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