Oxwich Marsh 25 November 2014: a new species for the year

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The weather forecast looked excellent.  Very little wind at all for the morning, so the aim was to put out some nets before dawn in a new area of marsh that was being frequented by snipe.
In the event there was a very heavy frost, which made the early morning chilly, especially in wellies, but the rain held off until a light shower at around eleven.  The skies were mainly open, and the nets showed well by mid morning.

The catch was as follows:

New Birds Re-traps Total
Jack Snipe 1 0 1
Snipe 2 0 2
Wren 0 2 2
Dunnock 0 1 1
Robin 0 2 2
Stonechat 0 1 1
Blackbird 1 0 1
1 0 1
Goldcrest 1 0 1
Blue Tit 3 6 9
Great Tit 1 2 3
Chaffinch 7 0 7
Greenfinch 14 3 17
Goldfinch 12 3 15
Total: 43 20 63

The highlight was undoubtedly the first jack snipe caught at the site (certainly in recent times).  A beautiful little bird that was aged as a 1st winter on the basis of a narrow outer primary feather, the pattern of the undertail coverts (not spotted / streaked), the pattern of the wing coverts and a number of other supporting features.  What was even more gratifying was that it was caught in the company of a common snipe.  In the hand it was possible to compare the features of the two species: the pale central crown stripe of the common snipe and the dark crown of the jack, and the far longer bill of the common snipe were obvious.  However it was the comparative size of the birds that was most noticeable.  Measurements of the respective birds were wing 112mm and weight 57.7g (jack snipe) and wing 134mm and weight 107.2g (snipe).  A second snipe caught later had a wing of 132mm and a weight of 96.7g.
Snipe (lower) and jack snipe (upper) (photo by Cedwyn Davies)

Snipe (left) and jack snipe (right) (photo by Keith Vaughton)
Other than the snipe species, we caught the 23rd new Cetti’s warbler of the year.  This was the 27th unique bird of the year for Oxwich, as we have retrapped 3 Cetti’s warblers ringed in 2013 and also one bird ringed at another site.
All good stuff.
Thanks to Cedwyn Davies, Keith Vaughton and Heather Coats for company and assistance this morning.  Particular thanks to Keith for all the help in planning and setting up the additional snipe nets, and to all for persisting until 11:30 (I had to go to work for 09:00).
Owain Gabb


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