September 2005 - Newsletter 96 PDF Print E-mail

Autumn Already!

Flippin’ eck! It seems spring only appeared yesterday and we are already waving goodbye to our summer migrants and awaiting windblown waifs and strays to brighten up our autumn.

Although the first chilly mornings make getting out from under the covers all the more difficult, there can be no more exciting time to be out birding. In between logging the departure of our summer visitors and noting the first arrivals from further north, surely most birders are now dreaming of finding that elusive rarity. Perhaps a transatlantic wader gracing the pools at Goldcliff, storm blown seabirds beating their way up the Bristol Channel or even a Siberian warbler flitting along a ‘coastal’ hedgerow? At this time of year anything is possible, of course it would be a whole lot more possible were we all living in Shetland or the Scilly Isles but you just never know, if there was ever a time to make the effort and get out there, this is it!

If, however, the armchair is more your natural habitat, there is no need to miss out on a bit of avian excitement. Amongst the regulars this edition of the Dipper contains two tales of birding abroad, true out-of-county trips undertaken by GOS members, the perfect antidote to the oncoming wet and windy weather.  Closer to home there is also news of projects attempting to halt the declines of two of our, once common, farmland species – Turtle Dove and Tree Sparrow. Both are now bordering on extinction as Gwent breeding species, let’s hope a little well-aimed intervention can reverse the current downward trends.

Darryl Spittle This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Woodland Trust Wentwood Appeal Update August 2005 – One Final Push to save Wentwood Forest

In the June Dipper, you will have seen that the offer of £1.5 million was rejected on the 21st July.  The Trust did not want to enter into a bid war but would keep their offer open in case the rival bid failed.  However, because they wanted to save the site, the largest ancient woodland in Wales, they felt obliged to make a higher bid.  The revised bid was accepted on the 28th July.

As a result, in addition to the £100,000 from the public appeal for the initial bid, the Trust need to raise a further £250,000, before exchange of contracts to secure the purchase.

If you have already made a pledge with the leaflet included in the June Dipper, if they haven’t already done so, the Woodland trust will be contacting you to fulfil your pledge.

If you would like to make a donation, there will be a collection box at indoor meetings or, you can donate on-line at www.woodland-trust.org.uk/wentwood, by credit card on 0800 026 9650 or by post to Kavita Heyn, Wales Development Office, c/o the Wool Hall, 12 St Thomas Street, Bristol, BS1 6JJ.  If possible, please state that you are responding to information received by the Gwent Ornithological Society

Membership News

I am sorry to announce the death of two members – Vice President Glyn Lewis (please see the obituary on page five), who died in April and Mike Lahert, a member since 2003, who died in May.

Membership:  We welcome the new members who joined during July: one senior and three family memberships at the Newport Wetlands Open Day, and one additional adult membership.

Llandegfedd Winter Access:  Over 30 members have responded.  Some keys have been sent out with this issue of The Dipper, whilst others will be collected at an indoor meeting.

Newport Wetlands Open Day:  This year the GOS stand was by the viewing screens overlooking the reedbeds and several members turned up with their telescopes for visitors to try.  The help was much appreciated.  While we were setting up the gazebo before the event started, we could hear Bearded Tits close by and not much later the ringers managed to catch a juvenile which was a real bonus.  There were plenty of visitors to our stand and as mentioned above, we recruited some new members.

Goytre Village Hall facilities: In the March and June issue, I asked whether some members don’t come to indoor meetings because they can’t hear the speakers.  I haven’t received any feedback at all, so I can only conclude that this is not a problem and that there is no need to take this any further.

Arrowsmith Bristol Channel Tide Tables, 2006: The Tables cover from Avonmouth to Milford Haven.  If you would like a copy, please let Helen Jones know by the end of October.  The price will be £3 to £4 per copy, depending on the number of copies I order.  They can be collected at Indoor Meetings or if you wish to receive the book by post from me, there would be an additional charge of 45p to cover second-class postage & envelope.

Bert Hamar Memorial Bursary 2005: As in previous years, the Society would like to award a bursary of up to £100 for an ornithological project in Gwent in memory of Bert Hamar, founder of the Society.  The grant is available to GOS members only, and a condition of the grant is that a short article on the project would be written for the annual report.  Applications, including details of the project, estimated expenses and any other funding should be sent to Trevor Russell by 15th October. A small sub-committee will consider applications, and the successful applicant will be announced at the AGM in January.

Ynysyfro Reservoir Access: Those of you who visit the sightings page on the GOS website may have seen that members are still having problems with access to Ynysyfro. I am liaising with Chris Hatch (of Welsh Water) to have a definitive statement on the back of GOS membership cards for 2006 which will clarify access to Welsh Water sites in Gwent. In the meantime, if you experience access difficulties at Gwent Welsh Water sites please let Chris Hatch ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) or Helen Jones know (contact details below).

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

Monmouthshire Turtle Dove Project

Background: The Turtle Dove used to be widespread in Wales in the 1970s but the population has fallen and the range has contracted since then. Regular breeding is now confined to young conifer plantations in a small part of Monmouthshire - estimated at 6 pairs in 2004.

