Sunday, 27 November 2016

Colour-ringed Choughs in Wales: how and what re-sighting data to report

Background

Colour-ringing of chough has been undertaken by Tony Cross and Adrienne Stratford in mid and north Wales for over 25 years. Recently this effort has been extended to Gower and to Ramsey Island, Pembrokeshire by Mike Shewring (Cardiff RG) and Chris Jones (Teifi RG) respectively. Prior to 2006 chough in both Pembrokeshire and Gower were colour-ringed by Bob Haycock.

As a result of the project over 5,000 choughs have been colour-ringed, and approximately 30,000 individual re-sightings reported. This re-sighting data has shed light on the movements, social and nesting behaviour of chough, and has also given insight into life expectancy / survival rates.  The results of the study have been used to inform the selection of sites for designation and agri-environment agreements aimed at protecting and conserving chough in Wales.

Notable Recent Sightings

This article was prompted by a notable recent sighting. A chough seen by Mike Cram on Lock’s Common, an area of coastal grassland on the west side of Porthcawl on 10 November, and subsequently photographed by Andy Burns and Mike Pugh (c/o Steve Rosser) was found to be a young female, ringed as chick earlier in 2016, by Tony Cross on the north coast of Anglesey.

The Anglesey chough (Andy Burns)

This distance between the ringing site and the re-sighting location, 219 km, is almost double the previous maximum dispersal distance recorded by ringed Welsh birds. Other notable movements have been from Anglesey to the Isle of Man (c. 100 km), a trip that has been made by a number of individuals, while Gower-ringed birds have been recorded in Weston Supermare. To illustrate the longevity of some choughs, a pair of siblings ringed in Gower in 2004 is now resident in the Ogmore / Southerndown area. Although some of their original colour rings have now fallen off, Adrienne can recognise them from their retained rings.

Evidence that there is still much to learn includes a few reports of birds with colour-rings in North Devon in the late 2000s, but these were not seen well enough / photographed, and their origin was not determined. The occurrence of a proven Brittany-ringed bird, photographed at Baggy Point in North Devon in 2014, shows the extent to which these birds can move.

It follows that to maximise the potential of the project, the submission of further photographs and notes on colour-ringed birds would be very useful.

Reporting a Colour-ringed Chough

If you find a colour-ringed chough, the following information is most critical:
·               the observer’s name
·               the date 
·               the location (preferably with a six figure Ordnance Survey Grid Reference)
·               flock size
·               Colour-ring details.  Photos are ideal, but otherwise provision of whatever detail can be  seen of the upper and lower rings on each leg (each bird is ringed with 3 colour rings and  one metal BTO ring). Occasionally, particularly on older birds, rings have been lost,  but  Adrienne can often interpret part-seen combinations. The use of “?” for uncertain colours  etc. is very useful.

Optional but useful additional details include information such as:
·               Associations between birds; whether the colour-ringed bird appears paired / “friends” with  another colour-ringed / un-ringed bird, or whether accompanied by juveniles etc.
·               Habitats used for foraging (e.g. feeding on short-grazed sheep pasture, or digging in  seaweed on strand-line etc.).

Colour rings used in the study (Adrienne Stratford).

Submitting your Sighting

Please send your sightings to Adrienne Stratford (adriennestratford@btinternet.com) . Adrienne will ensure the relevant details are sent to the BTO. 

For more images of birds in South Wales and beyond, see: http://andyburnsphotography.zenfolio.com/

Article written based on information supplied by Adrienne Stratford.

For further information about the Teifi and Cardiff Ringing Groups see: http://teifimarshbirds.blogspot.co.uk/ and
http://cardiffringers.blogspot.co.uk/

Owain Gabb
27/11/2016


Saturday, 19 November 2016

Oxwich Marsh 19 November: the latest Welsh reed warbler?

A cold morning with very little wind, occasional showers and variable cloud cover.

The modest catch of 41 birds was as follows:

Species
Ringed
Recaptured
Total
Jack Snipe
2
0
2
Snipe
1
0
1
Wren
1
0
1
Reed Warbler
0
1
1
Goldcrest
3
1
4
Long-tailed Tit
4
0
4
Coal Tit
1
0
1
Blue Tit
6
9
15
Great Tit
0
1
1
Chaffinch
3
0
3
Goldfinch
7
0
7
Reed Bunting
1
0
1
Total:
29
12
41

Highlights of the catch were:
  • Two jack snipe, both of which were aged as first winter birds. A range of features were used in determining age, including the presence of streaks on the undertail covers, the shape of the outer tail feather, and the pattern of the lesser coverts. We have now captured 10 jack snipe on the Marsh in 2016.
  • A common snipe. It was nice to capture a common snipe alongside the jack snipe, as this allowed people to compare features.
  • Four new long-tailed tits. Having only captured two birds prior to 8 October, it was looking like a poor year for the species. Forty birds in the last six weeks has turned it into the best year to date for long-tailed tit.
  • A reed warbler. This is an extremely late record: the latest Welsh record listed in Birds in Wales 1992-2000 (Green, 2002) was on 12 November 1994 (Pembrokeshire). It was assumed that the reed warbler would be in poor health, but it was carrying a reasonable level of fat (score of 5 using the BWG system - i.e. the tracheal pit was full and slightly convex in profile). A fairly typical gingery-looking first winter bird, albeit with a little more feather wear than we are used to seeing on a youngster (we don't see many after September). It was checked (for completeness) against criteria for Blyth's reed warbler and marsh warbler, but did not show the emargination typical of the former and was also relatively short winged - ruling out the latter without additional effort).
Two jack snipe and a common snipe (right)
Thanks to Paul Aubrey, Wayne Morris, Lynn Watts and Natasha Dodds for company and assistance this morning.

