Thursday, 30 January 2014

The 07:30 from Margam

Today was our first Winter visit to the ringing area at Margam Park. With the seasonal train service around  the Park not in use, we were able to leave our nets along the track in situ for the whole session.
Our first bird of the day was a Kingfisher - the first we have ringed in the Park - intercepted on its way to the pond.

Female Kingfisher

The track-side net produced the majority of the birds caught during the session including a Goldcrest. 

Male Goldcrest 

The total for the session was a Dunnock, three Blue Tits, three Great Tits, a Blackbird, a Robin, a Song Thrush, a Goldcrest and a Kingfisher.

With Heather Coats and Chris Newberry.






Sunday, 19 January 2014

Oxwich Marsh 19 Jan 2014

The second session of 2014 coincided with a relatively hard frost that froze the padlock to the gate of the site (which needed some warming up prior to working).  The weather was otherwise pretty good for ringing, however, with a gentle south-westerly breeze and relatively open skies.  Recent rain had left several inches of standing water in most of the net rides, and the area had also been churned up by Highland cattle (which are used to seasonally graze the marsh), resulting in a muddy soup.  Hopefully the combination of flooding, trampling and grazing will deter / supress bramble regrowth in the spring ......

Male Chaffinch
We had the nets up by dawn, by which time there were already reed buntings and chaffinches feeding in the rides.  By the time we took the nets down, at around 11:40, we had captured 66 birds of 8 species.  The catch was made up of the following (recaptures are indicated in brackets): great spotted woodpecker 1 (1), dunnock 1 (1), robin 2 (2), blue tit 39 (19), great tit 3 (1), chaffinch 4 (1), greenfinch 3 (0), reed bunting 10 (3).


Blue wearing through on head of chaffinch












An increase in reed bunting numbers was readily apparent in the marsh, with an estimated 20-25 birds foraging around the feeding station.  Capturing 10 of these was a relatively good return, and brings the annual total to 19 unique birds for 2014.  In 2013 36 new reed buntings were ringed.  With 14 new birds already in 2014, it is looking like last years' total will be exceeded.


Of the 38 chaffinches that had been ringed at the marsh since March 2013, only one had been recovered prior to the session this morning.  It was therefore initially hoped that a ringed bird would prove to be a control.  This didn't prove to be the case, but the bird did show a good range of adult features and was aged correctly (a subsequent check showed that the bird had been ringed as an adult male in March 2013 so it was likely to have been at least 18 months old when re-trapped today). 

Some of the key features used for ageing chaffinches can be seen in the two photographs above.  The shape of the tail feathers of 1st winter male chaffinches is typically rather pointed, whereas in adults (like this one) the tail feathers are rounded and broad (see photo above left).  There is also some green edging to the central tail feathers that is visible here - this feature is listed in Svensson (1992) as being typical of adults.   The photo of the wing (above right) shows that there are no retained greater coverts, and little contrast between the alula feathers / primary coverts and the greater coverts (retained greater coverts or clear contrast would both be indicative of a first winter bird - as they would indicate a moult limit).

Hopefully next week will bring good weather, better diversity and a higher proportion of finches in the catch.

Many thanks to Charlie Sargent and Aaron Davies for coming along this morning.

Owain Gabb
19/01/2014

Reference.  Svensson, L.  (1992).  Identification guide to European passerines.  Privately Published, Stockholm. 

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Ice-breaking session at Kenfig

This morning I joined Chris Newberry at the Kenfig Pool site for our first visit of the New Year. The 'Met Office' forecast an Amber Warning for Ice and they weren't wrong - with the surface of both flooded rides frozen.

 

We set up three 18 metre nets in the CES ride and two 12 metre nets in the scrub ride with the accompaniment of Goldcrest on the MP3 players. It wasn't long before the birds accommodated us with their presence.

Male Goldcrest

Catching was slow through the morning and we managed only nine birds in total but the final bird was a surprise Chiffchaff.

Chiffchaff 

The total for the session was as follows (new birds/re-traps) Blue Tit (0/2) Chiffchaff (1/0) Goldcrest (1/1) Long Tailed-Tit (0/1) Robin (1/2).




Sunday, 12 January 2014

Oxwich Marsh 11 January

A belated start to the ringing year due to a long spell of unsettled weather.  However, the weather on the morning of 11 January was good, with a very light north-westerly wind and clear skies.  The latter probably influenced the catch (as the nets became more visible in the sunlight), which was steady as opposed to spectacular.  The most welcome element of it, however, was the number of reed buntings caught (a male is shown opposite - it can be seen that the black head typical of breeding plumage is gradually wearing in).  There is a long-running data set for the species from the marsh, and there have been a few notable controls (birds re-captured at other location - indicating the nature of their movements).

In total, 44 birds were caught.  The breakdown of species was as follows: wren 1 (1), dunnock 1 (1), robin 1 (1), goldcrest 2 (1), blue tit 22 (14), chaffinch 5 (0), greenfinch 2 (0), reed bunting 10 (3).  The proportion of the birds caught that were re-traps from previous sessions / years is indicated in brackets. One of the blue tits caught had been ringed 4 years and 5 months previously.

