Oxwich Marsh 16 October 2021: late Autumn arrives with a Tseep

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A light to moderate south-easterly wind seemed a little higher than forecast, but any ringing session that we can fit in in October is exciting as it is such an unpredictable time of year, so there wasn’t too much cause for complaint.

The main change from recent sessions was that the final sub-Saharan migrants had gone. Redwing flight calls, the distinctive ‘tseep’ as small parties of birds pass overhead, could be heard regularly during pre-dawn net set up. As dawn approached these were punctuated by the occasional flight calls of snipe, as birds returned to the marsh to day roost, having presumably spent the night foraging in farmland. Prior to this week, snipe numbers had been low. Assumedly both the snipe and the redwing are likely to predominantly come from the same areas of north-eastern Europe and Siberia.

A break down of the catch is as follows:

It was a relatively quiet session, contrasting with the 200+ bird session of the week before. The highlights were:

  • Thirteen redwing. If the typical extent of post juvenile moult reflects that described in Demongin et al (2016), with juveniles not typically moulting tertials or tails, the conclusion would be that most of these birds were adults. The tail feathers were mainly (relatively) blunt-ended and broad, and the tertial tips were predominantly narrowly-fringed, and did not show the ‘thorn-shaped’ tips typical of juvenile feathers. In previous years we would have called these birds adults, and the higher ratio of adult-type birds to first winters in early season catches has been the norm. There seems to be some disagreement over the timing and extent of moult in juvenile redwing at present, however, so the adult-type birds were almost all age-coded 2 (age uncertain), with only a few obvious first winters (with breaks in the coverts and typical juvenile tertials) age coded 3.
  • Our first two snipe of the autumn. There had been a very clear influx of the species since the previous session. A jack snipe was also flushed from near the nets, gaining just enough elevation to get over them before settling back down in the marsh nearby.
  • A small influx of blackcaps had also occurred. These birds were all carrying significant fat (scored as 4-6 using the British Working Group method), indicating they had moved / were moving.
  • A treecreeper. Not a species we capture regularly at Oxwich (typically 2-7 birds annually).

Skylark passage was noted during the morning, but it was too windy to get birds interested in coming down to net level. Meadow pipits were also moving, and a large pied / white wagtail roost was present in the middle of the marsh. Large numbers of pheasants seeking refuge from shooters in the wider area resulted in net damage as one blundered through one of our newer 18 m nets.

A bright-line brown-eye caterpillar was found, with other invertebrates including a hornet (successfully released from a mist net) and migrant hawker dragonfly.

Thanks to the team of Heather Coats, Keith Vaughton, Wayne Morris, Val Wilson, Amy Schwartz, Andrew Bevan, Becky Gibbs and Jasmine Davies for company and assistance. It was also nice to welcome Amy’s mum, Helen to the session.

Owain Gabb


Redwing: a beautifully-marked wintering species
One of the two snipe captured
Another redwing shot
Bright-line brown-eye caterpillar
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