June 2012 - Newsletter No. 123 PDF Print E-mail


Poor Verity! Having been elected as our new Chairman in January, she had to miss her first meeting in February because she was on holiday and then found herself struck down with ‘flu in April and had to miss her second meeting too! Keith Roylance took the chair.

The GOS 50th Anniversary is looming large in the GOS calendar and the event will be marked with a joint GOS/WOS/BTO conference on November 2nd 2013. A sub-committee led by Al Venables, is already negotiating a venue, speakers etc. and details will be published in due course.

The raffle at indoor meetings has long been a source of disappointment due to the quality of prizes and, sometimes, no one to administer it. We have advertised in this Dipper for a Raffle organiser(s) and we have agreed that there will be just two prizes, a quality box of chocolates and a bottle of good wine.

Every year we donate £100 to RSPB Wales, so we asked them what they spend it on. We learned that they have been using it to replace inexpensive binoculars for visiting schoolchildren, which met with the Committee’s wholehearted approval.

Treasurer, Keith Roylance, has become a Hedge Fund Manager! Noting that postal charges were going to increase by 28% from the end of April, he bought 1000 2nd class stamps at the old rate which should cover the postal needs of the Dipper this year. A good investment!

From NWR it was reported that about four acres of reedbed were destroyed by fire. Arson is suspected. Tom Dalrymple reported that work had started on a new hide situated on the Round Wales Coastal Path.

We have received a response from the Managing Director of Welsh Water regarding the deterioration at Llandegfedd reservoir. He assures us there is no plan to degrade and lose the SSSI status to facilitate the introduction of more lucrative leisure schemes at the reservoir. Nevertheless there are plans to improve visitor and water sports facilities at the southern end but these works will be carried out in full consultation with CCW.

An inventory will be taken to prepare an asset register which will allow maintenance funding to be properly targeted.

If you have any comments on the birdwatching facilities at the reservoirs – improvements or deterioration - please let me know.

GOS has had to decline many invitations to be represented at various summer shows around the county again this year, due to lack of volunteers. Only Committee members seem to volunteer but all members are invited to help out and the more we have the less time you need spend being “tied to the stand” We need more help at:

NWR (July 8th)

Magor Marsh (July 21st)

Dingestow (August 2nd)

Please contact me if you would like to help out for a couple of hours. It’s good fun!

Helen Jones recently retired from the committee after more than 20 years in various roles. To mark our appreciation of her contribution over the years it was decided to award Helen Honorary Life Membership.

GWT had appealed for money to buy land adjacent to Magor Marsh. Despite having little ornithological interest it was argued that it would be of strategic importance by providing a buffer around the existing Reserve. It was agreed to donate £500 if their bid was successful.



We need two or three volunteers who can sell raffle tickets at our indoor meetings. Only one per meeting, of course, but two or three means that no one person need feel obliged to turn up at every meeting – take it in turns/make a rota. Good money!!

Call Trevor Russell on 01600 716266 for more info.

Confessions of a Bird Watcher Keith Jones

Much has been written about Bird Watching as a hobby, from the joys of a simple passing interest, through the fanatical ‘Twitcher’ to the compulsive scientific recorder. People could be pardoned for thinking the latter two types of birders are fanatical or obsessive and maybe that’s true - but there are a lot of us about. Although as a recorder I count birds, I often wonder how accurate my figures really are.

The lads who first took me birding had a habit of keeping a reasonably detailed diary of their sightings, and this habit I took a step further after the week I spent on Skokholm back in 1965. During that week I was fortunate to meet David Lack and his two sons who were also staying on the island. We spent several hours with him in the field, and he was particularly fond of watching Gannets fishing just off shore. His encouragement was probably the main influence in creating the sort of birder I am today. He gave me a great deal of sound advice including starting a Common Bird Census (CBC). He advised me to spend some time to select one of my favourite birds, locate a site where its nests near your home and that is your CBC site. The Nightjar would always hold my attention until enthusiasm for the procedure kicked in. I completed my first CBS at Stormy Down for a few years, until progress in the form of the M4 destroyed the site. He also emphasised the rule to record everything, and nothing. It’s an annoying habit I continue to this day, logging every bird I see and hear, but he also advised me pay attention to what I missed. Eventually I understood what he meant by this last point, the limits of my experience, and those brief glances of birds I just cannot identify for one reason or another. Yes count these also, which may give some indication of how personal birding skills develop.