Greenfinches can be sexed based on the pattern of yellow in the wing and tail feathers.  The photo opposite shows the wing of a (first winter) female, while that below is that of a (first winter) male.  It can be seen that in the wing of the female, the yellow on the leading edge of the primary feathers does not extend to the shaft.  In the male, the equivalent feathers have yellow right up to the shaft (and the yellow is more extensive).

Overall, it was an average start to the year, with a reasonable catch but nothing unexpected within it.  Hopefully, however, it leaves us on course to beat last year's reed bunting total of 36 new birds and 40 (unique) birds (taking retraps into account).

Thanks to Charlie Sargent for coming along this morning.

Owain Gabb
11/01/2014

Friday, 3 January 2014

Oxwich Marsh Annual Ringing Total 2013

In 2013 ringing was undertaken at Oxwich Marsh for the first time since 2010.  It was a good year, with over 800 new birds captured, and several re-traps of birds in excess of three years of age.  Highlights included a young male kingfisher, Cetti's and grasshopper warblers, good numbers of reed and sedge warblers, and the only semi-rarity of the year, a firecrest in mid-November.  A breakdown of birds trapped at the site is below.

Birds caught at Oxwich Marsh in 2013


Species
Ringed
Re-trapped
Total
Kingfisher
1
0
1
Great Spotted Woodpecker
3
0
3
Swallow
23
0
23
Meadow Pipit
8
0
8
Wren
40
19
59
Dunnock
16
19
35
Robin
24
15
39
Blackbird
14
6
20
Song Thrush
5
0
5
Cetti's Warbler
10
8
18
Grasshopper Warbler
2
0
2
Sedge Warbler
61
4
65
Reed Warbler
112
12
124
Whitethroat
17
5
22
Blackcap
51
1
52
Chiffchaff
43
0
43
Willow Warbler
22
4
26
Goldcrest
20
0
20
Firecrest
1
0
1
Long-tailed Tit
16
7
23
Blue Tit
218
99
317
Great Tit
32
36
68
Treecreeper
2
0
2
Magpie
1
0
1
Chaffinch
30
1
31
Greenfinch
3
0
3
Goldfinch
3
0
3
Bullfinch
17
4
21
Reed Bunting
36
6
42
Total:
831
246
1077

A copy of the 2013 ringing report for the site can be found using this link http://ow.ly/sqwbP.

Owain Gabb
03/01/14.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Oxwich Marsh 29 December 2013

A break in the weather provided a window to get a final visit to Oxwich Marsh completed in 2013.  Very light south-westerly winds meant the nets hardly moved in the first few hours of daylight, but the increasingly open skies made them more visible, and the catch slowly declined as the morning wore on.  Some short watches over the previous two weeks had indicated that there were finches and reed buntings coming in to the feeding station, and as a result it was hoped that there would be a fairly varied catch.
 
Seventy birds of the following species were trapped (the proportion of the birds that were retraps is indicated by brackets): great spotted woodpecker 1, dunnock 2 (2), robin 4 (3), Cetti's warbler 1 (1), blue tit 48 (33), great tit 4 (3), chaffinch 3 (0), greenfinch 3 (0), goldfinch 1 (0), reed bunting 3 (1).
 
The catch was interesting from a number of perspectives.  Firstly, the majority of blue tits, great tits and Cetti's warbler being re-trapped are now ringed birds.  This suggests that most of the locally resident population of these species has now been trapped.  Secondly, a blue tit and a dunnock of at least 3 years of age were trapped, while a re-trapped reed bunting was at least four years of age based on the date of first ringing and its age at that time.  Finally, we caught the first greenfinches at the marsh in over ten years.  An adult male greenfinch is shown below.
 
Observations during the breeding season do not suggest that greenfinch breeds in or adjacent to Oxwich Marsh.  In previous years, ringing has been concentrated between the spring and early autumn, when birds are not likely to be using the area.  In 2013, the establishment of a feeding station, and the extension of ringing into the winter, has resulted in flocks of greenfinches moving in. 

Greenfinches can be sexed throughout the year, based on between-sex differences in the extent (and depth of colour) of the yellow in the primaries and on the tail feathers.  They can also be aged based on moult limits in the wing (juveniles may retain one or more old greater coverts and alula feathers and always retain their primary coverts).  In males ageing birds can be fairly straightforward, but in some females colour contrasts are subtle.  One complication in ageing birds is that birds of both sexes can replace all or part of their tail during post juvenile moult, so only retained tail feathers are useful in ageing.

No goldcrest or long-tailed tit flocks were seen during the morning, but overhead flocks of siskin and smaller numbers of redpoll were moving.  The number of teal on the marsh had also increased, and snipe were noted throughout the session.

Many thanks to Charlie Sargeant and Heather Coats for coming along on Sunday.

Happy New Year.

Owain Gabb 01/01/2014