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

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Inform BTO

Its only rarely you get the opportunity to view the legs and feet of gulls and wildfowl. This recent cold snap has done the trick by hosting those usually submerged 'pins' from the icy depths to a position where they can be checked for Ratner style jewellery. At Bryn Bach Park yesterday there were several hundred assorted gulls along with a smaller number of coot, mallard and mute swan all standing on the frozen lake. The two ringed mute swan blogged on 5 December were joined by three other ringed birds of consecutive numbers. Now present are numbers ZY4632-33-34-35-36. Also noted was the above coot with ring number GC60061.

For gulls more than wildfowl ringers will certainly get more 'bang for their buck' if they use Darvic or colour rings in conjunction with the standard metal rings. With optical advances these days reading and photographing birds with rings is easier than ever but often still requires the bird to be viewed from several angles to read a full number. Ringers would get back more data if colours and larger numbers were available to view in the field, after all plotting the movements of birds is what ringing is all about and anything that enhances this must be worth it. By example the two ringed herring gull at Dunlop Semtex Pond recently were too distance to read a small number on a discoloured  metal ring but with a colour ring things may have been different.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Gulls on ice

There were a good number of gulls on offer at Dunlop Semtex Pond yesterday. The majority were black headed, but also included the above common, herring and lesser black backed. Two herring gull (one adult and one first winter) were carrying metal rings but were too distance to read numbers.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Men and Sheds: Observational Structure of the Year Award 2010

Its a clean sweep for Llandegfedd Reservoir. Seems as if Gwent's other honey pot sites have a lot of catching up to do! Nominations welcome for 2011 award. (Ed: must devise criteria that doesn't expose this award to calls of subjectivity)

First: Green Pool Hide Llandegfedd Reservoir (SSSI).

Second: Bert Hamar Memorial Hide Llandegfedd Reservoir (SSSI)

Third: Pettingale Hide Llandegfedd Reservoir (SSSI)

Commended: Magor Marsh (SSSI)

Commended: My Fensman portable hide c1979

Heavy duty canvas, wooden poles and sisal guy ropes- vintage!

Note: Awaiting photo. Currently residing in an inaccessible spot at back of shed.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Brass monkey weather

The old jalopy registered minus thirteen (-13) as I drove southward this Boxing Day morning and the two pairs of novelty Homer Simpson socks covering my little piggies were hardly adequate to keep out the cold. As there's more chance of winning Friday nights Euromillions draw than gaining access to Welsh Water reservoirs these days I played my trump card and headed for the much under-rated Pettingale Hide. Admittedly a bit of a trek but its just off a footpath with no Houdini style locks to negotiate and it gets you to where the action is.

'I've lived here a long time but never seen it frozen over like this' said a local Farmer as I breezed past him with purpose in my stride. Sure enough the reservoir was frozen hard but for a few areas of open water towards Green pool and Fishermans car park. In the distance I could pick out at least four goosander a few pochard, good numbers of Canada geese and cormorant, a couple of great black backed gull but the pick of the bunch were at least 14 Bewick's swans.

Magor Marsh seemed even colder, on just a little bit of ice free water was, 6 mute swan, 5 gadwall, 2 little grebe and other assorted commoner wildfowl. A woodcock was also flushed from a wooded area on return.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Read all about it

The 2009 Gwent Bird Report has arrived. This years report is another fine tribute to birding activity in this corner of Wales. New editor John Coleman has produced volume 45 in the tried and tested format of systematic list, articles, ringing report along with a bumper crop of excellent photos by Lee Parsons, Nathan Casburn etc. 

On analysing its content I can't help expressing an on going concern about birding coverage at Llandegfedd Reservoir. See wigeon count table with only two entries and none at all for tufted duck a point referenced in the text. This is a worry, a time series of counts since when the valley was flooded in 1963 is in danger of  being eroded by lack of counting activity. Hopefully this year will see a bit of a renaissance.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Island biogeography

Presented myself at Llandegfedd Reservoir's North end gate at 9.30 this morning only to find it double padlocked. Hung around until 10.30 admiring the frosty scene but the gate remained firmly chained. Slightly irritated I moved on to The Island near Usk.

Must say it made a nice change to have a wander along the banks of the River Usk Special Area of Conservation (SAC). Birds on show included 5 goosander, 4 little grebe, a single moorhen, half a dozen mallard and a great spotted woodpecker.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Makes a change from a gull

Motacilla cinerea for your enjoyment. Next time whooper swan from Ponthir Reservoir?

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Thanks for your concern but I'm fine, now throw me some bread!

Six waxwing still feeding on the now rapidly diminishing berries at Ebbw Vale as I drove past en route for Bryn Bach Park.

At the park only a small area of open water remained where all the wildfowl had gathered. Within the five mute swan present were two carrying BTO rings. Also the above adult black headed gull seemed to be coping fine minus a leg.

Aptly named

Adorned in just my wee willy winkie nightshirt I opened the front door to dispose of last nights Domino's and noticed a small moth on the step. Turned out to be a winter moth probably Operophtera brumata rather than fagata the northern winter moth. Although common and widespread its still somewhat notable to record a moth during sub zero temperatures.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

A brief look at the Common (Mew) Gull

At this time of year groups of gulls congregating on frozen lakes and ponds are good for both photography and the sharpening of those identification skills. Gulls as a group can be very tricky with differing age and seasonal plumage, and are therefore something of an acquired skill that needs to be worked at to build confidence. Only recently I agonised over a large gull that had come in to roost on Ponthir Reservoir. Was it a ring billed or just a common or garden herring gull? The latter prevailed but the varying amount of dark markings on bill had me going for a while.

The common gulls depicted in the above image illustrate how plumages differ depending on age. My assessment of these gulls would be:

Left hand bird: Adult winter - note crisp plumage with slight streaking of head and slight bill band.

Middle bird: 2nd winter - heavier streaking to head and breast with thicker bill band.

Right hand bird: 1st winter - blend of immature and adult plumage with well defined dark tip to bill.

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