25 Jul 2022

Shotton Steelworks - Common Terns and Black-headed Gulls.

 A friend of mine recently arranged for me to get invited to the Tata steelworks at Shotton to help ring Common Tern and Black-headed Gull chicks with the Merseyside ringing Group. I've helped out at this site once before but many years ago. See here.

The colonies are on two big rafts divided into separate compartments and the idea was to ring and add individual darvic rings to as many Black-headed Gull chicks as we could and also ring any Common Tern chicks we found that hadn't been ringed  on a previous visit.

Tern rafts
Chicks were collected in each compartment and kept safe in palstic boxes allowing the ringers to ring all the birds together and minimising disturbance to the colony as we didn't then have to keep catching birds only to find they'd already been ringed! 

Black-headed Gull chicks

Only the largest chicks were fitted with individually numbered darvic rings as they'd have dropped off the tarsi of the smaller chocks. All the smaller chicks were ringed with a BTO metal ring only. 

Fitting darvic rings like this enables the birds to be identified in the field more easily and hopefully these youngsters will be seen again once they've left the natal site. 

Some birds were still on eggs and a number of them had just started hatching.
Black-headed Gull hatching

Black-headed Gull clutch
The terns were at a similar stage with many birds having already fledged and some birds still on eggs whilst others were just hatching - including this one that hatched as we watched! 

The one below was to small to ring and still has its egg tooth at the tip of the bill

A busy day with fantastic weather  - a total of 248 Black-headed Gulls were ringed, with 175 being fitted with darvics, and a further 75 Common Tern chicks ringed.

18 Jul 2022


I've been monitoring breeding Swallows on a local farm for a few years now but due to Covid restrictions I hadn't been able to check on them for two years. With the lifting of restrictions I was invited back by the owners to continue checking nests and ringing young. 

This year has been a fairly mixed one. I found 4 active nests of which one was seen to be predated by a feral cat. So far I've ringed two very healthy broods and have another to ring.

John has been monitoring Swallows at a site on the Wirral for many years nd I've often been with him t oring both the young and try to catch a few adults in the loose boxes in which they breed. This involves putting a 3 m mist net inside the loose box and we've had birds returning to breed i nthe same places in subsequent years. Again, Covid restrictions had prevented any monitoring so we werent optimistic of catching any returning adults as these would have bee nat least 4-5 years old by now and the average Swallow doesnt survive that long! We managed to catch two adult males and I got to appreciate again hwo beautiful these long distance migrants are close up.

11 Jul 2022

Sandwich Terns

I was lucky enough to be invited to ring and colour flag young Sandwich Terns at Cemlyn Lagoon recently as part of an ongoing project in conjunction with the North Wales Wildlife Trust who lease the site from the National Trust. This was the first visit since Covid began!  

Bird Flu is currently devastating many of our seabird colonies but it's also vitally important we continue monitoring those areas as yet unaffected as the data we can get back on survival rates will help build a picture of how populations have suffered. We are usually restricted to 45 minutes in the colony to avoid  too much disturbance but this year extra precautions were taken. All footwear and equipment had to be treated with a Defra approved disinfectant before we entered the colony and again on leaving.

In the 45 minutes time we had we managed to ring 123 Sandwich Tern chicks and flag 121. Hopefully these young birds will fledge safely and spend a couple of years sunning themselves on South African beaches before returning to the northern hemisphere to breed.

3 Jul 2022

Local Orchids

In the past few years I've located several species of Orchid around where we live - Bee Orchid, Common Spotted Orchid and Broad-leaved Heliborine. I'd heard there were good numbers of Southern Marsh Orchid on the old abandoned golf course but had never made the effort to go and see them as its outside my usual walking area. 

Earlier this month I checked my local sites and found good numbers of Common Spotted Orchids and a single Broad-leaved Heliborine in its usual spot.

Interestingly I found a single Bee Orchid nearby. There used to be a colony of around 20 plants in this location but I hadn't seen any for around 3 years since the farmer sprayed the track with weed killer.

A photo sent by a friend and fellow orchid enthusiast of a Pyrimdal Orchid on a grass verge in the village had me scurrying to see it as Id never seen one locally before. Apparently this plant has been emerging every year for the past three years and I pondered as to where it had come from.

I soon found  out as  I decided whilst I was out of my comfort zone I'd explore the abandoned golf course and found a colony of 10 probably only about 200 metres from where the first one is located.

There were plenty of Southern Marsh Orchids around but most were past their flowering best. I also located a few of the Bee Orchids Simon had told me about but they to were a bit bedraggled and parched.

That makes 5 species of orchid now within walking distance of the house. I'll certainly visit the old golf course again. The abandoned ponds were teaming with dragonflies and the overgrown fairways and greens hosted many butterflies - Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Common Blue and Small Skipper were all seen.

Scrub is invading a lot of the areas and I also had singing Reed Bunting, Bullfinch and best of all a reeling Grasshopper Warbler.

There were a lot of hirundines (including about 200 Swifts) hawking for insects over the course and, with the presence of so many dragonflies, I'm pretty sure if  ispend more time there I'll pick up a Hobby.