Aim: The project is a partnership between RSPB, Forestry Commission Wales and the Wye Valley AONB, and will run over 2 breeding seasons.  The aim is to determine the population size of Turtle Doves in the Key Area in Monmouthshire in order to target FCW Forest Design Plans and to promote favourable management of farmland to private landowners.  A supplementary feeding programme at two sites was also undertaken together with a study of foraging behaviour.

Update: Survey – Fieldwork for this year’s part of the project has now finished (16 1-km squares were surveyed) and preliminary results suggest that no more than 4 singing males were present in the core breeding area, although it is difficult to be certain due to the local movement of birds.  After a slow start, surveyors reported numerous sightings in late June and early July but on many occasions, these were likely to be the same birds. Singing birds were recorded in 6 of the 16 squares surveyed.  A co-ordinated survey of the 4 main occupied 1-km squares in early July located only a single purring bird.  Of the 4 males that we think were present, we only know of one pair, we strongly suspect that they nested but have no evidence that they reared young.

Supplementary feeding – Corn was regularly scattered at two sites from May - July.  No birds were observed feeding at one (although a bird was heard singing nearby in July), while at the other Turtle Doves were present on eleven of the twelve feeding watches (but only spending an average of three minutes feeding per visit).   Eight other bird species were observed using the site, including Yellowhammers.

Foraging study – Birds were seen feeding on chicken feed in a private garden near Broad Meend and on food put out for Pheasants in Trelleck village.  Due to the limitations of following birds in the plantation/rolling terrain we have little indication of the foraging behaviour, but the study did provide more information on the location and number of birds present.

Next step: Surveys and supplementary feeding will continue in 2006 (with an option of radio tracking to better understand the foraging behaviour).  If anyone has a record of Turtle Dove this summer please let either of us have the record (date, grid reference, behaviour) and if you wish to be involved next year please get in touch.

Debbie ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) & Jerry Lewis


WG (Glyn) Lewis

Glyn Lewis had been a member of the Society since the early 1960s and held various roles in the 60s and 70s.  He was Vice Chairman from 1965 to 1969, a member of the Annual Report Editorial Committee from 1967 to 1975, and Chairman from 1970 to 1972.  He was elected as Vice President in 1975.

Ian Walker, current GOS President, has jotted down a few memories.

My recollection of Glyn is as a large-framed, jovial man, with the most musical male voice I have ever heard; it had a distinctive sing-song lilt - quite different to the basso profundo you might expect from a man of his stature.

Glyn's participation in Gwent ornithology dates from the Society's earliest days when it used to meet, as the Pontypool Bird Club, in Bert Hamar's sitting room (Bert was founder of what has developed into GOS). His major contribution to local ornithology was as the Monmouthshire (as it was then) organiser of the 10km squares survey of breeding birds for the 1968 -72 National Atlas, a role he took over from Bert in 1970.  Up to 1973 it was not hard to find the initials WGL in the species accounts in the Annual Reports - an indication of his ability and active participation during the Society's early years.  He remained a contributor until he retired to Clwyd, in about 1979.

If anyone would like to contribute their memories of Glyn please send them to Helen Jones, Membership Secretary 029 20691027, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Please send contributions for the December Dipper to Darryl by 23rd November.  To fulfil our constitutional obligation regarding AGM notification and Agenda, and bearing in mind possible delays with Christmas post, the Dipper should be in the post by 17th December.  Otherwise, there will be a separate mailing at an extra cost of over £50 postage plus envelopes, so don’t delay with your contributions!

Darryl Spittle This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ,

Field Trip Reports

Cwm Onnau 18th June

We met at on a clear dry day at Gilwern at 7am, and then moved on to our destination.  For this walk we crossed the border into Powys, to explore a deep valley on Mynydd Llangynidr.  As well as typical moorland habitat, the site also contains extensive damp woodland. Decamping from our cars we began the descent through moorland observing Buzzard overhead.  Views of Willow Warbler and Tree Pipit were obtained in the small mountainside trees, typical habitat for these species.

We then entered the woods with the hope of seeing Pied Flycatcher and Redstart, both of which breed here in nestboxes and at natural sites.  Unfortunately both species seemed to have fledged en masse in the previous day or two. Finally we came to a box in which young Pied Flycatchers were calling, and settled down to watch.  When no feeding occurred after about half an hour, I checked the box, and was met with the sad sight of the female parent dead amongst the large young. We removed it in the hope that the male would resume parental duties.  Moving on we had excellent views of a Spotted Flycatcher, taking flies and returning to a perch.  Wood Warbler were calling well but only brief views obtained.  We then had good views of Marsh Tit, several pairs of which breed here.

Species seen included: Buzzard, Willow Warbler, Wren, Blue Tit, Tree Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Coal Tit, Great Tit, Blackbird, Spotted Flycatcher, Pied Flycatcher, Blackcap, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Linnet, Pied Wagtail, Wood Warbler, Marsh Tit, Robin, Goldcrest, Treecreeper and Nuthatch.