Anyone who reads the GOS sightings page must be aware that I count birds, not just the atlas work or the Breeding Birds Surveys, but always. As I walk I sub-divide my walks to specific locations, Cadira Beeches, Five Paths, Nine Wells and so on, adding birds I locate using the BTO species codes as I walk. Using the species code until fairly recently was a problem in itself, relying on my 40 year old memory. As a result my earlier birding notes contain some very strange sightings. An example of such an error include 2RA (Razorbills) up in Wentwood! As I now have a full species list I realise RA was an error, this particular note should have read RN which I now understand is the code for Raven.

Yet another nagging worry I have had over the years is how accurate are some of my counts; particularly counting larger groups. As we know some birds congregate in vast flocks which can be too many to count individually while smaller groups in flight move too fast to be counted easily. During such times there is the tried and trusted method of counting a group of 10 or 100 and estimating the number of 10s or 100s in the flock. The results, when compared with other birders’ estimates, or counting birds individually in photographs, never ceases to amaze how accurate such a method can be. Or so we are told, yet some doubts still remain, so much so I still often break into a cold sweat during some WeBS counts (BTO’s Wetland Birds Survey). I often wonder if I’m alone with this particular anxiety?

My birding routine is usually the same most weeks, I get out 3 to 5 times a week depending on the weather, and usually around first light, I return home generally by mid day, and as soon as I arrive home I spend another hour or so writing up my notes, including a sighting summary, adding significant findings to files to be sent to reports at the end on the year and most times, writing a brief report to the GOS sightings page. All very commendable some would think, but again I often wonder how correct some of the species figures really are.

To illustrate this particular point, let’s pick a bird at random, say a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Looking at my earlier birding diaries you will rarely find such sightings, yet suddenly the numbers appear to pick up and continue to show on a regular basis. Has the population of Great Spotted Woodpeckers increased? That may be the case, or more likely my skill level has improved. Hearing a sharp ‘tchik’ call tells me a Great Spotted Woodpecker is about, I stop and look and there is it. The opposite also occurs when bird numbers of certain species seem to reduce over the last few years. Recently, while walking around Wentwood, I noticed there are very few Goldcrests about when compared to a few years ago. A reduction in Goldcrest population? Or have I reached that age where I can no longer hear those high pitched bird notes?

On occasion I also count birds I fail to identify during a walk. We call such birds on a regular basis with just those briefest flashes, a Little Brown Job. Counting these uncertain birds always seem to throw up the same figure of 5% to 15%, and not even considering the birds which are completely missed when out in the field. I recently had such an occurrence of missed birds during Atlas work. While visiting Lodge Wood periphery, no Common Whitethroats were present, but I returned the day after at the same time and same weather conditions, and I located 4 singing Common Whitethroats. Perhaps we have all experienced that at one time or another. Green-winged Teal, Iberian Chiffchaff, Subalpine Warbler, White-rumped Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper. Hands up all those who have tried to twitch that rarity only to dip? Exactly! I think I have made my point.

All these concerns, to me, beg the question, at what point does a birder become proficient? Now that is a question is it not? As a result of these missed birds I am constantly reminded of how little I know, and how much more I have to learn. I guess like all skill based activities, the truth is, all birders are never completely proficient at their craft, and continue to learn.

Newport wetlands Wales


STAFF: Tom Dalrymple (Senior Reserve Manager), Kevin DupÉ (Reserve Manager), Richard Smith & Bryn Jones (Assistant Reserve Managers).


Shoveler numbers increased to 144 this month as birds began the journey back towards their breeding grounds. By the middle of February the first Skylarks could be heard singing in the grasslands, soon after Lapwing could be heard displaying.

A Bittern has been seen in the Reedbeds throughout the month. We’ll keep our ears open for booming this year!


Work has started on a new hide situated on the all Wales Coastal Path. The hide will give spectacular views over the flooded grasslands and some of the reserves most spectacular wildlife. The hide at Goldcliff that was burnt down is also being replaced this month. The new hide is made from fire resistant material. All hides are fire resistant now.

