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.

08 January 2006


God, the weather this afternoon was shitty. Luckily, before the gloom closed in, the morning's ringing session at Porton had been wrapped up, so I only got pissed on whilst sticking up a few nestboxes. Birds-wise there was very little of any interest knocking around on the levels. 'Highlights' were Ringed Plover and Feral Dove, both new for the year, yay! Eighty-nine species and counting.

07 January 2006

A Little Bit of Quality

The only really dependable site in the county for Water Pipit came up trumps. Several fed on the saltmarsh until a couple of Merlins decided they looked good for lunch. Neither of the diminutive raptors were successful but they had done enough to spook the pipit flock so I decided on a change of venue.

Newport Wetlands Reserve
Both Bittern and Short-eared Owl had been seen midweek, both well into dusk, so I hung around until dark. Two Short-eareds put in an appearance, momentarily taking umbridge at each other's presence and barking their displeasure, before going their seperate ways. Unfortunately the Bittern didn't show (streaky little b*stard).

The Gwent yearlist is now at 87, Pintail being the only other addition.

06 January 2006

The Pace Slows

The last few days have seen the yearlist grind to a near halt, employment has intervened, will they never invent a robot to do my job? A Nuthatch in the garden on Tuesday kept the numbers ticking over (albeit very slowly), the 84th species. Wednesday became my first blank day of 2006 and for the rest of the week every daylight hour was spent beyond the boundaries of Gwent, never a good way to build up your county yearlist.

02 January 2006

Second Day, First Dip

Bulmore Lakes
A report of a White-fronted Goose tempted me to Bulmore, unfortunately only a fraction of yesterday's Canada Goose flock was present minus the Whitefront. Did get a few new species for 2006 though including: Green Sandpiper, Goosander, Pochard, Stonechat and Siskin.

Newport Wetlands Reserve
Again the plan didn't quite come together. I'd hoped for Short-eared Owl and/or harriers but had to make do with the likes of Raven, Green Woodpecker, Black-tailed Godwit, Turnstone, Chiffchaff, Treecreeper, Peregrine, Goldeneye and Lesser Redpoll.

Oh well, by the end of day two I'm on 83 species but it's mostly dross.

01 January 2006

New Year, New Yearlist

Ynysfro Reservoirs
The yearlist got off to an inauspicious start as I bowled up at the reservoirs minus scope, having left my Swaro in somebody else's motor. Luckily two, of the three, Black-necked Grebes fell to the bins, as did most of the usual Ynysfro regulars plus (presumably due to the attraction of a partially dry lower basin) Wigeon, Teal and GBB Gull.

Collister Pill
Having recovered my scope, it was off to Collister for the reported Snow Bunting. A few days back, I'd walked the sea-wall and failed to see the little bleeder, mind you, the combined influences of a girlfriend and an icy gale hadn't helped. This time I was birding unfettered and in the 'zone', I was either going to see it, or leave after dark.
As it turned out, I more-or-less did both, three hours and three traverses of the saltmarsh were needed before I blundered onto the bird. In true Snow Bunting style it allowed close approach and gave cracking views and photo ops (see below); a smart bird and a Gwent-tick to boot. During the search I'd built up a reasonable supporting cast including: Merlin, Little Egret and Golden Plover. I'd also thrown away a probable Water Pipit; as I'd approached the 'seaward' edge of the pill, a bulky pipit bolted out of the saltmarsh in front of me, gave a strident "fwist", seemed to show a clean belly and then proceeded to do a flipping great circuit before diving back into the vegetation (sounds pretty good doesn't it?). I then spent a good half hour trying to relocate the bashful little b*stard, but it obviously had something better to do than give itself up to me and, not being able to definitely rule out Scando Rock, I left it to it.

At the end of day one I've amassed 51 species, not a supersonic start, but a few quality Gwent birds have been safely bagged.