Promoting observation, free range exploration, sense of place and citizen science, through the field notes of a naturalist.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Reservoir, marsh, foreshore, water meadow - my cup runneth over.

An early start got me to Ponthir Reservoir at first light. 25 tufted duck and a pair of displaying great crested grebe did little to keep me occupied so I was soon back in the motor and on my way to Magor Marsh - oh! the vision of those Monmouthshire Naturalists' c1964. Here the reedbed was reverberating to a rather loud Cetti's warbler whilst the pond supported a moderate number of 'ducky type things' including a calling little grebe, four gadwall, a female shoveler, about 30 teal and assorted other commoner wildfowl. A short trip on to Magor Pill for some coastal watching and a bit photography produced a large flock of a couple of thousand starling on farmland and hedgerows behind the seawall including about half a dozen interloping fieldfare. On the foreshore of a rapidly retreating tide were the usual bag of curlew, redshank etc. with a count of upwards of 150 shelduck between the Pill and the Second Severn Crossing. This was particularlly pleasing given recent speculation about a decline in numbers in the estuary. A couple of skylark were also flushed from the saltmarsh.

Not done any serious birding in the Neddern Valley but a trickle of interesting reports on the GOS website was just enough to push me on from Magor in search of this hitherto unexplored wetland. After several round trips in the Caldicot area with tantillising views from afar I managed to find an access point but what an ackward place for birding! No apparent desire lines for footpath access, questionable land ownership and a wetland bridged by the M4 didn't make for comfortable birding. Nonetheless, from my limited views across the meadows and through the motorway bridge abuttments I could make out wigeon, teal, mallard, little grebe, shelduck, coot, moorhen, shoveler, lapwing and about three redshank. Then it rained, but I'd seen just enough for another visit - I will return.  

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Also known as (aka).

A bit of shopping in Brynmawr and a visit to Lakeside aka Dunlop Semtex Pond with a hope of photographing a water rail was the order of the day. Overnight snow and freezing temperatures ment all visited waterbodies were largely frozen. Parc Nant Waun aka Machine Pond was home to a handful of common coot aka coot, a single great crested grebe and four common snipe aka snipe. Both herring and lesser black backed gulls were plentiful many taking up pre breeding season positions on the factory roofs near Walmart aka Asda.  Next week maybe a trip to Gwent Levels Wetland Reserve aka Newport Wetlands.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Seymour Butt........

.........see less grouse. Mental fatigue ment I missed the first Gwent Recorders Forum since its inception and it was the first one to be held Newport Wetlands as well. Nevermind, took the opportunity to chill out on the snowfields of the Blorenge Site of Special Scientifc Interest instead in the hope of a view of the infamous quarry of the well off, the red grouse. Needless to say no grouse, the closest I got to one was a ramshackled structure with a similar name. Amazingly the only bird on offer was a flyover raven.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

F is for Frog

Despite the Spring like weather a Valentines Day birding visit to Llandegfedd Reservoir produced nothing to get excited about. With no birds to watch I turned my attention to the significant and unseasonal LR draw down and the variety of washed up detritus - its amazing what can be found! This fire bucket thereby became a suitable prop for the seasons first frog.  I had, rather optimistically maybe, hoped for the odd early ground beetle but any amount of stone turning failed to reveal any invertebrates. Birds on offer included, a single male goldeneye and about 30 lapwing. Roll on the Spring!

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Holy mosses.

Motivated by recent reports of Bewick's Swan in the Usk Valley, Llangibby Bottom was todays chosen venue. Checking the OS map I was struck by the lack of public footpaths in the area so it came of little surprise to be confronted by barbed wire, locked gates and 'Keep Out' signage barring my way. Slighty crest fallen I returned to take in Llangibby Churchyard and the African club moss as compensation.

A native of south Africa, the Canary Islands and the Azores its now found its way around the world. In New Zealand its now causing a bit of a problem as only invasive non natives can. Thanks to Sam Bosanquet Monmouthshire's bryopyhte recorder for first finding and reporting this species in the very same churchyard a few years ago.

On to Ponthir Reservoir and Cwmbran Boating Lake where Black Headed Gulls  in varying stages of summer plumage were the only entertainment. 

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Toyota Prius.

Tour de force of a number of waterbodies in the Brynmawr - Ebbw Vale area turned up the usual crop of waterbirds. Machine Pond or as it known today Parc Nant Waun hosted 22 Goosander but it was Bryn Bach Parc that was the most species rich.  Amongst the people, push chairs, dogs and cyclists were seven Mute Swan, 11 Pochard and a similar number of Tufted Duck, 60 Coot, 50 Mallard and small numbers of Black Headed, Herring and Lesser Blacked Backed Gulls.

But it was the flock of about 32 Canada Goose that delivered the most intriging bird of the day. A hybrid Canada Goose x Grey Lag Goose gave smashing views. Not sure if one of these mixed up birds has been recorded in Gwentland before but checking the web it seems they're frequent in the London Parks.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Can I chalk this one up?

Arrived at work yesterday (Friday) to be greeted by a small tortoiseshell butterfly not in flight but barely conscious on a step. Having probably been disturbed from its wintering quarters can I chalk this one up as the first legitimate butterfly of the year or am I pushing my luck? Answers on a postcard or better still reply to this posting.
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