Oxwich Marsh 18 September 2021: last of the summer whitethroats and a very old tit

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A very quiet session. We only put nets in the reedbed and fen, as we had a smaller and slightly less experienced team than usual. In retrospect, more nets would have been fine, as there were very few birds in the open marsh.

The results were as follows:

The highlights of the catch were:

  • A first winter kingfisher. The bird appeared to be a male based on predominantly blue-green colouration, but was not definitively sexed. It was clearly a first winter, however, based on the colouration of the feet and legs (which showed a lot of brown typical of young birds) and the patches of grey / dark feathers¬† on the upper breast. Our second of the year, following one last week. We catch very variable numbers of kingfisher year-to-year; the species does not tend to breed on the marsh.
  • An eighth grey wagtail of the autumn. All have been young birds.
  • A late dribble of reed bed warblers, including three reed and four sedge warblers. Two of the sedge and one of the reed warblers were carrying significant fat (score of 6 – spreading over a significant area of the breast muscles).
  • A whitethroat. Almost certainly our last of the year. We rarely catch them in early, let alone mid-September.
  • A long-tailed tit. The ring number prefix was unfamiliar. I assumed it was probably a local movement or a bird from a ring string which had slipped from memory as was had maybe only had 100 with the prefix. It was therefore a very pleasant surprise to find it was a bird we had ringed on the site in October 2014. It is therefore likely to be at least 7 years old; a good age for something weighing less than 8 grams.

Other sightings included a couple of goshawks tussling over the marsh. It was clear that the birds were male and female based on relative size, but they were not close enough to age with confidence. We also saw a lot of grass snakes, counting 8 under the mats along one of the net rides alone. It is likely they have taken advantage of some piles of grass cuttings we have put along our rides for breeding, as the animals (which were all recently hatched) were under the tiles closest to these. Several common lizard were also recorded. In addition we noted the attractive pink-barred sallow moth along with the less notable (migratory) silver-Y.

Thanks to Keith Vaughton, Wayne Morris, Val Wilson, Amy Schwartz, Dionne Jenkins, Tom Wright and Andrew Bevan for company and assistance this morning, and to Tom and Amy for the photos below.

Owain Gabb

18/09/2021

 

A young grey wagtail. The bird had completed its post juvenile moult and there was a clear moult limit in the greater coverts (four juvenile greater coverts were retained).
A young kingfisher tentatively sexed as a male
The head of the grey wagtail
One of a good number of grass snakes under our reptile mats
Silver-Y moth. A common migrant
The autumnal colours of a pink-barred sallow
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