The weather was very good for ringing for much of the morning, with a light (barely discernible) wind, broken cloud and hot, sunny intervals.
We put up the usual 180 feet of net in the reedbed, 160 feet of net in damp scrub on the edge of the marsh, and a 60 foot net across a small compound used by Natural Resources Wales for the storage of machinery and materials.
The catch was excellent in terms of numbers and diversity. The table below gives day totals for newly ringed (new) birds and retrapped birds (birds recaptured having been previously ringed at the site).
The most notable aspects of the catch were the three ‘firsts’ for the site (since ringing began again in March 2013): marsh tit, garden warbler and lesser whitethroat. Marsh tit was overdue. It had been trapped regularly at the marsh in the 2000s, and it occurs in woodland to the east and west of the site (these are over 1km away). A bird was heard calling, then flew into one of the scrub nets. During extraction, a further bird could be heard in a tit flock in nearby alder carr. The marsh tit was a juvenile, indicating successful local breeding.
The garden warbler was also a juvenile, in pristine plumage and carrying a reasonable amount of fat (indicating it was preparing to migrate or on migration already). The species is not common on Gower, and there were no autumn passage records in the 2013 Gower Bird Report, so this was a particularly welcome capture. The lesser whitethroat was a moulting adult. A subtly attractive bird.
There was also a first for 2014, in the form of a young treecreeper, and a grasshopper warbler (also a young bird) was notable, being the second of 2014. The grasshopper warbler was Cedwyn’s first – as despite ringing in reedbeds and scrub for a number of years he had always contrived to miss them.
This was the first session of summer 2014 during which it was clear that a range of species were actively moving (‘autumn passage’). Sedge warblers in particular had considerably increased in number, outnumbering reed warblers in the catch for the first time this year. There was a mix of adults and juveniles, and some were carrying considerable fat. Willow warblers, whitethroats and blackcaps were also present in good numbers.
A picture of the grasshopper warbler is opposite.
The garden warbler (opposite) was caught in the middle of the reedbed.
The overall total of birds processed at the site in 2014 is now approaching 2000. Thirty-five species have been captured to date – and with no song thrush yet a total of at least 36 species looks likely!
The 2014 breakdown is as follows:
The lesser whitethroat is shown opposite.
This really was an excellent session (we even got some minor net ride maintenance done) – certainly one of the best since we started on the marsh in March 2013.
Thanks to Charlie Sargeant, Heather Coats, Cedwyn Davies and Hannah Meinertzhagen for company and assistance today.