Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Peewit project...

Last night Silvia and I headed out on to the hills of mid Wales, to a couple of our regular 'winter wader dazzling' sites to see what Storm Ophelia would help us catch. As predicted, the winds were very strong. This had clearly effected the number of birds that were feeding out in the open in the fields. Thankfully there were still some birds to have a go at catching! One of our target birds for the night was Lapwing as the group had recently received permission to start colour ringing them, and the colour rings themselves had just turned up in the post! Despite seeing up to 7 Lapwings at the first site, I couldn't seem to get near enough to catch them so I was beginning to think that we would have to wait to kick start the groups new project. Thankfully at our second site there were a few more Lapwings to try and catch. I altered my approach to the birds, and bingo within the space of a few minutes I had trapped 2 Lapwings.

CA and CC became the first two Lapwing to have our colour rings put on.

All of the Lapwings we catch from now on will have a red plastic ring above the metal BTO ring on the right tarsus, and a white darvic on the right tibia with (for now) 2 letters in black writing. Since 2010 the group has ringed over 200 Lapwings without receiving a single recovery. With our coloring ringing projects on Golden Plover, Curlew, Whimbrel and Dunlin already giving us some fantastic recoveries, we're hoping that putting colour rings on Lapwings will increase our chances of recoveries, and hopefully help us identify where our birds are coming from, and why they are declining as a breeding species in this area!

Its been a very productive few days for dazzling, and in the last 8 nights Silvia and I have had some very good catches. Total birds trapped are - 54(+4) Golden Plover, 2 Lapwing, 1 Woodcock, 29(+2) Snipe, 22(+7) Jack Snipe, 1 Redwing and 10 Meadow Pipit.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Numerous Notable Numenius

Over the summer I have once again been busy working on the Curlew Country project trying to reverse population declines of this charismatic wader in the Shropshire Hills and Welsh Marches. Part of this work involves colour-ringing adult Curlews at the Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust's Dolydd Hafren Reserve on the Severn between Welshpool and Newtown. To date we have colour-ringed 114 adults there along with about 40 at other sites including a coastal site at Llanrhystud, just south of Aberystwyth. Our main focus is to gather information on breeding site fidelity and adult survival rates but long-distance movements are always of great interest. In May, a mate of mine, Clive McKay, emailed to say that whilst he was out doing survey work he came across one of our colour-ringed Curlews on its nesting territory in Lanarkshire. This bird proved to be one of the ones colour-ringed at the winter roost at Llanrhystud. On 4th May 2017, another of the birds from this roost was resighted nearly 2,000km NE on its breeding grounds in Lapua, Finland. These two recoveries show clearly how birds wintering together at a single site may have very different origins. Then, on 11th July 2017 the curlew below, ringed at Dolydd Hafren, was photographed at Petit Port, Jersey, Channel Islands by Mick Dryden- was this a local breeding bird moving south having failed in its nesting attempt? 

Curlew at Petit Port, Jersey © Mick Dryden

Finally, to cap off a great set of recoveries,  a short while ago, on 24th September I was netting again at Llanrhystud and caught a German-ringed Curlew wearing colour-rings. 

                                                                    German-ringed Curlew at Llanrhystud © Tony Cross

I had hoped that this bird would have been one ringed by Natalie Meyer, with whom we have been working to promote Curlew conservation internationally and had spent some time with recently at the International Wader Study Group conference in Prague but alas it wasn't and I am still awaiting details.

Curlew Resightings Map © Mid Wales Ringing Group

The map above shows all the Curlew colour-ring sightings so far with wintering sites shown as blue markers and breeding season records as orange markers Although a fairly new project the Curlew colour-ringing has already provided a wealth of information and will continue to do so for many more years to come.

Whilst I'm blogging, here's a great shot of one of the other Numenius we colour-ring! A Whimbrel photographed on its breeding territory in Iceland for the second year running by Camilo Carneiro - ringed at Llanon on 26th April 2012.

Friday, 1 September 2017

There is a roving Spanish Dunlin.....

Just received another postcard, this time of YELLOW T67 1,142kms SSW in NW Spain (1,142kms). It was originally ringed just a week earlier at Ynyslas on 24th August. 