Andrew Baker

Upton Warren 27th August

Nine members met in Monmouth for the drive up the motorway, to meet Carl Ashmoor, who kindly led the walk. The reserve is only a mile or two from Junction 5 on the M5, and well worth a look if you are passing by. It comprises some 60 acres, with Moors Pool to the north, and three flashes near the sailing club. There were several good hides which were positioned high enough to give good views over the flashes, and well-filled bird feeders which were attracting good numbers of Bullfinch and Greenfinch.

The photographers had a good time as there were many Snipe feeding in the open, Green Sandpiper, a Common Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover, Lapwings and Curlew. In the afternoon we were given stunning views of a Hobby hunting. Apart from the birds, there were butterflies and dragonflies to occupy the photographers.

This is a charming reserve, with great potential for interesting birds turning up, and well worth a visit.

Ruth Brown ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )

A Birding Holiday in Lesvos April-May 2005

It all started with last year’s British Birdwatching Fair at Rutland Water. A number of us visited and, in an attempt to avoid the rain, went to a presentation by Richard Brooks on ‘The Birds of Lesvos’. In his talk Richard waxed lyrical about bird migration through Lesvos and the variety of waders, raptors, finches, warblers… There were also the special resident birds of the island: Kruper's Nuthatch, Cretzschmars Bunting, etc. The presentation had a marked effect on a number of GOS members attending, no more so than Dave Brassey, by early December Dave was planning his trip. On mentioning his plans at a GOS indoor meeting a number of other members asked if they could join his trip. Thus, by the end of January, seven members (Dave Brassey, Arthur Pitcher, Dave Hutton, Ruth Brown, Verity Picken, Craig Constance and Keith Roylance) had committed themselves to a week’s birding on Lesvos at the end of April - peak time for migration. The organisation was all in Dave’s capable hands, flights, hotel and mini bus hire were all arranged and the departure day, 23rd April, was eagerly awaited.

Day 1 – Our overnight flight to Athens and on to Lesvos meant that, after picking up the mini-bus, we arrived at our hotel at 9 am. Only one member of the party had been to Lesvos previously, Arthur, this was his third trip. He had also volunteered to be our driver, which was useful as not only did he know most of the ‘hot’ birding spots he also knew how to get there as well! We stayed locally for the first day, visiting Kalloni 2 Pool, within five minutes walk of the hotel, East River and Kalloni Salt Pans both within ten minutes drive. By the end of a ‘short’ day we had a list of 68 species, most notable were: Purple Heron, Black Stork, White Storks on their nest, Glossy Ibis, 100+ Flamingos, Short toed Eagle, Eleonora’s Falcon, 50+ Black Winged Stilt, Collared Pratincole, White-winged Black Tern, Short-toed Lark, Red-rumped Swallow, Red-throated Pipit, Olivaceous Warbler, Rock Nuthatch, Woodchat Shrike and Spanish Sparrow.

Day 2 – After a good night’s sleep we were all up early enough to visit Kalloni Pool before breakfast. After breakfast and picking up our packed lunches we were off to explore the bird-life along the Kalloni – Sigri Road. This included a stop overlooking Limonas Monastery and later in the day a walk up to Ipsolou Monastery and a return journey via the coastal track from Sigri through to Eressos. Eighty-two species were noted, 41 of them being ‘new’. The best sightings included Long-legged Buzzard, Lesser Kestrel, Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Crag Martin, Isabelline Wheatear, Black-eared Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Subalpine Warbler, Collared Flycatcher, Sombre Tit, Masked Shrike and Cretzschmar's Bunting. It had been a long day, and we returned to the hotel at 21.00, still in time for dinner!

Day 3 – Some of the group were up early for a pre-breakfast walk in the local area (who says the younger members require less sleep?). After breakfast we headed east towards the area known as ‘Derbyshire’, then on to Achlerderi and Skala Polichnitos, returning to the Kalloni Salt Pans late afternoon via Vasilika. Only ten ‘new’ species were spotted today including: Great White Egret, Alpine Swift, Kruper’s Nuthatch at its nest and Serin.

Day 4 – All of us managed an early start for a pre-breakfast view of the inland lake, just a few miles from the hotel. Little Bittern, Squacco Heron and Great Reed Warblers were all listed before we headed back for breakfast. Afterwards we headed north, up the Napi Valley and on to the Molyvos – Petra road, stopping regularly as the habitats changed. At one raptor watch location 36+ Red-footed Falcons were seen, this after a comment over dinner the night before that “only one or two Red footed Falcons had been noted so far this year”. Seven new species were seen including: Cory’s Shearwater, Red-footed Falcon, Little Crake, Audouin’s Gull and Ruppell’s Warbler.

Day 5 – The West River was our pre-breakfast destination, within walking distance of the hotel. By the time we returned for breakfast we had already seen Red Footed Falcon, Marsh Harrier and Black Headed Bunting. After breakfast we first revisited the ‘Derbyshire’ area. Then, retracing our route, we returned to the saltpans. This time though we took a track to the east of the pans. Our choice did not disappoint, an Osprey fishing in one of the lagoons was seen well as it transported its catch to a nearby electricity pylon where it proceeded to consume it. Most of the expected tern species were also noted and, in one of the nearby fields, Stone Curlew were clearly visible. In the afternoon we headed back up the Napi valley on our quest for more raptors. Again, we were not disappointed; Honey Buzzard, Montagu’s Harrier and Booted Eagle were added to our sightings. By the end of another day’s birding a further 12 species had been added to our trip list.

