Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Oxwich Marsh 18 March 2015: Sniping from the Reedbed

Light northerly winds and mild overnight temperatures lured us into a midweek session. 
Recent sessions have been typical of the time of year, with the better ones totalling over 100 birds, and those conducted in less optimal weather resulting in catches of closer to 50.  The catch has been made up of a mixture of blue and great tits, the commoner finches, reed buntings and a few resident species, such as dunnock, robin and wren.  In the main, the results have been predictable, and while collecting good data sets on finches and reed buntings is one of the principal aims of ringing on the marsh, the blog posts can become rather similar.
This session was very different, however.  We had noted snipe using an area of medium height broken rushy ground for day roosting.  This provided enough encouragement for a horribly early start, with the aim being to have three nets in place over an hour before dawn.
This was duly achieved and the results made it worthwhile, with one jack snipe and two common snipe captured.  After some deliberation, all were determined as 1st winter birds.  Both the snipe showed two clear generations of wing coverts, with both worn juvenile and fresher adult feathers present.  The jack snipe was aged based on a combination of the pattern of the undertail coverts and tail shape.  However we need more practice to become confident in our conclusions, and it may well go down as a 4 in IPMR.
The common snipe had wing lengths of 135mm and 127mm respectively and the jack snipe 116mm.  Weight were 111.3g, 97.6g and 64.4g respectively (so the jack snipe was only just over half the weight of the larger of the two common snipe).
The only other notable capture was a treecreeper.  We only catch 1-2 a year, and these tend to be in late summer and autumn, so this was a welcome capture.
Pictures of the snipe are below.  These show the respective bill lengths and head patterns of the two species:

Thanks to Heather Coats, Keith Vaughton, Emma Cole, Phil Mead and Lyndon Jeffrey for company and assistance this morning.

Owain Gabb

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Oxwich Marsh: 28 February 2015

Another quiet session at the marsh.  The wind, a moderate south-westerly, probably didn't help, but the scrub nets were fairly sheltered anyway.  Thankfully the forecasted light rain showers held off.
In total we trapped just short of 30 birds.  A breakdown is as follows:
Species New Re-trapped Total
Robin 1 0 1
Song Thrush 1 0 1
Blue Tit 2 3 5
Great Tit 1 1 2
Greenfinch 5 0 5
Goldfinch 7 5 12
Bullfinch 1 0 1
Reed Bunting 0 2 2
Total: 18 11 29
The only birds of any note were a song thrush - presumably the same bird that had been singing exuberantly close to the nets first thing - and a second calendar year male bullfinch.  Second year male bullfinches are among the easiest of birds to age, as they typically retain at least one greater covert following their post juvenile moult.  This tends to contrast clearly with replaced feathers.  Both species are regularly trapped on the marsh (particularly bullfinch) in late summer and autumn, with most comprising juveniles. 
A picture of the song thrush is below.
Song thrush
Overall the year to date continues to be better than 2014, both in terms of species and numbers.  February totals are presented in the table below.
Species New Re-trapped Total
Green Woodpecker 1 0 1
Wren 0 1 1
Dunnock 2 5 7
Robin 2 6 8
Blackbird 0 2 2
Song Thrush 1 0 1
Goldcrest 3 0 3
Long-tailed Tit 0 9 9
Blue Tit 16 30 46
Great Tit 4 10 14
Chaffinch 19 4 23
Greenfinch 26 4 30
Goldfinch 39 18 57
Lesser Redpoll 1 0 1
Bullfinch 1 0 1
Reed Bunting 6 6 12
Total: 121 95 216
The goldfinch flock on the marsh has now built to in excess of 60 birds.  Greenfinches are also increasingly common, but there is no sign of a siskin flock to date.  It is very much hoped that both siskin and redpoll now start to come into the feeders, and the former repeat their successful breeding of 2014.

Thanks to Heather Coats, Charlie Sargent, Wayne Morris, Darren Hicks and Lyndon Jeffrey for company and assistance yesterday.

March and increasing catches can't come quickly enough!

Owain Gabb