September 2008 - Newsletter 108 PDF Print E-mail

Committee Commentary

Trevor Russell

At the June meeting, the treasurer presented the committee with figures showing the annual cost of membership per member.  This includes the cost of producing and posting an annual report, the four Dipper newsletters, hall hire for indoor meetings, the Hamar Bursary and various donations to the RSPB and Goldcliff Ringing Group, etc.

At more than £12 per head, that cost is now greater than both the junior/senior and adult membership subscription fees - so a subscription increase would seem to be almost inevitable in 2010, particularly if inflationary effects are factored in.

Before this is proposed at the 2009 AGM, however, the September meeting suggested that the treasurer should prepare a budget for the next few years to anticipate future expenditure and explore opportunities for reducing costs to try to avoid - or delay - subscription increases. This will be discussed at the November meeting.

The 2007 Annual Report is almost completely written, but is not likely to be printed until October due to unforeseen delays and so will miss the target distribution date of September 20 (first indoor meeting).

Moves are afoot to improve and update the GOS website, particularly the submission of sightings data, to enable the report editors to abstract the information in a more structured and less labour-intensive way for use in the report.

Looking ahead to elections to the committee in 2009, Helen Jones has regrettably decided to step down as membership secretary.  She will be sadly missed, as she has made a huge contribution to the way the Society is run including, as field secretary, organising coach trips on numerous ‘away days’; and, as Dipper editor, creating the very professional format which persists to this day.  Even as membership secretary she enhanced the role by selling tide tables and bird seed.

Luke Philips urgently wants names for the trips to the Bustard Re-introduction Project on Salisbury Plain on October 25 and the weekend visit to the Portland Bill Observatory on October 11–12.  Contact Luke on 01495 350852.

Older members will be saddened to hear of the recent death of Graham Harris in Leeds. Graham was the GOS librarian for many years and will be especially remembered for his LOG Marmalade (lemon, orange and grapefruit), together with his garden cuttings and plants which he sold at indoor meetings to subsidise funds with which to purchase books for our library.  A fuller obituary can be found in a later issue of The Dipper.

The Campaign Against the Levels Motorway (CALM) is organising a protest gathering at the Welsh Assembly building, The Senedd, in Cardiff, on Tuesday September 23 at 12 noon. Contact Sorrel Jones at GWT, 01600 740358, for travel/transport arrangements - or just simply turn up looking angry!  Provisional timetable, for example: depart Magor 10.30am, back at Magor 2.30pm.

Situations Vacant/Help Wanted

In addition to the vacancy in the role of Vice Chairman, Helen Jones has regrettably decided to step down as Membership Secretary from the 2009 AGM.  For any of the roles described below, please contact, in the first instance: Trevor Russell on 01600 716266.

Vice Chairman

Would be expected to be elected as Chairman when the present Chairman, Dave Brassey, steps down.  In the meantime, would be introduced/groomed in that role by occasionally stepping into Dave’s shoes in his absence.

Membership Secretary

Needs to be computer literate in both Excel and Word and have good organisational abilities. Will work fairly closely with the Treasurer. Training will be given.

Kitchen Organiser

There’s always lots of help needed ‘on the night’, so this merely involves turning up at the meeting with the milk and biscuits, putting the kettle on and setting up for the refreshments - and you get to meet wonderful people!

Birds not of a feather…

Mick Bailey

'Tis July 7, and few birds have rediscovered my feeders after a two-week interruption in filling.  My resident Nuthatches have not been seen for a month. Then suddenly there is a juvenile on the ‘station’.

Imagine a wire strung between two poles and from it a two-foot wooden bar hanging horizontally by three-inch loops of wire.  A niger seed feeder hangs from one end and a sunflower heart feeder from the other.

The NH perches midway along the bar for several minutes, looking very uncertain about what to do.  No sign of parents.  At last, a Great Tit flies on to the sunflower hearts.  The NH watches it feed, but does not move.

Only when the GT flies off does the NH tentatively edge its way along the bar before eventually dropping onto the perch vacated by the GT.

I have never seen a young bird learning from another species like this.  I wonder how long this one will take to discover that it can also feed from the opposite hole!

The Dipper December 2008

The deadline for submissions for the next Dipper is November 30, 2008.  Please e-mail Jackie Huybs at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .  Thanks!

