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June 2003 - Newsletter 87 PDF Print E-mail

Great News on the Levels!

It's official.  AVOCETS are breeding at Goldcliff and this is the 1ST BREEDING RECORD for WALES!  The pair arrived on 17th April settling on the western most lagoon (Bec).  Courtship/territorial behaviour was noted and incubation began on 29th.   They now have 4 superb chicks, viewable from the perimeter fence by the sea wall at the south end of the site. This excellent site now has 6 species of breeding wader; Lapwing, Ringed Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Redshank, Avocet and Oystercatcher.  Only the latter have yet to hatch young and this should be any day!   The threat of egg collectors prevented the official release of the Avocet news until now.

Goytre House Wood Official Opening

Our Nature Reserve at Goytre House Wood is to be officially opened on Sunday 6th July at 10.30 am by Councillor Colin White who is Chairman of Monmouthshire County Council. Other local representatives and members of the community will be invited, together with members of the local press.  All GOS members are of course welcome, so please support this occasion if you are able, and have a pleasant stroll around our tranquil Wood, and hopefully see a few birds too.   

Please note that unfortunately this clashed with Dawn Higgs’ walk at Govilon and Dawn has kindly rescheduled her walk for 9:00 on Saturday 5th July. 

If anyone has any programmes for distributing, please amend the date on them.

Reports of Recent Field Trips

Blaentrothy Saturday 1st March (Steve Butler)

A good walk through farm fields with displaying Sparrowhawks. Other species seen were Buzzard, Pheasant, Curlew, Stock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Skylark, Pied Wagtail Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Song Thrush, Redwing, Long-tailed Tit, Marsh Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Magpie, Rook, Carrion Crow, Starling, Raven, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Redpoll and Bullfinch, and then back to Ruaridh MacDonald’s farm for coffee.

The Gobion, Saturday 15th March (Brian King & Steve Butler).

Following an announcement in the local press, a large group assembled for this popular walk.  At the outset, a low-flying Peregrine alighted in a nearby tree, giving excellent views and starting the walk in an exciting fashion.  The morning was fine but cool and overcast, presenting good walking conditions.  Fifty-one species were noted: 6 Grey Heron, 12 Canada Geese, 15 Teal, 9 Mallard, 12 Goosander, 1 Sparrowhawk, 7 Buzzard, Moorhen, 5 Coot, Lapwing, 1 Snipe, Curlew, 3 Green Sandpiper, 8 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 2 Great Black-backed Gulls, 3 Stock Dove, 95 Woodpigeon, Kingfisher, 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 1 Skylark, 3 Sand Martin, 17 Meadow Pipits, 3 Grey Wagtail, 4 Pied Wagtail, Wren, Dunnock, 1 Wheatear, Blackbird, 40 Fieldfare, Song Thrush, 105 Redwing, Mistle Thrush, 3 Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Long-tailed Tit, 4 Blue tit, Great Tit, Nuthatch, 2 Treecreeper, 8 Magpie, 30 Jackdaws, Rook, 6 Carrion Crow, 2 Raven, Starling, 10 Chaffinch, Greenfinch, and Goldfinch.  The spring-like feel of the day was enhanced by the sightings of Sand Martins and Chiffchaffs, making this a memorable walk.

Trefil Quarry, Sunday 13th April (George Noakes).

Despite the inclement weather conditions, a large group of members met at this regularly visited site in search of our target species – Ring Ouzels. A steady walk up the valley and into the quarries soon produced our first sightings and by the end of the walk everyone was able to view both male and female birds at reasonably close range. However, a very strong, cold wind thwarted any further comfortable bird watching, although good views of Stonechats, Wheatears and a pair of Snipe were obtained further up the valley. Brian, Gary and Rob, who had stayed in the quarry area, were certain they had spotted an overflying Hobby.

Goldcliff Lagoons - 19th April 2003 (Chris Jones).

15 members turned up for this early morning walk GLWR Goldcliff. Starting at 7:30, it was quite a shock to find a strong easterly wind blowing with the temperatures on the decidedly chilly side; a marked contrast from several days earlier.  A good little selection of birds were present on the 1st lagoon.  Several Little Ringed and Ringed Plover, offered excellent comparison between the species.  Also present were several Lapwing, 4 Bar-tailed Godwits and a number of Teal and Gadwall and a single Greylag Goose.  A flock of c90 Dunlin then flew, in sweeping around in front of the observation platform, with a bright flash of orange in amongst them.  The birds quickly settled, and in amongst the flock was a Dunlin with a bright orange wash to the belly [and the underwings when subsequently viewed in flight], a colour dyed bird!!  Panic over.  Carrying on around the lagoons to the sea wall, the surprise find was a group of 4 Fieldfares, with a group of 20 Black-tailed Godwits on the far lagoon and a single Little Egret.  With the strong wind from the east, a look offshore was advised and having tucked ourselves under the seawall, a small group of Arctic Terns passed by. 

