Tuesday, 17 December 2013

A Sunny Morning at Kenfig

This morning I accepted an invitation from Chris Newberry to join him for a ringing session at Kenfig. We set up 180' of net in what is the (recently cleared) CES ride and a further 140' in a newly created ringing ride that had been cut by David Carrington, the Reserve Warden. We set up an MP3 player and speakers in both areas.
The session got off to a rather slow start but picked up at 10:15 when a small flock of Long-tailed tits visited the CES ride.

A little later a Goldcrest and a Treecreeper followed the tits into the same nets.

By noon we had totalled twenty-five birds : 14 Long-tailed tits, 2 Treecreepers, 2 Goldcrests, 3 Blue tits, 2 Reed Buntings, a Robin and a Cetti's Warbler.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Oxwich Marsh 7 December 2013

Very light winds and overcast skies for the first couple of hours of the day resulted in a relatively high day-total for Oxwich.  Eighty-nine birds of eleven species were processed.  The catch was as follows: wren 1 (1), dunnock 3 (2), robin 2 (1), blackbird 3 (2), Cetti's warbler 1 (1), chiffchaff 1, goldcrest 2, blue tit 59 (34), great tit 5 (3), chaffinch 5, reed bunting 7 (2).  The number of retrapped birds in the total for each species is indicated in brackets.
Although the catch was dominated by blue tits, which made extraction time consuming, the day total of seven reed buntings was much better than during previous sessions. 
The reed buntings included a male bird first ringed in autumn 2008, making it in excess of five years of age.  In total, 38 reed buntings have been caught at Oxwich this year, of which three have been retraps from previous years (all involving birds of at least 3 years of age).  Only one of the 34 birds ringed in 2013 has been caught again.  As there is no indication that reed bunting is abundant on the marsh, this suggests that there is considerable turnover of birds at the site.  A photo of  male reed bunting is opposite.  They are aged based on features including tail shape, feather wear, and the presence of retained juvenile wing feathers.  However, some birds (particularly females) can be very difficult.
Another relatively notable retrap was that of a four year old great tit, while the two goldcrests took the total to 20 for the year.  None of the goldcrests has been retrapped to date (following initial ringing).
It was disappointing not to catch more finches, as redpolls, siskin and goldfinch were all present in the area.  Ducks were moving around, as there was shooting in the nearby Penrice Estate: mallard and gadwall were regularly noted commuting over the marsh.  On arrival at the site, a woodcock was present.
Thanks to Charlie Sargent, Keith Vaughton and Cedwyn Davies for an enjoyable morning.
Owain Gabb

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Oxwich Marsh 30 November

Very light northerly winds, meaning the nets were still, and food at the winter feeding station disappearing at a rate of knots suggested we were on for a big catch this week.  We were not disappointed, in numbers at least.  In total, 77 birds were processed.  The catch was as follows: blackbird (2), blue tit (48), great tit (5), dunnock (6), chaffinch (8), robin (3), reed bunting (4), great spotted woodpecker (1).

Unfortunately, despite the presence of flocks of finches that included siskin and redpoll, the catch was limited to common, mainly resident species.  However, these pose their own difficulties.  Photographs of a female chaffinch and a blue tit are below.

Female chaffinches pose particular difficulties in terms of ageing.  Sometimes retained greater coverts are clear in first winter female birds, but often the colour change between retained and new feathers is marginal or 'imaginable' as opposed to clear cut.  In some first winter birds the tails are narrow, pointed and battered, and a few have obvious growth bars.  The odd adult shows pristine, broad feathers.  However, in reality, many birds are inbetweeners.  Some young birds replace all or part of their tail during post juvenile moult, and they need a lot of grilling.  If in doubt, age code 2 (age unknown) is at least correct!
Blue tits, by way of contrast, are easy to age.  The difficulty here is getting them out of the nets.  While finches, buntings and warblers are often relatively easy to extract, blue tits are amongst the most difficult.  This is due to their agressive nature: they fight the net, and as a result get very tangled.  They also fight the extractor - grabbing net, twisting and biting, and tend to turn up in flocks.  In the hand, first winter blue tits typically retain one or more greater coverts, alula feathers, or (as a minimum) primary coverts. 
Hopefully next week will bring a more diverse range of finches - maybe even a brambling.
Many thanks to Heather Coats, Charlie Sargent, Aaron Davies and Laura Roberts for coming along for what was a hectic but enjoyable morning.
Owain Gabb

