Oxwich Marsh mid-late September 2020: a transient hobby

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A couple of weekends of average to poor weather, with wind speed limiting the catch.

On 12 September we split our effort, with Jo Conway assisting Wayne Morris with his Retrapping Adults for Survival project on dipper in the Valleys, and a larger group assembling at Oxwich; while on 20 September we tried another session at Oxwich despite a moderate north-easterly wind.

The combined (weather-affected) Oxwich catch was as follows:

The highlights from Oxwich were:

  • Only the fourth grasshopper warbler of the year -thanks to a mixture of lockdown limiting our activities between April and July inclusive, and a quiet autumn for the species. This was a fresh-plumaged young bird.
  • Our first snipe of the autumn. A few birds have been day roosting in the marsh since August. They tend to start to come in around 45 minutes before dawn, having presumably spent the night foraging in pasture in the local area. This bird appeared quite unexpectedly in a net in a fairly dry net ride. As with many snipe, while the bird showed a number of potential adult features (relatively broad tips to the primary coverts and primaries, a good notch in the outer tail feather and no clear break in the median coverts), its tertials didn’t clearly conform to either adult or first winter pattern, and we were left unconvinced about age. Discretion took the better part of valour, and we recorded it as of uncertain age (Age Code 2).
  • Four new stonechats, taking our annual total to nineteen. We also recaptured a male bird initially ringed in early August, showing that some do stick around. Most appear to be passing through, however. It would be interesting to understand if these are birds moving down from the uplands to the coast, or birds dispersing the nearby rocky coastal escarpment / from the Gower commons, where they are relatively abundant.
  • A lesser redpoll. The first since April 2018 of what is a sporadically-captured species on the marsh.
  • Relatively late willow warbler and whitethroat for the marsh (both on 20 September).
  • There were also reasonable numbers of between-year recaptures, the best of which was a chiffchaff from 2019.

A hobby perched in a dead tree was an excellent site record on 20 September. The bird stayed for a few minutes, before heading off over the dunes.

The dipper catching was also successful, with an adult dipper and the ‘by-catch’ of a kingfisher, resulting in more quality than quantity for Wayne and Jo. Complementary efforts by Colin Baker who has extended the dipper RAS further west, resulted in a second kingfisher being captured later in the week.

Photos are below

Owain Gabb


Lesser redpoll (Amy Schwartz)
Kingfisher (Jo Conway)
Dipper (Jo Conway)
Hobby (Amy Schwartz). A shot taken using an I-phone through binoculars of the bird, which was just over 100 m distant.


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