Staunton, Saturday 26th April (George Noakes).

Although the large group was not ideal for searching for such an elusive species as the Hawfinch, we were much indebted to Steve Roberts’ expert guidance and expertise during this field trip. His keen ear picked up a calling bird and then he managed to put a number of members on to it as it flew across a clearing. Unfortunately this was the only sighting despite extensive searching in suitable habitat. For many the highlight of the trip was the opportunity to have prolonged views of Goshawks and to share Steve’s extensive knowledge of this impressive raptor.

St Mary's Vale Dawn Chorus Saturday 3rd May (Steve Butler)

Twelve members braved the early start and were rewarded with 42 species, 1 new for the tetrad:

Grey Heron, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Kestrel, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Cuckoo, Swift, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Skylark, Swallow, Tree Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Grey Wagtail, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Whinchat, Stonechat, Redstart, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Blackcap, Wood Warbler, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Goldcrest, pair of Pied Flycatcher, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Magpie, Jackdaw, Crow, Raven, Chaffinch, Linnet, Bullfinch, Yellow Hammer, and the jewel in the crown - 2 singing and seen Grasshopper Warbler.

Thanks to Dawn for a few bacon butties -would have been more but gas ran out. John Bennett however did well and refused nothing! Brian alas only had a wet foot!

Blaenavon, Sunday 11th May (Pete Boddington)

As usual on my walk it rained!  Nine of us set off just after 9.  A unanimous decision was made to keep to a horizontal walk rather than a vertical ascent.  We walked around the Garn-yr-erw Ponds which were created about six years ago from reclamation of old colliery waste tips.  Birds seen: Mallard plus young, Coot, pair of Common Sandpipers, and Lesser black-backed Gull. The scrub area around the ponds held Robin, Willow Warbler, Blue Tit and Reed Bunting, and a Cuckoo was heard from the hillside above the pond.  The walk was continued towards Pwlldu where Buzzards, a pair of Lapwing Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, Wheatears and Crows were seen.  The weather then really closed in and a decision to curtail the walk was made. Three of us walked to a ruined farm building where a Little Owl can usually be seen but it was not at home, but we did have some close views of Dunnocks and Linnets.

Cotswold Water Park, Sunday 18th May

No formal report as yet, but highlights, from the website, were 4 Temmink’s Stints, 2 Nightingales and a flock of 6 Hobbies quartering low over the side of the lake in heavy rain.

Occupancy of Nest-boxes in Goytre House Wood

Alan Williams

On May 4th this year Andrew Baker and I inspected the nest-boxes that had been erected the previous year in Goytre House Wood.  28 boxes were examined out of 37 that had been put up.  The occupancy data is as follows:

Species Occupied boxes Total eggs/ young Average/ box
Great Tit 8 52 6.5
Blue Tit 9 65 7.2

If the boxes that were not visited had an occupancy rate the same as those counted then there could have been a total of around 150 eggs/young in the nest-boxes at that point in time.  Although detailed counts were not taken on the site before the nest-boxes were erected it is unlikely that such high populations would have been present in previous years.

The high level of occupancy by Blue Tit and Great Tit means that Pied Flycatcher will not be able to find unoccupied boxes when they arrive from their migration.  Do we cover up the boxes in the early spring to prevent the tits from occupying them thus giving Pied Flycatcher a chance to use them or do we let nature take its course?

Please let us have your views on this and other aspects of developing the wood.

First few dates for passerines this spring, in order of arrival

compiled from the Bird Line & Website – not enough space to include them all!

