28 December 2006

Third site lucky

Having failed to see Lesser Pecker at Silent Valley and Red Kite at Garnlydan, I was finally repaid for seven and a half hours of effort by a gorgeous male Hen Harrier hunting over Waunafon Bog. Another 'regular' species bites the dust, 179 species have now been accrued (just one more and I'll be happy, not ecstatic, but happy).

27 December 2006

Q. Why do ducks float?

A. Because they're all plastic... but you gotta go and see 'em, just in case.

26 December 2006

Dark-bellied Brent Goose in the dark

Spent the best part of the day at Caldicot Moor and Collister/West Pill, whilst looking for the reported Brents and Grey Partridges found: two Jack Snipe, two Red-legged Partridge, six Golden Plover, one Bar-tailed Godwit and a Stoat. Just before dark two Dark-bellied Brents appeared on the mudflats,... kerr-ching 178. And, in case you were wondering, this is what a Dark-bellied Brent in the dark looks like...

24 December 2006

Desperate measures

OK, desperate measures are required. Today the local patch failed miserably to produce the slightest whiff of a year-tick, therefore, I need recent Gwent gen on: Grey Partridge, Red Kite, Hen Harrier, Barn Owl, Long-eared Owl, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and Black Redstart. If you have any recent sightings or suggestions (NOT breeding locations, please don't put breeding sites of Schedule 1 species on a website) please click on 'comment' below and leave me some year-list enhancing information. Cheers all,... now don't fall over each other in the rush.

23 December 2006

Two more

Finally! Wentwood produced Marsh Tit and Crossbill today, filling a couple of glaring gaps in the list. Unfortunately, the Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers at Goytre House Wood did not see fit to behave accordingly and a couple of numptee shotgun bearers f**ked up any chance of a recount of the Bewick's at Llangibby. Oh well, 177 in the bag, one week to go.

22 December 2006

A bit of a grip back

Come late March I thought I'd blown Bewick's for the year, made all the worse when a couple of belated records came out of the woodwork. Luckily they have returned early this winter and despite fog, distance, hedgerows and fading light, I saw at least nine amongst the Mute herd in Llangibby Bottom this afternoon... sweet.

21 December 2006

All change

Whoa! Don't worry, basically only the formatting has changed... as you were.

09 December 2006

All gone

Two Bonxies off Goldcliff Point were all that remained of this week's seabird action; the Black Redstart and Brent Goose reported in the week had also disappeared, arse! Did get cracking views of a female Merlin though...

03 December 2006

A tad windy

An overnight blow had me touring the local reservoirs either side of lunch, and produced absolutely diddly-squat. However, whilst I stood overlooking the dam at Llandegfedd, a chirpy sounding county recorder informed me he was watching a Leach's Petrel off Goldcliff. Some swearing, 30 whole British minutes and a few speeding violations later... and I was partaking of half a dozen Leach's, about a dozen Kittiwakes and a Bonxie, and the year-list had leapt to 174. I believe the exact quote was "Woohoo!" or something to that effect.

26 November 2006


Three new species of wildfowl today! Unfortunately, due to the wonderful array of species kept (at least until allowed to escape) in captivity nowadays, all lurk under the 'Cloud of unknown origin'. A smart male Mandarin on the Monmouth-Brecon Canal was fully-winged and quite skittish and goes straight on the list as category C (somebody check its legs for rings mind). The Whooper Swan at the Newport Wetlands is also on the list, though it will come straight back off if the bleedin' thing summers on the reserve. Finally, I'm umming and arring over the status of Barnacle Goose in the county. One or two notable members of the Gwent birding glitterati suggest they all derive from the category E birds in Cardiff but what if one or two are from the category C birds at Slimbridge/Frampton? Not on the list at present, but who knows how desperate I'll get come December 31st.

13 November 2006

She's back

Got a tip-off of an interesting Aythya at Ynysfro yesterday, as a result my lunch-break consisted of eating crisps on the dam. The bird in question was still present and, after a 10 minute snooze, awoke to allow a few snaps to be grabbed. Having perused the pics it would appear to be the same individual that was at Uskmouth, Goldcliff and Slimbridge(?) last winter/spring (see entries for 5th March and 6th May). Structure and bare parts point to Pochard whilst overall darkness and tone to the plumage, particularly now it is definitely not a 1st-winter, suggest Tufted Duck (or maybe Fudge Duck?). I'm still opting for 'mostly Pochard', once again, Gwent produces another avian gem.

