Monday, 29 February 2016

Oxwich Late February Ringing: finches and a wisp of snipe

This week has seen relatively light easterly winds and settled weather.  As such, we managed to get in two short sessions.  During both of these we put a single sixty foot net adjacent to the feeders, while during the second session, on 28 February, we also put out some nets in an area used by day roosting snipe.

The combined catch is broken down in the table below:

Species
New
Recaptured
Total
Snipe
3
0
3
Great Spotted Woodpecker
0
1
1
Wren
1
1
2
Robin
1
0
1
Goldcrest
3
0
3
Coal Tit
1
0
1
Blue Tit
4
8
12
Great Tit
1
5
6
Chaffinch
13
4
17
Greenfinch
3
3
6
Goldfinch
8
12
20
Siskin
15
17
32
Reed Bunting
0
4
4
Total:
53
55

108


The features of the catch have been continued good numbers of finches and three snipe. We have seen an early influx of siskins to the feeders this year, and have already ringed 47 in 2016 (in 2015 we did not start catching siskins until April while in 2014 they started to be captured in March).  

As water levels have now dropped somewhat in the marsh, we were able to access one of the areas in which we have previously captured snipe, a rush-dominated freshwater marsh between an open area of water and the reed bed. 

Common snipe

Common snipe
Although the area had held at least 30 common snipe and three jack snipe the day before, during the ringing session the numbers were more modest, and we only captured three common snipe. We did so by walking through the area and flushing the birds into nets, which we erected along the reed bed edge.

After catching snipe comes the annual challenge that is attempting to age them.  Snipe can be aged on the basis of the pattern and edging of the median and lesser coverts and the degree of wear in the primaries (Prater et al., 1977).  Further illustrated information is available from a number of other sources, including the International Wader Study Group (Wlodarczyk et al., 2008).

Having scrutinised our birds, and concluded one was likely to be an adult and the others first winters, we considered how confident we were in our conclusions before fouring them all (i.e. noting them as being birds of unknown age but not fledged in the current calendar year).  As always, there is absolutely nothing to be gained by educated guesswork - we simply haven't seen enough of these birds to have become comfortable ageing them as yet, albeit we would hope to become more proficient over time.  It would be good to catch a couple of our ringed birds from previous years, both to begin to get an indication of the size of the local reference population and to see birds that we know are in adult plumage in the hand.

Thanks to all who have made it out for one or both of the last couple of sessions: Keith Vaughton, Heather Coats, Paul Aubrey, Wayne Morris, Emma Cole and Becky Phillips.

Owain Gabb
29/02/2016

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