December 2008 - Newsletter 109 PDF Print E-mail

Access Permission at Llandegffed Reservoir

Dave Brassey

As you know, Llandegfedd Reservoir is the largest inland body of water in Gwent and, as such, a very important site not only for birds but for birdwatching. D?r Cymru recognises this and for many years has kindly granted preferential access to members of our Society via means of a block permit.

However regrettably this must now change following:

  • the operation of a policy of non-discrimination by D?r Cymru which means that we should not be treated any better or worse than anyone else.
  • the increased Health and Safety pressures on the company.

Whilst I do feel that we could have negotiated a more favourable position on both these points, this has now been made almost impossible following several recent incidents that have reflected very badly on birdwatchers and, as a consequence, on our Society.

These include:

  • aggressive and abusive behaviour towards reservoir staff
  • car park gates being left open
  • vegetation around the main gates being disturbed to gain access
  • bird feeders being stolen
  • a chain link perimeter fence being cut with bolt cutters

Despite there being no clear evidence that any of the above involves current GOS members, your committee has decided to deal with the matter in a proactive manner and - in addition to excluding from the Society any member involved in such incidents – will, with the agreement of D?r Cymru, take the following action.

  • exclude from the Society any member involved in such incidents
  • as soon as is practicable, fit a new lock
  • issue keys that can only be cut from a master key
  • give a register of keyholders to D?r Cymru

Arrangements for the above will shortly be notified to existing keyholders.

It is also worth reminding members that access to the reservoir has always been subject to the relevant byelaws as well as the following:

  • compliance with all signs and/or instructions given by D?r Cymru staff
  • adherence to the Countryside and Birdwatcher’s Codes (see p19 in The Dipper)
  • keeping to public/permissive footpaths
  • the production of your current GOS membership card if requested by D?r Cymru staff
  • the gate to the car park being locked immediately after entry or exit
  • compliance with the visiting hours which in winter (November 1-February 28) are 9am- 4pm
  • any acts of theft or wilful damage to be reported to D?r Cymru on:
  • 01291 673722 - March – October
  • 01495 769281 – November to February (Mon – Fri)
  • 01291 673722 - November to February (Sat & Sun)

The position regarding summer visiting will also be amended with the likelihood that individual permits will need to be purchased. All arrangements will be kept under review with D?r Cymru, and we would like to thank all Society members in anticipation of their understanding and compliance with these measures.

A tribute to Graham Harris

Alan Williams

It was with great sadness that I learned of the death of ex-GOS member Graham Harris after a short illness. Graham had been a member of the Society from the early 1970s until 1996, when he moved to Ilkley to be near his family.

He had been the Society’s Librarian from 1990 until he left the area. As you would expect from a Classics teacher at West Mon School, his librarianship was meticulous and reliable.

He also had a unique way of funding the purchase of additional material for the library - he would make jam and sell it at indoor meetings, together with potted plants from his garden.

When I arrived in Gwent and moved to Goytre, I was always impressed by annual accounts of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker in a local garden. When I tracked down the location, I realised it was Graham’s garden which backed on to a large area of woodland. He had purchased a part of the woodland and had feeding stations set up to attract the local birdlife.

Graham was a quiet and unassuming man, who was a keen birder and helpful member of the Society. He will be much missed.

New additions to the library

Keith Roylance

The following new books and DVDs have been purchased for our library and will be available on loan. Contact the librarian at our indoor meetings.

  • 100 BIRDS TO SEE BEFORE YOU DIE by David Chandler and Dominic Couzens. The ultimate wish list for birders everywhere.
  • FRONTIERS IN BIRDING by Martin Garner and friends. It covers many subjects at the cutting edge of what is being discovered about birds.
  • WHERE TO WATCH BIRDS IN WALES by David Saunders and Jon Green. Fourth edition of this popular guide to the best birding sites in Wales. Fully revised with 40 new sites added.
  • GUIDE TO GARDEN WILDLIFE by Richard Lewington. A new field guide to the full range of wildlife to be found in your garden.
  • WATERBIRDS IN THE UK 2006/07. The Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS), published by BTO / WWT / RSPB / JNCC.
  • DVD - BIRDWATCHING IN ENGLAND Filmed and narrated by Paul Doherty. One site is featured for each month of the year and it shows a typical birdwatching day at that time of the year and the birds you might see.
  • DVD - BIRDING IN TURKEY with Dave Gosney. Turkey is a land whose birdlife reflects the nature of the country - in some ways very European but with many Asiatic influences, a land where east meets west.

Wanted: Redundent Gazebo

If any member has a ‘pop-up’ type gazebo which is surplus to their requirements then the Society may have a use for it.

The Society’s almost new Gazebo was damaged at the Garn Lakes Country Fayre earlier this year, when it decided to become a kite rather than a gazebo! One of the square section lower telescopic legs was damaged beyond repair, making the gazebo unusable for future events.

If your surplus gazebo has 20mm (3/4ins) square section telescopic lower legs which are undamaged, we can utilise them to replace our damaged unit. If you think you may be able to help, please contact Keith Roylance, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or phone 01633 868410.

The Birds of Gwent – what others have said

Verity Picken

'Excellent', 'easy to read', 'substantial', 'one to dip into again and again' – just some of the comments on the new Birds of Gwent, which has been reviewed at length in several birding journals and magazines.

John Clark, writing in the hugely informative journal British Birds, says: “This book …exudes quality from the moment you pick it up and are struck by John Gale’s atmospheric paintings of Dippers Cinclus cinclus and Hawfinches Coccothraustes coccothraustes on the dust jacket.

