Saturday, 14 February 2015

Margam Park: February 14th 2015 - keeping the pecker up

I joined Heather and trainee ringer Lyndon for a Valentine's Day visit to 'Margam Country Park'. This was to be Lyndon's first experience of bird ringing and provided 'DJ Songbird' was playing the right tunes he would have a few birds to commence his species list.
The usual sixty-six metres of nets was further supplemented by forty-two metres along the fence-line.
The second bird of the morning was a definite highlight as we had heard them and seen them in the park but had never caught a green woodpecker until this morning.


This was the second Green Woodpecker to be ringed by the Group in eight days (the first at Oxwich Marsh last Saturday).  Later in the morning, before the wind began to rise, we captured a Mistle Thrush which took a liking to its own voice - the third we have captured in the Park - and a good bird for Lyndon to ring on his first outing.

Morning's total:

Species
New
Retrap
Total
Green Woodpecker
1

1
Dunnock

1
1
Robin
1

1
Blackbird
3

3
Song Thrush
1

1
Mistle Thrush
1

1
Goldcrest

1
1
Blue Tit
2

2
Great Tit
3
1
4
Total

15

'Never mind the width - feel the quality'.

My thanks to Heather Coats and Lyndon Jeffery for a pleasant morning in the Park without George.

Oxwich Marsh 14 February 2015: the fiftieth species

Following a few quiet sessions, today saw a return to form (in terms of numbers). 

The weather was good, with a light north westerly breeze and overcast skies.  It was noticeable  that there were flocks of chaffinches and goldfinches in the area.  These had been less in evidence in recent weeks.

We put up three sixty foot nets in the fen meadow (where catches have been fairly woeful of late (a green woodpecker excepted)) and two sixty and one forty foot net in the scrub, where we have bird feeders.

The results were much improved.  Sixty-one birds was by far the best session of the year to date.  The features of the catch were 22 goldfinches, of which 14 were new birds, four reed bunting and a lesser redpoll.  The lesser redpoll was the fiftieth species to be ringed on the marsh since February 2013, when ringing re-commenced at the site. 

A breakdown of the catch is as follows:

Species New Re-trapped Total
Wren 0 1 1
Blackbird 0 1 1
Goldcrest 1 0 1
Long-tailed Tit 0 7 7
Blue Tit 4 4 8
Great Tit 2 2 4
Chaffinch 6 1 7
Greenfinch 5 0 5
Goldfinch 14 8 22
Lesser Redpoll 1 0 1
Reed Bunting 1 3 4
Total: 34 27 61

The lesser redpoll was an adult male.  The tail feathers, although pointed, were broad and showed very little wear, and there was no evidence of a moult limit in the wing.  These features suggested an adult.  The bird showed considerable pink on the upper breast and a large red spot on the forehead.  A picture, taken by Keith Vaughton, is below.


Lesser redpoll
Other species around the marsh included some redwing, which we failed to catch as they emerged from wet woodland (where they had assumedly roosted) just after dawn, 40+ snipe, a woodcock, flushed from next to a net ride, and a few little egrets, which were noted roosting near the North Pond with grey herons.

A pleasant session.  Thanks to Darren Hicks, Charlie Sargent and Keith Vaughton for company and assistance.

Owain Gabb
14/02/2015

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Margam Country Park: 7th February 2015 - 'Bore Euraidd'


With the 'A-Team' playing at Oxwich Marsh it was an opportunity for the reserves to pay a first visit of 2015 to 'Margam Country Park'. I joined Chris Newberry (Kenfig Ringing Group) for an 07:00 sign-in at the gate before we proceeded to set up 1 x 12 metres net and 1 x 18 metres net near the pond and 2 x 18 metres nets along the lower fence line.
Our first bird of the morning was an adult male Goldcrest which has been a regular visitor to our nets since it was first captured in January 2014. Little did we know that is was going to turn out to be such a 'Golden Morning' with a further ten Goldcrests finding their way into the nets.