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Oxwich Marsh 16 November

A still, overcast and cool morning seemed ideal conditions for ringing.  Unfortunately no-one let the birds know.  We only caught 16 birds in approximately 4 hours.  However, as one of the birds was a firecrest, this went a long way to making up for the relative lack of activity.

The catch comprised: robin (1), great tit (3), Cetti's warbler (1), meadow pipit (1), long-tailed tit (1), goldcrest (2), firecrest (1) and blue tit (6).

Photographs of the firecrest are below.  The bird was a male, with a wing length of 55mm and a weight of 5.3 grams.  The bird was not aged, as the tail shape was intermediate between an obvious adult (which has broad feathers with relatively rounded tips) and an obvious first winter bird (which would have had very sharp ends to the tail feathers).  A male goldcrest caught at the same time had a wing length of 53mm and a weight of 4.7 grams.  While this might sound very similar, the goldcrest was noticably smaller when the two birds were side-by-side. 


Apart from the firecrest, the only notable birds were the meadow pipit and the Cetti's warbler (this was a retrapped bird first caught as a juvenile a couple of months before).  The length of the hind claw is useful in definitively separating meadow pipit from tree pipit in the hand.  The length noted was 15mm, slightly in excess (by 1mm) of the maximum length published in the Identification Guide to European Passerines (by Lars Svensson).  Similar pipits (the commonest being tree) have a much shorter hind claw (as well as a range of other plumage characteristics that can be used to determine them).  A picture of the pipit is below.

Feeders and a bird table have been stocked up with millet, sunflower hearts and black sunflower, so it is hoped that within the next couple of weeks that finches, reed buntings and other passerines will start coming in.

It was nice to welcome a couple of the guys from the Cardiff Ringing Group, Martin Thomas and son Teifion who arrived early and helped us set up.  Thanks also to Cedwyn Davies, Charlie Sargent, Keith Vaughton and Heather Coats for coming along for what was a fairly quiet session.

Owain Gabb

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Oxwich Marsh 10 November 2013

A cool morning with a very light north-westerly wind and broken cloud provided good conditions for ringing at the marsh.  This was welcome, as it hadn't been possible to find a day in the last couple of weeks when conditions were right.
The catch comprised: great spotted woodpecker (1), chiffchaff (1), Cetti's warbler (1), goldcrest (3), robin (2), song thrush (1), wren (3), dunnock (2), great tit (4), blue tit (13) and long-tailed tit (1).  Despite having put millet down for the past couple of weeks, reed buntings were notable by their absence in the nets - but there is still a lot of food about at the moment and numbers have not built up.

All of the great tits and four of the blue tits were birds that had been previously ringed at the site (retraps).  One blue tit was approaching 4 years and 1 month since initial capture (as a first winter bird in October 2009). 
The ease with which great tits can be aged varies considerably between birds.  Some adults show broad 'battleship grey' fringes on the outer webs of the primary coverts (in first winter birds these feathers have a green or a grey green margin), while the most straightforward to age first winter birds typically have retained greenish-tipped alula feathers or even an old greater covert (these are retained far more regularly in blue tits).  However, many birds, particularly females, are not straightforward, and experience of variation is extremely useful if you are to age them accurately.  This great tit is a male, and was first ringed (as an adult) in Spring 2013.

