Ringing at Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) Llanelli in 2020

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WWT Llanelli is Gower Ringing Group’s Constant Effort (CES) Site, a project led by Heather Coats. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, the CES season was much curtailed in 2020. Additional ringing was completed at a feeding station at WWT Llanelli during the winter of 2019/20 by teams led by Heather, and in a new area of the site (‘Eastern Scrapes’) in spring and autumn 2020 by Ed O’Connor. Ed also led some dazzling of waders on nearby pasture land during the first quarter of 2020.

This summary provides an overview of all ringing at WWT Llanelli in 2020.

CES & Winter Feeding Station Ringing

Only four CES sessions were completed, with additional effort at the feeders in January and February. A breakdown of birds captured is below:

Garden warbler is relatively notable during CES, so it was good to catch the species during such a reduced programme.  Also of note was an adult robin re-trapped on 5 February 2020, having been first ringed on 9th July 2015 as a juvenile. The most notable species ringed was water rail, which was trapped in the lower shelf of a (non-CES) net purposely set very low in an attempt to capture the species.

The woodcock were captured by Ed O’Connor during winter in nearby pasture land.

Eastern Scrapes Ringing Site

In early 2020 a number of net rides were cut into an area situated near the Loughor Estuary coastal path at the eastern end of the Millennium Wetlands Reserve, Penclacwydd (WWT Llanelli). This created the space for in excess of 300 feet of net to be erected, with the plan being to target migrant passerines later in the year. Feeders were erected in the rides following their creation.

The area was selected due to the mix of thick blackthorn, bramble thickets, young willow scrub and reed that was present. Much of the young willow scrub was subsequently cut back in September (by WWT staff) as part of conservation management (in order to open up the area and stop the willow becoming dominant). This resulted in warbler catches (which had previously been good) declining, and the focus of ringing was therefore changed to wagtails and pipits.

A couple of March visits were completed during which the site showed some promise; good numbers of finches were captured and a few early migrants including a willow warbler on 24 March. A total of 78 birds were processed during the two sessions. The visits were curtailed by the first Covid-19 lockdown. On the evening before this a water pipit roost consisting of 15+ birds was discovered, a rather frustrating situation to say the least.

Following relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions in mid-July, twenty-two sessions were completed between 14th July and 15th September. Results varied with the weather, with heavily overcast mornings generally more productive for migrant warblers. A total 1221 new birds were ringed during the sessions.

A combined total of ringed and recaptured birds is as follows:

Highlights were:

  • Four tree pipits. These were probably the first of the species ringed on the reserve. At least 12 more were seen but not captured.
  • Sixteen garden warblers. A good total for a species that can often pass through unseen on autumn passage.
  • Seven grasshopper warblers. These included a very young juvenile indicating local breeding.
  • Twenty-six grey wagtails. All were juveniles trapped using a ‘V’ of forty foot nets around a small pool.
  • Proving local breeding of Cetti’s and willow warblers, and of lesser whitethroat with adults in wing moult and young juveniles captured.
  • A roost catch of 144 sand martins.
  • The capture of two French-ringed adult sedge warblers, both of which had been initially ringed at Donges in north-west France, one in August 2017 and the other in August 2018.
  • A juvenile Reed Warbler ringed at Llangorse Lake and recaptured 14 days later (on 7 July).
  • Juvenile sedge and reed warblers recaptured in East Sussex, Hampshire and Wiltshire
  • A juvenile sedge warbler ringed at Penclacwydd on 7 August, recaptured at Poole Harbour, Dorset on 12 August, and again at Guenrouet in north-west France on 18 August.

Photos follow.

Heather Coates & Ed O’Connor


Eastern Scrapes site
Tree pipit
French-ringed adult sedge warbler
Juvenile stonechat
Lesser whitethroat (one of eleven captured)
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