The Ringing Year 2023: Gower Ringing Group

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Overview of Ringing in 2023

This article provides a summary of our activities in 2023. During the year we continued to contribute critical population data to the British Trust for Ornithology’s (BTO) flagship Constant Effort Site (CES) and Recapture of Adults for Survival (RAS) schemes. Inputs to these projects were led by Heather Coats, Wayne Morris and Richard Dann, with support provided by many of the Group on the pied flycatcher and dipper schemes (particularly Colin Baker with regard to the latter). Dr Miguel Lurgi also continued his academically-led study looking at aspects of rock pipit ecology and population dynamics.

Training was delivered throughout the year, particularly at Oxwich Marsh, where the largest numbers of birds were captured. This included the Welsh Ringing Course, which was held in early September. Several group members were recommended for permit upgrade following external assessment during the course, as were a number of visiting ringers. Large numbers of birds, in terms of the Group total, were also caught by Richard Dann in his coastal garden at Southgate.

Project progress, species totals (including notable species and aged birds), group news and acknowledgements are summarised below.

Project Updates

Cwm Clydach Pied Flycatcher RAS Project

Our long-running RAS project at Cwm Clydach in the Swansea Valley was registered in 1998, although ringing of pied flycatchers has taken place at the site since 1986. During this time we have provided data that has helped researchers at Cardiff University understand and track the decline of the species in lowland South Wales.

Seventeen nests reached the egg stage (16 in 2022), and 16 of these were ultimately productive, fledging a total of 85 young (56  in 2022). Nine adults were ringed and a further 14 adults recaptured (four of these birds had been ringed as pulli in the same box in 2022). Productivity was similar to 2021 when 16 occupied boxes (of which 15 had a successful outcome) fledged 79 young, and considerably better than 2022.

No birds of notable age were captured, with the older recaptures all being from 2021. In previous years we have typically recorded far older birds (e.g. two birds in their sixth year in 2022).

An adult male was trapped in two different boxes (associated with two active nests), indicating polygamy.

Gwernffrwd Dinas Pied Flycatcher RAS Project

Once more several Gower Ringing Group members contributed to the pied flycatcher RAS at RSPB Gwernffrwd-Dinas (under the aegis of the Fledgemore Ringing & Nest Recording Group).

The RAS was registered in 2021 although monitoring pied flycatchers across the reserve has been undertaken for decades. The reserve is large with several sub-sites containing over 650 nest boxes and provides an excellent opportunity for group members to gain experience nest monitoring and ringing cavity-nesting species. As a result of their efforts, two Group members, Ursula Scuderi and Alice Connell gained their license endorsements in 2023. 

In 2023, 171 monitored nests successfully produced a total of 723 fledglings. In addition, 189 adults were trapped of which 107 were retraps from previous seasons. This was the highest number of retraps since the Group took on the project.

Dipper RAS Project

The dipper RAS covering water courses in Bridgend, Neath-Port Talbot and Rhondda Cynon Taf continued. Over 50 nests were monitored in total, and 17 new adults, 19 recaptured adults and 114 pulli  ringed.

It is hoped to expand the project area in 2024, as Andrew Bevan secured his mist net endorsement in 2023. The Group is grateful to the Caerphilly Local Nature Partnership for donating 10 Dipper nestboxes which will help in our continued efforts. 

Southgate Jackdaw RAS project

The RAS project on jackdaws at Southgate. near Pennard, Gower, entered its second year. A total of 67 birds were colour-ringed, of which 63 were newly-captured and four were recaptured birds that had previously been BTO metal ringed only (i.e. had been initially captured prior to the colour-ringing project commencing).

There were 89 sightings of colour-ringed birds over the year. These were primarily from the site, but there were also sightings at Pennard Golf Club, Bishopston and West Cross. The value of the data collected will increase with each year of the project.

Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust CES

This was the 22nd year of the CES project at WWT Llanelli. Over the course of 12 visits, completed between 30 April and 25 August, 372 birds of 19 species were captured of which 265 were new and the remainder recaptures.

Breeding was again proved for Willow tit. A pair, both of which were in breeding condition, were trapped during a short session prior to the start of the CES.  The female was subsequently caught along with 2 juveniles. Remarkably 10 juvenile and 4 adult Cetti’s warblers were caught on the same day.