Day 6 – There was no plan for a pre-breakfast visit today but most of us found our way to Kalloni Pool 2, just around the corner from the hotel. Glossy Ibis, Garganey and Squacco Heron all showed well. Our planned trip was to head north for sea watching and then go inland to see what we could pick up. First port of call was Sigri and then we took the road to Faneromeni along the coast.  Lesser Kestrels were abundant in the area, whilst Cuckoo and Red-rumped Swallow were regularly seen. We noted 1000+ Mediterranean Shearwaters on our sea watch, Cory’s Shearwater were also present together with Cormorant, Shag and Mediterranean Gulls. Watching at pools and streams in the area, we noted Spotted Crake, Citrine Wagtail and White Wagtail. In the surrounding farmland Spotted, Collared and Pied Flycatcher were all visible whilst a lone European Roller was viewed perched on one of the many telegraph wires criss-crossing the area. Seven species were added today.

Day 7 – After another hearty breakfast and having collected our packed lunches we were once again off to the Napi Valley, stopping off at the saltpans and East River. Returning from the Napi Valley by mid-afternoon we headed west to Devil’s Bridge where Sombre Tit had been reported nesting, as well as Rock Nuthatch. We finished the day back at the saltpans. We added five species to our list: Night Heron, Pallid Harrier, Curlew Sandpiper, Barn Owl and Common Starling (not common on Lesvos).

Day 8 – On our last full day we had an early start and arrived at the inland lake as the mist was just rising from the water surface. Hirundines were present in large numbers whilst Squacco Heron and Little Crake were also noted along with Great Reed and Marsh Warblers. After breakfast we drove to the Potamia Valley returning later via the Napi Valley and the saltpans. A further five species were added to our total: Dunlin, Spotted Redshank, Gull-billed Tern and Black Tern at the saltpans and Rufous Bush Robin in the Potamia Valley.

Day 9 – Today we were due to fly home, however, with our flight not leaving until late afternoon, we were not going to waste any time. So a pre-breakfast visit to the saltpans was a priority where a further addition to our list was made by noting Sanderling. After breakfast and a short delay (we had to pack our cases) we set off towards the airport, calling in to the East River and saltpans one last time, and was it worth it. A Blue-cheeked Bee-eater was briefly seen amongst the small flock of European Bee-eaters. A search in the area failed to refind it, but it was a wonderful sighting if only a brief one. By early afternoon we were close to the airport with the road running parallel with the coast and sea watching, whilst having lunch, was considered an appropriate conclusion to a superb week of birdwatching. This final day brought our total for the holiday to a very satisfying 158 species.


A selection of photographs taken on Lesvos is available to view at www.gwentbirds.org.uk

Keith Roylance

Spring trip to Eastern Romania May 2005.

Ten of us booked a trip with Diana Travel that included visiting Dobrogea and the Danube Delta. It was a great success with faultless organization, an excellent bird guide, very good food and high quality accommodation. A very brief diary, recording the highlights, is given below.

Day 1 – We arrived in Bucharest airport in mid-afternoon to be greeted by our tour organiser Diana Vulpe, our bird guide Andu Dorosencu and, unfortunately, by some cold wet weather. We boarded a minibus and headed for the city of Calarasi, stopping at Calarasi ponds for our first bird watching. The rain had stopped and we had nice views of five Dalmatian Pelicans, a Little Bittern, six Purple Herons, numerous Black, White-winged Black, and Whiskered Terns, and a selection of waders that included Ruff, Little Stints and Curlew Sandpiper. A good start, before travelling a little further to our hotel.

Day 2 – A clear bright day was a pleasant contrast to yesterday afternoon. Our hotel had nesting Spanish Sparrows, which provided our first bird watching of the day, before we moved off for another look at Calarasi Ponds where we saw a similar selection of species to yesterday but in much better light, and also including superb views of Savi’s Warbler.

We crossed the Danube on the ferry and proceeded to Lake Bugeac where breeding Ruddy Shelducks were a fine sight, and Rollers, Lesser Grey and Red-backed Shrikes provided additional excitement. Plants of interest included many examples of henbane. Further stops, where we walked through a small gorge and a valley, gave us excellent views of Long-legged Buzzard in flight and on a nest, many Isabelline Wheatears, some Ortolans, bathing Hawfinches and numerous Golden Orioles, while a Quail was flushed from close to our path. Our new hotel was on the shore of the Black Sea at Mamaia Sat.

