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).

Monday, 27 March 2017

First Chiffchaff 2017

A sneaky hour with a couple of nets this morning before the wind increased and that orange disc rose too high in the sky and illuminated everything. First bird out was our earliest Chiffchaff, 12 days earlier than last year. Other notables within the hour were Blackcap, Long-tailed Tit and a Goldcrest which we first ringed on the 9th June 2016. Spring may be here but it's a bit sporadic!

Michael & Theresa

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Colour Ringed Oystercatchers

Since Autumn 2015, all oystercatchers caught in Pembrokeshire have been colour-ringed. Most of the 38 that have been ringed so far have been caught at the Gann, with six ringed on Skokholm and one at Sandy Haven. Of these, 17 have been subsequently seen again involving 44 resightings in total. The commonest scenario by far is to see birds back at the same site as they were ringed, though there is clearly a link between The Gann and Skomer/Skokholm with six individuals moving between these sites. So far only two have been recorded outside of Pembrokeshire "A1" and "04";

"A1" was ringed at The Gann on 14/03/2016 and was seen on Tiree on 13/03/2017.

"04" was ringed at The Gann on 16/10/2015 and spent the summer at Stranraer, before returning to the Gann on 11/08/2016.

"A4" was also ringed at the Gann on 14/03/2016, and was seen on Skomer on 21/07/2016 and again there on 16/03/2017.

Oystercatcher resightings from birds ringed at the Gann
There's a lot to be discovered about this declining species, and any resightings will be very gratefully received (see contact form in the side bar). The Pembrokeshire scheme has a plain orange ring over the metal on the left tarsus and an inscribed orange ring with black digits/letters reading upwards on the right tarsus, as shown below.

A0 about to be released

Monday, 6 March 2017

An Average Winter for Woodcock

Maybe it's part of getting old, but its puzzling why there is a tendency to feel that previous years were somehow better in some way, with either endless sunshine or, in the case of bird ringing, hundreds of birds, all of which were easy to catch. When asked how the season had gone for woodcock this winter, I have said on a few occasions "not very good". To be fair, there were a few nights in January which were very unproductive, resulting in only six birds ringed from five nights' effort, and this experience must have negatively influenced morale, giving a feeling of gloom. The winter of 2016/2017 is now almost at an end in terms of available lamping sessions, because most of the woodcock will have started to move back east before the next period of dark evenings from 16th March, so lets see how bad it really was.

Well, in terms of ringing totals from the central part of Pembrokeshire, this winter has been slightly above average for woodcock, but for all other species that roost in pasture at night, the totals are lower than usual, though most are typically only found in small numbers anyway - see table below. The exception is snipe which is often seen in good numbers but is very difficult to catch.

  Total Individuals caught
Average for winters
2008/09 to 2015/16
Fieldfare 1 5
Golden Plover 3 6
Jack Snipe 1 1
Meadow Pipit 5 10
Redwing 2 4
Skylark 2 6
Snipe 4 7
Woodcock 101 89
Total 119 128

During ringing visits counts are also made of all woodcock seen, regardless of whether they are ringed or not and this enables a more reliable comparison of the encounter rate, which is perhaps a better indicator of actual numbers because catch rate varies enormously with weather conditions and the brightness of the sky. In Pembrokeshire catching is often best when there is at least some wind, under thick, low cloud or (surprisingly) no cloud at all when every star is visible. High or scattered cloud makes a bright sky due to light pollution, especially on the horizon, and in such conditions, woodcock often fly before close approach can be made. Having said that, the average encounter rate based on 161 field visits was 0.55 per hectare, 10% above the combined average for previous winters since 2008/09 (0.50), so in this case the slightly higher field counts agree almost perfectly with slightly higher ringing totals. Not so gloomy after all!
Woodcock roosting in pasture. Photo: Myles Jenks

Thursday, 16 February 2017

deer Park and Starlings

This morning 8 gannets close inshore following porpoise  and the Skomer cliffs full of guillemots and Fulmar.  No sign of any Canada Geese around and the Deer Park itself was very quiet.

In the last few days have plotted some massive starling flocks leaving the Dale peninsula slightly SE, passing over Herbranston almost due south and have see other flocks in the Milford area all travelling south (ish).  When I put them on a map it points to a roost somewhere around Angle village, Freshwater west (Gupton), Stackpole or possibly Orielton.   They are somewhere in that area I reckon.

Also has anyone any idea where there are large Pied Wagtail roosts this winter?  The long established one on the jetty at Valero (up to 600 birds for many years) has gone missing and the Port of Pembroke one (c.200 birds in the last two years) is also vacant.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

An amazing recovery

We have just had notification of a ringing recovery for a Cormorant which apparently beats the oldest previous record by 4 years:-

Ringed on St Margarets Island on 27th June 1992 as a chick it has just been found dead at Pointe du Moustoir, Morbihan, France on 22nd January 2017.

We used to get many records from this area (usually caught in fishing nets) but almost none in recent years so this bird was 24 years and almost 7 months old compared with the 21yrs, 6months and 21 days previous oldest which was set in 1984. 

The only caveat is that the finder reported a dead bird with no idea how long it had been dead!!