Monday, 24 April 2017

Oxwich Marsh early-mid April: the quietest month

A typically quiet early to mid-April period. 

Settled weather, with light to moderate predominantly north-westerly winds (the worst direction for the marsh as there is little opportunity to set nets in sheltered locations) typified the period. April and May are always the slowest months of the year, however, and catches were low throughout.

We ran three sessions over the period. The combined catch was as follows:

Species
Ringed
Recaptured
Total
Great Spotted Woodpecker
0
4
4
Wren
1
5
6
Dunnock
0
6
6
Robin
0
3
3
Blackbird
3
6
9
Song Thrush
1
2
3
Cetti's Warbler
0
4
4
Grasshopper Warbler
1
0
1
Whitethroat
1
0
1
Blackcap
3
0
3
Chiffchaff
9
4
13
Willow Warbler
2
0
2
Long-tailed Tit
1
2
3
Coal Tit
1
0
1
Blue Tit
1
6
7
Great Tit
0
17
17
Chaffinch
8
3
11
Greenfinch
7
2
9
Goldfinch
20
5
25
Siskin
18
25
43
Bullfinch
5
1
6
Reed Bunting
3
4
7
Total:
85
99
184

The features of the combined catch were:
  • A few spring recaptures of Cetti's warbler. This is not unusual. We catch our Cetti's warblers in April, then in the late summer and autumn. Outside these periods it is assumed that bird favour a limited territory, and the lack of mid-winter birds may yet prove an anomaly.
  • A few long distance migrants, including willow warbler (which was first recorded in early April and became common mid-month), grasshopper warbler (heard reeling on two dates in April with the first captured on 22nd) and whitethroat (first heard and captured on 22 April)
  • Good numbers of bullfinch and siskin. We only captured two bullfinch in 2016, but have trapped as many as 19 unique birds (2015) in previous years, so hopefully 2017 will see a better year given the encouraging total for April. Siskin numbers were high in 2016 (150 unique birds captured), and while 2017 doesn't appear to be likely to quite rival it, we have now exceeded the total number of birds captured at the site in 2015 and 2014 as a result of a steady month (currently the 2017 total stands at 65).
However, the most gratifying results were recaptures of birds from previous years, including a chiffchaff from Spring 2016, finches, great tits, blackbirds, song thrushes and great spotted woodpeckers from as far back as 2013. We are getting good survival data on many of our local residents as a result of our work over the past five years.

Finally, another impressive effort from Wayne (following his recent duck trap) was his production of two industrial hopper-type feeders, modelled on similar North American examples seen on You Tube (see pictures below). Using a water cooler bottle, a plastic feeder, a threaded rod, nuts, washers and some rubber seals, he has created a unit that approaches being water tight. In combination with its size, these new feeders should ensure that even in busy periods visits to fill up can be at least a few days apart.

Thanks to Heather Coats, Keith Vaughton, Wayne Morris, Emma Cole, Val Wilson, Ben Rees, Lynn Watts, Olivia Pargeter, Rhodri Jones and Sarah Davies for company and assistance at the various sessions.

Owain Gabb
24/04/2017

The Morris Mark 1 Feeder (alongside a feeder filled with millet that is failing to attract reed buntings!)

Male and female bullfinches (Keith Vaughton)

The first whitethroat of the year (Keith Vaughton)



Monday, 3 April 2017

Oxwich Marsh, 2 April 2017: Hammer Time

A still, bright morning first thing, with a north-westerly breeze gradually picking up as time went on.

