Saturday, 29 July 2017

Oxwich Marsh 29 July 2017: a visitor from Madrid

Light to moderate south-westerly winds and sunny intervals at Oxwich this morning, following a period of heavy overnight rain and moderate to strong south-westerlies during the preceding week.

We put nets through the reed bed, fen and, later in the morning, around the feeders. The catch was as follows:

Species
Ringed
Recaptured
Total
Great Spotted Woodpecker
1
3
4
Wren
1
1
2
Dunnock
1
2
3
Robin
4
3
7
Blackbird
0
1
1
Grasshopper Warbler
2
0
2
Sedge Warbler
55
1
56
Reed Warbler
28
5
33
Whitethroat
1
0
1
Blackcap
4
0
4
Chiffchaff
6
0
6
Willow Warbler
22
1
23
Blue Tit
6
4
10
Great Tit
2
6
8
Chaffinch
4
0
4
Greenfinch
6
2
8
Goldfinch
2
1
3
Siskin
3
0
3
Reed Bunting
3
0
3
Total:
151
30
181

The highlights of the morning were:
  • a day total of 56 sedge warblers - a record for the site. Of these, eight were adults and the remainder juveniles. A number were carrying reasonable fat reserves, suggesting they were feeding up ahead of migration.
  • a good day total of 33 reed warblers, of which only two were adults. Of these adults, one was a control (a bird ringed at another site). More notably, however, the ring bore the words ICONA MADRID. Our first continental control for a couple of years, albeit from a typical location for a species that will pass through the Iberian Peninsula en route to its wintering grounds south of the Sahara.
  • two young grasshopper warblers, taking our total to seven this year.
  • a day count of 23 willow warblers, all but one of which were young birds.
  • three siskins. We have caught 142 different siskins in 2017 to date. What was notable, however, was that two of the birds were in entirely juvenile plumage, indicating that local birds have had a second brood.
Goldfinch numbers seem to have declined of late, possibly due to the variety of food sources available to them. It was a little disappointing not to capture a lesser whitethroat or garden warbler; we are around the right date to capture both for the first time in 2017 based on previous years. However, a session total of 181 birds was a very good return on a day where until a day or so before the weather forecast indicated we might struggle to get any ringing done.

Many thanks to Heather Coats, Keith Vaughton, Wayne Morris, Olivia Pargeter, Rhodri Jones, Kirsty Franklin, Stephen Vickers, Joanne Conway, Bethan Dalton and Jacques Turner-Moss for company and assistance this morning.

Photographs are below.

Owain Gabb
29/07/2017

Our Spanish control reed warbler was not a looker! It was an adult that was undergoing some small-scale body moult, including of the head feathers.

Reed warbler initially captured in Spain and with a ring marked ICONA MADRID

One of our day total of 56 sedge warblers

Ringing under the 'gazebo'. With  (L-R) Heather Coats, Stephen Vickers, Rhodri Jones, Olivia Pargeter, Wayne Morris and Kirsty Franklin

Monday, 24 July 2017

Oxwich Marsh 23 July 2017: new starters

A mixed morning. Light winds with occasional, sometimes heavy, showers and bright intervals. We set nets in the open reed bed, through rushy ground with scattered scrub, and around the feeders. The latter were only opened once captures from the reed bed started to decline.

Species
Ringed
Recaptured
Total
Great Spotted Woodpecker
0
4
4
Wren
9
1
10
Dunnock
6
3
9
Robin
3
3
6
Blackbird
2
0
2
Grasshopper Warbler
1
1
2
Sedge Warbler
6
2
8
Reed Warbler
15
3
18
Whitethroat
2
0
2
Chiffchaff
3
0
3
Willow Warbler
2
1
3
Blue Tit
25
8
33
Great Tit
12
8
20
Chaffinch
4
2
6
Greenfinch
3
0
3
Bullfinch
2
0
2
Reed Bunting
8
1
9
Day Total:
103
37
140

The highlights of the morning were:

  • Two grasshopper warblers. A juvenile and a recapture of the male of the pair (sexed earlier in the season) thought to have bred close to the net ride in which both were captured.
  • A reed warbler initially ringed (as an adult) at the marsh on 20 July 2014, recaptured on 31 July 2015 and again on 23 July 2017, and therefore in at least its fifth calendar year.
  • Good numbers of fledgling local residents, including nine new wrens, six dunnocks, twenty-five blue tits and eight reed buntings. 
  • Our first fledgling bullfinches of the year. Both were in entirely juvenile plumage.
It was also good to welcome some new starters, all of whom had responded to the blog post of the previous week. The range of species captured and the number of birds enabled a good initial (and hopefully not too overwhelming) insight into bird ringing.

Thanks to Heather Coats, Wayne Morris, Emma Cole, Val Wilson, Sarah Davies, Chris Jones, Kirsty Franklin, Stephen Vickers, Joanne Conway, Jamie and Lizzie Hobbs and Jake Gearty for company and assistance, and to Stephen and Kirsty for photos (below). 

Owain Gabb
24/07/2017


A young great spotted woodpecker

One of two juvenile bullfinches

A young wren. This bird showed white tips to the primaries on the right wing (but not the left)




Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Are you interested in Bird Ringing?

We are now in a position that we can take on new trainee ringers.

We are active at a range of sites in Swansea, Neath Port Talbot and Carmarthenshire, including:  
  • Cwm Clydach RSPB Reserve where we have a long running project re-trapping adult pied flycatchers that aims to collect high quality data on between year survival rates;
  •  Penclacwydd (WWT Llanelli) where we run a Constant Effort Site (collecting a standardised data set as part of a UK-wide initiative aimed at analysing change in bird populations);
  • Oxwich Marsh National Nature Reserve (where we catch large numbers of migrant warblers, swallows and finches and are active throughout the year); and
  • Margam Park (where our captures regularly include species that forage in open grassland habitats such as mistle thrush and green woodpecker).
The variety of habitats at the sites we visit, and the commitment of members of the Group to ensure that sessions are run regularly provides trainees with the opportunity to study a wide variety of birds in the hand and to steadily improve their skills.

We are a very active, friendly group with a varied demographic, and include university students / researchers, ecological consultants, site wardens and representatives of Gower Ornithological Society, as well as people with a more general interest in birds and other wildlife who work / have worked outside the conservation sector. 

We would note that to make progress towards a licence you need to attend most weeks (and aim for every week), and you need to be able to drive and have access to a car. Early starts are a fact of ringing life unfortunately; arrival on site at 05:30 is typical in the mid-summer. 

A reasonable level of physical fitness is needed, particularly for the pied flycatcher work, while an ability to identify birds is always an advantage (albeit this can be taught to a large degree). We ring on both weekdays (morning and evening) and weekends, so a full time job does not preclude your attending sessions.

If you would think you would like to get involved, just leave your contact details in a comment at the bottom of the page and we will get back to you with further information.

A few pictures of birds captured in 2016 are below.

Gower Ringing Group
18/07/2017

Water rail. We captured three of this species in 2016.

Jack snipe. We have captured 23 individuals at the marsh since late 2014. We have now proven between winter site fidelity from retrap data.

Yellow-browed warbler. In 2016 we caught 16 different individuals, including nine in one session.

Firecrests. A scarce migrant in October and November. We capture 3-4 per year.

A genuine Welsh rarity. A little bunting captured in October 2016.