“It has been compiled …by a team of eight authors and supported by seven additional contributors led by Al Venables. Yet the whole text reads so seamlessly that you would think that it had all been written by a single erudite writer.”

He concludes by saying: “This is a scholarly work which clearly sets out the importance of Gwent as a stronghold for many breeding birds. It is an essential purchase for all those with an interest in the status and distribution of Gwent, Welsh and UK birds.”

The BOU's Ibis, one of the world's leading ornithological journals, states: “This work is particularly valuable in its presentation of distribution maps for commoner species, where the results for a 1981-85 Atlas are set beside those of the repeat of 1998-2003 and are accompanied by population estimates for the county, Wales and the UK.”

The importance of the comparisons between the two Atlases is highlighted in other reviews. In Birdwatch Tim Stowe, the RSPB's Director in Wales, points out its usefulness for conservation purposes: “Although of great interest in itself, such data is extremely valuable to conservation organisations, who can use it to fight for better protection for our birdlife.”

BTO News comments: “This …is a substantial book in all ways and sets a standard far in advance of any previous Welsh county avifaunas.” Welsh Birds goes even further, saying 'it sets the standard for all other county avifauna to follow’.

These reviews, and others in Bird Watching and BirdGuides, must be extremely gratifying to GOS members as well as to the authors. Much of the data used to compile the species accounts derived from members' records – clear evidence of how worthwhile it is to send them in each year.

Indeed, Ibis draws attention to the role GOS has played: 'There are perhaps few counties where the development of ornithology has been so closely linked to a single society.'

On the strength of these reviews only one thing remains to be said - if you haven't yet bought a copy, order one right away! What better Christmas present to give, or to ask for?

BTO News

Jerry Lewis

The second winter survey period for the Atlas is now underway (started November 1) with the chance of increasing the impressive coverage beyond that which was achieved during the first winter. Some interesting changes in distribution are already emerging from the last winter Atlas - Stonechats are increasing in the east and Little Owls in the north, but there are still lots of other changes to discover.

When doing timed tetrad visits (TTVs), please remember that each tetrad has to be visited only twice during a winter (once in the early winter and once in the late winter) and it can then be forgotten about (for winter TTV surveying) and a new tetrad visited. Some of you will have already ‘reserved’ tetrads for this and future seasons, so still have plenty to survey.

If, however, you have completed your tetrads, there are still ways for you to help:

  • please think about taking on another tetrad for this winter - more coverage is still needed in the following 10km squares - SO31, ST49
  • have a check through your species list and go looking for those species (that are likely to be in your square) which eluded you last winter
  • casual records are needed from anywhere, for any species

If you want to help, get the forms from me at an indoor meeting, or download them from the website www.bto.org/atlas or www.birdatlas.net If you failed to complete one of your TTV visits last winter, please have a chat with me about the best way to progress.

Climate change is seen as a major threat to migratory waterbirds because, of 235 species protected in Europe and Africa, all except one are experiencing some threat from climate change - and with nine, the threat is so severe that they could face extinction.

As temperatures get warmer, many birds find that their current living conditions are becoming increasingly unsuitable, so they shift their ranges to cooler climes. This is not always possible, however, and many wetlands on the fringes of the Sahara could dry up - making the crossing even longer and more hazardous than it is at the moment.

Many species may not be able to adapt to the changes and are unable to move to cooler conditions further north or south, because there’s no more land there.

Some better news now - a new BTO guide for anyone with a garden, Plants for Birds, has just been produced using information collated by the Garden Birdwatch Team.

The guide gives information on selecting plants to provide berries and seeds, as well as nesting and roosting sites. It explores the value of native versus introduced species and lists a wide range of plants suitable for different purposes and locations.

Gardens are now recognised as being increasingly important for many bird species and this guide will help you get the best out of your garden. Available free from the BTO Garden Birdwatch Team by sending your address details to GBW Plant Guide, BTO, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk IP24 2PU or by telephoning 01842 750050, or e-mailing This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Another new guide covers Feeding Garden Birds and gives you all the information you need to know on how, when and where to feed. Available free from the same contact details quoting ‘GBW Feeding Guide’.

Britain's national bird, the Robin, is about to be replaced by the Woodpigeon - if the latest Garden Birdwatch results are to be believed. The Robin has been overtaken in the top 10 list of garden birds, for the first time since the survey began in 1995. It’s not that Robins have declined - more a case of the Woodpigeon having increased each year until it is now recorded in 85% of the gardens that take part in Garden Birdwatch.

And, finally, my usual plea to have any completed survey forms returned. I am still awaiting several BBS forms - so remember, it’s never too late to send in the data.

The Work of the Blaenau Gwent Bird sub group

Luke Phillips

Our group is a sub group of the Blaenau Gwent Biodiversity Partnership and was formed in October 2006 to help meet the targets set by the Local Biodiversity Action Plan (LBAP).

So a few projects were already started: a Dipper nest box scheme and a Barn Owl nest box scheme. Both species occur regularly through the borough, with Dipper doing particularly well on the cleaner rivers of recent times.

The Dipper project started with a survey of the Rivers Ebbw and Ebbw Fach (Abertillery Valley) to determine a population and also to find suitable sites for nest boxes.

