Thursday, 2 April 2015

North Wales Twite Project

The project has for some years been colour ringing Twite in the Snowdonia breeding grounds and at the wintering grounds on the Dee estuary and various other localities along the North Wales coast.

The results are beginning to indicate that our small relic breeding population migrate eastwards during the autumn and winter on the Dee.  Larger numbers of birds join them, from the Pennine breeding population and further afield. Some of the Pennine birds continue east and winter on the Norfolk coast. In the second year of the project it was suspected that a Nant Ffrancon bird has been seen in the company of some Pennines birds at Titchwell, however the ring combination seen was not sufficient for a 100% identification. This last winter a bird ringed in Nant Ffrancon in April was seen in a Twite flock on the Norfolk coast.


In 2010 a small flock of Twite were present on Pensarn beach one of which had a BTO metal ring. This flock was caught and the ringed bird was found to be from near Lochinver in north-western Scotland. In December 2014 another one of this flock was recaught at Askham, Cumbria.  The small flock which appeared at Cemlyn last autumn also contained a ringed bird. When she was eventually caught she was found to be from the 15 miles south of the original Pensarn Scottish bird. 


For the past two winters we have been very lucky to have Richard Beckett join the Twite team, and Richard has spent many hours recording ring combinations and the comings and goings of the Deeside birds.  This winter a reasonable number of Twite have been feeding regularly at Deeside Naturalist Society reserve, and with their continued permission a further 68 have been colour ringed. Also caught have been a number of birds originally ringed at the Mull of Kintyre. The Mull of Kintyre have a small breeding population but also has a marked passage of autumn birds passing south and reasonable numbers have been ringed there. 
                                                              Photo Richard Beckett

We are initially proposing that the coastal wintering birds here in North Wales may well be birds from the north west of Scotland, with our Welsh birds from Snowdonia venturing eastwards and mixing with Pennine birds on the Dee, some of which will continue eastwards with their new mates.

Due to Richards’s diligence last year we knew when the Deeside birds began their spring dispersal and a few weeks later the first of the Nant Ffrancon birds were back in the Ogwen valley. From Richards’s recent observations the flock at Deeside has now begun to disperse. Over the next few weeks the critically low Welsh breeding population will be making their way along the North Wales coast back to Ogwen. Can I ask all North Wales Birders to be aware of this and keep an eye and an ear open for them on passage? We have about two and a half weeks and it would be very interesting if we could plot some of their traditional staging points along the coast.

Thanks and happy hunting.

Please report any sightings to kelvin.jones@bto.org.

The North Wales Twite Project is a collaborative project between, Kelvin Jones, Ian Spence, Richard Beckett, RSPB Cymru, BTO Cymru, National Trust, Snowdonia National Park, Deeside Naturalists Society, North Wales Wildlife Trust, and Flintshire Council

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