Oxwich Marsh 12 October 2014: finches, chats and blue tits.

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The weather this morning was ideal for ringing: there was no discernible wind for the first couple of hours, and it was overcast and dull.
We put 330 feet of net in the fen meadow and 160 feet of net in the scrub.  The rate of take up of sunflower hearts from the feeders had increased markedly over the previous two weeks, and large flocks of goldfinches had been seen around the net rides.  The aim was therefore to catch some of the finches, a few late-moving summer migrants, and some more goldcrests (with the outside chance that we would catch something else in with them).
In the event it was a varied session, with 127 birds trapped.  The breakdown was as follows:

Species New Re-trapped Total
Sparrowhawk 1 0 1
Kingfisher 1 0 1
Meadow Pipit 0 1 1
Wren 3 0 3
Dunnock 3 3 6
Robin 1 1 2
Stonechat 2 0 2
Blackcap 3 0 3
Chiffchaff 3 0 3
Goldcrest 10 0 10
0 1 1
Blue Tit 25 5 30
Great Tit 0 2 2
Chaffinch 11 0 11
Greenfinch 5 0 5
Goldfinch 34 11 45
Reed Bunting 1 0 1
Total: 103 24 127

The features of the catch were another 10 goldcrests, taking the annual total over 50 birds ringed, a juvenile female kingfisher (the 6th unique bird of the year), male and female stonechats, a third sparrowhawk of the year (a young male), a few blackcaps and chiffchaffs, and a considerable catch of goldfinches (45) and blue tits (30).  The goldfinches and blue tits were mainly juveniles, suggesting good productivity in both species.  It appears, however that the sub-Saharan migrants may now have departed for the year.
The final totals of new long-distance migrants are therefore included below (which we would be happy to amend!):
Species 2013 2014
Sand Martin 0 14
Swallow 23 382
House Martin 0 1
Tree Pipit 0 13
2 6
Sedge Warbler 61 116
Reed Warbler 110 144
0 2
Whitethroat 15 42
Garden Warbler 0 21
Wood Warbler 0 1
22 92
As can be seen with regard to the table, far larger numbers of long distance migrants have been caught on the marsh in 2014 than were trapped in 2013.  This reflects greater effort in 2014, more net being routinely deployed and possibly a better breeding season for many species (albeit we will have to wait for Constant Effort Site data to be released by the BTO to confirm this).  The table excludes a few control birds (those ringed elsewhere) and between year re-traps of birds ringed on the marsh.
Swallow is currently our most ringed species on the marsh in 2014 (although it is likely to be overtaken by year end by goldfinch and blue tit), which is pleasing.  Garden warbler is a scarce autumn migrant in Gower: in many years only 1-2 autumn sightings are including in the annual Gower bird report, so 21 birds ringed this autumn is excellent.  Catching wood warbler on the marsh in the spring was extremely unexpected and welcome, while thirteen tree pipits will comprise a considerable proportion of the Welsh total based on recent BTO annual breakdowns. 

Pictures of the male stonechat and the sparrowhawk, taken by Charlie, are below.

Thanks to Charlie Sargent, Darren Hicks and Keith Vaughton for company and assistance this morning.

Owain Gabb


Stonechat (1st winter male)
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