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March 2005 - Newsletter 94 PDF Print E-mail

New Editor, Same Dipper

Hello all, welcome to the first ‘post-Helen era’ Dipper.  With a bit of luck you shouldn’t notice any major changes.  I am a fully paid up member of the ‘if it ain’t broke...’ school of thought and, given the quality of the newsletter during Helen’s editorship, I will be aiming for as near a seamless change of editor as is humanly possible.  To give you some idea of who I am here is my concise birding CV…

I have been birding ever since I can remember, certainly since I was tall enough to throw bread at ducks.  A few aimless early years soon developed into regular trips around sites across south-east England and then, inevitably, to a short, near rabid, spell of twitching. During the last ten or so years I have attempted to broaden my birding horizons and now try to blend local birding with ringing, foreign trips and just a little rarity hunting here and there.  The last decade has also resulted in me becoming a professional ecologist and leaving my native Surrey, ultimately pitching up in Gwent via Cardiff, Warwick, London and Cardiff (again).  My preferred global position is the Scilly Isles, my favourite bird is constantly changing and my favourite colour is blue.

Anyway, enough with the introductions, hopefully within the next few pages there is something to interest most readers and maybe, just maybe, something to inspire you to get out into the field.  

Spring Birding

Watchout here come the migrants!

With the lengthening days and increasing temperatures I’m quite sure GOS members have emerged from birding hibernation and are already combing the countryside for all things feathery. However, just in case one or two members need an additional impetus to get out there and get birding, Barry Catlin has kindly supplied a summary of when and where the first summer migrants have appeared over the last four years.

Species 2000 2001
Osprey 19th May - Llandegfedd Res 13th Apr - Usk
Hobby 26th  Apr - Llanover 26th Apr - Abergavenny
Little Ringed Plover 26th  Mar - NWR 14th Apr - Abergavenny
Whimbrel 9th Apr - St. Brides 23rd Apr - Portskewett
Turtle Dove 3rd May - Rockfield 29th Apr - Trelleck
Common Cuckoo 16th Apr - Trelleck 11th Apr - Llandevaud
Common Swift Apr 26th - NWR 21st Apr - Abergavenny
Sand Martin 11th Mar - Llandegfedd Res 11th Mar - Usk
Barn Swallow 2nd Apr - Ynysfro Res 19th Mar - Monmouth
House Martin 9th Apr - Goldcliff 1st Apr - Talywain
Tree Pipit 7th Apr - Wentwood 2nd Apr - Beacon Hill
Yellow Wagtail 9th Apr - NWR 17th Apr - NWR
Common Redstart 10th Apr - Pantygasseg 8th Apr - Magor
Whinchat 23rd Apr - Mynydd Garnclochdy 29th Apr- Caldicot Pill
Northern Wheatear 10th Mar - Collister Pill 29th Mar - Goldcliff
Ring Ousel 15th Apr - Trefil  
Sedge Warbler 20th Apr - NWR 23rd Apr - Llanwern
Reed Warbler 22nd Apr - NWR 25th Apr - Llanwern
Lesser Whitethroat 23rd Apr - NWR 15th Apr - Caldicot Pill
Whitethroat 19th Apr - Greenmoor Pool 13th Apr - NWR
Garden Warbler 16th Apr - Rogerstone 27th Apr - Cross Keys
Wood Warbler 22nd Apr - Beacon Hill 27th Apr - Beacon Hill
Willow Warbler 26th Mar - The Nedern 30th Mar - Abergavenny
Spotted Flycatcher 17th Apr - Manmoel 18th May - Newport
Pied Flycatcher 15th Apr - Abercarn 10th April - Penallt
Osprey 13th Apr - Hardwick 29th Apr - Pontnewydd
Hobby 2nd May - Abergavenny 29th Apr - Peterstone
Little Ringed Plover 23rd Mar - Gobion 18th Mar - NWR
Whimbrel 11th Apr - NWR 13th Apr - NWR
Turtle Dove 3rd Jun - Pant-y-saison 4th May - St. Brides
Common Cuckoo 18th Apr - Gray Hill, Wentwood 6th Apr - Llanfair Kilgeddin
Common Swift 24th Apr - Pen-y-fan pond 23rd Apr - Chepstow
Sand Martin 9th Mar - Ynysfro Res 11th Mar - The Bryn
Barn Swallow 10th Mar - Ynysfro Res 2nd Apr - NWR
House Martin 29th Mar - Goldcliff 29th Mar - Magor
Tree Pipit 3rd Apr - Beacon Hill 12th Apr - Wentwood
Yellow Wagtail 26th Mar - Peterstone 3rd Apr - Peterstone
Common Redstart 13th Apr - Llansoy 12th Apr - Llandewi
Whinchat 19th Apr - Wentwood 17th Apr - The Bryn
Northern Wheatear 19th Mar - Cwm Lickey 10th Mar - St. Brides
Ring Ousel 24th Apr - Trefil 5th Apr - Trefil
Sedge Warbler 13th Apr - NWR 31st Mar - NWR
Reed Warbler 20th Apr - NWR 16th Apr - NWR
Lesser Whitethroat 12th Apr - Whitson 23rd Apr - NWR
Whitethroat 18th Apr - Bulmore 16th Apr - NWR
Garden Warbler 22nd Apr - NWR 14th Apr - Caerleon
Wood Warbler 20th Apr - Sirhowy Country Park 22nd Apr - Cwmafon
Willow Warbler 24th Mar - Alphasteel, Newport 26th Mar - Cross Keys
Spotted Flycatcher 29th Apr - Llandegfedd Res 30th Apr - Honddu valley
Pied Flycatcher 17th Apr - Penallt 13th Apr - Forest Coal Pit

Field Trip Reports

Tregaron and Aberystwyth 16th January 2005

The day began as usual at Pont Einon, near Tregaron, with raw weather and not many birds. Verity and Charles had attempted the scenic route, only to be thwarted by a mud-slide which had closed the road! Fifteen of us drove on to Cors Caron. On the way we noticed about a dozen Red Kites, amongst which was a leucistic bird, flying over a field. I hope someone’s photos were good!