Species Date Number & Location
Wheatear 10 March 1 at St Bride’s Wentlooge
  11 1 male at GLWR Goldcliff
  13 1 male & 1 fem. GLWR Uskmouth
Chiffchaff 10 March 1 Firs Road, Abergavenny
  11 6 Llandegfedd Res. feeding station and 1 at GLWR Goldcliff
  13 1 calling at Monmouth Brecon Canal Risca
Sand Martin 11 Mar 2 at The Bryn, Gobion and 25 on 8th April
  02 April ³50 Llandegfedd Res.
  16 ³50 River Usk, The Moorings, St Julians
Blackcap 16 Mar 1 singing Millfield Park, Magor
  27 1 singing Lodge Wood
  31 1 at GLWR Uskmouth
  02 April 1 at Llandegfedd Res.
Willow Warbler 26 Mar 1 at Waunfawr Bridge, Cross Keys
  28 2 singing GLWR Goldcliff
  30 1 at Llandegfedd Res., 3 on 2nd April
Ring Ouzel 05 April 4 at Trefil
Swallow 08 April 4 at The Bryn
  14 6 at GLWR Goldcliff & 4 at GLWR Uskmouth on 18th
  25 24 in 15 min. Ynysyfro Res., also 6 at Chepstow
Pied Flycatcher 13 April 1 at Llandegfedd Res. Also on 7th May
  01 May Pair + 1 St Mary’s Vale
Garden Warbler 16 April 1 singing Monmouth Brecon Canal
  17 Llandegfedd Res.
  18 1 singing Peterstone
Wood Warbler 16 April 1 singing Cwmbran, woodland Maes-y-Rhiw/Thornhill
  22 4 at Cwmafon
  01 May 3 at St Mary’s Vale
Sedge Warbler 16 April 1 Llandegfedd Res.
  19 Collister Pill to Caldicot Pill
  20 1 GLWR Uskmouth, 7 on 23rd
Reed Warbler 17 April 1 singing The Moorings, St Julians
  18 3 at GLWR Uskmouth, 5 on 23rd
  25 1 singing Newhouse, Chepstow
Whinchat 17 April 1 male The Bryn
  19 1 Collister Pill to Caldicot Pill
  20 1 male GLWR Uskmouth
Yellow Wagtail 17 April 1 at GLWR Goldcliff also on 22nd & 27th
  19 1 at The Bryn
  24 2 at Monmouth
Common Whitethroat 18 April 1 at GLWR Uskmouth also on 23rd
  19 2 at Collister Pill to Caldicot Pill
  20 1 at Llandegfedd Res.
Cuckoo 20 April 1 GLWR Uskmouth (3 together on 22nd)
  21 1 Pontypool, Cwm Lickey
  30 2 at Cwmafon
House Martin 20 April 4 GLWR Uskmouth
  23 Over M4/M48
  24 Monmouth
Swift 23 April 1 at Chepstow
  23 2 at Monmouth, 6 on 24th, and 3 at Usk, 6 on 24th
  24 2 at Abergavenny, Castle Meadows
Lesser Whitethroat 23 April 4 at Peterstone
  25 1 singing Newhouse, Chepstow
Redstart 01 May 1 male St Mary’s Vale
Tree Pipit 03 May 1 at St Mary’s Vale
Grasshopper Warbler 03 May 2 at St Mary’s Vale

Recent Bird Sightings

Compiled by Chris Hatch & Helen Jones from information received on the GOS/Welsh Water Bird Information Line & Website