The most notable species in the catch were the chiffchaff, the great spotted woodpecker and the Cetti's warbler.  The chiffchaff was carrying significant fat (this filled the tracheal pit and was convex [score 5]), so may still be preparing to migrate or may be a new arrival.  The Cetti's warbler was the tenth new bird of that species in 2013, while the woodpecker was the first at the site since December 2009 (they are regularly seen flying over).  It was a first winter female, and pictures are below.  Males show red on the nape, and the bird was aged on the basis of wing feather pattern and different generations of feathers in the wing.

Overhead there was a fair bit of movement during the course of the morning, with hundreds of woodpigeon streaming west during the first couple of hours of daylight, and smaller movements of siskin, redpoll, goldfinch and skylark.  Snipe were flushed from the reed bed during set up, and a nice male brambling was with goldfinches in nearby alders.
Thanks to Charlie Sargent and Heather Coats for company and a good session this morning.

Owain Gabb

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Lamp and net

Decided to bring the net and lamp out from Summer storage and join Charlie Sargent at our Carmarthenshire farm site to see if there were any Woodcock waiting in the fields to be dazzled by our presence. The early wind and driving rain soon passed over and by 20:30 the conditions were calmer but no Woodcock were observed.
The night however, wasn't totally bird-less as our sojourn among the cow-pats resulted in two perfectly formed Meadow Pipits.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Oxwich Marsh 26 October 2013

A break in the weather, with the south-westerly winds dropping slightly and the rain holding off, allowed a relatively short session at Oxwich this morning.  The wind did pick up after a couple of hours, and the catch was limited by both the duration of the session and the fact that the nets were seldom particularly still.  After the nets were taken down we did some much needed net ride maintenance and planning for the winter.  This included cutting out a couple of new rides using a brushcutter, and trimming the vegetation around the winter feeding station.  The main target for the winter will be reed buntings, for which there is a long data set for the site.
In total 30 birds were caught this morning.  The catch was as follows: blackcap (1); goldcrest (2); Cetti's warbler (1); reed bunting (1); robin (2); (winter) wren (4); blue tit (10), long-tailed tit (5); blackbird (2); dunnock (1); song thrush (1).  Three of the five long-tailed tits, a blackbird, a robin and two of the blue tits were recaptures from previous sessions.  The highlights were the Cetti's warbler and the blackcap, which may have been an immigrant or a late passage migrant.  It was not carrying any fat, so the logical conclusion might be that the bird is likely to stay for the winter.  A picture of one of the goldcrests is below.

As it seems likely that we have recorded the last of our summer visitors, a summary of captures of these species ('new birds' as opposed to retraps) is included below:
Barn swallow - 23
Grasshopper warbler - 2
Sedge warbler - 61
Reed warbler - 112
Whitethroat - 17
Blackcap - 51
Chiffchaff - 41
Willow warbler - 22

The timing of the captures of the reed and sedge warblers seems to bear out conclusions drawn in the field i.e. that the number of reed warbler territories in the marsh was relatively low (individual birds could be clearly heard singing around the reedbed - there was no wall of sound) and that very few sedge warblers bred locally.  Only 2 sedge warblers and 5 reed warblers were caught prior to July, and most birds of both species were trapped in August and September, when they are likely to have occurred in the marsh while on passage. Notwithstanding this, fledged birds caught in July did clearly indicate that both species bred on site.  The two grasshopper warblers were both young of the year, but there was no indication from field observations that breeding occurred in the marsh (and one of the records was relatively late in local terms). 
Totals of resident species will be reported at the end of the year.  However 9 new Cetti's warblers have been trapped to date in 2013, which is of local interest.  It is hoped that the current tally of 25 new reed buntings will be substantially increased by Christmas, and that there is a similar increase in goldcrest numbers.  Recent captures of roving tit flocks have resulted in blue tit overtaking reed warbler as the most regularly trapped species in 2013 (the tally of new blue tits currently stands at 121). 
By the end of the session 669 new birds had been trapped at the marsh in 2013, and 789 birds if retraps are included.
Thanks to Cedwyn Davies and Charlie Sargent for company this morning, and to Charlie for the loan of his brushcutter.