Thankfully, the survey revealed a number of pairs along both rivers - but mainly on the River Ebbw, with six pairs seen - but only two on the Ebbw Fach. A follow-up later in the year revealed that a few nests had failed due to them falling into the river, so boxes would help the Dippers by giving them safe nesting areas.

The project has now been completed, with a total of 34 boxes being attached to bridges and, in some cases, trees. Last spring proved pretty successful, with six broods of Dipper fledging from the group’s boxes.

In addition to the Dipper boxes, 32 boxes were erected for Grey Wagtail. Just three boxes were used this year, but hopefully more will be in the future.

The Barn Owl project might not have the same instant success as the Dipper scheme, but is still a very worthwhile project that will help maintain and expand a limited population in Blaenau Gwent.

It is currently thought that there are three to five pairs spread throughout the borough so the project is vital to preserving this fantastic species. Seven Nest boxes have been put up at various secure locations, making sure that there is plenty of hunting habitat available to the birds so that chicks can be fed during the breeding season and to help adults survive hard winters.

During 2007, just one pair was confirmed breeding, with four chicks being ringed at a barn. But, hopefully, with the boxes in place, pairs can be monitored easily and also protected from the development which is forever interfering with our native wildlife.

Also, Tawny Owl boxes were put up in any nearby forestry to cut down on the competition for nesting opportunities.

Both these projects would not have been possible if it were not for the help of volunteers Rodney Morris, Dave Cooksey and Chris Hatch - who lead the Barn Owl project - and Gary Howells, Luke Phillips, Steve Carter and Lee Parsons, who lead the Dipper Project. The boxes are made by Dave Cooksey.

New projects for the group include placing baskets in the borough’s forestry to help Long Eared Owl, an on-going programme, with baskets due to go up over the next few months.

A pair successfully reared three young this year near the county boundary. So, hopefully, this species is set to thrive in Blaenau Gwent.

Request for records for 2008

Chris Jones

Here we are again – it’s Christmas, and nearly the end of yet another year’s birding.

While I know that you’ll all be out enjoying yourselves Christmas shopping, entertaining and partying, etc, there is always another pastime to think about over the festive period - especially when you’re chilling out after the Christmas meal or twiddling your thumbs as you’re fed up with yet another repeat on the TV

Completing your records for 2008!

Could I ask that everybody makes it a New Year’s resolution to write/type up their records for inclusion in the 2008 Gwent Bird Report?

The deadline for submission of the records is January 31, 2009.

Let’s try to make the next – 2008 - report even larger!

Records can be submitted in several ways:

  1. Handwritten on ‘recording slips’, which are available from me or from the library at indoor meetings at Goytre Village Hall.
  2. Or electronically, via e-mail.

If members would like to submit their records electronically, these can be entered either into an excel spreadsheet, available from myself, or by typing details into a Word-type document.

If using this latter method, members must ensure that the document is structured so that the records are grouped for each species and sorted in date order.

There must be a new line for each entry for which the details need to include species’ name, date of sighting, location/site name, number of birds, age/sex of birds, and any other details, eg, direction of flight, behaviour etc.

Any queries/advice required, please do not hesitate to contact me: Chris Jones, 22 Walnut Drive, Caerleon, Newport, South Wales NP18 3SB. Tel [01633] 423439 or via e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Committee Commentary

Trevor Russell

A busy agenda for the November meeting received the Treasurer’s Business Plan. This proposed a subscription increase with effect from 2010 and an increase to the entrance fee at indoor meetings to come into effect in January 2009.

Discussion introduced several factors affecting the cost of membership and, with over £15,000 in the bank, the proposed subscription increase provoked a long debate. Fundamental issues like ‘what do the members want from their Society?’ concluded that we should create a questionnaire to ask members where they felt priorities should lie because responses could affect the cost of membership - hence the new subscription rate.

The questionnaire will probably be published in the March Dipper, with the results available in the summer. The results should determine the amount of subscription increase which will be confirmed at an SGM in September.

It was proposed that we should abandon the concessionary rate for seniors & juniors. A suggestion that the seniors’ fee should be the same as the adults’ was agreed in principle.

The present £9 seniors’ fee is subsidised by the adult (£12) and family (£15) fees at a time when, arguably, seniors have more disposable income than working adults or families. However, this adjustment could represent a large increase if taken in one step, and ways to do this will be put to the membership in the questionnaire in the New Year.

Indoor meetings are intended to be self-financing, but the increasing costs of speakers and hall hire means we may either have to hold fewer meetings or not invite the more expensive (and better?) presenters. The proposal to increase the entrance fee at indoor meetings to £2 – but also include a raffle ticket - was agreed to be proposed at the AGM. But what do members want? A free raffle ticket would mean that the entrance fee would go up, effectively, by 50p.

The Annual Report 2007 was published and distributed in October to enthusiastic acclaim once again. Arguably, even better than last year’s edition, Verity and Chris were warmly congratulated for producing such a professional report.

But it was that very high quality standard of production and associated cost – it represents nearly 33% of the Society’s annual expenditure – that prompted questions regarding value for money. Certainly prestigious, packed with good data, and an absolute credit to the Society, it was queried whether the costs could be justified - how many members read it and use it? Should we, could we, produce a cheaper edition instead? Another question for the questionnaire!

Accusations that birders are being offensive to Llandegfedd Reservoir Rangers, stealing bird feeders, destroying the locks on the gates and cutting wire fences to gain access has provoked a very strong reaction from the Reservoir Manager, including withdrawing the privileged access arrangement that GOS members presently enjoy.

