June 2004 - Newsletter 91 PDF Print E-mail

We've Moved the Goalposts!

Trevor Russell

A Special General Meeting was held on Saturday 28th March, to discuss and vote on the following proposal which had previously been agreed by the Committee, that:

"The Gwent Ornithological Society recording boundary should be altered by extending a part of its western boundary, to the north of Cardiff, so that it follows the centre line of the River Rhymney from map reference SO 098113 in the north to ST 225835 in the south"

Al Venables presented the case for the change by pointing out that the current recording boundary is no longer shown on Ordnance Survey maps due to local government reorganisation. This renders it impossible for observers to know where the boundary is, particularly where there is no physical boundary on the ground.

When the Society was founded as the Monmouthshire Ornithological Society it used the Monmouthshire County boundary (Vice County 35) as its recording area. Then in 1973 Monmouthshire was changed to Gwent, with some consequent boundary changes. The Society took the new Gwent boundary as its recording area and changed its name to the Gwent Ornithological Society. Territorial gains were made in the north-west but losses were made in the south-west.

Most of our recording boundary is identified by a physical feature, the Severn Estuary in the south, the River Wye in the east, River Monnow in the north east and (largely) the River Rhymney in the west, but the most recent local government reorganisation dropped the name of Gwent and Monmouthshire has been restored but with a changed boundary yet again. Caerphilly and Blaenau Gwent still follow the old Gwent boundary in the north west whilst in the south west the boundary of our recording area has been pushed out to the River Rhymney, apart from the Cardiff city boundary.

This proposal is to take advantage of this alteration in the south west and adopt the centre line of the River Rhymney as our new, physical, recording boundary whilst still adhering to the Cardiff city boundary.  This proposal has been discussed and agreed with the Glamorgan Bird Club who also agreed that the change should be made retrospective to January 1st 2004.

To summarise; we have restored, as far as practical, a physical definition of our recording boundary which should render it immune from political change over the next decades, i.e. the Severn estuary in the south, the River Wye in the west, the River Monnow in the north west, the River Rhymney in the west leaving the small north west boundary to be defined by the political boundaries of Blaenau Gwent and Caerphilly, and the SW corner to be defined by the Cardiff City boundary.

The motion was carried unanimously.

Margaret Lewis

We are sorry to announce the death of Mrs Margaret Lewis following an accident in Newport at the end of May.  Margaret and Alan have been GOS members for over 20 years and regularly attended the Indoor Meetings.  They had been on many wildlife holidays and had just returned from a trip to Austria lead by GOS member Chris Hatch.

A date for the inquest has not been set so we are at present unable to give details of the funeral.  The details will be placed on the website, once known.  If you do not have access to the website but would like to be informed of the date, please let me know.

Helen Jones, Membership Secretary.

RSPB Young Birder of the Year

Dawn Higgs brought this to my attention as it might be of interest to some of our younger members.  Unfortunately, the closing date for 2004 is 2nd July, but I believe that it is an annual competition, so you younger birders might like to try for this in 2005.

Young birder of the year is all about showing your enthusiasm for birds. And you don't need to be an expert to take part.   There are 3 age categories:

  • Under 10
  • 10-13
  • 14-18

To enter, you need to send in one or more of the following:

  • an essay. This can be about anything to do with wild birds (not birds in cages!) and birdwatching. Include details of things you have seen for yourself, not just read in books.
  • a bird project. It could be about one species, or a group of birds (e.g. ducks or birds of prey) or a place where you like to watch birds. The important thing is to make sure that the project includes lots of information about things you have seen for yourself, not just things that you have read in books.
  • a field notebook. The notebook should cover at least 10 birdwatching outings if you are under 10, or 15 if you are 10 or older. It should include details of where and when you went and what you saw. Most importantly, make a note of anything interesting that you saw birds doing. Try to include some sketches too - even if you can't draw very well.

Send your entry to the following address, and remember to include your name, address and date of birth.

Young birder of the year, RSPB Youth Unit, The Lodge, Sandy, Bedfordshire, SG19 2DL

Reports of Outdoor Trips

Carno Reservoir, March 13th 2004 (Andrew Long):

On a cold but dry day, 10 members joined Andrew for this field trip during which the following 25 species were noted:

  1. Mallard
  2. ? Goldeneye
  3. Sparrowhawk
  4. Buzzard
  5. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  6. Skylark
  7. Meadow Pipit
  8. Grey Wagtail
  9. Pied Wagtail
  10. Dipper
  11. Wren
  12. Dunnock
  13. Robin
  14. Blackbird
  15. Song Thrush
  16. Mistle Thrush
  17. Coal Tit
  18. Blue Tit
  19. Great Tit
  20. Magpie
  21. Carrion Crow
  22. Raven
  23. Chaffinch
  24. Greenfinch
  25. Siskin

National Wetlands Centre Wales 28th March (George Noakes):

Our annual visit to Llanelli was very well supported and again provided a full and enjoyable day’s birdwatching. The first part of the day was spent in the British Steel hide observing the roosting waders and ducks, among which were a Spoonbill, Spotted Redshanks and a number of Little Egrets.  The highlight, however, was close range views of a quartering Short-eared Owl on several occasions. We then made a tour of the other hides before retiring for lunch to the cafeteria, from which we kept a close eye on the bird feeders.  In the afternoon we moved over to explore the newer part of the centre and finished our day watching for hunting owls. On this occasion 2 Short-eared Owls treated us to splendid views with one even landing on a nearby bank, allowing some digital photos to be taken.  Once again the centre provided an excellent opportunity to study a variety of species in very comfortable and congenial surroundings.  In total 60 species were observed during the trip.