Owain Gabb

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Oxwich Marsh 19 October 2013

Unsettled weather and a forecast of strong south-westerly winds in the build up to the weekend did not inspire confidence that a ringing session would be possible, but in the event the weather was relatively mild. 

A total catch of 56 birds comprised: 4 goldcrests, 3 reed buntings, 10 (3) wrens, 2 (1) blackbirds, 1 robin, 24 blue tits, 8 long-tailed tits, 2 great tits and a Cetti's warbler.  Brackets indicate retrapped birds.

The highlight was the Cetti's warbler.  The species can usually be sexed on the basis of wing length and weight, as the male is a larger, heavier bird than the female, and there is limited between-sex overlap in these measurements.  The bird we trapped was a female, with a wing length of 58mm and a weight of 11.4 grams.  A picture is below. 


The feature of the session was the lack of lingering breeding migrants, and the catch was 'wintery' in character.  Tit flocks were moving through the reed bed - blue tits and wrens were doing their best to make extraction difficult - and overhead redwing and siskin were heard and seen moving west.  There were no flocks of goldcrests heard or trapped (the birds caught were all singletons), and the chiffchaffs and blackcaps of recent weeks appeared to have moved on.

The main ageing challenges to wrestle with were therefore the great tits (none of which proved particularly difficult - as the immatures had retained obvious juvenile alula feathers), wrens (where we considered recent research on spot patterns as well as looking for old greater coverts and other features) and reed buntings (all of which were fairly obvious 1st winter birds).  The blue tits and long-tailed tits were far easier to assign to an age class: first winter blue tits show clear moult limits in the wing (often retaining some unmoulted greater coverts or alula feathers but always their primary coverts - adults have a wing that is uniform blue in colour); adult and juvenile long-tailed tits both undergo a full moult of flight feathers, making ageing them in the autumn impossible (BTO age code 2).  Long-tailed tits are always a pleasant bird to capture.  A photograph is below.
Hopefully next week will bring a few winter immigrants, late autumn migrants on their way south or perhaps a local scarcity to provide a bit of a technical challenge and reward the effort over the spring and summer.
Thanks to Cedwyn Davies, Charlie Sargent and Aaron Davies for coming along.
Owain Gabb

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

A Visit to the Vale

Heather, Charlie and I joined Chris at Ty'n-y-Caeau near Monknash in the Vale of Glamorgan. We supplemented our regular seventy-eight metres of nets along the hedgerow with a further thirty-nine metres in the corner of the field.
There were large flocks of finches feeding in the seed crop and feasting on the abundance of berries in the hedgerow and a number of swallows were observed flying low over the field in a south-easterly direction.


Meadow Pipit

The early catches tailed off after 10:00 a.m. yet in spite of the slight breeze and rather bright conditions we totalled fifty-two birds of ten species - 14 Goldfinches, 13 Greenfinches, 9 Linnets, 5 Yellowhammers, 4 Blackbirds, 2 Reed Buntings, 2 Meadow Pipits, 1 Chaffinch, 1 House Sparrow and 1 Song Thrush. 

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Oxwich Marsh 12 October

The weather forecast for the weekend had been changeable for days, and the main concern was that the north-easterly wind would be too strong to allow a session to be held or that it would seriously limit the catch.  In the event, it was relatively calm first thing, and the wind only picked up gradually over the morning.

Being mid October, there was always the feeling that we could catch something out of the ordinary.  We did, but it was not the eastern vagrant that we might have hoped for!  Instead, a couple of magpies got themselves tangled up in an extra net put up near the on site wood store.  Despite their abundance, they are normally too clever to fly into nets, and even when they do so, they tend to get out pretty quickly.  One duly escaped, but the other was successfully extracted.

In the hand, the ageing of magpies is based on the amount of black on the first and second primaries, with adults having a thinner black fringe on both, and the shape of primary 1.  Our bird was an adult, with the first primary being far more clear cut (in terms of pattern when ageing) than the second.  A stunning bird to look at closely. 

