Oxwich Marsh 5 November 2014: a bit of sniping

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The wind had turned northerly overnight, and the morning was still, with an open sky.  We had been planning on trying to catch snipe in an area of rushy, partially inundated ground (a couple of hundred metres from the normal net rides) for a while, but the conditions had not been right.  The morning was perfect, however.
Over the previous week 20-30 snipe had been present in the area.  The birds appeared to be sparsely distributed across it.  Our initial idea was to put a ‘u’-shaped configuration of nets in, i.e. a 40 foot net with 60 foot nets running off either end of it at right angles.  We planned to drive the snipe into the nets as we walked towards them.  A tape was put in the centre of the area.
While this seemed a very good idea, and the nets were opened two full hours before dawn, the snipe didn’t really buy into it.  The first few trawls across the rush pasture resulted in no birds being caught.  As the day became light, the tape was turned off.  Ironically, three snipe then flushed into the nets as Cedwyn walked towards them.
A complete fluke, albeit a good one.  Maybe time to re-evaluate the plan!
We also put in the usual nets in the fen meadow and scrub.  The catch was a moderate but varied one.  The breakdown was as follows:
Species New Re-trapped Total
Snipe 3 0 3
Kingfisher 1 0 1
Dunnock 1 5 6
Robin 0 1 1
Stonechat 1 0 1
Blackbird 1 0 1
Song Thrush 1 0 1
Blackcap 1 0 1
Goldcrest 1 1 2
0 2 2
Blue Tit 7 6 13
Great Tit 0 1 1
Chaffinch 3 0 3
Brambling 1 0 1
Greenfinch 2 0 2
Goldfinch 6 1 7
Total: 29 17 46
The features of the catch were the three snipe (two adults and a 1st winter), a first winter male stonechat, kingfisher number seven of the year, our second November blackcap and a brambling. 
Considerable passage of finches had been noted further east, over Mumbles Hill during the morning: greenfinch, chaffinch and the odd brambling were moving.  It was particularly welcome to catch a brambling, however, as this was the first that had been caught at the marsh since ringing recommenced in March 2013. 
Thanks are due to Charlie Sargent, Cedwyn Davies, Heather Coats and Keith Vaughton for company and assistance (particularly to Keith for helping me set up the snipe nets).
Some pictures of the species, taken by Charlie and Keith are below
Owain Gabb
First winter female brambling


Female kingfisher
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