchaff           17               0                 0             17
Willow Warbler           72               6               12             90
Goldcrest           11               0                4             15
Long-tailed Tit           29               0                6            35
Coal Tit            8               0                0              8
Blue Tit           32              18                9             59
Great Tit           15              74              28            117
Treecreeper           4               0               6             10
Jay           1               0                0               1
House Sparrow           3               0               0                3
Tree Sparrow           34             14               5              53
Chaffinch           24              0               3              27
Greenfinch           3             0               0              3
Goldfinch           92             0              8            100
Linnet            5             0              0              5
Lesser Redpoll           25            0              9             34
Bullfinch            5            0              1               6
Reed Bunting           24           0              8              32
Total:           560           137           122           819
       
Species Nesting Summary
Outcome percentages
Species Nests

Ave number

Ave number Ave  visits Success Failure   Unknown None
BLABI    5      3.2     0.8    2.2     20%     60%       20%    0%
BLACA     1       4      0     3      0%   100%         0%    0%
BLUTI     7      5.7     2.6     4     43%      57%         0%    0%
CHAFF     2       4      2     3      0%      50%       50%    0%
COOT     2       4      0    2.5      0%      50%       50%    0%
DUNNO     2      4.5     4.5    4.5     50%       0%       50%    0%
GOLDF     1       4      0     5      0%    100%        0%    0%
GRETI     18      6.6     5.8    5.6     56%      44%        0%    0%
GRSWO     1       4      4     2      0%     100%        0%    0%
JACKD     1      5      5     2      0%       0%     100%    0%
LINNE     3      4.7     1.3    3.3      0%      67%       33%    0%
LITGR     1       4      0     2      0%     100%        0%    0%
LOTTI     1      10      0     6      0%     100%        0%    0%
MOORH     3     3.3      0   2.3      0%      67%       33%    0%
OYSTE     2     2.5      2    5    100%       0%         0%    0%
PIEWA     1       3      0    3      0%       0%      100%    0%
ROBIN     1       5      5    3      0%       0%      100%   0%
SKYLA     2     3.5     3.5    3      0%       0%      100%    0%
SONTH     15     3.5     0.2    2.7      7%      93%         0%    0%
SPOFL     1       6      0    2      0%       0%      100%    0%
SWALL     5     3.6     1.8    4     60%     40%         0%   0%
TAWOW     2     2.5     2.5   2.5    100%       0%         0%    0%
TREEC     2     2.5     2.5    3      0%     50%        50%    0%
TRESP     17     4.6     3.5   3.6     82%     18%          0%   0%
WILWA     6     5.7     4.7    3     50%     33%        17%    0%
WOODP     2     1.5      0    2      0%     50%        50%    0%
WREN     3     5.7     3.7   3.3     33%     33%        33%    0%
Total   107 3.6     38%     47%       15%   0%
               

2015

September

06/09/2015....22 birds ringed in 6 hours today, nothing moving. Single Willow Warbler and Whitethroat so not all migrants away yet. Male Sparrowhawk nice.

August

Watchtree Nature Reserve August Ringing Totals
  Full grown Pulli Recoveries / Re traps Total
Grey Partridge      1    0         0        1
Swallow      18    0         0       18
House Martin      1    0         0         1
Wren      5    0        0        5
Dunnock      2    0        1        3
Robin      4    0        0        4
Blackbird      3    0        0       3
Sedge Warbler      9    0        1       10
Reed Warbler      1    0        2       3
Whitethroat      1    0        0        1
Garden Warbler      1    0        0        1
Blackcap      4    0        1        5
Chiffchaff      6    0        0        6
Willow Warbler      23    0        1        24
Blue Tit      7    0        3        10
Great Tit      4    0        2        6
Tree Sparrow     10    0        0        10
Goldfinch      22    0        0        22
Linnet      1    0        0        1
Lesser Redpoll      4    0        4        8
Reed Bunting      6    0        2        8
Total for: August    133    0        17       150

