12 April 2014

Spring still springing

Another morning at Uskmouth, this time up the eastern end, another morning of migrants. Overhead, hirundine passage included one Sand Martin, 24 Swallow and three House Martin; and the best of the warblers was a Grasshopper Warbler, closely followed by four Lesser Whitethroat and ably supported by four Sedge Warbler, two Reed Warbler and three Willow Warbler.  Nothing, knock-yer-socks-off exciting though,... and no Cranes,... plastic or otherwise. 

11 April 2014

They've arrived

It was a morning of migrants, not paticularly rare migrants, but migrants.  A sun-bathed, barely breeze-tickled, Uskmouth produced a Whimbrel on the foreshore; one Cuckoo, 43 Sand Martin, eight Swallow, one House Martin, one Wheatear, five Sedge Warbler, ten Blackcap, 23 Chiffchaff, four Willow Warbler and seven Lesser Redpoll in, around and over the lagoons; and one Whitethroat which caught the ear as I exited the car-park and then took 30 minutes to actually show itself (skulky Whitethroat, whatever next!). 

PS. There were also a tonne of Cetti's Warblers,... oh, and another couple of Swallow graced the overhead wires near Nash.

It was like a duck pond out there today, oh wait, it was a duck pond out there today. A duck. A pond. Quack.

05 April 2014

One of the bestest ducks in the world

Skipping gracefully over the fact that we drove to the Baikal Teal, dipped the Baikal Teal, drove back,... and then heard the news that the Baikal Teal had been refound 17.5 miles NW of where we had been looking for the Baikal Teal,...

Oh! The things I've seen today! Red-legged Partridge, Egyptian Goose, Goldeneye, Comma, Willow Warbler, Brown Hare, Red Kite, Sand Martin,...

Bugger. All. Of. Note.

The most annoying thing is I really like Baikal Teal.  No, really, I do.

04 April 2014

Bulk-standard-run-of-the-mill patching

Bits and bobs, but no more, at Goldcliff this morning. The highlight was either the somnolent Spoonbill or a distant flock of c.30 Kittiwake-shaped white dots heading up-channel; and the supporting cast included two Bar-tailed Godwit, three Greenshank, 115 Black-tailed Godwit and a handful of Grey Plover.  Still quite a few winter wildfowl about with two Pintail, c.30 Wigeon and almost 70 Shoveler dotted around.  Very few passerine migrants though, just one singing Blackcap and three or four Chiffchaff. 

Nothing of note at Boat Lane bar the mighty Barney.  

29 March 2014

Scratching around

Have trawled round Magor Marsh, Ynys-y-fro Reservoirs and Uskmouth in search of migrants over the last few days,... very little doing.  The only new arrivals at Magor and Ynys-y-fro were a few Chiffchaffs; this morning, Uskmouth did a little better with Wheatear, Willow Warbler, 30+ Chiffchaff and a few flyover Meadow Pipit but the show was stolen by a slightly less well-travelled patch scarcity - Red-legged Partridge,... ooooosh!

On the butterfly front, more Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Brimstone today, still haven't seen Comma or Orange-tip this year

On the way back had a Red Kite flying down the by-pass at Risca.  Seems to have been a few wandering semi-locally today with reports from elsewhere in Gwent, Gloucestershire and Somerset popping up on Twitter. Joy.

25 March 2014

I went north,... and came back

Forgot to blog,... popped up to Lancashire last week: 1 definitely-wild-no-doubt-about-it Ross' Goose, 2 'Siberian Chiffchaff' (at least one of which had been singing, although not whilst I was present), a handful of bulk standard Chiffchaffs and sundry wildfowl, waders (including a fair bit of Curlew passage), mad March Brown Hares, etc., etc.

A Ross' Goose, phone-scoped in a breeze; having become bored of pottering around the UK with his Pink-footed chums, he's probably thinking about heading back to the Canadian tundra. He is definitely not considering going back and checking out the cage he jumped out of at some indiscernible point in the past,... because that definitely didn't happen.  Fully-winged, unringed and as cute as a button.

[Ross' Goose update from the WWT Martin Mere latest sightings page: "The ‘wild’ credentials of the Ross’s Goose took a blow when it followed it’s Mallard friends onto Swan Lake (opposite the restaurant) yesterday".  Oh dear.]

[PS. Ross' or Ross's? Vote now!] 

09 March 2014


Lots of invertebrates out and about, hordes (well mini-hordes) of Peacocks, Small Tortoiseshells and bumblebees today. 

Had the first two bumblebees in the garden on 23rd February this year, seemingly with one each of Bombus terrestris (rich/dark yellow bands and a buff tail) and B. lucorum agg. (pale yellow bands and a clean white tail) appearing on the heather.  Both were accompanied by mites, the B. terrestris queen being well and truly infested, yuck/ewww, or so you would think, although, according to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust (BCT) website:
"... most of the mite species that live with bumblebees are fairly harmless to them and are simply clinging to the bumblebee so that they can be transported to new nests. When in the nest, the mites usually feed upon the wax, pollen, nest debris, and other small insects, so do not feed on the bees."
So perhaps just meh.

 White-tailed Bumblebee B. lucorum agg. This 'species' is actually a complex of three cryptic species B. lucorum, B. cryptarum and B. magnus. The tricky little buggers. 

Buff-tailed Bumblebee B. terrestris

More on bumblebees on the BCT website here; at the Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society website here; and on the Natural History Museum website here.

19 February 2014


Went to Ynys-y-fro on Sunday, saw the Goldeneye, a Skylark flew over, waited three days, wrote a compelling blogpost about my experience.

19 January 2014

The king is dead! Long live the king!

 Haven't quite got the hang of this phonescoping malarky just yet,...

... that's got it.  Another nail in the coffin of the compact camera.

Two visits to Ynys-y-fro in two days.  I must be ailing for something. 

Day one.  The greyest of grey days.  One Goldeneye, an 11.1% increase in the Mute Swan population (from 9 to 10) and an all encompassing, penetrating moistness falling from the sky. 

Day two.  Much sunlight, vitamin D, high spirits.  The gentle descent to the reservoir is interrupted by a Merlin appearing from the direction of Fourteen Locks, briefly perching up and then heading NW.  Ynys-y-fro mega!  Then, as quickly as ornithological excitement appeared it evaporated.  One Goldeneye, the usual flotilla of Little Grebe and a 50+% drop in Pochard.  Yawn.  Home.  Luncheon.

12 January 2014

Urgh! Larid

Had a day out on the Gower on Friday.  A five hour larid focused vigil produced the putative Thayer's Gull, a large 'white-winger' (that seems to have been a huge Kumlien's Gull), 1-2 Mediterranean Gulls and a dose of Kittiwake (including a few heavily oiled birds).  Bobbing about in the background were 100s of distant Common Scoters, a few Red-throated Divers, Guillemot, Razorbill and Fulmar, and a Porpoise.

The putative Thayer's Gull; my guess is this bird could yet disappear into the pale Thayer's-Thayer's/Kumlien's intergrade-dark Kumlien's morass but a characteristic looking beast all the same. All images c/o Tom Chinnick.

We wrote this bird off as a Glaucous hybrid (somebody else reported it as pure Glaucous), didn't even consider Kumlien's, mainly due to size, it was chunkier than most of the Herrings on the beach, it also had quite an 'aggressive' looking head shape, quite coarse streaking at the sides of the neck/breast and a slightly odd bill.  Of course, on Saturday it appears this bird was reported as Kumlien's,... [Or maybe not, see comments below.]
... oh well, it's good to duff something every now and then. By the way, this was not the bird reported as Kumlien's on Friday.