No New M4! The Big CALM Protest

The day after the Welsh Assembly re-opens following its summer break, CALM will be holding a protest on the steps of The Senedd, Cardiff Bay, at 12 noon.

This is our chance to tell the Government that enough is enough, and that these damaging plans need to be axed - now.

This is your chance to tell your elected representatives that you don’t want your money spent on destroying our natural heritage and the atmosphere.

Join us in opposing this environmentally devastating scheme.  Please pledge to attend our protest event.

For more information about any of our events and how to get involved, please contact: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or visit the webpage www.savethelevels.org.uk

  • For those readers who don’t know about CALM, it stands for Campaign Against the Levels Motorway.  This stretch of road will cut through five miles of the Gwent Levels SSSI in reens, destroying grazing marsh and affecting the habitat of species like otter, water vole and Barn Owl.

Certain to cause road deaths of far too many otters and Barn Owls too, the road will turn three chunks of the Gwent Levels into pathetic isolated 'islands', cut-off from the remainder of the Caldicot and Wentlooge Levels, with pollution from the scheme set to spread through the reen system to damage the freshwater life of the whole wetland system.

GOS has been a member of CALM since it was founded - and we hope you'll all get along to the protest, with as many friends and family as possible.

Poland in the spring - a birding trip, May 2008

Keith Roylance

May 18

An early start on Sunday morning saw Dave Brassey and me on our way to Gatwick Airport to take a BA flight to Warsaw, Poland.  Our only concern at this stage was whether BA would question 18kg of hand luggage each, consisting of all the optical and photographic pieces that we both tend to carry.  There was no need for concern as no questions were even asked about what was hand carried.

We arrived in Warsaw mid-afternoon and, meeting up with our fellow birders and Polish guide Przemystaw (pronounced ‘Shemek’) at the airport, we were soon on our way in a spacious minibus to our first stop at Przemysl – an expected five-hour journey through what turned out to be Poland’s worst thunderstorm in years: thunder and lightning all around with torrential rain for hours on end.

After a welcome dinner on arrival and a good night’s sleep (even with the storm continuing until the early hours), we awoke to a fine day with the promise of sun later.

May 19

Woodland and a park were in close proximity to the hotel, so before breakfast we had already seen Spotted Flycatchers at their nest sites, Great Spotted and Grey-headed Woodpeckers, Treecreepers, Common Swift, etc.

After breakfast, a short journey south brought us to a wide valley, known in translation as ‘Eagle Valley’ - and we were soon to find out why.  We walked along the valley bottom hearing Corncrakes in the fields either side, and saw a Wryneck, along with Yellowhammer, River Warbler and White Wagtail.  A brief stop for lunch allowed us views of Red-backed Shrike, Whinchat and Stonechat.

As we continued our walk, a distant raptor came closer and closer… until a Golden Eagle was positively identified.  It circled low overhead for some 15 minutes – magnificent!

Mid-afternoon saw us at a sand quarry where Bee-eater and Tree Sparrows were in abundance, while Lesser spotted Eagle flew overhead.  Returning to the hotel, a Tawny Owl was viewed in the wooded garden.

May 20

Leaving our hotel in light rain and heading north to an overnight stop at Tomaszow Lubelski, we visited fishponds and marsh throughout the day.  An early stop at Seniewa Gardens gave us excellent views of Syrian Woodpecker.

At the various locations through the day, Linnet, Reed and Great Reed Warbler, Marsh Harrier, Bittern, Caspian Gull, Red-throated Diver, Black Tern, Common Rosefinch and Penduline Tit were all seen with ease.

May 21

A walk in a local wood before breakfast provided Wood Warbler and Crested Tit.  We had a long drive north today to take us by evening to Chelm.

A coffee stop mid-morning saw us in the delightful town square of Zamosc, built by an Italian nobleman in the 15th century in the Italianate style.  Various stops on the journey gave us Great White Egret, White Stork and Montagu’s Harrier.

A Little Crake was heard - and seen by some - together with Whiskered, Black and White-winged Black terns.  Blue-headed Wagtail and Black Redstart were also seen.  Warblers were abundant, with Savi’s, Grasshopper, Sedge, Marsh and Icterine added to our list.

A walk in a public park opposite our hotel provided Icterine Warbler, Golden Oriole and another Black Redstart.  A red squirrel seemed unperturbed by humans as it scampered among the trees.