The catch amounted to 28 birds: song thrush 1; (winter) wren 7; robin 3; Cetti's warbler 2; great tit 1; goldcrest 6; chiffchaff 4; magpie 1; blackbird 1; blackcap 1; and, dunnock 1.

Thanks to Cedwyn Davies, Heather Coates, Aaron Davies and Keith Vaughton for another enjoyable morning.

Owain Gabb 12/10/13

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Oxwich Marsh 22 September

A good morning at Oxwich Marsh with 81 birds of 12 species caught in overcast, calm conditions.  In addition to resident species, reed warbler (5), chiffchaff (15), grasshopper warbler (1), blackcap (4) whitethroat (2) and swallow (23) were captured.  One of the whitethroats (below), was an adult, and showed an attractive hazel-coloured iris as well as white outer tail feathers (and other features indicating its age).  Both whitethroats were carrying significant fat (scores of 5 and 6 respectively with regard to the BWG system), as were a number of blackcaps and the grasshopper warbler (a young bird with a fat score of 6).

The migrant reed bed warblers seem to be on the wane, and there were no sedge warbler seen, heard or captured this morning.  Chiffchaff, in contrast, were relatively abundant in the scrub, but willow warbler were similarly noticeable by their absence, with a single bird heard calling during the morning. 

Swallows were captured over the main channel running through the site, over which a 'ladder' bridge has been laid.  All bar one was a juvenile.  Pictures are below:

Thanks to Charlie Sargent and Aaron Davies for an enjoyable session this morning.

Owain Gabb


Saturday, 14 September 2013

Meadow pipits but still no martins

Another beautiful day at Oxwich Marsh this morning.  Due to the very low wind speed, and overhead movements of pipits, wagtails and Hirundines (barn swallow and house martin) we supplemented the usual nets in the reedbed and scrub with a triangle of nets in the open field (surrounding a tape lure).

The martins showed very little interest in the tape, but we did catch seven meadow pipits.  Ageing meadow pipits (see pic opposite) is not straightforward if you don't catch them regularly, but before attempting this you firstly need to confirm the species.  Apart from general plumage characteristics, they were separated from tree pipit on the basis of the length of the hind claw (which should be between 10mm and 13mm in length in meadow pipit and is shorter in tree pipit [7-9mm]).  This was measured using calipers.  Age was then determined based on a number of factors, particularly the colouration of the edging of the greater coverts, on the basis of different generations of feathers in the wing (adult wing feathers should be of one generation following post-breeding moult), and the shape and size of the dark 'teeth' on the median coverts.  Juvenile flight feathers should also show more wear, which is a good supporting feature.
The photograph opposite shows the wing of a juvenile meadow pipit.  It can be seen that one of the tertials has been retained (this has an abraded edge and a very white tip), but the others replaced.  This bird also appeared to have moulted its two innermost greater coverts, which were fresh and edged yellow-brown, but not the remainder, which had far paler edges.

In total 51 birds of 14 species were trapped.  The number of re-trapped birds (those already ringed at the site and recaptured today) is shown in parenthesis:  meadow pipit 7 (0); reed warbler 9 (3); sedge warbler 6 (1); blackcap 4 (0); chiffchaff 5 (0); robin 1 (0); chaffinch 1 (0); blue tit 7 (2); wren 2 (2); dunnock 1 (0); song thrush 1 (0); bullfinch 5 (1); blackbird 1 (1); great tit 1 (1).
We are now pushing 500 new birds for the year at Oxwich Marsh, which has probably exceeded expectation.  Thanks to Heather Coates, Barry Stewart and Cedwyn Davies for an enjoyable morning.
Owain Gabb 14/09/13.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Plenty of warblers, but no martins ...............

As the weather forecast had been poor right up until last night (when it changed completely), the ringing session at Oxwich Marsh this morning was far better than expected.  A light north-westerly wind wheeled gradually to the north and strengthened over the morning, but until around 10am the nets were relatively still, and the rain held off despite showers until dawn.

