Monday, 11 March 2019

Early Marsh 2019: a Soggy Dazzler

A great piece of recent news was the securing of a Gower Society Grant for a fifth consecutive year. This will substantially cover our ringing costs at Oxwich over the next twelve months, and help us to maintain our levels of activity. 

Recently, however, the weather has been difficult at best. We have squeezed in a short, last minute weekday session at our new site, Pwll Du, but have otherwise been limited to a night of dazzling at Whiteford NNR and later at Blackhills, Upper Killay.

The mixture of species captured has been relatively eclectic:

Species Name
Ringed
Retrapped
Total
Blue Tit
13
1
14
Bullfinch
3
1
4
Coal Tit
3

3
Dunnock
5
1
6
Goldfinch
1

1
Great Tit
14
4
18
House Sparrow
1
1
2
Jack Snipe
4

4
Jackdaw
1

1
Nuthatch
2

2
Pied/White Wagtail
1

1
Robin
2

2
Woodcock
7

7
Grand Total
57
8
65

Our session at Pwll Du resulted in a few species that we capture infrequently in the peninsula part of the recording area, including nuthatch and house sparrow. Two of the latter surprisingly included a recapture of a female ringed a few days previously (as it is challenging to capture the same sparrow twice). Most notable, however, was a jackdaw. We aged it as an adult based on iris and tail feather characteristics; comments are welcome.

On 9 March with Tony Cross in tow, we walked down to Berges Island, Whiteford at high tide to try some dazzling. A lack of birds, the first time we have ever experienced it at the site, made the lengthy round trip in the dark, wind and rain all the more joyous! Not to be deterred, however, we moved on to Blackhills, Upper Killay. The end of night tally of four jack snipe, a pied wagtail and seven woodcock more than made up for the early failure, albeit it also made for a very late finish.

It was really beneficial to get some in-hand tuition on ageing woodcock from Tony. The main features relied upon for separating adults from first winter birds were ginger fringing to the primary coverts (that contrasted with other areas of deeper brown in the wing feathers) and blunt / s-shaped edges to the inner primaries. First winters showed no contrast between the primary covert fringes and the brown of other flight feathers, and more rounded inner primary tips.

The pied wagtail was unusual, in that it was roosting alone in rushy pasture. It was a first winter male with one old greater covert. We released it onto a beam in a nearby low shed adjacent to a large open shutter; a far drier place to overnight

Thanks are due to the Gower Society for their continued support.

Thanks are also due to Tony Cross for leading the dazzling sessions and providing lots of good advice, to Keith Vaughton for leading the Pwll Du session, and to Val Wilson, Joanne Conway, Sarah Davies, Alex McCubbin, Richard Dann, Amy Schwartz, Dionne Jenkins, Kathryn Dunnett, Colin Baker, Claudia Allen and Andrew Roberts for company and assistance.

Owain Gabb
11/03/2019

Woodcock (Richard Dann)

Woodcock (Richard Dann)

Woodcock (Dionne Jenkins). The lower bird shows an obvious gingery contrast to the edges of the primary coverts

Male house sparrow (Owain Gabb)

Goldfinch (Richard Dann)

Jackdaw (Richard Dann)

Nuthatch (Richard Dann)

Saturday, 23 February 2019

Pwll Du: a new site

Due to the size of the ringing group we have been looking for another site that will give us a range of species that complements what we capture at Oxwich during winter and passage periods. The idea would be that when we have a large team, a sub-group heads to this additional site, and that all of the trainees get more birds to handle (contributing to their experience) as a result.

It has taken a little while to find somewhere suitable, but we seem to have come up with a very nice site indeed. Situated on private land at High Pennard, above Pwll Du, the site lies on the edge of the ancient semi-natural woodland that runs along the Bishopston Valley, abuts extensive dense scrub on the coastal escarpment, but is tucked away from the prevailing wind on the leeward side of the headland.

A mid-week trial run produced sixty-five birds. The totals were as follows:

Species Name
Total
Great Tit
18
Dunnock
3
Blue Tit
23
Long-tailed Tit
3
Goldfinch
9
Marsh Tit
1
Bullfinch
1
House Sparrow
1
Robin
3
Coal Tit
2
Wren
1
Grand Total
65

The trial run involved a single sixty foot net close to where some feed is regularly put down. The morning was affected by a few unforecasted showers that forced the temporary closure of the net, but the session otherwise went smoothly.

