Monday, 28 July 2014

Introducing Llanrhidian

I've set up a couple of ringing rides in a small reedbed on the edge of the saltmarsh just west of the village. My interest here is to gain an insight into how much use these marginal habitats around the estuary receive from passing Acros and other summer migrant passerines. My first proper session took place on Saturday when in 2.5hrs I trapped 39 new birds, 33 of which were Acros (26 Sedge & 7 Reed Warblers), hopefully this trend will continue into August. Other bits and bobs included a 3J Cetti's (the first conclusive proof of breeding at this site) and a rather splendid 3M Pied Flycatcher.
Pied Flycatcher: The stepped tertial fringe age
this as a 3 and the black u.t.c. reveal it is a male.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Oxwich Marsh 26 July 2014: a day of firsts ...

The weather was very good for ringing for much of the morning, with a light (barely discernible) wind, broken cloud and hot, sunny intervals.

We put up the usual 180 feet of net in the reedbed, 160 feet of net in damp scrub on the edge of the marsh, and a 60 foot net across a small compound used by Natural Resources Wales for the storage of machinery and materials.

The catch was excellent in terms of numbers and diversity.  The table below gives day totals for newly ringed (new) birds and retrapped birds (birds recaptured having been previously ringed at the site).

Species New Re-trapped Total
Wren 3 0 3
Dunnock 4 2 6
Robin 3 2 5
Cetti's Warbler 1 0 1
Grasshopper Warbler 1 0 1
Sedge Warbler 18 2 20
Reed Warbler 7 4 11
Lesser Whitethroat 1 0 1
Whitethroat 4 0 4
Garden Warbler 1 0 1
Blackcap 18 0 18
Chiffchaff 3 0 3
Willow Warbler 13 0 13
Marsh Tit 1 0 1
Blue Tit 3 4 7
Great Tit 7 6 13
Treecreeper 1 0 1
Chaffinch 4 0 4
Greenfinch 20 2 22
Reed Bunting 1 1 2
Total: 114 23 137

The most notable aspects of the catch were the three 'firsts' for the site (since ringing began again in March 2013): marsh tit, garden warbler and lesser whitethroat.  Marsh tit was overdue.  It had been trapped regularly at the marsh in the 2000s, and it occurs in woodland to the east and west of the site (these are over 1km away).  A bird was heard calling, then flew into one of the scrub nets.  During extraction, a further bird could be heard in a tit flock in nearby alder carr.  The marsh tit was a juvenile, indicating successful local breeding.

The garden warbler was also a juvenile, in pristine plumage and carrying a reasonable amount of fat (indicating it was preparing to migrate or on migration already).  The species is not common on Gower, and there were no autumn passage records in the 2013 Gower Bird Report, so this was a particularly welcome capture.  The lesser whitethroat was a moulting adult.  A subtly attractive bird.

There was also a first for 2014, in the form of a young treecreeper, and a grasshopper warbler (also a young bird) was notable, being the second of 2014.  The grasshopper warbler was Cedwyn's first - as despite ringing in reedbeds and scrub for a number of years he had always contrived to miss them.

This was the first session of summer 2014 during which it was clear that a range of species were actively moving ('autumn passage').  Sedge warblers in particular had considerably increased in number, outnumbering reed warblers in the catch for the first time this year.  There was a mix of adults and juveniles, and some were carrying considerable fat.  Willow warblers, whitethroats and blackcaps were also present in good numbers.

A picture of the grasshopper warbler is opposite.

The garden warbler (opposite) was caught in the middle of the reedbed.

The overall total of birds processed at the site in 2014 is now approaching 2000.  Thirty-five species have been captured to date - and with no song thrush yet a total of at least 36 species looks likely!

The 2014 breakdown is as follows:

Sparrowhawk 1 0 1
Woodpigeon 1 0 1
Kingfisher 2 0 2
Great Spotted Woodpecker 9 22 31
Swallow 1 0 1
Wren 25 20 45
Dunnock 31 36 67
Robin 32 33 65
Stonechat 2 0 2
Blackbird 9 8 17
Cetti's Warbler 6 4 10
Grasshopper Warbler 2 0 2
Sedge Warbler 31 5 36
Reed Warbler 47 11 58
Lesser Whitethroat 1 0 1
Whitethroat 12 1 13
Garden Warbler 1 0 1
Blackcap 111 5 116
Wood Warbler 1 0 1
Chiffchaff 19 0 19
Willow Warbler 26 7 33
Goldcrest 2 1 3
Long-tailed Tit 1 1 2
Marsh Tit 1 0 1
Coal Tit 3 0 3
Blue Tit 141 146 287
Great Tit 82 111 193
Treecreeper 1 0 1
Magpie 1 0 1
Chaffinch 98 27 125
Greenfinch 233 53 286
Goldfinch 222 53 275
Siskin 60 55 115
Bullfinch 4 3 7
Reed Bunting 88 63 151
Total: 1307 665 1972

The lesser whitethroat is shown opposite.

