Oxwich Marsh 26 June 2021: a ringing demonstration

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Following a number of attempts thwarted by weather, today saw our first ringing demonstration at Oxwich Marsh. This was the third field trip organised by Gower Ornithological Society since lockdown lifted, and given the success of the first two, it had a lot to live up to.

Seventeen people attended, which turned out to be a good-sized (manageable) group. Despite a light to moderate north-easterly wind, which affected the capture rates of the nets in the open marsh, we made up for it with good numbers of birds captured around the feeders. The catch was as follows:

Highlights were:

  • Our first ever hawfinch. The species is scarce in the recording area, and very rare on the Gower peninsula. Following liaison with Richard Facey we have concluded the bird is a second calendar year male. It showed no evidence of a cloacal protrusion, so whether it has bred this year was unclear. The weight of 53.1 g contrasted with the typical weights of the greenfinches (of up to about 30 g) and goldfinches we caught on the day (between approximately 13.5 and 17 g is typical), and illustrates how chunky hawfinches are. They take a B+ ring; the only other species we tend to put these on are jack snipe and ringed plover. There was a hawfinch reported coming to garden feeders in Knelston, a few kilometres from the site in the winter of 2020/21, but no photographs or description was received by GOS – maybe this is the same bird. Whatever, it was a superb bird to catch, a great record for Gower, and a brilliant bird to show at a ringing demonstration. Many attending had never seen the species, and those that had hadn’t seen one close up.
  • Our first juvenile reed warbler, reed bunting, blackcap and nuthatch of the year.
  • A chaffinch ringed in 2015 and showing no sign of papilloma virus, which seems fairly rife in the species locally and leads to the ‘scaly-legged’ appearance of many of the birds people see in their gardens.
  • An excellent day total of goldfinches, with the 56 captured including many juveniles, along with a resurgence in siskin numbers, with a good day total of 41

The visiting group seemed to enjoy the verbal walk through the ageing and sexing features of the species captured, with the stretch marks of a female robin (brood patch score 4) and the genitalia of dunnocks proving particularly popular. While the finches were showy, the more subtle charms of sedge, reed and Cetti’s warbler also seemed to capture the attention of the group. Unfortunately the reptile mats didn’t come up trumps, so we couldn’t show people a grass snake. Everyone seemed happy, and we got some nice feedback at the end though.

In order to make things manageable, the ringing team worked away from the visiting GOS group, with a selection of birds brought across regularly so that features could be shown. This seemed to work very well.

Some photos from the ringing demonstration are below, with more on the GOS Facebook site.

Group members have also headed out nightjar ringing with Mike Shewring in the valleys and with Cardiff Ringers to Flatholm ringing lesser black-backed gull pulli (predominantly) this week, so there is a lot going on.

Thanks to: Heather Coats, Keith Vaughton, Wayne Morris, Val Wilson, Jo Conway, Alex McCubbin, Dionne Jenkins, Miguel Lurgi, Tom Wright, Kate Hammond and Gareth Bowen-Llewelyn for company and assistance, for running a very successful session in my absence and assisting in making it an enjoyable experience for visiting GOS Members.

Photos are below (thanks to Tom, Kate, Alex and Jeremy Douglas-Jones for these), along with some video footage of nightjar (supplied by Dionne).

Owain Gabb


Our first hawfinch in over 30,000 birds, and it came during a ringing demo!
Hawfinch – a fabulous bird
One of our day total of 16 greenfinches (a decent one given the extent to which the population has decline locally). All seemed in good health.
Always appealing – a young robin
Lesser black-backed gulls from Amy Schwartz on Flatholm




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