Home Articles The Dipper December 2005 - Newsletter 97
December 2005 - Newsletter 97 PDF Print E-mail

The Year's End

Christmas is approaching and the end of the year is nigh. With the nights as long and as dark as they get, now is the time to reflect on the twelve months just gone and plan for the birding year to come. If you haven’t already started compiling your sightings for submission to the County Recorder please take the time to do it soon (see page 2 for more details). The collected records of the membership and the subsequent bird report form an important resource and, due to the relative scarcity of birders in Gwent, it is important every active observer contributes. Guidance on the details required for each species is provided in the Gwent Bird Report (on page 53 of the 2003 edition) but, if in doubt, submit any record you think to be of interest.

Once you have trawled through your notebooks and are relaxing in the warm glow of satisfaction having sent in your records, there is nothing better than to start planning next year’s ornithological activities. If in need of a little inspiration why not visit the GOS library at the next indoor meeting, for a real tale of birding endeavour try ‘Birding on Borrowed Time’ by Phoebe Snetsinger (see page 2 for a full list of recent acquisitions). If you just need a little encouragement, how about joining a field trip, details of forthcoming excursions are on page nine. Personally, I am planning to bag a few species I’ve yet to see in Gwent, Red Grouse must be one of the easiest on my hit-list so I guess I’ll be hitting the Gwent uplands, mind you, my Gwent seabird list leaves more than a little to be desired, Goldcliff Point here I come!

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

Announcements

Request for Records for 2005

It’s that time of the year again, Christmas!! Whilst I know that members will be out enjoying themselves Christmas shopping, entertaining and partying there is always the other past time to think about over the festive period, especially when you’re chilling out after the Christmas meal…

Completing your records for 2005!

So could I ask that everybody makes it a New Year’s resolution to write / type up their records for inclusion in the 2005 Gwent Bird Report. Records can be submitted, either hand written on ‘recording slips’, available from myself or from the Library at indoor meetings at Goytre village hall, or they can be submitted electronically via email.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with any queries or for further advice:

Chris Jones, 22 Walnut Drive, Caerleon, Newport, South Wales, NP18 3SB

Tel [01633] 423439 or via email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Lost at the indoor meeting on the Falklands, 10th December

The following items, personal mementos of Helen Williams' trip to the Falklands, were inadvertently taken from her display, probably in the mistaken belief that they were 'freebies', they were not and Helen is very concerned to get them back. The missing items are:

  • a first day cover of Falkland Island Black browed albatross stamps;
  • a laminated leaflet of the Stone Runs;
  • three different leaflets on Ascension Island;
  • a leaflet on Pebble Island Lodge;
  • a large Falklands Islands booklet (with King penguins on the front);
  • a leaflet on Volunteer Point (again with King Penguins on the front); and
  • a cardboard folder from Stanley Services.

If you have them, or know someone who has taken them, please contact Trevor Russell ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) as soon as possible. Total confidentiality will be maintained.

Outdoor clothing with an embroidered GOS Logo!

It has been forecast that this is going to be the coldest winter for a decade!  For those of you unable to regularly attend indoor meetings, you can still fend off hypothermia by mail-ordering GOS embroidered fleeces, sweatshirts and polo shirts by phone or e-mail! All three garments are available in Black, Navy or Bottle Green and the text in the logo can be embroidered in either silver or gold.

Prices are: Polo Shirt £12, Sweatshirt £15, Fleece £20. Postal charges will apply. Please make cheques payable to “Gwent Ornithological Society”. Orders typically take 2 weeks, or, if you can make it to the meetings, order at one meeting, collect and pay at the next.