We do not yet know whether it is GOS members who are committing these outrages – but if it is determined that they are GOS members, they will be summarily dismissed from the Society. Welsh Water is proposing to cancel our privileged membership access in favour of visiting members buying a daily or annual permit from the site office. Negotiations are underway to try to avoid this retrograde step.

With the AGM on January 17, attention switched to forthcoming Committee vacancies. Richard Clarke will step down as a Committee member at the end of his three-year stint and does not wish to be retained on the Committee by secondment.

This is to be much regretted as Richard has made a significant contribution to the way the Society has been run for the past seven years and as Report Editor before that. His valued contributions will be missed.

Trevor Russell gave a year’s notice that he wishes to give up the role as Indoor Programme organiser from 2010, a function he has performed for the last 16 years. He will continue as Secretary, but the Indoor Programme may be run by a small team of organisers unless a volunteer comes forward.

More importantly, Mary Russell will be giving up her role in the kitchen, and the search is on for someone to bring along milk and biscuits and make and serve the teas at indoor meetings – otherwise we will not be able to offer teas and refreshments. But surely there is someone who can take on this role within the Society?

Annual General Meeting 2009

Trevor Russell

the Annual General Meeting will be held on Saturday, January 17, 2009, in the Village Hall, Goytre, starting at 7.30pm.

Subscription increase from 2010. A proposal will be made to probably increase subscriptions from 2010 to £16 for adults and £20 for families, but a questionnaire will be circulated early in the New Year to identify what GOS members want from the Society.

The outcome could have an impact on spending patterns and the extent of a subscription increase. The outcome of the survey will be announced at an SGM in September 2009 to be implemented in January 2010. It is also proposed to stop the concessionary rate that senior members presently enjoy because it is felt no longer fair or necessary that adult and family fees should subsidise the seniors.

Increase in entrance fee at indoor meetings. It is proposed to increase the entrance fee at indoor meetings from £1 to £2, including a raffle ticket, with effect from the first Programme meeting on January 31.

We are still looking for a Vice-Chairman to stand in for Dave in his absence. Most officers of the Committee have volunteered to stay in their posts for another year. Nevertheless, many are finding that their changing circumstances are forcing them to give up their roles and we are pursuing succession-planning where possible.

One role that has been modified is that of General Secretary, whose duties have involved organising the indoor Speaker Programme. After 16 years, Trevor Russell is relinquishing this facet of the job while retaining the secretarial duties. It was suggested that the Indoor Programme could be organised by a small team – unless someone would like to volunteer?

While officers have indicated their willingness to stand for re-election, IT DOES NOT MEAN THAT THEY CANNOT BE CONTESTED! New nominations for any and all positions are always invited and new faces would be a most welcome sight!

Richard Clarke has come to the end of his three-year stretch as a Committee member and he does not wish to be seconded onto the Committee. His valuable contributions as Committee Member and earlier, as Report Editor, will be missed.

The Constitution allows for up to eight Committee members, in addition to the officers, and there are still several gaps to fill. If you would like to volunteer to have a say in the way your Society is run, please submit your name for nomination.

If you feel cautious about committing yourself, why not come along to a meeting and sit-in as an observer? There would be no commitment and, who knows, you might even enjoy it! Both the Proposer and Seconder should sign nominations with the agreement of the nominee, or e-mail me at the above address with details. Nominations must be received by January 1, 2009. In the event that any position or seat is contested, selection will be made by a show of hands at the AGM.

The AGM will be followed by a Finger Buffet. The trick here is to bring some finger food to be shared by everyone but then select something that looks far more appetising than your own offering! Afterwards, Annette Murray will give us an update on progress made by GWT at Wyeswood Common one year after their successful appeal for funds with which to buy it.

Recent Field Trips

Shapwick Heath NNR & Ham Wall RSPB – November 22 John Thitchener

Shapwick is a major wetland nature reserve with the relatively new Ham Wall reserve adjoining it. Following a dire weather forecast during the week, eight hardy souls made it to the car park with overcast skies and a cold wind.

As soon as we were geared up and ready to go, we were greeted by a lovely flock of Siskin and Lesser Redpoll, who escorted us up the main track. Sparrowhawk, Buzzard and a Great-spotted Woodpecker were also seen.

As soon as we reached the Meare heath reedbeds, a juvenile Marsh Harrier was seen flushing a Bittern for a three-second view. We then moved on to Noah’s hide, which overlooked the lake which held large numbers of Mute Swan, Cormorants, Black-headed Gulls and a flight of 47 Greylag Geese.

We were also treated to views of a Kingfisher but, sadly, the resident Barn Owl and Otters remained much more elusive! A surprise came in the form of a Chiffchaff flitting about in the adjacent bushes. along with yet more Lesser Redpoll.

As we left the hide and got to the main track, we had great views of an adult Marsh Harrier over the lake and reedbeds. Then on to Meare hide to scan the small groups of Little Egrets for Cattle Egrets but, unfortunately, none were present that day.

Once again, we saw a Marsh Harrier, lots of Common Snipe flying over the reeds and - in the space of 20 minutes - three brilliant long flight views of Bitterns over the reeds. Keith (our treasurer) also saw a Water Rail, which the rest of the group missed - but we did get more great views of Kingfisher which made up for it.

It was then time for lunch, so back to the cars we went. But were treated to views of a Peregrine flushing all the waders on the way. After lunch, it was across the road to Ham Wall RSPB for the Starling roost. While waiting for the roost, we watched yet another Marsh Harrier and a few LBJs, including another Chiffchaff.

