Monday, 12 September 2016

The Welsh (Gower) Ringing Course 9-12 September 2016

The 2016 Welsh Ringing Course was held at Oxwich Marsh between Friday 9 and Monday 12 September 2016.

There were ten course participants. These included some relatively inexperienced trainees looking to increase the number of birds and range of species they had handled, and more experienced ringers seeking feedback with regard to progress towards a C Permit or assessment for their A Permit and /or Training Endorsement. As in previous years the course was led by Kelvin Jones, the Welsh Development Officer for the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), the independent trainer was Martin Hughes, and the Gower Ringing Group provided further trainers (Heather Coats and Owain Gabb).

Weather over the weekend was extremely variable. Wind and rain on the evening of Friday 9 September restricted activities to an initial briefing, and a visit to the site for familiarisation purposes. Overnight heavy rain resulted in standing water in some of the rides on Saturday 10 September, but otherwise this proved to be the best day of the course, with a light north-westerly wind and overcast conditions. Although the wind increased during the afternoon, it dropped off again by the evening, allowing us to attempt a swallow roost session. On Sunday the wind had swung around to the south south-west, and gradually increased over the morning, while on Monday 12 September strong south-easterly winds effectively prevented ringing activity.

Despite the loss of Friday and Monday to weather, we managed to capture in excess of 400 birds of 32 species over the weekend. The total broke down as follows:

Species
Ringed
Recaptured
Total
Snipe
2
0
2
Kingfisher
1
0
1
Great Spotted Woodpecker
1
0
1
Sand Martin
1
0
1
Swallow
53
0
53
House Martin
1
0
1
Meadow Pipit
4
0
4
Pied/White Wagtail
9
0
9
Dipper
1
0
1
Wren
2
3
5
Dunnock
7
7
14
Robin
3
1
4
Stonechat
1
0
1
Wheatear
1
0
1
Blackbird
1
0
1
Song Thrush
1
0
1
Cetti's Warbler
2
2
4
Grasshopper Warbler
6
0
6
Sedge Warbler
36
1
37
Reed Warbler
14
7
21
Whitethroat
4
0
4
Garden Warbler
1
0
1
Blackcap
16
0
16
Chiffchaff
24
2
26
Willow Warbler
13
0
13
Goldcrest
5
0
5
Blue Tit
23
10
33
Great Tit
6
12
18
Nuthatch
1
0
1
Chaffinch
8
2
10
Greenfinch
81
14
95
Goldfinch
14
2
16
Reed Bunting
3
2
5
Total:
346
65
411

All but one of the attendees managed to process at least one new species, and the highlights for participants included:
  • Two snipe, both of which were aged as young birds, and which were captured in some extra nets set on the edge of the South Pond
  • A young kingfisher, the first of the year captured at the marsh (they do not appear to have bred on site for the past two years)
  • A dipper captured by Kelvin Jones (by hand) roosting on a ledge under a bridge. This may be the first dipper to be ringed on the Gower Peninsula (as opposed to within the wider Gower bird recording area), as there are few fast-flowing year-round watercourses on the peninsula, and opportunities for breeding are therefore limited.
  • The fifteenth stonechat of the year. This was a species that most of the participants had not processed, but which we capture fairly regularly at the marsh in late summer and autumn. Ageing of this individual was made easier by the presence of a retained greater covert (indicating the extent of post juvenile moult)
  • An adult wheatear, the first of the species to be captured on the marsh since we began ringing there in February 2013
  • A total of six grasshopper warblers, all of which were captured on the morning of Saturday 10 September
  • A good (albeit unexceptional) influx of sedge warblers (all of which were young of the year)
  • A fairly late, in local terms, garden warbler. Autumn passage of this species appears to be mainly in August in Gower
  • A nuthatch, the first of the year, and an unexpected capture in the middle of the reedbed
  • A mixture of Hirundines, with swallow, sand martin and house martin all captured
  • The capture of nine wagtails coming in to roost in the reed bed at dusk. Those that could be determined to race were considered to be pied as opposed to white wagtails
Species seen (as opposed to captured) included goshawk and little egret (a roost of three birds is present close to the north pond).

For practical purposes the participants were split into two groups, with two separate canvas gazebos erected (allowing a degree of shelter from the wind and discrete areas in which to process the birds). The teams worked close to each other on the Saturday, allowing communication with regard to net rounds and ensuring that new species for participants could be shared out fairly. On the Sunday one team headed to a separate area of the marsh (an area of dry reed bed, bracken and broken scrub) for a few hours before heading back to the main site in the afternoon, where there was a demonstration of spring trapping to complement the core mist netting activity.

Accommodation was in the Guide Centre at Parkmill, approximately 4 miles from the ringing site. Excellent food was provided at the centre by Phyllis Jamieson, who cooked lunch on Saturday and Sunday and a three course meal on both the Friday and Saturday nights. On Sunday the team got together for an Indian meal at Mumtaz in Mumbles, which provided an opportunity for everyone to relax, chat and wind down after a busy couple of days.

Feedback on the course from participants was very positive, which reflects the efforts of a number of Gower Ringing Group members, particularly Emma Cole, Wayne Morris, Cedwyn Davies and Val Wilson who did numerous background tasks that helped the course run smoothly, and Darren Hicks, Lynn Watts and Sammy-Jo Pengelly who assisted with net rounds and/or scribing.

Thanks are also due to Nick Edwards of Natural Resources Wales for supporting the course and encouraging ringing at Oxwich, to the Gower Society for their grant funding of ringing on the marsh, and to Penrice Community Council for their support for our work.

Owain Gabb

12/09/2016

L-R Justin Walker, Martin Hughes, Claire Walker, Phil Charleton, Emma Cole, Kelvin Jones, Owain Gabb, Heather Coats, Gareth Davies, Richard Watts, Jane Gray, Philip Jordan, Gill Watts and James Bray 
Morgan Coleman (omitted from group shot - as taking photo)


Ageing a snipe (Emma Cole)

The unexpected nuthatch

A wheatear - one of the course highlights (Emma Cole)
One of the six grasshopper warblers caught on the Saturday
A fault bar on the tail of the grasshopper warbler. Due to these feathers being grown at the same time in juvenile birds (indicating a period of physical stress) this feature enables categorical ageing (albeit the species is not difficult to age as adults show considerable feather wear in autumn while juvenile birds have fresh feathering)

Team A processing

Team B at work, with Martin Hughes providing advice

Processing a sand martin (photo Carly Green)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks to Kelvin, Martin and all at the Gower Ringing Group for making this a really enjoyable and useful long weekend. I can highly recommend the course to anyone thinking of attending next year.

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