The Welsh Ringing Course 2019

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The 2019 Welsh Ringing Course was held on the Gower Peninsula, South Wales, between Friday 6 and Monday 9 September 2019.

 
The course was led by Kelvin Jones, the Welsh Development Officer for the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and a ringing trainer, the independent trainer was Martin Hughes (from Northumberland), and other trainers present were Tony Cross (mid-Wales Ringing Group). Gwynedd Roberts, Justin Walker (BTO), Heather Coats (Gower Ringing Group) and Owain Gabb (GRG / ringer in charge at Oxwich). There were 9 participants whose aspirations were either to be appraised with regard to a potential permit upgrade, or to achieve further experience.

The itinerary included daytime mist netting at Oxwich Marsh and High Pennard, dazzling waders at Whiteford Burrows, and spring trapping and mist netting on the upper shore at Overton.

A total of 512 birds of 37 species were captured. The breakdown was as follows:

 

Species
Name
Ringed
Recapt
Total
Blackbird
8
6
14
Blackcap
65
1
66
Blue Tit
32
33
65
Bullfinch
1
1
Cetti’s
Warbler
3
5
8
Chaffinch
3
3
Chiffchaff
29
1
30
Coal Tit
1
1
2
Dunlin
7
7
Dunnock
8
7
15
Garden
Warbler
1
1
Goldcrest
6
6
Goldfinch
1
1
Grasshopper
Warbler
2
2
Great
Spotted Woodpecker
1
1
Great
Tit
10
9
19
Greenfinch
23
23
Grey
Wagtail
6
6
House
Martin
3
3
Long-tailed
Tit
7
5
12
Pied/White
Wagtail
11
11
Reed
Bunting
4
4
Reed
Warbler
18
3
21
Ringed
Plover
11
11
Robin
14
9
23
Rock
Pipit
13
2
15
Sand
Martin
1
1
Sanderling
1
1
Sedge
Warbler
12
1
13
Song
Thrush
1
1
Stonechat
11
11
Swallow
59
59
Tree
Pipit
7
7
Turnstone
13
13
Whitethroat
6
3
9
Willow
Warbler
9
9
Wren
10
8
18
Grand
Total
417
95
512

 
The weather was generally better than previous years, with a light to moderate north-westerly wind on the Saturday that strengthened in the afternoon (limiting our evening roost catch), lights winds on the Friday evening and on Sunday, and heavy rain for most of the morning on the Monday (that effectively curtailed the course).

Both the catch and the range of species captured were slightly up on previous years. In 2018 we captured 445 birds of 33 species, in 2017 451 birds of 33 species, in 2016 411 birds of 32 species, and in 2015 409 birds of 31 species.

Daytime Mist Netting

Mist netting sessions were held at Oxwich on 7 and 8 September. The marsh was relatively quiet in bird terms, which is often the case during and immediately after north-westerly winds. The nets were set in a variety of habitats including reed bed, fen, willow scrub and secondary woodland.

Highlights included two grasshopper warblers, a (relatively late for the site) garden warbler, six grey wagtails, 7 tree pipits, 3 house martins and 9 stonechats. The supporting cast included Cetti’s warblers, a steady stream of blackcaps and chiffchaffs, and reasonable numbers of whitethroat, reed, sedge and willow warbler.

Good numbers of greenfinches were also captured; there were no signs of trichomonosis (which appears to have considerably impacted the Gower population) observed.

On the Sunday three of our number, led by Kelvin, went to another of the Gower Ringing Group sites (High Pennard) to allow more one to one time for permit upgrade assessment. Over seventy birds were processed at High Pennard over the morning, including our only goldcrests, coal tits and bullfinches of the course.

Roost Sessions

The Saturday evening swallow and wagtail roost session was badly weather affected. While the wind dropped off towards dusk, it remained high enough to restrict us to a few of our more sheltered nets. This was frustrating, as there had been large numbers of swallows around during the day, and the evening pied / white wagtail roost in the reed bed had had well over fifty birds in attendance over the previous week.

The total of 18 swallows and 11 pied / white wagtails reflected these limitations. We did manage to capture a further 41 swallows during daytime mist netting (along with a sand martin and the house martins), which was some consolation.

Wader Dazzling

The tides were particularly challenging for dazzling, as low tide coincided with dusk, meaning that high tide (when birds are typically most easily captured) was between 00:30 and 02:30 during the course. As it also takes well over an hour to get to the better catching areas (a 45 minute walk preceded by a 25 minute drive) at Whiteford, we took a view that trying to catch waders on the rising tide (as opposed to at high tide) was the best option (as there was also an early start needed for mist netting). We ran one session (as opposed to the two in recent years), on Friday 6 September.

