Friday, 24 September 2021

New Colour-ring Reporter App


Thanks to the IT skills of Stephen Vickers we now have an automated colour-ring reporter app. If you click the link on the top right of the website you will see the above screen and there you can input your sightings of any of our colour-ringed birds. The app will then generate an immediate output detailing the ringing information and any subsequent re-sightings. I hope you like this exciting new development and that this may encourage a few more birders to submit their colour-ring sightings directly (in return for instant gratification!).

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Where do you think you're going?

Photo by Alex Jamieson

An email popped into my inbox today with details of a sighting of a young Kestrel, ringed earlier this year in one of Red Liford's nest boxes near Lledrod in Ceredigion. Given the location and the distance of the sighting I was a bit sceptical that the report was correct but, if it was, wanted to post something on the blog. I sent the finder an email to see if they had any photos of the bird and thankfully, not only did they have photos but several (not posted here) confirmed, without any doubt, that the bird in question was one that we had ringed and was not one from another scheme with similar rings. It was photographed (looking very sorry for itself) in heavy rain on Rattray Lighthouse in Aberdeenshire, just over 600km NNE of where it had hatched!

We get disappointingly few records of our ringed Kestrels but since colour-ringing started we have had recoveries from West Yorkshire, Cheshire, Shropshire, Gloucester, Wiltshire, Suffolk and even Spain. This current movement to North Scotland is totally unexpected and unprecedented. 

I really hope the bird in question survives and in a way I hope it doesn't attempt the return journey, at least not until we get some better weather next year.

Monday, 30 August 2021

Curlew chick releases

For the past few years I have been working for Curlew Country on the Shropshire/Powys border trying to help maintain the small, remnant, lowland Curlew population there. In the initial years our attention was spent trying to collect information on what exactly were the problems and how we might alleviate them. Quite rapidly it became apparent that the problems were major and that drastic action was needed. In 2017 we pioneered Curlew headstarting, taking eggs from nests with low probability of success, and rearing chicks in captivity to the point of fledge and then releasing into suitable natural habitat. This year, after an enforced break in 2020 due to Covid, we released another 33 young Curlews, making a total of nearly 100 since we began. The link below shows some moving images of the release of the second batch of chicks in 2021 

Hopefully some of these birds will return to breed and help keep the iconic bubbling song of the curlew a feature of the Welsh Marches. Please keep yours eyes peeled for colour-rings on any Curlew you may see anywhere and report, it may even be one of those shown in this video!

Friday, 13 August 2021

First and Fortunate 2

Over the last 20 odd years records of Hobby in summer have increased in Ceredigion. Tregaron Bog and Borth Bog have been favoured sites as the birds hunt the plentiful supplies of dragonflies. More random sightings in farmland have hinted at breeding birds becoming established and breeding was confirmed for the first time in the county just a few years ago. 

A couple of days back, I was contacted by a friend and ex 'C' ringer of mine to say he had a pair of Hobby nesting not far from his house and did I have a schedule 1 licence to ring them? Well, fortunately, I do, so yesterday, having obtained the landowner's permission Silvia and I went over to check the nest and see if it was safely accessible. 

The birds were breeding about 30ft up in an old Carrion Crow's nest in a hedgerow oak, still well within my rapidly diminishing capabilities!  A few throws of the rope and 10 minutes later the chicks were safely on the ground but for one of them the visit was quite literally life-saving. The younger male chick had managed to get his leg badly entangled in the veritable spider's web of baler twine that the crow's had brought in as nest lining. 

His foot was quite swollen and the leg itself a bit 'pinched' but once the twine had been cut away it rapidly improved with the swelling disappearing almost instantly and the foot becoming a bit more normal in colour. 

Without our intervention this chick would have died a slow and miserable death as the adults would eventually have been forced to abandon it and it would have starved, unable to leave the nest. As it is it appears that being restricted in movement has led to him developing less quickly than his female brood-mate.

As far as I am aware these are the first two Hobby pulli ever ringed in Ceredigion and they may be only the second and third Hobby ever ringed in the county. We were fortunate enough to catch one "accidentally" on Both Bog a few years ago as it pursued a Cuckoo across the reedbed.

Both chicks were colour-ringed so we look forward to receiving sightings of them in the future, hopefully settling locally and expanding our breeding population of this stunning little falcon.

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Curlew là là


On 10th July 2021 Pierre Leon photographed Curlew Yellow ZB on the shore of Plage du Vogue, Guisseny,  France. This bird was caught and ringed in the breeding season at one of the Curlew Country breeding territories using a whoosh net and decoy. This is highly significant as it provides yet more confirmation that some of our breeding Curlews winter in, or pass through, France, where, until recently Curlew was still a legal quarry species and where as recently as 2019 there was an intention to set a 'sustainable' harvest limit of 6,000 birds! Thankfully, due to widespread international outcry, the decision was amended and the bag limit was set to zero for the 2019/2020 hunting season. Hopefully, international pressure will continue and those birds from our rapidly declining breeding population that choose to move to France for the winter can do so in relative safety.

Yellow ZB either wintering or staging at Guisseny in northern France in mid-July just over 450 kms from Shropshire where he had attempted (and presumably failed) to breed.

Friday, 19 March 2021

We're Knot flagging!

Last year we started two new colour-ringed projects putting leg-flags on Knot and Turnstone. The Turnstone ringing has yet to yield many resightings but the Knot flagging is already proving very rewarding. Here is an update of re-sightings so far.

