17 December 2016

Come friendly fog and fall on Gwent!

Apart from the moan of fog horn and rifle crack of dew-soaked electric fence it was predictably quiet at Goldcliff.  A few waders drifted in and out of the murk but nothing to write home about (13 Turnstone being the most notable); no disoriented seabird or grounded migrant appeared.  Two silver linings, had the place to myself and I got to play 'possibles and probables' with more or less everything (animate and inanimate) between about 40 and 60 yards away.  Beyond that it may as well have not existed, it may not have existed, everything within the mist may have been a writhing mass of transmogrification only taking solid form on looming into view,... who knows?     
 The vista from the third viewing platform was somewhat truncated.

It got a little better but never achieved 'crystal clear'.

31 October 2016

Azores 2016

Not a vintage year.  Two largely fruitless weeks under the Azores high with further frustrations care of Brexit idiocy inspired currency devaluation and the small matter of there being a Sibefest in northwest Europe.  No world ticks, one WP tick (Northern Flicker, gripbacktastic), five Azores ticks and only one decent find.  Here's a quick species list and a few pictures. Species marked with an asterisk relate to putative/possible records of almost certainly unacceptable birds listed purely to jog the memory at some distant point in the future. 

Brent Goose Branta bernicla hrota, Wigeon Anas penelope, American Wigeon Anas americana, Teal Anas crecca, Green-winged Teal Anas carolinensis, Mallard x Black Duck Anas platyrhynchos x rubripes, Pintail Anas acuta, Shoveler Anas clypeata, Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris, Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula, Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis, Fea's Petrel Pterodroma feae, Cory's Shearwater Calonectris borealis, Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis, Little Egret Egretta garzetta, Grey Heron Ardea cinerea, Buzzard Buteo buteo rothschildi, Moorhen Gallinula chloropus, Coot Fulica atra, Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula, Semipalmated Plover Charadrius semipalmatus, Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus, Dotterel Charadrius morinellus, Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva, American Golden Plover Pluvialis dominica, Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola, Sanderling Calidris alba, Semipalmated Sandpiper Calidris pusilla, Little Stint Calidris minuta, White-rumped Sandpiper Calidris fuscicollis, Pectoral Sandpiper Calidris melanotos, Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea, Ruff Philomachus pugnax, Snipe Gallinago gallinago, Short-billed Dowitcher Limnodromus griseus, Woodcock Scolopax rusticola, Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa, Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica, Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus, Upland Sandpiper Bartramia longicauda, Redshank Tringa totanus, Greenshank Tringa nebularia, Lesser Yellowlegs Tringa flavipes, Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres, Wilson's Phalarope Phalaropus tricolor, Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus, Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus, 'Azores Gull' Larus michahellis atlantis, Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis michahellis*, Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis, Cabot's Tern Sterna acuflavida*, Common Tern Sterna hirundo, Feral Dove Columba livia, Woodpigeon Columba palumbus azorica, Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto, Yellow-billed Cuckoo Coccyzus americanus, Long-eared Owl Asio otus, Northern Flicker Colaptes auratus, Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea patriciae, Robin Erithacus rubecula, Blackbird Turdus merula azorensis, Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla gularis, Goldcrest Regulus regulus azoricus and R. r. inermis, Starling Sturnus vulgaris granti, House Sparrow Passer domesticus, Common Waxbill Estrilda astrild, Philadelphia Vireo Vireo philadelphicus, Red-eyed Vireo Vireo olivaceus, Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs moreletti, Atlantic Canary Serinus canaria, Greenfinch Carduelis chloris aurantiiventris, Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis parva, Common Yellowthroat Geothlypis trichas and Scarlet Tanager Piranga olivacea.

Blue Shark Prionace glauca (dead), Sperm Whale Physeter macrocephalus and Azores Noctule Nyctalus azoreum.

Semipalmated Sandpiper foraging on and adjacent to the track near the seismic station, Corvo, seen to catch and consume various invertebrates including several Tipulidae larvae.

