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.