The dazzling session was led by Tony Cross, with an experienced support team of Gwynedd Roberts, Justin Walker and Wayne Morris (A Permit, Gower Ringing Group). The results were excellent, with seven dunlin, 13 turnstone, 11 ringed plover and a sanderling captured.

The technique was new to most people, as were some of the measurements taken (bill to skull, total head and tarsus length).

Spring Trapping

During the late morning of both the Saturday and the Sunday of the course, Wayne Morris and Martin Thomas (both Gower RG) set up spring traps and two shelf nets on the beach at Overton.

Martin rings large numbers of pipits, chats and other passerines using spring traps, and demonstrated his expertise to the participants (we took a sub group to site on both days) by catching two stonechats, a robin and nine rock pipits on the beach. The remainder of the thirteen new and two recaptured pipits were caught in the nets.

Logistics

For practical purposes the participants were split into two groups, with two separate canvas gazebos erected at Oxwich (allowing a degree of shelter from the wind and discrete areas in which to process the birds). The teams worked closely enough to each other to allow communication with regard to net rounds and ensure new species for participants could be shared out.

Accommodation was in the Guide Centre at Parkmill, approximately 4 miles from Oxwich. Excellent evening meals were provided at the centre by Phyllis Jamieson. Some of the team went to the Gower Inn (next door) following packing up in the evenings, and the bakery at the nearby Gower Heritage Centre for organic bread and cake.

Feedback and Thanks

Feedback on the course from participants was very positive. On attendee, Brian Milligan, wrote a very nice piece for the BTO Cymru blog (see LINK), and comments from other participants are below (appended to this post).

Thanks are due to all involved in the setting up and delivery of the course, but particularly to the helpers (Wayne Morris, Keith Vaughton, Paul Aubrey, Richard Dann, Martin Thomas, Joanne Conway, Alex McCubbin, Dionne Jenkins, Miguel Lurgi, Emma Cole and Kirsty Franklin) whose hard work, friendliness, and willingness to do anything needed contributed to a very good atmosphere and hopefully helped participants to relax. Thanks also to Val Wilson, who was unable to attend due to illness, but washed all of the Group’s bird bags during the week leading up to the course.

Thanks are also due to Nick Edwards of Natural Resources Wales for his continued support for ringing at Oxwich and Whiteford, to Mark Hipkin (National Trust) and Lynn Watts for facilitating parking at Whiteford and Overton respectively, and to the Gower Society for their grant funding of ringing on the marsh.

Photographs are below.

Owain Gabb

09/09/2019

 


 

A rock pipit at Overton, Gower (Richard Dann)
One of the thirteen turnstone at Whiteford Burrows
A sanderling. The only one of the course
Grey wagtails were a feature of the 2019 ringing course
A scruffy whitethroat (in main moult)
L-R: Alex McCubbin, Kirsty Franklin, Amy Sherwin, Amy Offland, Tony Cross, Naomi Davies, Lloyd Richards, Wayne Morris, Martin Thomas, Kelvin Jones, Heather Coats, Justin Walker, Stephen Vickers, Gwynedd Roberts, Andrew Smethurst, Sarxa Marcias Rodriguez, Brian Milligan, Martin Hughes, Jean Anderson, Dionne Jenkins, Owain Gabb.
Not present: Miguel Lurgi (taking photo), Keith Vaughton, Emma Cole, Paul Aubrey, Jo Conway, Richard Dann

Martin Thomas demonstrating spring trapping at the Girl Guides centre in Parkmill (photo: Wayne Morris).

 

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Stephen Vickers

Excellent course with really experienced and knowledgable trainers. Dazzling waders a real highlight for me. Everyone was kind and welcoming, and made a nice atmosphere for learning and feeling comfortable. Additional opportunities were made available to me so that I could be assessed for my permit upgrade one-to-one as well as part of a group.
Would highly recommend the course!

Naomi

Wonderful pictures and such a great course! Seven new birds in the hand for me, and I learnt a few new biometric methods too. Would 110% recommend this course to ringers of all experience levels.

Amy Offland

What a beautiful set of birds! Thank you to all the tutors and helpers for giving up your weekend to run the course. All your help and patience made it very enjoyable and informative. Everyone was friendly and I felt very welcome. Phyliss' cooking and the Gower gold ale topped off the experience nicely. Hope to see you soon again.