Day 3 – Some of us had heard Long-eared Owls during the night, and before breakfast we located a family of two adults and three juveniles in the orchard surrounding the hotel. They allowed very close approach so lots of photographs were taken. Our main sites for the day were the wetlands of Vadu and Histria which were fantastic. A colony of Collared Pratincoles contained over 300 birds, and at least 600 White and 50 Dalmatian Pelicans were seen. Other water birds included Great White Egret, Little Bittern, Squacco Heron, Purple Heron, Glossy Ibis, Ferruginous Duck, Garganey and Red-crested Pochard. Waders included Avocets, Kentish Plovers, Temminck’s Stints, Curlew Sandpipers and Wood Sandpipers. Paddyfield Warbler gave good views, and a male Red-breasted Flycatcher was an unexpected bonus for a wetland habitat. On route back to our hotel we stopped at a Red-footed Falcon colony in a rookery, and for some of us, the sight of these graceful birds swooping in and out of the trees, and perching in full view, was the highlight of the week.

Day 4 – After a last look at the Long-eared Owls, we said goodbye to our hotel at Mamaia and set off on the journey to Tulcea where we would embark on our cruise of the Danube Delta. We stopped for some time at the Cheia Gorge where Pied and Isabelline Wheatears were common, and raptors included Osprey and Short-toed Eagle. A Finsch’s Wheatear, only the second record for Romania, caused great excitement, but further study of this bird in the weeks following our visit convinced local experts that it was in fact a Pied x Black-eared Wheatear hybrid (they now think that the previous Romanian record might also have been such a hybrid). Our next stop on the borders of the Babadag Forest produced super views of Ortolans, Golden Orioles, Rollers, Bee-eaters, Hoopoes, a displaying Nightingale and fleeting views of Barred Warbler. Sombre Tit was an expected species here that we missed. This site was also notable for many interesting orchid species, and close views of horned viper. Our last stop en route was Murhighiol Lake where the highlights were breeding Mediterranean Gulls, Little Gulls in various plumages and breeding Black-necked Grebes. At Tulcea we boarded our 4-star floating hotel and sailed into the delta.

Days 5 and 6 – Both days were spent cruising in the vast delta, stopping periodically to take trips in small boats that allowed us to access shallow channels. The vegetation of the delta was very varied with much woodland, huge stretches of reeds, and some agricultural land. The water level in the Delta was at its highest for ten years so much of the woodland and fields were flooded. The ubiquitous song of Thrush Nightingales was really memorable, and birds of one species or another could be seen literally all the time. Some of the most frequent species were Pygmy Cormorant, various herons, bitterns and egrets, Glossy Ibis, Marsh Harrier, Common Tern, and the three marsh tern species. Grey-headed and Black Woodpeckers were frequently seen, and also Syrian, Great, Middle and Lesser Spotted. Three White-tailed Eagles were seen, a single Pallid Harrier and hundreds of Red-footed Falcons, including 75 sitting in a small dead tree at the side of the channel! One of our small boat excursions took us to ponds where there were Temminck’s Stints, while another took us to a flooded wood with a large mixed breeding colony of Grey Heron, Spoonbill, Night Heron Little Egret and Great and Pygmy Cormorants. At the end of our second day on the delta we berthed in Tulcea in time for people to go ashore for some shopping before dinner and a last night on the boat.

Day 7 – We left Tulcea for the Macin Mountains, which were often reminiscent of the Brecon Beacons and Black Mountains of Wales. At short walk in lime woodland was memorable for many wild paeonies, and a stop at a hillside with scattered trees produced a singing Woodlark, and excellent views of Middle-spotted Woodpecker. On a plain at the foot of the mountains we saw Montagu’s Harrier, Stone Curlew and Isabelline Wheatears. In the mountains themselves there were numerous good sightings of Long-legged Buzzards, a superb view of Levant Sparrowhawk, and good views of Saker Falcon at a nest site. A pair of Middle Spotted Woodpeckers were very obliging, one even perched a metre above my head when I had retired behind a tree for personal reasons! At the end of the day we stopped briefly at a small quarry for fleeting views of Rock Thrush, together with Pied Wheatears, Tree Sparrows and Ortolans. We crossed the Danube by ferry and checked into a very nice hotel in Galati where we had a special celebratory evening meal.

Day 8 – Over breakfast we discussed the earth tremor which had shaken our beds at 5am. We later found it had been 5.1 on the Richter scale - no wonder it woke us! All that was left was a long drive to Bucharest, but with a brief stop at a site where Lesser Grey Shrikes posed obligingly for photographs.

We had recorded about 180 species during our trip and seen some great birds. Apart from the highlights, it should also be mentioned that Cuckoos were seen frequently most days, as were Yellow Wagtails of various races, Rollers, Hoopoes, Bee-eaters, Corn Buntings and Turtle Doves while Nightingale and/or Thrush Nightingale were heard everyday. All food was local, of excellent quality and well prepared. On the floating hotel we ate a lot of fish freshly caught in the delta and had cooked lunches, but on other occasions we had picnics. The cost of the trip, including single room supplement, all food, unlimited bottled water, two guides, a driver, and minibus was £625. Flights to Bucharest were in addition to this, and with early booking could be obtained for £178. Diana Travel has a website at http://www.dianatravel.ro/ and can be contacted by email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Al Venables