We put nets on the edge of the South Pond, in some damp scrub on the edge of the marsh, and by the feeders. The total of forty-eight birds broke down as follows:

Species
Ringed
Recaptured
Total
Snipe
1
0
1
Wren
0
1
1
Dunnock
0
1
1
Robin
0
1
1
Blackbird
0
2
2
Chiffchaff
1
0
1
Long-tailed Tit
1
1
2
Great Tit
2
4
6
Greenfinch
0
1
1
Goldfinch
10
3
13
Siskin
13
5
18
Yellowhammer
1
0
1
Total:
29
19
48

The features of the catch were:
  • A common snipe. Approximately eight snipe were noted along the edge of the South Pond. One of these birds was captured taking the 2017 tally to twenty-two birds ringed.
  • Various species showing signs of breeding locally, including dunnock, blackbird and siskin, all of which showed brood patches.
  • A good day total of 18 siskins. The species has started visiting the feeders later in 2017 than in 2016; by early April last year we had captured exactly twice the number of unique birds (92 as opposed to 46 individuals).
  • A first winter yellowhammer. The first ever captured at the site, and not a species that is typically seen on the marsh. Populations are present locally on the southern slopes of Cefn Bryn and flocks have been reported feeding around game hoppers on the Penrice Estate, but this was a surprise. Yellowhammers have declined considerably on the Gower coast in recent years, and their range is now largely restricted to coastal valleys between Longhole Cliff and Mewslade, Cefn Bryn and farmland and heathland edge towards the western end of the Peninsula.
In addition, the first grasshopper and willow warblers of the year were heard, and (less welcome) Canada geese were noted in flight over the marsh.

Thanks to Heather Coats, Wayne Morris, Paul Aubrey, Val Wilson, Sammy-Joe Pengelly, Sarah Davies and Jo Monkhouse for company and assistance this morning.

Pictures are below

Owain Gabb
03/04/2017

Possibly the last common snipe of the first winter period of 2017

Yellowhammer (1st winter female)

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Spring Finches, a bat, and a Gower Society Grant

Weather in mid to late March has remained unsettled. The conditions yesterday were fairly good, however, with a light northerly wind and open skies.

We have managed two short additional sessions since our last Oxwich blog post, and the consolidated results are presented in the table below.

Species
Ringed
Recaptured
Total
Jack Snipe
1
0
1
Great Spotted Woodpecker
0
1
1
Wren
0
3
3
Dunnock
0
7
7
Blackbird
0
1
1
Cetti's Warbler
0
1
1
Chiffchaff
1
0
1
Blue Tit
1
5
6
Great Tit
1
5
6
Chaffinch
2
2
4
Greenfinch
3
0
3
Goldfinch
43
25
68
Siskin
16
8
24
Reed Bunting
2
5
7
Total
70
63
133

The highlights over the sessions have been:
  • A 6th jack snipe for 2017 (captured on 26 March). This is the latest date in the spring / 1st winter period on which we have caught the species.
  • Our first chiffchaff of 2017. In previous years we have caught overwintering birds in January.
  • Good numbers of goldfinch, taking us over 150 unique birds this year
  • Siskins starting to be captured on a more regular basis. We have captured varying numbers of siskins over the past few years (150 in 2016, 58 in 2016 and 62 in 2014), and they have started to come through later than last year. Of 31 birds captured to date two have been controls.
  • Returning reed buntings. We have captured five birds from previous years over the past few sessions.
Perhaps less welcome was a pipistrelle species captured on 22 March. Bats pose different extraction challenges to birds.

The bat showed gingery fur, and a snub nosed face with an internarial ridge (ridge on the nose), suggesting it was a soprano pipistrelle. It was captured in the middle of the day in a ride close to the main water channel through the marsh. It is likely that it was an animal recently emerged from hibernation, and hungry as a result. Following release the bat flew off strongly.

Gower Ringing Group is very grateful to the Gower Society for the provision of grant funding for the third successive year. The grant covers the cost of rings and seed for the feeding station, and is vital for maintaining effort and planning for the coming year.

Many thanks to those who have attended sessions over the period: Heather Coats, Keith Vaughton, Cedwyn Davies, Val Wilson, Ben Rees, Lynn Watts, Olivia Pargeter, Rhodri Jones and Natasha Dodds. 

Thanks also to Dr Peter Shepherd and Hannah Bilston for comments on the identification of the bat.

Pictures are below.

Owain Gabb
26/03/2017

Female reed bunting

L-R Olivia Pargeter, Heather Coats, Val Wilson, Cedwyn Davies (seated) and Keith Vaughton

Goldfinch

Soprano pipistrelle

Soprano pipistrelle