29 September 2008

The Animals wrote a song about Gwent

A dawn raid on Uskmouth produced Tree Pipit, 26 Siskin, 15 Snipe and a couple of Tawny Owls but nothing too exciting. Not long after I returned home this month's British Birds flopped onto the mat, complete with the 2007 rarity report. Gwent really has outdone itself in this one; not a single mention until the, now traditional, annual rejection of the, now traditional, annual 'Baird's Sandpiper at Goldcliff' report. The only ray of sunshine was Nathan's name all over the Hayle Estuary White-billed Diver record, the obvious moral of the story being - get in your car, drive a long way away then, and only then, start looking for rare birds.

Don't know about you, but I'm off to Norfolk.

27 September 2008

Onde está o pássaro raro?

Another morning at Uskmouth in an attempt to find Gwent's portion of this week's feast of eastern vagrants. It didn't happen, in fact, it never even felt like it might. If anything, the numbers of migrants were down on last week; only Siskin and Mipit were going over with any great regularity interspersed with the odd Skylark, Pied and Grey Wag, Song Thrush and Redpoll. On the deck a few Blackcap, Chiff and Goldcrest did their level best to keep the interest going but could I find a Yellow-browed, could I bog-roll.

PS. I'm working my Portuguese, the Azores beckon.

26 September 2008

He is never wrong

Click on the picture to learn of tomorrow's news today,...

24 September 2008

Goldcliff Lagoons

The usual range of waders were present including a Ruff with the most pronounced limp I have ever seen, it may well have been putting it on for effect. Strangely, over the afternoon high tide, the bulk of the waders preferred the back lagoon (complete with adjacent large blue tractor) as opposed to the shallow area near the third platform.

23 September 2008

CALM on down

Today's storming of the Senedd went terribly well, about 200 turned up to wear yellow T-shirts and politely voice their concern over the plan to totally bugger the levels with another phenomenally expensive road scheme which, like the Newbury bypass, will fill with traffic at twice the rate the traffic consultants predict. Unfortunately, that part of Crudiff's stagnant lake nearest the Welsh Assembly proved devoid of interesting birds. Presumably this explains the small number of local birders present, I'd hope for a better ornithological turnout next time, if nothing else, you might get to be on BBC Wales for half of one whole British second just like me.

This happened too,...

Me: Hello
Grumpy Policeman with camera: Er,... yes?
Me: Do you mind if I take your picture?
Grumpy Policeman with camera: What for?
Me: The irony
Grumpy Policeman with camera: Eh?
Me: You know 'the irony', you come here to take pictures of people exercising their right to protest, and you end up getting photographed; that, and to fill space on my blog.
Grumpy Policeman with camera: Sounds a bit 'sad' to me
Me: Eh? Sad? This is real life comedy gold
Grumpy Policeman with camera: Well I can't stop you,... but you'll have to do it from down there in the crowd
Me: No, I mean I'll stand there [pointing to spot two metres in front of him] and take your picture
Grumpy Policeman with camera: No,... I ain't posing for you
Me: Oh, well that is disappointing,... and you such a well turned out chap.

At this point, dear reader, I'm afraid I left empty handed and can't show you a photo of the less than laughing policeman; perhaps, when I get a moment, I'll draw you a picture. I hope he took my picture, it would be doubly disappointing if neither of us graced a digital chip today.

PS. When I asked the two Community Officers nearby whether he was always grumpy, they seemed to think he was.

21 September 2008

A Nutha

Forgot to mention, yesterday produced a second patch-tick, almost as exciting as the Wryneck,... Nuthatch, a levels mega! It didn't hang around mind, only showing once as it flew straight over my head at the rear of a tit flock. The moment was made even more magical as, whilst passing by, it briefly fanned its tail, showing off its exquisitely patterned rectrices to all and sundry. Enough to make one's waxiest of wax as lyrically lyrical as can be.


