I found these interesting . . . .

Just a couple of things I picked up online this week which may be of interest:

BBC Radio 4 Living World: Nest Finder of Dartmoor

Mark Lawrence is a brilliant nest finder and contributes 100s of Nest Records to the BTO’s Nest Record Scheme.  The nests he finds are hidden deep in the bracken, gorse and grass of Dartmoor. But how does he find them? Lionel Kelleway goes on a nest-finding expedition with Mark to watch him in action. In just one morning Mark and Lionel find Pipits’ nests, two of which have been taken over by Cuckoo chicks; a Whinchat brood just hatched and finally a nest of young Grasshopper Warbler chicks.

Click here to listen to the programme: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00tcy3n

If you’ve never tried nest recording before and this programme enthuses you, you may be interested in taking part in our Nest Recording Taster Day in Rudry, Caerphilly in May. The date of which will be published on this blog very soon.

Grasshopper Warbler ringed at Oxwich (Photo: Keith Vaughton)

Oxwich Ringing Report 2016

Owain Gabb and his team have been ringing at Oxwich Marsh on Gower for four years. In 2016 3,281 birds of 52 species were ringed there. There’s plenty of interesting information in this review of the year at Oxwich.  Amongst the headlines: it was a good year for Grasshopper Warbler, Common and Jack Common Snipe and a poor year for Blackcap. The Report also contains plenty of examples of notable controls and recaptures.




The Wanderings of a Black-headed Gull

Lewis James, a colleague in work, told me about a ringed Black-headed Gull he frequently sees on the handrail of the boardwalk that runs alongside the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. He grabbed a photograph of it one morning and managed to read the numbers and lettering: ‘2K64’ .

Black-headed gull, Cardiff (Photo: Lewis James)
Black-headed gull, Cardiff (Photo: Lewis James)

2K64’  turns out to have been ringed by John Wells as a nestling on 2nd June, 2008 as part of a study of Black-headed Gulls breeding in the Cotswold Water Park (CWP) on the Glos/Wilts border.  It was next seen in Cardiff Bay in November 2010, at a landfill site at Bishops Cleeve, Glos in March 2011 and it returned to the Cotswold Water Park to breed in May 2012.  It may be five and a half years old but it should have a few years left in it yet – the typical lifespan of a Black-headed Gull is 11 years.

John is a member of the Cotswold Water Park Ringing Group (CWPRG) who have been visiting breeding colonies of Black-headed Gulls at the CWP since 2004 to fit nestlings with a metal BTO ring and a Darvic ring. The purpose of this project is to monitor the birds’ movements and to study their return to the CWP to breed. A significant number have been sighted away from the CWP and thanks to the group’s efforts we now know that many of the CWP birds migrate South and West in winter to Ireland, Wales, Cornwall and Spain. A few also stay in the CWP over winter and a large number of the adults breeding in the CWP were ringed there as nestlings.

You have to admire ringers. They’re a dedicated bunch, plying their trade week in, week out at highly unsociable hours, often with low returns and freezing cold fingers! They depend on the rest of us making the effort to report sightings of ringed and colour ringed birds. To report a ringed bird please visit the Euring web page where you’ll find a step by step guide of how to submit your sighting.

For a bit of recent local ringing interest I’d recommend a visit to the BTO’s Summary of Ringing Recoveries for Glamorgan 2012 and also to blogs written by Cardiff Bird Ringers and Gower Ringing Group. Citizen science in all its glory!

Studying Cardiff’s Blackbirds

The Cardiff Blackbird Project was established in April 2012 to examine the ecology, behaviour and demography of urban birds using Blackbirds as a model.

The Blackbird has many traits that make it ideal as a model species.  It is common, making for large data sets. It is a relatively large species, meaning it is easy to observe. Blackbirds are also widespread, which allows comparison between populations in different habitats and geographical scales.

A Cardiff Blackbird
A Cardiff Blackbird

The project is based around developing a long-term monitoring programme, contributing to the Retrapping Adults for Survival scheme, on which a number of more detailed research projects examining Blackbird ecology in a suburban environment will be based. Currently the study site for the project is the northern part of Pontcanna Fields, in the area which includes the allotments and Cardiff Riding School.

The success of these projects relies on having a large population of individually marked birds that can be followed throughout the year. Unique plastic colour-rings are fitted so that individuals can be recognised through binoculars or a telescope, avoiding the need to capture birds multiple times. The colour-rings in use are yellow with black letters and are placed on the left leg. A standard BTO metal ring is on the right leg.

If you see a colour-ringed Blackbird, the team would love to hear about it, by logging your records online, or by contacting:

e-mail: cardiffblackbirds@gmail.com

The Project is run by members of Cardiff Bird Ringers and Cardiff University School of Biosciences.

Ringing Report 2010 Published

BTO Annual Ringing Report for 2010 has been published today. In Glamorgan, 6028 birds were ringed with 163 birds recovered*. In line, with the UK norm, Blue Tit is the species most ringed with 740.