Goldcrest 


Final total for the morning:

Species
New
Retrap
Total
Wren

1
1
Dunnock
2
1
3
Robin
1

1
Goldcrest
8
3
11
Blue Tit
4
2
6
Long Tailed Tit
3

3

18
7
25

Oxwich Marsh 7 February 2015: a nice pecker

The start of 2015 has been pretty woeful in terms of ringing at Oxwich.  The weather has often been too windy to allow ringing, and when we have had opportunities, northerly winds and open skies have resulted in cold, bright days which have made the nets very visible.  In addition, the perception has been that bird numbers on the marsh have been lower than in 2014.
 
With this in mind, I decided to review data for the first five weeks of both 2014 and 2015, to see if there was any evidence to support this.

The results are presented in the table below:

Species 01 Jan to 7 Feb 2014 01 Jan - 07 Feb 2015
  New Re-trapped Total New Re-trapped Total
Green Woodpecker 0 0 0 1 0 1
Great Spotted Woodpecker 0 1 1 0 0 0
Wren 0 1 1 0 1 1
Dunnock 0 2 2 1 8 9
Robin 0 3 3 1 8 9
Chiffchaff 0 0 0 2 0 2
Goldcrest 1 1 2 0 2 2
Blue Tit 28 33 61 17 35 52
Great Tit 2 1 3 0 9 9
Chaffinch 8 1 9 19 3 22
Goldfinch 0 0 0 16 9 25
Greenfinch 5 0 5 5 1 6
Siskin 0 0 0 1 0 1
Bullfinch 0 0 0 1 3 4
Reed Bunting 14 6 20 3 1 4
Total: 58 49 107 68 79 147

The breakdown shows that, in fact, we have trapped more birds in 2015 than we had by the equivalent stage of 2014 (which was even more weather affected).  However, what it does not show is that in 2014 we had only got two sessions in by now, while in 2015 we have completed five.  This suggests that there are indeed fewer birds in the marsh so far in 2015, although between year differences in weather on the days that ringing was possible may well have influenced results.
 
The main differences in the composition of the catch between years have been in terms of goldfinch and reed bunting.  During the first 5 weeks of 2014, no goldfinches were trapped (despite a total of 443 new birds being subsequently captured during the calendar year), while 25 individuals have been captured already in 2015.  Secondly, the number of reed bunting captured has been lower in 2015 than in 2014.  This appears to reflect numbers on the marsh: only a few birds are generally seen / heard during ringing visits, but may also be due to the lack of ground feeding this year (seed including millet was put out in 2014).  Ground feeding has stopped due to evidence of trichomoniasis in the local greenfinch population (and for economic reasons!).  The capture rates of other species appear relatively similar / proportionate, although it would appear that there are less blue tits using the feeders than in 2014 at present.
 
The main reason why five weeks of inactivity in blogging terms has come to an end, however, is that we have caught our first notable bird of 2015, a green woodpecker.  A picture of the bird, taken by Charlie Sargent, is below:
 
 
The bird was a male.  The malar stripe (the stripe below and extending back from the bill) is red, bordered by black below and behind (whereas in a female the stripe is entirely black).  Ageing is slightly less straightforward, particularly if you don't trap the species regularly.  However, the tertials lacked extensive barring, and the colour of the primary coverts, which had distinctive yellowish-green leading edges, together with a number of other supporting features, indicated this was not a bird that had fledged in 2014 (i.e. it was an adult, the specific age of which was unknown).
 
A beautiful bird.  The first caught on the marsh since Gower Ringing Group started trapping on the site in early 2013 (despite the fact that they are commonly heard and seen), and fairly notable in Welsh terms (only 4 were trapped in Wales in 2013 - 2014 data for Wales are not available on line yet).
 
Many thanks to Heather Coats, Charlie Sargent, Keith Vaughton, Wayne Morris, Darren Hicks, Emma Cole, Phil Mead and Hannah Meinertzhagen for company and assistance yesterday.
 
Owain Gabb
08/02/15