The decision to go to Oxwich was fully vindicated by the number of birds trapped.  In total 43 birds of 11 species were caught.  These were: reed warbler (20), sedge warbler (7), Cetti's warbler (2), chiffchaff (3), blackcap (1), whitethroat (1), blackbird (2), wren (3), blue tit (2), bullfinch (1) and robin (1).   

The catch was dominated by young of the year, with only one of the blue tits being more than 1 year old.  Many of the reed warblers had finished their post juvenile moult, and are likely to be feeding up prior to migration.  Only a few had significant fat deposits however. 

The young of some resident species, such as wren and bullfinch, in contrast, are less well progressed in terms of post-juvenile moult.  In fact, one juvenile bullfinch was still in entirely juvenile plumage, with a bare belly, and no sign of any replacement of body feathering.  It was good to catch two more Cetti's warblers: both were juveniles with fresh flight feathers but extensive moult of body feathers going on.

Attempts to catch some house martins (following several mixed flocks of swallows and martins across the site) were 'after the horse had bolted.'  By the time an additional net had been put up all hirundines seemed to have disappeared.  Visible migration was very limited overhead, with only meadow pipits and the odd pied and grey wagtail noted in addition to the swallows.

Thanks to Charlie Sargent, Keith Vaughton and Cedwyn Davies for a pleasant morning and a good session.

Owain Gabb 07/09/2013

Saturday, 31 August 2013

An influx of reedbed warblers ............

A pleasant morning with Keith Vaughton and Cedwyn Davies during which we caught a total of 58 birds at Oxwich Marsh.

The day started damp and cool, but the north-westerly wind remained light until mid morning, and the sun came out by around 07:00.

The catch was made up of: reed warbler (19), sedge warbler (8), chiffchaff (7), willow warbler (2), blackcap (1), reed bunting (1), blue tit (11), bullfinch (3), wren (3), robin (2) and treecreeper (1).  Therefore a nice mix of migrant warblers and resident species.

The catch of migrant warblers was dominated by juvenile birds, and there was no evidence (from fat deposits) that these were ready to make a long distance movement.  However, the sedge warbler, pictured to the left and below, was an adult and carrying significant fat.  This can be seen in the picture to the left.  The tracheal pit is full (in fact slightly convex and overlapping the breast muscle by several mm).  Fat is assessed using standard scoring system, and can be used to help understand the timing of migratory movements.  The feathers are gently blown to expose the skin. A more typical (!) photo of the sedge warbler is to the right.

Owain Gabb 31/08/2013

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Low numbers, but reasonable diversity

A light northerly wind, which gradually strengthened over the session and little cloud cover probably contributed to the catch in the Oxwich reedbed dropping off rapidly.  Despite 16 birds in the first net round, only 18 were caught in total, and we packed up just after 10am.

The 18 birds were made up of 3 wrens, 1 sedge warbler, a robin, a reed bunting, 3 reed warblers, 2 bullfinches, a Cetti's warbler, 2 blackcaps, a long-tailed tit, a blackbird, a blue tit and a kingfisher.

The highlight of the catch was the kingfisher. Photos are below.

The photo above shows the blue back and rump, the colouration of the head (blue-green), and the condition of the wing feathers (fresh).  In the photo below the brown colouration of the feet and grey fringes to the breast feathers can be seen.  This combination of features indicates a juvenile male.   

Other wildlife noted around or over the marsh included a fly over little egret, two sparrowhawks circling and chasing above the Penrice Estate, and the micro moth Acleris emargana (below).

Many thanks to Keith Vaughton for assistance and company.
Owain Gabb, 25/08/2013

Friday, 23 August 2013


Last night we decided to spend a few hours in pursuit of Nightjars on “Sarn Helen” a former Roman road connecting Nidum (Neath) with Segontium (Caernarfon). These nocturnal or crepuscular birds with bristles around their mouths (to perhaps assist them in the capture of insects whilst in flight) are an endangered species and their conservation status has been given a Red Alert. The Nightjar season is from May to September spending the rest of the year in Africa so we really had left our visit very late in the season to try and catch these elusive birds..