At Cors Caron we struggled for birds in the drizzle, but they were sensibly keeping their heads down. A farmyard had good numbers of Starlings and Jackdaws, which we searched for something different, and we enjoyed a large flock of Fieldfares with a smattering of Redwing. The hide was still closed for repairs, so we continued further down the track, still not seeing much. It wasn’t until we turned back with thoughts of lunch, that a flock of Long-tailed Tits with a couple of Willow Tits provided the first of our main ‘target species’.

After lunch we continued to Aberystwyth and found a Rock Pipit and three Purple Sandpipers below the sea wall, not their usual spot, which was too battered by a rather angry-looking sea. By now the sun had appeared, and the colour of those birds….! We tried our hardest to find an Iceland Gull that had been sighted earlier, but dipped on that one. So we went to the other end of the prom, and a pair of Choughs obliged with a swift fly-by. Things were looking up!

With an eye on the setting sun, we dashed back to Pont Einon, in time to have glorious views of a male Hen Harrier and distant views of a Ringtail. About ten Whooper Swans came in to roost and, as it was getting truly dark, a couple of Snipe could just be seen. We ended what had been an excellent afternoon with a clear view of Saturn and a shooting star as a bonus! A total of 48 species were recorded.

Whitford Burrows 5th February 2005

Nine GOS members met up with Wendell Thomas and the Carmarthen Bird Club for a walk out to the NW corner of the Gower peninsula. In spite of demoralising weather on the drive down, the clouds cleared, and by the time we parked at Cwm Ivy there was a clear blue sky.

After a steady walk out to the point, we were rewarded with good views of the roosting birds towards the lighthouse including: Brent Geese, Ringed Plover, Eider and Oystercatcher.

As the tide continued to rise, we moved on round the spit to the hide, and stood outside it! With grand views out over the Loughor estuary to the N and NE, and Great Pill to the East, the tide pushed the birds nearer; these included seven Slavonian Grebe, and one Black-necked Grebe, in mill-pond conditions. There were also claims of Red-throated Diver in the heat-haze. In the Pill there was a sizeable flock of Pintail, 400+ Grey Plover, about 150 Eider, two Red-breasted Merganser, and a few Bar-tailed Godwits.

Walking back to Cwm Ivy, excellent views were had of two Peregrines on the ground. We then moved on to Llanrhidian Marsh, seeing a magnificant flock of 4,000+ Golden Plover in the air. Then at Salthouse Point a passing female Hen Harrier flushed a Snipe.

Finally, as we returned to the cars and while looking at a Greenshank that had been present all day, a large white egret with black feet flew slowly down the Pill - probable Great White Egret? In total 75 species were recorded.

Ruth Brown, Out-of-County Organiser ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ; 01873 858239)

Out-of-County Trips

Have you a favourite birding spot outside Gwent? Have you read of a site you would really like to go to with GOS?

On many of our trips, it is frequently the same pool of people who join in. We welcome all members to join us, and there are generally experienced birders with us, who can help with the trickier species, or give advice if you are a complete beginner.

You can look at the variety of binoculars, tripods and scopes people use, and compare them in the field.….there’s always someone who has bought the latest toy. I’ve asked people how they have identified that funny brown blob in the far distance. You can learn to recognise birds in flight with other people’s help (something you can’t learn from a book)

Some trips are more enjoyable if you have a telescope (e.g. when sea-watching is a likely activity), so if you are in any doubt, do please ask. Hopefully, if it’s exciting, people will let you have a look through their scope.

The Dipper is the main way of contacting all of the membership. Otherwise the GOS web-site would be a way of advertising more opportunist trips that take advantage of weather conditions, such as sea-watching at Strumble Head, Pembs. (If you do not have a home computer, free internet access is available at most local libraries, though booking may be required)

How many people would support more adventurous trips further afield?  Would a suggestions box be a good idea at the indoor winter meetings?  These events are organised for you, so please let me know what you think.

I know this article is badly timed, as there are no more indoor meetings until September, but if you come to an outdoor meeting, you could chat to Steve Butler or myself about it then, or you can contact us by telephone/e-mail.

Ruth Brown, Out-of-County Organiser ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ; 01873 858239)

Black Grouse Viewing 2005 Update

RSPB Cymru invites you to see one of the most fascinating bird spectacles in Wales - the mating display of the black grouse.  Guided walks will lead you to a purpose built hide from where you can watch the black grouse males forming a 'lek'.  Warm weatherproof clothing and strong footwear is essential.  Flask of hot drink is advisable.  Sorry, no dogs or flash photography allowed.  Booking is essential.

  • Meeting place: Denbighshire, North Wales
  • Time: 5 am start
  • Organiser: Becky Clews
  • Contact: RSPB Cardiff, Telephone: 02920 353000
  • Dates: April, 17, 9, 23, 30; May 8, 14

Helen Jones went on the first meeting on 3rd April.  We arrived at the site as it was starting to get light and we could hear the bubbling of the birds fairly close.  Unfortunately, as the light was improving, two independent birders walked out onto moor with high profile and flushed the birds that were close to the viewing point.  I saw four birds in flight and one other in the heather, but sadly no birds lekking.  On the way back, we had Siskin, Redpoll and Crossbill, and Willow Warbler – a first of the season for most of the group, though I had heard them in Cardiff several days before.