BTO News

This autumn's Tawny Owl survey (that I reported in the last issue of the Dipper) has had an excellent response for ST39, but a poor one for SO32 (the 10 km square just to the north and north east of Abergavenny and straddling the County boundary with Hereford).  There are still a lot of tetrads (a square 2 km by 2 km and well known to Atlas workers) available in this square.  The survey itself is about the easiest to do and ideal for anyone who has not been involved in survey work previously, as well as those that have.  The survey involves a single visit for just ten minutes to the centre of the tetrad to listen for calling owls.  Because of the very short timescale involved it would be possible to visit three or four adjacent tetrads on the same evening.  The survey period has already started, and runs until mid October, so offers of help are urgently needed, please contact me.  For those not able to travel, you can still help by listening out for calling owls in your own garden.  This part of the survey runs from October to March 2006, listening for 20 minutes once a week.  There is more information on www.bto.org/gbw/Tawny_Owl_Survey/index.htm

Survey work for the next National Bird Atlas (breeding and wintering) is due to start in 2007.  Survey work for previous Atlases were in 1968 -72 (breeding), 1981/2 - 1983/4 (wintering) and 1988 - 1991 (breeding), so this is the first time that a combined one has been attempted.  Although the start date is a little way off, there is a chance to become involved this winter to fine tune the methodology.  Two styles of survey will be undertaken in the same 10 km square between 1st November and 28th February, to see what differences there are.  The feedback and results (positive and negative) will then influence the actual survey methodology.  The chosen square will depend on what is convenient for volunteers, so please get in touch if you are interested.

It has been a very good year for Barn Owls this year with lots of birds, good breeding success and an early season being reported to the BTO's Barn Owl Monitoring Programme - and a brood was featured on the BBC Springwatch.  The successful year is linked to the bumper crop of fruit and seed last autumn, leading to high populations of their rodent prey.  Some years ago, the largest brood size (seven healthy chicks) reported up to that time came from a Gwent site near Raglan (see Annual Report No 25 -  1989 and if anyone wants this or other old reports I have copies of most years).  This same site has now had a brood of six chicks this year, from a clutch of ten eggs.  Another local indication that Barn Owls are doing well is that they are not often seen on Skirrid Fach, but this summer birds are seen on most mornings when I am leaving to go on early morning ringing sessions.  It is a shame that such a good year didn't occur during our own breeding atlas fieldwork for Birds of Gwent 2.

Survey forms for the Breeding Bird Survey, Waterways BBS and Scarce Woodland BS together with Heronry cards are coming in slowly.  If anyone has not yet completed their forms please do so as soon as you are able, and if you were unable to complete the visits please let me know.

Jerry Lewis, BTO Representative (01873 855091)

Gwent Tree Sparrow Project

Local wildlife groups and councils in Gwent have come together to double their efforts to help the nationally threatened Tree Sparrow.

Once common in the Gwent area, the Tree Sparrow is now a very scarce sight.  Some 20-years ago, Tree Sparrows were fairly widespread especially on the Gwent Levels.  Just 10-years ago there were still good size winter flocks to be seen but sadly that’s no longer the case and today you would be hard pressed to spot a Tree Sparrow anywhere locally.  The scale of the decline is alarming: the Gwent Ornithological Society during its breeding birds surveys between 1981-85 & 1998-2003 has recorded a reduction in the species’ range of over 80%.

To help encourage Tree Sparrows back from the brink the Gwent Ornithological Society, local landowners, the Gwent Wildlife Trust, the Goldcliff Ringing Group, Welsh Water, Newport City Council and Monmouthshire County Council have joined forces and launched the Spot the Tree Sparrow Project.  The Countryside Council for Wales is providing funding towards the project under their Species Challenge Fund.

The Project will build on existing work by the partners.  Seven key sites have been selected on the Caldicot Levels and Usk valley areas and at each, winter feed and nest boxes for Tree Sparrows will be provided.  Such measures are aimed at addressing the loss of winter stubble and other feeding opportunities lost due to changing agricultural practices and the shortage of suitable nesting sites.

Key to the success of the project will be the support of volunteers.  The partnership is keen to hear from anyone who might be able to help with feeding and monitoring at the key sites.  An awareness day is being held on 8th October when full training will be given to those who can help and a presentation given on the successful Wiltshire Tree Sparrow.  To register your interest in helping please contact Richard Clarke (contact details below).


The Species has been declining nationally in both numbers and range for a large part of the last century and consequently it has been classified as a priority species in the UK and local Biodiversity Action Plans.

The key sites include the Gwent Wildlife Trust’s reserves at Magor Marsh and Springdale Farm, near Usk and at Dingestow.  In addition, Welsh Water’s Llandegfedd Reservoir, and sites at Llanllowell and near Goldcliff will all provide sites for winter feeding and nest boxes.

Richard Clarke (01633 615581) This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Recent Sightings: June – August

The following is a summary of reports posted to the ‘Recent Reports’ page on our website  (www.gwentbirds.org.uk).  ‘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.

When posting information to the ‘Gwent Sightings’ page, please refrain from advertising the whereabouts of rare breeding species, or those susceptible to persecution. Please remember that the information on the website is open to all.