Location Date Species & Comments
  March
GLWR Uskmouth 1 1 Green Sandpiper
  6 1 Merlin; 5 Water Rail; 14 Cetti's Warbler (c17 Cetti’s Warblers on 17th); 69 Pintail;
  7 1 Bittern in flight, also recorded on the 16th and possibly 2 on 30th
  16 1 Bittern; 1 Short-eared Owl; 1 fem. Hen Harrier; (all also on 19th); 14 Water Rail; 1 Great White Egret; 104 Pintail
  31 1 Hen Harrier
Ynysyfro Res. 4 1 fem. Ruddy Duck
GLWR Goldcliff 6 1 Scaup; 2 Peregrine
  22 1 Ruff; 1 Little Ringed Plover; 4 Barnacle Geese
  23 Drake Garganey
  28 3 Avocet (to 30th); 1 fly-over Goshawk; 2 Ruff (to 30th); 1 Greenshank; 1 male Merlin; 2 Redwing; 5 Fieldfare
  29/30 1 ring-tail Hen Harrier
  30 31 Black-tailed Godwit
Abergavenny 8 Red Kite near Llangattock Lingoed
  15 12 Golden Plover between Llangattock Lingoed & Grosmont; 1 or 2 Marsh Tit
Llandegfedd Res. 11 6 Chiffchaff
  16 4 Goldeneye
Sluice Farm 11 8 Pintail
  19 1 Jack Snipe  + 2 Common Snipe; 2 “good candidates” for Water Pipit
  21 1 Merlin; 1 Long-eared Owl; 3 Water Pipits (PW/Sluice Farm)
Caerleon 11 1 Hawfinch (Little Bulmore)
Cwmbran 12 Strong passage of Lesser Black-backed Gulls
Wentwood 15 1 Hen Harrier (Cadira Beeches)
Sugar Loaf 15 1 Red Kite (south side)
Raglan 16 1 lesser Spotted Woodpecker flying over A40
GLWR 16 1 Merlin
  19 1 Bittern , 1 Hen Harrier , 1 Short-eared Owl , 20 Little Egret; 1 Merlin
Chepstow 19 Cetti’s Warbler singing, Newhouse (singing regularly since 24th Feb)
Monmouth 19 1 Osprey
Pontypool 23 1 Red Kite over Cwmynyscoy
Caldicot 31 1 Red Kite
  April  
Cwmbran 2 Possible male Red-footed Falcon – any other sightings/comments?
Llandegfedd 2 1 Tree Sparrow, 1 Redpoll
  15 2 Sandwich Terns
  16 2 Common Terns
  29 1 Whimbrel
GLWR Uskmouth 3 2 Bearded Tits, 15 Cetti's Warbler
  6 1 male Ring-necked Duck
  20 1 fem. Marsh Harrier
Magor-sea Wall 5 3 Brent Geese
Gobion 6 1 Lesser spotted Woodpecker (2 on the 17th)
The Bryn 8 2 Common Sandpiper; 2 Green Sandpiper; 2 Little Ringed Plover
Pontypool 1218 2 Peregrines (Pontnewynydd)1 Brambling (Pontnewynydd)
GLWR Goldcliff 12 3 Ruff
  14 1 Fieldfare; 42 Black-tailed Godwit
  15 1 Knot; 1 Snipe drumming; 4 Bar-tailed Godwit; 8 Whimbrel; 3 Fieldfare
  16 30 Whimbrel (50+ on 28th)
  17 2 Avocet (4 young fledged 24th May), 2 Grey Plover; Bar & Black-tailed Godwit
  22 First Lapwing chicks of year; summer plumage Black Tern; 1 Merlin
  26 1 adult Gannet up channel, 1 Greylag Goose
  27 42 Whimbrel.  Goldcliff Point - 51 Gannet , 28 Fulmar, 68 Kittiwake, 3 Great Skua, 1 Red-throated Diver, 1 Manx Shearwater, 20+ Commic Terns,
  28 28 Black tailed Godwit ,1 Merlin, 50+ Whimbrel, 1 male Ruff; 1 Sanderling;
Peterstone 18 1 Golden Plover
Abergavenny 27 Hobby
Basaleg 28 63 Stock Dove
Monmouth 28 Hobby low over residential gardens
  May  
Sluice Farm 17 1 male Ring-necked Duck; 1 Sanderling; 1 Cetti’s Warbler12 Whimbrel
Goldcliff Church 19 1 Hawfinch
Gobion 25 1 Hobby (2 on the 31st)
GLWR Goldcliff 2 1 Whimbrel; 3 Whinchat
  18 3 Manx Shearwater; Cuckoo, Goldcliff Point
  19 Waders included 7 Lapwing; 23 Ringed Plover; 2 Little Ringed Plover; 5 Oystercatcher; 2 Common Redshank; 8 Whimbrel; 6 Black-tailed Godwit; 1 Turnstone; 4 Knot.
  28 1 Common Crane , Redshank & Little Ringed Plover chicks; Marsh Harrier;
Abergavenny 4 2 pr Kingfisher; 1 pr Dipper with chicks; 1 pr Common Sandpiper; 1 Goosander with 7 young;
Llandegfedd Res. 7 46 species including Marsh Tit; young Great Crested Grebe, Canada Goose, and Mallard
Monmouth 716 Buzzard, Goshawk, Sparrowhawk & Hobby in the space of 10 minutesHobby, Osbaston, also on 18th
Cwmbran 13 Hobby over County HallHobby over Llanyrafon; Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Bertholey House
A449/A40 jnct 13 Very probable Honey Buzzard, mobbed by Rooks
Wentwood 14 Nightjar churring 04:30 am.
  21 At least 3 Nightjar;  ~ 4 Woodcock roding Cadira Beeches/Nine Wells
GLWR Uskmouth 15 49 species including Water Rail, Cuckoo.  Mink seen.  ? Bittern heard
Ynysyfro Res. 18 Hobby
Llanellen 22 39 Stock Dove
Caldicot Pill 31 13 Eider, including 1 male; 2 Sanderling

It appears that many members would now prefer to record their sightings on the web-site rather than ringing them in to the bird-line.  Since 1st May the only person to ring in sightings has been Keith Jones; staff at Llandegfedd have entered all other sightings. The web site however is full of sightings for May.

Whilst I appreciate the value of the web site for recording sightings and for encouraging discussion, not all members have access, whilst all members should have access to a phone.  If the present trend continues, I propose 'pulling the plug ' on the bird-line as from 1st September 2003 as currently it is not worth us paying the line rental.

Beware of Thieves when your out Birding – a cautionary tale

GOS member Jon Avon sends this reminder, after birding at Trefil on 26th April.

Despite showery weather, on this Saturday evening I went looking for grouse and other moorland species at Trefil.  I saw some grouse but had my ringing equipment stolen from the car along with other things.  The moral of the story is don't leave valuables in the car - I should know this as a countryside ranger but I didn't think that anybody would want my ringing bag.