Anyway we had two 60ft nets set up and ready to go for about 8.30pm. The nets were about 150metres apart and as it got dark it wasn’t long before the trill of the male bird could be heard as he flew around our heads. Not long later it flew into the net. Just as the male had been processed the female also flew into the net. Since in a square kilometer there is probably only one mating pair we decided it was probably wise to pack up rather than risk catching the same birds a second time.

The bird above is the female. The male bird has white tips to its outer tail feathers.
Head shot of the male.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Kenfig NNR 27 - 3 WWT Llanelli

Heather Coats and I joined Chris Newberry at Kenfig hoping for more success on CES 11 than we had at WWT's CES the previous Monday.
The weather was set fair with the promise of sunshine later in the morning.
Once again an additional 30 metres of net in the scrub was added to the 108 metres of net in the CES ride.
The total for the session was twenty seven with only two adults among them.
Species count was Whitethroat 7, Blue Tit 2, Blackcap 1, Sedge Warbler 2, Reed Warbler 10, Chiffchaff 1, Robin 1, Reed Bunting 1, Goldfinch 1, Cetti's Warbler 1.
This session made up for the (2 Wren and 1 Blackcap) we caught in our six-hour visit to Llanelli.

Juvenile Whitethroat

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Crymlyn Bog

The last time we visited Crymlyn  Bog was early spring. Since then we have been actively involved with our CES sites. Crymlyn Bog managed by CCW is the largest lowland Fen in Wales. The nature reserve is surrounded by an industrial and residential landscape on the eastern edge of Swansea and was formed during the ice age.

Heather. Cedwyn and I met up at 05.30am this morning to set up 2 x 120ft net runs on the footpath that runs through the reed beds in the hope to catch some warblers before they start there Autumn migration. It was quite cool first thing and there was only the odd bird moving around. As it warmed plenty of Swallows started flying about many of which came low within feet of the ground and we thought it maybe possible to do a Swallow roost later in the month. But at this time we had not had a single bird in the nets, so at 08.45 we decided to call it a day and go home. As we approached the nets there were 4 birds in them1 x Sedge Warbler, 2 x Reed Warbler and a Wren. The Warblers showed no sign of fat deposits in preparation for migration, which was a surprise. 

The next visit produced a 1 x Robin, 1 x Reed Warbler and a Meadow Pipit which was in primary and body moult and it was interesting to note the secondary’s had started as well.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Reed warblers in the ascendancy .....

A very light south-westerly wind and early cloud at Oxwich presented ideal conditions for ringing during the hour after dawn, but as the sun broke through catches per round steadily declined.  The nets were taken down at 09:45. 
The total catch was 25 birds: 10 reed warblers, 3 whitethroats, 3 blackcaps, 2 willow warblers, 2 dunnocks, 2 blue tits, and single Cetti's warbler, sedge warbler and wren.  Frustration was provided by a garden warbler, which managed to escape from a net prior to extraction, and which would otherwise have been the first trapped at the site in 2013.  Garden warbler is not a common breeding species on Gower.

The photographs below show a young whitethroat on the left and a reed warbler on the right.

A drop off in sedge warbler numbers was apparent in comparison with recent visits.  The only sedge warbler caught was an adult which was carrying significant fat (fat score of 6).    This indicated it was either preparing to migrate or had stopped in the reedbed before continuing its passage south.

Many juvenile birds are now approaching the end of or have finished their post juvenile moult.  These included the whitethroats, willow warblers and a few reed warblers.  However, some resident species have more than one brood, and one of the dunnocks and one of the wrens caught today were in entirely juvenile plumage, with un-feathered bellies and disseminated body feathering.
Invertebrates around the ringing station included wall brown, common blue and small copper butterflies, silver Y (moths), a female southern hawker and marsh horsefly.  A common lizard was seen basking on some roofing felt nearby.

