Saturday, 4 February 2017

Oxwich Marsh 4 Feb 2017: early morning sniping

A break in the weather allowed us to get a session in. This morning was cold on the marsh, with ice forming just before dawn and coating the stiles (making them treacherous), the gate lock and even the scales we use for weighing birds within a few minutes of their being put on the table. On the plus side, there was very little wind, and this allowed us to try out a variety of net rides. Most proved unproductive (and those within the open reed bed returned nothing), but a catch of just shy of 60 birds was not too bad.

This broke down as follows:

Species
Ringed
Recaptured
Total
Jack Snipe
2
0
2
Snipe
6
1
7
Great Spotted Woodpecker
0
3
3
Wren
1
0
1
Dunnock
1
3
4
Robin
0
3
3
Song Thrush
0
1
1
Goldcrest
0
2
2
Blue Tit
2
7
9
Great Tit
1
4
5
Chaffinch
4
1
5
Greenfinch
2
0
2
Goldfinch
13
2
15
Total:
32
27
59

The highlights of the day were the snipe. It is always a pleasure to catch jack snipe in particular, and we can now age some of them with a degree of confidence based on a combination of the characteristics of the undertail coverts, and the shape of tail feathers two and three. Common snipe remain far more of a dark art to age in the late winter, particularly if retained juvenile median coverts are not apparent. We have now ringed 48 common snipe at Oxwich over the past few years. Today we caught our first between-session retrap. Unfortunately we had only ringed it last week.

A rough count indicated approximately forty-seven common snipe and at least four jack snipe were present near the South Pond today, with smaller numbers in various other areas of suitable habitat. We have proven between year reoccurrence at the marsh in jack snipe, but not in common snipe to date - the reference population appears large!

The numbers of birds visiting the feeders is now starting to pick up. Finches, particularly goldfinch, are coming in in flocks, and this morning a small party of very vocal siskins were present. Two greenfinches were welcome, as we haven't captured one in a while. Thankfully the greenfinches and all of the chaffinches captured today were healthy, with no evidence of either trichomonosis or Fringilla papillomavirus recorded.

Since the turn of the year we have captured seven different great spotted woodpeckers. All have been recaptures from previous years. A song thrush, originally ringed in October 2015, was welcome, as we don't tend to capture the species on the marsh with regularity (18 birds in 2015 and 10 in 2016), and this was the first time the bird had been re-trapped since ringing.

Thanks to all who were able to attend this morning: Heather Coats, Keith Vaughton, Wayne Morris, Emma Cole, Darren Hicks, Val Wilson, Natasha Dodds, Olivia Pargeter and Sarah Davies.

Owain Gabb
04/02/2017

Jack snipe (Emma Cole)

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