11 November 2006

That's more like it

An Atlantic alcid, the perfect pick-me-up for those suffering from post-hols depression, drooping dampness of the spirits, dismal blue devil doldrums and dejected disconsolate despondency. What might prove even more amusing is any forthcoming tale of how the bird was found, temporarily duffed and finally identified, next month's Birding World (?),... can't wait.


02 November 2006

Oh well, back to the shit

Due to predicted northerlies (and the possibility of flights being cancelled) we cut the end of our stay on Corvo short. Peter and I had a flyover Bobolink on Monday but, beyond that, the end of our trip was all a bit of a rush to get off. Terceira produced 3 Ring-necked Duck, 1 Night Heron, 3 White-rumps and 1 Lesser Legs but it was, to say the least, a bit 'after the Lord Mayor's show'. Back in shitsville now planning the next trip away.

30 October 2006

Christ on a bike

Today it happened as follows: Yellowthroat in the bean fields, Chimney Swift over the bean fields, American Barn Swallow over the bean fields, Indigo Bunting in the bean fields, Chimney Swift over the village whilst having a quick coffee, probable (requiring a quick lit. check to confirm) Trinidade Petrel off the west end of the airport (two very close views of a dark-morph for me and Pete, four other observers had one view and three missed out), Semi-P Plover on the airfield and Pied-billed Grebe on the road in the village. "Anything anywhere" is rapidly becoming the saying out here. I also missed a few of the long-stayers and a flyover possible Least Bittern.

It is all too much...

TRINIDADE PETREL, for f**ks sake!

28 October 2006


A stonking male Black-throated Blue was turned up by Fred today and, following a little effort to refind the female of a few days ago, I can now claim to be the first (and at present) only birder to have seen a male and a female on the same day in the WP. Not the worst claim to fame.

27 October 2006

One man down, another on his way

Duncan left today, although he did have time to find a Killdeer first. Peter did not leave today but did get diagnosed as having bronchitis... the team is mortally wounded.

26 October 2006

Finding them all... FINDING THEM ******* ALL

Peter Alfrey and myself just found a second for the Western Pal, and unblocked a 50 year wait in Europe - SUMMER BLOODY TANAGER - PULL THAT OUT OF THE FUCKING ONION BAG!!
Four and a half hours later everyone on the island had seen it.

Whilst awaiting the other birders on here I picked out a flyover Yellow-rumped Warbler (ziiit), luckily it ditched (briefly) and three of us got on it.

Must dash, more fields to bash.

Seeing them all... SEEING THEM ******* ALL

1 Black-throated Blue, 2 Yellow-rumped, 2 RB Grosbeaks, 1 Red-eyed Vireo, 2 Yankee Swallows...

22 October 2006

Ola ladies

Morning all, sunny Corvo calling, just a quick update. The real fun has begun: 2 yankee barn swallows, 1 yellow-rumped warbler, 15 black ducks/hybrids, 1 'greenland' redpoll, 1 lap bunt, 4 snow bunts, 3 more white-rumps, another semi-p plover, a flyby probable spot sand and cory's sat on the roads at night... like a pig in shit is the phrase that springs to mind.

More (pics, etc.) to follow...

19 October 2006

First-up: Terciera

A full day on Terceira was spent touring round the wetlands. Cabo provided the best entertainment although a flyover Great White Egret (probably a yank) near Porto Oceanio wasn't too bad either. The yanks at Cabo included: 1 Semi-P Plover, 2 Spotted Sands, 2 Lesser Legs and 9 White-rumps.

17 September 2006


Wilst I was putting in the hours at Llandegfedd, Uskmouth and Goldcliff today (dipping Common Scoter and seeing naff all); the girlfriend, whilst out shopping, was bagging Red Kite (something I am yet to do this year). Once again, the ornithological Gods show what a shabby lot they are. Didn't manage a single year-tick today, however, I did see the leucistic Lapwing for the first time in 2006 (whoop-dee-doo).

14 September 2006

Chlidonias Invasion

The number of Black Terns being reported on Birdguides today was pretty impressive. A quick evening visit to Llandegfedd Reservoir proved the invasion had made it to Gwent, seven fed along with a single Common Tern out from the fisherman's car-park (albeit quite a way out as the water level is pretty low).