Small groups of up to 100 Starlings started to arrive, followed by larger groups of up to 20,000, assembling in the northern end of the reedbed. They then split into two roosts, diving into the north and south sides of the reedbeds. By dusk, probably a million Starlings had come in to roost! What a way to finish the day!

Species list – 56 Species

Buzzard, Kestrel, Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Peregrine Falcon, Little Egret, Heron, Bittern, Lapwing, Snipe, Black-tailed godwit, Coot, Moorhen, Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveler, Teal, Tufted Duck, Wigeon, Little Grebe, Great-crested grebe, Cormorant, Canada Goose, Greylag Goose, Mute Swan, Black-headed Gull, Water Rail, Kingfisher, Chiffchaff, Cetti’s Warbler, Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Goldcrest, Goldfinch, Lesser Redpoll, Siskin, Chaffinch, Robin, Wren, Dunnock, Blackbird, Starling, Redwing, Collared Dove, Woodpigeon, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Rook, Raven, Magpie, Jay - and a Barn Owl was seen by some on the way home!

Portland Bird Observatory Weekend, October 10-12 Luke Phillips

Twelve members gathered at this migration hotspot in the hope of seeing a bit of migration and, hopefully, a few rarities and oddities. This year, Portland certainly lived up to expectations.

We all met up in the famous ‘top fields’ just above the observatory, and started birding straight away. The first notable birds we saw were Short-eared Owls! A few members caught sight of one while walking to meet up with the rest of the group. Then, just seconds after that sighting, the rest of the group saw another two hunting over the fields. They performed for nearly an hour, giving incredible views.

The group didn’t have to wait long for the next unusual species, a Woodlark. We saw it flying over the fields and then dropping down into the grass as the light started to fade.

That night we were told about a real oddity which had been hanging around the obs that day - Bill Oddie, to be precise! He was on sight filming a few pieces for the BBC’s Autumnwatch programme.

We all had an early start the next morning, as a bit of sea watching was in order. We eagerly wandered over to the obelisk which is on the tip of the Bill. En route, we came across the resident Little Owl which lives in the obs quarry, and also a Stonechat.

Our sea watch was fairly successful, with the group seeing plenty of Gannet, Razorbill, Common Gulls, a few Med Gulls, a Fulmar, Common Scoter and a Balearic Shearwater.

A few lucky members saw an Osprey flying over the cliffs, while the rest of the group saw another raptor, a Merlin. It was chasing the Pipits and Wagtails (including a few Yellows) as they were flying out over the sea.

During our sea watch, we had a welcome distraction in the form of a camera crew and Bill Oddie. The entire group managed to chat to Bill - and we were even filmed!

After all that excitement, we needed to have a sit down and a cup of tea (especially Wendell). Once again, we saw Bill Oddie filming some Swallows and talking about twitching.

After our tea, we decided to do a bit of twitching ourselves. A Black Redstart had been reported near the lighthouse, so we went off to try our luck. We quickly found the bird and got really close up views. We also saw another migrant near the lighthouse - a Wheatear - which was the first of our trip.

After a busy morning at the Bill, we decided to go down to Radipole and Lodmoor, both RSPB reserves. A quick stop at Easton for some lunch resulted in some of the best birding of the trip. While eating our fish and chips, we had a fly past from a Turtle Dove and also saw a Honey Buzzard circling high over the town.

Next stop was Radipole Lake. There had been a rather unusual bird hanging around the visitor centre since the summer. Some people thought it was an escapee, while some thought it was wild. I’m talking about the Hooded Merganser. We all got really good views, but the group was divided with regards to its origins.

Also on the lake were a few Med Gulls and a first winter Yellow-legged Gull, a species a few of the group members hadn’t seen before. A walk around the reedbed resulted in a few Bearded Tits pinging and a few Cetti’s Warblers.

From Radipole we went onto Lodmoor, where we enjoyed views of a few Sparrowhawks scaring most of the waders off. But, happily, a single Ruff stayed, giving excellent views. After Lodmoor, we gave up for the day and headed back to the Bill to enjoy a few ales and have some food.

The following morning, we woke up (no hangovers of course!) with a plan to do a bit more sea watching, but the weather certainly put an end to that. Thick fog rolled in off the sea, which resulted in us being stranded in the obs garden hoping for something good in the nets.

Sadly, no Grey-cheeked Thrush or any other ‘megas’ hit the nets, so we had to come up with another plan. We eventually decided to go over to RSPB Arne, which is alongside Poole Harbour.

Everyone in the group enjoyed superb views of Dartford Warblers and Marsh Tit, but three of us were incredibly lucky to get a fly past from 13 Spoonbill while watching a male Dartford Warbler singing on top of a gorse bush!

Besides birds, we also got great views of Sika Deer and Raft spiders, both specialties of the south. Overall, everyone had a great time and is already looking forward to next year!

Great Bustard Project visit – October 25, 2008 Luke Phillips

The Society had a talk about the project in 2007, which went down well with all of the members - so a trip to see the project in action was obviously going to be popular.

Twelve members ventured down to Salisbury Plain on an overcast, chilly morning. We all arrived at a little farmyard where we were met by a volunteer who was going to show us around and, hopefully, let us see some bustards.

We split into two groups, as there were two hides, but – thankfully - we all got good views of seven Bustards feeding in their specially planted release pen.

During our visit, the Bustards put on quite a show, with six of the birds taking off and having a fly around before settling back down to feed.

