Saturday, 27 September 2014

Oxwich Marsh 27 Sept: Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests

A still cloudy morning.  In total we erected just over 600 feet of net.  The wind didn't really pick up, but bird numbers declined rapidly, and by 10:30 we started to take the nets down.

The (modest) catch of 60 was made up as follows:

Species New Re-trapped Total
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1 0 1
Meadow Pipit 7 0 7
Wren 1 1 2
Dunnock 1 2 3
Robin 3 4 7
Cetti's Warbler 1 0 1
Reed Warbler 1 0 1
Blackcap 3 0 3
Chiffchaff 13 0 13
Goldcrest 9 0 9
Blue Tit 1 1 2
Chaffinch 2 0 2
Goldfinch 1 0 1
Reed Bunting 8 0 8
Total: 52 8 60

The better elements of the morning were the good numbers of reed bunting, goldcrest and chiffchaff, a late reed warbler, the 22nd new Cetti's warbler of the year and an un-ringed great spotted woodpecker (the vast majority of woodpeckers trapped in recent months have been ringed birds).  The haul of chiffchaffs took us over 100 new birds of that species in 2014. However, this was not a classic session!
A picture of one of the goldcrests is below. 


Goldcrest (pic: Charlie Sargent)

The settled weather and relatively low number of birds allowed a little more time for studying plumage characteristics in detail.  A number of the species we captured are not straightforward to age, and this was a good learning / revision / consolidation exercise.  Goldcrests can be aged based on tail characteristics, with juveniles typically having very pointed and adults more rounded tail feathers, but many birds are intermediate and some cannot be aged reliably.  First winter robins often show a break in the greater coverts: frequently the inner (moulted) greater coverts are olive-toned and the outer coverts are browner, while the inside of the upper mandible of young birds is often yellowish (as opposed to dark).  Other useful features can be growth bars in the tail (indicating feathers were grown at the same time and are therefore juvenile) and the shape of the tips.  It is also very useful to look at autumn reed buntings : the tail shape and degree of feather wear in young birds is really obvious at this time of year in comparison to adults.  The latter becomes less of a useful feature as the winter goes on.

Many thanks to Cedwyn Davies, Heather Coates, Charlie Sargent, Wayne Morris, Hannah Meinertzhagen, Emma Cole, Gail Cobbold, Chris and Rhys Stevens for their company and assistance this morning.  Thanks in particular to Cedwyn for the lift and to Gail for acting as scribe again.

Owain Gabb
27/09/14

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Oxwich Marsh 23rd September 2014

On the way to Oxwich this morning there was a lot of fog about which made the journey slow. On arrival it had cleared. Most of the morning was overcast with a little sunshine for half an hour or so and little wind.

Today's visit was an extra one for the week, unfortunately Owain could not make it

We hoped for a larger catch than that of last weekend. We caught 76 birds which was nice but it looks like the big catches are reducing now a lot of migrants have gone.


Species
New
Re-trapped
Total
Robin
5

5
Blackcap
7
1
8
Reed Bunting
9
3
12
Goldfinch
10
1
11
Goldcrest
3

3
Bullfinch
1
1
2
Wren

1
1
Reed Warbler
2

2
Chiffchaff
14

14
Cetti's Warbler
1

1
Greenfinch
1

1
Blue Tit
2
2
4
Long Tailed Tit
2
4
6
Great Tit
1

1
Meadow Pipit
1

1
Chaffinch
4

4
Total
63
13
76



The interesting part of today's session was the number of migrants we caught. Just as you think it all over, we unexpectedly had some good numbers. Chiffchaff at 14 new birds was the best catch all season. We expected to catch a few, likewise with the Blackcaps as well at 8 birds. Generally the Blackcaps were putting fat on but the Chiffchaffs were nearly all 0 fat. 


Reed Warbler was the biggest surprise, but a concern as well. One was aged 3 with a moult code of P and fat of 0 and the other was aged 3 with a moult code of O and fat of 2. These birds could have been a late brood dropping into the marsh to replenish fat already used or they are Oxwich birds still yet to put on fat before starting their long distant migration. In either case it's getting very late in the season and one wonders what the outcome may be for these late birds.