If anyone is going birding in that area, please keep an eye out for a green canvas bag full of rings etc as it's probably been thrown out of the window by the thieves when they realised that they have no use for it. I have to fear the worst but you never know, someone might stumble across it.

Please contact Membership Secretary Helen Jones if you do come across it.

News from the Gwent Levels Wetlands Reserve

Kevin Dupé, Assistant Warden

Breeding waders. Monitoring of the breeding waders has been more intensive than in previous years. Last year we didn’t have a warden and the year before was the foot and mouth epidemic. Lapwings have increased by 2 pairs to 39 pairs. Whilst some young are now fully fledged, other young and eggs have been lost to predators and the very wet cold weather at the beginning of May. Many pairs have now relaid with some pairs re-locating from the Central Grasslands to the Goldcliff Lagoons. We are very grateful to Adrian Hickman who has monitored the lagoons for us. The Lapwings here have increased from 13 pairs in April to a maximum of 18 pairs at the end of May. As well as the lapwings, Adrian has had Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Oystercatchers, Redshank and Avocets to monitor on the lagoons. Avocets? Yes, in case you haven’t heard, we have one pair who hatched four chicks on 24th May. They are now 10 days old and doing well. They are being hailed as the first chicks for Wales. However the Romans at Caerleon used to eat them, so they were presumably breeding here then.

Bitterns. They were heard booming twice in April, with an unconfirmed report of booming in May. They haven’t been seen however since early April.

Reedbed.The cut areas in the new reedbeds and the old sunken reedbed at Farmfield Lane were all cut again in late April early May – this time under water! I found that our £5,000 pedestrian mower wouldn’t cut when totally submerged however! Luckily for me, I got it out and started again (eventually!) Cutting under water should severely impede the reed’s growth, whilst the cutting in winter actually encourages it. Unfortunately lack of water due to our pump at the sewage works failing meant we couldn’t keep water levels as deep as we would have liked. The pump is now back from repair and pumping a million litres a day into our Tertiary Treatment Reedbed, TTRB. This sounds like a lot of water, but 3 days of pumping has only raised the water in the TTRB by 10cm. Once this is full the water will overspill the TTRB into the other reedbeds and the waters will rise much more slowly (if at all, depending on the weather).

Eels.Matt Self from RSPB HQ visited us on 2nd April to advise us on improving elver recruitment. We have now used his designs to install elver ladders up the two outfalls from the western end of the reedbeds. These have traps at the top of them to monitor the eel numbers. Unfortunately we missed the big elver runs in March and April, but small eels, which are probably a year or two old, have been using the ladders. Next year we hope to be able to let a surplus of water go from the reedbeds in the spring to draw the elvers in from the estuary.

Predator control.Voluntary Warden Chris Hurn has done sterling work by trapping mink over the winter. The final tally was 12, all caught around the reedbeds. None have been caught since 15th March. Only one scat has been found since then, and this tied in with a sighting at Goldcliff a few weeks ago. However, none have been found since, and this animal may have been passing through. Of course they will be come back eventually, but we have been rid of them for the best part of this breeding season and many young birds must owe their lives to this fact.

We have also been monitoring corvid disturbance to the breeding waders, and 4 crow nests had all but one egg pricked in order to limit food demands.

Events Programme.This year we have organised a joint events programme with GOS, Newport City Council, Gwent Wildlife Trust, Goldcliff Ringing Group and RSPB. The highlight of this co-operation will be our Reserve Open Day on Sunday 13th July from 11am until 4pm. There will be lots to see and do, so why not come along?

Gwent Breeding Bird Atlas

Al Venables

A number of observers have asked why they have not had had their cards returned this year, so some words of explanation are required.

An important aspect of the current Breeding Atlas is that comparison with the previous Atlas (1981-85) should reveal changes in breeding distributions that have occurred in the intervening period. However, such comparisons will only be accurate if both the Atlas projects have been carried out in identical fashion. For the best comparison we should have exactly the same observers covering exactly the same tetrads in both projects - a nice ideal but totally unrealistic! However, one aspect that we can control is the total length of the project. In the first Atlas we had 4 full recording years followed by a fifth (the "mopping up" year) in which we concentrated solely on tetrads that had previously been only partially covered, or not covered at all. This is the pattern we have tried to follow in the current Atlas, and we are now in the mopping up year. Recording has therefore finished for most tetrads and as the mopping up process requires only a limited number of observers, the majority will not have had their cards returned this year.

