Saturday, 27 January 2018

Ty Rhyg Redpolls

Within Pembrokeshire lesser redpoll is a fairly scarce breeding bird with a restricted distribution centred around Mynydd Preseli in the NE of the county. It breeds in gorse, birch, and willow scrub as well as in conifer plantations, especially in re-planted areas at 5 to 15 years following clear felling. The ringing site at Ty Rhyg ticks this last box, and just over 300 redpolls have been caught and ringed there during the breeding season, May to September, since 2008. By November, they are noticably scarce at the site, and they are usually then absent until April.

Surprisingly for a small species, redpoll has quite a high recapture rate, and there have been seven instances of birds caught by ringers elsewhere:

The only spring recovery is of Y741881 recorded at Bardsey on 23/4/2014. This same individual was also caught again in Cambridgeshire on 19/12/2017, and like the others, shows an easterly bias in period October to February.

Looking back at previous species accounts of redpoll in Pembrokeshire, the breeding status has remained broadly similar since the days of Matthew in 1894, i.e. a scarce breeding species predominantly in the Preseli area. In winter, the picture is less clear and it seems to have been scarce in most years with occasional invasions, such as one in 1990/91 (Donovan and Rees 1994). Some of the Ty rhyg birds were re-caught in gardens, so at least some are making use of garden feeders where they are attracted to nyger seed. The use of gardens by redpolls is a very recent trend, apparently since 2008, (BTO website).

Wednesday, 20 December 2017


The passage of several hundred Redwing through Camrose in the last few weeks has provided a second year of good biometric data. 50/50 - Adults/Juveniles. Give the migrating distances involved, we noted several birds in the 70g bracket, several topping 75g and one at 82.2g, the average weight of a Redwing is 65g. The average wing as per BTO data is 119mm and the majority were just that or 1mm -/+, however, some birds were measuring well into the 120’s with one topping 129mm. A calm early morning seems the ideal time but to find one in November and December is an endeavour, to collect this very ‘time specific’ data.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Preseli RAS and CES

Can't believe that the summer has flown by so fast, with so little time for ringing. Nothing too exciting to report but here's a round up for the Preseli area.

The woodland CES at Llandilo was fairly quiet during the July and August visits when many of the breeding adults and newly fledged young leave the woods and (presumably) head for the hedgerows to feed on fruits and seeds. Any remaining adults are moulting and tend to skulk around without getting caught. In 2017 the number of individuals caught during all 12 visits was 269; this compares to 194 (2016 ) and is almost identical to the the 2015 result of 270. The number of adults this season was down on the previous two years, probably reflecting the two previous fairly poor breeding seasons, especially in 2016. The number of juveniles caught this year was much higher than in either 2015 or 2016, suggesting that this season has been a significantly more productive season (see graph below).

Most of the species caught are common woodland species with the top three being Blackcap (126), Blue Tit (88) and Robin (70) though the red-listed Marsh Tit just about makes it into the top ten with 20 (totals are 2015 - 2017).

The numbers of adult wheatears returning to breed at the Preseli study plot dropped substantially this year to 43, compared to 61 in 2016. Overwinter adult survival was the lowest recorded at 40% compared to an average of 59% since 2013, and nest success has been negatively affected by bad weather in four seasons of the past six seasons. This year, three broods of up to six nestlings were found dead due to starvation/chilling, so a population bounce-back next year is not predicted, unless breeders are recruited from more productive areas.

The photo below was taken in 2012 following a particularly cold, wet and windy June day. The male was seen entering the nest cavity with food, only to re-emerge with his beak full, looking a bit confused, and when the nest was inspected, all the nestlings were dead and the nest soaking wet. Some of the nest cavities can also act as drainage holes during intense rain, perhaps forcing the brooding female to leave. This season, the three broods found in a similar state were all at the same stage, though well feathered young and nests at the egg stage had fared better.

Unfeathered wheatear nestlings are very vulnerable during cold, wet weather

Reading the colour combinations is always a bit of a challenge and you can be sure a bird is colour-ringed by the way it hides its legs from view just as you take the photo...

Friday, 14 July 2017

Swallows in the roost

The last two weeks have seen a rapid increase in the number of swallows going to roost in Winterton Marsh from just 30 birds at the start of the month to around 300 in the last few days.  We try to catch in roughly ten day periods to September when the roost finally disperses and on 12th we caught 65 new birds, all except one were juveniles and many just fledged.
Additional birds ringed were Sedge and Reed Warblers, Whitethroat, Sand Martin and Pied Wagtail and we controlled a heavily in moult blue tit ringed in March nearby.