As well as the Bustards, we were all hoping to see a few other plain specialties. These came in the form of a Corn Bunting perched on a fence, a Merlin and a Ring-tailed Hen Harrier hunting the bank above the Bustards. Weren’t we lucky Bustards?!

Due to the success of the visit, we all agreed that it would be worth another in a few years’ time to see how the birds are all doing. The past two summers have seen breeding attempts, so we may be seeing baby Bustards soon!

Gwent UKBS Report

Chris Hatch



Single White-rumped and Pectoral Sandpipers were at the Newport Wetlands Reserve (from 26th). A Great-Grey Shrike was reported from Abergavenny (3rd). A Whooper Swan was seen at Garnlydan Reservoir (3rd), while a Snow Bunting and two Jack Snipe were recorded at Mynydd Garn Clochdy (29th).

Newport Wetlands Reserve

Notable sightings included a Hobby (9th), a Bearded Tit (9th), two Little Stints (10th), two Curlew Sandpipers (16th), a female Merlin (23rd), 100 Avocet (26th) and a juvenile Marsh Harrier (29th and 31st).

Other sightings

Single Merlins were reported from Garnlydan Reservoir (3rd,13th and 25th), Undy (3rd) and Collister Pill (18th). Single Red Kites were reported from Brynmawr (12th, 18th and 25th), Abergavenny (18th) and Ebbw Vale (24th). Female Hen Harriers were seen at Sudbrook (4th), Waunafon Bog (17th), and Newport (25th). Wader sightings included single Spotted Redshanks at Peterstone (12th and 20th) and Caerleon (22nd), and two Little Stint at West Pill (5th). Gull sightings included Yellow-legged at Garnlydan (3rd) and Mediterranean at Monmouth (19th). Up to 51 Brent Geese were present at Peterstone (7th), single Barn Owls were reported from Chepstow (10th) and Raglan (31st) and a Short-eared Owl was seen at Sluice Farm (31st). Early Bramblings were reported from Trellech (14th), while a Ring Ouzel was seen near Brynmawr 15th).



A Firecrest was reported from Black Rock (8th). Black Redstarts were recorded at Peterstone Gout (22nd to 28th) and the Nedern (29th). Two Whooper Swans visited Garnlydan Reservoir (20th) and the Snow Bunting was still present at Mynydd Garn Clochdy (1st).

Newport Wetlands Reserve

Up to five Avocets were reported from the site (12th), while a Spotted Redshank was also present (1st). A Marsh Harrier was seen on a number of dates throughout the month, while single Merlins were also reported (7th and 22nd). Other sightings of note include a Water Pipit (18th), 18 Cetti’s Warblers (5th), three Bearded Tits (22nd) and two Jack Snipe (22nd).

Other sightings

Single Merlins were reported from Gobion and Llanvaches (both on 2nd). Two Little Stints were present at West Pill (2nd), while single Spotted Redshanks were recorded at Peterstone Gout (4th) and The Moorings, Newport (11th). Up to four Short-eared Owls were reported from Sluice Farm (16th), a Marsh Harrier was seen at the Magor Reserve (7th), single Red Kites were observed at Tredegar (18th) and Pandy (25th) and Barn Owls were reported from Llanwern (25th) and Dingestow (26th). Other sightings of note included a Mediterranean Gull at The Moorings, Newport (11th), five Little Egrets at Gobion (16th) and a Water Pipit at Peterstone (18th).

Newport Wetlands

Tom Dalrymple



The wintering wildfowl have just begun to arrive. Peak counts for the month are as follows:

Gadwall 25, Mallard 462, Pintail 41, Shelduck 252, Shoveler 137, Teal 153, Tufted Duck 13, Wigeon 641.

The peak count for Black-tailed Godwit was 200 on the 27th. Lots of activity on the Saline Lagoons, with 22 species of wader seen this month. Other notable bird sightings for the reserve: a Long-tailed Skua, a juvenile Osprey a Common and an Arctic Tern on the 1st

Tree pipit on the 8th and 18th, Garden Warbler on the 8th and 14th, Hobby on the 8th and 12th, Jack Snipe on the 8th and 16th, Mediterranean Gull 15th, Grasshopper Warbler 17th, 25 Pale-bellied Brent on the 14th and 18th, Wryneck on the 20th and 21st. Little Stint present all month, the peak count was six on the 29th.


Dry weather in September meant that the contractors have finally been able to get on to the fields. The rush cutting and bailing is almost finished now. About half the ditch clearing work has now been done. There is still a lot of hedge trimming to do, but this can continue on the wet fields, as the hedges are invariably on the dry side of the bund.

In order to hold the first wintering wildfowl, we’ve had to pump water into the few fields that aren’t being topped. The September WeBS count was encouraging, so it seems to have worked.

Mike, Keith and Richie, with the help of volunteers Richard, Reece and Sheila, have been working on the fox fence most of the month. The 2.3km of netting is now up and the apron to prevent digging foxes has been pegged out. The team is now starting to screw in the 2,800 insulators for the electric fence. Some people get all the best jobs!

Kevin has been working on the Access Plan. He travelled up to Cors Carron NNR on the 22nd to get some ideas and see how they are tackling Access up there.

Gordon Day from Langford Lowfields kindly brought down a trailer load of home grown reeds on the 8th. The reeds were grown from seeds taken from reed growing at Newport Wetlands. Gordon, assisted by centre staff and volunteers, managed to plant the reed bed that now surrounds the visitor centre.