Forest of Dean, 4th April (Trevor Russell):

The select band of 11 who braved the April showers quickly understood why the Dean Hotspots are so-called.  Planned as a familiarisation trip to the Forest, the first stop was near Speech House to see the RSPB/CJ Wildbird Foods feeding station.  Siskins jostled with Coal Tits for the seed feeder perches while Brambling elbowed Chaffinch off the feeding table.  Nuthatches and a Treecreeper kept out of the fray and joined us as spectators.  Next stop was the New Fancy Viewpoint where Goshawks duly obliged whilst Buzzards attempted to add a confusion factor.  No chance!  No problem!  Everyone also had good views of a singing Chiffchaff and a few sharp eyes spotted a fleeing Hawfinch.   A squall of rain drove us on to the Nagshead Reserve at Parkend where the “Recent Sightings” board told us that whilst Wood Warbler had been seen, Pied Flycatchers had not yet arrived. Wrong!  No sooner had we found sanctuary in the Lower Hide than a male Pied Flycatcher caught and held our attention for several minutes, the first sighting of the season!  Even the nest boxes had not yet been opened up to accommodate them!  The pair of Mandarin Ducks swimming serenely on the pond immediately in front of us ignored our excitement, as befits their name and status.  Despite squabbling Jays in the distance and an ever-nearer yaffling Green Woodpecker we left the Pied Flycatcher to look for his mate and walked on to the Bruce Campbell hide.  Piles of holly brash have been left to entice tits, Blackcaps etc to nest but the hide proved an anti-climax and only yielded an invisible singing Blackcap through its awkward viewing slots. Then back to the RSPB Centre to record our triumphant sighting!

Other species seen or heard included: Cormorant, Mallard, Moorhen, Stock Dove, Pied Wagtail, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Blackbird, Goldcrest, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Greenfinch,

Trefil Quarry, April 17th 2004:

This walk, led by Steve Butler, was held in partnership with the Blaenau Gwent Council and attracted a group of 20 participants.  Unfortunately, only one Ring Ouzel was seen but this was compensated for by sightings of a good range of raptors.

  1. Buzzard
  2. Kestrel
  3. Merlin
  4. Peregrine
  5. Mallard
  6. Blackbird
  7. Carrion Crow
  8. Raven
  9. Wheatear
  10. Whinchat
  11. Stonechat
  12. Ring Ouzel
  13. Wren
  14. Swallow
  15. Pied Wagtail

St Mary’s Vale, Abergavenny – Dawn chorus walk, May 2nd 2004:

Nine members joined Steve Butler for the annual dawn chorus walk in this delightful valley below the Sugar Loaf.  A highlight of the walk was the rediscovery of a reeling Grasshopper Warbler, following last year’s sighting.  On top of the Rholben, a further highlight was seeing, in and around one tree over a 20 minute period, the following species: ? & ? Redstarts, Wheatear, Whinchat, Stonechat, Meadow Pipit, Willow Warbler, Tree Pipit, a singing Yellowhammer and Grasshopper Warbler.   The other species noted on this walk were:

  1. Buzzard
  2. Wood Pigeon
  3. Cuckoo
  4. Skylark
  5. Green Woodpecker
  6. Great Spotted Woodpecker
  7. Swallow
  8. House Martin
  9. Wren
  10. Dunnock
  11. Robin
  12. Blackbird
  13. Song Thrush
  14. Mistle Thrush
  15. Garden Warbler
  16. Blackcap
  17. Wood Warbler
  18. Chiffchaff
  19. Goldcrest
  20. Blue Tit
  21. Great Tit
  22. Jay
  23. Magpie
  24. Carrion Crow
  25. Raven
  26. Chaffinch

Along The Flank Of Mynydd Maen, 22nd May (Keith Roylance)

A bright sunny day with a light breeze greeted the 8 members who set out on a gentle climb from ST270955 at 700ft above sea level, via Llanderval Farm and the lower flank of Mynydd Maen.  An increase in gradient then took us to 1400ft and stunning views over Cwmbran and Newport.  We could see the Wentwood Ridge in the distance and also the Gwent Levels to the East of Newport.  

We had excellent views of Cuckoo, Stonechat, Whinchat, Wheatear and Whitethroat, together with Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, and Redstart.  Some 44 species were noted during the 3½ hour walk in an area which for some was their first taste of Cwmbran birdlife.  An ideal walking and watching day. It’s a pity to think that the fields around Llanderval Farm, where Whitethroat were showing well and Chiffchaff and Blackcap were singing heartily, will soon become another housing development site.  The other species noted were:

  1. Heron
  2. Pheasant
  3. Lesser Black Backed Gull
  4. Feral Pigeon
  5. Wood Pigeon
  6. Swift
  7. Green Woodpecker
  8. Skylark
  9. Swallow
  10. House Martin
  11. Tree Pipit
  12. Meadow Pipit
  13. Wren
  14. Dunnock
  15. Robin
  16. Blackbird
  17. Song Thrush
  18. Mistle Thrush
  19. Willow Warbler
  20. Blue Tit
  21. Great Tit
  22. Magpie
  23. Jackdaw
  24. Crow
  25. Raven
  26. Starling
  27. House Sparrow
  28. Chaffinch
  29. Greenfinch
  30. Goldfinch
  31. Linnet
  32. Reed Bunting

Wentwood for Nightjars and Woodcock, Friday 28th May (John Bennet)

On a mild, dry evening we met at Cadira Beeches at 8pm for a walk specifically to observe Woodcock and Nightjar in their breeding habitat.  Woodcock are a secretive woodland wading bird difficult to observe except during spring and early summer when the males perform a display flight at dusk called roding.  They are present all year.  Nightjar on the other hand are summer migrants, usually first observed around mid May.

The meeting, which was surprisingly well attended, started by walking towards the five paths area of Wentwood and then turning south down a rougher track towards Nine Wells past a pond.  On the way we observed a number of typical woodland species such as Wood Warbler, Willow Warbler and Whitethroat.  We waited around just above Nine Wells in a large area of recently cleared forestry until just after 9pm when a Woodcock flew almost directly over us giving its distinctive call.  Several more birds were seen some flying along tree-tops and some overhead.  Some of us heard soon after an occasional desultory churr of a Nightjar but around 9:30pm the birds started performing well with some being seen in flight calling and wing-clapping.  The males, more evident with their white wing flashes and white in their tails, would occasionally perch lengthways and start churring in a prolonged fashion.  Good flight views were obtained by most.  In this area there are at least 3 churring males with one over the road in an adjacent clearing.  The number of Woodcock would be more difficult to estimate because of duplication but say about 6 birds.