Contractors have pollarded willows and trimmed back hedges this month before birds begin to nest. Our volunteer team have taken much of the brash generated from these operations to build screens to prevent people walking up to the hides disturbing the birds.

Fields surrounding the saline lagoons had to be topped this month to prepare them for breeding Lapwing as the grass has grown over the winter!

We’ve removed some stunted Ash trees from the visitor centre car park and sunk them in the reedbed lagoons, to provide shelter for our Rudd.

Water has been pumped into the raised reedbed reservoir in the visitor centre field in an attempt to find the leaks.

Events & visits

  • St Andrews Primary School was the first school to visit Newport Wetlands seven years ago. They were invited back for World Wetlands Day on the 2nd. Kevin gave a guided walk attended by 31 people in the afternoon.
  • Iolo gave an interview for Radio Cymru with Daniel Jenkins-Jones and Cellan Michael at Newport Wetlands on the 9th.
  • Phil Holden received a tour of Newport Wetlands on the 9th for winning the Wales Environment Link Marine photography competition.
  • Tony Robinson from Conservation Land Management magazine visited on the 16th to write an article on Newport Wetlands.



The first cuckoo was heard at Newport Wetlands on the 30th. The Bittern was again seen in the Reedbeds throughout the month.

By the end of March there were 6 pairs of Lapwing on the grasslands plus a further 10 males. One of the females had begun incubating eggs. There were also 4 pairs of Redshank on the grassland fields. On the Lagoons the number of Avocet reached 44 with 2 probable nests. There were 14 Lapwing including 4 nests, 39 Redshank and 1 pair of Oystercatcher. Bizarrely, a pair of Lapwing were showing interest in a reedbed clearing. Elsewhere in the reedbed the Cetti’s Warbler and Water Rail were beginning to recover from last winter’s severe weather. By the end of March there were 25 Cetti’s Warbler territories, last spring there were only 10. The Water Rails had 6 territories this month when there were only 2 recorded last year.


All the hides are now completed. There is one in the reedbeds, one in the wet grasslands situated on the all Wales Coastal Path and 3 at the saline lagoons to replace the old viewing screens.

The pumps that supply fresh water to the lagoons and grasslands have finally been repaired and installed after 6 months of intermittent faults and contractor issues.

A small crack has been discovered alongside the coastal footpath in the reedbeds. The panel engineer has assessed the damage along with technical specialists from the Environment Agency. Remedial action has been carried out to prevent the crack getting larger whilst a more permanent solution is being investigated.

In the first week of March the IDB installed a pipe to connect our fresh water supply to the ditch that feeds the three saline lagoons. This should make controlling salinity and water levels much easier, providing that there is enough fresh water to go around.

Whilst checking the electric pylon lines from a helicopter, the National Grid flushed lots of birds from the reedbed, including the Bittern. Fortunately the Bittern and most of the other birds returned. National Grid have agreed to make the reserve a no-fly zone in future.

Events & visits

I gave a talk about the establishment of the reserve to Bristol Ornithological Society on the 15th

Newport wetlands WALES

April & May


It’s been a busy time on the Lagoons and grasslands for the past 2 months. There has been a total of 22 Lapwing pairs, 20 Avocet pairs, 20 Redshank pairs and 3 Oystercatcher but no Ringed Plover or Little Ringed Plover this year. The fox fence appears to have done its job this year with very few nest failures for any species. The chicks however are running the gauntlet of the usual avian predators, Buzzard, Grey Heron, Crow, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Herring Gull. Our first Lapwing chick to survive to fledging was seen on the 25th of May one of the very first clutches to be laid. The waders on the grasslands haven’t faired as well. No chicks have survived from the 11 pairs of Lapwing that nested on the grasslands.

Cetti’s Warbler territories have now reached 34 to 36. Notable sightings for the period included:

Wood Sandpiper 28th April at Goldcliff,

Short-eared Owl on the 19th and 21st of April at Uskmouth,

Whooper Swan at Goldcliff on the 12th of April at Goldcliff,

Merlin on the 5th April at Goldcliff,

Dark-bellied Brent Goose and 2 Scaup on the 4th of May,

A Smew and a Red-rumped Swallow on the 5th of May,

A Spoonbill on the 13th of May,

A Black-winged Stilt at Goldcliff on the 25th of May,

A drake Garganey on the 26th of May.


