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

Saturday, 26 October 2013


Photographing colour ringed birds is one thing but those carrying conventional  metal rings pose something of a special challenge. If you are lucky enough to get close to the bird, trying to get a series of images that enables the ring number to be read is almost impossible. Fortunately a black headed gull with a ring marked Denmark spent long periods preening on top of the Boat House and Tredegar House Lake. This allowed me sufficient time to capture almost all of the ring. Alternatively a second ringed bird presented a more difficult challenge and I was unable to get any decent shots. Almost amongst the black headed gulls was a single Mediterranean Gull that eventually took flight leaving the lake. Four tufted duck were the others worthy of mention. 

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Impressive customer service!

My experience of reporting colour ringed birds especially through the BTO website has not been great. No reply is the standard reply - note still waiting for feedback on the Newport Riverfront colour ringed redshank of last winter! Following some preliminary research it appeared that the above coloured ringed mew gull noted in Monmouth earlier this month ( see 6/10/13 posting) was first ringed in Norway. This morning after tracking down the Norway Museum colour ringing web page I updated all necessary data fully expecting to have to wait days, weeks, months for a reply, but to my astonishment I received an instant, yes, instant reply, with the following data:

Ringed on 10-9-2012 as a first calendar year bird (1cy) at Mosvangen Camping, Mosvatnet, Stavanger, Rogaland. Norway.

To date this is, by a long chalk, the most significant colour ringed bird gull I have found. 

Al fresco

Over recent weeks I've taken the opportunity scoff my lunchtime cheese baps in the lay-by on the dam at Llandegfedd Reservoir. Anti-social this may be but you quickly develop a picture of the wildlfe that occurs along this long strip of concrete.  This stint of mid day office exclusion has reminded me of a item I wrote for the Gwent Bird Report back in the early 1980's. Entitled something like 'Llandegfedd Reservoir: Birds from the Dam' it centred on the avian delights that had personally been recorded at the end of the reservoir that didn't need changing your footwear to walk around. 

My recent observations have not been ground breaking but great black backed gulls, coot, great crested grebe and cormorant are regulars. Little grebe are reasonable frequent with a maximum of three. The grassy margins were until the last few days home for up to 30 meadow pipit along with good numbers of pied wagtail.  

Elsewhere on the dam an area of flowering ivy has been alive with early atumn diptera, hymenoptera and lepidoptera. This queen wasp frequented gaps in the masonary looking for an over wintering site - I believe this to be a German wasp

Sunday, 13 October 2013

And through the gloom of a Fochriw morning, it emerged.

Yes it is technically out of county but Rhaslas Pond above Fochriw is less than a bills length beyond the boundary. Saturdays are always busy for me so to get in a visit before the long-billed dowitcher skipped on to its next watering hole I needed to be on the road early. At the pond the weather was dismay, low light, cold, windy and a threat of rain. Nonetheless the bird was located at the south west corner and performed well with views down to 10 metres. 

On the way home two separate parties of redwing were noted crossing the Heads of Valleys road and on the outskirts of Blaenavon a red kite battled the wind.  

Saturday, 12 October 2013

West country wanderer

Thanks to another sharp response from Peter Stewart I can bring you information about this colour ringed lesser black backed gull photographed at low tide on the River Usk, Newport last Sunday 6th October.

It was first ringed at Gloucester Landfill Site nr. Hempsted, Gloucestershire on12/4/08. A subsequent 38 sightings of the bird were made in and around Gloucester until 2011. This is the first record since that date.  

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Motor city

It's a fallacy that my life revolves around off the wall naturalist activities and the subsequent updating of this blog. Other things in a busy schedule include work, subsidising off-spring, watching TV sport and listening to progressive rock/metal music- see not such a nerd after all ! So for obvious reasons this posting is a liitle late in making it to the digital super highway.

Talking of highways the Sunday before last (29 September) I visited the land of the internal combustion engine where the fantasy of a race track promising thousands of jobs sit bumper to bumper with the dualling of the Heads of the Valleys road. My usual parking spot for easy access to Garnlydan Reservoir was barred by earthworks, traffic cones and tattooed construction driving trucks that when revved belched copious amounts of air-borne particulates (PM 10s?). A fluorescent tabard wearing workman with discoloured safety helmet worn at a jaunty angle crossed the road in front driving a dumper that bounced in tune with the uneven terrain of upland rhos pasture. So displaced to a lay-by just past a blue roadside sign marked Powys I proceeded to make my way in full late summer sunshine across pylon dominated landscape to said waterbody.

En-route a stridulating meadow grasshopper was noted close to a chicane in the track but was barely audible between the noise of frequent drive-by bikers that seem to use the Llangattock road. Where a small quarry had developed a small pond black darter dragonflies were still on the wing, alighting on the dozen or so discarded tyres that now sit easy with carbon hungry aspirations of this area of Gwent. The reservoir itself was surprisingly low on water. Six wigeon flew in, possibly the same birds that were present at Beaufort Ponds earlier and a few gulls seemed unsettled mid water. Half a lap into a full circuit around the reservoir I put up three snipe. Fourteen lapwing then took flight moving around the reservoir set against the blue sky like an avian chequered flag and finally two redshank made it on to the podium.


Sunday, 6 October 2013

Colour ringed Eurasian Mew Gull

A new gull watching location hit the big time yesterday -well for me anyway. Chippenham Sports Ground across the road from Waitrose supermarket in Monmouth was home to a party of around 50 gulls. Within a contingent of fourteen Eurasian mew gull (Larus canus) was this little bejewelled beauty that happily tugged at earth worms moving from third man to deep square leg on the cricket pitch. This is my first colour ringed mew gull from the county of vices 35. Given the colour ring starts with J suggests this bird is of Norwegian origin. Lets hope I can get some feedback on this one! 

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