To mail-order or obtain further details please contact Trevor Russell on 01600 716266, or e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Library update

The following additions, purchased at indoor meetings or the Bird Fair, have been made to the GOS library:

  • First for Britain and Ireland by Phillip Palmer
  • Woodpeckers of Europe by Gerard Gorman
  • One to One Digital Photography (DVD) by Terry Wall
  • Birding on Borrowed Time by Phoebe Snetsinger
  • Shorebirds of North America – the photographic guide by Dennis Paulson
  • Garden Bird Behaviour by Robert Burton
  • Gulls of Europe, Asia & North America by Klaus Malling Olsen & Hans Larson
  • To See Every Bird on Earth by Dan Koeppel
  • In addition, the following books were kindly Donated by Brian King:
  • Birds in Wales by Lovegrove et al.
  • The Kestrel by Andrew Village

If members have any suggestions for the library please contact me at any indoor meeting.

Rob Moeller, Librarian

Situations Vacant

Annual Report Editor – Following the retirement of Brian Gregory after seven years in this role we are seeking someone who perhaps has either had previous experience in this, or a similar position, or feels they would like to take on a new challenge! Full procedural advice, support and back-up will be made available.

Head Tea-maker and Bottle-washer – Unfortunately Mary Russell is unable to continue as the ‘lead hand’ in the kitchen next year. Unless you want ‘dry’ meetings from January, please volunteer to fill this important, vital even, role. Lots of help is always available and full instructions will be given!

Applications and enquiries for both roles should be made to Trevor Russell on 01600 716266 or e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Membership News

Sadly, I have to announce the death of another member, Brian King. Brian joined the society in 1994 and succeeded Helen Jones as Field Secretary from January 1999 until illness forced his retirement in September 2002. Brian was admitted to hospital for surgery at end of October and suffered an internal haemorrhage from which he failed to recover.  His funeral took place at Cwmbran Crematorium, on Wednesday 2nd November.

If you wish to give donations in his memory they can be sent directly to: Ward West 3, Liver Unit, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham or via his son at: c/o Mr Geraint King, Foxhaven, 1a Grays Grove, Little Staughton, Bedford, MK44 2BT.

The Society’s position on donations following the death of a GOS member

At the recent Committee Meeting, Keith Roylance raised the question of donations on behalf of The Society. The Committee had a long discussion about this several years ago, following the death of Dave Wood who had held many prominent roles in the Society, including that of Field Secretary.  It was decided that we should adopt a policy of making it easy for individual members to make personal donations by providing them with relevant details, and where possible to have a collection box available at indoor meetings, as well as a card for contributors to sign.

The rationale behind this was that, at any time, we have some GOS members who are very active in running The Society and are obviously well known at that period of time and if they die it has an immediate impact.  However, if that person died ten years down the line having given up any active roles, many members wouldn’t know who they were and the death of that person wouldn’t have the same impact.  So the tendency would be to remember active members, but perhaps forget those who have made a huge contribution to the establishment and running of GOS in their younger days, and without whom GOS may not exist. Clearly, it could cause offence and upset to family and friends of those who appear to have been forgotten. The only exception has been with regard to the founder of The Society, Bert Hamar.  Following his death in 1993, GOS set up the annual Bert Hamar Bursary and was involved with Dwr Cymru in the opening of a hide in Bert’s name at Llandegfedd Reservoir.

I hope that you are happy with the policy that we have on this issue, but let us know if you are not.  Can I also ask that if you know of the death of a GOS member, or of a member who is very ill, please let me know.

Access to Llandegfedd and Ynysyfro Reservoirs

About 60 keys for Llandegfedd Reservoir have so far been issued and a list of key holders will be sent to Chris Hatch.  I have contacted Chris with regard to access to the new hide and it is the intention to have the same lock on the hide as on the gate but there have been problems.  Chris indicated that access to the hide wasn’t an issue at the moment, as it is about 500 metres from the water!  However they hope to have the new lock fitted by the time the water is back in front of the hide.

Your membership cards will have a statement on the back regarding access to Llandegfedd and Ynysyfro Reservoirs.  Please let me know me know if you have any problems, particularly at Ynysyfro.

