Monday, 24 April 2017

Oxwich Marsh early-mid April: the quietest month

A typically quiet early to mid-April period. 

Settled weather, with light to moderate predominantly north-westerly winds (the worst direction for the marsh as there is little opportunity to set nets in sheltered locations) typified the period. April and May are always the slowest months of the year, however, and catches were low throughout.

We ran three sessions over the period. The combined catch was as follows:

Species
Ringed
Recaptured
Total
Great Spotted Woodpecker
0
4
4
Wren
1
5
6
Dunnock
0
6
6
Robin
0
3
3
Blackbird
3
6
9
Song Thrush
1
2
3
Cetti's Warbler
0
4
4
Grasshopper Warbler
1
0
1
Whitethroat
1
0
1
Blackcap
3
0
3
Chiffchaff
9
4
13
Willow Warbler
2
0
2
Long-tailed Tit
1
2
3
Coal Tit
1
0
1
Blue Tit
1
6
7
Great Tit
0
17
17
Chaffinch
8
3
11
Greenfinch
7
2
9
Goldfinch
20
5
25
Siskin
18
25
43
Bullfinch
5
1
6
Reed Bunting
3
4
7
Total:
85
99
184

The features of the combined catch were:
  • A few spring recaptures of Cetti's warbler. This is not unusual. We catch our Cetti's warblers in April, then in the late summer and autumn. Outside these periods it is assumed that bird favour a limited territory, and the lack of mid-winter birds may yet prove an anomaly.
  • A few long distance migrants, including willow warbler (which was first recorded in early April and became common mid-month), grasshopper warbler (heard reeling on two dates in April with the first captured on 22nd) and whitethroat (first heard and captured on 22 April)
  • Good numbers of bullfinch and siskin. We only captured two bullfinch in 2016, but have trapped as many as 19 unique birds (2015) in previous years, so hopefully 2017 will see a better year given the encouraging total for April. Siskin numbers were high in 2016 (150 unique birds captured), and while 2017 doesn't appear to be likely to quite rival it, we have now exceeded the total number of birds captured at the site in 2015 and 2014 as a result of a steady month (currently the 2017 total stands at 65).
However, the most gratifying results were recaptures of birds from previous years, including a chiffchaff from Spring 2016, finches, great tits, blackbirds, song thrushes and great spotted woodpeckers from as far back as 2013. We are getting good survival data on many of our local residents as a result of our work over the past five years.

Finally, another impressive effort from Wayne (following his recent duck trap) was his production of two industrial hopper-type feeders, modelled on similar North American examples seen on You Tube (see pictures below). Using a water cooler bottle, a plastic feeder, a threaded rod, nuts, washers and some rubber seals, he has created a unit that approaches being water tight. In combination with its size, these new feeders should ensure that even in busy periods visits to fill up can be at least a few days apart.

Thanks to Heather Coats, Keith Vaughton, Wayne Morris, Emma Cole, Val Wilson, Ben Rees, Lynn Watts, Olivia Pargeter, Rhodri Jones and Sarah Davies for company and assistance at the various sessions.

Owain Gabb
24/04/2017

The Morris Mark 1 Feeder (alongside a feeder filled with millet that is failing to attract reed buntings!)

Male and female bullfinches (Keith Vaughton)

The first whitethroat of the year (Keith Vaughton)



Monday, 3 April 2017

Oxwich Marsh, 2 April 2017: Hammer Time

A still, bright morning first thing, with a north-westerly breeze gradually picking up as time went on.

We put nets on the edge of the South Pond, in some damp scrub on the edge of the marsh, and by the feeders. The total of forty-eight birds broke down as follows:

Species
Ringed
Recaptured
Total
Snipe
1
0
1
Wren
0
1
1
Dunnock
0
1
1
Robin
0
1
1
Blackbird
0
2
2
Chiffchaff
1
0
1
Long-tailed Tit
1
1
2
Great Tit
2
4
6
Greenfinch
0
1
1
Goldfinch
10
3
13
Siskin
13
5
18
Yellowhammer
1
0
1
Total:
29
19
48

The features of the catch were:
  • A common snipe. Approximately eight snipe were noted along the edge of the South Pond. One of these birds was captured taking the 2017 tally to twenty-two birds ringed.
  • Various species showing signs of breeding locally, including dunnock, blackbird and siskin, all of which showed brood patches.
  • A good day total of 18 siskins. The species has started visiting the feeders later in 2017 than in 2016; by early April last year we had captured exactly twice the number of unique birds (92 as opposed to 46 individuals).
  • A first winter yellowhammer. The first ever captured at the site, and not a species that is typically seen on the marsh. Populations are present locally on the southern slopes of Cefn Bryn and flocks have been reported feeding around game hoppers on the Penrice Estate, but this was a surprise. Yellowhammers have declined considerably on the Gower coast in recent years, and their range is now largely restricted to coastal valleys between Longhole Cliff and Mewslade, Cefn Bryn and farmland and heathland edge towards the western end of the Peninsula.
In addition, the first grasshopper and willow warblers of the year were heard, and (less welcome) Canada geese were noted in flight over the marsh.

Thanks to Heather Coats, Wayne Morris, Paul Aubrey, Val Wilson, Sammy-Joe Pengelly, Sarah Davies and Jo Monkhouse for company and assistance this morning.

Pictures are below

Owain Gabb
03/04/2017

Possibly the last common snipe of the first winter period of 2017

Yellowhammer (1st winter female)