Owain Gabb
19/11/2016

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Oxwich Marsh 5 November: firecrests on Bonfire Night

A couple of short sessions in fairly settled weather on 2 & 5 November resulted in a modest combined total of 65 birds.

On 2 November the wind was a light easterly, and on 5 November it was from the north and had strengthened to such as degree that by 10:00 we were packing up.

The catch was as follows:

Species
Ringed
Recaptured
Total
Snipe
1
0
1
Wren
1
2
3
Dunnock
0
2
2
Robin
0
2
2
Blackbird
2
0
2
Redwing
5
0
5
Cetti's Warbler
1
1
2
Blackcap
1
0
1
Chiffchaff
7
0
7
Goldcrest
2
1
3
Firecrest
2
0
2
Long-tailed Tit
6
13
19
Blue Tit
4
1
5
Great Tit
1
2
3
Chaffinch
0
1
1
Goldfinch
4
0
4
Reed Bunting
3
0
3
Total:
40
25
65

The highlights were:

  • A first winter snipe captured just after the nets were opened on 2 November. The eleventh of the year to date.
  • A few more redwing, most of them adults based on criteria listed in Svensson (1992) - including the tip pattern of the tertials, the shape of the 1st tail feather and the presence / absence of retained greater coverts. We have now captured 36 in 2016, 
  • Another new Cetti's warbler, The ninth new bird of this species ringed since early October.
  • Seven chiffchaffs, It has been a good year for the species with 133 ringed (cross ref 99 in 2015).
  • Two new firecrests, bringing the annual total to four.

The first firecrest, a male, was not specifically aged, as the shape of the tail was inconclusive (rounded tails are more typical of adults and pointed tails of first winter birds). The second bird, a female, was carrying a reasonable amount of fat (score of 4 using the British Working Group system) and had a rounded, fresh-looking tail. We aged it as an adult. Pictures are below.

Many thanks to Heather Coats, Keith Vaughton, Emma Cole, Darren Hicks, Phil Mead, Lynn Watts, Sammy-Jo Pengelly and Natasha Dodds for company and assistance over the two visits.

Owain Gabb
05/11/2016

Male firecrest

Female firecrest

Female firecrest

Female firecrest (showing hint of orange in crown)

Tail of presumed adult female firecrest

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Oxwich Marsh 29 October: Jack's back ..... and more YBWs

Perfect ringing weather this Saturday morning: overcast with an almost imperceptible easterly breeze. We set nets on a bund across the marsh, through wet and dry scrub and on the edge one of the freshwater pools.

The catch of eighty-five birds broke down as follows:

Species
Ringed
Recaptured
Total
Jack Snipe
2
1
3
Wren
3
4
7
Dunnock
0
2
2
Robin
2
3
5
Blackbird
0
2
2
Song Thrush
2
1
3
Redwing
4
0
4
Cetti's Warbler
1
1
2
Reed Warbler
1
0
1
Yellow-browed Warbler
1
0
1
Chiffchaff
4
1
5
Goldcrest
8
0
8
Long-tailed Tit
21
0
21
Coal Tit
2
0
2
Blue Tit
3
8
11
Great Tit
1
2
3
Chaffinch
1
0
1
Greenfinch
0
1
1
Goldfinch
1
0
1
Reed Bunting
1
1
2
Total:
58
27
85

The highlights of the catch were:
  • Catching three jack snipe, including a bird initially ringed at the marsh on 12 March 2016. This is the first indication that jack snipe return to the marsh between winters, and is an excellent result. A common snipe escaped from the nets on approach, which was disappointing.
  • The sixteenth yellow-browed warbler of the autumn (and the second of the week). Will this be the last from an exceptional influx year? The tail of the bird suggested a first winter, being very pointed and showing some abrasion. It was carrying significant fat (the tracheal pit was full and it was spilling out over the breast muscles (Fat Score 6)).
  • The latest ever reed warbler captured at the marsh. This was a clear first winter bird. There were no features that suggested another reed warbler species. Although carrying some fat, the sturnum was prominent, suggesting the bird was in poor condition.
  • Another new Cetti's warbler. We have only captured 24 unique birds all year (this total includes retraps from previous years), but have ringed 8 in the past three weeks. This suggests late autumn dispersal into the marsh. Some birds have been carrying fat (scores of up to 4 using the BWG system), which we do not typically record at other times of year.
  • A best ever day count of 21 long-tailed tits ringed. Until October we had trapped only 2 birds at the marsh in 2016. We are now up to 31. This pattern of catching of the species is typical of previous years. The birds are caught in roving flocks moving through the area in late autumn. We look to be on for a similar year-end total to previous years (in 2014 and 2015 31 and 37 unique long-tailed tits were captured respectively).
The (unprecedented) sixteenth yellow-browed warbler of 2016
It is of note that the feeders are quieter at the moment than they have been all year, suggesting there is an abundance of alternative food for finches and tits at present. The weather has been particularly mild during October.

Many thanks to the team of Heather Coats, Keith Vaughton, Paul Aubrey and Wayne Morris for company and assistance.

Owain Gabb
30/10/2016

Yellow-browed warbler