Oxwich Marsh Ringing Report 2019

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2019 was the seventh year of Gower Ringing Group activity at Oxwich Marsh. The site also hosted the Welsh Ringing Course (in September) for the fifth consecutive year.

Species Totals

In 2019 2,825 birds of 47 species were ringed at Oxwich (3,428 of 53 species in 2018).

Recaptures from previous years and controlled birds (those initially ringed at other sites) took the total of unique birds processed at the site to 3,379. Blue tit (503), barn swallow (444) and goldfinch (217) were the most frequently captured species in what was a year typified by its low totals.

A breakdown of species totals for the past six years is contained in Table 1.

Table 1.  Total number of (unique) birds trapped at Oxwich Marsh, 2014-2019.

No Species 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
1 Mute swan 7 1 1
2 Sparrowhawk 3 2 1 2
3 Water rail 3 1
4 Jack snipe 1 2 14 10 8 6
5 Snipe 11 4 19 55 60 61
6 Woodpigeon 1  
7 Kingfisher 7 3 1 2  
8 Green woodpecker 2 1  
9 Great spotted woodpecker 14 23 21 33 47 42
10 Skylark 2 2 3
11 Sand martin 14 8 33 19 44 6
12 Swallow 382 399 595 709 480 444
13 House martin 1 5 104 3
14 Tree pipit 13 3 37 19 9 17
15 Meadow pipit 48 65 14 45 32 5
16 Yellow wagtail 3 1  
17 Grey wagtail 1 7 3 8
18 Pied/White wagtail 7 44 101 41 24
19 Wren 74 96 76 70 76 63
20 Dunnock 61 50 39 74 97 73
21 Robin 101 68 49 77 71 74
22 Redstart 1 1  
23 Whinchat 2 1  
24 Stonechat 6 10 21 14 5 20
25 Wheatear 1  
26 Pied flycatcher 1
27 Blackbird 32 39 29 57 58 58
28 Song thrush 7 18 10 17 23 13
29 Redwing 8 99 42 92 10 21
30 Mistle thrush 1 1  
31 Cetti’s warbler 28 24 26 40 37 31
32 Grasshopper warbler 6 11 19 13 5 8
33 Sedge warbler 120 145 177 142 194 128
34 Reed warbler 153 159 227 192 271 181
35 Lesser whitethroat 2 2 1 1 1
36 Whitethroat 42 34 36 23 29 29
37 Garden warbler 21 5 16 8 12 8
38 Blackcap 300 190 71 98 172 184
39 Yellow-browed warbler 1 16 4  
40 Wood warbler 1  
41 Chiffchaff 140 100 145 101 128 130
42 Willow warbler 94 85 146 72 98 60
43 Goldcrest 73 167 106 83 36 67
44 Firecrest 3 3 4 2 2 3
45 Long-tailed tit 30 37 42 21 27 67
46 Marsh tit 2 3  
47 Willow tit 1 1  
48 Coal tit 3 7 8 7 11 10
49 Blue tit 393 469 235 427 553 503
50 Great tit 127 153 135 149 259 192
51 Nuthatch 2 1 3  
52 Treecreeper 1 7 7 3 7 8
53 Magpie 1 1 1 1  
54 Jay 2
55 Starling 2 2 10 3
56 Chaffinch 196 265 208 157 187 166
57 Brambling 1 1 8 22  
58 Greenfinch 355 468 244 139 88 155
59 Goldfinch 445 464 479 324 261 217
60 Siskin 62 58 150 218 251 177
61 Lesser redpoll 7 2 2 1  
62 Bullfinch 19 13 2 14 11 12
63 Yellowhammer 1 1
64 Little bunting 1  
65 Reed bunting 157 147 117 96 145 90
Total 3564 3925 3681 3857 3899 3379

 

Statistical comparison between years is not possible, as the total amount of net, the net rides used, and the number of visits each month varied depending on the personnel available and the weather conditions. Notwithstanding this, however, we aim to ring in the marsh twice a week during passage periods and at least once a week at other times, and it is possible to draw broad conclusions for some species based on the data supplemented by field observations. Features of 2019 were:

  • Our best year for common snipe (sixty-one birds captured), albeit only by one (sixty were processed in 2018). We have now ringed two hundred and six snipe on the marsh since our first in November 2014. Conversely it was a below average year for jack snipe, which field observations also suggested was either genuinely scarcer or more widely distributed (possibly due to ponies creating numerous opportunities for roosting) within the marsh than usual. What was notable, however, was that we recaptured three common snipe and one jack snipe ringed in previous winters – further demonstrating site fidelity in snipe species.
  • A good year for stonechat, suggesting the population has recovered a little since the winter of 2017/18. We capture dispersing birds in the late summer and autumn.
  • A welcome (apparent) resurgence in the greenfinch population. Despite limited effort around the feeders, and stopping feeding for sustained periods in response to suspected early-stage trichomonosis, this was our highest total since 2016.
  • A good year for long-tailed tits. The catch of sixty-seven birds processed was by far the highest annual total for the site. The vast majority were captured in roving flocks during the late autumn.

There were two new species for the site processed in 2019, jay and pied flycatcher. Jay is a common bird around the marsh, so it has been a bit of a surprise that it has taken six years to catch one; we then caught a second a week later (both in early June) – indeed the 2018 report predicted it would be the next species for the site. The pied flycatcher was slightly more unexpected, and was captured in late August.

There were no rare birds processed during the year. The only locally scarce species captured was firecrest (three birds were ringed in mid-November), while unusual species for the site / those not regularly captured by the group included water rail, lesser whitethroat, skylark and yellowhammer.

The poor weather that typified the second half of the year undoubtedly affected the number of hirundines, wagtails and (most) warblers captured. It was a poor year for willow and sedge warblers in particular, and a below average one for garden and grasshopper warblers.

In 2019 we passed the threshold of 20,000 birds ringed on the marsh. The number and diversity of birds ringed has far exceeded initial expectations. Overall totals by species (in order of abundance) are below:

Table 2. Totals by Species Ringed at Oxwich 2013-2019 inclusive

Species Name Total Species Name Total
Swallow 3018 Grasshopper warbler 64
Blue tit 2096 Jack snipe 40
Goldfinch 1957 Coal tit 37
Greenfinch 1378 Treecreeper 35
Reed warbler 1218 Brambling 31
Chaffinch 1087 Yellow-browed warbler 21
Blackcap 1049 Grey wagtail 19
Sedge warbler 924 Firecrest 18
Chiffchaff 779 Starling 17
Siskin 775 Kingfisher 14
Great tit 742 Lesser redpoll 12
Reed bunting 642 Lesser whitethroat 7
Willow warbler 572 Skylark 7
Goldcrest 541 Sparrowhawk 7
Wren 414 Mute swan 6
Robin 403 Nuthatch 6
Dunnock 295 Marsh tit 5
Redwing 271 Water rail 4
Blackbird 245 Yellow wagtail 4
Meadow pipit 217 Green woodpecker 3
Pied/white wagtail 217 Magpie 3
Long-tailed tit 215 Whinchat 3
Snipe 206 Jay 2
Whitethroat 205 Mistle thrush 2
Cetti’s warbler 158 Redstart 2
Sand martin 124 Willow tit 2
Great spotted woodpecker 119 Yellowhammer 2
House martin 113 Little bunting 1
Tree pipit 98 Pied flycatcher 1
Bullfinch 78 Wheatear 1
Stonechat 76 Wood warbler 1
Song thrush 75 Woodpigeon 1
Garden warbler 70
Grand Total 20755

 

Recaptures and Controls in 2019

Of note were:

  • A swallow ringed at Pollardstown Fen, County Kildare by the Irish Midlands Ringing Group on 26 August 2019 (approximately 260 km to the north-west) and recaptured at Oxwich on 17 September 2019. It was captured again at Oxwich on 2 October.
  • A redwing ringed on the marsh in October 2015 and found dead in March 2019 at Saale, Halle, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. It had assumedly met its end during return passage to its breeding grounds.
  • A French-ringed (Paris) sedge warbler on 27 July 2019; further details are awaited.
  • An Oxwich-ringed reed warbler controlled at Chenal, Chenac-Saint-Seurin-d’Uzet, Charente-Maritime, France in September 2018 on autumn passage.
  • Four blue tits and two great tits ringed in 2013 and still going strong in 2019.
  • A siskin ringed on the marsh and recovered in Drumla, North Ayrshire (426 km north)

Group News

The ringing group continues to grow. We now have well over twenty members, of whom around sixteen regularly come to Oxwich.