An after-dinner visit to locate Aquatic warbler gave us distant views, while Thrush Nightingale was heard close by, although it remained elusive for most of us.  An Eastern Hedgehog was awaiting us as we returned to our minibus.

May 22

We travelled further north again today, stopping off at lakes, reed beds and the River Bug before arriving at Hajnowka for a three-night stay.  Our first lake side stop provided Bearded Tit, Reed Bunting and White-tailed Eagle.  Great-crested Grebe and Gadwall were present, as were Common and Black Terns.

A lunchtime stop at the River Bug and associated sandy habitat gave us views of Wood Lark and Sky Lark, Sand Martin, Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Hoopoe, Crested Tit and Wood Warbler again, as well as Serin and Hawfinch.

May 23

The weather hadn’t been particularly kind to us so far - and today was no exception.  Heavy rain greeted our foray into the Bialowiesca Forest.

A nest hole location of Black Woodpecker was known so, equipped with Wellington boots and waterproofs, we stood in eight inches of mud and water, with the rain coming down in stair rods and water dripping onto us from the trees – what on earth am I doing here?!

All was forgotten some 20 minutes later as the Black Woodpecker returned to its nest and the juvenile within was fed.  By late morning, the heavy rain had stopped and was replaced by the occasional light shower, spirits were up and various locations within the forest provided additions to our list: Honey Buzzard, White-backed Woodpecker, Bluethroat and Marsh Tit.  A short way from our hotel, a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was found.

In the evening we were taken, together with a local guide, to a forest location known for Pygmy Owl.  The local guide was able to locate the owl by call and we had excellent views on two occasions.

May 24

We left the forest today for more watery locations: Siemianowka and Bachury Lakes and the Narew River.  The first addition to our list was Citrine Wagtail showing well, and Great Cormorant, Greylag Goose and Garganey were also present, together with White-tailed Eagle.

As the rain came again we sought limited shelter in a small pine copse close to the lake.  And what a choice – Hazel Hen in flight among the trees, and to add to the experience, Dave Brassey located a young bird low down in a fir tree.  We approached quietly and were able to get within a few feet of a Hazel Hen fledgling.  Superb!

Moving on through different habitats, Barred Warbler, Red-breasted Flycatcher and Meadow Pipit together with Common Snipe, Redshank and Black-throated Diver were added before returning to our hotel late afternoon.

An evening visit to a Great Snipe Lek was undertaken and good but distant views of six to eight Great Snipe was achieved.  Marsh Harriers were also present, as were Woodcock.

May 25

An early morning start today, 5.30am, and we were on our way to the National Park with specialist guide in an effort to see three woodpecker species – Middle Spotted, Three-toed and White-backed.  Success was achieved with two of the three – Middle Spotted and Three-toed - but as we had already observed White-backed, it meant we had seen all ten Woodpecker species on the trip.

After breakfast, we once again moved on, stopping off at various locations where nesting Black-headed Gulls were in abundance, and Little Bittern, Whooper Swans, Greater Spotted Eagle and Tree Pipit were also recorded.  Common Crane flew over in V formation as we viewed White Stork with young at the nest.

Arriving at our hotel early evening, we were soon exploring its gardens, where Thrush Nightingale was singing, Fieldfare were nesting, Tree Sparrows were common and frogs were creating the background noise.

May 26

Visiting various parts of Biebrza Marshes today added to our list of raptors.  At Karpowcze, we stood in awe as Pallid, Marsh and Montagu’s Harrier all soared above and around us.  The remainder of the day gave us further views of Greater Spotted and White-tailed Eagle while Black-tailed Godwit was the only wader of note.

May 27

On our last full day, the first stop was within a wooded area for Nutcracker.  After searching for some time, we were about to re-board our bus when the call was heard.  There, in its typical pose on top of a pine tree, a Nutcracker.  It didn’t stay long, but we all had good views.

Later, Grasshopper Warbler and Aquatic Warbler were seen among the reeds - much better views than those in the twilight earlier in our journey.  Green Sandpiper was added to the wader list, while Kingfisher was noted yards from the hotel.

The most unusual sighting of the day was a bat flying along a river bank, then alighting on a tree next to where we were watching Common and Whiskered Terns.  The bat was later identified as a Nathusius Pipistrelle.

Our last night was rounded off with a celebratory dinner, made even more palatable by a bottle of local vodka provided by two American birders who had been with us throughout the tour.

