31 May 2009

Slim pickings

A few hours over high tide at Goldcliff produced one Curlew Sandpiper, two Greenshank and six Black-tailed Godwit but, in general, very few waders at all. I couldn't be arsed to walk round to the sea-wall, so the Spoonbills may well still been present. What was definitely present was the first, rather disconcerting, evidence of dude-creep from the RaSPBerry cafe including one middle-aged, sandle-bedecked bloke who preferred standing on the seats and peering over the blinds as opposed to looking through the wee little windows. There are many words for people like him but I'll let you choose your own.

Calidrids over phragmites in the heat haze, the perfect recipe for a fuzzy photo.

PS. Painted Ladies still everywhere in abundance.

30 May 2009

SPA = leisure facility?

Popped down to St. Brides for high-tide, just as I approached the lighthouse I realised my mistake, a family of fisher-folk, having driven their lovely big red van along the sea-wall, were settling in for a few hours of disturbing the designated species on an SPA. Looking back towards the pub, another gathering had started a fire (oh so necessary in 20+ degrees) and two parties were setting up tents. Unsurprisingly, except a few local breeders, bugger all waders present. Did see another metric tonne of Painted Lady flutterbies though.

26 May 2009

Twa piggles dinna mek’ a thrup

Just thought I'd share the momentous, though long-suspected, news that I am a football genius...

And, just to make the victory even sweeter, the dizzy heights of 1st in the Blundersliga, 11th in the Liverpool fans' league, 55th in the England fans' league and 80th in the overall league were all achieved without recourse to sullying one's team with a single Man Utd plc player.

24 May 2009

Busy day

A morning of Cetti's chasing followed by a little birding for birding's sake, then lunch, then back out for urban gull fun and nestbox tickling; got home at around 22:30. A fair bit of effort for very little, just a late Wheatear at Uskmouth, a Hobby over Saltmarsh Lane, a Great Spotted Woodpecker roosting in a tit box and Painted Lady butterflies all over the shop.

[NB. First person to identify the caterpillar gets a Gwentbirding gold star, I've had a quick look through Porter but it wasn't immediately obvious]

20 May 2009


Leucism - it ain't big and it ain't clever but it is the "absence of dark pigment resulting in a reduction in the intensity of all pigments, which weakens the feather structure, but with normal iris pigmentation".

17 May 2009


One from yesterday. The torrid, moistened murk off the point, complete with biege-caps and, somewhere amidst the tempest, a wee Stormie. Please note the dark patch of water behind the bird giving the impression of a projecting under-carriage - if only.

16 May 2009

Interesting times

Do you know your ducklings? Click on the picture to see a slightly larger version, if stumped, do not despair, the answer is found herein...

A quick look in the fields around Goldcliff and Whitson produced no Whimbrel of either persuasion; and those seen later, off the point and pools, were stubbornly pale-arsed. The point did produce a reasonable smattering of seabirds though: 2 Arctic Skuas, 7+ Gannets, 10 Kittiwake and a Storm Petrel. The pair of Rock Pipits and a few Turnstone were also knocking around. Peering out from the pools post point produced a Fulmar and, bobbing about on the wind-whipped waters, a brood of Pochard and, even more inspiring of 'oohs' and 'aahs', a brood of Shoveler. However, possibly the most interesting bird, was a fly-through Swallow with wholly orangey-buff underparts (presumably showing the variation within rustica as opposed to the influence of transitiva genes).

13 May 2009

Cracking weather Gromit

The weather for the bird race is looking good, although it appears the BBC no longer believe the wind (direction or strength) is an integral part of a general forecast map so, for all I know, there might be storm force winds to lash the promised rain in through the windows of the, as yet unrented, car. May I suggest a 'big sit' in the front window at the Farmer's Arms?

11 May 2009

Dropping like a stone

The standard of behaviour around here is awful and getting worse, if it's not abusive dog-walkers, it's f**king foul-mouthed birders, and now the birds are getting in on the act. This Garganey repeatedly blew raspberries at the non-plussed locals and was also seen flicking 'V' signs with its outermost primaries at passing hirundines,... I blame the parents, society in general and Norris McWhirter.

10 May 2009

Platform 9¾

A Garganey appeared at Goldcliff today and, whilst we stood on the sea-wall, the Spoonbill wandered out from behind the reeds; along with a reasonable mix of waders (including Golden Plover) and a couple of Wheatears, this evening has almost convinced me something exciting might just appear at the pools before the month's end. Who knows? A third Bar-headed Goose might turn up.

A flight of calidrids in the gloaming, the view from the magical platform (would somebody move that bloody sheep).

09 May 2009

Naffin' doing

A five hour vigil at Goldcliff Pools was only maintained due to the surprising comfort achievable whilst reclining on the sea-wall. The birds were very thin on the ground/water. Three Gannet down-channel were the only seabirds; a fly by Cuckoo, a Wheatear and a few Swifts and hirundines were the only real migrants; and a few Whimbrel, Black-tailed Godwit and Knot were the best of the waders. All the above were beaten into a poor second place by the unringed (and, therefore, blatantly tickable) Bar-headed Goose.

P.S. Also had my first ickle baby Redshanks of the year,... aaah.