11 September 2006

Mr Schminky

The passage waders at Goldcliff have been missing their transatlantic mate for the last couple of days. However, one of the pools still looks good for attracting in something interesting. Whilst on the platform today a certain Mr Schminky put in an appearance, I guess we won't be seeing Water Voles at the reserve for a wee while yet. A quick, Icky induced, hedgerow bash at Uskmouth produced a Gropper and a half decent warbler/tit flock.

09 September 2006

More looks

The obvious, never-doubted, "what else could it be" Semipalmated Sandpiper showed again at Goldcliff today before being flushed over the sea-wall by a passing Marsh Harrier (one of two that appeared mid-morning). The Semi-P and acccompanying Little Stints and Curlew Sandpipers (all bagged during the week) have now dragged my total up to a mighty 167.

08 September 2006

A real doozy

The sandpiper/stint reappeared early this morning, during the day I have oscillated between Semi-P and incredibly dull Little Stint. At this precise moment, given the variability in the appearance of the scap patterning in pics of Semi-P Sands, I'm back in the Semi-P camp. Thank God I don't have to make any important decisions in life (that's what girlfriends are for). Anyway here are some pics from this morning, the light was pretty warm producing a bit of a colour cast on the shots.

06 September 2006

A real rarity

You could tell it was a real rarity cos it turned up late, was watched in the gathering gloom and buggered off in short time - Semi-palmated Sandpiper on my Gwent year-list. The following horrendous pic does little to support the identification, but somewhere in there is a small billed, stint-sized wader lacking rufous tones in the upperparts. One ever-so-slightly interesting thing was that the mantle appeared darker when the bird was roosting, as opposed to when it was running around, presumably it was slightly fluffed up causing the dark centres to become more obvious but who knows.

03 September 2006

Skootie Alan

Two Arctic Skuas in five minutes were just reward during an, otherwise barren, three hour channel-watch at Goldcliff Point. Elsewhere the two Spotshanks were still at the pools along with a Ruff.

26 August 2006

Goldcliff again

A trip to the pools for the reported Wood Sand also produced a smart juv Marsh Harrier - very nice. The supporting cast included Spotshanks, Ruff, Yellow Wag and Wheatear; at last, birds are on the move again. Down at Uskmouth the main interest came in the form of at least 20 Clouded Yellow butterflies, the only bird of note being another Yellow Wag.

Having totted up my total, something I haven't done of late, it would appear I have reached 163. Given some of the species still required, 175 is still well in the frame.

20 August 2006


Another wader falls; three Spotted Redshanks at Goldcliff this afternoon, unfortunately not accompanied by Wood Sand, Curlew Sand, Little Stint or any Yankee vagrants.

15 August 2006

Back in the game!

Far too much work and not enough play recently. But today I'm back in the game with a bang, well at least a pop...

Or two! The Aquatic Warbler at Uskmouth (ringed,... released,... evaporated...) is Gwent's 11th and the Red-necked Phalarope is only the 4th county record. I think I can confidently say, I'm the first person to have bagged both in a day in Gwent (not the greatest of claims, but that's what birding in Gwent does to you).

19 July 2006

And one more

A quick stop at Goldcliff produced four Greenshank and filled a yawning gap on the list. One or two summer migrants are proving a bit of a struggle though, anyone know the whereabouts of a Gwent-based Turtle Dove?

15 July 2006


Another dilemma has arisen, do I cave in and count 'heards'? I'm certainly not going to see this one, perhaps I should keep two year-lists? The ethics of modern birding eh?

The total is now either 154 or 155, or possibly 154 (+1)...

13 July 2006

Sloppy seconds

Another post-work trip to see the Sabine's resulted in rather good views. The bird would appear to be a second-summer (e.g. dull bill-tip and dull, imperfect hood) and is similar to the Farmoor bird pictured in plates 769 and 770 in Gulls of Europe, Asia and North America (Malling Olsen & Larsson 2003).

12 July 2006

Another tasty seabird

Two days working out of county and the place goes nuts, first an American Wigeon turns up at Goldcliff only to be followed by a Sabine's Gull at Llandegfedd Reservoir. A mad dash back from Dorset resulted in views of the gull roosting amongst Black-headed Gulls and then briefly flying after being momentarily flushed by a BLUFO (best left unidentified flapping ornithologist). Once again, conditions were perfect for photography (see below). Also bagged a noisy Tawny Owl fledgling back at the car. The total is now 154, American Wigeon next?