There were a number of permit changes and upgrades during the year:

  • Wayne Morris added a Training Endorsement to his A Permit. He has been a huge asset to the Group since he started coming to Oxwich in June 2014. It will be a real benefit to ringing in South Wales to have such an active and committed trainer based in the valleys.
  • Stephen Vickers achieved his A Permit. His was a very rapid progression through the permitting process, reflecting a huge level of personal commitment and drive. He is now completing a PhD studying factors limiting climate driven range changes in birds in the University of East Anglia.
  • Martin Thomas extended his C Permit to include mist netting (having previously been restricted to a C Permit for traps), Colin Baker made a return to ringing (having allowed his permit to lapse for some years) and also achieved his C Permit, and there were also C Permits for Joanne Conway and Richard Dann.

During 2019 the group also adopted a logo, a jack snipe and a common snipe designed by Stephen Vickers. This was refined by Amy Schwartz, who took the initiative in reviewing our options then co-ordinating the ordering of group ‘branded’ hooded tops and sweaters.

Seeing the commitment of a number of the Group rewarded with additional endorsements and / or permit upgrades, the emergence of a further cohort of very capable trainees, the continued growth and increased sense of identify of the Group has been the most gratifying aspect of 2019.

Acknowledgements

We are extremely grateful to the Gower Society for providing a fifth year of grant funding in 2019. This funding has helped us to maintain a high degree of effort, has allowed the group to develop considerably, and contributes significantly to covering our costs. The resulting data set now includes over 20,000 birds ringed on site, with recaptures taking the overall total to well in excess of 30,000 records.

Nick Edwards (of Natural Resources Wales), who manages the marsh, has been consistently supportive of our efforts since we began ringing in 2013, and we are very grateful for his continued backing.

Thanks are also due to members of the Gower Ringing Group who have attended regularly over the course of the year and provided the impetus and commitment to maintain our efforts. In particular: Heather Coats, Cedwyn Davies, Keith Vaughton, Wayne Morris, Emma Cole, Val Wilson, Paul Aubrey, Sophie de Grissac, Sarah Davies, Martin Thomas, Joanne Conway, Bethan Dalton, Alex McCubbin, Amy Schwartz, Kathryn Dunnett, Dionne Jenkins, Claudia Allen, Lucy Rowley, Miguel Lurgi, Martin Georgiev and (visiting ringer) Rachel Shepherd.

Finally thanks to Kelvin Jones for organising the 2019 Welsh Ringing Course, to Martin Hughes, Gwynedd Roberts, Tony Cross and Justin Walker for their support as visiting trainers, to Kirsty Franklin and to Gower Ringing Group members for their assistance in making everything tick. Feedback from participants was extremely positive.

Author: Owain Gabb, January 2020.

Read the more detailed report here: Oxwich Marsh Ringing Report 2019

Photographs

Grey wagtail (Bethan Dalton)
Welsh Ringing Course (participants, helpers and trainers)
Lunar hornet clearwing (moth). Found in a mist net in July
Jay (Richard Dann)
Pied flycatcher (Amy Schwartz)
Yellowhammer (Richard Dann)
Jack snipe (Richard Dann)
Siberian (tristis) Chiffchaff
Skylark (Richard Dann)
A typical summer session at Oxwich. L-R Richard Dann, Colin Baker, Andrew Roberts, Claudia Allen, Val Wilson, Amy Schwartz, Keith Vaughton, Heather Coats, Owain Gabb, Alex McCubbin, Jo Conway.

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Wayne Morris

Another great year at the marsh despite a poor autumn weather-wise, and good to get both jay and pied flycatcher which have been long overdue. It is encouraging to see blackcap numbers on the increase once again, but what is happening to goldfinches? Is the population beginning to suffer the same fate as greenfinches despite a national increase in numbers? We’ve not seen birds with trichomoniasis, so are they not feeding on the marsh in numbers, and utilizing garden feeders instead, https://bit.ly/36fd0ZGs? Speculation of course, so it’ll be interesting to see if this trend persists in the next few years.