Garden CES, Crynant (Dulais Valley)

The CES began in 2020 during the lockdown period. A total of 12 visits were completed between April and August, and a total of 280 birds captured, the lowest total to date (733 birds were captured in 2023 which was the best year). The most significant contributor to this decline in numbers was a drop from 391 siskins captured in 2022 to only 73 in 2023. A similar decline was noted in lesser redpoll, numbers of which dropped from 40 to four birds captured. Sixteen species were captured of which blue tit (80) was the most notable. A blackcap was a notable species for the site (with only one bird captured previously), and the oldest re-trap was a four year old great spotted woodpecker.

Rock Pipit Population Study

During the second year of the rock pipit project sightings of colour-ringed birds began to come in from birdwatchers / the general public as well as from the project originator, Dr Miguel Lurgi.  Individuals holding territories at Nash Point (Vale of Glamorgan), Limeslade Bay, Snaple Point, and Crabart (all in Gower) were seen again in the same areas, in some instances raising young, indicating site fidelity. Pair fidelity has not been confirmed to date, however, as some of the previously ringed birds were not re-sighted, and in at least one instance (the individual at Snaple Point), a bird was seen paired with a different partner. While a further 11 individuals were ringed during 2023, taking to total across the two years to 51, the emphasis of the project remains on trying to determine / record dispersal.

There was collaboration with research scientists at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Brazil to develop a first version of a territoriality-induced dispersal stochastic model informed by the data obtained on rock pipit territories and behaviour during the work. It is hoped that the model will be published during 2024. This will allow for a better understanding of the spatial dynamics of territorial species, and has potential conservation applications.

Species Totals and Notable Captures

It was a below par year in terms of numbers of birds captured and the range of species processed. A total of 7,276 birds of 73 species were captured (as compared to 9,319 birds of 82 species in 2022 and 9,455 birds of 91 species in 2021).

Numbers of each species processed (i.e. newly-ringed and recaptured birds) in 2023 are presented in the table below.

Table 1. Unique Birds* Processed by Gower Ringing Group in 2023

Unique Birds Processed in 2023
Barn Owl 4 Redstart 20
Blackbird 188 Redwing 89
Blackcap 552 Reed bunting 34
Blue tit 742 Reed warbler 142
Bullfinch 74 Robin 222
Cetti’s warbler 71 Rock pipit 20
Chaffinch 139 Rook 2
Chiffchaff 326 Sand martin 11
Coal tit 139 Sedge warbler 74
Collared dove 30 Siskin 228
Dipper 145 Skylark 2
Dunlin 4 Snipe 39
Dunnock 187 Song thrush 25
Fieldfare 1 Sparrowhawk 10
Firecrest 15 Spotted flycatcher 2
Garden warbler 27 Starling 523
Goldcrest 117 Stock dove 1
Goldfinch 306 Stonechat 29
Goshawk 2 Swallow 733
Grasshopper warbler 17 Tawny owl 7
Great spotted woodpecker 28 Tree pipit 11
Great tit 273 Treecreeper 10
Green woodpecker 4 Water rail 1
Greenfinch 81 Waxwing 1
Grey wagtail 30 Wheatear 3
Herring gull 7 Whitethroat 54
House sparrow 316 Willow tit 5
Jack snipe 6 Willow warbler 89
Jackdaw 110 Woodcock 7
Kingfisher 1 Woodpigeon 28
Lesser redpoll 5 Wren 103
Lesser whitethroat 7 Wryneck 1
Linnet 2
Long-tailed tit 196
Magpie 22
Marsh tit 5
Meadow pipit 113
Nightjar 6
Nuthatch 12
Pied flycatcher 424
Pied / white wagtail 16
Total 7276
  • The totals exclude birds captured on subsequent occasions during the calendar year following initial ringing or their first recapture of the year.


