Do you fancy sexing some ducks this winter?

Will you be out birding in wetland areas in East Glamorgan or elsewhere this month (January 2019)? If so, you may want to help out with this easy, yet important, survey.

This month, waterbird counters and bird watchers across Europe, North Africa and Southwest Asia are being asked to collect the male/female sex ratio data of the counts of wildfowl they make. You may have taken part in something similar back in January 2016, when birdwatchers were asked to note the sex ratio of the Common Pochard they recorded while out birding or conducting a Wetland Bird Survey count. The results of that study can be found here.

Counting the number of females and males in flocks of wildfowl is an easy way to help gather information on population structures and can even provide a crude assessment of changes in survival rates between the sexes.

pintail - jill pakenham
Male Pintail (Photo: Jill Pakenham)

Please do consider helping. It’s quick, easy and fun! Counters are being asked to simply record the number of males and females in flocks that they observe. Sex ratio counts are welcomed at other times of the winter too.

Your sex ratio counts can be submitted via BirdTrack or via this website , where you’ll also find more information about this study and how to take part.


Good News on Gull’s Rehab

It’s always great to find a ringed bird. Even better is finding out about it’s history from the ringer or the BTO after you’ve reported it.

Martin Bevan (of 3 Valleys Birding blog fame) got in touch with me this week. On Sunday 21st of February, Martin had been birding at a very wet Porthcawl when he came across a colour-ringed Herring Gull.

Herring Gull - MJB February 2016 2
Colour-ringed Herring Gull, Porthcawl (Martin Bevan)

Martin could make out the number as S:032 (white on red) and emailed the details over to me. I was able to find out that the bird was one of 250 ringed by Mike Bailey as part of a very interesting project in Somerset. Mike kindly got back in touch with the following information:

“The project began in spring (2011) and we have been colour ringing Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Herring Gulls  as part of a study looking at the survival of rehabilitated birds at the Secret World Wildlife Rescue Centre in East Huntspill, Somerset, England.

Most of these rehabilitated gulls are young ones (as this was when it was ringed) that are too young to fly and have been found by members of the public from colonies nesting in nearby urban areas. These are ones that could not, for one reason or another, be repatriated with their parents and have been reared at Secret World.

This bird, Red / White S:032, was released at Burnham-on Sea, Somerset 51º 13’.27’ N.  02º 59’ 21 W on 22nd July 2011.

It had already been reported 3 times prior to Martin’s sighting and it looks as though it has adopted Porthcawl as ‘home’ or maybe just a wintering area?

17 March 2014 Porthcawl. C. Edwards

28 October 2014 Porthcawl. C. Edwards

12 February 2015 reported by C. Edwards who said “I saw S:032 this afternoon. Usual place – Eastern Prom, Porthcawl – sitting on a litter bin.  He still looks a bit grey `around the gills` and unfortunately had a small tangle of fishing line in or around his bill”.

21 February 2016 Porthcawl reported by Martin Bevan (so seems to be surviving OK despite the above note)

This has been a very interesting project and the wildlife sanctuary is delighted with the recoveries so far. The study clearly shows that many of the birds are surviving. This was the main point of the project and  2013 was our last year of ringing these gulls as we feel that we have achieved our objective. That is, yes, the birds do survive and actually survive very well. We will, of course, be following the fortunes of the 250 colour ringed birds with great interest, hopefully for many years to come”.

Ringing generates information on the survival, productivity and movements of birds, helping us to understand why populations are changing. If you’re lucky enough to find a ringed bird please report it via the Euring website.

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:


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