The Knot flagging project is being done in collaboration with Jim Wilson of the International Wader Study Group and Peter Knight and Rose Maciewicz of Leeds University. Since the scheme began, a total of 70 Knot have been leg-flagged at Ynyslas and, of these, 14 have been re-sighted away from Ynyslas, several on multiple occasions. This is a huge improvement on the results obtained by BTO metal ringing alone where we have previously had just two recoveries from over 350 knot ringed.

To date most of the recoveries have come from the UK but have also included birds re-sighted in Ireland, France, Belgium and Portugal. 

Knot re-sightings 20/21. Click on individual icon to see details

The Portuguese re-sighting is very significant as its location would indicate that the bird was of the race Calidris canutus canutus from Siberia which winters in West Africa. This race has very few (if any) confirmed records for Wales (although it must surely be present quite frequently on autumn passage?).

Ynyslas leg-flagged Knot (race canutus?) in Portugal. Unfortunately the individual could not be identified as it was not close enough to read the inscription on the flag.

Thursday, 28 January 2021

A Great Spot (for Woodpeckers)

Posts on the blog have tailed off a bit in recent years as most of what we do is part of long-term projects, so can become a bit repetitive! Anyway, life has really changed now and anything we manage to do is a complete breath of fresh air (often literally!).
One thing I, like many other ringers, have been managing to do in lock-down, in line with guidance from BTO HQ, is ring in the garden. Normally I confine this to when the Siskins, Goldfinches and Redpolls are passing through on spring passage as I'm not massively keen on catching shed loads of local Blue Tits. This year though, bring on the Blue Tits! 

There has been a surprising result to the increased garden netting in that, amazingly, this morning I managed to catch the 30th different Great Spotted Woodpecker on my garden feeders since April 2020 - where on earth are they all coming from?

Sadly, the really old one I caught just over 12 months ago, that was just a few months shy of the current British longevity record for the species, hasn't been one of them.

Sunday, 6 December 2020

There are some nights when woodcock ringing is just hard work. Last night aided by Bethyn Thomas and his Dad we saw 38 woodcock, but I could only catch 3. This was because it was very calm and the ground was frosty making a stealthy approach impossible. However there was a reward for our effort and kms walked, one of the three birds caught was a retrap of a woodcock I caught as a juvenile on the very same field eight years ago. This is my oldest retrap to date after catching 2400 woodcock over 12 years. This bird has made 17 migrations across of the North Sea. With an average migration of around 2000 km this individual has probably flown around 35,000 km in its life. I retrapped this bird in the autumn of 2012 and again in Jan 2014, but have not encountered it since. At time like this I dream how amazing it would be if woodcock could talk.

Sunday, 1 November 2020

Egrets return

I have recently received reports (and photographs) of two of our colour-ringed Little Egrets. Both birds were ringed on the same day (25th June 2012) over 8 years ago. The first (White T, Yellow A) photographed on Anglesey by Toby Carter has been reported about 10 times over the years all from Malltraeth Marsh at a maximum distance from the ringing site near Bangor of 19.5 kms. 

Photo © Toby Carter

The second bird (White T, Yellow V) photographed at Llansteffan, Carmarthenshire by Mark Carter has only been reported twice previously but amazingly both time were at Playa Blanca, Lanzarote, Canary Islands. The first report was on 8th January 2014 and then again on 15th March 2020. At 2,824 kms, this is one of the longest movements ever recorded for a BTO-ringed Little Egret and mirrors an earlier movement of one of our Bangor-ringed birds to Tenerife. It would be amazing to know if this second bird has been making annual migrations down to the same wintering location on the Canaries (a round trip of over 5,000kms) or whether it suddenly decided to return after 8 years living the ex pat life (which seems highly unlikely!).

Photo © Mark Carter

Ringing location of both birds shown by green marker. The top red marker shows the location of all of (White T, Yellow A)'s reported sightings and the bottom two red markers show those of (White T, Yellow V)

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Sweet SA

Last night was the first of the next set of high tides for ringing at Ynyslas. As the winds were light and conditions were right I decided to forgo wader dazzling in favour of mist-netting terns. On the last set of tides the estuary was brim-full of Sandwich Terns, Kittiwakes and a raft of other species but the winds were far too high to attempt any netting and unfortunately terns aren't really catchable by dazzling. Sod's law, conditions were now perfect but it was ominously quite on the tern front with nearly all having moved on! Still an opportunity to net terns is never missed even if there isn't much about. With assistance from Stephen Edwards and Gareth and Roy Richardson we set the usual 4 x 60ft wader nets on the point and waited. High tide was a bit early, such that there was no catching on the rising tide as it was too light and the nets were too visible. It did allow us to watch a juvenile Peregrine persistently terrorising the Dunlin (and seemingly inflicting needless damage as we caught four Dunlin with large rips in the skin of their breasts or sides). 

Needless to say I was relieved when we eventually caught our first few terns (Sandwich and Common) along with a few Dunlin, Knot and a Turnstone. The Knot and Turnstone were particularly welcome as it enabled us to kick-start two new colour-marking projects using leg-flags on both species. 

We catch a reasonable number of both species annually but in the past have had very few returns from just BTO metal rings. Hopefully the leg-flags will enable birdwatchers to help us collect additional information and greatly increase the data on movements etc.

Just as we were finishing processing the last few birds Stephen returns from a net round with the exciting news of a foreign-ringed Common Tern. "Wow, that's nice" I say. The reply was "yes, and its a South African ring!" 

My reply is, not surprising to some, unrepeatable!!