Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Coal To Wales?

Last November I posted here on the blog a record of Coal Tit ALJ4344. 

“The Coal Tit is known as one of the most sedentary species of Britain and Ireland whereby ringing has shown that very few Coal Tits travel distances from their natal area. Strangely enough it is Coal Tits from the North West of England that travel furthest from the average of just 20km between seasons. This is thought to relate to the distribution of suitable habitats between the north west and other regions. (BTO Migration Atlas).  

The recovery of Coal Tit ALJ 4344 ringed at Oakenclough on 21 July 2020 was one of the very few that Fylde Ringing Group has received in many years and 1120 captures of Coal Tits.  When we caught ALJ4344 on 21 July 2020 we confidently aged it as a juvenile born just several weeks before. The yellow cheeks alone were a dead giveaway.  

Coal Tit - autumn juvenile

We did not see ALJ4344 again during the summer and autumn of 2020 during many visits to Oakenclough. It was later in the autumn when notification arrived that ALJ4344 had been recaptured other ringers at Hoylake Shore, Wirral, Merseyside on 16 October 2020.  At 67km from Oakenclough this represents quite a southerly migration for a Coal Tit, and an example of autumnal movements more likely to be undertaken by first year birds than by adults."  

Coal Tit - Oakenclough to Hoylake
"The south-south- west direction of travel might suggest that this Coal Tit was on its way to the extensive conifer forests of North Wales (see map) where it would join up with others of its kind and prove able to survive the winter.”  


Quite remarkably, and now in March 2021 comes another Coal Tit that made an almost identical journey - ALK0174. 

So noteworthy is this latest record that it prompted a query from a BTO staff member as to whether we had made a mistake with reading the ring number on 20 March! We always double check unfamiliar ring numbers by reading out aloud and then verify the number on the field sheet we use.

Coal Tit ALK0174 was first ringed at Bidston, Wirral, Merseyside on 1 February 2021. Just 47 days later on 20 March 2021 we recaptured ALK0174 at Oakenclough. 

This was the morning when Andy and I caught nine Coal Tits, including ALK0174, found in a mist net alongside five other Coal Tits, a small party of newly arrived birds, amongst a catch of other migrants. 

Coal Tit - Bidston to Oakenclough
Experienced birders and ringers know that on migration Coal Tits use their highly distinctive call to maintain contact with other migrating Coal Tits.  Some ringers use play back calls of Coal Tits so as to encourage the species into mist nets. Almost certainly our six Coal Tits had called each other into catching themselves in our net without any help from us. 

On suitable occasions of migration and weather conditions it is possible to catch dozens of Coal Tits. We do not use calls to catch more Coal Tits, the danger being that the Coal Tits bring large numbers of other titmice (great, blue, long-tailed and treecreepers) with them into our mist nets, a time consuming process that prevents the catching of species that generate  superior data. 

Coal Tit
However, we may have to rethink our policy of not catching of too many titmice if we could limit such catches to Coal Tits only. The two records above appear to show that Coal Tits from some parts of NW England undertake autumnal journeys in a south westerly direction into Wales where the shelter and food abundance of conifer forests may afford them a better chance of winter survival. 

More records from us and other ringers could add to information while supporting these two findings. 


Earlier in the week I was at Knott End to see the first Chiffchaff and see the first Sandwich Tern of the year - on it's way to Scotland I guess.

Sandwich Tern

Knott End to Fleetwood Ferry

Just the photos to link to Rain's Thursday Art Date and the theme of "Motion and Movement" don't you think?

Knott End, Lancashire

Linking at weekend to Eileen's Saturday and to Anni in Texas.


Rhodesia said...

Very interesting I really enjoyed this post. Well done Diane

Mike Attwood said...

Thankyou Phil that was really interesting. I often wondered as to the use of all the imformation you guys collect now it all makes sense. Take care and stay safe.

Angie said...

