Oxwich Marsh 6 September 2020: wryneck

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Sunday was again the better day of the weekend wind-wise. There was a light west north-westerly breeze that gradually strengthened over the morning, short-lived very light early showers and a rather pleasant sunrise.

The marsh was quiet in terms of migrants. The day started with the careful extraction of a brown long-eared bat – a very attractive little thing, but not really wanted in the mist nets!

The avian catch was reasonably varied, as can be seen below:

The highlight of the day was a wryneck. Virtually the last bird to be captured in the reed bed, the bird was in the bottom shelf of the net. It seems likely that it was foraging in the ride, which is on a bund through the marsh and has open, sandy patches and a short sward. We aged it as a first winter, based on iris colour (which was dull as opposed to rich brown) and the shape and pattern of the primary coverts.

The wryneck weighed 36.2 g; our heaviest greenfinch of the day was over 31 g, so the bird was not much heavier at all and felt small in the hand. It seemed in good condition, however, and was carrying a reasonable amount of fat (a score of 3 with regard to the British Working Group system).

A number of the group had not seen the species previously, and it lived up to its name by writhing its neck and raising its crest. It was photographed, then released into suitable foraging habitat open to the general public nearby, allowing anyone interested some opportunity to see it.

A first for the Group, and a really iconic species.

Other species captured were:

  • A first winter grasshopper warbler. One of the ‘yellower’ type birds.
  • Seven grey wagtails. Our combined Gower RG efforts have resulted in 48 grey wagtails being captured over the last ten days, with Richard Dann alone ringing 21 individuals at Southgate, alongside a total of 17 at Oxwich. The remainder have been captured by Ed O’Connor and Colin Baker at sites further west and east respectively. Passage of the species has been very obvious.

There was no sign of either tree pipit (we are now unlikely to catch another in 2020) or garden warbler. Both sparrowhawk and goshawk were active. The former was seen tangling with a carrion crow, and foraging over the marsh, and sightings of the latter included two birds soaring over the ringing field. Our reptile mats turned up numerous grass snakes, a common lizard and a couple of garden tiger caterpillars, and toadlets were noted dispersing through the sward.

All in all an excellent morning

Owain Gabb


Wryneck (Owain Gabb). Showing primary coverts and iris colour
Wryneck (Richard Dann)
Wryneck head (Richard Dann)
The bird had an amazing tail. It was reminiscent of a moth – such as a peppered moth – in its beautifully cryptic patternation
Grey wagtail number 17 for the last couple of weeks
Grasshopper warbler Only one of our active trainees hadn’t processed a grasshopper warbler, so it was good to catch one – they are a bit hit and miss at Oxwich in September.
The weekly caterpillar photo: a garden tiger


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Wayne Morris
7 September 2020 08:10

Great to see good numbers of Greenfinch around the site too.