Saturday, 15 March 2014

Finches, Buntings and Chats ..... Oxwich Marsh 15 March 2014

A light to moderate north-westerly wind and broken cloud at Oxwich this morning.  After some early trouble with an inexplicably tangled net, a relatively relaxing session with a fairly steady rate of capture until we took the nets down just after 11:00.
 
Fifty-seven birds were captured.  These were: dunnock 2 (1); robin 2 (1); stonechat 2 (0); blue tit 5 (3); great tit 4 (4); chaffinch 1 (0); greenfinch 14 (4); goldfinch 18 (7); siskin 2 (0); and, reed bunting 7 (0).  Retraps are indicated by the brackets.
 
The most obvious highlight was the stonechats.  As the usual male had returned to territory last week on the edge of the marsh, Cedwyn brought along spring traps, mealworms and a tape.  Initially this didn't appear to be working, as the chats disappeared.  However, after about half an hour first the male and then the female reappeared and were captured.  These were only the second and third stonechats trapped at the marsh since 2000.  The male was clearly a second calendar year bird, as it showed a moult limit in the greater coverts.  We did not conclusively determine the age of the female.
Male stonechat - a lovely bird
The number of finches around the feeding station remains high, with large flocks of goldfinch and greenfinch in particular.  The total number of new goldfinch ringed at the site in 2014 is now up to 106, and greenfinch to 92.  The number of new reed buntings in 2014 (56), which included another 7 birds today, indicates that this species passes through the marsh in some numbers, despite being relatively unobtrusive to the field birder.  In terms of totals, we also passed the 500 mark for the site for the year today - with the total now standing on 522 birds (362 new birds, 160 re-trapped birds) of 15 species.
 
Thanks to Cedwyn Davies, Heather Coates, Charlie Sargent and Emma Cole (the BTO Rep for Swansea University) for their help this morning.  Particular thanks to Heather for her persistence in sorting out the tangled net first thing.
 
More gratuitous stonechat shots are below ..........
 
Owain Gabb
15/03/2014
 
Another view of the male stonechat - showing the developing breeding plumage around the head and the colour of the breast.

And the female stonechat

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