If your Spanish is up to it you can read more on Antonio Gutierrez's excellent blog here


P.S., for the younger readers out there, a postcard was how we older folk used to piss people off with our holiday adventures before the invention of Facebook!

Friday, 25 August 2017

Done-in by Dunlin!

Last night was pretty amazing! I have been ringing waders at Ynyslas National Nature Reserve for 35 years now and last night Paul Ashworth, Mike Shewring and I had by far the biggest catch I have ever witnessed - by almost 100%!! Conditions were nearly perfect with a high tide, new moon and a slight breeze. Autumn migration is in full swing at the moment and there were literally 1,000's of Dunlin littering the strand line.  By the early hours of the morning we had dazzled, ringed and processed some 220 Dunlin (and 1 Sanderling for a bit of variety!). 84 of the Dunlin were also individually colour-ringed as part of our monitoring project on this species. 

The previous night myself and Jane had caught and colour-ringed an additional 95 Dunlin and only one or two of these were re-sighted showing the massive numbers and turn-over of birds experienced at Ynyslas. Birds varied in condition with many carrying large amounts of fat. Some looked like tennis-balls and weighed in at over 60g. Others were clearly newly arrived from more northerly breeding grounds and were almost half that weight. Ynyslas is clearly a brilliant feeding-up location on their migrations further south. Last night's catch was predominantly juvenile birds whereas a few weeks ago it was mainly adults. This is usual with adults moving through early and rapidly. Many of the birds we caught last night could be in Spain, Portugal or even North Africa within a week or two perhaps joining the adults that are probably already there.

The colour-ringing only commenced last autumn but has already considerably boosted the number of recoveries from all the years of BTO metal ringing only. So far sightings have come from birdwatchers in Iceland (3), Sweden, Eire, Denmark, The Netherlands, France and Spain (2) as well as numerous records of birds scattered around the estuaries of Britain. All birds have an engraved yellow ring on the right tibia and a plain orange one on the left. Please keep your eyes peeled and report ANY sightings - even local records help us gather a picture about how long birds stay on average.

Below are a few of the holiday snaps so far received of colour-ringed Ynyslas Dunlin!!

21/04/2017 Tacumshin Lake, Wexford - Killian Mullarney

23/05/2017 Höskuldarnes, NE Iceland - Guğmundur Örn Benediktsson

26/05/2017  Rödkallen, Luleå, Botnic Bay, N. Sweden - Lars Sandberg

28/07/2017 Fanoe Beach, Denmark  - Kim Fischer

20/08/2017  National Park of Doñana, (Salinas de Bonanza) Cadiz, Spain 
David Fernández and Lidia Arroyo. 

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Russian roulette...

We've recently received another exciting Jack Snipe recovery, this time from RUSSIA!! Unfortunately this one was also found dead, most likely shot but it was found in 'poor condition' so weather could have played a factor?! It certainly seems that Russia is a popular breeding ground for the like of our over wintering Woodcock and Jack Snipe, but getting back and forth to there definitely throws up many obstacles as all of our Russian woodcock recoveries and now this Jack Snipe have all been dead!

With very little known about Jack Snipe migration movement and migrations routes/patterns, this little bit of information could prove to be very valuable as only 1 of 19 British ringed Jack Snipe have been recovered abroad and only the 2nd in Russia.

Hopefully this recovery and the French one earlier in the year as the start of things to come, as we've gone from catching 30 new Jack Snipe back in 2013 to a massive 104 new birds in 2016. This increase has come around from spending a lot more time in the field and finely tweaking our catching skills. As well as all of the news birds, we also re trap 20-30 individuals each year (a mixture of birds from the current years, plus re traps from previous winters) so we may look at starting to fit the with data loggers, but before that we need to find a pot of money. Given some of the stuff we do find in sheep fields at night time, you never know!!

(map showing distance between the ringing and recovery locations)

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Cracking Finnish!

