Thursday, 18 December 2014

A few Llanrhidian recoveries

So far I have received 3 recoveries of Sedge Warblers ringed at Llanrhidian this autumn, let's hope some are found on their wintering grounds too to extend the picture.

Another recovery was received today - a Robin ringed at Nitten on 02-Oct-2014, subsequently found dead 27 days later under a tarpaulin covering a lawnmower at Blisland in Cornwall.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

13 December 2014: a few redwings and a yellow blackcap

A break in the weather, as a short-lived band of high pressure moved through, enabled us to get a session in at the marsh.  There was a very light north-westerly breeze and open skies.  This meant that the nets were still, but rapidly became visible.  We took them down late morning. 
 
We limited ourselves to three nets in the fen meadow (180 feet) and three in the scrub (160 feet), and also put an experimental net through an area of reed that Natural Resources Wales had cut during the week.  This is unlikely to be repeated, as we didn't catch a bird in it all morning!
 
The feeders had been emptying quickly, so we were hoping for a good catch in terms of numbers: this did not materialise, but the range of species captured was good.  The catch was as follows:

Species New Re-trapped Total
Wren 1 1 2
Dunnock 0 1 1
Robin 0 1 1
Redwing 3 0 3
Blackcap 2 0 2
Chiffchaff 1 0 1
Goldcrest 2 0 2
Long-tailed Tit 0 1 1
Blue Tit 3 9 12
Great Tit 1 1 2
Chaffinch 1 0 1
Greenfinch 1 0 1
Goldfinch 0 3 3
Total: 15 17 32

The highlights of the catch were a few redwings, two blackcaps and a chiffchaff.  Redwings are gradually moving into the area, and small parties appeared to have roosted around the marsh.  All of our birds were caught during the first net round (albeit one escaped from a net on approach during the second round).  The blackcaps (a male and a female) and chiffchaff were good bonuses as they are likely to be wintering birds.  It will be interesting to see if they are re-trapped over the remainder of the winter.
 
One of the blackcaps had pollen deposits around its beak and head.  Pictures are below, but these fail to really capture how obvious the yellow was, and how odd the bird looked as a result:
 
Male blackcap with pollen deposit

Male blackcap
 
The morning was relatively slow.  We therefore took a car load of us down to Oxwich Bay mid-morning to scan the inshore waters at high tide, leaving a skeleton crew to man the nets.  A raft of common scoter was noted in the outer bay, and both shag and cormorant were present, but there was no sign of the two first winter great northern divers that had been seen close inshore a couple of days before.  Gadwall numbers are increasing on the South Pond, with 48 present (along with two shoveler and small numbers of mallard).

Totals for the year to date are below:

Species New Re-trapped Total
1 Sparrowhawk 3 2 5
2 Jack Snipe 1 0 1
3 Snipe 11 0 11
4 Woodpigeon 1 0 1
5 Kingfisher 7 1 8
6 Great Spotted Woodpecker 11 26 37
7 Skylark 2 0 2
8 Sand Martin 14 0 14
9 Swallow 382 0 382
10 House Martin 1 0 1
11 Tree Pipit 13 0 13
12 Meadow Pipit 48 1 49
13 Wren 60 49 109
14 Dunnock 54 84 138
15 Robin 93 67 160
16 Stonechat 6 2 8
17 Blackbird 28 21 49
18 Song Thrush 6 1 7
19 Redwing 8 0 8
20 Cetti's Warbler 23 13 36
21 Grasshopper Warbler 6 0 6
22 Sedge Warbler 116 10 126
23 Reed Warbler 144 23 167
24 Lesser Whitethroat 2 0 2
25 Whitethroat 42 4 46
26 Garden Warbler 21 1 22
27 Blackcap 299 16 315
28 Yellow-browed Warbler 1 0 1
29 Wood Warbler 1 0 1
30 Chiffchaff 140 6 146
31 Willow Warbler 92 7 99
32 Goldcrest 72 3 75
33 Firecrest 3 0 3
34 Long-tailed Tit 24 14 38
35 Marsh Tit 2 5 7
36 Coal Tit 3 0 3
37 Blue Tit 311 305 616
38 Great Tit 107 153 260
39 Treecreeper 1 0 1
40 Magpie 1 0 1
41 Starling 2 0 2
42 Chaffinch 189 38 227
43 Brambling 1 0 1
44 Greenfinch 353 82 435
45 Goldfinch 443 173 616
46 Siskin 60 55 115
47 Bullfinch 15 11 26
48 Reed Bunting 144 73 217
Total: 3367 1246 4613