News from the Newport Wetlands Reserve

Winter wildfowl counts were very encouraging with Shoveler reaching a maximum of 184 by 13th Feb.  Wigeon numbers peaked at a new record of 2032 on 28th Jan.  Wildfowl are now feeding almost exclusively on the grasslands, only taking to the shoreline when disturbed. Other good counts were 1,630 Lapwing, 340 Black-tailed Godwits, 487 Shelduck, 150 Dunlin, 163 Pintail, 42 Snipe and two Jack Snipe. A Bittern was seen several times in January – always on the two most westerly reedbeds. These are the only two where we have done no mowing!

We celebrated World Wetlands Day on 2nd February. The day started with Tony and myself being interviewed by Radio Wales at 8.30am in our car park. Later, 70 Year 6 pupils from St. Andrews Junior School came down for a morning of ‘environmental education’ organised by RSPB and Newport City Council. Several of our Voluntary Wardens were involved with showing the children the birds through scopes. The Mayor of Newport came along as well and joined in one environmental game where he had to imitate a swan – complete with gold chain around his neck! In the afternoon we held a guided walk, for which 120 people turned up. We split up into three groups. The highlight of the afternoon was watching around 50,000 Starlings put on a marvellous display – so good that spontaneous applause broke out when the last starling dived into the reedbed.

At the end of February up to eight Goldeneye were on the reedbeds. Two males were displaying – putting their heads right back so they almost touched their tails and flicking up water with their feet. This was accompanied by one of the strangest calls I have ever heard. This is the sort of thing you would normally have to travel to Scandinavia to see.

It’s now the second week in March and we have the strange situation of hundreds of Wigeon and Shoveler still feeding on the reserve whilst Lapwings are taking up territory and displaying overhead. We are now starting to let some water off the fields to allow the Lapwings some dry land to nest on and allow our tenants to put stock on in April.

Recent management work includes: contractors mowing reeds with an amphibious reed-cutter; hedgerow management; pollarding ash and willow trees; removing non-native alder trees and sea-buckthorn from areas of Pulverised Fuel Ash where orchids grow; mowing rushes to encourage Lapwings to nest; contractors repairing leaking fieldblocks and installing additional water-control sluices; and installing additional gateways to allow better control of grazing.

The weekend of the 12th &13th March saw very high spring tides and we opened our tidal flap at Goldcliff to allow the whole series on and off. This will hopefully bring in additional invertebrates as well as raising the salinity levels. These tides will also hopefully bring in elvers which will be able to use the elvers ladders at Uskmouth to climb up into the reedbeds. This time of year is always one of great anticipation, expectation and, to a lesser extent, anxiety. How many pairs of Lapwing and other waders will we have? Have we let just the right amount of water off the wet grassland (it’s very easy to pull out a sluice board, but much harder to put the water back)? Will there be a spring drought or heavy rain? Will we be able to pump the water we need from the sewage works to our reedbeds? Will the Avocets come back to breed again this year? I should be able to tell you most of the answers in the next issue of the Dipper.

Kevin Dupé, Reserves Manager

If you come across any problems or see something good on the Reserve, contact details are NWR Warden: Nash 01633 275567, CCW 029 2077 2400

BTO News

BBS: Uptake of the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) squares is now at a high level and there are only three squares (of 46 in Gwent) that have no volunteers for 2005.  BBS data, and trends in species abundance, are now being quoted in more and more reports - see recently published State of Birds in Wales 2003 (look for it in the GOS library, on the RSPB website at http://www.rspb.org.uk/Images/sobwales_tcm5-66371.pdf, or see me at an indoor meeting if you want your own copy). There is still a chance for you to help with this important monitoring work, the three available squares are:

  • SO 3504 (Nr Chain Bridge)
  • SO 3304 (Penperlleni)
  • SO 3621 (Campston Hill).

As the majority of Gwent squares have been surveyed in recent years, the BTO have allocated an additional 10 squares comprising:

  • ST 2097 Treowen, Newbridge
  • ST 2283 Cefn Mably
  • ST 4489 Slade Wood, Caerwent
  • ST 4589 Itton Great Wood, Caerwent
  • SO 1200 Bargoed
  • SO 2317 Glangrwyne
  • SO 3011 Llanellen
  • SO 4502 Llansoy
  • SO 5106 Trelleck Common
  • SO 5117 Welsh Newton

If more squares are covered, the accuracy of the results is increased, so much so that if we could increase our coverage to 50 squares per year (and a similar number were also covered in Glamorgan) population trends could be calculated on a south east Wales basis (rather than all Wales figures as are produced at the moment).  The survey involves just three visits, one to set up your 2 km route and to record habitat information, the other two (in April - July) to record all the birds you see and hear.  DVD's/Cassettes of common bird song are available for new recorders, and I could try to arrange for you to accompany an existing volunteer during their visit (if that will give you the extra confidence to take on your own square).  If anyone is interested to find out more, please give me a ring on 01873 855091.

Looking out for Hawfinches...

Everyone would probably be happy with a day's birding that included good views of Hawfinch, and there are now one or two sites in the Forest of Dean where there is a good chance of seeing this species (the next couple of months, before the leaves come out, is probably the best time to go looking).  If anyone does see Hawfinch, either in the Dean or in the Wye Valley, please keep a good look out for ringed birds, as a number have now been fitted with colour rings.  The birds would have a mid grey metal ring on one leg and a single colour on the other (either red, dark blue, white, yellow or black).  The colour represents the season/site where the bird was ringed, and it is hoped to assess movements from the winter feeding sites.  Occasionally the birds may only have a metal ring (from earlier years or where they have removed the plastic ring - their bills are not just for cracking hard seeds!).  Any records of ringed birds, or even of birds that are clearly not ringed, would be appreciated.  Please telephone me (number below) or inform the RSPB wardens at Nagshead/Symonds Yat.