20 September 2008

At long bloody last

Finally, a Wryneck in Gwent and, even better than that sir, on my patch. First found this morning just east of the lighthouse, this afternoon it was covering a fair bit of ground to the west. In between being flushed by cyclists, semi-naked octogenarians (replete with wrinkly old man baps), blackberry pickers, picnic laden dudes, lead-lacking dog-walkers and screaming kids, the bird attempted to feed either side of the path along the sea-wall. The RSPB have turned Uskmouth into a f**king bad joke, quite how they get away with attracting thousands of people down there and yet fail to control (or even monitor) the disturbance is beyond me.

A Wryneck just before being flushed by a fat ignorant bloke, his long-suffering wife, five kids and a yapping dog minus a lead.

19 September 2008

Brent Invasion

The Pale-bellied Brent flock was off Uskmouth this evening, 25 birds including at least 15 youngsters. At Goldcliff the waders are still congregating off the third platform providing pretty good views. Just after dark, whilst trying to bag a few wader calls on 'tape' (well compact flash card actually, but anyhoo...), we had a close encounter with one of two Tawny Owls knocking around as it landed on the fence post about five yards in front of the platform.

Five young 'uns and an adult from among the unprecedented (in Gwentish terms) Pale-bellied Brent flock.

18 September 2008

Still looking

An evening on the levels produced a few common migrants at Magor Marsh, a good number and variety of passage waders at Goldcliff, and hundreds of Swallows heading west at both sites. No sign of a Great White Egret though, does the bird at Ynys-hir have colour-rings I wonder?

17 September 2008

Party time!

Yesterday, we had a 'No Wrynecks, No Worries!' party, it was great. We had fizzy pop, cheese and pineapple chunks on sticks, tortillas and dips, butterfly cakes (two flavours!) and a Smarties cake,... everyone ate until they puked. I'm now looking forward to this autumn's 'No Bluethroats, No Worries!' party, this winter's 'No Little Auks, No Worries!' party and next spring's 'No Golden Orioles/Hoopoes, No Worries!' party (theme yet to be decided). If you would like an invite to future shindigs celebrating Gwent's freedom from sub-rares, or my recipe for butterfly cakes, leave a comment below.

14 September 2008

Egret schmegret

Spent the morning down Saltmarsh Lane, overhead vis mig included much the same species as yesterday although in notably smaller numbers; bizarrely I shunned the Great White Egret in favour of finding my own Whinchat and Hobby, that'll be madness setting in then.

13 September 2008

Any rare would do

A morning at Uskmouth was followed by brief stops at Saltmarsh and Goldcliff. A trickle of flyover migrants consisted of a few Skylark, Yellow Wag, Grey Wag, Tree Pipit and Siskin accompanied by a stream of hirundines (mostly Swallow and House Martin). On the deck Chiffs were dotted about all over the shop but the only 'quality' was a single Spotted Fly and a couple of Wheatear.

Got home and realised there was a decent number of Honey Buzzard filtering down the east coast; ever the optimist I 'sky-watched' for an hour but, apart from a Hobby (garden-tick) and an impressive number of hirundines, there was little to stop me from falling asleep,... so I did.

PS. Wrynecks still appear to be doing the decent thing and avoiding Gwent like the plague, clever little beasties.
PPS. For the really significant news of the day (and a hilarious facial expression courtesy of Robbie 'yet to convince' Keane) click here.

11 September 2008

And now for something completely different

One of the above is an intelligent, well-travelled, award winning author and co-creator of one of the 20th century's greatest satires. He also has a degree in modern history from Oxford and would probably accept the earth is approximately 4.5 billion years old. The other opposes both abortion and teaching sex education but supports capital punishment, teaching creationism and the right to carry handguns. She also promotes oil and gas extraction in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, opposes listing polar bears as an endangered species (due to the fact it would adversely affect energy development) but does support aerial hunting of wolves. Finally, she chaired the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission from 2003 to 2004 and believes the world is approximately 6,000 years old.