Thanks go to the following observers who all contributed records: Nigel Addecott, Steve Appleton, Sylvia Appleton, Andrew Baker, John Bennett, Nicholas Beswick, Sam Bosanquet, Julian Branscombe, Phil Bristow, Ruth Brown, Steve Butler, Barry Catlin, Maurice Chown, Craig Constance, John Davies, Garry Edwards, Diane Elliot, Dave Evans, John Evans, Jeff Fisher, Goldcliff Ringing Group, Tim Griffiths, Jeff Hall, Tim Hall, Adrian Hickman, ‘Holly’, Darren Hughes, Judd Hunt, Jackie Huybs, Barry Ingram, Mal Jenkins, Marcus John, Ben Jones, Chris Jones, Hadyn Jones, Keith Jones, Andrew King, ‘Little Dai’, Llandegfedd Rangers, Rob Moeller, John O’Sullivan, Dave Owen, Verity Picken, Tony Pickup, Jackie Pointon, Mike Pointon, Mike Powell, Martin Preece, Andy Rowlands, Angus Scott, Ian Smith, Darryl Spittle, Mark Stevens, Vaughan Thomas, GT Thorne, Eddie Wang, Chris West, Julie West, Craig Williams, Steve Williams, Leyton Williams-Davies and John Wilson.