... and Turtle Doves

The RSPB is trying to organise a survey of Turtle Doves this year in the Trelleck area - the only area in Wales where the species now breeds.  They are looking for volunteers to search a single 1km square three times from May - July inclusive (early morning starts).  A training day has been arranged for 30th April and ‘out of pocket’ expenses can be claimed, please contact me for more details or Debbie Scott This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it if you are able to help.

Scarce Woodland Birds

The response for volunteers for the Scarce Woodland Bird Survey has been good, and, as the survey is running for two years, there will still be a chance to help next year (it is now probably too late to get large scale maps produced for 2005).  There is, however, still a chance for everyone to contribute casual records, let me know if you want a form.  The species being targeted for the casual survey are Firecrest, Hawfinch, Lesser Redpoll, Lesser-spotted Woodpecker, Redstart, Tree Pipit, Willow Tit and Wood Warbler, a good mix of ‘easy’ species and some more elusive ones.

The breeding season is now underway, not surprising given the mild weather, with Crossbill and Siskin nests found in Wentwood by Steve Roberts and myself.  I also had Collared Doves in the garden which laid before Christmas and fledged a single youngster at the end of January (the second chick was not so lucky and fell out of the nest during the mid January gales).  The pair have now started on their second clutch.

Grey Heron Info?

Most of Gwent's heronries are counted every year but there have been one or two gaps recently, if anyone has any information - number of ‘apparently occupied’ nests - about Llandegfedd Reservoir for 2003 and 2004, or for Llanhennock for 2004 please let me know.

Lapwings need your help

I am hoping to expand (to the whole of Gwent) the scheme that Monmouthshire County Council has had for the last few years to help nesting Lapwings.  Most Lapwing now nest on maize fields which are cultivated just at the time that the birds have their eggs.  The scheme involves compensating farmers who adjust their cultivations to enable the Lapwings to nest successfully.  However the most successful farms are those where there is a close liaison between the farmer and a local birder.  The birder providing help with nest finding and advice on moving nests during ploughing.  The scheme will only work if a number of birders are able to locate fields where Lapwing are nesting or are able to respond to farmer's requests for help.  Lapwings have declined in Wales more than in the rest of the UK and they desperately need help if we are going to be able to watch their dramatic display flights in future springs.

A recently published leaflet that may interest members is - UK Seabirds in 2004 - produced by the JNCC it gives some of the key findings of Seabird Monitoring in 2004.  To get a copy contact Dr Matthew Parsons, e mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Jerry Lewis, BTO Representative (01873 855091)

AGM Commentary - January 2005

Nearly 70 members heard the President, Ian Walker, open the meeting with a one minute silence in memory of George Noakes, Librarian, and Peggy Cook, 98, probably our oldest member, who both died recently.

The Treasurer gave his Annual Report which showed an increase in the Society assets of nearly £1000. The Chairman focussed upon forthcoming planning applications including the resurrection of the M4 Relief Road scheme, a consequence of the Newport Unitary Development Plan both of which we will oppose. The progress of the second edition of the Birds of Gwent was also highlighted and publication is expected around Easter 2006.

Four Committee members retired by rotation, Ruth Brown, John Davies, Richard Clarke and Tony White though only two nominations were received to replace them, they were Diane Elliott and Dave Brassey.

Dipper Editor Helen Jones retired after countless years of continuous improvement in the quality and presentation of the newsletter, and has been replaced by Darryl Spittle. Rob Moeller had offered to take over as Librarian and Ruth Brown stepped into another of George Noakes’ roles, that of helping Steve Butler with out-of-county field trips.

Officers and other members of the Committee were not challenged for their roles and were re-elected en bloc.

In Any Other Business Mick Bailey asked what action was being taken by the Committee to improve the facilities in the hall for the hard of hearing within an aging membership. Trevor Russell responded that following Committee discussion several months earlier it had been concluded that the considerable cost involved in installing a Loop System did not justify the improvement for the few members that would benefit. (Subsequent enquiries to the Village Hall Committee revealed that they used the existing loudspeaker system for Bingo sessions, but since the microphone was used on the stage, behind the loudspeakers, they did not have the problem with feedback ‘squeal’ that we would encounter if our presenters were talking in front of the loudspeakers and screen)

Trevor Russell mentioned that over 40 garments carrying the GOS logo had already been sold and over £650 had been received after only 4 indoor meetings.

These formalities were completed in 45 minutes which left plenty of time to enjoy the delightful - and very filling - finger buffet which was, in turn, followed by a presentation by Vice President Al Venables on the subject of ‘Birds of Gwent 2’ of which he is Editor. His very amusing talk involved lots of audience participation as we tried to identify bird species from their distribution maps within the county. The subsequent number of questions suggests that publication in 2006 will be eagerly anticipated.

Trevor Russell, Secretary (01600 716266, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )

Book review: Beguiled by Birds by Ian Wallace

The RSPB magazine, ‘Birds’, describes Ian Wallace as ‘a bit of an institution’. Ever since his first introduction to me in the monthly ‘Bird Watching’ magazine I have found his style of writing both lively and direct. Others may not like his style, perhaps finding it a bit obscure and provocative.

This book is described as part history and part autobiography. It describes bird watching (or shall we say man’s interest in birds) from 250BC when man caught and domesticated birds for food, to the present day, although the majority of the book describes the last 125 years of British bird watching. During this period the study of birds has undergone a dramatic transformation in rationale and methodology, as the technical expertise available has developed. Gone are the days when it was the preserve of the ‘men of science’ or church ministers such as Gilbert White and his ‘Natural History of Selborne’. It is now a popular hobby, across all areas of the nation and population, from the retired to young research students, from professional to amateur, without which the likes of the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) would not exist.