May 28

Effectively a non-birding day as we made our way back to Warsaw for our BA flight back to Gatwick.  Did I say non-birding?  A brief stop at the River Bug gave very close views of Bluethroat - and where were the cameras?  In the minibus!

The tour sightings total was 165 species.

A good 11 days of birding.  Our group numbered nine (seven Brits and two Americans) plus guide and driver - and we all gelled from day one.

The Polish weather could have been better - but I guess we say that about the UK too.  Especially this summer!

Our guide ‘Shemek’ was excellent, had good English and a sense of humour – ‘Programme is Programme, Time is Time!’ was a favourite saying, as we persuaded him to make minor alterations to his plans.

Hotels were clean and comfortable and the food was very good.  We travelled with Birdfinders, West Bank, Cheselbourne, Dorset, DT2 7NW (01258 839066)

Gwent UKBS Report

Chris Hatch

Sightings, May 2008


A Black-winged Stilt was present at the Newport Wetlands Reserve (5th to 8th). It was joined by a Broad-billed Sandpiper and a Temminck’s Stint (7th).  A Wood Sandpiper was also present at this site (2nd).  A Woodlark was reported from the Blorenge (13th).                                       

Newport Wetlands Reserve

Up to three drake Garganey were present (13th).  A Black Tern made a brief appearance (4th) and a Red Kite flew over (5th).

Other sites

An Osprey was reported from Llanishen near Trellech (7th).  A late Redwing was observed at Brynmawr (21st).  A single Turtle Dove was seen at Collister Pill (5th), while a pair of the same species was recorded at Sluice Farm (6th). Over 30 Little Egrets were seen at the Nedern (23rd) and a single singing male Ring Ouzel was recorded on the Coity Mountain (27th).  Red Kites were reported from a number of locations, namely Llandogo (1st), Abergavenny (2nd), Abertillery (5th), Garn Lakes (7th), Chepstow (11th), the Blorenge (13th), Blaenafon (20th), Tredegar (21st ) and Newport (24th).



An adult Spoonbill was present at Newport Wetlands (from 10th).  A pair of Garganey was also present at the same site (2nd).

Newport Wetlands Reserve

Up to 11 Avocet were present (12th).  Sea watching from Goldcliff point (22nd) produced two Storm Petrels, 20 Manx Shearwaters, four Gannets and six Fulmars.

Other sites

Red Kites were reported from Abertillery (4th and 7th), Pontypool (6th), Mynyddislwyn (11th), St Julian’s (21st) and Abergavenny (27th and 29th). Seawatching from Peterstone (22nd) produced 10 Manx Shearwaters and four Gannets.  Other sightings of note included a Merlin at the Coity mountain near Blaenafon (24th), and a male Ring Ouzel on territory at the same location (4th),



A Cattle Egret was present at the Newport Wetlands Reserve (6th to 11th).

A Honey Buzzard was seen over Wentwood (21st).  A Black Redstart was present at Newport (16th).

Newport Wetlands Reserve

Up to 36 Avocets were present during the month.  Single Mediterranean Gulls were present (4th and 18th).

Other sites

Sea watching at Peterstone produced two Storm Petrels, two Mediterranean Gulls, two Kittiwakes and five Manx shearwaters (3rd).  Grasshopper Warblers were recorded at Magor (two on 12th) and Garn-yr-Erw (21st).  An Arctic Tern was reported from Brynbach Park lake (17th), with a Common Tern reported from Llandegfedd Reservoir (29th).  Two Mediterranean Gulls were seen at Caerleon (27th), while a Common Scoter was reported from Llandegfedd Reservoir (22nd).  Red Kites were observed at Brynmawr (4th), Abergavenny (two on 25th, one on 27th) and Llanover (29th).  Ten Red Grouse were seen on the Blorenge (20th).



An adult Spoonbill was present at the Newport Wetlands Reserve (6th to 29th), while a female Marsh Harrier was present at the same site (7th to 18th).  23 Black Terns were recorded at Llandegfedd Reservoir (31st), while an Osprey was present at the same site (10th).

Newport Wetlands Reserve

Up to 30 Avocets were present (3rd).  Other waders included a Little Stint (3rd), a Wood Sandpiper (4th) and single Curlew Sandpipers (4th and 31st).