At 10:30pm or so the group started back to their cars by torchlight with the Nightjars still in full song (or churr) and an occasional Woodcock heard flying over.

Pembrokeshire Weekend, June 4th – June 6th (George Noakes)

This popular field trip was again well supported with 9 members meeting at the Marloes Sands Youth Hostel, which again provided good basic accommodation and facilities, as well as an ideal centre for birding the local area. Our first port of call in the afternoon was Dale estuary, but low tide meant that any waders were well scattered and very distant. After checking in at the hostel, the group made a walk to Marloes Mere where we enjoyed good views of Sedge Warblers, Reed Buntings as well as a Little Grebe on the nest. We then headed along the cliffs and finally located a Peregrine Falcon. Of course the high point of the weekend was the day trip to Skomer Island. On Saturday morning we were joined by Steve Butler and John Davies at Martins Haven. The weather was excellent throughout the day and, although no unusual migrants were present, everyone delighted in seeing the spectacular sea bird breeding colonies. There were, of course, many photo opportunities of Puffins, Razorbills, Oystercatchers, in particular.  Highlights of the visit were good views of Peregrine Falcons and parties of Choughs, but we failed on this occasion to see any of the breeding Short-eared Owls. Unfortunately, the Sunday morning weather turned out to be damp and drizzly so the planned walk had to be abandoned. Nevertheless, everyone had fully enjoyed  this visit to one of the most beautiful parts of Wales.

Goetre Wood & surrounding area, June 13th 2004

The traditional target of 50 species or more was not achieved this year due to the slower pace of this year’s walk led by Rob Moeller.  In order to keep to the planned time of 4 hours the route was shortened, so the pond and river were not visited. Nevertheless a respectable total of 46 species was seen:

  1. Grey Heron
  2. Mallard
  3. Sparrowhawk
  4. Buzzard
  5. Hobby
  6. Moorhen
  7. Curlew
  8. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  9. Stock Dove
  10. Wood Pigeon
  11. Collared Dove
  12. Common Cuckoo
  13. Green Woodpecker
  14. Great Spotted Woodpecker
  15. Swallow
  16. House Martin
  17. Grey Wagtail
  18. Pied Wagtail
  19. Wren
  20. Dunnock
  21. Robin
  22. Blackbird
  23. Song Thrush
  24. Mistle Thrush
  25. Garden Warbler
  26. Blackcap
  27. Chiffchaff Willow Warbler
  28. Goldcrest
  29. Long-tailed Tit
  30. Coal Tit
  31. Blue Tit
  32. Great Tit
  33. Nuthatch
  34. Treecreeper
  35. Jay
  36. Magpie
  37. Jackdaw
  38. Rook
  39. Carrion Crow
  40. Starling
  41. House Sparrow
  42. Chaffinch
  43. Greenfinch
  44. Goldfinch
  45. Bullfinch

The Blorenge, June 20th 2004 (Andrew Baker)

I left Gilwern on a sunny still morning to head for the Blorenge. Ten minutes later I arrived at the Keepers car park, which had cloud cover and a strong cool breeze; another world.  Mark Stevens had publicised this event in the local press, listing species that we might see, and 19 people started the walk from the Punchbowl area, which was sheltered from the wind.  Of the anticipated species, we saw Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Stonechat, Redstart, Wheatear, Tree Pipit and Whinchat but dipped on Cuckoo and Red Grouse.  At one resting point people were giving me a bit of stick over this failing and Jeff Fisher commented “we haven’t seen Cuckoo so we’re grousing.” We arrived back at the Keepers car park at 12.15pm, which was a 75 minutes overrun on the estimated walking time.  The following species were seen during the walk:

  1. Mallard
  2. Buzzard
  3. Wood Pigeon
  4. Skylark
  5. Great Spotted Woodpecker
  6. Swift
  7. Swallow
  8. Wren
  9. Dunnock
  10. Robin
  11. Tree Pipit
  12. Meadow Pipit
  13. Common Redstart
  14. Whinchat
  15. Stonechat
  16. Wheatear
  17. Blackbird
  18. Song Thrush
  19. Mistle Thrush
  20. Blackcap
  21. Chiffchaff
  22. Willow Warbler
  23. Blue Tit
  24. Great Tit
  25. Coal Tit
  26. Nuthatch
  27. Jay
  28. Magpie
  29. Carrion Crow
  30. Raven
  31. Chaffinch
  32. Goldfinch
  33. Siskin
  34. Yellowhammer

News from the Newport Wetlands

Tony Pickup, Senior Reserve Manager

The reserve is experimenting with a new name; something that has been exercising the reserve’s steering group for years.  The new name is felt to be more enlightening for the general public.  After a 3-month probationary period (during which time any comments will be welcome), it could become permanent.

The breeding season this year has been most heartening with up to 57 pairs of lapwings.  The increase may have been due to the good breeding success last year.  Whether it can be sustained remains to be seen!  There were some failures during the wet weather in early May, but a surprising number of broods survived or pairs re-laid.  There have been inevitable losses to foxes and crows, and a buzzard has been a regular nuisance on the Saltmarsh grasslands.  Redshank numbers, always much more difficult to assess, are looking very good with at least 20 pairs.

The Goldcliff lagoons have made a wonderfully intense breeding scene, with 2 pairs of avocets, up to 15 pairs of lapwings, 7 pairs of redshank, not to mention scattered pairs of oystercatcher, little ringed and ringed plovers.  The effects of last summer’s hypersalinity have now all but gone and invertebrate populations are obviously rebuilding well.  One only has to see how the avocets, which spent more time feeding on the shore when they first arrived, are now obviously getting enough sustenance from the lagoons.

At least 2 pairs of gadwall have been faithfully sticking to two fields on the grasslands and a brood of 2 on the Uskmouth lagoons has proved breeding beyond doubt.  A drake shoveler on one of the salt marsh fields suggests something is going on there, but, apart from a pair and an odd male seen at Goldcliff in May, no garganey breeding yet!

The bitterns & bearded tits seem to have gone from the reedbeds, but a number of May marsh harrier records may hold out exciting prospects for the future!

