30 December 2017

Look up

Hanging from the topmost cable of one of the lines of pylons above Uskmouth Lagoons. It appears this 1st-winter Blackwit had managed to get its lower mandible caught between the two intertwined wires. Presumably/hopefully died on impact. Not a great look for a nature reserve,... or National Grid.

Dear Iceland, we owe you a Black-tailed Godwit.

30 November 2017

Ooge great finches

An abortive trip to Staines for the 'Horned Lark' ended, after negative news and a slight detour, at Wishmoor Bottom. The Parrot Crossbills performed well enough, even managed a few recordings (albeit complete with 'twitch ambience'). The following morning, a brief stop on the way back produced three Hawfinch at Eversley GPs. A new one for the former patch. Eversley is, ironically enough, a place at which I've seen a vagrant inland Shorelark (1998! Second[?] record for Berks at the time). 

People often ask me how I get such great photographs, well, in this case, I just set the camera to 'crayon' and blazed away until I got a good shot.

17 November 2017

Devon spuggie

Had a day out for the putative Italian Sparrow at East Budleigh. Saw the bird a couple of times, grabbed a photo or two, looks like an Italian, just need the bird to give up a feather and the DNA to support the plumage now.

The supporting cast, one of a handful of Cirl Bunting showing rather well in the Devon sunshine.

12 November 2017

Wintering Sylvia.

Whitethroat between Collister and West Pill, 12th November 2017. The first November record for Gwent, the previous latest being 30th October 1986.   

Thought I had something good when this flicked out of the saltmarsh and disappeared into a bramble. A wintering Whitethroat isn't bad but it might have been something better.  An apparently damaged left wing seemed to explain its tardiness. Looked like and adult male (TF5 tipped pure white, TF6 edged and tipped pure white, TFs broad/rounded; no moult contrast in GCs; grey visible at base of crown feathers [when viewed from behind and feathers slightly raised]; pure grey on lores, around eye and at rear margin of ear-coverts; grey on LCs; pure white throat; yellowish-brown iris).

30 October 2017

Yellow-browed free zone

Goldcrest, Redwick.

Another in an ongoing series of searches of perfectly serviceable Yellow-browed Warbler habitat; another dose of Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Goldcrests; another blank in the way of anything better. Yellow-browed would do, Pallas' or Hume's would be much appreciated. 

29 October 2017

Patch tick Snow Bunting

Rock,... rock,... blob.

Having been unable to relocate it after DW's find on the 22nd it was nice to get a second go a week later.  Looked like a 1st-winter male, as did the last one I saw in the county (for more on that bird see the very first Gwent Birding blog post ever). My first on the patch,... which is nice. 

27 October 2017


The first flock just post-dawn, like a wisp of smoke in the distance. But it was not a wisp of smoke,... oh no,... it was not.

They just kept coming. Relentless. Flocks overlapping flocks overlapping flocks all the way to the horizon. A psychologically damaging number of pigeons. Is there a cognitive therapy for post-traumatic pigeon disorder? Nurse!

14 October 2017

Bluethroat, buses, etc.

 1st-winter male Bluethroat (with blue!), Uskmouth, 14th October 2017,... in the dark (ISO 10,000!)

Obligatory tail pattern pic.

Amazing, you wait years for a Bluethroat to appear in Gwent, then two turn up within days of one another,...

Woken by a pre-dawn phone call from RMC, Bluethroat trapped at Uskmouth(!), hand to floor, grope around for trousers, trousers to knees, hop-hop-hop past slumbering labradoodle, trousers to waist, grab jumper, grab gear-filled rucksack, phone TC on descent of stairs, clamber over stair gate with jumper over head (health and safety nightmare/potential death-trap), place dry Weetabix in gob, grab keys and step out into the darkness. Arse! Re-open door, grab glasses, spin and head towards car.

Brrrm, squeal, brrrm-brrrm, zoom,... and skid to a halt at Uskmouth. TC arrives.  

Hello Richard, hello Bluethroat, click, click, click, click, click,... Bluethroat released, Bluethroat disappears into reedbed. Goodbye Bluethroat.

The third record for Gwent; the three birds have been seen by one, three and four observers respectively. They're often tricky little bleeders but this is taking the piss. 

PS. The bird was looked for later in the day without success, no surprise really given the area of reedbed and scrub at the release site.

12 October 2017

Another first for Gwent halfway up a mountain

A 1st-winter male Rock Thrush,... in Gwent!

A phone call from TC, regarding the discovery of a possible/probable Rock Thrush by JM near the Blorenge, somewhat curtailed a visit to the National Museum Cardiff. Headed back Gwentwards and off up the darklands. On the way to Pwll-du Quarry the identification was confirmed by means of an emailed photo from JM. A nappy change worked against me but the nipper smuggling rucksack paid off in spades and the tiddler and I were soon looking down into the quarry. Luckily, the bird appeared more-or-less as soon as we arrived and remained on show (feeding on various invertebrates [including the earthworm pictured above] and scudding about the quarry) until we left. An incredible record and only a few miles from the site of the Marmora's!

Addendum: went back for sloppy seconds on the 25th by which point the bird had been, and was still being, fed regular handfuls of mealworms by talentless twatwaffles masquerading as photographers. The thrush now spent most of its time lethargically awaiting the next handout whilst hundreds of, identically yawn-inspiring, photographs were sputtered onto a dozen compact flash cards by an ageing phalanx of camophiles,... what a time to be alive!  

