Monday 8 November 2021

European Curlew Connections

Well we might have ill-advisedly severed our close connections to Europe but our Curlews seem not to have done the same.

Three recent sightings have highlighted, once again, the vital need for cross-border conservation initiatives when dealing with species such as the Curlew. It is well-known that our breeding population is supplemented each winter by large numbers of birds seeking refuge from colder climes in Scandinavia, Poland, Germany, Russia and elsewhere in Northern Europe. It is less well known that, whilst most just move to southern Britain or Ireland for the winter, some of our breeding birds also move to warmer countries a bit further south. 

Yellow FW, a bird that regularly winters at Petit Port, Jersey has now returned for the 5th winter in succession.Yellow ZB a breeding male from the Shropshire part of the Curlew Country area was reported in Northern France in July (see earlier post Curlew là là) and now Yellow XC, an adult female ringed at a newly created wader scrape in the Curlew Country area, has been photographed near Santander - no not the one in Welshpool High Street, the one in Northern Spain! According to the BTOs current Online Ringing and Recovery Reports BTO online-ringing-reports this is only the fifth reported record of a British-ringed Curlew in Spain.

Curlew XC photographed by Ernesto Villodas on the Santoña marshes in Northern Spain

Thursday 30 September 2021

Pushing boundaries

Since the formation of the Mid Wales Ringing Group (and the start of the Dunlin colour-ringing project) in 2016 we have individually colour-marked over 6,000 Dunlin. The colour-marking has massively improved the recovery rate of our marked Dunlin and so far we have had over 450 sightings from a wide geographical area. Two recent sightings though have greatly extended the boundary of the area that Ynyslas Dunlin are know to either come from or go to. Olivier Gilg recently informed us of the sighting of LP0, a Dunlin ringed by Paul and Silvia on 23rd August 2020, seen on territory in NE Greenland (where it was being attacked by a breeding Sabine's Gull!).  


Ynyslas Dunlin on breeding ground in NE Greenland image © M.-A. Forin-Wiart/GREA

We also recently heard from Arnold Kristjuhan informing us of a sighting of NH5 (a bird ringed by me on 18th October 2020 in front of the Pillbox on the Dyfi salt marsh whilst trying to catch Curlews for the ECHOES project at Tareste, Hiiumaa, Estonia. These two records greatly extend the northern and eastern limits for our Dunlin recoveries so far. The furthest south an Ynyslas Dunlin has so far been recorded is at Pirang Shrimp Farm in the Gambia.

Of the 450+ sightings submitted so far, foreign movements of Dunlin to or from Ynyslas have included Greenland (3), Iceland (4), Faero Islands (1), Norway (3), Sweden (5), Finland (2), Estonia (1), Denmark (4), Germany (4), Poland (2), Republic of Ireland (23), The Netherlands (5), France (30), Switzerland (1), Spain (62), Portugal (15), Canary Islands (2), Morocco (2), Mauritania (124), Senegal (1) and The Gambia (1)

 (NB these totals may contain more than one sighting of the same individual)

So next time you see a flock of Dunlin, and rapidly ignore them in search of something more exciting, take a moment to think that in the summer some of those birds may have spent their time dodging Sabine's Gulls, Arctic foxes and even Polar Bears and may be heading off to spend the winter dodging Black Kites, Jackals and Crocodiles, it's amazing really that there are still so many of them!

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.