Saturday, 14 October 2017

Oxwich Marsh late September & early October

The lack of a recent blog post reflects limited activity during what has been a fairly disrupted period of weather. A  predominantly south-westerly airflow has resulted in no large falls of birds, and conditions have often been fairly poor for ringing. 

Nevertheless, over the period we have managed to process 341 birds of 25 species. These have been as follows:

Species
Ringed
Recaptured
Total
Jack Snipe
2
0
2
Snipe
7
0
7
Great Spotted Woodpecker
2
4
6
Swallow
181
0
181
Meadow Pipit
14
0
14
Grey Wagtail
3
0
3
Pied/White Wagtail
5
0
5
Wren
8
6
14
Dunnock
5
8
13
Robin
3
6
9
Stonechat
1
0
1
Blackbird
0
1
1
Song Thrush
4
0
4
Cetti's Warbler
5
5
10
Reed Warbler
2
0
2
Blackcap
2
0
2
Chiffchaff
8
0
8
Goldcrest
10
0
10
Coal Tit
1
0
1
Blue Tit
13
9
22
Great Tit
5
3
8
Chaffinch
0
1
1
Greenfinch
3
0
3
Goldfinch
2
0
2
Reed Bunting
8
4
12
Total:
294
47
341

The highlights have been:

  • Jack snipe on 8 and 12 October. These birds were both captured close to the South Pond. They both had wing lengths of 113 mm and weighed 49 and 55 g respectively.
  • Seven common snipe, all in early October. Captured in the same area as the jack snipe, these birds had wing lengths of 131-142 mm and weighed between 93 g and 111 g. Over the past few years we have ringed 63 snipe at the marsh. Their weights have varied considerably (between 83 g and 153 g), but all birds have weighed more than the heaviest of our 26 jack snipe (range 48 g to 75 g). 
  • A couple of new great spotted woodpeckers. Normally we expect to ring our woodpeckers in June and July, when juveniles are visiting the feeders, but these birds were captured at a time when visible movement of woodpeckers had been reported at Rhossili. It will be interesting to see if they are recaptured.
  • A reasonable late catch of swallows - 114 on 24 September - with small numbers on other dates. Over 100 were present close to the South Pond on 8 October.
  • Three grey wagtails. The fact that wagtails can be tape lured into a triangle of nets set for pipits is something we can build on during the passage period next year.
  • Only two reed warblers. The latest of these was on 24 September. In previous years we have captured birds well into October (in very small numbers), while in 2016 a bird remained until 19 November. 

We have managed to interest a few skylarks in a tape, but nothing has come low enough to be captured.

Otherwise it has been standard autumn fair. A few Cetti's warblers carrying fat probably indicates a degree of autumn dispersal, a coal tit may have been a migrant as they are scarce on the marsh and have been reported moving, and the numbers of reed bunting on site has visibly / audibly increased. We await an influx of goldcrests, the weather prevented a session during a period a week or two ago when firecrests were passing through in number, and the first redwing seem to have been delayed by the westerly winds.

Thanks to all who have made it out during the period: Heather Coats, Keith Vaughton, Wayne Morris, Emma Cole, Val Wilson, Lynn Watts, Kirsty Franklin, Stephen Vickers, Chris Newberry, Martin Thomas, Jo Conway, Bethan Dalton, Alex McCubbin, Edward O'Connor and Sophie de Grissac.

Some photos are below

Owain Gabb
14/10/2017

One of the first snipe of the autumn. Photo Kirsty Franklin.

Jack snipe (left) and common snipe (right). Photo Kirsty Franklin.

When it is quiet we try a tape for meadow pipits. They tend to respond immediately when moving. Photo Stephen Vickers

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Oxwich Marsh 16 September 2017: the changing of the guard

A light northerly breeze and open skies was a welcome change to the unsettled, and often very wet weather that had dogged us during the ringing course (see previous post) and in the preceding week.

The day had an autumnal feeling, both in terms of the cool weather and in terms of the birds captured. The breakdown was as follows:

Species
Ringed
Recaptured
Total
Meadow Pipit
29
0
29
Grey Wagtail
4
0
4
Pied/White Wagtail
1
0
1
Wren
2
1
3
Dunnock
0
1
1
Robin
3
0
3
Stonechat
3
0
3
Cetti's Warbler
4
1
5
Sedge Warbler
1
0
1
Reed Warbler
2
1
3
Whitethroat
1
0
1
Garden Warbler
1
0
1
Blackcap
9
0
9
Chiffchaff
11
0
11
Willow Warbler
1
0
1
Goldcrest
2
0
2
Blue Tit
2
1
3
Great Tit
3
0
3
Treecreeper
1
0
1
Reed Bunting
5
1
6
Total:
85
6
91

The highlights of the catch were:

  • Four grey wagtails. The birds responded to a tape. All were first winters, as was clear from the large number of unmoulted greater coverts and tertials they had each retained. We had only captured a single grey wagtail on the marsh previously, but had not tried tape luring overflying birds before.
  • A reasonable day total of 29 meadow pipits. These were almost exclusively first winter birds. Clear moult limits in the median and greater coverts were noted, with some moulting one or more tertials and others very few wing feathers at all. The only adult bird captured showed uniform olive-tinged wings and buff edges to all coverts.
  • Three stonechats. The hay in the ringing field has been cut very late this year. Until last week the chats were scattered around the field, foraging from stems of bracken and fringing vegetation. They now have fewer options, and are more frequently using ruderal vegetation on the edge of the marsh, allowing us to capture them more easily.
  • A few long distance migrants. A slightly sandy-coloured whitethroat and a reed warbler, both of which were carrying a good amount of fat, reasonably late willow and garden warblers, and a couple of lingering young reed and sedge warblers with very limited fat deposits.
  • A good catch of Cetti's warblers. This species very rarely carries fat, but in the mid to late Autumn we tend to see some birds with reasonable deposits. This probably indicates dispersal into the marsh. The recaptured bird was an adult coming towards the end of main moult. All of the other birds that could be aged (fault bars on the tails were useful), were first winters.

The clear out of long distance migrants, overhead movements of meadow pipits, steady catches of chiffchaff and blackcap, and the arrival of the first crests and treecreepers into the marsh signal the changing of the seasonal guard from early to mid autumn. We will soon be thinking about migrant thrushes and yellow-browed warblers.

A first in the nets today was a hornet. Only slightly more welcome than a bat!

Thanks to Heather Coats, Wayne Morris, Valerie Wilson, Stephen Vickers, Kirsty Franklin and Jo Conway for company and assistance this morning.

Owain Gabb
16/09/2017

Grey wagtails (Wayne Morris)

Hornet (extracted with care!)

Meadow pipit

Stonechat (male) (Stephen Vickers / Kirsty Franklin)

Treecreeper (Stephen Vickers / Kirsty Franklin)