Recovery data always makes interesting reading, and here’s a few select records:

Bird Ringing - Blue Tit by dawarwickphotography, on Flickr
Bird Ringing - Blue Tit by dawarwickphotography, on Flickr
  • A Knot ringed at Rumney Great Wharf in January, 1997 was caught at Vlieland, the Netherlands in August, 2010
  • Lesser Black-backed Gulls ringed in Cardiff have been observed in Guernsey, France, Portugal and Morocco
  • A Willow Warbler ringed at Kenfig NNR in August 2008 was caught at Tipperary, Ireland in May and June, 2011
  • A Starling ringed at Pentyrch in November 2007 crashed into a window in Juodeikiai, Lithunia in January, 2011
  • Reed Buntings ringed in Cardiff Bay Wetlands Reserve have been caught at both Ty’n-y-Caeau and Lan farms in the Vale of Glamorgan and at Oxwich Marsh.

The full report for the UK is available from BTO.

*Note, these are ‘working’ totals and are likely to change as more data is received, and/or corrections are made.

Satellite Tracking for Welsh Ospreys

Osprey in Flight at Belle Haven by Mr. T in DC, on Flickr
Osprey in Flight at Belle Haven by Mr. T in DC, on Flickr

Each year, one or two Glamorgan birders are fortunate to see an Osprey flying overhead as it makes its way north or south on its annual migration. In recent years, birds have also spent a few days in late summer feeding up at estuaries in the west of the county.

Feeding exclusively on fish, Ospreys spend the winter in west Africa, avoiding the risk of frozen water bodies in the UK.   Young birds are thought to spend their first two years in Africa, before returning north to embark on their first breeding attempts.

We now have a second pair of Ospreys breeding in Wales.  This year a pair has settled on the Dyfi and are currently rearing three chicks.  This is in addition to the Glaslyn pair that have been returning each summer since 2004.

News has now been released that all three Dyfi chicks will be ringed and have small solar-powered satellite trackers attached later this month.  The trackers will allow researchers to follow the birds as they travel vast distances over many years, and develop a much better understanding of the species movements and ecology.

More information about the Dyfi Osprey Project is available form the Montgomeryshire Widlife Trust.

Is Mist Netting Safe?

Mist nets are commonly used by researchers to capture birds in the study of their behaviour, movements and demographics.  A recently published study has, for the first time, evaluated the risks associated with mist netting.

Mortality and injury rates were quantified from over 300,000 birds caught by 22 banding (ringing) organisations across the US and Canada.  Risk factors which could increase rates of injury or mortality including bird size, age, frequency of capture and the role of predators were all assessed.

Sand Martins in Mist Net by Mark Philpott, on Flickr
Sand Martins in Mist Net by Mark Philpott, on Flickr

Results indicate that injury and mortality rates below one percent can be achieved during mist netting and injured birds are likely to survive in comparable numbers to uninjured birds after release.  Rates of incident varied among species, with some at greater risk than others.

Mist netting then has low rates of incident when conducted with  adequate training and bird safety precautions in mind.

Spotswood, Erica N. et al (2011) How safe is mist netting? evaluating the risk of injury and mortality to birds. Methods in Ecology & Evolution. Article first published online: 30 June 2011, DOI: 10.1111/j.2041-210X.2011.00123.x

Recording Mute Swan Movements

Despite its regal appearance, the Mute Swan is a common sight on the various ponds, lakes and rivers in Glamorgan and the rest of the UK. A project run by BTO volunteers is trying to unravel the mystery of movements of this, our largest water bird, in South Wales.

Mute Swan by Rich Facey
Mute Swan by Rich Facey

The vast majority of Swans ringed in Glamorgan are ringed at Cosmeston Lakes Country Park as part of a BTO volunteer run project, examining connectivity in wetland habitats. The project is sponsored by the Vale of Glamorgan County Council via grant aid from CCW. James Vafidis, a BTO Ringer who co-ordinates the ringing at Cosmeston Lakes said:

“We know there is turn over of swans here; some days all the birds at the lakes seemed to be ringed, while on other occasions it’s a case of spot the ring! We are trying to find where and how far these birds go.”

To date 100 swans have been ringed at the Country Park with the aim of looking at movements both in the local and wider area, and whether individuals have preferences for certain sites at certain times of the year.

BTO Metal Ring by Rich Facey
BTO Metal Ring by Rich Facey

Ringing is already shedding light on the population movements of this species. Recoveries of some birds ringed at Cosmeston show local movements with birds moving within 5 to 10 kilometres of the Country Park. Others have spread their wings further, however, making it as far as Merthyr Mawr. But ringing has also begun to reveal a wider link with a swan ringed at Abbotsburry, Dorset, being recaught at Cosmeston – a movement of 100km.

James added “Although we are receiving records of ringed swans, these largely come from birds that have met a sticky end. What we ideally need is more sightings of live birds from across Glamorgan and further afield and are calling on local birders to help.”

Currently none of the Cosmeston Swan heard is fitted with DARVIC colour rings, only with a BTO metal ring. However, these are surprisingly easy to read in the field, especially through a pair of binoculars or ‘scope! If you do see a ringed swan then please record its number and let us know by reporting your sighting at http://blx1.bto.org/euring/lang/pages/recovery_form.jsp

This article was written by Rich Facey, Cardiff Bird Ringers.