New and Notable Species

The more novel species captured in Ringing Group terms during 2023 were:

  • A waxwing ringed by Richard Dann in his Southgate garden on 28 November. This was the first of the species to be captured by the Group. It was one of four birds that briefly stopped to perch up in some shrubs in the garden, with the others continuing west. 2023 saw a winter influx of the species to the UK.
  • A wryneck, captured on 08 September at Oxwich Marsh. This was the third wryneck to be captured by the group, following one at Oxwich on 06 September 2020 and one at Southgate on 14 September 2021. As with the others it was a first winter bird, with a very dull brown iris.
  • Two goshawk, one of which was a second calendar year male rehabilitated and released by Simon Allen of Gower Bird Hospital in April, and the other of which was a youngster that ended up in a mist net in Southgate in late July. An unusual and challenging bird to extract and process.
  • Two Siberian type (tristis) chiffchaffs caught at Southgate on 24 November 2023.
  • A stock dove, a species which is typically ringed in nest boxes, caught in a Potter Trap at Southgate on 08 July 2023.

Notable year totals were for the following:

  • Firecrest. Following a blank year in 2021 (the first since 2013), and our highest ever total in 2022 (20), we captured a respectable total of 15 birds in 2023. Birds were captured in the first four months of the year at Southward Lane (Langland) on 15 February and at Oxwich on 22 April. The remainder were caught between 20 October and 28 November. There were seven birds caught at Southward Lane, Langland, six at Southgate and two at Oxwich. The Langland birds included a returning adult in late October 2023 that had been ringed on a very similar date in 2022.
  • Blackcap, long-tailed tit (beating our previous highest total by one bird), starling (a slight increase on 2022 but well short of the 912 birds processed in 2021), barn swallow and meadow pipit. The starling and meadow pipits mainly came from Southgate and the swallows from Oxwich, with the other species shared around.

The totals for collared dove, magpie, starling, house sparrow and jackdaw are all significant in terms of Welsh ringing totals, with almost all of these captured by Richard Dann at Southgate.

Also of note were four nightjars caught at Oxwich in August (of the six captured by the Group). All were juveniles presumably using the marsh for foraging prior to migration. This suggests that birds heard churring on Cefn Bryn and adjoining moorland may well have bred successfully in 2023.

It is now three years since we ringed a yellow-browed warbler. We are due a good autumn for them.


Controls are birds ringed elsewhere and recovered by the Group (or refer to birds we have ringed that are subsequently caught elsewhere). In 2023 the more notable were:

  • A dunlin leg and ring found in a short-eared owl pellet in Portugal. The bird had been ringed at Burges Island, Whiteford, in autumn 2017, with the leg recovered at Ilha da Murraceira, Coimbra, in April 2023. This was part of a study looking at diet of short-eared owls, a nomadic species which ranges widely across Europe in winter.
  • Late news of a white wagtail ringed on autumn passage in 2018 and found dead (road casualty) in June 2021 at Bru, Jokuldalur, Nordur-Mula, Miðhálendi, Iceland.
  • A French-ringed sedge warbler initially captured at Trunvel, Treogat, Finistère in September 2022 and recaptured at Oxwich in August this year, and very late news of a sedge warbler ringed at Reserve Pierre Constant, Saint-Malo-de-Guersac, Loire-Atlantique, France in August 2017 and recaptured at Oxwich in July 2019!
  • A Portuguese-ringed reed warbler first captured at Paul do Taipal, Coimbra in August 2022 and recaptured at Oxwich in August 2023.
  • A chiffchaff ringed at Southgate in September 2023 that was recovered in France in October (at Marais de Lyarne, Moutiers en Retz, Loire-Atlantique).
  • An adult blackcap that was captured at Oxwich in August 2023 and controlled in Spain in September 2023 (at  Cabezarrubias del Puerto, Ciudad Real).
  • A greenfinch ringed in Nantwich, Cheshire in September 2022 and controlled at Southgate in December of the same year (belatedly received).

Locally interesting movements included a blackcap ringed in autumn 2020 and still going strong when recaptured on spring passage on Skokholm in April 2023, a movement of a rock pipit from Overton (Gower) to Sker Point (Bridgend) in late 2022 (belatedly received), movements of a Southgate goldcrest to Kenfig, reed warblers ringed on Teifi Marshes and at Chew Valley to Oxwich, and a Southgate starling to Bridgend (where it met a sparrowhawk for lunch).

