Thursday 31 August 2017

Bluethroat in the reed bed

A Bluethroat was ringed on the Teifi Marsh this morning...

We have been ringing during spring and autumn migration in the reed bed next to Mallard hide on the Teifi Marsh for 8 years. I have lost count of the number of times over the years that we have looked at the muddy edges and discussed how good it looked for a Bluethroat. Even today as we walked along the track pre dawn it was a species mentioned as a possible September species. Finally this turned up in a net on the edge of the reeds adjacent to the main path through the reserve to finish August with a special bird.

(Thanks to Tristian for this photo)

Only the 3rd record of Bluethroat for Ceredigion.
This is the same part of the Teifi Marsh in which we caught 2 Aquatic Warblers in 2010.

Migration is slowing down and August has passed without a big Sedge Warbler day which we have seen in some previous years. In the Mallard nets, 83 Sedge Warblers have been ringed compared to the bumper year 2011 when we ringed 322 with similar effort.
More details of autumn migration totals in the next blog.

News of a recovery of a Cetti's Warbler ringed Teifi Marsh 22nd November 2014 and caught by Northants Ringing Group last week on the 25th August, 1007 days, 255km.
This is the first recovery of one of our Cetti's Warblers but we have had 2 controls, one from Llangorse Lake near Brecon and one ringed at Farlington Marsh, Hampshire.

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.

Monday 14 August 2017

CES 11 and group activities from marsh to moor

CES 11 was completed on Sunday with a very autumnal feeling start to the day. Thick mist, glistening cobwebs and many Blackberries ready. It felt a quiet day with just 51 birds (36 new) but on checking previous years it was in fact average, the average over 7 years being 48.
Species highlights were 8 Blackcaps, a Garden Warbler, Common Whitethroat and a juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker.
Only 7 Great Spotted Woodpeckers have been caught at CES and this was the first since 2013

With more woodland nearby, our other sites do better and the group have ringed 96 since 2009.

What has become apparent at our CES site this year is the large number of Blackbirds being caught. A total of 73 so far this year at CES with one session still to go, more than double any year previously. Historically the annual totals from 2009 on have been  34, 30, 28, 17, 17, 21, 25, with only 7 last year. We are wondering if others have noticed the same trend.

At the same time as CES, the group ran 3 other sites including Goodwick Moor where Karen had her highest total of birds since starting to ring there this year. 41 birds of 10 species including 4 juvenile Cetti's Warblers and 13 Sedge Warblers. We have recently been sent some historic ringing data from by Ian Spence when he used to ring there in the late 70's early 80's. It is going to be interesting to see the difference in species in over 30 years. Many thanks Ian.

Other ringing since the last blog has been mainly in the reed bed on the Teifi Marsh targeting migrant acros on their way South. One unusual species this week was a juvenile Moorhen, the first since this adult in 2011.

A Swallow roost one evening enabled a potential new trainee to experience the marsh at its best with the sun setting over Mallard pond as a couple of hundred Swallows fly low overhead before roosting.

Charlie Sargent has been ringing a wide variety of species on his moorland site, Fygyn Common, in Carmarthenshire. Trainees have gained experience of species that we struggle to catch on the Teifi Marsh like Tree Pipit and Willow Tit. A blog from Charlie soon about his activities.

Speedy news from the BTO of a control and recovery of birds only caught in the last week.
The first is an example of movement in Juvenile Reed and Sedge Warblers that we often see. Young birds head in a different direction to what might be expected before starting their migration south to wintering grounds.
Sedge Warbler X730320 was ringed in Dorset at Squires Down on 5th August 2017.  5 days and 200km later it was caught on the Teifi Marsh on 10th August.

Adult Sedge Warbler S160811 ringed by us on 30th April 2016 on the Teifi Marsh was caught at Oxwich Marsh by Gower Ringing Group on 13th August. 470 days 65km

Friday 4 August 2017

Faithful to the Irish Sea - a stormie

We wrote on  the 12th July 2012...

Mwnt is now established as our migration ringing site for  Northern and "Greenland" Wheatears, but last night the target was Storm Petrels to start providing more information about the birds in this part of the Irish Sea. It would be interesting to establish if these are passage birds, or are they on feeding trips from their breeding colonies on the Pembrokeshire Islands.

Well, we are no further in answering the question...

Caught in the first month of Storm Petrel ringing at Mwnt one of our birds shows interesting movements around the Irish Sea. A likely faithfulness to this area of sea......and surely could be a breeding bird by 2017.

If a breeding bird on feeding trips, where is it from....
Here is an up to date summary provided by staff as appropriate to each "local" colony. (exc Eire)
The figures are for AOS - adults on site.

Pembrokeshire colonies;-
Skokholm 2000+  - the largest colony.
Skomer 220
Bishops and Clerks...163

Bardsey .....175 pairs
IOM ....20 pairs - ? (not from island staff)

We have captured 38 new Stormies this year, and with 2 retraps we hope to add to the picture..
Tracking of birds would assist, and we are aware of the difficulties in tracking Storm Petrels.