However, just because you have not got your card back does not mean there is nothing for you to do!! As mentioned in the last Dipper, data on population sizes would be very valuable, and the system we are using is based loosely on the BTO Breeding Bird Survey method. It is VERY EASY. Simply take a two-kilometre walk and record every bird you see within about 100 metres (or yards) either side of your route. Where birds are obviously young of the year don't count them because we are aiming at a count of breeding adults. So, for instance, if you see a family party of long-tailed tits you can assume that it is mum and dad plus the kids and record it as two birds. Your walk can be taken anywhere in the county as long as you record the grid reference of the start and finish points. You can do several walks in different places if you wish. Please send your counts to either Jerry Lewis or me.

CASUAL RECORDS. In the last Atlas we continued to accept casual records during the mopping up year so if you have any, please send them in.   Records of the scarcer species would be most valuable.  A form for casual records is included with this Dipper.  You can also send in any records that you haven’t already submitted for any breeding season since 1998.

Good counting!

BTO News

Jerry Lewis

The results of the Conservation and Community Categories of the BTO-Hanson Business Bird Challenge 2002 have just been announced.  Over 100 businesses from across the country took part, with partnerships formed between company staff and volunteers from the local community, bird club or Wildlife Trust to improve the site for birds and other wildlife.  Conservation efforts included coppicing and clearance of rivers/lakes; awareness raising included leading walks or working with schools, and initiatives included the constructions of Sand Martin or Kingfisher nesting cliffs, installation of tern nesting rafts or the provision of nest boxes to suit a variety of different species.  Ten Conservation awards and 9 Community awards were presented to different categories of site.  The best bird watching sites were also announced with eleven different categories catering for most situations, ranging from large water bodies (Rutland Water with 195 species) to small dry sites (Bray Valley Quarries with 70 species).  Unfortunately our own Llandegfedd Reservoir did not feature in any of the lists.  Perhaps there is a need for closer working between the Reservoir and the Society to develop new initiatives to attract more birds, or perhaps it is just a matter of having more regular visits and more formalised recording.  The challenge is not just for the site owners but for the local community/society as well.

Some exceptionally early breeding took place this year.  Whilst cleaning out a Tawny Owl box in Cheshire in late February, a nest recorder found owlets close to fledging.  The eggs must have been laid around the Christmas/New Year period.  Tawny Owls are known to adjust their breeding season around an uncertain food supply.  Autumn 2002, with its heavy beech mast, must have enabled large populations of woodland birds and small mammals to build up, which the birds took advantage of.  Barn Owls also had a good season in 2002 with second broods being recorded at 10% of sites.  The Nest Record Scheme is one of the easiest of BTO projects to help with.  There is no need to be an expert nest finder, as records of common garden species are always needed. They are used to monitor changes in breeding performance which could account for changes in population levels identified from other surveys.

On 16th January 2003, Chris Mead died in his sleep.  Chris had worked for the BTO for over 40 years (mainly in the Ringing Unit) and was an acknowledged expert on all aspects of bird life, but particularly migration.  He retired some years ago but continued as the BTO's press consultant.  His many broadcasts on TV and radio, as well as his newspaper articles and regular column in "British Wildlife" kept the general public well informed about birds and the many problems they are facing.  It will not be easy for the BTO to find such an enthusiastic and knowledgeable successor.  A special programme in the Radio 4 Nature series on 12 and 13 May was dedicated to Chris and one of his latest campaigns, the Nightingale.

Birding Holidays

Trevor Russell was asking in the March Dipper for information on birding holidays. Three members have sent details of trips they have been on.

Extramadura with Chris Hatch, May 2003 - Nancy Nethercott

This destination, in early May, is a bird lover's paradise. Seeing Spanish Imperial Eagles Soaring in a blue sky, positively showing off the white leading edges to their wings is something I shall never forget, as is hearing a Cetti's Warbler trying to compete with a Nightingale. Another highlight was watching two, almost fully-grown, Eagle Owl chicks toddling back and forth on a rock. All the species we had hoped to see were there, many in large numbers.

Travel House, the firm responsible for the arrangements, was very efficient.  We travelled by coach to Heathrow, plane to Madrid and mini-bus to our hotel in Trujillo, a lovely old town. There was no hitch in either direction.  The hotel was very Spanish, clean, comfortable and roomy.  As for the food, there was so much of it that I think they were trying to turn us into foie
gras. We were also provided with wine as part of the package. The staff were very friendly, especially our waiter Juan, who managed to be the life and soul of the party without knowing a word of English.

One day some of our excess packed lunch was fed to a friendly vixen. She would take food from us, go off and stash it away and then come back for more. Other non-feathered wildlife included butterflies and moths, several highly coloured, large poisonous centipedes, a salamander and snakes, a number of them swimming. The flowers were incredible, vast meadows full of beautiful scented flowers where Little Bustard, Red-legged Partridge and Black-bellied Grouse often popped up their heads and even Great Bustard sometimes made an appearance.  The internal transport was by three mini-buses, each with a very competent driver, willing to tackle difficult tracks up into the mountains.

