Oxwich Marsh 11 October: a trio of Sprites

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It was one of those occasional days when the weather turns out better than the marginal forecast. The predicted light to moderate north-westerly wind took a long while to get going, early rain disappeared, and mid-morning showers failed to materialise.

We put out limited net, and pinned our hopes on capturing mobile flocks of foraging birds as opposed to ringing round the feeders.

This worked reasonably well. The day total was as follows:

The highlights of the catch were:

  • Three yellow-browed warblers. The birds appeared to be in mixed flocks with blue tits and chiffchaffs.
  • Our first treecreeper of the year.
Yellow-browed warbler (Miguel Lurgi)
Yellow-browed warbler (Owain Gabb)

All of the yellow-browed warblers showed pointed tail feathers considered typical of first year birds as opposed to adults based on contemporary wisdom (see photos from Spurn Bird Observatory here that show this effectively).  There was no indication of partial replacement of the tail (as often seen in first winter chiffchaff and which has been reported in this species). We coded them as age code 2 (unknown), but it seems very likely they were first winters.

Although the species has become commoner in recent years, they remain a reasonably good find in South Wales in autumn, and are obviously a very attractive species, so it was nice to capture several in the session. We have now captured 25 yellow-browed warblers at Oxwich since our first in 2014.

Owain Gabb


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