At about 5pm on the 8th of April a fire started in Reedbed 11. The fire moved quickly with the prevailing wind and soon burnt all the dry reeds in that direction, approximately 3.5 hectares. The Fire Brigade were called with two appliances and they made sure the fire did not spread beyond the reedbed. We’ll never know how the fire started but the most likely explanation is arson. Nobody was harmed and we have reviewed the risk assessments. We will ensure that fire breaks are cut along path edges for safety reasons.

The Wales Coastal Path opened in May and apart from a few confused walkers straying where they shouldn’t, the opening has gone well. We have worked with Newport City Council to move way markers to make direction finding easier for walkers.

The stock went on late this year because of the cold wet April and early May. We then got a heat wave in mid May which coupled with the wet conditions made all the vegetation grow like the tropics. We’ve increased stocking numbers where there are wader chicks but no nests, in the hope that the ruminants can get the sward low enough for young waders to traverse.

Bryn and Richie have had to fence off a piece of saltmarsh from the sheep to allow it to recover. The fence will be removed at the end of the grazing season.

Volunteers, Richard, Rhys, Sheila, Fiona and Jean have been busy repairing the pontoons at Uskmouth amongst other tasks. Hundreds and hundreds of zip ties that hold the matting together have all been painstakingly replaced.

Geraint Robson from Bridgend College came to do a 2 week work placement at the beginning of May.

Events & visits

Kevin led the Breeding Wader walk at the Saline Lagoons on Saturday the 28th. He was assisted by Voluntary Wardens, Chris Hurn, Keith Thomas, Sheila Dupe and John Bennett.

Gwent Ornithological Society member and volunteer Darryl Spittle got up in the small hours again this year to lead his dawn chorus walk on Sunday the 6th May.

RSPB met with Eluned Parrott AM at the Visitor Centre on May the 11th.

I gave a tour to 40 Ecology students from Gloucester University on the 25th of May.



STAFF: Lorraine Leicester (Centre Manager), Adrianne Jones (Centre Coordinator), Catering Team: Irene Simons (Catering Supervisor), Jana Romanova, Michelle Cross, Lynne Thomas, Education Team: Tara Okon (Lead Field Teacher), Nick Evans, Karen Kendall, Michelle Brown, Carina Greenwood, Brian Winstanley, Petra Mitchard, Caroline Clement, Lesley Evatt, Salma Shohid (Cleaner and Centre Assistant)

Mathew Meehan is now Visitor Services Manager, Lucy Beecher is Visitor Centre Assistant and Jenna Wright and Lisa Robinson joined us in April 2012 as Visitor Centre Assistants.

Hana Callard and Giles Carter (People Engagement Assistants) contracts ended 31 March 2012.

Kim Fenton finished her 12 week work placement in April.


Five displaying lapwing were seen over the newly re-profiled scrape in April – hopefully a sign of things to come. The scrape is also attracting pied/white wagtail, common sandpiper, shelduck and larger numbers of little egret and grey heron. We have breeding coots and moorhen. Both a barn owl and a short eared owl have been seen over the environs in April. A grasshopper warbler and wheatear were seen by the play area and visitor centre.

Management/site maintenance

Water levels continue to be monitored and leaks checked for.

The scrape was re-profiled in March. The work involved reducing the height of the ridges and levelling them off as well as extending a small area of wet grassland.

A willow fence has been erected to shield the scrape area from the delivery compound providing screening for wildlife.

Newport City Council provided a mix of field maple, rowan and crab apple trees which have been planted in the car park area to enhance this area for both visitors and wildlife.


Newport ended the year 2011/12 on 92,950 visitors with a 47% / 53% split between members / non members respectively (based on survey ratios). These are visitor numbers through the visitor centre from 1 April 2011 to 31 March 2012.

Memberships for the year 2011/12 were 350.

Retail income for the year 2011/12 was £149,138 (+17% on previous year) with Newport showing top growth for all sites. Catering income for the year 2011/12 was £116,278 (+15% on previous year) with Newport coming in third place for all sites.