Sea watching from Goldcliff Point produced five Storm Petrels and one Kittiwake (10th), three Storm Petrels (11th), six Gannets, five Fulmars, five Storm Petrels and a Grey Seal (13th) and six Storm Petrels (19th).

A Black Tern was also present at the site (25th).

Other sites

Single Mediterranean Gulls were recorded at Llandegfedd Reservoir (3rd, 11th and 18th), Caerleon (6th to 18th) and Sudbrook (10th).  Single Black Terns were reported from Garnlydan Reservoir (18th and 23rd) and Caldicot Pill (21st). Red Kites were seen at Bulmore (2nd), Garnlydan (11th), Brynmawr (17th), Abergavenny (25th) and Clydach (29th). Three Goshawks were seen together above Llanellen (3rd) and four Peregrines were recorded at Garnlydan (11th). Other sightings of note included five Common Scoter at Collister Pill (15th) and a Grasshopper Warbler near Pontypool (28th).

BTO News

Jerry Lewis

The first breeding season for the new Atlas has gone really well, and I am sure there are still lots more forms to be sent in, or records to be entered on line - please complete your submissions before the next winter season is upon us.

It would mean that the web pages are as up to date as possible, and any gaps in coverage can be easily identified.   Coverage is really good in most of the 10 km squares, but poorer in squares SO31, SO40 and ST49.

We really need a few more TTVs (timed tetrad visits) in these areas - the corners of the areas are approximately Llanellen - Crucorney - Cross Ash - Llanarth (SO31) and Llanarth - Mitchel Troy - Chepstow - Parc Seymour (SO40 & ST49).  Coverage by TTVs could also be improved in  SO 30 (Gobion - Raglan - Usk - Pontypool) and ST38 (east Newport and Llanwern area).

So, if anyone is interested in doing a couple of hours, 4 times a year, let me know or visit the Atlas website www.bto.org/birdatlas to choose a vacant tetrad.

Even if you are not able to do a TTV, everyone can contribute roving (casual) records for breeding or wintering birds, you can enter the records on line, or a form can be downloaded from the website (or see me at an indoor meeting when I will have plenty).

If you do a TTV, the records can be from your own tetrad or from a completely new area, I tend to only submit casual records for the more unusual species in the winter or for confirmed breeders in the breeding season.

However one person's "unusual species" may not be everyone's, so if you are uncertain of the record's worth please submit it - it’s better to get two records than none.

To recap on why it is necessary for the two types of survey (TTVs and Roving).  TTVs are intended to provide abundance distributions for the commoner species during the winter and breeding seasons.

All of these species records will feed into the list for the relevant 10 km square, but many of the less common species that may be present (or proof of their breeding) will not be recorded during TTVs, so Roving records are used to supplement the 10 km square list to ensure nothing is missed.

With all the interest and commitment to the Atlas fieldwork, it is perhaps surprising that participation in other surveys has not suffered more.

BBS coverage has remained at about the 50 square level, although there are still a handful of vacant squares - I will give more details in the next Dipper, just before the start of the survey period.

I have also received a late submission for 2007, very much appreciated as it avoids a break in coverage.  If anyone else has 2007 data that has not yet been given to me (I know there is a handful) please let me have it, before it gets lost forever.

Coverage throughout Wales allows species' trends to be assessed at the Wales level, this is very useful as they do not often follow the national trend (see our recent Birds of Gwent for details of how individual species are not following national trends).

The latest BBS Report details that Stonechat are doing particularly well in Wales (+338% since 1994), while woodland birds such as Willow Warbler and Goldcrest (down 20% and 33% respectively since 1994) are doing less well than in the rest of the UK.

The reason for the Stonechat increase is the lack of recent harsh winters (a possible reflection of climate change?).  Across the UK, woodland birds are showing some of the biggest declines, and species with specialist habitat requirements (Willow Tit down 77%) or long distance migrants (Spotted Flycatcher down 59%, Wood Warbler down 57% and Pied Flycatcher down 54%) are suffering most.

The reason for these reductions is less clear however - deer browsing or current management practices may be altering the woodland structure, but it is not all bad news as Long-tailed Tit and Treecreeper are both doing well in Wales (+58% and +60% respectively).  It is only by increasing the number of volunteers for BBS squares that we are likely to unravel this mystery.

