Sunday, 23 November 2014

Oxwich Marsh 22 November 2014

Overnight wind and rain were forecasted to subside by dawn, and for once the predictions proved correct.  The day settled down to being calm, but cool, and there was very little cloud cover. 
 
Due to the fen meadow ride becoming very boggy in recent weeks, we only deployed 120 feet of the normal 330 feet of net we put in that area.  We did put up nets in the scrub and set out some extra nets in an area of rushy marsh that we have been trying to work for snipe however.  Overall, this resulted in 560 feet of net being deployed.  Nets were taken down between 10:30 and 11:15 in response to a drop off in bird numbers that was probably largely due to the brightness of the day (and the nets becoming very obvious).
 
The results were as follows:
 
Full grown New Re-trapped Total
Meadow Pipit 5 0 5
Robin 1 0 1
Blackbird 1 1 2
Song Thrush 1 0 1
Redwing 1 0 1
Chiffchaff 1 0 1
Goldcrest 2 1 3
Blue Tit 7 11 18
Great Tit 1 1 2
Chaffinch 1 1 2
Greenfinch 12 0 12
Goldfinch 11 4 15
Reed Bunting 1 1 2
Total: 45 20 65
 
The highlights of the catch were a redwing, the first for the site in recent years, another 'winter' chiffchaff (this one showed no northern characteristics) and a good little haul of finches.  One chaffinch had been ringed in 2010.  There were a lot of meadow pipits and a few skylarks moving (we later heard that a party of five woodlark had been found in fields a few km to the west), and the snipe nets came good in the end with a few pipits. 
 
We are spending a fair bit of time learning how to catch snipe this winter.  Hopefully by the end of it we will have a coherent plan for 2015/16.  This time there were few snipe in the trapping area, albeit there were 60-80 on the marsh.  The nearest we got was when we tried to herd one into the nets, having seen it drop in close by, but it took late evasive action.
 
As we approach the end of November, the total of new birds ringed at the marsh in 2014 stands at just over 3,200 (47 species). 
 
Full grown New Re-trapped Total
Sparrowhawk 3 2 5
Snipe 4 0 4
Woodpigeon 1 0 1
Kingfisher 7 1 8
Great Spotted Woodpecker 11 25 36
Skylark 2 0 2
Sand Martin 14 0 14
Swallow 382 0 382
House Martin 1 0 1
Tree Pipit 13 0 13
Meadow Pipit 46 1 47
Wren 58 43 101
Dunnock 54 78 132
Robin 93 59 152
Stonechat 6 1 7
Blackbird 26 20 46
Song Thrush 6 1 7
Redwing 1 0 1
Cetti's Warbler 22 11 33
Grasshopper Warbler 6 0 6
Sedge Warbler 116 10 126
Reed Warbler 144 23 167
Lesser Whitethroat 2 0 2
Whitethroat 42 4 46
Garden Warbler 21 1 22
Blackcap 297 16 313
Yellow-browed Warbler 1 0 1
Wood Warbler 1 0 1
Chiffchaff 135 6 141
Willow Warbler 92 7 99
Goldcrest 68 3 71
Firecrest 3 0 3
Long-tailed Tit 23 10 33
Marsh Tit 2 5 7
Coal Tit 3 0 3
Blue Tit 292 272 564
Great Tit 104 145 249
Treecreeper 1 0 1
Magpie 1 0 1
Starling 2 0 2
Chaffinch 171 37 208
Brambling 1 0 1
Greenfinch 329 76 405
Goldfinch 418 146 564
Siskin 60 55 115
Bullfinch 15 11 26
Reed Bunting 140 73 213
Total: 3238 1142 4382
 
The meadow pipits included both adult and first winter birds.  One of the 1st winters had a very pale head.  It is pictured below (right), along with an adult (left).
 
Meadow pipits (Charlie Sargent)
The adult shows no contrast in the wing coverts i.e. there is no moult limit (this would be expected as all of the coverts will have been moulted).  The greater and median coverts are edged pale buffish brown, and there is a small 'tooth' into the buff edge of the median coverts.  The 1st winter bird (right) in contrast shows whitish margins to the retained coverts (greater and median) - this indicates these feathers have not been moulted, and more pronounced teeth in the median coverts (extensions of dark colouration into the white fringes). It is also noticeable that the flank streaking of the 1st winter is less marked than that of the adult (a feature illustrated in the Collins Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe) and that the tertials are heavily abraded.  In some of the first winter birds there was an obvious moult limit in the wing.  This one does not appear to have moulted many greater and median coverts at all - those visible in the photo are all juvenile.

A picture of the redwing, taken by Keith Vaughton is below:

First winter redwing
The target for the end of the year is probably now 3,500 new birds, although we will need good weather and some decent catches to reach it.  We are also approaching some good milestones in terms of reed bunting (which is one of the real targets on the marsh), goldfinch and chaffinch.  New species are probably now more luck than judgement, and it is difficult to see an obvious candidate.
 
Thanks are due to Darren Hicks, Wayne Morris, Charlie Sargent, Heather Coats and Keith Vaughton for assistance and company yesterday.
 
Owain Gabb
23/11/14

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