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

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Football factory wingers

At last some photographable waxwing in Gwent. These little gems, over 20 of them, were using the trees around the Football Factory on the Avondale Industrial Estate, Cwmbran. Many were also using the grounds of the nearby primary school as well. There are some heavily laden ornamental rowan with white berries several hundred metres due south near to the Cwmbran Town Centre which I'm sure these birds will find  eventually - if not spooked by a couple of resident mistle thrush of course.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Not the first ringed Shoveler it seems

Two shoveler 'up ending' in the shallows of Bryn Bach Park were suspiciously confiding. It seems that a raft of Canadian and Nuttells pondweed was just enough to kept them occupied while I made my approach. One bird was clearly carrying a ring but was almost impossible to get a decent series of shots to allow the ring number to be read. Shoveler ring recoveries are not something I ever recall seeing on the pages of the Gwent Bird Report, but checking the ringing page on the BTO website there is at least one.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

A full head of hair - unusual?

At the right time of year you wouldn't look twice at an adult black headed gull in summer plumage, but in late November its a different kettle of fish. This bird was feeding with about 200 other gulls in a howling gale on a playing field south of Pontypool at lunchtime today. I was intrigued as none of the other gulls came anywhere close to matching this birds summer plumage.

My copy of Gulls of Europe, Asia and North America (Klaus Malling Olsen and Hans Larsson 2002) provided an answer, it states. Adult with dark hood in midwinter rare but regular. Several birds showed traces of darker eye spot, others had fresh hood Nov-Dec, indicating that hood atypically may have been developed during autumn moult or as very early moult into summer; although mostly incomplete into mid-Jan. This has especially proven to be the case following a series of very mild autumns and winters.

It goes on to say. Earliest with winter head mid Jul (small minority mid-Jun probably failed breeders); by late Aug;90% have winter head. Small minority retain summer head to early Oct, exceptionally into winter.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Lower boat pond - standard stuff.

Having the need to visit Ebbw Vale on a day off work I dropped into lower Beaufort Pond, Brynmawr for a quick wildfowl count. No great shakes with an expected range of bog standard birds. However a count of about 40 wigeon was by far the most I've counted at this site in close to twenty years. Other birds include 10 tufted duck, 2 pochard, 16 coot and 30 mallard.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Remembrance Day report

The days of leaving home at sun up only to return at sun down complete with Filofax brimming with exciting ticks are fading into the memory. The onset of middle age spread and less free time has changed the dynamic of my birding. Give me a nearby car park, a nice accessible walking surface, benches and I'm yer man.

The Riverfront in the freshly urbanised metropolitan city of Newport is brilliant for this, that's of course if you can get into your chosen car park near the Riverfront Theatre! Displaced from this most convenient block of floodplain tarmac by several oily workman in florescent jackets, I found myself in the next available free place half a mile down the road in Asda Pill (three hour limit for customers only!) This had the result of forcing me across a road to confront the bold primary colours of Newport's urban artwork zone, on through narrow walkways between high rise buildings where students kicked empty Red Bull cans and smoked Moroccan black, onward across a dual carriageway before making it to the Riverfront walk - and relax!

Having not had the pleasure of birding in this part of Newport's edgelands before I quickly sought a vantage point from which to pick out the avian delights in amongst the tractor tyres, assorted twisted metal and a nose cone of a Lufthansa jet that were rising from the chocolate coloured depths of the River Usk's highly productive tidal ecosystem.  A redshank and cormorant later I quickened my step upstream towards my aforementioned, now barred, favourite parking spot, side stepping a number of leisure cyclists on the way. At a bench free from the oppressive affects of the new riverside accommodation, base camp was established all to the sound of distant marching and shouting. A Police officer with purpose in his stride passed me without even questioning why I was using binoculars in a public place. Here several redshank caught my eye one of which was the multi-ringed bird noted a couple of weeks ago. Here also were hundreds of gulls dotted along the shoreline like a string of pearls from bridge to bridge. Then at 11 o'clock a 'report' of artillery fire scattered all and sundry. With visions of an Asda car park attendant in price promise green uniform eyeing up my car  for an on the spot fine, I returned.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Taking the piscivore

I sense there's a new generation of Gwent goosander that's becoming that little bit more confiding. Contrast those distant birds at Llandegfedd and Garnlydan Reservoirs with this immature bird at Cwmbran Boating Lake, approachable down to three or four metres (shock, horror!). A one off you may think, but remember the summer bird loafing about on a sandy spit on the River Monnow in the centre of Monmouth? This bird too was oblivious to the proximity of homo sapiens in the form of a troop of portly middle aged Morris dancers shaking their jingly bells and beating their wooden sticks. A slightly worrying trend given the hostility a brewing amongst the hunting, fishing, good loving man brigade.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Some more gull nonsense

Numbers of black headed gull are on the increase again at Cwmbran Boating Lake. Several were having some fun with a short length of plastic tubing. Otherwise the lake supported a single female goosander, four moorhen, a pair of mute swan, 18 Canada goose, and single of coot and lesser black backed gull.
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