One of our farm tenants has put in a field of spring barley on the reserve.  This was almost immediately colonised by a pair of lapwings.  His unsprayed crop should also help our winter passerine numbers and this spring arable will, I hope, be just the first of many on the reserve.

This spring’s wader records gave reserve maxima of 80 black-tailed godwits and 21 bar-tailed godwits on the 30th April and 76 whimbrel on the 25th April. Odd ruff and greenshank records and a single spotted redshank added variety to April and May with a Temmink’s stint on 16th May.  A spoonbill amongst the avocets gave a distinctly “east coast” feel to the lagoons in late May

The Environmental Education Centre Project is settling down after an initial period of  “free-thinking” to examine ideas.  An opening in spring 2007 is being planned, but there’s a lot of work to be done before then.  In parallel, much thought is going in to how to provide visitors to Uskmouth with a better chance of seeing all the species associated with the reserve.  So plans for developing “enhanced” wet grassland and possibly even saline lagoons, are being considered. Don’t hold your breath though; some of these may take ten years to develop!

The Reserve car park is on West Nash Road, 0.3Km before the entrance to Uskmouth Power Station, grid reference ST 334834 (Landranger Map 171).  Follow the brown duck signs from the A455.

Gull Count on Flat Holm 19th May 2004

Keith Roylance

Just five miles from Cardiff, Flat Holm is a different world with a significant Gull population.  The Island is an SSSI and Local Nature Reserve and is run by the Flat Holm Project, part of Cardiff Council.  The Vale of Glamorgan Council and the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) also support it.

An ex work colleague asked if I would be interested in assisting in the ‘Gull Count’ and a simple ‘Yes’ saw me and other volunteers, including fellow GOS member Mick Bailey and colleague Ken Wilkinson (from Scotland, but not specifically for the count!), at Barry Docks at 06.30 on Wednesday 19th May.  It was a cool morning but promised good weather.  The crossing on the Project’s own boat, the ‘Lewis Alexander’, took about 45 min.  The sea was calm, so the time was spent meeting the other volunteers and learning a little about previous gull counts.

On arrival, a warming cup of coffee in the island farmhouse, now the HQ of the Flat Holm Project, was followed by instruction on the methodology for the count.  Surprise, surprise, you don’t count Gulls (the majority are Lesser Black Backed, some Herring) – you count nests.  Five specific survey areas have been used for many years and these would once again be used.  We were split into teams of 3/4 under the leadership of an experienced volunteer.  Provided with protective overalls, (Gulls can be messy when disturbed from their nesting sites) and hard hats (they can also inflict a nasty wound if they attack you, as they are likely to do!) we were ready for the count.

We were to walk in a straight line, counting the nests for approximately 1 metre either side, and mark the ground with coloured paint (spray cans provided), to indicate the nest has been counted.  When we reached the end of our survey territory, we moved two metres across and returned in a straight line, again counting and marking the nests as we went. We continued traversing our survey area until it had been fully surveyed. EASY? NO IT’S NOT. The terrain is uneven and the vegetation varies from short grass via large areas of nettles to thick brambles.  A straight line is difficult, no impossible, to maintain.  However after some 2 hours of counting (the team I was in had two counters and one recorder) we had our first coverage of the plot.  A short break and we repeated the exercise, this time at right angles to the first survey.  We found a lot more nests, missed on the first traverse.

What of the gulls?  They are messy, and on a personal ‘hit’ count 4 gulls made contact with my hard hat, one of which I hoped hurt the gull as much as it did me!!!

The counts finished about mid-day, when an experienced team revisited each area, walking in a line and counting 100 nests, noting how many were missed in each survey area.  This gave them a correction factor, which is applied to the count to provide the final figures. The details won’t be available for a few months, but initial counts show a slight increase on the island offset by a reduction on the cliffs.  Overall, some 3,500 pairs, mainly Lesser Black Backed, are nesting on the Island.

The afternoon activities were of a more unfortunate nature involving two teams.  One would cover the managed part of the island where Gulls are not allowed to nest, as it would upset the ecology of the grass and other plants reliant on poor thin soil to survive.  Any eggs found would be removed from the nest and the nest destroyed.  The second team would recover any gull corpses found and remove them.  Apparently a lot of the deaths are due to botulism, caused by eating rotting food from refuse tips.  If healthy gulls feed off the corpse botulism could spread.  Not a pleasant task, but one Mick, Ken and I were assigned to.  Some 6 barrow-loads were collected, to be burnt by the resident warden and volunteers.

What of other birds on the island?  There are Shelduck, Oystercatcher, and on the day of our visit, a pair of White Wagtails, together with a Pied Wagtail.  A Mallard family was on the pond and Dunnock and Robin were heard.

It was soon time to return to the ‘Lewis Alexander’ for the journey back to Barry. The wind at 17.00 was somewhat stronger than in the morning and a more interesting crossing was experienced.  Would I go again? Most certainly YES.

For information on day trips to the Island or more about what Flat Holm has to offer contact: Natalie Taylor, The Flat Holm Project Office, Pier Head, Barry Docks, Barry, CF62 5QS, Tel 01446 747661.  Also, see www.cardiff.gov.uk/flatholm

BTO News

Jerry Lewis

Coverage of Breeding Bird Survey squares is likely to be better than usual this year as there are several new volunteers taking it on.  I've also started to have forms returned, and can those of you who are submitting your returns “on line” to the BTO please let me know so that I don't come chasing you later in the year?

Coverage for the Nightjar Survey is good, but if anyone records a bird could they let me know (date and 6 figure grid reference) as it may be one that has gone undetected.  Initial visits to the eastern half of Wentwood indicate that even more will be recorded than in last year's record year.

There are still a few Swallow Feeding Survey tetrads available for those willing to spend a pleasant couple of hours in a morning or evening.  Details of this very easy survey were included in the March Dipper.  The available tetrads are:

  • Llanarth SO3109
  • Penperlleni SO3304
  • Trostrey SO3504
  • Usk SO3701
  • Clytha Hill SO3707

In each case the centre point reference of the tetrad is given.  The survey runs from late May until early August so give me a ring soon if you are interested.