Hummingbird Hawkmoth feeding on dahlia in garden adjacent to the supermarket, Corvo. Yes, I did want something from the shop. Yes, it was a Cornetto.

Dotterel feeding on one of the low hills southwest of the lakes within the caldera, Corvo.

American Golden Plover foraging on the flower (mostly Taraxacum officinale agg.) bedecked slopes below the reservoirs, Corvo.

Pacific Golden Plover loafing in the post-industrial martian landscape of the Cabo da Praia quarry, Terceira. Self-found (actually re-identified, the bird had been reported as European Golden Plover for two days) and the second record for the Azores, I found the first one too. Get me.
Long-tailed Duck on the new pond at Paul da Praia, Terceira. 

04 September 2016

The great white goose hunt

The High Cross puddles producing the goods as usual; one day, once I've robbed enough banks/post offices or won the lottery, I'll buy that house and have Ynys-y-fro as my garden pond.  I'll be able to see nothing of note from the kitchen window every single day.

14 July 2016

Pre-Inquiry Meeting for the M4 corridor around Newport

 Grass Vetchling Lathyrus nissolia, Gwent Levels.

For those that are interested but have yet to receive (or may not receive) letters outlining the details,…

The pre-inquiry meeting for the M4 corridor around Newport/‘New M4’/‘Black Route’ is being held next week at 1 pm on Monday 18th July 2016 (and, if necessary, the following day from 10 am) at the Lysaght Institute, Orb Drive, Corporation Road, Newport NP19 0RA.

The purpose of the pre-inquiry meeting is “to consider what may be done to secure that the forthcoming inquiry is conducted efficiently and expeditiously and to help participants prepare for their appearance at the inquiry.”

This will involve information being presented, and discussions on, various topics regarding the inquiry including:
  • the scope of the forthcoming inquiry;
  • the draft scheme and orders and environmental documentation;
  • the statutory tests applying to the consideration of the case;
  • the alternatives to the published scheme;
  • the participants;
  • details of normal procedures;
  • presentation of evidence; and
  • the venue, facilities and times and dates.

I’m not saying it’ll be a bundle of laughs but it might be worth attending. 

PS. The Welsh Government is working towards a start date for the Inquiry at some point during autumn 2016.

Latticed Heath Chiasmia clathrata, Gwent Levels.

28 June 2016

The insanity reaches Cardiff

The insanity which is currently swilling about the country has washed up in Cardiff.  Today the Welsh Assembly announced that the Chair of the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee had been handed to UKIP.  UKIP, the only party in the Assembly who deny the existence of climate change.

I would like to ask you to email the Presiding Officer and Deputy Presiding Officer to express your feelings on this matter.  Disbelief?  Anger?  Disgust?

It is easily done.  But must be done ASAP.  The election of the chairs occurs tomorrow.

The Presiding Officer (Elin Jones) can be emailed at private.office@assembly.wales and the Deputy Presiding Officer at Ann.Jones@assembly.wales

Here is the text I have sent, feel free to cut and paste as much or as little as you need.

"Dear [Deputy] Presiding Officer,

I am writing to express my disbelief and disgust at the decision to allocate UKIP the Chair of the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee.  

The UKIP local manifesto, amongst the usual lies about the costs of the EU and fantasy narrative of regaining control of immigration, included two direct references to measures to reduce the impacts of climate change: “We oppose […] wind farms” and, in a list to ’save money’, the promised to “End wasteful EU and UK subsidies to ‘renewable energy scams’, such as wind turbines and solar farms”.

Both the above give no indication that UKIP Welsh Assembly members do anything but tow the party line on climate change, i.e. they deny it’s very existence.

Climate change is a clear and present danger to people the world over.  Thousands of people die every year due to climate change.  Climate change drives conflict and the mass movements of people.  Climate change is a threat to all of our children.  It is not a joke.  It is not unimportant.  There is every possibility UKIP will attempt to delay policy and the making of decisions in this area, as a result, people will die.