Membership Update and Proposed Subscription Increases

We have 312 paid up memberships for 2005, excluding 4 deceased, as follows:

  • Adult (£10.50) - 131 - 42% of total
  • Family (£13.00) - 115 - 37% of total
  • Senior (£7.00) - 63 - 20% of total
  • Honorary, should be free but all pay something - 3 - 1% of total

Of these, we receive Gift Aid for 74% of membership categories as follows:

  • 98 - 75% of Adults
  • 93 - 81% of Families
  • 36 - 57% of Seniors
  • 3 - All Honorary

Gift Aid increases the value of subscriptions to the following:

  • £13.44   
  • £16.64   
  • £8.96   

Various

Postal Dipper deliveries are received by 81% as follows, the other members receive their Dippers electronically

  • 99 - 76% of Adults
  • 93 - 81% of Families
  • 60 - 95% of Seniors
  • 2 - 66% of Honorary

In 2004, the Committee had discussions regarding subscription rates for 2006 and the following summary appeared in the December 2004 Dipper:

“Helen pointed out that in financial terms, whilst adult and family rates covered costs, the present £7 rate for Senior Citizens does not, and she proposed to increase the Senior Citizen rate by £1 to cover postage & printing increases and leave the other rates as they are. However, after discussion, it was decided that despite the financial facts, this might be considered to be “ageist”, and a majority voted to agree that from January 2006, subscription rates would increase by £1 for all members and that this should be proposed at the January 2005 AGM.  Following further discussion between the Chairman, Membership Secretary and Treasurer after the meeting, this issue has been deferred for a year though your comments regarding this issue would still be welcomed at the AGM.”

This was reviewed at the Committee meeting on 17th November 2005 when the Treasurer proposed increasing subscriptions as follows:

  • Adults £10.50 to £13.00   
  • Family £13.00 to £16.00   
  • Senior £7.00 to £9.00

This was not agreed at Committee.  However, despite my pointing out that it is only the Senior rate that is not covering costs the majority voted that the proposal to be put to the members at the AGM is:

  • Adults £10.50 to £12.00   
  • Family £13.00 to £15.00   
  • Senior £7.00 to £9.00

The aim of the subscription is to cover the costs of membership services such as printing and postage costs relating to Dippers, Annual Reports, programme and membership cards and any other information that needs to go out to members, with a bit of leeway for unexpected costs/increases (indoor meetings are expected to be self-financing, so subscriptions do not cover these).  I find it difficult to see the justification of increasing rates that are already more than covering costs, even without taking Gift Aid in to account.  However, I do think that the Senior rate needs to be increased.

Taking on board comments from the Treasurer regarding insurance, the library, etc., I have re-calculated current costs incurred relating to membership to be £9.50.  This means that Seniors are under paying by £2.50 (the Treasurer thinks that this is an underestimate but he uses different criteria about what expenses should be set against the subscriptions, and will explain his reasons for increasing costs for all members at the AGM).

Last year, I was told that to suggest only increasing the Senior rate could be considered to be ageist whereas the suggestion was based purely on costs.  I don’t know what others think but I would be in favour of removing the differential between Senior and Adult rates as both groups receive exactly the same benefits of membership. Why not come to the AGM and have your say, or if you are unable to attend have any views on the subject of subscriptions, get in touch with anyone on the Committee

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

‘Birds of Gardens, Woods and Fields’ is back!

After seven years, the above course is back in Gwent by popular demand. Starting in January 2006 at Usk Community Education Centre (between the Library and Maryport Street car park) the course takes place on Tuesday evenings 7-9pm, plus field trips to practise newly learned field skills.  Aimed at beginner and advanced birdwatchers alike, the course has always been appreciated for its friendly, participatory and inclusive approach, humour and effectiveness in people gaining the skills to both identify birds and understand their behaviour in varied habitats.

This course is so ‘hot off the press’ that it is not in any brochure, but booking will be available through Cardiff Centre for Life Long Learning shortly (telephone: 029 2087 0000).

Better still, if you want to know more, please contact me Ian Smith on 01600 713561 (evenings or weekends).

