Saturday, 23 January 2016

Oxwich Marsh 23 January 2016: the first redpoll of the year

An almost spring-like day, with a light to moderate south-westerly wind and overcast skies that gradually cleared over the morning.  Unfortunately the water levels in the marsh remain very high, with deep mud and standing water in all of the net rides.

We limited our nets to 260 feet, all among scrub / around the feeders.  The catch of 74 birds was as follows:

Species
New
Re-trapped
Total
Great Spotted Woodpecker
0
1
1
Dunnock
0
2
2
Robin
0
2
2
Coal Tit
0
1
1
Blue Tit
4
19
23
Great Tit
0
8
8
Chaffinch
9
5
14
Greenfinch
3
1
4
Goldfinch
5
5
10
Siskin
1
2
3
Lesser Redpoll
1
0
1
Reed Bunting
4
1
5
Total:
27
47
74

Lesser redpoll (Owain Gabb)
The features of the catch were a control goldfinch (a bird ringed elsewhere and recaptured on the marsh), a few siskin, a first lesser redpoll of the year and four reed buntings.

Lesser redpoll (Owain Gabb)
Despite capturing almost 900 individual goldfinch on the marsh over the past few years, and recapturing many of these birds on a regular basis, we had not previously controlled a bird. The bird was an adult, as indicated by a relatively fresh looking tail with rounded feather tips and a single generation of wing feathers (uniformly black across the dark areas of the wing coverts).  We left it unsexed, as it did not exhibit a range of consistent male or female plumage features.  

The lesser redpoll was also an adult, but was sexed as a male based on the considerable amount of pink feathering on the breast.

Thanks to today's contingent of Heather Coats, Wayne Morris, Darren Hicks, Val Wilson, Emma Cole and Paul Aubrey for company and assistance.

Owain Gabb
23/01/2016

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Oxwich Marsh 16 January 2016: a couple of interesting controls

A change in the weather at last.  Saturday 16 January was still and relatively mild on the marsh, with temperatures not getting below four degrees Celsius.

A day total of 114 birds broke down as follows:

Species
Ringed
Recaptured
Total
Great Spotted Woodpecker
0
1
1
Wren
2
1
3
Dunnock
0
6
6
Robin
0
1
1
Blackbird
0
1
1
Chiffchaff
1
1
2
Goldcrest
0
1
1
Coal Tit
0
2
2
Blue Tit
3
30
33
Great Tit
1
12
13
Chaffinch
11
4
15
Greenfinch
4
3
7
Goldfinch
9
11
20
Siskin
3
2
5
Reed Bunting
2
2
4
Total:
36
78
114

First winter male siskin (Paul Aubrey)
The catch was re-trap dominated.  However, there were some good results for a mid-winter session, including the capture of two chiffchaff, a goldcrest initially ringed on the marsh during the influx of the species in October 2015 which has stuck around, a couple of reed buntings and five siskins.  The siskins included a local fledgling (now a first winter male) and an adult female that bred on the marsh in 2015: it was nice to see them back.
Chiffchaff (Paul Aubrey)

The most notable results, however, were two controls. The first was of a chiffchaff. The ideal scenario would be that this bird was ringed as a 3JJ (juvenile prior to post juvenile moult) or an an adult apparently on territory, as we would then have a good indication of where it bred to go along with where it is wintering. It will be very interesting to get the return data from the BTO. 




The second control was of a female greenfinch. This bird was ringed by the Gower Ringing Group, but at Crynant in the Neath Valley, approximately 30 km to the north-east.  More notable than this distance however, was that the bird was initially captured in September 2007 (as a juvenile).  Based on previous UK-wide annual ringing reports provided by the BTO, this bird is likely to be among the oldest greenfinches recaptured in the UK in 2016.

Thanks to Heather Coats, Paul Aubrey, Emma Cole, Val Wilson and Becky Philips for their company and assistance this morning.

Owain Gabb
17/01/2015

Monday, 11 January 2016

Oxwich Marsh early January 2016

So far there have only been two days in 2016 when ringing has been possible at Oxwich, 6 and 10 January. We have managed to get out on both of them. On 6 Jan the wind had swung to the north-west having been south-westerly for some time, and was very light, while on 10 Jan a light westerly wind with occasional showers allowed us to get a few hours in.

The numbers of birds have been fairly low, and the combined total is in the table below:

Species
New
Re-captured
Total
Wren
1
0
1
Dunnock
0
2
2
Robin
0
2
2
Goldcrest
1
1
2
Coal Tit
1
1
2
Blue Tit
1
28
29
Great Tit
1
3
4
Chaffinch
8
0
8
Greenfinch
1
3
4
Goldfinch
13
9
22
Siskin
1
0
1
Reed Bunting
2
0
2
Total:
30
49
79

Coal tit (Charlie Sargent)
Highlights have been few and far between.  A male siskin, a steady trickle of goldfinches and a couple of goldcrests, including a retrap from October 2015 (indicating the some of our autumn birds stay around). We seem to have ringed the vast majority of our blue tit population, with the only notable capture one bird mist netted for the first time since 2013, while getting coal tit for 2016 took only one session (the species was only captured in the final quarter of 2015).


Siskin (Charlie Sargent)
Virtually all of our captures have come from around the feeders, with the exception being the wren and one goldcrest.  Nets in the open marsh have proved to be unproductive, with no birds captured in four hours in a line of four forty foot nets through the reed bed on 6 January. It seems that in the mid-winter the reed buntings disappear, possibly to the North Gower saltmarshes or into farmland.