What the hell are you doing placing the climate change denying, amateur clowns of UKIP at the head of the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee?  Is this the result of gross ignorance or gross negligence?  Why put the UKIP extremists, the only party to deny the existence of climate change, in this position?

This is an insane decision which appears to suggest the Welsh Assembly care nothing for our environment or the future generations of Wales.  I urge you to investigate how this decision came about and to reverse it.


Thanks in advance. 

15 May 2016

Lammergeier, Sudbrook, Gwent

Lammergeier at Sudbrook, Gwent on Thursday 12th May.  Seen to fly east, then circle and head west.  Possibly/probably the bird seen in Belgium on 9th May.  No obvious signs of bleached flight feathers (as per at least some reintroduced birds), colour marks, etc.  Video via Andrew Mason.

A larger, better quality and, hopefully, universally viewable version of the above video is now available on Vimeo here.

02 May 2016


Looking southwest across the Levels from the Gwent Wildlife Trust's Magor Marsh reserve.

This is all a bit late in the day but,... here is a quick post providing links to the bird related documents for those (hopefully all of you) thinking of objecting (or suggesting alternatives) to the new M4 Newport bypass.  Remember, all comments need to be sent to the Welsh Government by Wednesday 4th May. 

Comments should be sent to via snail mail or by hand to: 

Orders Branch
Department for Economy, Science and Transport
Welsh Government,
Cathays Park,
Cardiff CF10 3NQ

Or, if you live in the modern world, email info@m4-can.co.uk with the title ‘Formal objection - please forward to the Welsh Government’  

Of course, on Thursday 5th May you also have the opportunity to vote for a party that doesn’t support the planned motorway.  

All the information as provided by the Welsh Government on the new M4 around/bypassing Newport is available here

However, the information with regard to ecology and nature conservation is available here.  This includes Chapter 10 of the Environmental Statement (the chapter on ecology and nature conservation) available here with associated figures here

If you are most interested in the ornithological details/impacts, then the results of the bird surveys undertaken to date are described in Chapter 10, Section 10.4 (pages 97-108 [see also Appendices 10.12, 10.13, 10.16, 10.28 and 10.29 for details of the methods employed, coverage of the surveys, etc., all of which are available here (just scroll down for the appendices)]).  The proposed mitigation scheme is outlined in Section 10.5 (pages 140-159).  The potential impacts, as identified by the schemes environmental consultants, on breeding and wintering birds of land-take, construction activity and operational activity are described in Sections 10.7-10.9 (pages 203-206, 291-295 and 338-342).  Residual Impacts on birds (i.e. the remaining potential impacts after the proposed mitigation measures are taken into account) are summarised in Section 10.12 (pages 376-378) but also see Table 10.19 (pages 347-361).  

Your response
Your comments can include anything you like.  You may want to support a greener alternative (e.g. the 'Blue Route'), you may want to highlight the importance of the habitats or species found on Levels, you may want to criticise the work undertaken to assess the habitats/species present or the proposed mitigation.  A simple email to the address above will ensure your views are included in the process   

If you don’t have time to wade through all the above,...
If you don’t have time to read the documentation and respond directly to the Welsh Government then a few of the local conservation groups are running campaigns to which you can add your name see,…

The Gwent Wildlife Trust campaign (including a response template) here

and the Woodland Trust campaign here; and

the RSPB campaign here.

These are easy ways to get your voice heard. Do it. Do it now!

The Gwent Levels at the Gwent Wildlife Trust's Magor Marsh reserve.

29 April 2016

Goodbye Glossy

Two days of Cetti's Warblering at Uskmouth produced the usual tonne of Cetti's plus Snipe, 10 Whimbrel, six Swift, two Grasshopper Warbler, five Lesser Whitethroat, 17 Whitethroat and two Lesser Redpoll.  The highlight though was non-avian, two Water Shrew showing well(ish) in a ditch on Thursday.