09 July 2006


Two hours of pre-World Cup final seawatching produced 16 Storm Petrels battling their way down-channel, most were pretty close in and a few lingered offshore, so good views were had by all (well, the two of us anyway). They were even near enough to attempt high quality photography (see below), at least until my battery failed, at which point I realised my missus had pinched my spare ... aaaaarrrgh!

08 July 2006

Patience, the cornerstone of a good innings

Content to build my Gwent year-list in ones and twos, I again nudged a quick single this morning (in the form of a Hobby at Uskmouth) before battening down the hatches and playing a perfectly straight bat to this afternoon's googly (a reported Long-billed Dowitcher at Goldcliff). It was good to see the slow build-up of passage waders continues at Goldcliff though, including a single, rather showy snipe, feeding with the Redshank on the first lagoon (see pic below).

Addendum: was I being too subtle? Yes, I do think there may have been a slight identification faux pas relating to the Long-billed Snipewitcher, probably involving a brief view and poor light conditions. It happens to us all at some point... my personal best is flying fish for Little Shearwater (not in Gwent)! I have also been present when Royal Navy helicopter has been called as Chiffchaff (again not in Gwent)!

07 July 2006

One hundred and fifty!

A post-work visit to Slade Woods came up trumps. A White Admiral butterfly provided a bit of interest whilst staking out a small stand of cherry trees; half an hour later a Hawfinch (149) flew out (God knows where it had been sitting) and, after another half hour of mooching around, a couple of Spotted Flycatchers (150!) were bagged. Also heard Willow Tit (would have been 151) but the little bleeder evaporated before I could slap eyes on it.

One hundred and fifty and plenty of 'tarts' still required.

02 July 2006

If you're down at Goldcliff...

... check out the Black-tailed Godwits for colour-rings; one of the seven present today had orange over pale green above the 'knee' on the right leg, but I couldn't make out the colours on the left (it spent 99% of its time asleep with its left leg tucked away). The only other waders worth a mention were four Tunstone on Lagoon 1.

01 July 2006

Back to the list

Now that the perennial World Cup exit has occurred, it's back to the year-list with avengence. Thanks to the cheating **** who goes by the name of Ronaldo, I can now concentrate on the birds. If I ever meet that jumped-up little piece of shit one trick pony, I'll probably be locked up within the hour. Anyhoo...

A pre-match saunter, to quell the nerves, produced Common Tern at Llandegfedd; a post-match wander, to avoid wasting an entire evening plotting Ronaldo's untimely demise (pity he's leaving Man Utd, tickets to the first pre-season training session would have been worth their weight in gold, just to be there to hear the audible crack of Portuguese tibia as Rooney gave him something to really moan about), resulted in Nightjar and Tree Pipit in Wentwood.

148 species in Gwent so far in 2006, hoo-bleeding-ray.

PS. I'm not bitter, it's just, given the opportunity, I'm going to kill the little ******.

25 June 2006

The Doldrums

Late June in Gwent is shit, I am now at the stage at which a solitary Whimbrel is noteworthy and a dead mammal is sighting of the day. The Whimbrel was on the foreshore at Uskmouth and the mammal, a Water Shrew, was alongside one of the reedbeds (see pic below, inset showing bristles on edge of feet, an adaptation to aid swimming). Water Shrew is possibly declining in the UK and definitely under-recorded so if you see a large, blackish above/whitish below shrew with bristles at the edge of the feet and along the tail send the record in (a list of mammal recorders is available at www.abdn.ac.uk/mammal/recorders.shtml).

18 June 2006


Due to work, sheer bleeding laziness and the World Cup, I haven't added anything to the year-list for about five weeks! Today, Rock Pipit fell, a pair with fledged youngsters out on Denny Island, does this mean the ball is once again rolling? Let's hope so.

PS. Who had the bright idea of county year-listing during a World Cup year? DOH!

03 June 2006

Bootiful weather Bernard...

... but buggerall birds. Here's a pic of Goldcliff Pools in the sunshine.

29 May 2006

Back to blighty with a bump

Two days back in the county and nothing more than a Spoonbill and a trickle of passage waders to raise the pulse. Last week I couldn't step foot outside Tbilisi without tripping over Corncrakes, Quails, shrikes and buntings; thank God I'm back in a country where the government (enthusiastically aided by the farmers and 'developers') keep all these pesky birds under control.