The highlights were:
  • A marsh tit. There are good numbers of the species present, and it may prove possible to complete a study on them. We will probably need to take a view after 12 months.
  • A house sparrow (female). The species is not typically seen on the site, albeit there are populations around nearby farms and large gardens.
It will be interesting to see the degree of interchange of birds between the site and Oxwich, which lies 7 km to the west.

Thanks to the mid-week team of Heather Coats, Richard Dann, Amy Schwartz, Lara Bates-Prior and Sophie de Grissac. Also thanks to Liz Newell for hosting the session.

Photos are below.

Owain Gabb
23/02/2019.

Marsh tit (Richard Dann)

Double checking some of the features of the bird (Liz Newell)

Monday, 18 February 2019

Oxwich Marsh mid February 2019: a new permit

A short and unsuccessful session on 11 February, followed by a better session on 16 February. The combined total was as follows:

Species Name
Ringed
Recaptured
Total
Blue Tit
13
47
60
Chaffinch
5
5
Coal Tit
1
1
Dunnock
14
14
Goldfinch
3
1
4
Great Spotted Woodpecker
1
1
Great Tit
4
12
16
Greenfinch
1
1
2
Reed Bunting
1
1
2
Robin
1
2
3
Siskin
6
8
14
Snipe
8
8
Wren
1
1
Grand Total
43
88
131

Highlights were:
  • Eight new snipe. This takes our total to 21 birds for the year. By this time in 2018 we had captured 23 birds, and in 2017 a total of 18 snipe, so we are on course for another good return. The total number of snipe captured on the marsh now stands at 167.
  • Some recaptured between winter birds, including a siskin from 2015 and dunnocks, blue and great tits from 2014 onward.
  • Our first bird with signs of breeding in 2019. A dunnock on 16 February had started developing brood patch.
Far better news than all of the above, however, was an email confirming Wayne Morris had been awarded his A Permit. With half of the Ringing Trainers in Wales, current and former ringing committee members, and two BTO staff members all formally supporting the application, it did seem likely to be an uncontroversial one. However, it was good to see it formally signed off. 

Since he joined Gower Ringing Group back in 2014 Wayne has been a real stalwart. He has contributed in many ways: through mentoring trainees; hard work around the site (including making feeders and a duck trap); and (not least) through contributing positively to what tends to be a very happy team. He is also clearly a very capable ringer and birder, who brings with him a very good insight into BTO priorities and targets through his work as a BTO regional representative. 

Wayne's achievement takes us up to seven A permit holders within Gower Ringing Group.

Thanks to Heather Coats, Val Wilson, Joanne Conway, Alex McCubbin, Richard Dann, Dionne Jenkins, Colin Baker and Martin Georgiev for company and assistance over the two sessions.

Owain Gabb
18/02/2019

Second calendar year male greenfinch

Monday, 4 February 2019

Oxwich Marsh: early February 2019

A cold start to the day. We started by setting some nets for snipe (pre-dawn) before we turned our attention to the feeders. 

Species Name
Ringed
Recaptured
Total
Blackbird
1
1
2
Blue Tit
11
46
57
Chaffinch
19
4
23
Dunnock

6
6
Goldfinch
1
1
2
Great Spotted Woodpecker

2
2
Great Tit
3
9
12
Greenfinch
2

2
Jack Snipe
2

2
Reed Bunting
1

1
Robin

2
2
Siskin
16
12
28
Wren

1
1
Grand Total
56
84
140

The highlights of the session were:

  • A female great spotted woodpecker initially ringed as a first winter in November 2013, and now in its seventh calendar year. The bird has been captured 25 times to date. All of these captures have been between April and July (allowing some excellent data on brood patch development to be collected) and November and February.
  • Two jack snipe. These birds take us to four for the year. All regularly-attending trainees have now ringed jack snipe; we have captured 38 individuals over the past few years, recovering two birds between winters and a third within a winter.
  • A noticeable influx of chaffinches. These were mainly adult birds, with relatively fresh wing and tail feathers. They included a few recaptures from the past few years.
  • A good day total of 57 blue tits. These included a bird ringed in 2015.  

The only slight frustrations were that a group of common snipe flushed and flew straight over our nets, and we didn't manage a brambling, despite the chaffinch influx.

Jack snipe squatting characteristically on release (Richard Dann)
Thanks to all who made it along to the session.

Owain Gabb
04/02/2019