Wallace produces many interesting facts, did you know 14 million homes are involved in winter feeding of garden birds and as much as 60,000 tons of bird seed and peanuts are added to the traditional food scraps? This produces a current market of £25 million for bird feeding equipment and nest boxes, and £95 –125 million for bird food. Total British travel in pursuit of birds costs in excess of £50 million per year although foreign travellers exceed this figure. In 2000, Adrian Webb spent £12,000 in an attempt to take over the position of ‘Britain’s top year lister’, only to have his efforts thoroughly rubbished by the incumbent champion. The author also describes how we made the first attempts of gaining knowledge of birds. The book charts the development from Gilbert White’s theory of Swallows burying themselves in river beds during winter, to the tracking of migration via satellites; from the shooting of birds for identification, to the splitting of species due to differences in DNA.

Each page is illustrated in the margin by the author, producing a pleasing format. The book provides Wallace’s personal history of birding and, as such, is well worth the read.

Barry R Catlin

Committee Commentary - February 2005

The February meeting welcomed Dave Brassey and Diane Elliott as new Committee members.

Following up the matter of hearing facilities at indoor meetings, Helen will attempt to ‘size’ the problem with a request for comments elsewhere in this edition of the Dipper (see Membership News).

The question of increasing subscription rates had been raised at the AGM but Committee discussion was adjourned because there is no immediate justification for an increase, given our present healthy bank balance. However, the Treasurer pointed out that whilst our annual expenditure is fairly predictable, income is not, being mostly dependent upon grants for bird surveys, which are highly variable and impossible to anticipate. Given this inability to budget our income, and with a clearing picture of our costs for the ‘Birds of Gwent 2’ publication only towards the end of the year, we will review the necessity to review subscription rates at a later meeting.

Access to Llandegfedd Reservoir has recently become a vexed issue as attempts to strike a balance between stopping vandalism and disturbance, and allowing access to legitimate visitors are made. A confused situation has been clarified - see Membership News

The CALM Alliance is to be resurrected in the face of a plan to re-introduce the M4 Relief Road scheme. The route is not yet known but it is likely that it will start at the Magor toll plaza and traverse 4 – 6 SSSI’s. Public meetings could be held later this year. Stay tuned.

The Management Plan for Goytre House Wood has been put to the Forestry Commission which outlines expenditures over the next 2 years to pay for digging up rhododendrons and sycamores, and provide more nest boxes and plastic sleeves for saplings. The pond also deserves attention, having been created more than 200 years ago when the canal was built.

In addition to the GOS-embroidered clothing which is now on sale, Keith Roylance has found a source of Waterproof Notebooks at £4.50. Contact Keith to place orders.

Trevor Russell, Secretary (01600 716266, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )

Membership News

Membership Renewals: At the end of December, GOS membership stood at 415, if family membership was taken as two people.  There were three non-renewals for 2005 due to changes in interests/rationalisation of subscriptions, and of course I knew of three members who died at the end of 2004.   More recently, I have been notified that Rae Vernon died on 7th March.  Although he did not come to many GOS events, I am sure that several members knew him.  He contributed records for the 1987 Gwent Atlas of Breeding Birds and to the Society’s Annual Reports, and was a co-author of the Birds Of Morocco, published in 2003.

As of 12th March, we have received 287 subscriptions, and I would like to welcome the 22 new members/families who have joined us since the end of last year.  Many of these have joined as a result of Mark Stevens’ fortnightly column in the Argus.  Thirty-one members from 2004 have not yet renewed but I hope that some will rejoin in the next few weeks.  If you have received this Dipper, you have paid your 2005 subscription.

Llandegfedd Reservoir Access: from the 1st March to 31st October, the gate to the car park at the north-end will be open from 0630 to 2230 to allow access to anglers and birdwatchers.  Please be sure to carry your membership card with you and show it to the Rangers if asked. From the 1st November to the 28th February, access arrangements (as part of the SSSI management agreement) are that entry to the reservoir is restricted to bona fide birdwatchers and organised groups (under the leadership of Ranger staff). Birdwatchers allowed access are holders of a day or season birdwatching permit and GOS members.

Some years ago, a number of keys were made available to GOS members, the arrangement being that any members requiring keys could borrow a key from a designated key holder.  As part of this arrangement GOS was supposed to provide Dwyr Cymru with a list of members who have keys.  We omitted to do this so please let me know if you have a key that opens the gate at the north end during the winter.  For further news on winter access, please see insert with the June Dipper.

Ynysyfro Reservoirs Access:  GOS membership also covers access to Ynysyfro, so any GOS member is entitled to be at the Reservoir, provided they have their current membership card with them and show it to any angler who asks to see it.  Your cooperation on this point would be appreciated since non-cooperation could jeopardise our access to this site.

Goytre Village Hall Facilities: We have one indoor meeting left in March.  The question has been asked as to whether some members don’t come to indoor meetings because they can’t hear the speakers.  Several years ago, we tried the loudspeaker system available at Goytre Village Hall, but it wasn’t totally satisfactory.  Trevor Russell has been looking into options for improved audio facilities in the hall, but before we pursue this any further, we really need to know how many members would benefit.  If you feel that you would benefit from (and take advantage of) an improved system please let me know.  In the interim, if your hearing isn’t as good as it used to be, it may help if you sat nearer the front of hall.  If this applies to you, let us know that you will be attending and we can make sure that seats at the front are kept free for you.  Finally, the hall is suitable for wheelchair users.