Phil - terrific photos. Why do some species provide superior data?

Valerie-Jael said...

Terrific photos, so fitting to Rain's theme. Valerie

Gillena Cox said...

Really nice photos, have a good Thursday


Elkes Lebensglück said...

This is again a very interesting posting and also beautiful photos like with the ferry or the tern!
Have a good day, greeting Elke

Christine said...

Beautiful shots!

DVArtist said...

A very pretty little bird with great information about it. Have a nice day.

Andrea @ From The Sol said...

Your information on the Coal Tits is interesting. I was once talking to a group who were tracking the movements of the Golden Eagle and they noted that the young birds tend to move into new areas as the older birds have already established territories. I don't know if the Coal Tits are territorial, but that might explain why the younger ones are going to the conifer forests in Wales. Your pictures and information are wonderful and love the Ferry ... it almost has a cartoonish look about it :)

Andrea @ From the Sol

jp@A Green Ridge said...

Avian behavior is very fascinating. Continuing to learn something new nearly every day is fascinating. Soon my Osprey will be returning to their nests (hopefully) after their long journey from South and Central America, while last year's fledglings will not return North until they are

Tracey@Hotchpotchcreations said...

They are very beautiful birds and I am blessed that they visit my garden, as does the House Sparrow, Blue Tit & Great Tit and the odd Robin too. They have found my secluded feeder which stands outside my kitchen window, no more than two feet away, I could stand for hours just watching them feed.
Great information and beautiful pics, many thanks Tracey.

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

I was quite amazed at how you catch, ring, and document the migration habits of these coal tits. That was a fascinating read, Phil.

I also really enjoyed the photo of the ferry. It is a concept of motion I had not considered, but fit perfectly. Sorry to be late. I had internet problems, but I thnk they are now fixed.

Breathtaking said...

Hello Phil, An interesting read, and lovely photos of both the Coal Tit and the Sandwich Tern dive.

italiafinlandia said...

Beautiful views. The Coal tit is a little wonder; it has been rambling in my garden all winter long.

eileeninmd said...

Hello Phil,
Great information on the Coat Tit. They are cute birds, I love the yellow on the cheek.
I am looking forward to some spring birds returning. The Sandwich Tern shot is awesome. I like that red ferry! Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Take care, have a happy weekend.

Shiju Sugunan said...

Great pics! Nice shot of the Sandwich Tern.

Martha said...

I love the sweet birds!

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

The Coal Tit is such a pretty little bird! Thanks for sharing your experiences!

Linda said...

Interesting information. And as usual your photos are superb.

Hootin' Anni said...

Most interesting!! You know by now I really enjoy your experiences (and captivating me with your knowledge). Must also add that I highly disagree with the use of audio clips to attract birds/wildlife...could be dangerous and/or create confusion or unnecessary territorial rights. Why defy nature?

Thanks so much for joining us and sharing your link with us birders at IRBB this weekend!

~Anni, host of I'd Rather B Birdin'

Wally Jones said...

Another cup of coffee. Another educational essay.

Pretty soon I shall be veritable font of avian knowledge!

I wonder if comparing data from birds observed with the ringing information yields the same picture of Coal Tit movement? (Silly me. I am certain that is accomplished by --- someone.)

We are still helter-skelter here due to an ill sibling. Otherwise, all is well and when we do go birding, activity is on the increase.

Keep Calm and Keep Ringing.

NCSue said...

The coal tit reminds me very much of our chickadees. I wonder if they're related?
Thanks for sharing at

Veronica Lee said...

Good day, Phil. A fascinating read with stunning images of the Coal Tit and Sandwich Tern!

Happy Tuesday!

Rain said...

Hi Phil :)) Very interesting about the coal tit migration. I love the photo of that Sandwich Tern, what a beautiful bird! Nice shot!

Lowcarb team member said...

Great post Phil, fabulous photographs :)

All the best Jan

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