Friday, 24 February 2017

Mainly Siskins


Valerie and I did a session in my Crynant garden this morning as I had noticed a good number of Siskins on the feeders. 
We caught 49 birds of which 37 were Siskins. There are more visiting the feeders than I thought!
The other birds were: 4 Robins, 2 Starlings, 2 Blue tits, 2 Coal tits, a Nuthatch and a Dunnock.
The only re-trap was one of the Coal tits.





                                                   Heather Coats

Monday, 20 February 2017

Oxwich Marsh mid February 2017: more ringers than birds ......... !

It has been a quiet February.

The weather has been predominantly mild and fairly damp, and there have been no significant storms or cold spells since the turn of the year. The low productivity in blue tits in 2016 certainly seems to have left a legacy in terms of numbers at the feeders, and despite parties of finches moving through, we have failed to catch many greenfinch or any siskin to date.

The catch for the last couple of sessions is detailed in the table below:

Species
Ringed
Recaptured
Total
Jack Snipe
1
0
1
Snipe
6
0
6
Great Spotted Woodpecker
0
1
1
Wren
1
0
1
Dunnock
0
1
1
Robin
0
3
3
Goldcrest
1
0
1
Long-tailed Tit
0
2
2
Blue Tit
2
4
6
Great Tit
1
2
3
Chaffinch
1
1
2
Greenfinch
0
1
1
Goldfinch
8
2
10
Total:
21
17
38

The lack of sustained heavy rainfall this winter has resulted in the marsh being relatively dry. This has allowed us to target snipe in some marginal areas that were far too wet to access in winter 2014/15, and only marginally better in 2015/16. 2017 is already our best calendar year for the species (20 to date), and we are finding the new Baker (2016) guide a very useful tool for getting to grips with ageing them.

The Baker guide gives clearer guidance on the ageing criteria for first winter and adult snipe, and we are now seeing features including retained median coverts and rounded primary covert tips in some birds (two of the more obvious first winter and adult features respectively) more readily and drawing conclusions with greater confidence. It has only taken us 55 snipe to get this far (the first was captured in November 2014)! Other highlights of the combined catch were a jack snipe (the fourth of the year), and long-tailed tits ringed in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

There were at least 60 snipe on the marsh during the 18 February session, and we would expect to be catching both common and jack snipe well into March based on previous years.

We managed to replace a stile between net rounds on Saturday, such was the lack of birds, and we are now way down in terms of numbers on both 2016 and 2015. There haven't quite been more ringers than birds, but it has been close at times.

Thanks to all who have made it out for the last two sessions: Heather Coats, Keith Vaughton, Wayne Morris, Emma Cole, Darren Hicks, Val Wilson, Paul Aubrey, Ben Rees, Olivia Pargeter, Leighton Newman, Natasha Dodds and Sarah Davies.

Owain Gabb
20/02/2017


L-R Leighton Newman, Ben Rees, Keith Vaughton, Heather Coats, Darren Hicks and Wayne Morris

L-R Wayne Morris, Sarah Davies and Leighton Newman

Common snipe

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Oxwich Marsh 4 Feb 2017: early morning sniping

A break in the weather allowed us to get a session in. This morning was cold on the marsh, with ice forming just before dawn and coating the stiles (making them treacherous), the gate lock and even the scales we use for weighing birds within a few minutes of their being put on the table. On the plus side, there was very little wind, and this allowed us to try out a variety of net rides. Most proved unproductive (and those within the open reed bed returned nothing), but a catch of just shy of 60 birds was not too bad.

This broke down as follows:

Species
Ringed
Recaptured
Total
Jack Snipe
2
0
2
Snipe
6
1
7
Great Spotted Woodpecker
0
3
3
Wren
1
0
1
Dunnock
1
3
4
Robin
0
3
3
Song Thrush
0
1
1
Goldcrest
0
2
2
Blue Tit
2
7
9
Great Tit
1
4
5
Chaffinch
4
1
5
Greenfinch
2
0
2
Goldfinch
13
2
15
Total:
32
27
59

The highlights of the day were the snipe. It is always a pleasure to catch jack snipe in particular, and we can now age some of them with a degree of confidence based on a combination of the characteristics of the undertail coverts, and the shape of tail feathers two and three. Common snipe remain far more of a dark art to age in the late winter, particularly if retained juvenile median coverts are not apparent. We have now ringed 48 common snipe at Oxwich over the past few years. Today we caught our first between-session retrap. Unfortunately we had only ringed it last week.

A rough count indicated approximately forty-seven common snipe and at least four jack snipe were present near the South Pond today, with smaller numbers in various other areas of suitable habitat. We have proven between year reoccurrence at the marsh in jack snipe, but not in common snipe to date - the reference population appears large!

The numbers of birds visiting the feeders is now starting to pick up. Finches, particularly goldfinch, are coming in in flocks, and this morning a small party of very vocal siskins were present. Two greenfinches were welcome, as we haven't captured one in a while. Thankfully the greenfinches and all of the chaffinches captured today were healthy, with no evidence of either trichomonosis or Fringilla papillomavirus recorded.

Since the turn of the year we have captured seven different great spotted woodpeckers. All have been recaptures from previous years. A song thrush, originally ringed in October 2015, was welcome, as we don't tend to capture the species on the marsh with regularity (18 birds in 2015 and 10 in 2016), and this was the first time the bird had been re-trapped since ringing.

Thanks to all who were able to attend this morning: Heather Coats, Keith Vaughton, Wayne Morris, Emma Cole, Darren Hicks, Val Wilson, Natasha Dodds, Olivia Pargeter and Sarah Davies.

Owain Gabb
04/02/2017

Jack snipe (Emma Cole)

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Oxwich Marsh January 2017: a round-up

The weather in January has been hit and miss, and the forecast has often been inaccurate and subject to short-term change. Frustrating, but it becomes expected on a coastal site in the south-west of the UK.

We have only got two January sessions in, both this week. The results were as follows:

Species
Ringed
Recaptured
Total
Jack Snipe
1
0
1
Snipe
8
0
8
Great Spotted Woodpecker
0
4
4
Wren
0
2
2
Dunnock
0
4
4
Robin
0
3
3
Cetti's Warbler
0
1
1
Goldcrest
1
1
2
Coal Tit
1
0
1
Blue Tit
4
19
23
Great Tit
1
4
5
Chaffinch
6
2
8
Goldfinch
19
8
27
Reed Bunting
1
1
2
Total:
42
49
91

The main feature of the catch was eight snipe this morning.

The water levels in the trapping area were ideal: the ground had less than an inch of water among the rush tussocks. The snipe started dropping in about an hour before dawn, and all but one were captured between an hour and twenty minutes before dawn. A jack snipe was a bonus, the first of the year. 

Otherwise the results have not been particularly notable, which is not unusual for the marsh in January. A few birds initially ringed in 2013, including great and blue tits and a great spotted woodpecker have been captured, but there is not a lot going on in the open reedbed. There are finches starting to come into the feeders: the first siskins were heard for a little while this morning, and there are small flocks of goldfinches around.

We will finish the month well behind the 2016 tally of 267 birds, ahead of 2015 (66 birds), and in a similar position to 2014 (107 birds). 

Thanks to those who have made it out this month, particularly Heather Coats, Keith Vaughton, Wayne Morris, Paul Aubrey, Emma Cole, Val Wilson and Lynn Watts.

Owain Gabb
28/01/2017

The family party of four first winter and two adult mute swans remains on site (Keith Vaughton)

Four of the eight snipe captured this morning.