27 May 2006

Definitely not Gwent

Have just returned from another two weeks in the bird-filled Republic of Georgia, probably the best birding in the Western Palearctic. Managed to get to the Lesser Caucasus this time, a new mountain range tick. Unfortunately a rather intense work schedule severely limited the birding opportunities, however, it is impossible to spend any time in the country without seeing something of interest. Topics for discussion this time include: distribution of rubicola, variegata and armenica Stonechats; 'eastern' Black Redstarts and/or Redstart x Black Redstart hybrids; and the status of Laughing Dove in Tbilisi... discuss.

13 May 2006

Flippin' un-ber-loody-believable

What an absolutely outrageous FA Cup final, it's official Stevie Gerrard is greatest being ever to have graced this planet.

PS. Also bagged a couple of Wood Warblers this morning before the footy, 144 for the year.

Fourth time lucky

Finally caught up with a Garganey today and it looked like this...

06 May 2006

Look who's back...

Spoonbill was added to the year-list today but, of more interest, was the return of one of our Pochard hybrids. This female is of a very similar appearance to the bird recently reported as an "apparent first-winter female Redhead" at Slimbridge. The pics below were taken in dull conditions this evening, resulting in an artificially dark appearance, however, many features, e.g. details of the shape of the facial 'blaze', appear identical to the Slimbridge bird.

And just to prove Spoonbills can be exciting too...

01 May 2006

Now the shelducks are at it!

Australian Shelduck x Ruddy Shelduck? Shelduck x Australian Shelduck?? Ruddy Shelduck x Shelduck??? Is there a slice of something else in there? Is it a backcross or a multiple hybrid? This is all too much, if you think you know this, presumed escaped, bird's parentage click on 'comments' and leave a note.


30 April 2006

Pied Flicker

Just the one new species today, Pied Flycatcher, a pair nest building at Goytre House Wood.

29 April 2006

Aythya ID, cynicism and the vagaries of digiscoping

Since New Year I have recorded at least four different aythya hybrids on the Newport Wetlands Reserve, my initial reaction to any report of Scaup now teeters between deep cynicism and outright disbelief. However, this morning my hybrid-induced neurosis appears to have reached new heights, I am now at the stage whereby, even when confronted by a spanking male, I grill it to within an inch of its life, in an attempt to find the merest hint of a hybrid origin. An even more surprising development is that my camera appears to have succumbed to the same condition. My negative outlook, and an errant imaging sensor, today conspired to suggest a more extensive black bill tip was present than would be expected for a pure Scaup (see left-hand pic below) and I briefy entertained the thought it might be a Scaup x Scaup hybrid backcross. However, once better views had been obtained, the bird showed the classic Scaup bill pattern (see right-hand pic below), it was of course a perfectly normal male Scaup with apparently unquestionable parentage.

Heads up guys, it's not just the birds that are out to fool you, your camera might be too.

Three steps forward, two steps back

Another three (briefly four) species were added to the year-list today and one removed. First the removal, due to woefully inaccurate information regarding the northern boundary of the GOS recording area, I'd erroneously ticked off Ring Ouzel whilst in Powys,... bugger. New species today were: Little Stint, Scaup, Arctic Tern and Swift.

And now begins a twisted tale of doubt and paranoia, a salutary story as to why birding is bad for your psychological well-being and why waders are the spawn of Satan. Picture the scene: a bleary-eyed birder, intent on a seawatch, stops briefly on the second platform at Goldcliff; about 200 Dunlin fidget and jostle on the back of the large shingle island; an earlier report of Little Stint bobs, phalarope-like, on the swell of the birder's subconscious; and then, up pops a wee, greyish, small-billed head; a stint/peep shuffles across a gap and disappears into the throng. Bob's your mother's brother, Little Stint goes on the year-list, off goes the birder happy as the proverbial Larry.

At a slightly less anti-social hour, three locally renowned observers follow in the footsteps of the first, bag a Sanderling on the first lagoon and make their way to the seawall.

Birding musketeers: "Much doing?"
Larry-like birder: "No, did you get the Little Stint?"
Birding musketeers: "Nope, one Sanderling though"

The (slightly less) Larry-like birder thinks "surely not", dismisses the possibility and continues to stare at the wobbly blank canvas that is the Bristol Channel. But, of course, the doubt nibbles away at the certainty of the stint, paranoia consumes the diminutive calidrid and disgorges in its place the plump, hind toe-less form of a smug-faced Sanderling. Do you have any idea how smug a Sanderling can be? Surely the most evil of the waders. Oh sure, they look "purer than the driven..." in their whiter than white winter dress, but we know the malevolent machinations crossing and recrossing their little avian brains. Smirking all across its stubby little bill, it sits, on the barren shingle ridge of the birder's mind and, every now and again, stretches a strikingly contrasting wing.