Post-Cetti's visits to Goldcliff produced the usual passage waders and passerines with maximum counts of 106 Ringed Plover, one Common Sandpiper, 13 Black-tailed Godwit, two Greenshank, one Spotted Redshank, 650 Dunlin, seven Whimbrel, three Swift, three White Wagtail, three Wheatear and one Whinchat.  The Glossy Ibis also put in appearances, in flight over the grasslands on Thursday, then at Goldcliff on the Friday before getting up and disappearing eastwards.  It later appeared at Slimbridge before heading south.  It was however, roundly trumped by an Egyptian Goose which flew around over the pill and grasslands with the Shelduck flock,... monster patch plastic!

The Glossy Ibis leaving eastwards, the final act of its 60 day stay having originally been found at Uskmouth on 29th February.

22 April 2016

Broad-billed Sandpiper,... again

Saw a Broad-billed Sandpiper at Goldcliff.  Just 69,764 hours since I saw the last one in almost exactly the same spot (more of which here).  What fun.  Of course, it would have been funner had I managed to get down the patch and find it myself but getting news of Mr. Powell's discovery via Mr. Jones whilst half a mile from home and attached to a labradoodle did produce some level of entertainment.  Having coaxed said dog to jog home, shuffled cars on the driveway and performed a hasty swerve or two through Friday night traffic I arrived at the hide to find two well-known members of South Wales' ornithological glitterati peering out at a jumpy Dunlin flock.  Unfortunately, the sandpiper had snuck from view.  It remained undetected for a good wee while before suddenly appearing on the island and performing admirably to all and sundry until tucking its stripey little head under its wing and going to sleep just before dark.

An early front runner for bird of the spring; bloody early actually as, according to Birdguides, this was the earliest arriving Broad-billed Sandpiper since before bread came sliced.  And it hung around on the Saturday too,... everybody's happy!

15 April 2016

The incoming trickle

Did the high tide at Goldcliff.  Nothing outrageous but the Glossy Ibis reappeared, heard a Yellow Wag, had at least five (probably seven) White Wag, a Lesser Whitethroat was rattling away behind the second (formerly third) viewing platform and three Wheatear graced the bund/sea-wall.  Amongst the waders, nine Knot plus single Spotted Redshank and Greenshank were about the best.  A quick scan of the grasslands near Boat Lane produced 200+ Sand Martin plus a few Swallow.

Second calendar year Robin, note moult contrast in greater, median and lesser/marginal coverts.  Whaddaya mean you don't age your Robins?!  Slackers!

10 April 2016

My (belonging to or associated with me) weekend

A couple of early mornings 'on the Cetti's' at Uskmouth followed with a potter down Saltmarsh Lane on Friday and THE MEGA TIDE at Goldcliff on Saturday. 

Spring continued its faltering stagger into the county.  Sand Martin and Swallow trickled overhead and three Sedge Warbler, seven Blackcap and about a dozen Willow Warbler dotted the shelter belts, scrub and hedgerows.  Chiffchaff were present in decent numbers though, about 45, but no Redstart, Gropper, Whitethroat,... 

A couple of Snipe had been pushed into the reedbeds at Uskmouth by THE MEGA TIDE.  Whilst at Goldcliff THE MEGA TIDE produced a not particularly mega haul including: one Barwit (amongst about 100 Blackwit), three Greenshank, Spotshank, female Merlin and a male White Wagtail.  The dearth of small waders continues. 

So spring has arrived then,... uh-huh.

PS.  Oops, nearly forgot, the Glossy Ibis put in an appearance at Goldcliff on Saturday too.  This bird has now visited nearly every corner of the patch.  Originally found and identified at Uskmouth in late February (when last seen flying southeast in the direction of the grasslands), it was then relocated near Redhouse Barn/Boat Lane in early March and has now finally made it to Goldcliff.  Joy. 

03 April 2016

All that we see or seem...

As I didn't really get out birding today here's a random California-back-in-the-day image,...

A dream within a dream.  If Carlsberg did gulls,.. and beaches,... Heerman's Gull, Limantour Beach, Point Reyes, California.