 It is looking like we will reach approximately 3,500 new birds at the marsh during the calendar year, a very respectable total. 

Thanks to Keith Vaughton, Heather Coats, Cedwyn Davies, Charlie Sargent, Emma Cole and Gail Cobbold for company and assistance this morning.

Owain Gabb
14/12/2014

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Oxwich Marsh 6 December 2014: an unexpected snipe and an odd blackbird

We didn't plan to put out nets for snipe this morning, as the overnight forecast suggested temperatures would be very low first thing, and we didn't want frosted nets (they have to be in place a good couple of hours before first light).  In the event, it didn't get as cold on the coast as a couple of miles inland, and we could have got away with it - very frustrating.  Having made the decision, however, we limited ourselves to three nets in the fen meadow and a further three in willow and thorn scrub (total 340 feet).
 
The day was bright, with little cloud and barely perceptible wind.  The catch of 48 was as follows:
 
Species New Re-trapped Total
Snipe 1 0 1
Great Spotted Woodpecker 0 1 1
Wren 0 1 1
Dunnock 0 2 2
Robin 0 1 1
Blackbird 1 1 2
Long-tailed Tit 1 3 4
Blue Tit 1 7 8
Great Tit 0 2 2
Chaffinch 5 0 5
Greenfinch 6 1 7
Goldfinch 5 7 12
Reed Bunting 2 0 2
Total: 22 26 48
 
Despite not attempting to catch snipe, we caught one.  A bird flew into the fen meadow nets as we were putting them up - the first we have caught away from nets specifically set for them.  Other highlights were limited to two reed bunting and a reasonable catch of finches.  Tit totals were thankfully manageable.  This was only the second session of the year when re-trapped bird numbers exceeded newly ringed birds.
 
We had one oddity, a blackbird that showed an unexpected moult pattern.  This was a re-trapped bird.  Although we did not have the information at the time, and each bird should be aged according to what you can see in the field (as opposed to checking back to when it was initially ringed for clues as to age), we now know that this bird (LA75666) was ringed as a 3JP (a recently fledged bird in predominantly juvenile plumage but showing post juvenile moult) in mid September.  We have no reason to doubt this determination, and juvenile male blackbirds are not particularly challenging to age.  However, as can be seen from the photos below, there were two generations of primary feathers present when the bird was recaptured this time around, which does not fit either adult or juvenile blackbird.  Both wings showed the same pattern of moult.

Juvenile blackbirds should not replace the primary feathers (or primary coverts) as part of their post juvenile moult.  However, adult birds should moult the wings entirely, resulting in no contrast in the flight feathers.  First winter males have dark bills that gradually become yellow over the winter.  Bill colouration here indicates a first winter bird.  Pictures are below:
 
Blackbird LA75666
 

Blackbird LA75666 showing different generations of feathers in the wing.
The blackbird appeared to have replaced its tertials, all of its coverts and several primaries (see the middle of the three arrows on the photo above), but had also retained some secondaries and its inner-most primary (see left arrow), and its outer primaries (right arrow).  It can be seen that retained feathers were bleached, more worn and pointed, compared with the darker, more rounded replaced feathers.  The bird had also replaced all of its tail feathers.

Any comments on the blackbird - particularly experience of similar birds from other ringers - would be useful.  Are we missing something here?

Thanks to Heather Coats, Cedwyn Davies, Emma Cole and Darren Hicks for company and assistance this morning.

Owain Gabb
06/12/14.