Other birds come and go; three or four Arctic Terns move up-channel, a few swifts shoot inland and a very smart drake Scaup hangs out with the local Tufties. News of a 'funny' swift at Uskmouth induces mild panic and a brief sojourn to the far end of the reserve.

But back comes the birder to Goldcliff, the hateful Sanderling forcing a return to the fateful second platform, its little black bill probing at the softest parts of the ornithological psyche. Of course there is no Little Stint offering salvation from amongst the Dunlin now, no redemption of mind by minuta and no bleeding Sanderling either!

Anyway, to cut a long story short, it's off the list, still think I saw a Little Stint (somebody get a photo, please!), still can't believe I f****d up quite as royally as it would appear I may have, and still looking for something to wipe the smile off a certain Sanderling's conceited little fizzog. Oh the shame of it all!

PS. 140 for the year.
PPS. Note to self - mustn't let imagination run riot.

27 April 2006

Two little Ruffs at the pools are we...

Two Ruff at Goldcliff kept the numbers ticking over (138 now), the only other half decent boids were 15 Whimbrel, 2 Bar-tailed Godwit, 1 Wheatear and a couple of Yellow Wags although also got 43 more Whimbrel and a Short-eared Owl at Uskmouth before bad light stopped play.

23 April 2006

There's hares here

Another morning at Uskmouth produced Lesser Whitethroat and Cuckoo for the year-list plus another Gropper and a few bits and bobs. Sighting of the trip though was a Hare on the Saltmarsh Grasslands (see pic, just to prove I can use my camera, below).

22 April 2006

Once more unto Goldcliff

A night of mothing put pay to a dawn raid, the birds didn't seem to mind though. Top migrant was a nice male Blue-headed Wagtail (see awful pics below) which dropped in with a few Yellows, unfortunately subspecies don't add to the year-list, but it was still a quality find. Three species, of varying quality, do count: Kingfisher, Whinchat and Sanderling (feeding with a small group of Dunlin on the foreshore). Other species worthy of mention included: 77 Whimbrel, 1 Common Sand and 40 White Wags. Perhaps the surprise of the day was the continued presence of the Porpoise, again feeding just offshore.

Addendum - it has just crossed my mind that the paleness of the grey head plumage and the relatively extensive white in the moustachial/malar region may mean the wagtail below was a Yellow x Blue-headed hybrid, sometimes referred to (presumably by people who like catchy MTV-generation-type names) as 'Channel' Wagtail.

21 April 2006


A post-work dash culminated in a smart pair of Ring Ouzels near Trefil along with a metric tonne of Wheatears, four scrambling bikes, one scrambling quad and three hatchbacks of laddettes (complete with Playboy windscreen stickers,... nice).

17 April 2006

Five more

The 'local' produced another five county year-ticks today. A prolonged period of staring out into the Bristol Channel from Goldcliff Lagoons resulted in a lone Sandwich Tern heading west; one of the adjacent hedgerows contained a singing Redstart; and a flyby group of Curlew were accompanied by a single Bar-tailed Godwit. Other 'goodies' on the lagoons/foreshore included: two Purple Sands, 11 Whimbrel, one Goosander and three White Wagtails.

Uskmouth delivered visible Sedge and Reed Warblers plus a Yellow Wagtail going west and a veritable smorgasbord of grockle (big ones, small ones, some as big as your head...). A basking Grass Snake was also the first for the year.

15 April 2006


Having spent yesterday doing a Dartford Warbler survey, twitching Bonaparte's Gull, eating eggs and chips and seeing 'The Mighty Boosh' (see www.themightyboosh.com if necessary), today was a return to business. Goldcliff Pools pulled out all the stops on the mammal front, in the form of a porpoise just offshore, but was a little backward at coming forward on the bird side of things, just a single flyover Yellow Wag added to the 2006 tally.

Uskmouth proved less of a tease, producing Grasshopper Warbler, Whitethroat, Whimbrel and Ruddy Duck. Had I managed to see the singing Reed and Sedge warblers it could have been even better. Even so, not a bad haul, the Gropper being an especially nice find as it was a non-singing, grubbing-about-in-ruderal-vegetation individual as opposed to a bleedin' obvious reeler. I have now reached 126 species, another four species before going back to work and I'll be a happy little birdspotter.