It has been long known that winter feeding helps our garden birds, but it is now clear that summer feeding also helps.  Inexperienced young birds benefit from this extra feeding just at the time when they are becoming independent.

Once a reliable source of food has been found, your garden will be revisited again and again.  In periods of poor weather the reliable food source becomes even more important - during periods of wet weather birds such as Blue and Great Tits find it more difficult to find insects, and during prolonged dry conditions birds such as Blackbirds and Starlings find it difficult to find earthworms and other soil invertebrates.

All of these (and many other species) will benefit from summertime feeding, and remember birds also need access to clean water throughout the year.  I have been feeding niger for several years, and last winter managed to ring over 50 Goldfinch in my garden.

This spring, whilst doing Atlas fieldwork I saw more Goldfinch than usual, a few (up to 4 km from my garden) with nice shiny rings, showing that these birds had benefited from my supplementary feeding.

The latest BTO Ringing Report details some amazing new longevity records.- the oldest being a Razorbill (ringed as a chick on the cliffs of Bardsey Island) reported back 41 years later.

Some of the others are a 27 year old Black-headed Gull, a 13 year old Barn Owl and a Lesser Whitethroat aged 7.  The age of all of these birds is known because of the uniquely numbered ring that each one carries.

However, all of them represent the extreme age for the species, most birds will not live anything like as long and many young birds fail to survive their first autumn/winter - all the more reason to give them a helping hand when we are able (see above paragraph).

Newport Wetlands

Tom Dalrymple



The breeding wader season has now finished - and it has been very disappointing for all species except Avocet and Ringed Plover.  See the table below:

  Number of pairs Number of chicks fledged
Lapwing 38 1
Redshank 13 2
Avocet 7 12
Little Ringed Plover 1 0
Ringed Plover 2 4
Oystercatcher 4 1

However, it’s been better news for birdwatchers hoping to see migrants on the lagoons, with 20 species of wader having been seen, along with some other unusual species.

Notable bird sightings this month include:

Mediterranean Gull first summer on the 4th and adult on the 18th and 21st

  • Cattle Egret on the 6th and 11th
  • 36 Avocets on the 8th
  • 480 Black-headed Gulls on the 10th
  • 50 Little Ringed Plover on the 22nd
  • A Hobby at Uskmouth on the 24th
  • Curlew Sandpiper on the 26th
  • Three Little Stint and a Turnstone on the 30th

Wet grassland - the farmers have managed to bail all the hay from the drier fields despite the weather being so wet this month.  Richie also found a gap in the weather to get in two days of weed wiping.  We weed wipe the most rush infested fields with Round Up to try to get back to a 30% cover.

We’ve been maintaining access this month, among other things.  Mike and Keith have been cutting and tidying the green lanes.  Richie has been repairing styles and clearing the footpaths.

Steve Davidson from Newport City Council kindly gave up his own free time to carry out a bat survey for us on three large dead trees we have on the grasslands.  Fortunately for us, he found no evidence of a bat roost in any of them, so Mike and Kevin have cut them down.

The trees had to come down because Crows and birds of prey that feed on Lapwing chicks were using them.  The other day I noticed entrails hanging from the branches of one of these trees!

Saline lagoons - most of the work this month has been devoted to installing a fox-proof fence around the lagoons.  We have had our design approved by independent fencing consultants and the RSPB and have received all the relevant permissions to continue with the work, so we’ve made a start.  Mike, Keith and Richie have been removing old wire from the existing fence and clearing vegetation to make the erection of the new fence easier.

Very unusually for July, we’ve let saltwater onto the saline lagoons because all the rain we’ve had was causing too much dilution.

Events - centre staff worked with Kevin to make this year’s Open Day a great success.  Over 1500 people visited the reserve on the 13th. There was a lot of participation in all the organised activities. Lots of groups attended including Gwent Wildlife Trust, Newport City Council, Gwent Ornithological Society and many others. 

On the 18th we had our annual barbeque to thank the CCW and RSPB volunteers for all their hard work. This year it was held at the visitor centre and organised by Kevin and Jonathan Cook.



Migration has been witnessed all over the reserve this month.  A total 24 species of wader have been recorded on the Goldcliff Lagoons.  The highest count of Black-tailed Godwit has been 110 so far.

Sea birds have been spotted heading down the Severn Estuary from Goldcliff point.  In the reedbeds, our breeding warblers have been joined by others starting their long migration south, including Whitethroats, Lesser Whitethroats, Blackcaps, Willow Warblers and Chiffchaff.