I would certainly go again and would highly recommend the holiday to anyone interested in wildlife.

Sri Lanka Endemic Birds, November 2000.  NATURETREK a Birding Bargain, cost £990. - Judy Rosser & Heather Colls

After a scheduled flight from Heathrow to Columbo, we were met by the tour leader Deepal Warakagoda and co-leader Uditha Hettige.  We went straight off to the Bellanwila Marshes and from then on we travelled past paddy fields, through tea plantations, over rivers and along good roads for an unforgettable week of birding: two days in the Sinharaja forest which holds most of the endemics, a safari drive through the Uda Wadale National Park, and a 4am start to reach the Horton Plains by daybreak to find the Whistling Thrush and have a picnic breakfast whilst the forest woke up around us.  We saw about 200 species in total, including 24 endemics, a frogmouth, owls, nightjars, eagles etc. 

There was a lot of travelling, but it was really worth it in a beautiful country.  Accommodation was clean and the arrangements went smoothly.  More expensive trips use the same leaders but I expect that they also go to the coast – it was odd to be on an island and not see the sea!  The leeches were a definite minus and I don’t trust snakes.  Altogether, it was felt to be good value.

Trip To The Danube Delta November 1997.  BIRDING (run by John Gooders) - Joan Howells

I can thoroughly recommend the week spent exploring the Danube Delta. We went in November, hoping to see the Red-Breasted Geese.  Unfortunately the weather was very foggy and though we heard many and saw huge numbers coming into their roost at night we did not see the huge flocks feeding on the fields. However, we saw many more wonderful birds and the whole trip was very well organised. There were only nine people in the group including Gerard Gorman and the president of the Romanian S.P.B who both acted as our guides.  We flew to Bucharest and then travelled by coach to Tulcea where we spent three nights at the hotel.  These first two days were a little frustrating because of the fog as we tried to find the flocks of geese but we saw Hen and Marsh Harriers, Sparrowhawks and Rough Legged Buzzards and many common birds.

On Day four we headed out into the Danube delta by houseboat. On board there were comfortable cabins and two shower rooms. I had feared that in November it would be very cold but the boat was warm and cosy. We spent the rest of the time exploring the large and small waterways and saw many eagles- white tailed, spotted and lesser spotted – many egrets, pygmy and common cormorants. When we needed to travel along narrower streams there was a small boat that took us close in shore and we had a really clear view of water-rail and avocets and many species of duck.   We occasionally went ashore and there found six species of woodpecker and many more species of woodland birds

Dinner the last night was spent at the home of the organiser of the trip in Tulcea.  Altogether it was a memorable, if somewhat expensive experience!

Birding:  Finches House. Hilham Green, Winchelsea, East Sussex TN36 4HB

We hope that these articles are of use and would welcome other contributions

Committee Commentary April 2003

Trevor Russell

Gwent Levels Wetlands Reserve: Tony Pickup, Senior Manager of the Reserve was welcomed, and gave a review of the status of the Reserve. Breeding birds this year include approx. 37 pairs of Lapwing, approx. 28prs Redshank, (same as 2002), with unconfirmed reports of Bearded Tits and Bitterns booming. Regarding Bitterns, food supply is a concern since the fish population is small in both size and numbers. Advice has been sought to improve eel populations. Winter counts include 1288 Wigeon, 150 Shoveler, (which is >1% of the national population and therefore Nationally Significant) 1034 Teal, 273 Pintail (280 is 1% so is virtually Nationally Significant).  We were reminded that Wigeon and Shoveler are the Reserve’s Target Species needed to get to the mean 1% national population level over 5 years. Wigeon are the main challenge due to declining numbers locally, so the task is to increase numbers against a background of reducing populations locally. Predators include Mink, Foxes and Crows. Loss of food supply, e.g. worms, due to flooding, is also under review.  Tony also described some of the measures being taken to reduce or minimise the disturbance around the lagoons, these include fencing around 3 fields to contain the sheep which would otherwise need to be rounded up from across the Reserve, and the introduction of regular sea fishing competitions to minimise their random disturbance around the lagoons.

Goytre House Wood: A survey of moths, insects and plants has been carried out in Goytre House Wood and will be published shortly.

It was felt appropriate to have an official Grand Opening of the Wood and the date proposed was Sunday 15th June at 12 noon, following completion of the Goytre Wood Walk that day.  The Chairman of the Monmouthshire County Council would be invited to perform the opening ceremony in recognition of the support and funding the Society has received from them.