The ringing for August seems to reflect the season quite well with the catch well below that of previous seasons. A comparison is difficult though, because on most sessions we operated with fewer nets. The weather also limited opportunities to some extent. At the end of the month I was pleased to welcome Amelia and Larissa Margrave and Francesca Dearden, I hope they will continue to ring because we really need young, enthusiastic new ringers in N Cumbria. The real surprise of the month was netting a young Grey Partridge on the last session of the month. It jumped up from under my feet and is a species rarely captured by any ringer. We see them around the Reserve quite often and recently a small covey of around 8 or 9 birds has been seen regularly. We were pleased to have our Reed Warblers back but only the one juvenile was captured during August and recaptured on two subsequent visits. Our Sedge Warblers had quite a hard time and juveniles from first broods were very scarce. Later nesting attempts seem to have fared a little better as most of the 9 captured were young birds. Learning to ring is an absorbing close up study of birds. We aim to gain knowledge that will contribute to their movements, survival, management and conservation of their habitats. Identification is of course a fundamental skill to learn. Taking a few simple measurements and aging, and if possible sexing the bird are the next skills learnt. How do we age a bird? Most small birds or ‘passerines’ renew (moult) all or some of their feathers once a year and this usually occurs after between July and September. The ‘adult’ birds change their feathers completely whilst juveniles only moult their body and some wing feathers. The reason juveniles change their birth feathers is, because from hatching to leaving the nest within 14 days they grow a ‘temporary’ set of feathers to get them on the wing. Shortly after they moult into new body feathers and some wing feathers to see them through the winter. There are some exceptions with species like Tree Sparrow and Long-tailed Tit changing all their feathers. Based on this knowledge of moult the ringer can with care identify the difference between new and old feathers using a combination of wear/newness, colour and shape. But nothing is simple and with some species this takes a lot of practice under good supervision. Ringing is a licenced activity managed by the British Trust for Ornithology www.bto.org and ringers go through three stages of learning from Trainee to C permit to a full A permit. My principal reason for ringing birds is to help contribute to the conservation of birds and habitats. Take for example the Willow Warbler, a common and abundant migrant at Watchtree, which has declined in the south of England but is doing well in the North and West. A student from Lancaster University discovered, from a study at Watchtree, that habitat structure is a key feature of its choice of nest site. Watchtree has been an ideal site for observing habitat structure changes. Over the last 13 years we have observed the habitat structure changes in our young plantations and woodlands. Breeding bird surveys by Dr Liz Still have shown a shift of Willow Warbler territories as the trees have grown.  Other species such as Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Whitethroat, Bullfinch, Linnet and Lesser Redpoll have also shown how important habitat structure is to their survival and life cycle. This information will inform our site management plan and will determine how we manage the woodland and scrub. Therefore if you observe woodland management work being carried out this winter and in subsequent winters it is for a purpose. =============================================================================   Watchtree Ringing Group, yesterday's session (23/08/2015) very quiet only 25 birds. Compared to this week last year numbers and species well down. It seems like several migrants have gone already including first brood Swallows. Or maybe it was imminent weather front holding them back.

July

Bird Ringing  - July Totals
Full grown Pulli Retraps/ Total
Recoveries
Swallow 4 4 0 8
Wren 3 0 0 3
Dunnock 1 0 0 1
Robin 4 0 0 4
Blackbird 2 0 1 3
Sedge Warbler 4 0 1 5
Reed Warbler 2 0 1 3
Whitethroat 4 0 0 4
Garden Warbler 3 0 0 3
Blackcap 2 0 0 2
Chiffchaff 6 0 0 6
Willow Warbler 32 0 5 37
Goldcrest 0 0 2 2
Long-tailed Tit 23 0 1 24
Coal Tit 4 0 0 4
Blue Tit 12 0 1 13
Great Tit 2 0 5 7
Treecreeper 1 0 1 2
Tree Sparrow 2 6 0 8
Chaffinch 3 0 1 4
Goldfinch 2 0 1 3
Lesser Redpoll 7 0 0 7
Bullfinch 4 0 0 4
Reed Bunting 6 0 2 8
Total: 133 10 22 165

June

Nice start to summer ringing this morning, began at 5,00 am when the Oystercatchers were back in cycle training area with their chick. It now has an id with a unique ring number but still has over 20 days before it flies. Star bird of the other 48 was a male Reed Warbler,which turned out to be one of the three nestlings we ringed last year. Lovely when they 'come home' so to speak but where is home for a migrating bird? top of the catch were Sedge Warblers, a total of ten, of which three were re-traps (ringed last year) not many youngsters yet though.

May

At last breeding Tawny Owls. 3 chicks ringed  in Box in Pow Wood

April

News -BTO notification - One of the three Swan Cygnets we ringed in 2007 was recaptured by ringers at WWT Caerlaverock on 6th March 2014.

March

Sunday 22nd   Lesser Redpoll, Goldfinch,Tree Creeper, Goldcrest Sunday 15th    34 birds  incl 9 re traps of 10 species, One re-trap a 3 year old Long tailed  Tit. OneTree Creeper and 5 Goldcrests.

NEWS

We have had details of two birds we 'controlled' on 24th April last year. (controlled means it was a bird originally ringed by another ringer and re captured at Watchtree). A Goldfinch that was first ringed on 20th April 2013 at Leswalt just over the Border in Dumfries and Galloway. Aged as a bird hatched in spring 2012 and sexed as male, whereas we made it a female. Quite difficult sexing  them  it depends on the area of the red on the head. I will get a couple of photos next time we ring them. A Lesser Redpoll that was first ringed at Thornton in Leicestershire on 1st December 2013 as a bird hatched in the spring of that year. We however aged it as at least a year older but I would be sure that we the got that one wrong.