Publicity, events and education

During March and April there were six primary school visits with a total of 329 children, two secondary school visits with a total of 16 children. There was also an NVQ Animal Care students visit with 10 students. We also had a Family Learning Group visit on a maths day attended by 7 children and their parents.

During March / April we had two WEX groups, two optics demonstration days, four RSPB in house training/meetings, five family events, one adult event, nine conferences, four reserve visits and our volunteers have taken six guided walks. We ran a photographic competition from October to March with the entries being put on display from Easter. We also took part in the Together for Trees – Rainforest Reporter Competition in April.

A GOS visit 31st March 2012 to the Great Bustard Project, Enford

A rather good turn out of members arrived at Enford Village Hall to an overcast and chilly day, but at least it was dry. We were greeted by a member of the Bustard Project, but our group was too large for the one Land Rover so we had to divide into two groups. Nine members of GOS piled into the transport for the visitors centre, leaving us late comers to wait. Very little to show during the wait but Chaffinch, Carrion Crow, Rook, Blackbird, Magpie Jackdaw, and Carrion Crow. Our group of 9 were taken directly to the hide over looking the release enclosure some 300 – 400 metres distant. During the journey we were informed 154 birds had been released to date, two birds were sitting on eggs near the visitors centre, and two Stone Curlews had already arrived in the area. An area for Stone Curlews had been cleared in the extensive electrodes release enclosure. We could hope.

Three Great Bustards were active in the pen including a displaying male; he however, at just two years old, had a great deal to learn; a few days before he had attempted to mate with one of the decoy birds. Leaving us at the hide, our guide left to pick up the other group. They eventually returned with questions, ‘Have you seen the Stone Curlews’? ‘No, a needle in a hay stack job’ we thought. Our group were then taken to the visitor centre, with shop, and views of the enclosure. We were shown a short film about the project (for interested members we have a copy in our library). After the film we had hardly time to locate the Bustards when a project member with his scope called out ‘Stone Curlew!’ Oohs, aahs, followed as we scrambled to try to form a semi-orderly queue for the scope. Some had luck, but eventually the bird had gone, and by the time I got to the scope nothing. Fortunately due to his persistence our guide located it again and with instructions we located something through the scope. My own perception suggested an odd shaped rock with a cream coloured white streak which sounded hopeful. Eventually it opened its eye, yes a Stone Curlew, and a lifer for this writer!

Our group were fortunate enough to have the Director of the project David Waters return us to the village hall. He entertained us by explaining some of the frustrations the group has from our political masters. On one occasion he arranged to meet such a group at the project. On greeting them the politician was excited to have already seen a group of Great Bustards on the farm and was suitably impressed by the birds. A rather confused David asked him where they had seen the birds, and the senior politician pointed to a group of Guinea Fowl!

We completed the visit at 1400hrs, and sighting just seven species may not seem much, but what we did see, wonderful!

Gwent UKBS Report for March 2012 Chris Hatch


A Great White Egret was present at Newport Wetlands (22nd). A Great Grey Shrike was reported from Twm Barlwm (26th). The Common Yellowthroat was still present at Rhiwderin (until 13th). Reports of a single Osprey came from Caerleon, Blaenafon and Garnlydan (all on 28th and possibly involving the same bird) and Gobion (29th).

Newport Wetlands Reserve

Up to 38 Avocets were present (22nd). A Bittern was reported (11th and 22nd). A female Hen Harrier was recorded (28th) and a Barn Owl was present (22nd).

Other sites

Short-eared Owls were reported from Rogiet (three on 2nd), Redwick (two on 4th), Peterstone Gout (16th) and Caldicot Pill (22nd). Ring-tailed Hen Harriers were recoded at Mynydd Llanhilleth (two on 12th), The British (25th), Rogiet (29th) and Abergavenny (two on 29th). Female Merlins were seen at Peterstone Gout (14th) and Trefil (16th). A Long-eared Owl was observed at Peterstone Wentlooge (16th). Other sightings of note included 15 Golden Plover at Cwmtysswg (6th), 65+ Brambling at Manmoel (8th), two Avocets at Peterstone Gout (15th), a Whimbrel at Sudbrook (28th) and a pair of Ring Ouzels on the Blorenge (30th). Spring migrants, including several early Cuckoos were reported from a variety of locations, whilst records of Red Kites were widespread.

