Friday 1 September 2023

Fortunate Photos Facilitate Following Falcons' Fortunes

Working so closely with the Welsh Kite Trust it is inevitable that MWRG focuses heavily on the study of birds of prey  - particularly falcons as they seem to be fairing less favourably than their fork-tailed cousins. The group have installed and monitor well over 50 Kestrel nest boxes with some success and an indication that the safer nest sites are resulting in increased nest success and greater productivity. Every year we colour-ring a sample of local Peregrine, Kestrel and Hobby nests and have been working on Merlins too although the state of this species in Mid-Wales is so dire now that we rarely get chance to colour-ring any. The last nest we ringed, in 2022, was sadly predated by a fox a week after we ringed them and we were unjustly held accountable by some. The colour-ringing has greatly increased the information gathered on the survival and dispersal of the young but reporting rates are still low. Recently we received a trio of photographs that helped in the data gathering.

Firstly a Peregrine photographed by stunned bird-watchers on a pelagic trip off Newquay, Ceredigion as it caught and carried off the first Wilson's Petrel ever recorded in the County was clearly seen to be wearing an Orange ring VSH. This bird had been ringed as a chick (male) at an inland nest site in South Shropshire the previous year. We have recently had Peregrines from our area recovered or sighted in Carnarfonshire, Cheshire, Buckinghamshire, Lancashire, Lincolnshire and Lothian. 

NB. For Ceredigion birders missing out on a lifer and seeking revenge please note that the bird's DNA profile is held in the Nation Wildlife Crime Database as it was sampled, along with all the other Peregrine chicks we ring to aid any subsequent investigations into illegally acquired or killed birds.

Secondly a Hobby ringed as a chick in a nest near Newtown was caught on a camera-trap at RSPB's lake Vyrnwy Reserve on 26th July 2023 (thanks to Sam Sharpe for reporting).

Finally, a young Kestrel, ringed in a nestbox just south of Aberystwyth in June this year was photographed by local bird and wildlife enthusiast Shane Jones on 28th August. It had only travelled a few miles down the coast but still great to record that it was alive and doing well. We have previously had colour-ringed Kestrels reported from North Scotland, France and Spain so they don't all stay at home. Many thanks to Shane for allowing us to use his excellent photo.


  1. Tony, Wasn't the merlin nest you refer to in 2022, not 2023? Our merlin-loving friend has done a very nice painting of a fox, with a ringed merlin chick in its mouth. You can see it on his website. Cheers, Jerry

  2. Sorry Jerry, yes it was 2022 so I have corrected.

    It is very easy for outsiders to make post-event judgement on a single event and throw mud on social media. Much of what he writes in his steam-venting commentary to the painting is demonstrably incorrect, even the bit about it being the only successful nest in 3 counties. I suspect much of the motive is that someone intruded on "his" Merlins without his approval. The outcome was undeniably tragic and personally distressing. How anyone can consider that someone who has spent their whole life trying to better the fortunes of some of our less common species would not consider carefully the potential effect of all they do and then decide to intentionally do something detrimental anyway is beyond me. It is not worth debating the role of the actual ringing with someone so fixed in their opinion. My own view is that a predation event, 5+ days after a nest visit, is not likely the result of that visit but an unfortunate coincidence. It seems as justifiable to hold me responsible for the Goshawk predation of the Clywedog Osprey chick! I had ringed that just a fortnight earlier so clearly the two events must be connected? Despite a general request from the BTO for ringers to ring more Merlins I decided not to ring this brood this year as it would have been incendiary to do so. If it had been predated again we would certainly have been held responsible. We did however colour-ring 3 Merlin chicks at a different ground nest in 2023 and the chicks all fledged successfully.


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