02 April 2016

Ickle fins

A few hours at Goldcliff over the afternoon high tide produced three Golden Plover, one or two Spotted Redshank, three Greenshank and 47 Black-tailed Godwit.  Very little in the way of small waders though with only one Dunlin and three Ringed Plover.  The best passerine migrants were 15 Sand Martin, one Wheatear and a dose of Chiffchaff.  However, trumping all the birds were two or three Harbour Porpoise feeding close-in off the point. 

Dropped in at Boat Lane/Redhouse Barn on the way back.  The Glossy Ibis continues to potter around and a Willow Warbler plus more Sand Martins and Chiffchaffs added to the haul of incoming migrants.

25 March 2016

A late post on the fun we had last weekend

Popped in on the Gloucestcestcestcestershire Penduline Tits, then went on to take in the mixed Whitefront flock and feed the ducks at Slimbridge.  The pendies showed well, as did the geese but, as usual, the Slimbridge seed junkies stole the show.

Gorgeous but, unfortunately, this was not part of the mixed Whitefront flock referred to above.  Have seen a proper one at Slimbridge though,... in 1995, just before the combination of tragic population decline and farcical reintroduction gubbins (including the release of birds "contaminated" with Whitefront genes!?) turned the species into a mythical/untickable enigma.  

Leucistic Pintail, just one of the many gems you can bump into whilst wandering the highways and byways of restricted gene pool land. 

11 March 2016

Another one for Project Splatter

Barn Owl, near Avonmouth.  Click here for information on Project Splatter.

05 March 2016

Down Pen-y-lan

Two mountain bike-borne circumnavigations of the Pen-y-lan area in the last week or so.  Little of note.  Very few of our nose-diving farmland species present, just a handful of Skylark and Linnet,... no Yellowhammers yet.  Hopefully they haven't started singing and are waiting to leap out atop every hedgerow, I doubt it though.

A few pools of seasonal flooding are still present in the fields, bound to attract something if it's still there in April.

25 February 2016


A fleeting lunchtime visit.  Fully-winged (always a positive thing for a bird) and unringed.  Shared the pond with Goosander, amongst other stuff,... mergansertastic.

  Two in the Azores, another in Iceland and one in Wiltshire,...

... it's an invasion!

Also saw a Grey Wagtail minus its tail today,... so, almost literally, a Grey Wag. 

[Addendum: turns out there have been two in Iceland this winter, another in the Faroes and one in Scotland.  This bird also moved on after six days, fed in a natural manner and wasn't ridiculously tame, e.g. the Lesser Scaup at Bryn Bach came just as close,...  half a chance of acceptance?]

18 February 2016

It hadn't gone far

Ten years, one month and four days since I last saw Red-necked Grebe in Gwent,... another one! All the better this time for being on the patch. For details of the previous bird click here. Jeebus! Just realised I've been flogging away at this blog for over a decade. What. A. Criminal. Waste. Of. Time.

A nice grebe on a nice sunny late afternoon at Uskmouth.

06 February 2016

Mostly grey and green,... mostly

An unsuspecting lone birch mooches in the corner of a rushy field whilst, over the ridge, come the alien hordes.  Run birch! RUN!

Another couple of weeks up and down to a wet and windy Scotland.  Another couple of weeks interspersed by the odd raptor, a few Pinkfeet, increasingly frisky Crossbills, etc., etc. 

09 January 2016

Moist, moisten, moistened

Ynysyfro Reservoirs upper basin in the rain today.

Two sodden weekends into the new year, two soggy visits to the mighty Ynysyfro completed.  Not an awful lot doing but, let's face it, one goes to Ynysyfro for the irony not the birds,... I guess two redhead Goosander on the lower basin are the pinnacle of ornithological achievement thus far.  Other delights include the long-staying leucistic Coot, Aythya numbers creeping up toward respectability and the 'Scaup-faced' female Pochard returning for another winter.  Joy!  Untrammelled, if moist, joy.
Ynysyfro Reservoirs upper basin just before the rain last week.