Let the tiddler run around squealing her head off just to piss off the lens bearers. To every action one must seek to find an opposed and equal (and entertaining) reaction.

06 October 2017


1st-winter female Bluethroat at a private site in deepest Gwent.

Unfortunately, a private site, single track country lanes with very limited/no parking and potential landowner issues meant no general dissemination of the news. The bird was present for two days but, although a handful of observers were granted access to the site, it was only seen by the finder and, after a five hour vigil, by two other observers. The site was a pretty nondescript patch of scrub in the corner of a nondescript field in pretty nondescript farmland; predicting the whereabouts of decent passerines in Gwent is a mug's game. Only the second record for the county following one on 1st October 1999 at the NWR.

04 September 2017

Exotic sheldgeese

Top quality wildfowl at Goldcliff. Somebody somewhere must be gutted these two jumped the fence. Or are they 'wild', i.e. have they flown along the M4 from the burgeoning feral population? Disclaimer: they've been on the county year list for some time, no questions asked. 
PS. You don't see the word 'sheldgeese' used enough nowadays do you.

03 May 2017

The last week on the patches

A reasonable mix of stuff on the local patch over the last week or so.  The two Temminck's get top billing but also Curlew Sand, two Med Gulls, Hobby, 30+ Turnstone, a few White Wags, handful of Groppers, Spotshank, Greenshank, Whimbrel and Barwit passage picking up, Blackwits, a few Grey Plover, up to c.600 Dunlin, Greenland Wheatears and the odd Snipe still around.

And on the local local patch, Hobby, a couple of Common Sands and breeding Reed Bunting.

 Chunky Wheatears passing through Goldcliff, presumably on the way to Greenland.

 Wheatear with grockle admirers.  Everyone loves a Wheatear.  

Second calendar-year Tropicbird Gull.  If we assume the gull is about 60 cm bill to tail, then the 'tail' of anthropogenic detritus is about 6 m long!  As with every gull trailing crap, this one put the fear of Christ up everything as it flew over the lagoons.

30 March 2017

Nice little find

Red-rumped Swallow, Boat Lane/Redhouse Barns area. Picked it up as I drove toward Goldcliff Pools. The little cutey performed right overhead, sat on wires, etc., before leaving with most of the mixed hirundine flock once the weather cleared. Unlike Gwent's first (more on which here and here), this bird was present for just an hour and a half and only seen by a handful of observers. A proper, if fleeting, bit of excitement. Short snippet of video can be seen here.

01 March 2017

All the rage

Isn't it nice that Common Gulls are getting their moment in the sun.

23 February 2017

The sea gives and the sea takes away,... but mainly gives

A couple of hours on the point, with the tail end of Doris and this afternoon's rising tide, produced a couple of Gannet and handful of Kittiwake (with another 15-20 probable Kittidots on the far side). Not the hoped for aukfest but better than useless.

Yesterday's incoming tide also produced. The female Scaup, reported on and off at Peterstone recently, flew in to the mouth of the gout for a wash and brush up in the rain. Well worth a slither about in the mud and horse shit. 

17 February 2017

Distant ducks,... mostly

Popped to Peterstone Gout for high tide and the reported Scaup. Saw an f. distant dot that was probably the Scaup, convinced myself for a while before the birding conscience kicked in. The fact it didn't even cross the threshold for a Gwent year-tick should give you an idea of just how shit a view it was. Did have a Common Scoter drift slowly down-channel on the falling tide though (also distantly, perhaps v. distant as opposed to f. distant) so,... swings and roundabouts.

Found a dozen of these guys on the way home. Fly-catching from roadside trees, not a berry in sight. 

13 February 2017

Flying elephants

A Jackdaw outside Tescos giving a withering look to someone who mistook the 'mother and baby parking' for the 'fugly and lazy parking'.  Jackdaws,... famously judgemental.  And, boy, do they hold a grudge.  Memories like elephants,... tiny, evil, flying elephants.

09 February 2017

Withering before the blast

A finger-numbing morning in an easterly on the eastern levels.  Checked out the Lapwing flock on Caldicot Moor, nearly 600 birds but not a single Golden Plover (or anything more interesting) among them; did bump into a couple of Red-legged Partridge though.  Decided on more wader fun in the form of a Jack Snipe foray.  A quick potter on the saltmarsh between Collister Pill and West Pill produced three Jack Snipe and 30 Snipe.  The dense cord-grass along this stretch doesn't make for crippling views on the deck but got decent enough looks of all three of the stripey ickle sweeties in flight. 

05 February 2017

Red-flanked Bluetail

Finally caught up with the bluetail, only took the five visits.  Not easy to dig out but, once it appeared, it showed down to about five yards, albeit briefly, just beyond the point where the stream goes through the plastic pipes and under the path.  Luckily, it popped up in a reasonably sunny spot so half-decent views were had by one and all (well, all two and a half of us). 

31 January 2017

Bettws Bittern

Breakfast, Bettwsbound, Bettws, bagged Bittern, back.

Not the best,... but not the worst views of Bittern. Also Kingfisher(s) knocking about.

29 January 2017

Was today International Shite Day?

"… I folded away the letter and put it in my inside pocket 
All of a sudden I felt brushed by the wings of something dark 
May the Lord have mercy on Stringy Bob …"