Sunday, 30 October 2016

Oxwich Marsh 29 October: Jack's back ..... and more YBWs

Perfect ringing weather this Saturday morning: overcast with an almost imperceptible easterly breeze. We set nets on a bund across the marsh, through wet and dry scrub and on the edge one of the freshwater pools.

The catch of eighty-five birds broke down as follows:

Species
Ringed
Recaptured
Total
Jack Snipe
2
1
3
Wren
3
4
7
Dunnock
0
2
2
Robin
2
3
5
Blackbird
0
2
2
Song Thrush
2
1
3
Redwing
4
0
4
Cetti's Warbler
1
1
2
Reed Warbler
1
0
1
Yellow-browed Warbler
1
0
1
Chiffchaff
4
1
5
Goldcrest
8
0
8
Long-tailed Tit
21
0
21
Coal Tit
2
0
2
Blue Tit
3
8
11
Great Tit
1
2
3
Chaffinch
1
0
1
Greenfinch
0
1
1
Goldfinch
1
0
1
Reed Bunting
1
1
2
Total:
58
27
85

The highlights of the catch were:
  • Catching three jack snipe, including a bird initially ringed at the marsh on 12 March 2016. This is the first indication that jack snipe return to the marsh between winters, and is an excellent result. A common snipe escaped from the nets on approach, which was disappointing.
  • The sixteenth yellow-browed warbler of the autumn (and the second of the week). Will this be the last from an exceptional influx year? The tail of the bird suggested a first winter, being very pointed and showing some abrasion. It was carrying significant fat (the tracheal pit was full and it was spilling out over the breast muscles (Fat Score 6)).
  • The latest ever reed warbler captured at the marsh. This was a clear first winter bird. There were no features that suggested another reed warbler species. Although carrying some fat, the sturnum was prominent, suggesting the bird was in poor condition.
  • Another new Cetti's warbler. We have only captured 24 unique birds all year (this total includes retraps from previous years), but have ringed 8 in the past three weeks. This suggests late autumn dispersal into the marsh. Some birds have been carrying fat (scores of up to 4 using the BWG system), which we do not typically record at other times of year.
  • A best ever day count of 21 long-tailed tits ringed. Until October we had trapped only 2 birds at the marsh in 2016. We are now up to 31. This pattern of catching of the species is typical of previous years. The birds are caught in roving flocks moving through the area in late autumn. We look to be on for a similar year-end total to previous years (in 2014 and 2015 31 and 37 unique long-tailed tits were captured respectively).
The (unprecedented) sixteenth yellow-browed warbler of 2016
It is of note that the feeders are quieter at the moment than they have been all year, suggesting there is an abundance of alternative food for finches and tits at present. The weather has been particularly mild during October.

Many thanks to the team of Heather Coats, Keith Vaughton, Paul Aubrey and Wayne Morris for company and assistance.

Owain Gabb
30/10/2016

Yellow-browed warbler


Saturday, 22 October 2016

Oxwich Marsh 22 October: autumn thrushes

An almost imperceptible easterly breeze that gradually increased over the morning, open skies and a light frost at the marsh.

We set nets across the bund through the marsh, and a second net line in nearby scrub.

The catch was as follows:

Species
Ringed
Recaptured
Total
Wren
0
2
2
Dunnock
0
1
1
Robin
2
1
3
Blackbird
2
0
2
Song Thrush
0
1
1
Redwing
12
0
12
Cetti's Warbler
1
2
3
Reed Warbler
1
0
1
Blackcap
1
0
1
Chiffchaff
3
0
3
Goldcrest
13
0
13
Long-tailed Tit
1
0
1
Blue Tit
3
1
4
Reed Bunting
2
0
2
Total:
41
8
49

Redwing (we have captured 29 to date this autumn)

We caught a few redwing leaving overnight roosts in and around the marsh in the first half an hour of light, a song thrush (first captured in 2014) in the scrub and a couple of Cetti's warblers.

Our focus then changed to goldcrests and chiffchaffs, which were vocal in willows around the edge of the marsh. However captures were modest, and it was a return to usual late autumn service following the capture of a little bunting during the previous ringing session.


A nice first winter male blackbird with a dark bill

Blackbird (first winter male)
Thanks to Heather Coats, Darren Hicks and Val Wilson for company and assistance this morning.

Owain Gabb
22/10/2016

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Oxwich Marsh 20 October 2016: little bunting

A slightly stronger than ideal north-westerly breeze greeted us this morning. This is the worst wind direction for the marsh - we have no way of setting nets to escape it. Thankfully, however, it was calmest at dawn, and we got most of our work done early.

This was our first attempt at catching redwings of 2016. Nets were set before dawn along the bund through the middle of the marsh, with further nets set in scrub and in a rushy area around the edge of the South Pond.

Jack snipe on release (Keith Vaughton)
On the first round we extracted 15 redwing, a few robins and wrens and a couple of goldcrests. A nice mix, but nothing unexpected. The nets near the South Pond did better: a jack snipe, a common snipe and another wren.

The second net round saw us start to catch some of the flocks of smaller birds that had been noted moving in waves through the area the night before. Approximately 20 goldcrests (including a control), a few blue tits, long-tailed tits and robins, but a distinct lack of the chiffchaffs and yellow-browed warblers of the previous week or so.

What appeared to be a reed bunting at first glance was left until the smaller, more delicate crests had been extracted. A closer inspection revealed it wasn't a reed bunting, however, but a little bunting!

Little bunting (Keith Vaughton)

Back at the ringing table the bird was studied more closely.

It had a wing length of 72 mm, was carrying no fat and had a distinctively juvenile-looking tail (very pointed and abraded with the hint of a growth bar).

It was visibly slighter than a reed bunting, showed a clear white eye ring, brown cheeks with a dark border. The malar stripe did not extend close to the bill, the wing bars were fairly subtle, and the flank streaking (shown best in the lowest photo) was fairly narrow.




It was released near the South Pond hide, to allow any visiting birders the chance to see it. On release it called - a robin-like tick - and flew some distance before appearing to drop into scrub.
Reed bunting (L) and little bunting (R) (Keith Vaughton)

Head of little bunting showing crown stripe

Tail, showing feather shape and wear (not very well), as well as the white on the 6th and lack of while on the 5th (white on the 5th is a feature of rustic bunting)

Little bunting

Little bunting foot / leg colouration and flank streaking

The day total was as follows:

Species
Ringed
Recaptured
Total
Jack Snipe
1
0
1
Snipe
1
0
1
Wren
4
1
5
Dunnock
1
0
1
Robin
2
2
4
Redwing
15
0
15
Cetti's Warbler
1
0
1
Goldcrest
28
1
29
Long-tailed Tit
2
0
2
Blue Tit
4
1
5
Great Tit
1
0
1
Little Bunting
1
0
1
Reed Bunting
3
0
3
Total:
64
5
69

A good morning. On most days a jack snipe would be a clear highlight!

Thanks to Heather Coats, Keith Vaughton, Phil Mead and Sammy-Jo Pengelly for coming along and clearing up after I had to go to work

Owain Gabb
20 October 2016