This really was an excellent session (we even got some minor net ride maintenance done) - certainly one of the best since we started on the marsh in March 2013.

Thanks to Charlie Sargeant, Heather Coats, Cedwyn Davies and Hannah Meinertzhagen for company and assistance today.

Owain Gabb

Friday, 25 July 2014

CES9 at WWT Llanelli

Today Heather and I did CES 9 at WWT Llanelli. The CES season so far this year has been an improvement in terms of birds numbers with the corresponding CES visits last year. However migrant numbers have not been as good as we had hoped. It is all probably due to the knock on problems created by the bad breeding season we experienced nationally because of the very wet year back in 2012.
Today was bright and sunny from 6.00am and throughout the day temperatures rose from 16 degrees C to 26 degrees C. There was little or no wind and by about 09.30am the days captures took a dive and were very few. During the morning we caught 20 birds compared with 18 on CES 9 last year.
The breakdown as follows:

Species      New      Retrapped    Total

Dunnock     3                  2              5
Blackcap     4                                  4
Bullfinch     1                                  1
Wren           4                   1             5
Blackbird    1                   1             2
Robin          1                   1             2
Great Tit                          1             1

Totals           15                 5             20

We have caught many juvenile Blackbirds this year. Many can be sexed as males, because at the juvenile stage the male grows black tail feathers as in the picture above. The feathers on this bird were very black so it was not mistaken as a male but a few birds we have caught the feathers have not been as black as these so we did not sex them just in case there was the chance they could have been females.

There are three CES sessions left and the next is in the next 11 day window starting from next Sunday 3rd August. At our Gower site the number of juvenile migrants had considerably increased in the last few days so hopefully we will share some of this in CES10.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Oxwich Marsh 20 July 2014

Ideal ringing conditions at the marsh this morning: a warm day with very little wind and overcast conditions.  We put 180 feet of net in the reedbed and a further 160 feet of net in willow and bramble scrub.  The results were excellent, with 125 birds of 16 species trapped.  The catch was as follows:

Species New Re-trapped Total
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1 1 2
Wren 3 1 4
Dunnock 1 5 6
Robin 2 4 6
Blackbird 0 1 1
Sedge Warbler 5 1 6
Reed Warbler 15 2 17
Whitethroat 5 0 5
Blackcap 14 2 16
Chiffchaff 1 0 1
Willow Warbler 1 0 1
Blue Tit 10 10 20
Great Tit 6 9 15
Chaffinch 4 1 5
Greenfinch 17 1 18
Goldfinch 2 0 2
Total: 87 38 125

The highlights of the catch were: the first fledged sedge warblers of the year, confirming that while the species appears to be present in very low numbers in the marsh, successful breeding has occurred; a control reed warbler and a good number of fledged juveniles of that species; a good catch of greenfinches, which takes us over the 200 new bird mark; a few fledgling whitethroats; and, consistently far higher catches of blackcap than in 2013.

The first juvenile sedge warbler of the year

One of the great tits trapped showed abnormal colouration of the claws.  A photo is below.  Any comments with regard to similar observations / how often it is observed would be interesting.

Thanks to Keith Vaughton and Charlie Sargent for company and assistance this morning.

Owain Gabb


Saturday, 19 July 2014

CES 8 at WWT - 15th July

Charlie Sargent joined me to do the CES at the National Wetland Centre Wales .
The weather was calm with some cloud cover. We had 27 birds and 22 of these were juvenile birds which is an improvement on last year so the breeding season appears to have been better this year.  Most birds were caught before 10 am however ringing continued as usual until 12 noon.
The site usually holds good numbers of Wrens and this session was no exception with a total of 10. However the numbers of migrant species such as Blackcap and Chiff chaff are low for this time of year.

The totals caught are shown below:

New bird
Blue tit


Chiff chaff


We were pleased that our valued helper, Wendy Hall, was able to join us later in the morning.

Heather Coats