A near miss with a water rail, which flushed towards the nets on 10 January would have turned a quiet and predictable session into one that was a bit special!

Thanks to those who have made it along to one or more of the sessions: Keith Vaughton, Wayne Morris, Charlie Sargent, Emma Cole, Dan Rouse and Becky Phillips.

Owain Gabb
11/01/2015

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Oxwich Ringing Report 2015

2015 was the third year of Gower Ringing Group activity at Oxwich Marsh.  It proved to be another good one: group members put in a lot of effort, and were rewarded by some excellent returns.  A summary follows, and a more detailed report can be accessed through following the link towards the bottom of the page.

Kingfisher (Keith Vaughton)
We managed to keep up the impetus of 2014 and completed twice weekly sessions during passage periods and weekly sessions at other times (whenever weather allowed).  As a result, the number of birds ringed on the marsh increased (on the 2014 total of 3,371) to 3,531, and 3,925 unique birds were processed during the calendar year (this total includes birds recaptured and controlled for the first time during the year but excludes multiple recaptures).  

The data set that is emerging is both valuable and interesting.  It indicates, for example, that while the site currently supports relatively small numbers of breeding reed and sedge warblers, far larger numbers occur during autumn passage. While some of these warblers have been controlled at sites to the south and south-east (along a relatively intuitive broad front migratory corridor), others appear to head off in the wrong direction, as we have recovered fledglings recently ringed at Kenfig (to the east) at Oxwich, while some of our birds have headed north west to the Teifi Marshes in Pembrokeshire after fledging.  Perhaps more surprising than apparent navigation errors in these juvenile warblers, however, was the recovery of a Cetti's warbler ringed at Magor Marsh, Monmouthshire in 2012 at Oxwich (a movement of almost 100 km). It does illustrate that Cetti's warblers are capable of dispersal, as they have had to be to colonise much of England and Wales over the past few decades, despite their stubby wings.

Redwing (Charlie Sargent)
The data also indicate that species such as tree pipit and garden warbler have very short periods of (relative) abundance locally, and poor weather during these periods can influence annual catch rates considerably - catches of both decreased in 2015. It will be interesting to see how the totals shape up in 2016.  Between year differences have also been very apparent in late autumn immigrants, with the 167 goldcrests captured in 2015 more than doubling the 78 birds trapped in 2014, and reflecting widespread reports of a significant autumn influx of the species to the UK.  Similarly, despite unsettled weather, we managed to capture 99 redwing at the marsh this year, compared to a paltry eight in 2014.

It has also been nice to capture a few old stagers, including a seven year old male reed bunting, a dunnock of the same age, and a couple of six year old blue tits.  All were ringed by the previous ringing incumbent of the marsh, Barry Stewart, who was active on the site until 2010.

Whinchat (Keith Vaughton)
Redstart (Keith Vaughton)
New species for the site in 2015 were green woodpecker (two), mistle thrush, pied/white wagtail (both races), redstart, whinchat (two), nuthatch (two), and lesser redpoll (seven), while other highlights have included three firecrest, two jack snipe and proving local breeding in grasshopper warbler. Totals of sub-Saharan migrants included 399 barn swallow, three tree pipit, two whinchat, a redstart, 11 grasshopper warbler, 145 sedge warbler, 159 reed warbler, two lesser whitethroat, five garden warbler and 84 willow warbler.  Shorter distance migrants and resident species have included three kingfisher, 65 meadow pipit, 24 Cetti's warbler, 100 chiffchaff, 190 blackcap, 469 blue tit (!), and 147 reed bunting.  Finch numbers were consistently high, with 464 unique goldfinch and 468 greenfinch captured over the year, while two distinct cohorts of young siskin were recorded, indicating a first brood that fledged in May and a second in July.

Grasshopper warbler (Owain Gabb)
Maintaining the effort in 2015 has only been possible due to the commitment of Gower Ringing Group members, who also run two Constant Effort Sites and a Re-trapping Adults for Survival project on pied flycatcher.  As the group is relatively small, and individuals also have additional projects, this effort continues to be very much appreciated.  The site provides an excellent opportunity for training, due to the numbers of birds and the diversity of species captured (we are now up to 55 species ringed at Oxwich since we began ringing the site in February 2013), and our trainees also benefit from this commitment in terms of experience. The relatively large and varied catches also encouraged the BTO to hold the Welsh Ringing Course on the site for the first time in September 2015. Despite bad weather the feedback from participants was overwhelmingly positive, and over 400 birds were captured in three days.




The other critical factor in keeping the ringing effort going has been a Gower Society grant, which has done much to cover the cost of rings and seed (for the feeding station).  We are extremely grateful for the support of the Society in 2015.

Many thanks to all the ringers and helpers who have contributed so much this year, to the land managers, Natural Resources Wales, for their support, and to the Gower Society for grant funding.  2016 should be another great year at Oxwich.

Some further photographs are below, and the full report can be found by following this link (to a page where the PDF'd report can be downloaded):

http://www.bsg-ecology.com/oxwich-marsh-bird-ringing-report-2015/

Owain Gabb
04/01/2016
L-R Phil Mead, Darren Hicks, Wayne Morris and Keith Vaughton (seated) ringing some early swallows

Lesser whitethroat (Keith Vaughton)

Lesser redpolls (Keith Vaughton)
Mistle thrush (Owain Gabb)

Stonechat (Owain Gabb)

Skylark (Owain Gabb)

Jack snipe squatting characteristically following release (Charlie Sargent)

One of 23 great spotted woodpeckers captured in 2015 (Owain Gabb)