Sunday 27 August 2017

Fygyn ..... developing a new ringing site

Fygyn Common (bog) is one of 6 bogs in the Brechfa and Llanfynydd areas of Carmarthenshire situated between Carmarthen in the west and Llandeilo in the east. My interest all started in September 2014 when Carmarthen County Council were promoting a bog walk on Fygyn Common which is only 1.5 miles from where I live in Llanfynydd. Putting aside the interest of the bog, the learning about it's history, the importance of bogs in society today, the understanding of the special habitats and what actions were needed to conserve them for the future, I quickly became aware of the potential of a bird ringing site.
During the walk I managed to get the names and telephone numbers of key personnel and followed these up with meetings, emails and phone calls and got permission to work the site. The BTO were contacted who also gave me their approval. The first ringing session was in November 2014.

The map above indicates where the 6 bogs geographically are with their names. Fygyn Common being at the top of the map to the right. Recently the Carmarthen Bogs Project was initiated, funded from the Heritage Lottery Fund with other partners being Carmarthenshire County Council, National Botanic Garden of Wales, Swansea University and Dyfed Archaeological Trust. For further information on the project refer to

Although I am now a member of the Teifi Ringing Group (TRG) I still tend to ring here more than most, but I have been working with enthusiastic Trainees from the TRG who have recently been catching a good variety of Warblers, Swallows and Pipits.

Some of my net rides are situated in and among these bushes. They are not obviously seen  but many birds have been caught in them since I first started.

Most nets are 1.8m high and 40ft long with a 1metre high net tucked under the branches of a low tree. A recent addition is a 2.5m x 60ft net primarily used for Swallow Roosts, Winter Thrushes and Pipits, it has also done well for Warblers.

In 2015 and 2016 I caught only one Grasshopper Warbler each year. This year I have caught and processed 12 birds which is good by any standards 5 of these were adults and 7 juveniles. It suggests to me they have probably bred on the Common which in itself is exciting. The average weight of the 12 birds was 12.65 grams, the heaviest bird being 14.6gms and the lightest being 11.0gms. There were 2 birds in the 11.0gm range, they were healthy and I believe they hadn't been long out of the nest. On the BTO Birdfacts data page the average M/F is 14.0gms. A couple of the Teifi Ringing Group trainees who came to Fygyn Common had the benefit of processing one of these stunning birds.

There have been a large family of Stonechats about the Common, none have been caught but spring traps have been tried on numerous occasions with no success. Only 1 bird has been caught in previous years

Blackcaps have had a reasonable good season as well with 28 birds being processed to date and they are still about. In previous years there was 8 in 2014, 15 in 2015 and 13 in 2016 all being processed.

This Sedge Warbler is a mega bird for Fygyn Common The only bird ever caught there, which in all probability dropped in on migration but one can never say never.. The Common has no reed beds or reed mace at all and is 310m above sea level,  it is a peat bog with scrub grass and trees, so there is a possibility that the damp grassy land could provide suitable habitat.

Willow Warblers are getting more numerous, 30 birds this year. The first bird was caught in April being an adult.

In 2015 I caught and processed a male and female Tree Pipit caught side by side in my small net under the trees. Earlier this year in the spring I was showing Karen also a TRG member around my site. She has a "good ear" for bird sound and pointed out to me there were Tree Pipits singing away which I am now tuned into thanks to her. This year has produced 4 birds all juveniles with a fifth which flew out of the net as I approached.

Swallow roosts this year to date are at 197 in one 60ft net. The adult swallow above was caught in daylight.

The conservation status of a Willow tit is a Red alert. There have been 11 new birds caught this year all being juveniles. Retraps with birds from this year and previous years amounts to 18, out of these there were 11 adults. Like many birds this year numbers are improving. If numbers keep improving there may be the opportunity of a RAS, plenty of adult re-traps would provide excellent stats for it.

The Redstart in another bird that shows up infrequently, only one previously a juvenile from that year. This bird is a juvenile male.

The tail feather of the Redstart with stress marks in a line across the tail. Probably as a result of food shortage at sometime whilst it was in the nest.

Only last week I caught 3 x Meadow Pipits. This is the time of year when they start to show, so I am hoping for more in future sessions. All of the trainees who came to the site last year processed at least one Meadow Pipit.

Another bird that has surprised me this year, the Whitethroat. In 2015 3 birds were caught and processed, this year the number has escalated to 19 birds, 3 adults and 16 juveniles

The average weight of the 19 birds was 13.20 grams, the heaviest bird being 14.4gms and the lightest being 11.9gms. As in the Grasshopper Warbler there were 2 birds in the lower weight range, they were healthy and I believe they hadn't been long out of the nest. On the BTO Birdfacts data page the average M/F is 16.0gms. It would appear they have had a successful breeding season on the Common this year.
One bird a juvenile ringed by me on 23/07/2017 on ring number S574406 has been recaptured 21 days later on 13/08/2017 at a distance of 351 km away by the Rye Bay Ringing Group in Sussex. The bird when ringed by me was 13.3g and when it was caught in Sussex it weighed a very healthy 15.6gms. A great Control!

Since 2014 there have been 1697 birds captured, 1395 were new birds and 302 re-traps. Most of the time I have been a single ringer but since I became a member of the Teifi ringing Group last year it has proved to an excellent site for Trainees to develop their skills. This is because it is not a site where 100 bird catches are regular, it is a site where about 35 to 40 birds are the norm. The advantages of this are more time can be spent looking at each bird. Other advantages are the diversity of species which are currently at 40 different birds, many of which are birds that are not regularly caught on the Teifi Marsh and other group sites in and around Cardigan. So for a Trainee it helps to increase their species numbers as well as understanding ageing and sexing of birds at different times of the year.

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