PS. The wee purple dudes are still at Goldcliff and here are two action-packed pics to prove it...

13 April 2006

Drive-by birding

A quick detour to Caldicott produced a pair of Red-legged Partridge. I did manage to grab a quick photo but to say it was pants is a wee bit of an understatement so, unless I get real bored, I'll leave it unposted.

The total has now reached 121.

11 April 2006

'Garden Warbler'

A Blackcap singing in my carefully manicured bramble patch was the first seen, as opposed to heard, this year. Last year the same patch attracted a singing Gropper so, if it's going to keep up its average, it'll need to pick its game up.

08 April 2006

Naffin' special

Spent a fair bit of time out and about today with nothing special to show for it. Little Ringed Plover and House Martin were additions to the year-list but Osprey eluded me and, as ever, Gwent is not producing the goodies turning up elsewhere. Oh well, 119 species, here's hoping tomorrow will bring the biggy.

06 April 2006

First major dilemma

Dropped in at Llandegfedd Reservoir today, bagged a few bits 'n bobs and then, just as I got to the car-park, an Egyptian Goose flew past (heading towards Green Pool). Now this is a potential Gwent tick for me and, obviously, a new one on the Gwent year-list, but can I count it? Is the nearest feral population closer than the nearest wildfowl collection? Category C or category E? Answers on a postcard or just click on the 'comments' link below...

PS. It was fully winged and the running total is now either 116 (+1) or 117 (-1).

02 April 2006


Did a few hours staring out from Goldcliff Point this morning and was rewarded with four Gannets and one Fulmar (Pendeen eat your heart out). However, the best bird was the first-winter Purple Sand feeding with the Turnstones at the point. A brief stop at the pools produced a whole lot of wind and the regular assortment trying to get out of it. The Gannets and Fulmar have edged the total to 116, ooooh, can barely control my excitement.

01 April 2006

Super Purps

Followed up another, less-than-outstanding, seawatch with a look at Goldcliff Pools. Two first-winter Purple Sandpipers (see photo below) and two Golden Plovers added a bit of excitement to the usual wader roost, all four hunkering out of the SW wind on the first lagoon. The only year-ticks came in the form of passerines: a single Willow Warbler just behind the viewing platforms; and three Wheatears knocking around the sea-wall, two of which were corking males. The total is now 114 and I've yet to see a single half decent seabird.

28 March 2006


A post-work dash resulted in a first-winter Med Gull at Caerleon plus a few Swallows and Sand Martins. Sounds OK dunnit? Unfortunately, I also stopped at Goldcliff Point for an hour during which time I saw nothing more exciting than a dead sheep moving (surprisingly swiftly) up-channel. On returning home and checking the GOS website, it would appear that I failed to see both a Common Scoter and a Little Gull... DOH! Either I need to sit higher up or stop watching dead sheep, arse. The total is now 112 but it feels like it's all going to pot.

25 March 2006

The first few signs

Finally, migrants have begun trickling into the county. I managed to dip a Black Redstart during the week and have yet to catch up with Wheatear and Sand Martin. However, bagged four Avocets today taking the total to 109, the plan was 120 by the end of March, might be a bit hard pressed to get that now.

13 March 2006


Two Goshawks kept the numbers ticking over, neither view was great but got a brief close look at a male and a prolonged distant look at a female.

12 March 2006

Famous Grouse

This morning found me up the Blorenge in search of Red Grouse, a potential Gwent tick due to the fact that I'd never bothered going looking for them. As far as I could tell, most of the mountain was covered in grouse poo, which was lucky, as this, and the odd feather, was all that was keeping my spirits up after the first hour or so of searching had resulted in exactly zero grouse. However, on the third traverse of the summit, a cracking male and his missus leapt from the heather and whirred off down the slope in the vague direction of Abergavenny (ka-ba ka-ba kabak kabak kabak karrrrrrrr). Unfortunately all the action was a tad rapid for photography, however, if you are into poo and feathers see below.

I spent the afternoon partaking of a sort of ornithological penance for the morning's good fortune; a dead 45 minutes of seawatching from Goldcliff Point was followed by a pretty uneventful hour at the pools. Only the first seen (as opposed to heard) Little Owl was new for the year.