Following the death of George, Margaret Noakes has donated £100 to the GOS Library.  I am sure that you will join me in thanking her for this generous donation.  If you have any suggestions for items to be purchased for the library, please let Rob Moeller (01873 858764).  We shall arrange for stickers acknowledging the donation to be placed on the items.

Helen Parry Jones, Membership Secretary 029 20691027, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Colour-ringed Birds

Whilst out birding everyone can make a real contribution to bird conservation; whether it’s taking part in organized survey work or sending in records to the county recorder each piece of data is another piece in the jigsaw and another small step to understanding the species around us. Another approach, that demands very little of the wandering birder, is to keep an eye out for birds sporting colour-rings or tags.

Unlike conventional metal rings, which usually require birds to be recaptured to read the ring number, colour-rings (or other marking techniques) are used to identify birds individually and, therefore, obtain information about movements and behaviour without the need for recapture. These marking techniques range from simple coloured plastic rings and wing tags to sophisticated satellite tracking equipment. Whilst these, sometimes highly visible devices may attract adverse criticism, and even degrade the appearance of birds in the eyes of some observers, they do generate substantial amounts of information and can allow birds’ movements and survival rates to be revealed more efficiently than conventional metal rings. As a result, projects with colour rings, or other colour marks make an important contribution to the study of birds and, ultimately, their conservation.

Species commonly targeted in colour-ringing projects include waders, gulls and herons, however, a huge range of species have been marked in this way. In Gwent Cormorants, Greylag Geese and even Hawfinches (see BTO NEWS for details) are currently the focus of colour-ringing studies but species as exotic as Spoonbill and Little Egret have also been seen bearing colour-rings in the county so anything is worth a second look.

If you should encounter a bird sporting colour-rings, what should you note down? Most importantly: the colour, number and relative position of rings on the birds legs plus any inscription on the rings (and the colour of the inscription). A quick sketch in your notebook with a few annotations will help the process. Usually a bird will have between one and four colour-rings. Colour marks on legs are always recorded from the top down and any inscriptions should be read from left to right as if they were the letters from a word (the orientation of the writing on the ring whether it goes round, up or down should not affect the code). Once the sequence of rings is noted any additional notes on the age and sex of the bird, and its behaviour (was it feeding, roosting, etc.) will often prove useful. Finally you’ll need to know where and when you saw the bird (i.e. location, grid reference if possible, date and time).

Details of any sightings can be reported to the Ringing Unit of the BTO at The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk IP24 2PU or over the internet, just log on to www.bto.org and click on ‘Report a ringed bird’. However, if you see colour-ringed Cormorants or Greylag Geese these can be reported to Richard Clarke on 01633 615581 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and Jerry Lewis will want to know about the Hawfinches on 01873 855091.

As a footnote – It is also worth looking out for patagial tags: these are flexible, coloured plastic tags which are attached at the leading edge of the wing.  These are usually used on raptors, such as Red Kite, but Grey Herons with tags have also been reported in Gwent. To identify individual birds letters or numbers are painted onto the tags and details similar to those outlined for colour-rings (i.e. colour, number, relative position and details of any inscriptions) should be noted.

Recent Bird Sightings

January – February

The following is a summary of reports posted to the ‘Recent Reports’ page on our website  (www.gwentbirds.org.uk) with additional information from Kevin Dupé relating to the Newport Wetlands Reserve (NWR).  ‘Notable’ records (i.e. those relating to species recorded infrequently within the county or of species occurring outside the expected dates) are in bold type. All areas within the NWR and associated areas of foreshore are treated as a single location. Records relating to rare breeding species, or those susceptible to persecution are omitted.  Please note that the inclusion of a record within the following summary does not imply official acceptance and all records should be forwarded to the county recorder.

The finders of ‘notable’ records are acknowledged, in addition thanks go to the following observers who all contributed records: Nigel Andrews, Mick Bailey, Andrew Baker, John Bennett, Nicholas Beswick, Peter Blackaby, Mike Bosley, Tom Boyland, Julian Branscombe, Dave Brassey, Ruth Brown, Bryn Burgess, Ros Burgess, Steve Butler, Barry Catlin, Graham Cheshire, Tom Chinnick, Richard Clarke, Craig Constance, John Davies, Kevin Dupé, John Evans, Chris Field, Mary Field, Andrew Gabriel, Chris Green, Tim Griffiths, John Harper, Adrian Hickman, Gordon Hill, Hilary Hopkins, Gary Howells, Richard Howells, Mal Jenkins, Chris Jones, Hadyn Jones, Keith Jones, Martyn Jones, Andrew King, Rob Moeller, Allen Morgan, Rod Morris, John Moseley, Peter Newling, John O’Sullivan, Lee Parsons, Verity Picken, Arthur Pitcher, Jackie Pointon, Mike Pointon, J. Richards, Harry Roscoe, Andy Rowlands, Keith Roylance, Nick Saunders, Angus Scott, Bob Shepherd, Ian Smith, Jeff Smith, Darryl Spittle, Brian Thomas, GT Thorne, Mike Tidley, Gareth Waite, Chris West, Alan Williams, Steve Williams, Leyton Williams-Davies, John Wilson and Andrew Worsfold.