Thanks to Keith Vaughton and Cerian Thomas for assistance and another good session.

Owain Gabb

Thursday, 8 August 2013

CES 10 at Kenfig NNR

Chris Newberry, Heather Coats and I once again met for a CES session at Kenfig.  We supplemented our six 18 metre nets in the pool ride with thirty metres of mist nets in the scrub. The birds weren't as obliging as the previous visit with eighteen birds processed from the pool nets and only twelve from the two extra nets.

Juvenile Cetti's Warbler

Our final total of thirty included twenty-two juvenile birds among them a Cetti's Warbler and a Goldfinch. The birds processed this morning were a Song Thrush, a Dunnock, a Sedge Warbler, a Wren, a Cetti's Warbler, two Robins, two Goldfinches, four Willow Warblers, four Whitethroats, five Chiffchaffs and eight Reed Warblers. 

Juvenile Goldfinch

At last a juvenile Cetti's warbler .............

In order to try and maximise our capture of reedbed warblers at Oxwich, Barry Stewart and I visited Oxwich this morning.  Having arrived at around 05:30, we had five sixty-foot nets up by 06:15, allowing us an hour and a half of catching time before work.  The weather was perfect, with very light winds, although mist lingered for a while over the reeds and seemed to supress early bird activity.

Despite this, the overall catch numbered 28, of which 10 birds were reed warblers (two were retraps from previous sessions) and 7 were sedge warblers (all new birds).  Other species included two bullfinches (both juveniles), a song thrush and an adult female reed bunting, the brood patch of which was just beginning to feather over.  However, the star bird of the morning was a Cetti's warbler.  This is not an unusual species at Oxwich: there are several territorial males around the marsh, and birds were trapped in the spring.  However, the bird trapped was a juvenile, the only one of the year to date.  This provides strong evidence of breeding on the marsh, as the post juvenile moult of the bird was not well advanced, and there is no other suitable breeding habitat close by.

The Cetti's warbler is shown below.  The ten (as opposed to twelve in all other UK passerines) tail feathers characteristic of this species can be clearly seen.

Another interesting observation was the tail of this reed warbler (photo below).  While reed warblers are not a difficult species to age, the tail bar on this bird was incredible.  As young birds grow their tail feathers simultaneously, a strong fault bar (indicating a period of environmental stress) that goes across the tail indicates a juvenile.  Adults replace feathers sequentially.  Therefore, while individual feather might show fault bars, in adults these bars will not tend to line up.
The final photograph is of a song thrush.  The first for the site in 2013, and still in full juvenile plumage (the belly had not begun to feather up).

Owain Gabb

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

CES 10, WWT Llanelli

Cedwyn, Aaron, Ben and I completed CES 10 at WWT Llanelli today. It felt very Autumnal first thing with temperatures around 11 degrees C at 05.30am. Last year CES 10 produced 10 birds and today we caught 15. We had Wren x 3, Blackcap x 5, Robin x 3, Chiffchaff x 2, Dunnock x 1 and a Blackbird. 12 of the birds were juveniles, which was encouraging but the total birds caught is still very worrying. One of the Blackcaps, an adult male was part way through its complete summer moult in preparation for its migration albeit a lot do over winter in the UK. It was a good opportunity to examine and record the wing moult of the primaries, which were 5554210000, a total score of 22. Both wings were checked and they mirrored each other. The head and body were also in heavy moult and 8 tail feathers were missing.

Maybe not the highlight, but the most exciting moment of the day was a buzzard that had been calling for most of the morning and then landed a few metres from the ringing station. It flew off low in the direction of nets 1,2 and 3 and I have never seen Cedwyn move so fast in anticipation of it being caught in one of them, only to be disappointed.

Downloading the pictures this evening to produce this blog I was very surprised to see someone had been busy using my camera. As you can see the early start had got the better of me.