How could siblings come to be so different?

10 September 2008

Jinxed not jynxed

As Wrynecks continue to rain down on every other county in the UK, Gwent remains stubbornly at two with Scandinavian sub-rares. A brief, post-work, visit to the storm-tossed inland seas of Llareggub also failed to conjure up a Grey Phalarope. Actually, it failed to produce anything of real note.

The tumultuous scene at the hurricane-lashed reservoir (it's a pity I don't live in Alaska or I could have snuck in 'williwaw-whipped' at this point. Note to self: must move to Lipstick-pig Land to further my use of blog-based aeolian alliteration).

The slightly contrasting, limpid waters of Green Pool, so called because it is a pool and it is green, can you see what they did there?

07 September 2008

Quiet but dry

A morning at Uskmouth and and quick stop at Saltmarsh Lane proved to be a pretty quiet affair. A few migrants were passing over (most going west) but nothing to rival yesterday. The highlights were probably 35 Siskin, 2 Tree Pipits and 10 Yellow Wags, if you think that was dull there was even less in the scrub, reeds and hedgerows.

Found this pic of Wales Atlantis to post (I meant to stick it up a couple of days ago), it gives you some idea as to why I got saturated whilst taking the dog down the canal on Friday evening. Did get a Kingfisher and a possible Otter kill though (an unidentified dead mammal, turned inside out, floating mid-stream).

06 September 2008

It's kicking off Pru!

Despite not getting out till 09:30, due to another woefully inaccurate weather forecast, I ended up having one of my better mornings birding in Gwentcestershire today. High-tide at Goldcliff was, due to the high water levels, predictably slow until a 1st-year Osprey flopped in from the NW and out to the NE. The only other semi-notables were one Barwit, three Yellow Wag and a Swift.

Then came the news that a Long-tailed Skua had flown down channel off Slimbridge - to the point! Get to the point! Well, two Ringed Plovers, one Knot, one torrential downpour and half an hour later and we were ready to leave. Indeed, we had just started clambering back along the sea-wall when,... more news, the skua had just passed New Passage. Back the sodden sods shuffled to slump expectantly on the sea-wall.

A minute passed, mostly filled with an attempt to remove water from optics,... another minute passed, water/eye-piece battle raged on,... another minute came and went only to be followed,... by another, then quite unexpectedly a minute passed, then another and, hot on the heels of the last, another almost identical to the one before. Then, whilst a few large gulls fannied about on the water, another minute came and, at exactly the same pace, went, only to be followed by two more at a slightly faster rate (which was odd because, by now, my mind was wandering to the moistness of my jeans, the increasing difficulty of finding a dry section of T-shirt with which to dry my scope, and the increasingly pressing need to take a pee). Then, out of the murk to our left, flew a vision of elegance and lithe-loveliness in the form of a juvenile Long-tailed Skua - Gwent-tick! Kerr-ching!

PS. Also had juv Arctic and Common Tern at Goldcliff on the way back but I didn't want to undercut the dramatic ending penned above,... oops.

05 September 2008

Brittle bins syndrome

Are today's hyper-lightweight, magnesium alloy bins getting easier to knock out of alignment or am I treating 'em too rough? The view through mine at the mo is squiffy to say the least, good timing though, thank little baby Jeebus it didn't happen at the start of the rarity season,... wait a minute!

04 September 2008

Adolescent dog

Seemingly Jack is passing through an adolescent phase; he shows off all the time, can't stay put for longer than five minutes, rollercoaster emotions, etc., etc. Today he was seeking attention by means of a series of impressions; first he did the postman, then his agility/obedience tutor, then several comedians/satirists culminating in a sequence incorporating all the regular members (past and present) of the 'I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue' team. I tried to ignore him but it was rather good.

02 September 2008

A sight for sore eyes

It would appear that, after a hard day worrying about crucified frogs and the son of God’s stiffy, Pope Benedict XVI likes to relax with a spot of eye-ball juggling.