Since the Committee Meeting, this date was found not to be suitable and has been rescheduled for 10:30 am on Sunday 6th July, and EVERYONE IS INVITED TO ATTEND.  The opening unfortunately clashes with a GOS walk but   Dawn Higgs has kindly rescheduled her walk for 5th July.

The field between the wood and the road has now been sown with a seed and clover mixture to encourage seed eating birds in the autumn.

Committee Vacanciesare still a cause for concern and volunteers are urgently required to replace a) Helen, as Dipper Editor, as soon as possible, and b) Gareth, as Treasure (to commence January 2004)

Please contact them or any Committee member for further information.

County Shows:GOS will be represented at the following events and shows this year:

  1. Caerphilly County Council ‘GO WILD 2003’ Day on Saturday, 21st June
  2. Gwent Levels Wetland Reserves Open Day on Sunday 13th July
  3. Usk Show, Saturday 13th September.

We will need more volunteers to help man the GOS stand for a couple of hours at each event. Now that the dates are known, please contact Trevor Russell if you would like to volunteer to assist with crowd control (!) around our Bird Quiz and generally promote the Society. We might even be able to get you in for free if you are a volunteer!

Report from Trelleck

Ray Armstrong

There have been numerous sightings of Crossbills over the winter/spring months in the conifer plantations in the Broad Meend, Trelleck Hill and Beacon Hill area.  The largest group seen was 25-30 on 26th January.  Similarly there have been regular sightings of Siskin and Redpoll.  A first for me was the sight of 15-20 Goldfinches in with mixed titmice, Redpoll and Siskin feeding on Larch.  I observed this on two separate occasions near Cleddon on 1st February and again on 22nd March.  I would be interested to hear your comments.  I disturbed two Woodcock on Beacon Hill on 27th and 30th March.  Ravens are feeding young on Beacon Hill.  Yellow Hammer numbers seem to be down locally this spring.

Migrants first sightings:

15th March      Chiffchaff

5th April           Willow Warbler & Tree Pipit

7th April           House Martin

13th April        Swallow

14th April        Blackcap

15th April        Cuckoo & pr. Wheatear

23rd April        Common Whitethroat

29th April        Redstart & Yellow Wagtail

4th May           Garden Warbler

12th May         Wood Warbler

Announcements

Go Wild! Again! Saturday 21st June 2003

Sir Harold Finch Memorial Park, Pontllanfraith (next to the council offices)

The Caerphilly Biodiversity Partnership is holding a second “Go Wild!” event, with the help of Caerphilly County Borough Council's Countryside and Landscape Service.  After the success of last year's event on Saturday 11th May, the Biodiversity Partnership have decided to hold another event, providing local people with another opportunity to learn about local wildlife and take part in various wildlife activities such as pond dipping, bird box making and otter holt building.  Come along to see how a wildlife garden can look and meet special mystery guest!  Activities start at 11am.

For more information contact Melanie Sutherland, Biodiversity Assistant

Where have all the sparrows gone?

If you live in the Caerphilly area and are lucky enough to have sparrows or any other birds nesting in your home or even bats roosting in your roof then the Caerphilly Biodiversity Partnership wants to hear from you.

This summer the Caerphilly Biodiversity Partnership, in conjunction with Caerphilly County Borough Council (CCBC), is carrying out a house nesting bird survey and is urging residents to become involved so that any future conservation work can be accurately targeted.  The Swift, Swallow, House Martin, Jackdaw and Starling are all included in the survey, with the House Sparrow being of particular interest because of its drastic decline in numbers over the last five years.

“We want to raise awareness of the plight of even our most common birds and the importance of people’s homes and gardens.  All the information we collect will be used to focus any future survey work and possible habitat creation or management projects,” said cabinet member John Taylor.

Survey forms will be available at main CCBC offices and libraries and post offices in the Caerphilly area.  If you want to find out more about the survey or how to improve your home for wildlife please call Melanie Sutherland on 01495 235253 or go along to the Go Wild day in Pontllanfraith on 21st June.

Announcements continued:

Ruperra Conservation Trust, Coed Craig Ruperra Open Weekend

This event is to take place over the weekend of 12th and 13th July from 10.00am to 5.00pm on both days. The entrance is near Ruperra Castle Grid ref. ST223866, and car parking will be signed on the open days.

Committee Vacencies

Treasurer. Gareth Waite wishes to step down at the end of this year. If anyone would like to find out what the job entails before volunteering please contact either Gareth, or Andrew Baker or, indeed, any Committee member. With such a long lead-in there is plenty of time to allow you to hit the ground running!

Dipper Editor.  As I am now Membership Secretary, would anyone like to take over as Dipper Editor for the September issue as I would like to concentrate on membership and archiving?  Please contact me if you are interested.  Helen Jones.

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