The BTO have recently increased the amount of data on its website to include more information about numbers and trends of common birds www.bto.org/birdtrends and to provide a range of distribution maps www.bto.org/atlases

It has finally been shown that gardens are great for birds.  New estimates have shown just how important our homes and gardens are for breeding birds, with millions of pairs of birds choosing to nest there.  Six thousand households participating in the garden birdwatch survey provided figures.  Blue Tit came out top with House Sparrow, Blackbird and Robin close behind (all with between 1 and 3 million pairs.  There were also about 1 million pairs of each of Wren, Dunnock and Starling.  If all of the UK gardens were as bird friendly as those surveyed, the total number of pairs nesting in gardens could be an incredible 30 million.

Most of us will provide food for the birds during the winter months, but current advice is to carry on feeding throughout the year.  The spring is a particular time of food shortage, but it is important that the right type of food is provided.  A free information sheet is available by writing to GBW Factsheet, Freepost, Norfolk, IP24 2PU or by phoning 01842 750050.

Sticking with the household theme, there is a new survey (April to August this year) to find out exactly how many birds are being killed by flying into windows, and what measures can be taken to reduce the number.  It is estimated that up to 30 million birds may collide with windows each year, of which one third may died as a result.  Collisions are more likely to occur when the sky is clearly reflected in the glass or where birds can see through two windows directly opposite each other.  Volunteers willing to keep a simple records of window strikes are still needed, to request a free recording pack write to Window Strike Survey, BTO, Freepost, Norfolk, IP21 2PU or phone 01842 750050.  Estimates come from the reporting of ringed birds when the cause of death has been reported. The following percentages are due to window collisions: Chaffinch 20%, Greenfinch 9%, Blackbird 7%, Song Thrush 7%, Robin 4%, House Sparrow 3% and Sparrowhawk a staggering 34%.

Recent Bird Sightings

Compiled by Helen Jones from information received from the website

“Description” species are reported here but have not been ratified by the GOS/WOS/BBRC records panels. Such reports are included here so that you can keep your eyes/ears open and send in records as appropriate.

Ratified records will be published in the 2004 report in 2005.

Please note: Details of the reports listed below or on the society’s web site, do not constitute a ‘record submission’ to the County Recorder.  All records should be submitted to the Recorder, as soon as is conveniently possible, or at least, by no later than the 31st January in the following year.

Breeding Season Arrivals in Date Order
Chiffchaff 1 in full song in Newport on 9th
Sand Martin 1 at The Bryn on 14th
Wheatear Pair at GLWR on 17th
Swallow & Blackcap

c6 Llandegfedd Reservoir on 24th seen earlier but singing ? at Newport on 25th

Ring Ouzel ? at Trefil on 28th
Willow Warbler Wainfelin, Caerleon, GLWR, on 2nd
House Martin 1 at Ynysyfro on 3rd
Yellow Wagtail 2 at GLWR on 9th
Tree Pipit 1 at Wentwood on 9th
Sedge Warbler 1 at GLWR on 11th
Cuckoo GLWR on 11th
Garden Warbler 1 at Llandegfedd Reservoir on 12th
Common Redstart ? Llandegfedd Village on 12th
Reed Warbler 1 at Magor Marsh on 16th
Grasshopper Warbler 1 at Magor Marsh on 17th
Swift 2 at Ynysyfro on 17th
Whitethroat at Ynysyfro on 17th
Pied Flycatcher 1 at Lodge Wood on 18th
Whinchat 1 at Undy/West Pill on 18th
Wood Warbler 1 at Cwmbran on 23rd
Lesser Whitethroat ≥ 2 at GLWR on 25th
Hobby 1 at Abergavenny on 28th
Nightjar 2 at Wentwood on 17th
Turtle Dove 1 at Tintern on 22nd
Spotted Flycatcher 1 at Cleddon Hall on 22nd

Last Reports of  Winter Visitors

  • ? Brambling at Cwmynyscoy on 29th March
  • Redwing at Abergavenny on 10th March
  • 103 Fieldfare at Llandegfedd Reservoir on 12th April

Other Sightings by location

Several sightings of Merlin at various sites along the coast and a few sightings of Red Kites during the spring/early summer and Honey Buzzard in May.  Several sightings of Hen and Marsh Harriers provided added interest at the Gwent Levels Reserve, along with sightings of Peregrine and Sparrowhawk, and Short-eared Owl up to early May.Ring-necked Duck present up to 1st June.  Hybrid duck prompted discussion



Species & Comments





1st winter Ring-billed Gull

Stonechat – not common at this location

GLWR Uskmouth





Up to 22 singing Cetti’s Warblers. 

1 Bittern;

Bearded Tit, also on 26th & 29th;

2 Ruddy Duck;

1 Water Pipit



≥12 Snipe at the Moorings, also on 15th with 8 on opposite bank



1 Common Redpoll on garden feeder, Osbaston;



≥ 10 Bullfinches




1 Spotted Redshank river meadows; 1 Ruff flying down the Usk

1 Green Sandpiper Bulmore Farm;



Redpolls and Siskin at Wainfelin

GLWR Goldcliff





1 Ruff; 20 Long-tailed Tits

2 Kittiwakes flying down channel

13 Ringed Plover; 2 Little-ringed Plover, 3 on 29th; Black Redstart & on 26th.

? & ? Garganey;



6 Green Sandpiper;



Great Grey Shrike at Little Oak

Garnlydan Res


Tree Sparrow

Llandegfedd Res


? Goldeneye



Ring-necked Duck at steel works

Peterstone Wentloog



Up to 179 Black-tailed Godwit; 240 Common Redshank; 90 Grey Plover; 30 Curlew; 170 Teal; 103 Wigeon, 65 Knot; c500 Dunlin; 3 Little Egret

1st /2nd-year Iceland Gull, Sluice Farm

1 Bar-tailed Godwit; 1 Lesser Redpoll;



14 Buzzards circling around the Skirrid


Osprey passing through with sightings at GLWR and Usk on 10th.  Whimbrel arriving with 1 at Peterstone on 9th, c21 at Collister Pill on 17th, 70 at GLWR (25th), and 15 at Newhouse Mathern on 26th.  Increasing sightings of Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Sand Martin, Wheatear (maximum of 26 at West Pill/ Magor Pill on 17th) and Swallows.