On Thursday night Jane and I popped down to Ynyslas on the high tides for a session dazzling waders. There wasn't a lot there other than several 100's Oystercatchers (which we don't generally catch by dazzling), a good few Redshank and a handful of Dunlin and Knot. Right at the end of the night I noticed that one of the few Dunlin running around was wearing a metal ring - that doesn't look like a BTO ring I thought! Thankfully, shortly afterwards, the bird gave itself up and sure enough the ring was one from the Finnish ringing scheme. I think that in over 35 years of ringing this is the first Finnish-ringed bird I have ever seen.

Finnish-ringed Dunlin with one of our colour-rings added

The total catch was 19 Redshank (including one control), 3 Knot, 2 Dunlin (including the Finnish one) and 1 Grey Plover. Will post details of the Dunlin when I get them.

Monday, 27 March 2017


Silvia and I headed out this afternoon, to a site where a flock of Yellowhammers, Chaffinches and Tree Sparrow were feeding on spilt sheep feed. We only had a couple of hours spare to try and catch them today, but it was heading down to see where best to set the nets, and if they would play ball. When we got there, we were a bit baffled as the field we had planned to go in had no sheep in it any more, and more importantly no birds. Luckily the sheep had only been moved a few fields down the road, and sure enough the birds were there too. We set up a line of three nets between the hedge, and the sheep feeders. Within minutes of getting back in the car we had already caught our first birds, things were looking promising. After only an hour and half we had to pack up because of other commitments, but in that time we managed to catch a respectful - 4 Tree Sparrows, 18 Yellowhammers, 13 Chaffinches, 3 Meadow Pipits and a House Sparrow!

Sadly a rare sight in Wales now!!

Always nice to see these birds, whether in the hand or in the field.

It's a bit of a long shot, but I'm hoping that one of the Tree Sparrow chicks that we've ringed in previous years about 2 km away might be in the flock! But as we haven't managed to ring many in recent years I won't hold my breath!!

Friday, 24 March 2017

Going Hungary isn't good for you...!

Well not if you're a Woodcock anyway. Relative newbie, Chris Griffiths, has just had his first Woodcock recovery and it's a really interesting one. The bird, ringed near Carno in Mid-Wales on the night of the 3rd February 2017 was shot in Nagygyanté, MezőgyánBékés, Hungary (1,886 km ESE) just 44 days later on 19th March 2017. 

This bird is the first Hungarian recovery of a British-ringed Woodcock and was presumably en-route to its breeding site. This recovery highlights the sad fact that many of our Woodcock, having survived the rigours of winter in Wales (not that they had many of those this year!), are killed on their way back east to breed.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

I don't want your help thanks!

As part of our ongoing Curlew research I paid a visit to Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust's Dolydd Hafren reserve last night in an attempt to catch and colour-ring more of the local breeding population. The high water levels and strong winds of late have seriously curtailed any attempts previously but last night shaped up pretty well. Four nets were set over small floodwater pools on the main river island and 19 Curlews out of the 50-odd present were caught. All proved to be new birds which is interesting as 9 out of 30 odd present there a few weeks ago were birds colour-ringed in previous years. I guess these birds have already dispersed to their breeding territories and the ones we caught last night were either newly returned from their winter haunts or were passage migrants. Many thanks to Michelle Frater for much needed assistance.

One of last night's Curlews expressing exactly what it thinks of us disturbing it's nightly rest!

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Au revoir Jack...

We've just received one of those bittersweet recoveries - the group's first foreign Jack Snipe recovery (from France), unfortunately though the bird had been shot!! Nevertheless it may still shed some light into the migration patterns of the Jack Snipe, which we really seem to know very little about because of it's very secretive and elusive nature. The bird was originally trapped in Mid Wales on 23rd October 2016, and then shot in January 2017. So probably just using 'our field' as a place to refuel rather than a permanent winter site as many of the Jack Snipe do.

With over 200 Jack Snipe trapped and ringed (95% of them by dazzling) over the past 3 winters it's hoped that this won't be our only foreign recovery. Our only other Jack Snipe recovery, was of a bird controlled the following winter in Scotland (presumably back en route to Mid Wales?).

Map showing the two recoveries.

Even though it is sad news, it's certainly made all those nights going out looking for birds (often in foul weather) a lot more worth while. Who knows, maybe our next recovery will be of one at its breeding grounds?!!