18 Apr 2024


Moorhens are a common site both in the countryside and in urban areas but little is known about their movements. British birds are generally sedentary but the population is increased with winter visitors from the continent. Very few Moorhens are caught and ringed in the UK and recent declines mean they are on the amber list for birds of conservation concern.

In 2022 a national project was started aimed at colour ringing Moorhens to try and find out more about their movements and survival. I became involved through contact with Aurora Gonzalo Tarodo who is co-ordinating the scheme and recently took delivery of a string of orange colour rings each with a unique alpha numerical code! 

See link here for more details of the project and other Waterbird Marking Scheme projects. I became involved as we are lucky enough to have several sites nearby where Moorhens could potentially be easily caught. One of these sites is Grovesnor park and with permission granted I waited patiently for a decent spell of weather before attempting to catch a pair frequenting the pond.

Being used to people they were easy enough to catch and within 20 minutes I'd caught and processed the resident pair.  Moorhens can be sexed according to the relationship between wing length and tarsus and toe length.  The birds I caught were obviously a pair and the biometrics bore this out. 

H20 was the male with a longer wing and longer tarsus and toe whilst H21 was a smaller female. Both birds were easily caught using a wader spring trap baited with grain.

Moorhen biometrics
 WingTarsus / ToeWeight
H20 230 mm136 mm420g
H21201mm118 mm360g

A good start to my contribution to  the project  and hopefully I'll catch a few more at other local sites.

4 Apr 2024


The Motus system is an international tracking system using automated telemetry to remotely track tagged birds and bats and his been gaining traction in European migration and Bird Observatories to help our understanding of migratory animals fitted with 'Motus tag' . Conventional ringing and colour marking allows us to track  a birds movements when its subsequently see nat different locations but doesn't allow us to see, in real time, the effects of weather conditions on their movements between two points.

See the Motus website here for more details:

UK Bird observatories were introduced to the technology several years go at a Bird Obs Council meeting and generated a lot of interest with many Obs committing to installing their own systems. Thanks to Chris and Richard, Hilbre Bird Obs now has an operational Motus tracking system - the first on the west coast mainland of the UK. 

Map showing Motus receiving stations in Europe. Hilbre is the small yellow dot on the west coast mainland of the UK

'A Motus station is an automated radio telemetry station designed to listen to specific types of radio transmitters used to track wildlife. These stations comprise the physical ground-based infrastructure of the Motus Wildlife Tracking System. A station consists of several parts: a radio receiver (computer) and peripherals such as antennas, cables, a mounting structure, and a power supply. Installing and maintaining a Motus station is no small task, but the rewards are great'. See photos below.

Hilbre's Motus arial system with 3 arial array

Receiver  system with a receiver for each arial

With no permanent power supply on Hilbre the project was a bit more complicated than it would have been on a mainland Obs with an electrical supply but that's been overcome by Chris installing a dedicated solar system with battery
storage. Our system will not only pick up birds with tags but also bats and we're all eagerly waiting for our 1st 'hit'.