A Woodchat Shrike was at Uskmouth on the 24th and provided excellent views for several hours.  This is the fourth record for the County.  It was first recorded in 1983 with an immature bird at Peterstone Wentloogefrom 1st Oct to 8th Nov.  Next noted in 1988 when an immature bird was at St Brides from 29th Aug to 6th Sept.  In 1993, there were records of adult female birds, possibly the same individual, at Magor Reserve 14-18th May, Magor Pill on 8th June and at Caldicot Moor from 8th to 16th August.

GLWR Goldcliff









52+ pairs of Lapwing now breeding on the reserve makes this the second best site in Wales for this species.Lapwing chicks on 25th , up to 13 Little-ringed Plover

up to 20 Turnstone Sea watching produced 10 Kittiwakes 2 Gannet, at least 1 Fulmar, an Arctic Skua and probable Red-throated Diver

1 Ruff; 1 Barnacle Goose

2 Greenshank;

Bar-headed Goose;



4 Crossbills

Peterstone Wentlooge




210 Black-tailed Godwit; 20 Knot; 320 Common Redshank; 1 Ruff; 1 Greenshank; 140 Curlew;

20 Pintail

Penyfan Pond


? Common Scoter, still present on 16th;

GLWR Uskmouth



3 Ruddy Duck; 1 Bearded Tit

Water Rail survey produced 34 birds



2 Common Sandpipers, Llanllowel

Llandegfedd Res



4 Redpoll; Breeding Great-crested Grebe, Canada Goose &, Tufted Duck. 

4 Common Sandpiper

Lower Beaufort pond


Little Owl

The Bryn


2 Common Sandpiper; 1 Green Sandpiper,

Ynysyfro Res


1 Common Sandpiper, 2 on 17th; c40 mixed hirundines

Magor Marsh


1 Cetti’s Warbler; young Coot

Undy, West Pill


2 Red-legged Partridge;



Lesser-spotted Woodpecker; 7 Common Sandpiper; 2 Little-ringed Plover;



Report of 4 Dotterel between Basseleg and Michaelston-y-Fedw



Red-rumped Swallow reported at New Monnow Bridge


Cuckoos at GLWR, Taywain, Peterstone, Mynydd Maen, Brynmawr, Cwm Lickey, Wernrheolydd, Blaenavon, Wentwood and Osbaston during the month and at least 3 on the Sugar Loaf.  Whimbrel at GLWR, Collister Pill, Peterstone and Dingestow Court.  2 Hobby over Osbaston garden and warblers everywhere. 

GLWR Goldcliff









Up to ≥35 Bar-tailed Godwit; 44 Black-tailed Godwit; 950 Dunlin, 3 Greenshank, 13 Turnstone, 38 Knot, 3 Grey Plover, up to 7 Sanderling, 110+ Ringed Plover.  Two pairs of Avocets bred.  Garganey present

1 summer plumage Spotted Redshank, up to 7th; 1 Common Sandpiper; 1 Curlew Sandpiper

2 Pintail.  Off Goldcliff Point - ≥700 Arctic Terns; 31 Kittiwake; 6 Common Scoter

2 Ruddy Duck;

Goldcliff Point –10 Pomarine, 7 Arctic and 10 other Skuas between 07:45 and 10:30 plus 25+ “Commic” Terns and a 1st summer Mediterranean Gull

2 feral Barnacle Goose; Goldcliff Point – group of Skuas on water, 50 took off with 4 Pomarines showing spoons

Temmink’s Stint

Spoonbill present to 1st June

summer plumaged long-tailed Duck

Penyfan Pond


1 pair Common Sandpiper; 1 pair Little Grebe



Bulmore Lakes -1 Goosander plus 9 ? & 1? on the Usk; 2 Lapwing; 1 Green Sandpiper;

GLWR Uskmouth


2 pairs Ruddy Duck; 2 Short-eared Owls

Goytre House Wood


Pair of Pied Flycatchers visiting nestbox near the pool, also on 11th.  Unfortunately appears not to have bred there.

Newhouse Mathern


Great Skua mobbed by nesting Oystercatchers & 2 Great Black-backed Gulls

Collister Pill


1 dark bellied Brent Goose; 1 Sanderling



Two pairs Tree Sparrows



Adult Yellow-legged Gull


Cuckoo still heard at St Mary’s Vale on the 7th and at GLWR up to 14th, Wentwood on 15th.  Turtle Dove at Uskmouth on 2nd.  Roding Woodcock and at least 3, possibly 5 Nightjars at Wentwood on the 28th.

GLWR Goldcliff








Garganey and Spoonbill present, along with up to 17 Little Egret. 

1 Sanderling

Curlew Sandpiper

1 Ruff, also on 18th

Little Stint; 2 Knot

1 adult Mediterranean Gull, also on 25th,

Sea watch produced 22 Manx Shearwaters, 4 Gannets and 1 Skua sp.

Possible Great White Egret



“small white-rumped” Swift reported



? Golden Oriole

St Mary’s Vale


Young adder in nest of Willow Warbler chicks



? Lesser Spotted Woodpecker feeding fledged juv.

Library Update

George Noakes

We have now acquired the following Bird Guides videos, which are available for loan at indoor meetings:

  • Gosney in Florida
  • Gosney in Texas
  • Gosney in Spain
  • Gosney in Morocco

Overdue Items: Would all members please check to see if they have any books, videos etc. which they have not returned to the Library and make every effort to return them at the Autumn indoor meetings.

Giving through the Self Assessment Tax Return

Did you know that if you fill in a self-assessment tax return and you are due a tax repayment, you can nominate The Gwent Ornithological Society to receive the repayment as a charitable donation?  If you wish to participate in this scheme and benefit the birds of Gwent, you just need to quote our unique charity code VAG18UG to the Tax authorities and they will do the rest.

PLEASE NOTE: The scheme cannot be used before the 2003/2004 Self Assessment returns issued in April 2004 and it does not replace the Gift Aid scheme where we can reclaim tax paid on the value of your subscription, but is in addition to the Gift Aid scheme.

