Saturday, 19 March 2016

Oxwich Marsh 19 March 2016: Gower Society grant funding .... and a water rail for good measure

This morning saw overcast skies and a light easterly wind.  We put up 480 feet of net: a 60 foot net by our bird feeders, a triangle of 40 foot nets to try to capture pipits and a complicated arrangement of five 60 foot nets to see if we could capture reed buntings, snipe and anything else that was using some rushy ground near to one of the main pools in the marsh.

The (modest) catch of 32 birds was as follows:

Species
New Birds
Recaptured
Total
Water Rail
1
0
1
Snipe
1
0
1
Wren
0
1
1
Dunnock
1
3
4
Robin
2
2
4
Chiffchaff
1
0
1
Goldcrest
2
0
2
Blue Tit
1
1
2
Great Tit
2
0
2
Chaffinch
1
0
1
Goldfinch
2
0
2
Siskin
4
2
6
Reed Bunting
4
1
5
Total:
22
10
32

Water rail (Owain Gabb)
The highlight of the morning was the first water rail captured on the Marsh since we began ringing in February 2013.  The bird showed a slate-grey throat, breast and underparts, a dark orange eye, and flesh brown tarsus. Based on these criteria we concluded it was in excess of one year old (Age 6 in ringing code). The length of the wing (113 mm) indicated it was a female.

Chiffchaff (Paul Aubrey)

Other highlights of the morning were the first chiffchaff of the spring (albeit we captured two birds in January so not the first of the year), and a common snipe. The latter may be the last we capture before they return in the autumn, as there are now few snipe left on the marsh. We only saw one other snipe this morning, which evaded the nets, and the settled weather may have led to a clear out overnight (as 4-5 birds were present yesterday).

There is either small-scale passage of reed buntings taking place at present or the breeding birds have returned to the marsh: possibly both apply, albeit there was no singing apparent. Whatever the explanation, this morning we saw more reed buntings (and also robins) than in recent weeks.  Although there was lots of singing among other species, the only birds we captured that were showing clear brood patches and cloacal protrusions were the dunnocks.

Finally, there seems to have been some turnover of siskins at the marsh, as while in recent weeks we have been capturing mainly ringed birds, today saw a reversal of this trend.

The best news of the morning was that we had secured grant funding from the Gower Society for the second year running.  This will go a long way to covering our costs and will enable us to keep up the effort of 2015. We are very grateful to the Society for their continued support.

Many thanks to those who made it out this week: Heather Coats, Paul Aubrey, Darren Hicks, Val Wilson, Dan Rouse and Hannah Meinertzhagen.  Thanks in particular to Darren for assisting with the set up of the nets we put up near the pool - an unsociable hours initiative.

Owain Gabb
19/03/2016

Oxwich Bay at dawn (Owain Gabb)

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