  • Little Grebe – Reported from six sites during the period, maximum counts included: ten at the Newport Wetlands Reserve; five at Ynysfro Reservoirs and two at Peterstone Wentlooge.
  • Great Crested Grebe – Reported from six sites during January and February, maximum counts included: nine at Llandegfedd Reservoir; four at Bryn Bach Country Park; and four at Bulmore Lakes. A displaying pair was noted at Ynysfro Reservoirs.
  • Cormorant – Reported from just three sites during the period, maximum counts included 29 at Llandegfedd Reservoir and 15 at Ynysfro Reservoirs.
  • Bittern – One report of a single bird at Magor Marsh on the 19th January (J. Branscombe) whilst a second bird was at the NWR in January (per K. Dupé).
  • Little Egret – Reported from five sites during January and February, maximum counts included: 20 at Newport Wetlands Reserve; eight near Magor; and five at Magor Marsh.
  • Grey Heron – A maximum of 20 were recorded from Llandegfedd Reservoir whilst 17 were noted at Risca in a heronry thought to include nine to ten nests.
  • Mute Swan – A good count of 52 was recorded at Llangybi, elsewhere a maximum of 15 was noted at the Newport Wetlands Reserve.
  • Bewick’s Swan – All records came from Llangybi with a high of 26 on 15th January and nine on the 3rd February.
  • Greylag Goose – A single bird, presumably of feral origin, was present at Llandegfedd Reservoir on 12th February.
  • Snow Goose – A presumably feral/escaped bird was at Llandegfedd Reservoir on 28th January.
  • Canada Goose – Reported from six sites during January and February, maximum counts were of 242 at Llangybi and 140 at Llandegfedd Reservoir.
  • Barnacle Goose – Two birds, presumably of feral origin, were present at Llangybi on 1st and 15th January. On 8th January, doubtless the same birds, were recorded from Llandegfedd Reservoir suggesting an interchange of wildfowl between these two sites.
  • Brent Goose – A single Dark-bellied Brent Goose (B. b. bernicla) flew down channel at Peterstone Wentlooge on 3rd January (C. Jones).
  • Shelduck – Counts were received from three sites with maximums of 487 at NWR, 116 at Peterstone Wentlooge and 10 at The Nedern.
  • Mandarin – Two records of this Gwent scarcity were posted, both of single males. One was at Chepstow on 21st January (Nick Saunders) whilst another, apparently associating with a female Mallard, was at Abergavenny on 28th February (Ruth Brown). One shudders to think what the resulting hybrid might look like!
  • Wigeon – An impressive new record count of 2032 was made at NWR on 28th January. Elsewhere reports were received from Peterstone Wentlooge with a maximum of approximately 400 on 30th January; Llandegfedd Reservoir with a high of 430 on 15th January; The Nedern, maximum 250+ on 9th February; and, less predictably, two at Llandogo on 4th January.
  • Gadwall – Almost exclusively reported from NWR with a peak of 73 on 5th January, the only other site producing a record was Ynysfro Reservoirs with a high of three on 24th February.
  • Teal – Reported from eight sites during January and February, maximum counts were of 430 at Peterstone Wentlooge, 350 at Llandegfedd Reservoir and 260 at NWR.
  • Mallard – Counts were made at eight sites with highs of 310 at Llandegfedd Reservoir, 300 at NWR and 170 at Peterstone Wentlooge.
  • Pintail – A good count of 163 of this elegant duck was achieved at NWR. Elsewhere maximums of 120 were seen at Peterstone Wentlooge, 16 at The Nedern and three at Llandegfedd Reservoir.
  • Shoveler – Again NWR dominated proceeding with counts reaching a maximum of 184 by 13th February. Records were posted from three other sites with 130 at Peterstone Wentlooge, 49 at The Nedern and eight at Magor Marsh.
  • Pochard – Only small numbers were reported with a maximum of 35 at Llandegfedd Reservoir on 15th January, dropping to 26 on 28th January, and 19 on 12th February. Elsewhere four high counts were of four at Ynysfro Reservoirs, 12 at NWR and two at Bulmore Lakes.
  • Ring-necked Duck – One, of at least 11 recorded in the UK in February, was in residence at NWR between the 3rd and at least the 18th of the month. Following the first record in 2000, this species has now been recorded in six consecutive years in Gwent, presumably the vast bulk of observations relate to the same, reasonably site faithful, male.
  • Ring-necked Duck hybrid – A single male hybrid was noted at the NWR on 3rd and 18th February
  • Tufted Duck – Counts were received from five locations with highs of 35+ at Bryn Bach CP, 30 at NWR, 27 at Ynysfro Reservoirs and 24 at Llandegfedd Reservoir
  • Tufted Duck x Pochard hybrid – A single bird was at the NWR on 3rd January.
  • Scaup – A single record of four birds (one male and three females) at Peterstone Wentlooge on 3rd January (C. Jones).
  • Goldeneye – Four sites played host to this dapper diving denizen of the deep (Whoa! Sorry, got caught in an increasingly desperate nose-dive of alliteration for a moment there), the highest count was of eight at NWR.
  • Goosander – Small numbers (between one and eight) were noted at 11 different sites. Larger counts of 17, 15 and 15 were made at Bryn Bach CP, Brynmawr and Cwmbran respectively.
  • Ruddy Duck – Just one report was posted, of a single bird at NWR on 8th February.
  • Hen Harrier – Two birds, both ringtails, were recorded; one at Blaenserchan / Mynydd Llanhillet on 14th January and the second at Tirpentwys on 21st January.
  • Rough-legged Buzzard – A bird, thought to be this species, was reported from alongside the River Usk, near Caerleon, on 20th February (K. Jones).
  • Merlin – All three sightings during the period came from the levels with birds at Peterstone Wentlooge on the 3rd and 12th January and another at NWR on 16th February.
  • Red Grouse – Just one record, of two birds, on the Blorenge on 3rd January (Julian Branscombe).
  • Water Rail – Up to ten were reported from NWR; elsewhere singles were found at Magor Marsh, Newport and Ynysfro Reservoirs.
  • Coot – Recorded from five sites with a maximum of 216 at NWR, other good counts were of 85 at Bryn Bach CP and 56 at Llandegfedd Reservoir.