Notable bird sightings this month include:

  • Spoonbill, Hobby and Marsh Harrier seen throughout the month
  • A Little Stint on the 3rd and 4th
  • Five Crossbill and a Wood Sandpiper on the 4th
  • A Kittiwake on the 10th
  • Up to five Storm Petrel seen on the 13th, 15th, 19th and 20th
  • Five Fulmar and six Gannet on the 13th
  • Two Redstart and a Spotted Flycatcher on the 15th
  • Seven Bar-tailed Godwit on the 17th
  • A Black Tern on the 25th
  • 120 Ringed Plover on the 27th
  • A Whinchat on the 30th

Wet grassland – it’s rained nearly every day here.  This has meant that it’s been impossible for the contractor to get onto the land to cut and bail the hard rush.  The Teal and Shoveler have started to arrive, leaving me no option but to begin to raise water levels in the fields with the least rush.

I have everything crossed in the hope of a week of dry weather to give me a chance to cut the rush on the rest of the reserve before the end of the month.

Saline lagoons - as you might expect, maintaining the salinity with all this rain has been a bit of a challenge.  We have had to let the tide in on most weekdays, and we’ve tried to lower the water levels for the weekends so that the birdwatchers can see waders when there is no disturbance from other management.

The fox fence continues to be our main project.  Mike, Keith and Richie, with the help of a local contractor and his hydraulic post knocker, have now installed over 1,000 posts and begun fixing the netting.

Mike and Richie cleared the saline lagoon islands of all their vegetation for another year. Kevin and I took the samples for the annual invertebrate monitoring.  The primary reason for the monitoring is to compare the biomass with previous years.  However, the species composition, abundance and size in different lagoons also helps to inform our management.

Reedbeds - Dr Hughes inspected the reedbed bunds that are covered by the Reservoirs Act and deemed them safe for another year.

Mike, Richie and Keith also found time this month to install our new interpretive signs.  The signs illustrate the species that are most likely to be seen, as well as describing the habitat. The panels are removable and designed so that winter and summer panels can be exchanged.

Events - there have been lots of extra activities organised by the centre staff this month. Marie Preston has been running ‘beginners’ bird watching’ every Tuesday.   And Jonathan Jones’s team have led a youth event day on the last two Wednesdays of the month, and pond dipping every Thursday.

JJ’s team led a family event, ‘What a Load of Rubbish!’ on the 2nd. On the 6th Kevin managed to hold an audience for the ‘Damsels and Dragons’ event, despite the weather and the lack of Dragonflies!

JJ’s team ran the ‘Hogweed’s School of Wildlife Wizardry’ on the 6th.  On the 13th CCW and RSPB represented the NNR on their stalls at a very soggy St Mellon’s Agricultural Show.

Marie Preston was the teddy bear at the teddy bear’s picnic on the 16th.

National Dragonfly Atlas Project 2008-2013

Ian Smith

The aim of this project is to update our knowledge of British dragonfly and damselfly species distribution, culminating with a new atlas in 2013, following the first published back in 1995.

Rather like bird rarities, dragonflies can fly tens, if not hundreds, of kilometres - and American species have even reached Europe.  This is fascinating, but records of adults alone can tell us little or nothing of true breeding status locally, which is the basis of conservation.

Generally, we know what species occur at well watched sites like Magor Marsh Reserve, Keeper’s Pond on the Blorenge or the River Wye at Monmouth.  But evidence of breeding through atlas work is less clear and very important, as GOS has been so very competent at proving on the ornithological front.  This requires coverage across the county, square by square, habitat by habitat.

Coverage is particularly needed of rivers, streams, garden ponds (where accurate breeding data is very easy to obtain) and ‘upland’ areas or countryside not damaged by agricultural chemical runoff.

Good coverage is needed to help show the very dynamic changes in distribution and life cycles due to climate change.  Unlike last time, excellent field guides and books are now widely available along with the resources of the internet and, from 2009, on-line recording.

If you are possibly interested in getting involved locally on your home patch, do please let me know.  May I also direct your attention to the excellent pages on the British Dragonfly Society web site: http://www.dragonflysoc.org.uk/nationalatlas.html

My contact details are always available on the GOS homepage - bird watching courses link, or phone me on 01600 713561.

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