Work has begun creating a ridge and furrow field in the visitor centre environs. The furrows have been cut so that visitors sitting in the centre will have the best chance of seeing the water birds we hope will use them.

The reserve passed the Green Dragon environmental audit on the 17th.

Events and visits

Environmental workers from Cardiff LA were given a tour of the reserve on the 1st.

Tim Stowe, Jonathan Porritt and Morgan Parry from WWF were interviewed about the proposed electricity generation from the Severn as part of the BBC Week In Week Out programme on the 5th.

Jonathan Jones’s team led “Hogweed’s School of Wildlife Wizardry” on the 6th.

Derrick Brockway gave the weather forecast from the visitor centre for BBC Wales Today on the 15th.

Gordon Day gave a radio interview about the reed planting for BBC Good Morning on the 10th. A group of local conservation workers from Gwent Wildlife Trust were given a tour of the reserve on the 12th.

Local participants of the Great Garden Bird watch were given a tour of the reserve and the chance to meet Peter Davies. who has been short-listed for the RSPB “Nature in Farming” award.

Darryl Spittle from GOS and the Goldcliff Ringers led a day trip to the Goldcliff Lagoons for a group of 12 from Bristol University.

ITV filmed a piece commemorating 10 years since the Cardiff Bay Barrage for the 6 o’clock news on the 26th.



The wintering birds continue to arrive. Peak counts for the month are as follows:

Gadwall 59, Mallard 315, Shelduck 196, Shoveler 94, Teal 225, Wigeon 586, Black-tailed Godwit 256, Curlew 592, Dunlin 3581, Grey Plover 119, Knot 458, Lapwing 502.

There is still a lot of activity on the Saline Lagoons, with 21 species of wader seen this month - that’s only one less than in September. The spring sown arable plots are drawing in the finches.

There have been flocks of 130 Goldfinch, a similar number of Greenfinch and up to 25 Linnet. Other notable bird sightings for the reserve: juvenile Hobby on the 1st, adult Hobby on the 9th, female Merlin on Boat Road and four Common Scoter seen from Goldcliff Point on the 23rd, White-rumped Sandpiper on the Lagoons on the 26th, Pectoral Sandpiper on the Lagoons from the 26th to the 29th, juvenile Marsh Harrier on the 29th, female Marsh Harrier at Uskmouth, a Brambling on Saltmarsh Lane and a Goldeneye on the Lagoons, all seen on the 31st


Wet Grasslands

The contractors managed to finish all the rush cutting and bailing by early October. Richie found some good weather to weed wipe some of the fields the contractors had cut. The rush had grown about four inches in as many weeks!

Water levels have now been raised across the wet grassland. Water had to be pumped on to some fields to achieve our target water levels. Fortunately, we have plenty of water stored in the Reedbeds. Most of the stock had been taken off by the end of the month, but I’ve asked some of our graziers to stay on a little longer to get the sward low enough.

The IDB finished the last of the ditching on the wet grasslands this year. Our farm tenants have been keeping the local hedge-trimming contractor busy on the reserve.

Saline Lagoons

Two series of high tides have been let on this month to maintain target salinities. Water levels in Lagoons 1 and 2 have fluctuated with tide cycles, but have been kept high for the wildfowl. Lagoon 3 is slowly filling with rainfall, but its shallow banks are holding our Black-tailed Godwit and many other waders.

Mike, Richie and Keith have been devoting most of their time to the fox fence. The electric wires are now all in place and the bases for the gateways installed. The special gates now need to be fabricated and the power supply wired in and run out to the fence.

In between working on the fence, Mike has managed to top all the rough grass, rush and reed on the Lagoons, and Richie has cut down all the Hawthorn bushes that provide perches for the Crows in the springtime. The IDB have finished de-weeding all the ditches at Goldcliff and flail mowing the banks.


Kevin has been out fishing with the EA. They used Fyke nets to carry out an Eel survey in our reedbeds. The artist Dominic Clare has installed his sculptures along the paths in the Reedbed. The sculptures depict Wetland creatures: there are Steel Bittern’s, Water Rail and parts of Dragonfly anatomy in oak.

Events and visits

RSPB learning officers led the Great Mini Beast Hunt on Saturday the 4th. Marie Preston gave guided walks around the Reedbeds on the 5th, 19th, 26th,and 29th. Jane Garner Senior, Regional Species Ecologist at CCW, visited on the 7th to give some advice on management of non-avian species.

Kevin gave an evening wetlands talk to Newport Ladies Dinner Club on the 8th. Rosemary Thomas, Chief Planning Officer with the Welsh Assembly Government, and a party of regional planners were given a tour of Newport Wetlands on the 10th.

An art workshop was held on the 11th. On the 17th, Kevin gave an evening talk to Gwent Badger Group. Nick Edwards, Senior Reserve Manager of Oxwich NNR, was given a tour around the wetlands on the 24th.

Visitors were treated to a wildlife talk by Colin Elliot on the 25th and 30th. A nature walk for children was organised by RSPB centre staff on the 29th and a conservation interagency seminar was held at the centre on the same day.

Kevin and Russell De’ath gave officers from the Welsh Assembly Government a tour of the reserve on the 30th, and Marie Preston ran a beginners’ bird watching session on the same day. A “Trick or Tweet” event was held at the centre on the 31st.



