After a couple of very wet and windy days which were looking at putting this weekends planned ringing session in doubt, the skies cleared, wind dropped and so it was off to Farlington Marshes for another wader ringing session. The forecast was for the temperature to drop below freezing, so we opted to set out nets on the stream and ring birds in the relative comfort of the shelter, and as it turned out it was a wise choice since there were very few birds on the main lake and it got very cold late on.
Our first bird was captured just as we were walking away having set the nets....a first winter Grey Plover. I cannot actually remember the last time I had handled this species, so we set about ageing it.
|Juvenile Grey Plover|
In the field it is very easy to age this species since gold spotting is present on juvenile/first winter feathers, and these are often present until mid winter. This bird was a classic first winter with gold spots present in the inner medium coverts, scapulars and throughout the mantle.
|Gold Spotted Juvenile Feathers|
In the autumn juvenile Grey Plovers can easily be misidentified as Golden Plovers due to the gold spotted plumage, but the presence of black axillaries on the underwing will confirm the species since these are lacking on Golden Plovers.
|Grey Plover Underwing Showing Black Axillaries|
We were very excited to have captured three Curlew on our previous ringing session as this is quite a rare event at the marsh, so to find another in the net on the first net round filled us with eager anticipation. But as it turned out this was the only Curlew of the night.
This bird proved to be a juvenile based on the presence of both adult and juvenile feathers within the wing, in addition the primaries were worn and pointed.
|Juvenile Curlew Wing|
Once again Dunlin proved to be the most numerous species with a 50/50 split of adults and first winters captured. The first winter birds were still relatively straight forward to age, due to the buff fringing to the flight feathers.
|Juvenile Dunlin Wing|
Whereas the adult birds lack the buff fringing, instead having brownish grey coverts with white fringing, although interestingly one of the adult birds captured had retained some summer plumage feathers within the mantle.
|Adult (upper) and Juvenile (lower) Dunlin Wings|
In total we captured 21 birds, which included single Grey Plover, Redshank and Curlew and 18 Dunlin. The Redshank was a retrap adult bird, whilst all the other birds were new. Given that the high tide was not a particularly high one, and therefore many islands in the harbour were not completely covered, we thought this was a very respectable result.