Thursday, 18 October 2018

Oxwich Marsh early October 2018: working round the autumn gales

A period of unsettled weather in the first half of October culminated in Storm Callum, which raised water levels considerably on the marsh. Given the coastal location of the site, it proved very difficult to get sessions in. We were restricted to a weekday visit, an evening roost session (aimed at wagtails) and one weekend session, which was wind affected.

The combined breakdown from these visits was as follows:

Species Name
Ringed
Recaptured
Total
Blackcap
9

9
Blue Tit
29
2
31
Cetti's Warbler
1
1
2
Chaffinch
1

1
Chiffchaff
34
1
35
Dunnock
3
7
10
Goldcrest
6

6
Goldfinch
3
1
4
Great Tit
3
2
5
Grey Wagtail
1

1
Long-tailed Tit
2

2
Meadow Pipit
2

2
Mistle Thrush
1

1
Pied/White Wagtail
22

22
Reed Bunting
14
3
17
Reed Warbler

1
1
Robin
2
2
4
Snipe
1

1
Wren
5
3
8
Grand Total
139
23
162

The main interest was as follows:
  • An evening haul of 22 pied / white wagtail and a single grey wagtail. The former were captured close to the South Pond in an area in which we normally target snipe. There had been substantial movements over the previous week, and the number of birds in the area at dusk was considerable. We captured only a small proportion. All but one of the wagtails was a first winter bird. The pied / white wagtails showed considerable variation in the extent of their post juvenile moult, with some having moulted no greater coverts, and others retaining only 1-3. Some had also partially moulted their tertials. The grey wagtail was also a first winter bird; post juvenile moult of the wing feathers was restricted to the lesser and median coverts.  
  • A influx of reed buntings into the marsh. This is not atypical of October, and we would hope to capture more birds over the coming weeks. Over time we have become far more practised in ageing them specifically, something we can reassess regularly; we have ringed 540 reed buntings at Oxwich in the past few years, and approximately one third of birds we catch have already been ringed.
  • A relatively late reed warbler (on 7 October). This was a young bird carrying some fat (score of 2 using the BWG system), but not enough to suggest it was in a condition to migrate. In 2017 we captured our last reed warbler on 24 September, while in 2016 our last was on 19 November. It is unclear whether any of these late birds manage to migrate to their wintering grounds; it would be nice to catch a returning individual.
  • A mistle thrush. Only the second to be captured on the marsh, this was a young bird with a clear moult limit in the wing. There were flocks of mistle thrushes around on the morning of 7 October. They showed great interest in a tape, but only one bird stuck in the net (another escaped and one perched on the net pole). An additional new species for one of our trainees.
The next week should see redwings, hopefully firecrest, jack snipe and maybe a yellow-browed warbler. Settled weather would be much appreciated.

Thanks to all who have attended recent sessions: Heather Coats, Keith Vaughton, Cedwyn Davies, Wayne Morris, Val Wilson, Alex McCubbin, Richard Dann, Sophie de Grissac, Sarah Davies, Amy Schwartz, Martin Thomas and Kathryn Dunnett.


Grey wagtail (Alex McCubbin)

Pied wagtail (Alex McCubbin)

Mistle thrush (Richard Dann)

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Oxwich Marsh late September 2018: making hay in the sunshine

Following a period of unsettled weather that has stretched out over much of the last four weeks, a recent calm dry spell has been very welcome. We have made the most of it, getting in an evening swallow roost, a short mid-week morning session and a well attended session on 29 September.

The combined total for the three visits was as follows:

Species Name
Ringed
Recaptured
Total
Blackbird

1
1
Blackcap
44
1
45
Blue Tit
26
10
36
Cetti's Warbler
3
1
4
Chaffinch
1

1
Chiffchaff
25

25
Coal Tit
1

1
Dunnock
3
4
7
Goldcrest
1

1
Goldfinch
1
4
5
Great Tit
4
1
5
Greenfinch
1

1
Grey Wagtail
1

1
Long-tailed Tit
5
1
6
Meadow Pipit
9

9
Pied/White Wagtail
3

3
Reed Bunting
4
1
5
Reed Warbler
1
1
2
Robin
4
4
8
Sedge Warbler
3

3
Snipe
4

4
Song Thrush
2
1
3
Stonechat
2

2
Swallow
219

219
Treecreeper
1

1
Wren
10
7
17
Grand Total
377
38
415

Highlights have been:
  • Two first year male stonechats. Both showed clear moult limits in the greater coverts making ageing straightforward.
  • A steady run of blackcaps. With over 150 now ringed in 2018, this is already the best year for the species at Oxwich since 2014.
  • A grey wagtail. The bird was tape lured into a pipit triangle. We have struggled to catch grey wagtails this year despite obvious passage. This has probably been due to weather (wind making nets more obvious).
  • An excellent late autumn swallow session. Of the 219 birds caught, 27 were adults. There was the odd sand martin around, but none featured in the catch. 
  • Relatively late sedge and reed warblers on 29 September. 
  • Four snipe. Observations of common snipe, and one sighting of jack snipe over the past week led to our setting a series of five nets in an area close to the South Pond.  This resulted in two snipe being captured coming into day roost around dawn. Two other birds were captured incidentally over the morning; this may have resulted from birds flushed from the intended capture area searching for alternative roost sites elsewhere. There are no cattle in the marsh at present, and the vegetation is uniformly high. It follows that the other net rides present opportunities for snipe at the current time.
We tried taping skylarks on 28 September, as it was clear that birds were moving (west). While we got some interest, with birds circling the nets, none were captured.

It was nice to welcome Ally Bunning and Martyn Roper (from Oxfordshire) to the site on 29 September. As all the trainees had ringed a snipe, Martyn (also a trainee) was able to ring one; a first wader for him.

Thanks to everyone who made it out during the week: Heather Coats, Keith Vaughton, Paul Aubrey, Val Wilson, Sarah Davies, Joanne Conway, Alex McCubbin, Richard Dann, Martin Georgiev, Dionne Jenkins, Lara Bates-Prior and Kathryn Dunnett.

Photos are below.

Owain Gabb
30/09/2018

Grey wagtail (Richard Dann)
Snipe being released (Richard Dann)
Snipe on release (right of shot) (Richard Dann)
Common snipe
Male stonechat
Long-tailed tit (Alex McCubbin)
Stonechat (Alex McCubbin)
Stonechat (Dionne Jenkins)