Holiday in Spain 21 May 2005

Mike and Jackie Pointon recommend a walking and birdwatching holiday in the spectacular mountains and valleys of Andalucia.  Birds seen on this year’s walks included Griffon Vulture, Bonelli’s, Short-toed and Golden Eagles, Honey Buzzard, Black Wheatear, Hoopoe, Wryneck, Bee-eater, Sardinian and Melodious Warblers and Thekla Lark. Short-toed Treecreeper bred in the hotel ground.  Cost for a week full board is £550 plus flights.

Access at Newport Wetands (Gwent Levels Wetlands Reserve)

GOS member Sally Bailey has recently been in touch with Senior Reserve Manager Tony Pickup regarding improved access for people with disabilities.  The points raised were:

  1. Difficult access to the viewing platforms at Goldcliff which would be remedied if there were railings.
  2. Had there been a disabled access audit of the reserve?
  3. As birdwatching is a hobby that in many ways is ideally suited to people with disabilities, did the reserve have any policy to promote itself in this way, for example with “safari tours”?

These points were addressed by Tony as follows:

  1. This summer, hand rails will be put up to all platforms along with benches, slots and shelves in all the platforms.  There will also be a number of benches installed around the reserve in general
  2. Last winter a disabled access audit was carried out by Disability Wales and their advice has been incorporated into the reserve’s visitor development plan.  Though there will be some factors beyond our control which will limit the speed at which we can implement the plan, we hope by Easter 2007 to have comprehensive access for everyone at the Uskmouth end of the reserve.  A three-year project has just started to establish these new facilities, which will include a visitor centre as well as comprehensive viewing and disabled access to the reedbed and surrounding grasslands.

Visitor development at Goldcliff will always be less intensive because of limits imposed on us by our planning consent.  A planning condition prevents all but minimal visitor development at that end of the reserve.  A second limit to improving the birdwatching facilities at Goldcliff is the fact that the bank on which the viewing platforms are built is due to be raised at sometime in the near future.  As part of these sea defence improvements we hope to have all the viewing platforms made accessible by ramps, which would allow much better access, including to those in wheelchairs.  Hard paths will also be put in to enable this.

  1. Once we have proper access routes completed I hope we will be able to enable anyone to enjoy all events, no matter what their disability.  Each year there have been one or two special disabled events run by two of our volunteers.  However, we would rather that everyone would be able to attend any of the events rather than have to make special arrangements.

Tony explained that up to now they have been limited in what they could do for visitors.  This was because the reserve was given certain ecological priorities by the UK and European government and these have to be achieved before March 2005.  As a result virtually all their efforts have been directed to this end, with less attention paid to human use of the reserve.

Have you had a combination of interesting species together in the scope/binocular field of view?

Roger Price has suggested an occasional feature where members can record instances of seeing an unusual combination of interesting species in the field of view at one time.  He describes such an instance below.  If you have such sightings, please send them in

At 8:30 am at Sluice Farm on 6th April, on a very high incoming tide, the whole outer Saltmarsh was covered with floating debris.  I watched a Merlin drop onto some prey on the floating debris and then to my surprise, at the left of the telescope field and not far from the Merlin, I made out the well camouflaged shape of a Short-eared Owl also perched on floating debris.  A short distance away, and behind them both, a Redshank was swimming on the sea.  Floating Merlin, Short-eared Owl and Redshank!

Committee Commentary for April & June 2004

Trevor Russell

Annual Report Production: In the April meeting, a considerable amount of time was spent discussing this topic.  Several changes were agreed, designed to both shorten publication dates and reduce the number of errors in the final version.  A commitment was also made to publish the Report in time for distribution at the first indoor meeting in September of the following year, to both retain the relevance of the data and to reduce postage costs.

Windfarm on Mynydd James/Coity Mountain.  There has been no further news on this proposal following our letter of protest in April. (There will be a walk in this area on 12th September – see page 3 for details)

The Hendre, Monmouth: A proposal to build an additional golf course, hotel, spa and associated developments was discussed. The proposal would destroy nearly 5.5 acres of ancient woodland. The Woodland Trust is attempting to build a coalition of objectors and GOS is hoping to be able to add its name to the ‘Hendre Coalition’. A press release is in preparation. (This issue was covered in some detail in the September 2002 Dipper)

East Newport Development Plan: There is a proposal to build up to 6,000 houses in 2 main areas: the western part of the former Corus Llanwern site and the land to the south west of the site that borders a series of SSSI’s and land to the north of the Corus site, running up to the M4.  A further development is planned at Castle Oaks, Usk, adjacent to the ancient woodland Cockshoot Wood (SO383017).  Such developments could quickly fill the Southern Distributor Road and resurrect the M4 Relief Road plan which is due to be tabled at the Welsh Assembly soon.  One could be forgiven for thinking that local Councils will not be content until the whole of South Wales is covered in concrete and tarmac!

National Bird Club Forum: In February, the BTO and West Midlands Bird Club hosted a meeting to compare and contrast how various bird clubs organise themselves and to identify any ‘winning formulas’. Representatives from 47 Bird Clubs attended.  It is of little comfort that other bird clubs seem to be experiencing similar problems to our own – an aging membership and a seeming inability to attract younger members.  What was reassuring was that GOS seems to already carrying out many of the suggestions to increase and maintain both membership and interest though we will be following up some of the ideas to promote our activities more widely.

Some interesting statistics from the Oxford Ornithological Soc. showed the their average membership age is 55, 40% of their members had never attended an indoor meeting but only a few had attended more than half a dozen of their 13 indoor meetings, 37% of members had gone on an outdoor meeting but few were frequent attendees and two in five had taken part in a survey. Significantly, 25% of their members had never attended an indoor meeting, field trip or taken part in a survey.  I will drag out the GOS survey results from our questionnaire a few years ago to let you see how we compare with Oxford. Maybe its time for yet another survey!

Gerry McQuade Memorial Collection. An impressive £740 was raised for the Noah’s Ark Appeal.