  • Golden Plover – A single Golden Plover was seen at NWR on 27th February (J. Branscombe).
  • Grey Plover – Another species only reported from NWR and Peterstone Wentlooge with maximums of 38 and 56 respectively.
  • Lapwing – Reported from eight sites during the period, maximum counts were of 770 at The Nedern and 1,630 at NWR.
  • Knot – The only flock reported was at Peterstone Wentlooge, approximately 100 were present on 3rd January increasing to 160 by the 12th. A good find was of a single bird at Ynysfro Reservoirs from 25th-27th February (J. O’Sullivan), the first inland occurrence since one at Llandegfedd Reservoir on 20th August 2002.
  • Dunlin – A maximum of 800 were reported from NWR and 500-600 were seen at Peterstone Wentlooge.
  • Ruff – Two ‘possibles’ (amongst a large flock of airborne Lapwing) were seen flying east at NWR on 1st January (J. Branscombe).
  • Jack Snipe – Two sites hosted this cryptic little skulker, a single was recorded from Waunlwyd on 28th February whilst two were at NWR during the period.
  • Snipe – Reported from six sites during the period, maximum counts were of 80 over NWR and 30 at Magor Marsh.
  • Woodcock – Just one record, of a single bird, near Ebbw Vale on 16th February.
  • Black-tailed Godwit – The biggest count was of an impressive 340 at the NWR.
  • Curlew – All records were from the levels with high counts of 300 at Peterstone Wentlooge and 170 from NWR.
  • Redshank – Reported from five sites during January and February, Peterstone Wentlooge monopolized the maximum counts with 260 on 12th January and 286 on 1st February.
  • Greenshank – Only one found wintering in the county, near Caerleon on 29th January.
  • Green Sandpiper – Similar to Greenshank, only one found wintering on the River Usk on 28th February.
  • Common Sandpiper – Two were recorded, one near Caerleon and another in Newport.
  • Turnstone – Just one record was posted, four birds on 23rd February at NWR.
  • Black-headed Gull – Counts were submitted from seven sites during the period, site highs were of 920 at The Nedern and 250+ at Llandegfedd Reservoir.
  • Great Black-backed Gull – An inland individual was noted at Ynysfro Reservoirs on 5th February.
  • Stock Dove – Just one report was posted, of 13 birds at Dingestow on 12th February.
  • Barn Owl – Three records, of one or two birds in the Abergavenny area. Two were seen on 1st January, one on 8th February and another on the 21st.
  • Short-eared Owl – Two records were posted, both from the levels. One was seen at Peterstone Wentlooge on 12th January and two were at Undy on 19th February.
  • Rock Pipit – A report of one or two birds at Peterstone Wentlooge (Julian Bramscombe).
  • Pied Wagtail – A large count of about 500 birds at Abergavenny was made on 17th January.
  • Bohemian Waxwing – The huge national influx of these striking visitors continued to provide Gwent birders with hours of entertainment. Indeed, at times, it seemed Gwent birders were doing little else but chase around after these “crested berry-munchers”. Given the mobility of the species, a full review of records this year is going to provide a real test to all involved in the bird report but, in the mean time, here is a brief skim through those submitted to the webpage. A huge 106 reports were logged in January and February from 53 different observers and 20 locations. Maximum counts from five sites exceeded 100 individuals including: 270+ at Chepstow on 26th January (A. Hickman); approximately 200 at Croesyceiliog on 29th January (T. Boyland); 170+ at Llanfair Discoed on 25th January (A. Hickman); 151 at Monnow Bridge on 19th January (A. Hickman); and 100+ at Cwmbran on 29th January (G. Waite). The greatest county total, on any one day, was of approximately 515 on 23rd January.
  • Cetti’s Warbler – All records came from NWR with a maximum of 17 singing males heard on 3rd February.
  • Blackcap – Wintering birds were reported from three locations probably involving seven individuals. All records were of singles apart from three at Magor on 24th January.
  • Common Chiffchaff – Only a single bird reported during the period at NWR on 5th January.
  • Marsh Tit – Recorded at four locations, the largest number noted was four at Llandegfedd Reservoir.
  • Willow Tit – Just one report logged of three birds, including a singing male, at Wentwood on 3rd February.
  • Great Grey Shrike – This scarce winter visitor was reported from Pantygelli on 18th February (S. Roberts).
  • Starling – The roost at NWR was estimated to have included 50,000 birds on 2nd February.
  • Chaffinch – The only substantial flock logged was of 100+ birds in Wentwood on 24th January.
  • Brambling – Very small numbers have been reported this winter. The maximum during January and February was of four birds in Wentwood on 24th January.
  • Goldfinch – The largest flock reported was of 35 birds at Cwmbran.
  • Siskin – Large flocks of this species appear to be absent this winter. The only report was of 16 at Tintern on 18th January.
  • Linnet – A significant flock of 310 was noted at Dingestow on 12th February.
  • Lesser Redpoll – The dearth of records of this species mirrors that of Siskin. The only report was of 40 in Wentwood on 24th January.
  • Crossbill – Just one report, of five birds including a singing male, at Wentwood on 3rd February.
  • Bullfinch – Reports were logged from five sites with a maximum of 15+ at Cwmynyscoy Quarry on 8th January.
  • Yellowhammer – Just two records of this rapidly declining farmland species were logged. A flock of 18 was seen at Dingestow and 15 at Llantilio Pertholey.

A request for input…

Please send any contributions and/or criticisms (the more constructive the better) for the June Dipper to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

... And a thanks to Helen

I’m sure all GOS members would like to express their thanks to Helen for all the time and effort spent on producing the Dipper over the past years. I’m just beginning to realise how many hours are required.

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