The long weekend of 9-12 September 2022 saw the return of the Welsh Ringing Course.
We had had an enforced break in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, while in 2021 the lack of available accommodation and continued Covid-related restrictions meant we ran the equivalent of the ringing course predominantly for our own group members.
The 2022 course focussed on permit assessments. Of the 12 participants five were to be assessed for A permits, one for an additional Training (S) Permit, and two for adding mist net endorsements to their C Permits. The remainder of attendees came to get further experience, being either T or recent C Permit holders.
There were six ringing trainers present for the duration of the weekend: Martin Hughes (from Northumberland), Heather Coates, Wayne Morris and Owain Gabb (Gower Ringing Group), Chris Jones (Teifi Ringing Group) and Justin Walker of the BTO. Ed O’Connor led our wader-catching effort, while further site assistance was provided by Gower RG members Amy Schwartz, Alex McCubbin, Dionne Jenkins and Tom Wright.
The itinerary included daytime mist netting at Oxwich Marsh and High Pennard and dazzling waders at Whiteford Burrows. The tides were not quite right for spring trapping and mist netting on the upper shore at Overton, which is normally a component of the course.
The weather was relatively kind, and a total of 843 birds of 44 species were processed, despite very few birds being present in the reedbed. The breakdown was as follows:
|Great Spotted Woodpecker||1||1|
Daytime Mist Netting
Mist netting sessions were held at Oxwich on 10 – 12 September inclusive, and at High Pennard on 10 and 11 September. The nets were set in a variety of habitats including reed bed, fen, willow scrub and wet woodland at Oxwich, and in drier coastal blackthorn scrub and woodland edge at High Pennard.
While the bulk of the catch was at Oxwich, the individual sessions were relatively uneventful, with no notable species captured for the site and low numbers of migrants. Grey wagtail passage was evident, but we only mist netted one bird. A late tree pipit caught at the same time as a meadow pipit allowed a comparison of features in the hand, a garden warbler (mainly an August bird locally) and a few stonechats were ringed, along with well over 100 goldfinches and good numbers of siskin and greenfinch. At High Pennard the more unusual species for most people were marsh tit, nuthatch and a second garden warbler. Passage of blackcaps was evident at both sites.
We recorded a number of young goldfinches that had completed / were completing some moult of the flight feathers, resulting in the application of the F code.
Swallow and wagtail roost sessions were run on 10 and 11 September at Oxwich. Modest numbers of swallows were present, with catches of 59 and 61 respectively (a few more swallows were captured on emergence from roosts during early mornings), along with a couple of sand martins. A total of 5 pied / white wagtails were also captured.
One of the swallows had started main moult, with the inner primary of both wings in the process of being regrown. The bird will assumedly arrest its moult prior to migration, as main moult is typically completed on wintering grounds.
The combination of a spring high tide before / at dusk, along with a full moon, made catching difficult at Whiteford, and we only had good success on the Sunday night.
Wader capture was was led by Ed O’Connor, with Chris Jones, Wayne Morris, Justin Walker and Martin Hughes co-ordinating the processing of the birds on the respective nights. The results were excellent, with 76 dunlin, 3 curlew sandpiper, and singles of turnstone, ringed plover, sanderling, grey plover and bar-tailed godwit captured. The latter two species were new for the group. All birds captured were first winters.
The technique was new to many of the group, as were some of the measurements taken (such as bill to skull and total head).
Bags used to hold waders were only used once, and high standards of cleanliness were maintained around the ringing station (as they were at all other times during the course).
Species seen over the weekend included an osprey in the dead pines at Whiteford, grass snakes, lizards and a toad at Oxwich, goshawk, peregrine and numerous rush veneer moths (a migrant species).
Feedback on the weekend from attendees was very positive, and it was a very nice group to work with.
Particular thanks are due to the visiting trainers, Martin, Chris and Justin for giving their time, to Ed for his wader-catching expertise, and to the group helpers, all of whom helped ensure the course ran very smoothly.
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 (despite our not using the latter), and to the Gower Society for their grant funding of ringing on the marsh.
Photographs are below.