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

Monday, 28 February 2011

Death of a nest box colony - update

I've heard from Steve Carter who's done some sterling research work on the now defunct nest box colony on the outskirts of New Inn by thumbing through some Gwent Bird Report back issues. Seems that this colony was in its prime during the 1970s onward, but the most interesting fact is that it once supported 40 tree sparrow nests. Begs the question, is there still a remnant population in the area?

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Rooftop gulls are back

Having safely transferred a trolley full of monosodium glutimate and trans-fats to the car it was time for a poke around. A modest count of 20+ tufted duck and Lukes three ringed adult mute swan were noted on Beaufort Ponds. At Machine Pond there were three great crested grebe and a few tufted duck.

There were no gulls on the industrial buildings near Dunlop Semtex Pond during Goosander Gwent Winter Roost Survey just two weeks ago. Today however both the lesser black backed and herring gulls were back in numbers, many appear to have already taken up territory on the sedum roofs.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Death of a nest box colony

In a woodland just outside New Inn, near Pontypool was a nest box colony. In its heyday the fortunes of the birds that bred in these wooden boxes were documented annually in the Gwent Bird Report. Sadly the colony is no more, I know not why, all that remains of what once supported the likes of redstart and pied flycatcher are rotting remnants.

There were certainly some very good signs on the woodland floor that something was a stirring. Dogs mercury and bluebell were pushing forth and this queen Bombus terrestris was searching for an underground niche in which to build its nest. This widespread bumblebee is one of the earliest to appear from February onwards, this one was displaying a number of ticks.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Where did this lot come from?

I could walk blindfold around Cwmbran Boating Lake and still come up with a reasonably accurate species list, but yesterdays chesse and pickle sandwich visit was an exception. Not one, two, three or four but no less than 46 pochard were counted with a couple of tufted duck thrown in good measure. So unusual was this occurrence that both species of diving duck represent new records of the site for me. The birds were very unsettled and flighty so much so that 19 of the birds left the lake during my brief visit.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Return of the hybrid


The Canada Goose x Grey Lag Goose hybrid blogged by yours truly on 7 February 2010 was present again today at Bryn Bach Park ,in with about 42 Canada's.

At Machine Pond exactly one week following the first Gwent Goosanader Winter Roost Survey were four of the target species. Eventually took off in a north westerly direction.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Scaup face

In amongst a group of about 24 tufted duck at Beaufort Ponds this afternoon was this jobbie. On facial pattern only it would have been easy to have scribbled this one down as a female scaup but on closer inspection it's just a tuftie. Note large black tip to bill, pale bill band and a touch of a tuft. Unless you think differently?

Also present were three mute swan one of which was ringed - probably one of Luke's from Bryn Bach Park.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Gwent Goosander Winter Roost Survey 2011

Was a tad nippy and wet as I did my bit for the well organised Gwent Goosander Winter Roost Survey 2011 this evening at Dunlop Semtex Pond. Nice group of mainly male tufted duck and a couple of pochard, but star of the visit was a water rail. Oh! by the way no goosander.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

What is this?

Came across these blobs of jelly in the middle of a meadow at Llandegfedd Reservoir recently. But what are they? To me the jelly looks like undeveloped frog spawn. Any ideas?

Sunday, 6 February 2011

There's a pretty polly

There's been talk of a ring necked parakeet in the Cwmbran area for some weeks and only a few days ago  I was told a bird had been regularly coming to roost in Oakfield Park, Llantarnam. This mornings rather damp visit to Cwmbran Boating Lake was in the hope of a wind blown seabird rather than a non-native. No wind blown kittiwakes amongst the usually crop of common wildfowl, but disturbed this parakeet that was ground feeding. This bird was very flighty and vocal moving between the tops of large trees before flying out of sight.

After an hour at the boating lake I moved on to Llandegfedd Reservoir. Conditions were so choppy that it was almost impossible to make out any wildfowl, although good numbers of gull were clearly visible. Green pool hide provided the best birding opportunities with small counts of wigeon and teal taking advantage of the calmer waters.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Great grey skies

                                          Fuerteventura 2010

                                         Wentwood 2011

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Staying local

Stayed local today with a walk around Lasgarn wood near Abersychan. This woodland is where I cut my naturalist teeth as a youngster, so was refreshing to revisit this morning. Sadly a couple of wych elm that I look forward to seeing in flower each spring are now dead, but on the positive side they are supporting a healthy population of velvet shank (Flammulina velutipes) fungi. Elsewhere flushed a woodcock from close to a now scrubbed over midden pit, a legacy of a long gone farmstead.

The smooth bark of beech trees lend themselves well to penknife name carvings. This, I seem to remember, was commoner in days of my youth when carrying a penknife was part of the toolkit of all aspiring boy scouts, alongside the ever ready Observers Book of Birds. I suppose some purists would view this activity as vandalism, but clearly it has done the tree little harm and to me this is symbol of a time when local people used the woodlands for more than just riding your motorbike through. In this respect these tree initials are as much part of our cultural heritage as a miners lamp or spoil tip. 

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

The Bohemian waxwing then and now

A few days leave (use 'um or lose 'um) and today was shopping day. First stop was a visit to Next Clearance on the Mendalgief Retail Park in Newport, scene of a much watched party of waxwing some weeks ago. Who was it that told me that a hapless security guard misread the presence of birders with cameras and long lenses for visiting paparazzi on a mission to photograph an Oscar nominated celeb dropping in on Pets at Home for some doggy chocs?

From Newport we made our way to Chepstow. On the approach to the town we paused in traffic just long enough to witness a party of c20 waxwing fly from north to south over the road and adjacent Texaco garage into the heart of the housing estate beyond. This sighting suggests birds reported from the same area around the beginning of the year are still around. Just goes to show even on a shopping jolly there's things to see.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

What is being constructed at Ynys y fro Reservoir?

Called into Ynys y fro reservoir today but didn't venture around the lower lake due to level of construction work. What is going on? Looks like a large glass fronted building.

Moderate numbers of waterfowl on the upper lake including c130 coot, 2 little grebe, 50+ pochard, 22 tufted duck, 2 mute swan, and a female goldeneye.

Gulls were also plentiful, congregating on the frozen sections of both parts of the reservoir. Once again an adult black headed gull was clocked sporting some 'bling', probably of foreign origin.

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