The wintering birds continue to arrive. Peak counts for the month are as follows:

Gadwall 41, Mallard 475, Shelduck 70, Shoveler 71, Teal 434, Wigeon 1,124, Black-tailed Godwit 270, Curlew 147, Dunlin 8,150, Grey Plover 80, Knot 1,000, Lapwing 1,800, Redshank 93, Snipe 44.

Some of our Avocet are still with us - five were seen on the 17th. The arable field continues to attract lots of finches - 200 Greenfinch, 125 Goldfinch and 27 Linnet - along with a few Chaffinches and Reed Buntings.

The Starling roost in the reedbed has grown to impressive proportions - 35,000 at the last count. Peregrines and a female Marsh Harrier have been hunting over the wet grasslands all month; on the 16th, they were joined by a Merlin.

Other notable bird sightings for the reserve: a Water Pipit and three Rock Pipits on the 18th. two Common Goldeneye on the 16th.


The wet grassland fields reached their target winter flood levels by the end of the month. There has been lots of work done by Mike, Richie, Jackie and Keith to complete the fox fence. Mike has fabricated the special 6’ fox proof gates and overseen the connection to the mains. The fence is now operational.

Kevin and our Thursday volunteer team have been busy repairing the reed screens and clearing the vegetation from the disabled ramp. The Thursday team has also installed the last of the people counters, so we should now be able to monitor visitation to the site with a reasonable degree of accuracy. Mike took some time out from the fox fence to tidy up the path edges in the reedbeds to improve access for our visitors.

Events and visits

RSPB learning officers led the Wetland Wildlife Investigators event for families on the 8th of November. Kevin gave a talk to the RSPB field teachers on the 13th.

Chairman's Chatter

Dave Brassey

How good a birdwatcher are you? A strange question in that it has more than one answer, depending how you interpret it.

You may be able to identify every single species on the British List with the merest of casual glances - and yet still be a bad birdwatcher. Conversely, you mightn’t have a clue what you’re looking at (mmmm, that sounds familiar!) but be a great birdwatcher.

If you have read the lead article, you will have realised that Gwent suffers from a few very bad birdwatchers – ones with whom you would not wish to be associated; ones who need to be educated.

It is for this reason that we have taken the opportunity to restate The Birdwatcher’s Code in this edition of The Dipper (next page).

The Code was produced by a partnership of many ‘bird’ organisations, including the BTO, BOU, RSPB, WWT - to name but a few - and although its purpose is mainly to protect the birds and habitat, it also promotes respect and encouragement to others.

Please take the time to read it………

…..and do have a very Happy Christmas!

The Birdwatcher’s Code

A full copy of the code can be found at www.bto.org/notices/birdwatchers_code/intro.htm

But the essence of it is as follows:

  1. Avoid disturbing birds and their habitats - the birds' interests should always come first.

Disturbance can keep birds from their nests, leaving eggs or young vulnerable. Repeatedly flushing birds, especially during migration, uses up vital energy that they need for feeding. If a bird flies away or makes repeated alarm calls, then you're too close.

Disturbance is not just about going too close - a flock of wading birds on the foreshore can be disturbed from a mile away if you stand on the seawall.

Never use playback during the breeding season, as this can divert a bird from feeding its young.

  1. Be an ambassador for birdwatching.

Consider your fieldcraft and behaviour, so that not just you but others can enjoy birdwatching. Respond positively to interested passers-by - a helpful answer may light a spark of interest.

Respect local residents and landowners, and don't enter private land without permission.

Irresponsible behaviour may cause a land manager to deny access to others (eg, for necessary survey work). It may also disturb the bird or give birdwatching bad coverage in the media.

  1. Know the law and the rules for visiting the countryside.

Follow the Countryside Code www.countrysideaccess.gov.uk/things_to_know/countryside_code

It is a criminal offence to disturb, at or near the nest, a species listed on Schedule 1 (see www.rspb.org.uk for a full list). Disturbance could include playback of songs and calls. The courts can impose fines of up to £5,000 and/or a prison sentence of up to six months.

It is also a criminal offence to destroy or damage a special interest feature of a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) or to disturb the wildlife for which the site was notified. If you witness anyone illegally disturbing or destroying wildlife or habitat, phone the police immediately and report it to the RSPB.

  1. Send your sightings to the County Bird Recorder and www.birdtrack.net.

This online recording scheme enables you to store all your birdwatching records and help support conservation. With one click your records are forwarded to the county recorder.

Get involved in national monitoring schemes such as the Breeding Bird Survey.

If you've been birdwatching abroad, visit www.worldbirds.org and give your sightings.

  1. Think before passing on news of a rare bird, especially during the breeding season.

Mobile phones and the Internet let you share your sightings instantly, but please bear in mind the potential impact of spreading the news. Can the site cope with a large number of visitors or might sensitive species be at risk? Get advice if you are unsure.

On private land, always talk to the landowner first. With a little planning, access can often be arranged.

Rare breeding birds are at risk from egg-collectors and some birds of prey from persecution. If you discover a rare breeding species that you think is vulnerable, contact the RSPB and consider telling the landowner to stop the nest being disturbed accidentally.

Birds should never be flushed in important wildlife habitats or where there are other nesting or roosting birds nearby. Birds should not be flushed more frequently than every two hours nor within two hours of sunrise or sunset, so the bird has chance to feed and rest.

Picture of the issue

Thanks to Mike Pointon for this beautiful photograph of a juvenile Wheatear, taken in September at St Brides.

Mike comments that it’s not in sharp focus, but he feels the rock strata details make up for that. Looks good to me, Mike!

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