Other birds worthy of note were the catches of 12 Reed Bunting, Cetti's Warbler, 3 Goldcrest and a Long Tailed Tit flock of 6 birds.

Today's scribe was Gale Cobbold and ringers were Heather Coats, Cedwyn Davies and myself. Thanks to everyone for a pleasurable morning.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Oxwich Marsh 20 September 2014

Ideal conditions in the marsh: overcast, warm and virtually windless first thing.  The wind began to pick up from the east a couple of hours after dawn, and we took the nets down at 11:30.

Due to limited personnel (and kit), we only put up nets in the fen meadow and in the scrub.  These areas had proved productive during the previous session, whereas the reed bed had not.  The catch of 65 was slow and steady.  It was made up of the following:

Species New Re-trapped Total
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1 0 1
Meadow Pipit 1 0 1
Dunnock 0 2 2
Robin 3 1 4
Whitethroat 1 0 1
Blackcap 3 0 3
Chiffchaff 9 0 9
Goldcrest 1 0 1
Blue Tit 3 7 10
Great Tit 2 3 5
Chaffinch 4 2 6
Greenfinch 0 1 1
Goldfinch 8 8 16
Bullfinch 1 0 1
Reed Bunting 4 0 4
Total: 41 24 65

The features of the catch were our first new great spotted woodpecker for some time (we had been regularly catching ringed birds), the nine chiffchaffs and four reed buntings.  The latter provided an opportunity to have a look at fresh adult plumage, including tail shape, colouration of feathering in the wing, and the edging of the greater coverts in comparison with juvenile birds.  Long distance migrants were notable by their absence, with a single whitethroat trapped, but no reed, sedge or willow warblers.  The whitethroat was carrying a considerable amount of fat (score of 6).

Blackcap numbers were also down in comparison with recent sessions.  However further east along the Welsh coast large numbers were apparently caught by the Cardiff Ringing Group.  The next few sessions will establish whether this was an anomaly.

We also caught a bullfinch.  This bird was still in the middle of its post juvenile moult, but was clearly a male.


Young male bullfinch
A ropey-looking bird!  As well as the changing head, where some remnant brown, juvenile feathering can be seen alongside the red adult-type feathers, retained greater coverts can be seen in the wing.  If the bird does not moult any more coverts, this feature can be used for ageing throughout the winter.

The running total of birds to date at Oxwich (2014) is below:

Species New Re-trapped Total
Sparrowhawk 2 2 4
Woodpigeon 1 0 1
Kingfisher 5 1 6
Great Spotted Woodpecker 10 25 35
Sand Martin 14 0 14
Swallow 382 0 382
House Martin 1 0 1
Tree Pipit 13 0 13
Meadow Pipit 26 0 26
Wren 46 34 80
Dunnock 39 56 95
Robin 77 46 123
Stonechat 3 0 3
Blackbird 22 17 39
Song Thrush 4 0 4
Cetti's Warbler 20 9 29
Grasshopper Warbler 5 0 5
Sedge Warbler 115 10 125
Reed Warbler 141 23 164
Lesser Whitethroat 2 0 2
Whitethroat 42 4 46
Garden Warbler 21 1 22
Blackcap 278 15 293
Wood Warbler 1 0 1
Chiffchaff 75 6 81
Willow Warbler 92 7 99
Goldcrest 11 1 12
Long-tailed Tit 10 1 11
Marsh Tit 2 4 6
Coal Tit 3 0 3
Blue Tit 216 223 439
Great Tit 93 138 231
Treecreeper 1 0 1
Magpie 1 0 1
Starling 2 0 2
Chaffinch 123 34 157
Greenfinch 281 69 350
Goldfinch 275 78 353
Siskin 60 55 115
Bullfinch 13 10 23
Reed Bunting 104 66 170
Total: 2632 935 3567

The two aims by year end are increasing the overall total of new birds to in excess of 3000, an excellent effort for the site for the calendar year, and capturing a couple more species (we currently stand at 41 in 2014) to set a good benchmark for 2015.

Thanks to Charlie Sargent and Keith Vaughton for their company and assistance.

Owain Gabb
21/09/14