Birdwatching in Northumberland

Helen Parry Jones

I have been birding in Northumberland on 3 occasions now.  It’s a lovely place to be, and there are some good birds to see.  I have been based on the coast at Howick and Craster (famous apparently for its smoked kippers), not far from Alnwick and have travelled up on each occasion by train to Alnmouth.  The rail fare varies from under £50 to £98 return, depending on day and time of travel, and the journey takes about 6 hours with 1 change.  Surprisingly, the cheap fares are obtained by buying two single tickets!  My visits were 6th - 9th March 2002, 5th - 11th November 2003 and 5th - 13th May 2004.

Good numbers of species have been seen on each visit, without dashing about; 84 in March, 88 in November and 117 in May, with a total of 143 between the three visits.   To give you a feel of what was about when, the species are listed below:

Every Visit

  1. Cormorant
  2. Grey Heron
  3. Mute Swan
  4. Greylag Goose
  5. Wigeon
  6. Gadwall
  7. Teal
  8. Mallard
  9. Tufted Duck
  10. Common Eider
  11. Common Scoter
  12. Goldeneye
  13. Kestrel
  14. Grey Partridge
  15. Pheasant
  16. Moorhen
  17. Coot
  18. Oystercatcher
  19. Ringed Plover
  20. Lapwing
  21. Sanderling
  22. Purple Sandpiper
  23. Curlew
  24. Redshank
  25. Turnstone
  26. Black-Headed Gull
  27. Common Gull
  28. Herring Gull
  29. Great Black-Backed Gull
  30. Woodpigeon
  31. Collared Dove
  32. Great-Spotted Woodpecker
  33. Skylark
  34. Meadow Pipit
  35. Pied Wagtail
  36. Wren
  37. Dunnock
  38. Robin
  39. Stonechat
  40. Blackbird
  41. Song Thrush
  42. Mistle Thrush
  43. Goldcrest
  44. Coal Tit
  45. Blue Tit
  46. Great Tit
  47. Nuthatch
  48. Magpie
  49. Jackdaw
  50. Rook
  51. Carrion Crow
  52. Starling
  53. House Sparrow
  54. Chaffinch
  55. Greenfinch
  56. Goldfinch
  57. Linnet
  58. Yellow Hammer
  59. Reed Bunting

March Only

  1. Brent Goose
  2. Shoveler
  3. Scaup
  4. Red-Breasted Merganser
  5. Ruddy Duck
  6. Grey Plover
  7. Knot
  8. Ruff

March & May

  1. Fulmar
  2. Shag
  3. Canada Goose
  4. Shelduck
  5. Goosander
  6. Sparrowhawk
  7. Bar-Tailed Godwit
  8. Lesser Black-Backed Gull
  9. Kittiwake
  10. Grey Wagtail
  11. Siskin

May Only

  1. Great Crested Grebe
  2. Manx Shearwater
  3. Gannet
  4. Red Grouse
  5. Red-Legged Partridge
  6. Whimbrel
  7. Common Sandpiper
  8. Great Skua
  9. Sandwich Tern
  10. Arctic Tern
  11. Little Tern
  12. Razorbill
  13. Feral Pigeon
  14. Turtle Dove
  15. Cuckoo
  16. Short-eared Owl
  17. Swift
  18. Sand Martin
  19. Swallow
  20. House Martin
  21. Tree Pipit
  22. Yellow Wagtail
  23. Dipper
  24. Redstart
  25. Whinchat
  26. Wheatear
  27. Grasshopper Warbler
  28. Sedge Warbler
  29. Reed Warbler
  30. Lesser Whitethroat
  31. Whitethroat
  32. Garden Warbler
  33. Blackcap
  34. Chiffchaff
  35. Willow Warbler
  36. Jay

March & November

  1. Red-Throated Diver
  2. Pochard
  3. Golden Plover
  4. Common Snipe
  5. Redwing
  6. Snow Bunting

May & November

  1. Little Grebe
  2. Barnacle Goose
  3. Dunlin
  4. Black-Tailed Godwit
  5. Little Gull
  6. Guillemot
  7. Puffin
  8. Rock Pipit
  9. Long-Tailed Tit
  10. Treecreeper
  11. Tree Sparrow
  12. Redpoll
  13. Bullfinch

November Only

  1. Red-Necked Grebe
  2. Bean Goose
  3. Pink-Footed Goose
  4. Buzzard
  5. Tawny Owl
  6. Shorelark
  7. Waxwing
  8. Fieldfare
  9. Brambling
  10. Twite

Howick and Craster are within easy striking distance of Lindisfarne, the Farne Islands and Druridge Bay, which are main birdwatching areas, but there is plenty to see at various points all along this stretch of coast.  On my first two visits, we spent 2 full days birding each time and then a couple of hours on the Saturday morning before I returned to Cardiff.  Apart from walking through the Howick estate, and going in to Alnwick for Waxwings, the birding was exclusively coastal.  In May this year, there was more time to explore some inland sites, and we went to the Harthope/Langleford Valley in the Cheviots, and Fontburn Reservoir near Rothberry.  Also there was the opportunity to visit Staple & Inner Farne islands from Seahouses.  No Roseate Terns I’m afraid, but excellent close up views of other breeding seabirds.  This trip was expensive - £20 boat fare plus £4.50 landing fee on each island, but was certainly worth it as a one-off.  There are cheaper half-day and non-landing trips available.

By Dunstanburgh Castle, a short walk from Craster there is a cliff face covered in breeding seabirds and a little further on, at Newton, there is a Little Tern Colony.  Visiting at the beginning of May, I was a little too early to see this, though birds were just starting to come in.  In November, just behind this area at a spot called The Long Nanny, I had lovely views of 7 Shorelark, 13 Snow Buntings and a flock of 100+ Twite all together in the sunshine.  The highlight this May had to be the Turtle Dove in the garden of the house I was staying in.  It stayed around for 4 days. Tree Sparrows were regulars in the garden.

The area has plenty of other interest.   There are lovely sandy beaches, plenty of stately homes, including Alnwick Castle, good walking close by and it looks pretty good for cycling.  If you are stuck for somewhere to go, why not give it a try!

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