Gwent UKBS Report for April 2012


A Hoopoe was reported from Caerleon (23rd). A Black Redstart was seen at Parc Seymour (2nd). Single Ospreys were recorded at Cwmbran (2nd) and Monmouth (16th). A Wood Sandpiper was reported from Newport Wetlands (28th).

Newport Wetlands Reserve

A pair of Garganey was present (4th). Over 50 Avocets were recorded (10th).

Single Short-eared Owls were seen on several dates, whilst diurnal raptors included a Merlin (5th) and Marsh Harrier (16th). Up to 45 Little Egrets were recorded (6th), whilst other sightings of note included a Whooper Swan (12th), a Grasshopper Warbler (12th), 22 Arctic Terns offshore (25th) and a pale-bellied Brent Goose (28th).

Other sites

A Jack Snipe was reported from Llandegfedd reservoir (4th), with three Arctic Terns present at the same site (24th). Short-eared Owls were reported from Black Rock (2nd), Sudbrook (7th and 10th), Rogiet (17th) and Caldicot (30th). Barn Owls were recorded at Cemys Commander (10th) and Ebbw Vale (two on 27th). Seven Ring Ouzels were seen together at Llanelli, near Gilwern (17th). A Water Pipit was reported from Peterstone Gout (21st), with a Fulmar from the same site (25th). Ten Whimbrel were recorded at Redwick (23rd), with an Arctic Tern at Sudbrook (25th). Reports of migrant passerines continued to occur regularly, whilst reports of Red Kites were widespread.

Gwent UKBS Report for May 2012


A Red-rumped Swallow was present at the Newport Wetlands Reserve (4th to 5th).

A Purple Heron was reported from the Newport to Castleton area. A Spoonbill was recorded at Newport Wetlands (13th), with a Pectoral Sandpiper at the same site (16th). A Black-winged Stilt was also seen at Newport Wetlands (25th). A putative Marsh Warbler at Magor Marsh (29th to 30th).

Newport Wetlands Reserve

An Osprey was seen (2nd).Two Scaup and a dark-bellied Brent Goose were reported (4th). A Grasshopper Warbler was present (5th) and a Gannet was seen offshore (14th). A Marsh Harrier was reported (21st) and other sightings of note included 41 Avocets (22nd), a Garganey (26th) and a Little Stint (25th).

Other sites

Two Common Scoter, a Mediterranean Gull and a dark-bellied Brent Goose were reported from Peterstone Gout (6th), with six Sanderlings present at the same site (17th). A Barn Owl was reported from Redwick (21st) and two Nightjars were observed in north-west Gwent (23rd).

2011 GOS Library Report

This year, the usage of the library seems to continue at more or less at the same level as previous years. During the course of 2011, 27 items were borrowed from the library compared with 23 last year.

Because no items were removed from the shelves during 2011 space is still at a premium which results in several items being stored on top of other books, and most of the volumes on the shelves are packed very tightly causing some difficultly in trying to remove the books from the shelves. Additional space could be created by trying again to sell some dated items, and the VHS videos tapes, all of which have been duplicated onto DVD discs. There were eight additions to the library stock this year, all of which were donated:

Footprints on the Sands of Time: The Life of Colonel Harry Morrey Salmon CBE MC DL DSc Eminent Welsh Naturalist, Conservationist, Ornithologist, Bird Photographer and Soldier, No 818. (Donated by the authors, Hugh and Norman Salmon. The society also has a few copies available for sale, price £10.50)

Gwent Wildlife Trusts Nature Reserves. No 819, (Donated by the Gwent Wildlife Trust)

The following 4 DVDs all donated by the Librarian:

British Butterflies: a DVD identification guide to all 60 regular occurring species, filmed by Roger Wilmshurst, 52 minutes. No 820.

Birding Trinidad, 90 minute DVD (821)

Birding Tobago, 90 minute DVD (822)

The Undiscovered Country: Forsinard Flows, 38 minutes DVD (826)

Two books were donated by John Coleman:

Who’s Who in Ornithology, Edited by John E Pemberton p.416 (823)

A Photographic Guide to the Birds of Japan and North East Asia. Tadao Shimba, p.504 (824).