08 May 2009

Long distance badgers

Too windy for recording Cetti's so busied myself with birding paperwork. I have spent most of the day staring out the window in between spells writing cobblers about redpolls, all to the tune of England comprehensively beating an under-performing Windies side. In an effort to maintain a minimum level of interest within the readership, here's a picture of some brightly coloured passage waders currently to be found refueling along the estuary on the way to somewhere really exciting like Greenland or Baffin Island. Not the most difficult of identification conundrums, I guess the most likely confusion species for Turnstone is American Badger although I accept many fewer of the latter are to be found flipping pebbles on the Goldcliff foreshore (see here to be totally convinced).

06 May 2009

'Sea' monsters

An evening high-tide, the wind in the west and the magnetic pull of Goldcliff - it must be seawatch o'clock. A couple of hours sentry duty produced 1 pale phase Arctic Skua up-channel, the briefest view of 2-3 Manxies, 1 Bar-tailed Godwit, 1 Sanderling, 13 Turnstone and 15 Whimbrel.

Stealing the show, however, was my second ever Gwentish Grey Seal, a reasonably petite (female/immature?) and rather attractive individual, that is, as compared to the male that was at the mouth of the Wye a while back.

See, I said she was a cutie.

04 May 2009

Sound and vision, no contest

Yesterday was 'International Dawn Chorus Day' (see here for more details), something I singularly forgot to mention, however, as today was 'Welsh Dull, Wet and Windy Day' I've got nothing else to bore you with, so you'll have to make do with a photo and recording of Sedge Warbler from Uskmouth. The background of the Sedgie recording is 'enhanced' by Coot, Wren, Cetti's Warbler, Reed Warbler, Carrion Crow and the soothing tones of Uskmouth Power Station; the background of the photo is enhanced by nothing but the smooth rendition of out of focus areas, life is so much richer when you carry a parabolic microphone around.

[NB. The mp3 file is 1.8MB, if you have a slow connection, then either be patient or sort yourself out a quicker one,... consider yourself disclaimed.]

03 May 2009

From mega to dross

An early morning at Uskmouth followed by a quick nose around Goldcliff Point and Goldcliff grasslands produced another Hobby, a few Whimbrel, a light hirundine passage and precisely naff-all else; you might say 'back to earth with a bump' after the fun and games enjoyed over the last week. One thing that did catch the eye was the burgeoning numbers of Collared Doves on the fringes of the reserve. A quick rummage through the library on my return and, Bob's your mother's brother, I found this...

02 May 2009

Proper hardcore birding

Today consisted mostly of pottering over to Gloucestershire for the quickest bit of this...

Followed by a slightly slower paced bit of this...

Before driving on down to Shapwick Heath for a brief look at a Willow Warbler with an aberrant song and producing this stunning photographic effort...

NB. Gwentbirding recommendation No. 1 - the White Hart at Littleton-upon-Severn; No. 2 - Bath Ales 'Golden Hare'; and No. 3 - a used Nikon 25-50mm f4.

[Addendum: Forgot to mention, also had my first Hairy Dragonfly, Grass Snake and Marsh Frogs of the year at Shapwick. How the Sam Hell did Marsh Frogs get to Shapwick?]

01 May 2009

Whimbrels and whimsy

Decided against a four hour drive to see Crested Lark and sauntered off down to Goldcliff for a few hours over high tide. Not an awful lot 'doing' but Hobby and Greenshank plus smatterings of White Wagtail and Whimbrel managed to slow the slide into birding torpor. Other highlights included a Swarovski-toting Mrs. Dude stringing Dunlin for Golden Plover! Before you ask, I don't know, I just don't know; what I do know is, when asked by her husband where said Goldies were, she got very snappy indeed before rapidly spouting "Oh look, there's a Redshank" in perhaps the weakest display of ornithological filibustering I have ever witnessed. I laughed on the outside, cried a little on the inside.

Due to the rather slow pace of the birding I couldn't help but drift off into the realm of day-dreams every now and again. My best examples of fanciful (some might argue mentally challenged) cerebral sojourns today were:

1. wondering whether the silicon-based life forms aboard the good ship Earth (computers, robots, Kenwood Chefs, etc.) will, at the nadir of the oncoming flu pandemic, realise their opportunity and rise up to take over the world (I bet they use poisonous gases); and
2. thinking how much fun it would be if the RSPB were to provide golf-carts to the fat, ancient or just plain lazy customers at Uskmouth to allow them to become ornithologically-challenged daleks whizzing back and fore between cafe and lighthouse, lighthouse and shop, shop and sea-wall... just take a moment to imagine...

vroom, "Is that what they call a ducky-wucky?",... whizz, "Should I be using my phone whilst driving this?",... screech "Excuse me, do you mind moving your tripod, my dog and I would like to get passed",... whoosh, "What do you mean 'flushed the bird'? If that's a euphemism, I'll have you know I haven't even visited the toilet yet",... HONK!, "Well, what's one less Canada Goose between friends?" beep beep beep "Warning, misspent RSPB funds reversing, warning, misspent RSPB funds reversing".

Phew, thank jumpin' Jehovah nobody would dream up anything quite so f**king stupid as that, eh? I mean, how would they avoid jogger/mountain bike/dog-walker/dalek pile-ups?