In the last week we also managed a small catch of Strom Petrels - just 29 new birds and a control.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

CES update

With the first four CES visits at Llandilo out of the way, we now have an indication of how some of the common bird species are faring compare to the previous two seasons. Catch sizes at this site are typically fairly small, with an overall average of 25 birds per session (ranging from a high of 40 down to a very desperate 9 in August 2015). The earlier visits tend to be very slightly busier with an average of 27 birds during the first four sessions and this year is identical to the average for the period. However, its not as run-of-the-mill as it first appears, and there has been a 20% decline in overall adult abundance with the difference made up by more early juveniles than usual. In particular, the number of juvenile robins is already equal to the entire year's worth of the past two seasons, which have both been pretty rubbish in terms of productivity. As an indication of how bad a season 2016 was, only 2 juvenile blue tits were ringed all season! Whilst some ringers might celebrate that (blue tits can be vicious), it hopefully will be a more productive season in 2017 for juveniles, and who knows?, we may even break the record catch of 40.

Even though catches are small, they often result in something a bit interesting being caught, and they are an ideal pace for trainee ringers.

Adult male redstart from CES 2

Spotted flycatcher

Juvenile long-tailed tit

A big surprise was this juvenile dipper caught during CES visit 4. It was unusual in that it was caught away from a stream, flying through woodland, and also in that it was already ringed elsewhere. It turned out to be one of Karen's from Teifi RG and it was ringed as a nestling in April in the Gwaun valley. Although only 10 km away in a direct line, it had clearly jumped catchments, probably crossing the Preseli hills. By coincidence, Karen was also helping out with the session, so she got a chance to catch up with it.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Pembrokeshire Ringing Group are Chough-ed!

Splendid news that a Chough that was colour ringed on the 20th May 2001 at Porthtaflod Pembrokeshire is resighted on the 5th April 2017 approximately 247 km away by the Calf of Man BO. A time lapse of 5799 days and if you don’t have a calculator to hand, that is 15 years 10 months 16 days. We believe older Chough’s are around but this movement is a bit special for Pembrokeshire.

Pemb's Ringing Group.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Another Whimbrel in West Africa

This years efforts to colour-ring whimbrel at the Gann have been thwarted by either high winds, high tides or other commitments getting in the way and despite good numbers of birds moving through, only two have been ringed. So it was timely that news has just arrived that C96, ringed on 5th May 2013, had been seen in Guinea-Bissau in January this year. This follows a resighting of C52 that was ringed on 14th September 2013 and photographed in Gambia in November, 2016. Both these records are within the main wintering area of British-ringed whimbrel, though the Gambian bird appears to be the first ringing recovery in that country.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Colour ringed Black-tailed Godwit on Skokholm

A colour ringed Black-tailed Godwit found here on 20th April had been seen on the coast to the west of Nantes, France the day before! Having been ringed as a chick in south Iceland in July 2013, this bird was subsequently seen on the Dee in October 2013, at Leighton Moss in July 2014 and April 2015, Cley in October and September 2015, Leighton Moss again in April 2016 and north Germany in August, September and October 2016.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Satellite tagged Greenland Whitefronted Geese on the way back to Greenland.

It was a real privilege for Theresa and I to assist the team with the field work which satellite tagged the Greenland Whitefronted Geese on the Dyfi back in December 2016. A once in a life time experience as BTO ringers, given their rarity wintering in Wales.

Working as part of the GWfG Partnership with funding from the Welsh Government, a greater understanding of the GWfG whilst wintering in Wales can now be achieved, a historic moment in this conservation project. Many thanks to Carl Mitchell, Mick Green and Steve Dodd for sharing their expert knowledge and experience.

Click on the link to read more and monitor the Greenland Whitefronted Geese progress.

Michael & Theresa

Friday, 7 April 2017

Wheatear colour ringing on Skokholm

Today saw the start of a new project on Skokholm, a repeat of the work carried out here by Peter Conder from 1948 and which formed the basis of his monograph on this species. Island regular Ian Beggs is leading the project. Having arrived on the Island this morning, he had already ringed the Sugarloaf pair by this afternoon - only another 19 or so pairs to go. Although we are targeting Skokholm breeders (which are perhaps unlikely to be seen elsewhere in Pembrokeshire), we are also ringing Skokholm youngsters which perhaps will be seen elsewhere, particularly in future years. If you see a green ring inscribed in white then it is a Skokholm bird and the white three digit code will tell us who it is (you will probably need a telescope or a good camera to make out the code).