As always, however, while these movements are of interest, much of the data the Group records and submits to the BTO is less ‘sexy’ but more valuable and concerns timing of breeding, extent of moult, stage of growth of young and various biometric information.

Aged Birds

Some of our more notable older birds recaptured during the year (all from Oxwich) were:

  • A Cetti’s warbler initially ringed in December 2016 and recaptured in October 2023 (some 6 years, 44 weeks and 1 day later)
  • A chaffinch ringed in February 2016 and recaptured in March 2023 (7 years and 2 weeks later)
  • A chiffchaff ringed on 22 April 2017 and recaptured (remarkably) on 22 April 2023 (exactly 6 years later).
  • A snipe ringed in February 2018 and recaptured in March 2023. Not a remarkable age for a snipe, but the oldest of our recaptures to date (we have now ringed a total of over 350 since 2014).
  • A greenfinch ringed in September 2016 and recaptured in December 2023 (7 years, 14 weeks and 2 days later).

Other senior citizens were a four year old willow warbler, a seven year old great tit and two six year old blue tits.

Group News

Dionne Jenkins achieved her A Permit and Trainers Endorsement, Andrew Bevan, Miguel Lurgi, Lucy Rowley, Tom Wright and Jasmine Davies their C Permits (for mist netting), and Alice Connell and Ursula Scuderi C Permits for pulli during the year.

Well done to all for their effort and commitment. It is really gratifying to see people progress and start projects that will contribute to our understanding of bird populations in Wales (and more widely), and brilliant to see more trainers in the ringing scheme.


We are extremely grateful to the Gower Society for providing a ninth year of grant funding for ringing at Oxwich in 2023. Without this support we would need to scale back our operations, including our training.

Thanks to Nick Edwards and Ed Tucker (of Natural Resources Wales), who manage the marsh. NRW have been consistently supportive of our efforts since we began ringing in 2013, and we are very grateful for their continued backing. Thanks are also due to Martin Hughes, Chris Jones of the Teifi Ringing Group, Justin Walker (BTO, Thetford), Mark Grantham (West Cornwall Ringing Group and BTO) for their help as independent trainers and assessors during the Ringing Course in September 2023, and to Ed O’Connor for his valiant attempts to catch waders (despite terrible tides).

Thanks also to Richard Dobbins, Wendy James and others from Teifi Ringing Group, as well as the Skokholm wardens (Richard Brown and Giselle Eagle) who facilitated many of our number going to Skokholm during 2023. The experience gained ringing seabirds, using Heligoland traps and just generally ringing in a different environment was hugely helpful and very enjoyable, and everyone was very welcoming.

Further thanks to members of the Gower Ringing Group who have contributed to the totals, managed data, attended sessions regularly over the course of the year or who contributed to the course we ran in the autumn, in particular: Heather Coats, Cedwyn Davies, Keith Vaughton, Wayne Morris, John Lloyd, Simon Allen (Gower Bird Hospital), Joanne Conway, Richard Dann, Emma Cole, Alex McCubbin, Amy Schwartz, Dionne Jenkins, Colin Baker, Lucy Rowley, Miguel Lurgi, Tom Wright, Andrew Bevan, Becky Gibbs, Jasmine Davies, Ursula Scuderi, Alice Connell, Catrin Ferguson, Kayleigh Bargus, Megan Nicklin, Ciera Atkins and Jane Beck.

Finally, Heather Coats would like to additionally thank the Cwm Clydach Volunteers for assisting with the RAS work, and Andrew Hughes for his additional help with her projects.

Photos are below.

Owain Gabb

January 2024.

Waxwing: the first of this species to be ringed by the Group was caught by Richard Dann at Southgate in November


Snipe: a first winter in the foreground and a recaptured adult in the background.


Wryneck. The third first winter wryneck caught in early-mid September over the past few years.


Water rail. A less than annual species at Oxwich (albeit not a species we target).


Nightjar. One of the four first winter birds captured at Oxwich in August 2023.


Jack snipe. Birds are released on the ground post ringing, and tend to squat prior to flying back into the marsh to roost.


A team during the ringing course. Overseeing trainers are Wayne Morris and Martin Hughes.
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