Saturday, 9 August 2014

Oxwich Marsh 9 August 2014: a Tale of Three Kingfishers

The weather forecast had been touch and go all week, but in the event it was warm and sunny at Oxwich with a westerly breeze that gradually strengthened over the morning.  Although the wind may have influenced the size of the catch, it cannot have accounted from some considerable differences in species composition and numbers since we were last out on Thursday.
 
Two days ago we captured 41 sedge warblers and 22 reed warblers.  Today 4 sedge warbler and 8 reed warbler were trapped, and the number of other migrants also decreased markedly.  The only species to buck the trend was chiffchaff: four were trapped this morning and only two on Thursday.  The overall catch was 59 (as compared with 140 on Thursday), and there were no recaptures of migrants from two days ago.
 
The only logical conclusion is that there has been a considerable clear out at the marsh since the last session.

Species New Re-trapped Total
Kingfisher 2 1 3
Wren 2 2 4
Dunnock 0 1 1
Blackbird 1 0 1
Sedge Warbler 3 1 4
Reed Warbler 5 3 8
Whitethroat 1 0 1
Garden Warbler 2 0 2
Blackcap 4 1 5
Chiffchaff 4 0 4
Willow Warbler 3 0 3
Blue Tit 6 1 7
Great Tit 0 2 2
Chaffinch 1 0 1
Greenfinch 6 3 9
Bullfinch 1 1 2
Reed Bunting 1 0 1
Total: 42 16 58

Particularly welcome features of the catch were two more garden warblers, taking us to 9 this autumn, two bullfinches (an adult and a juvenile), and a few common migrants of various species.  However, having captured only two kingfishers all year, and only 1 in all of 2013, three kingfishers during this morning's session was fairly exceptional.  We had seen a couple of kingfishers on Thursday, and even found a roach in one of the nets, suggesting a bird had bounced out.  This session we got lucky.

Photographs of the birds are below:


Adult male (left) and female kingfishers
Juvenile kingfisher

 
 
Feet of juvenile kingfisher
 
The top photo shows an adult male (left) and an adult female. The male had an all black bill, bright orange feet and tarsus, an orange breast and some abrasion to the primary feathers. The female was more washed out, but also had an orange breast, feet and tarsus. The bill of the female showed some orange, but darkened towards the tip and the base.
 
The second photo is of a juvenile bird. These can be sexed according to whether the crown, lower back and rump are predominantly blue or blue-green (males) or green or green-blue (females). This was probably a juvenile male.  The breast of juvenile (1st winter) kingfishers is orange with brown smudges (as here): the adults showed a more uniform orange breast.  Foot colouration is an ageing feature of kingfishers. In autumn the adult feet are orange, while the feet or juvenile birds are brown or brown with orange patches (as above).
 
A breakdown for the year to date is below.  It is safe to say that over 1500 new birds of 35 species was beyond expectation.
 
Species New Re-trapped Total
Sparrowhawk 1 0 1
Woodpigeon 1 0 1
Kingfisher 4 1 5
Great Spotted Woodpecker 9 22 31
Swallow 1 0 1
Wren 33 22 55
Dunnock 32 38 70
Robin 33 33 66
Stonechat 2 0 2
Blackbird 14 10 24
Cetti's Warbler 6 4 10
Grasshopper Warbler 2 0 2
Sedge Warbler 87 9 96
Reed Warbler 81 19 100
Lesser Whitethroat 2 0 2
Whitethroat 24 1 25
Garden Warbler 9 0 9
Blackcap 129 7 136
Wood Warbler 1 0 1
Chiffchaff 25 1 26
Willow Warbler 47 7 54
Goldcrest 3 1 4
Long-tailed Tit 2 1 3
Marsh Tit 2 0 2
Coal Tit 3 0 3
Blue Tit 151 153 304
Great Tit 84 122 206
Treecreeper 1 0 1
Magpie 1 0 1
Chaffinch 99 28 127
Greenfinch 248 60 308
Goldfinch 223 53 276
Siskin 60 55 115
Bullfinch 8 5 13
Reed Bunting 90 64 154
Total: 1516 716 2234
 
Many thanks to Keith Vaughton, Wayne Morris, Heather Coats and Charlie Sargeant for their help and company this morning.
 
Owain Gabb
09/08/2014

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