05 March 2006

Wild Swan/Duck Chase

Went looking for Bewick's Swan and Scaup today, I saw neither, the swans weren't there and the 'scaup' wasn't a Scaup. Whilst searching through the Mute Swans in the Usk valley, I did manage to add Common Sandpiper to the year list, so the total plods onwards.

Having given up on the swans I dropped in at Uskmouth to look for the reported Scaup. Unfortunately, what I assume to be the bird in question, is a Pochard hybrid (pics below). This individual has been around for a while now and is quite striking when seen briefly, however, the bill pattern, grey wingbar, solidly dark mantle/scaps, Pochard-like head shape, dull iris and the shape of the pale patches on the head all point to a whole lot of Pochard genes (presumably inter-mixed with Tufted Duck?).

Ho-hum, another day birding in Gwent.

19 February 2006

Back in the Game

Finally a new species and a self-found goody too - Purple Sandpiper on the foreshore at Uskmouth. The last accepted record was as long ago as November 2000, however, there was a report from the Usk in Newport a few weeks back, so this sighting might refer to the same individual. Apart from this cracking wader, it has been a story of near continual dippage of late with Hen Harrier, Goshawk, Marsh Tit, Willow Tit, Bearded Tit and Crossbill all slipping by the wayside.


05 February 2006

Oh dear

Well, everything has rather ground to a halt. Various outside influences have eaten into the birding time and, coupled with a few dips, the result is only one new species since the last update - Dipper.

Oh dear.

22 January 2006

... And There's The Century!

Two dips, one horrible, one quite enjoyable, couldn't dampen down the fact that I pushed through the mighty 100 today.

The day started slowly and in a near wrist-slashing vein of form. Wherever I went I was shadowed by semi-orchestrated hordes of octogenarian Gortex fetishists. If I couldn't see the aged snake of red, purple and yellow, I could hear the accompanying chorus of wheeze and cough and, hours after an encounter, a faint aroma of Murray Mint and denture fixative seemed to persist, Will O' The Wisp-like, below the canopy of Wentwood.

Anyhoo, having seen the square root of bugger all at Wentwood, I tried to connect with the Corn Bunting at Dingestow. Again I failed to achieve the primary goal, but a supporting cast of farmland passerines more than made the trip worthwhile. I can't remember the last time I saw three figure flocks of Skylark and Linnet in Gwent (if ever) and Tree Sparrow, Brambling and Yellowhammer were all bagged for the year.

The total is now 102, come on!

21 January 2006

Almost Three Figures

Another ringing trip to Llanwern produced a Jack Snipe and, finally, a Water Rail seen as well as heard. Dipped Dipper on the way home, so I'm left (for another day at least) one short of the magic three figures.

15 January 2006

Unexpected Riches

A morning's ringing at Llanwern didn't seem to present the ideal opportunity for building on the yearlist and I was resigned to a couple or three new species at best. I certainly didn't see five jumping onto the list! Yep, five, count 'em - Woodcock, Greylag Goose (category C only), Stock Dove, Cetti's Warbler (finally seen, as opposed to heard) and, pick of the bunch, Firecrest!

The Woodcock was flushed from the side of a country lane near Rhiwderin, from almost exactly the same spot as one had appeared (presumably the same bird) just before Christmas. The Greylags are resident at Llanwern, as are the Stock Dove and Cetti's Warblers but unlike the Firecrest. First seen 'bouncing out' of a mist net this little gem (a probable female) gave two or three cracking views as it fed low down in bramble along a rhine-side fenceline. It managed to evade capture but even so, as this wasn't a species I was banking on, it was a proper bonus and a flipping good looking one to boot.

The total so far has now reached 97, soon the three figures shall be mine, all mine... ha ha ha ha... oops (misplaced demonic laughter, first sign of birding induced madness).

14 January 2006

Another Good Grebe

Llandegfedd Reservoir
Not to be outdone by the posse of Black-necked Grebes at Ynysfro, Llandegfedd has produced a Red-necked. First reported as a 'possible' on Friday, it became a 'definite' today and, a little while later, was on my yearlist. Whilst driving round the reservoir I also bagged a, long overdue, Pheasant (get in there!). The Red-necked Grebe was also my county tick and a second year/county double appeared in the gull roost - an adult Yellow-legged Gull, unfortunately no Med Gull joined the party, but one out of two ain't bad. Ninety-two species have fallen.