  • Great Crested Grebe – Once again, the highest count came from Llandegfedd Reservoir with 59 on 9th July.
  • Manx Shearwater – Eight individuals were logged passing Peterstone on 14th June (M. Chown).
  • Little Egret – Reported from seven widely spread sites, maximum counts included: 25 at the NWR, nine at Collister Pill, six at Peterstone and five at Llandegfedd Reservoir.
  • Purple Heron – A report of this extreme Gwent rarity, from the NWR on 17th August, appeared on www.birdguides.com, unfortunately, the observer remains unknown and no further sightings occurred.
  • Spoonbill – Two of the birds from the spring remained at the NWR into early June. There was then a lack of records until early August when two appeared at the site, during the remainder of the month between one and three were recorded (many observers).
  • Bar-headed x Canada Goose – An individual of this interesting mix was at Llandegfedd Reservoir on 31st August.
  • Shelduck – The highest number recorded was 88 at the NWR on 18th July, elsewhere 25 were noted at Peterstone on 23rd August.
  • Wigeon – The first returning bird of the ‘winter’ was seen at Peterstone on 14th June, the only other report was of three at the NWR on 6th July.
  • Gadwall – A maximum count of 20 was noted at the NWR on 29th June, Llandegfedd Reservoir was the only other site that played host to this species with one on 23rd July.
  • Teal – Reported from three sites during the period, the maximum count was of 120 at the NWR.
  • Pintail – Only two reports logged, two at NWR in late June and three at the site in mid August.
  • Garganey – The NWR monopolised sightings of this species: two were seen on 29th June, 2nd July and 6th August and a single bird on 7th August.
  • Shoveler – The maximum count was of 139 at the NWR on 31st August on which date three were also noted at Llandegfedd Reservoir.
  • Common Scoter – A flock of 12 were at Llandegfedd Reservoir on 1st July with four present the following day (Llandegfedd rangers and K. Jones).
  • Goosander – Thirty at Llanwenarth on 7th August was the highest count.
  • Ruddy Duck – Again small numbers were reported from the NWR throughout with nine on 13th August the highest count.
  • Golden Eagle – Two presumed escapes, though still rather impressive I daresay, were noted: a ‘possible’ was seen at Abergavenny on 14th June whilst a sub-adult was recorded at Llandegfedd Reservoir on 9th July (K. Jones and M. Preece).
  • Osprey – A single bird, at Llanwenarth, was seen on 25th June (A. Baker).
  • Red Grouse – Just one record, of eight birds including six young, on Blorenge Mountain on the 6th June.
  • Red-legged Partridge – One at Collister Pill on 22nd July was the only report during the period.
  • Grey Partridge – As with the previous species records were at a premium, the only report was of one at Bulmore Lakes on 3rd July.
  • Quail – Two reports of this, nigh impossible to see species, were logged: one at Dingestow on 10th July and another at Osbaston on 9th August.
  • Avocet – The numbers present at the NWR slowly whittled down from a maximum of 18 in early July to three by the end of August.
  • Little Ringed Plover – The vast majority of reports involved between one and five birds at the NWR.
  • Ringed Plover – All records came from the NWR with a maximum count of 150 on 25th August.
  • Golden Plover – The only report logged was of four birds at Peterstone on 23rd August.
  • Grey Plover – Small numbers were seen at Peterstone and the NWR between late July and late August, the highest count being of four.
  • Lapwing – Reports were posted from four locations with counts in three figures from both Peterstone (maximum 370 on 23rd August) and the NWR (maximum 143 on 18th July).
  • Knot – All records came from the NWR with a maximum count of 36 on 26th August.
  • Sanderling – Three counts, each of two birds, were made at the NWR on 24th July, 16th August and 25th August (A. Hickman, M. John and K. Jones).
  • Little Stint – Five records of singles were noted between 30th July and 25th August, once again the NWR was the source of all the sightings (A. Hickman, K. Jones, D. Owen and J. O’Sullivan).
  • Pectoral Sandpiper – A bird was located at the NWR on 4th August but only stopped for the briefest of stays (V. Picken and J. Wilson).
  • Curlew Sandpiper – Following a single individual on 2nd August, the NWR entertained a steady trickle of this elegant calidrid through the second half of the month, the highest count was of six on 23rd and 26th August (R. Brown, A. Hickman, C. Jones, K. Jones, D. Owen, J. O’Sullivan and V. Thomas).
  • Dunlin – Recorded from four sites, site maximums were of 300+ at the NWR, 40 at Peterstone, two at Collister Pill and, notably, four inland at Llandegfedd Reservoir.
  • Ruff – All birds noted during the period were found at the NWR, the largest count, of five, was achieved on various dates between 19th and 29th August.
  • Black-tailed Godwit – The vast majority of records were from the NWR with a maximum of 230 on 6th August. Elsewhere, eight were at Collister Pill on 17th August and one was at Llandegfedd Reservoir on 11th July.
  • Bar-tailed Godwit – Only two reports received, two were at the NWR on 6th June and four were at the same site on 18th July.
  • Whimbrel – This species was seen at five sites, highest counts were of 23 at Collister Pill, 20+ at West Pill, 20 at Peterstone, six at the NWR and a solitary flyover at Llandegfedd Reservoir.
  • Curlew – Counts in excess of three figures were achieved at two sites: 520 at Collister Pill on 24th July, 500+ at the same site on 17th August and 190 at Peterstone on 23rd August.
  • Spotted Redshank – Recorded from the NWR on five occasions during the period. All reports were of single birds, the first on 12th July whilst all the others were from between 25th and 29th August and may have related to the same individual (N. Beswick, J. Branscombe, A. Hickman, K. Jones and J. O’Sullivan).
  • Redshank – Counts above 50 were made at Peterstone and Caerleon with maximums of 86 and 76 respectively. Also of note was the single seen at Llandegfedd Reservoir on 4th July.
  • Greenshank – Between one and five birds were present at the NWR between 9th June and 31st August. Elsewhere single birds were at Peterstone between mid July and late August and three were at Llandegfedd Reservoir on the 10th July with one remaining the following day (many observers).
  • Green Sandpiper – The majority of records came from the NWR with a maximum of seven on 20th August. Elsewhere, singles were at Llandegfedd Reservoir on 11th July and 6th August, Llanwenarth on 1st August, Gobion on 6th and Caerleon on 21st.
  • Wood Sandpiper – Singles were seen regularly at the NWR throughout most of the period, however, four were reported on 18th July (many observers).
  • Common Sandpiper – Small numbers were recorded at six sites. The maximum count was of 10+ at Llandegfedd Reservoir on 24th July.
  • Turnstone – Three records from two sites consisted of 15 at Peterstone on 25th July, two at the same location on 23rd August and, most notably, one bird at Llandegfedd Reservoir on 24th July.
  • Mediterranean Gull – A juvenile/first winter was at the NWR on 25th August (A. Hickman).
  • Common Tern – One or two birds were seen at Llandegfedd Reservoir throughout July (J. Bennett, C. Constance and Llandegfedd Rangers).
  • Little Tern – A single bird was at the NWR on 6th July (J. Wilson).
  • Budgerigar – A lone Australian escapee was at Peterstone on 23rd August, presumably trying to avoid the cricket on the TV (K. Jones).
  • Barn Owl – An unfortunate road casualty was the only bird reported.
  • Nightjar – Four reports were logged, between three and six were in Wentwood during June and July, and a single bird was at Chepstow Park Wood in June.
  • Swift – A large count of 700+ was logged from Wernyrheolydd on the 24th July.
  • Pallid Swift – Three individuals were reported along with the above flock of Swift (A. Rowlands).
  • Tree Pipit – Small numbers of migrants were reported during mid and late August at the NWR, Magor and Dingestow.
  • Yellow Wagtail – The first return migrants were noted at the NWR on 19th July, there then followed regular reports of up to nine birds until the end of August.
  • Redstart – Two at Bulmore Lakes, one at Hendre and a family party at Wattsville were the only records during the period.
  • Whinchat – A passage bird was recorded at the NWR on the 17th August whilst breeding birds were seen in the Abersychan area and at Clydach.
  • Stonechat – Dispersing youngsters or migrants were logged at the NWR and Peterstone on the 6th and 25th July respectively.
  • Wheatear – Seven sites hosted breeding or migrating individuals, six at Collister Pill on 17th August being the maximum count.
  • Ring Ouzel – Just one solitary record, one was seen on the Blorenge on 14th July (K. Jones).
  • Grasshopper Warbler – Again just a single record reported, a singing male was at the NWR on the 3rd June.
  • Spotted Flycatcher – This species was reported from Abergavenny, Hendre and Llandegfedd Reservoir.
  • Bearded Tit – The birds at the NWR were reported on two dates, three was the highest number logged on 6th July.
  • Linnet – The largest flock, of approximately 100, was reported from Gobion whilst 47 were at Peterstone on 23rd August.
  • Crossbill – Four records were logged, the maximum count was of 14 at Minnetts Wood on 25th June.
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