Oxwich Marsh 8 August 2020: a grant, a glorious return and an Icelandic wanderer

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Although the Group had managed to complete a few Constant Effort Site sessions since Welsh Covid restrictions were eased, we had not restarted ringing at Oxwich. Over four months without a visit had seen reed, bracken and bramble start to invade the rides (which had to be tended), and we also needed to come up with a Covid-compliant system of working that would enable us to catch enough birds to make a visit worthwhile. This was only feasible due to the fact that we had a lot of experienced ringers, including three trainers, available to run the session. We set up a series of separate ringing stations each with a team of three and all with separate kit. This enabled social distancing to be achieved and, along with regular use of anti-viral gels and wipes, potential Covid risk to be minimised.

The weather was very good, it even threatened glorious sunshine by late morning. A light north-westerly wind picked up a little periodically, but didn’t seriously affect the catch of 246 birds. The breakdown was as follows:

Species Name New Recaptured Total
Blackbird 1 1
Blackcap 3 3
Blue Tit 40 2 42
Cetti’s Warbler 5 5
Chaffinch 3 3
Chiffchaff 6 6
Dunnock 4 4
Garden Warbler 3 3
Goldfinch 28 28
Grasshopper Warbler 1 1
Great Spotted Woodpecker 3 3
Great Tit 13 1 14
Greenfinch 24 24
Reed Bunting 1 1
Reed Warbler 30 30
Robin 2 2
Sedge Warbler 26 26
Siskin 11 11
Song Thrush 1 1
Stonechat 11 11
Swallow 11 11
Whitethroat 2 2
Willow Warbler 6 1 7
Wren 7 7
Grand Total 241 5 246


It was a good varied catch. The day total of 11 stonechats was excellent. Two apparently different generations of young birds were captured, along with a few adults.  It was also a good day on reed and sedge warblers, and we captured our first grasshopper warbler and garden warblers of the year. Some early morning swallows coming out of the roost was a bonus, and a young goldfinch in primary moult was noted (not something we have seen regularly in the past). Tree pipits were not much in evidence overhead, but to compensate, the blue tits were out in force ………..

The only notable between year recapture was of a willow warbler ringed as an adult in July 2019. We don’t retrap many, as the species is predominantly ringed on passage. Other wildlife sightings included a number of grass snakes and common lizards, a golden-ringed dragonfly and the snail-eating carrion beetle Phosphuga atrata.

While our ringing has stopped, our recoveries haven’t.  Some recent ones include:

  • A white wagtail ringed on autumn passage in September 2017 and recovered in Kópavogur, Kjósarsýsla, Iceland (having killed itself flying into a window) in May 2020.
  • Sedge warblers ringed at Penclacwydd (Carmarthenshire) and recovered at Tichfield Haven, Hampshire and Icklesham (East Sussex)
  • A pied flycatcher ringed on our RAS site in the Swansea Valley in 2019 and recaptured on 27 May 2020 in woodland at Hembury, Devon.
  • A young swallow ringed at Oxwich in September 2019 and recaptured at Gautegiz-Arteaga, Vizcaya, Spain in May 2020

Of these, the white wagtail to Iceland was particularly pleasing, being our first bird recovered in that country.

Thanks to everyone who made it out on Saturday. An excellent result.

Finally, we are delighted to announce that we have again secured a Gower Society grant that will substantively contribute to our costs at Oxwich this year. We are very grateful to the Society for their continuing support.

A few photos follow

Owain Gabb


Garden warbler


The snail-eating carrion beetle Phosphuga atrata, found under a reptile mat




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