Goytre Wood: Bats

At the end of September Ian Rabjohns helped me examine the bat boxes once more. We were particularly interested to see what use the bats had made of the new wedge-shaped wooden boxes. Because we had already looked at a number of boxes at the end of June, we had removed the wads of moss that the blue tits use to energetically fill the woodcrete boxes.

To try to make the job of lugging long ladder sections around the wood easier in future, Ian brought along a special scrub-mower, and we cleared a few access routes to some of the sites. Scythes and loppers are essential items of equipment for a day of bat-box inspections! Part of the wood has become much wetter since the first bat boxes were put up, and it’s now difficult to put a ladder up to examine those boxes.

Two out  of the 11 new wedge-shaped boxes, kindly made by Norman Lawrence, had Pipistrelles (both pygmaeus and pipistrellus), but we hope that with more weathering more will be used soon. Unfortunately, of the two new “Daubenton” type of box only one was occupied, by two Pipistrellus pygmaeus bats. In total, from 24 (out of 36) boxes examined, 11 were occupied by a maximum of 39 bats. One of the first boxes we examined contained ten Pipistrelle bats, but they all flew, and it is possible that some went to another box, so were counted again. In addition to the boxes, there are natural holes in some trees, which we know have bat roosts, as the bats can be heard chattering. The bats will all be hibernating now, making short flights perhaps on warmer evenings.

This year we received a grant from CCW to support the Gwent Bat Survey Project. The project was set up under the Greater Gwent Biodiversity Group to gain an increased knowledge of the distribution of bats in Gwent. Until now, our knowledge has been confined to the discovery of bats using various man-made structures and occasionally trees. This gives only a limited view of the true distribution of the various species. The project surveyed foraging bats using bat detectors in conjunction with mini-disc recorders. The resulting recording was then analysed to enable identification, as the calls of different species are distinctive.

There will be continuing work in the next few years. If you know of bat roosts which are not yet monitored by a bat worker, or see bats feeding in particular locations, we would be most grateful for the information. This year we surveyed fairly random kilometere squares, but with limited man-power resources we try to target squares that are likely to be more productive.

The information gained will be mapped and made available to local authority ecologists and planning departments in order that these legally protected animals can be properly considered where developments are proposed. The data will also be fed into national distribution records. This will enable future changes in distribution to be monitored and help raise a greater awareness of the most vulnerable species.

Ruth Brown

Committee Commentary October & November 2005

Our recent pledge of £1,000 to support the Woodland Trust in its bid to buy parcels of Wentwood Forest was gratefully taken up when the Trust’s bid proved successful. It is hoped that their legalities will be finalised by the end of the year. Meanwhile we received a grant of over £3,000 from the CCW, as part of the Species Challenge Fund, to purchase food, feeders and nest boxes for the Gwent Tree Sparrow Recovery Project

The October meeting heard that the application to build the Pendragon Wind Farm Development has been withdrawn by the developers for reasons not yet known.

But no such luck for the M4 Relief Road project which threatens to cut across 5 SSSIs, though the Welsh Office have yet to reveal the precise route (the recent M6 Relief Road near Birmingham, designed to take traffic off the clogged M6, has actually seen a 15% increase in traffic volumes on the two roads combined! Create more roads, Create more traffic!)

The Annual Bird Report for 2004 is nearing completion and it is hoped it will be distributed shortly. This will be the last report edited by Brian Gregory, to whom we extend grateful thanks for his unstinting efforts over the past seven years.

Whilst no Committee members will retire by rotation in January 2006 we are still several short of our maximum of 8. Chris Field attended the November meeting as an Observer and may hopefully accept nomination to join the Committee from January. All Officers of the Committee expressed a willingness to stand yet again for a further year. See the AGM page for more details which, nevertheless, invites new nominations.

We have been contacted by the South Eastern Wales Biodiversity Records Centre  (SEWBReC). Their mission is to gather all the biodiversity records of South East Wales (birds, bats, butterflies, mammals, etc.) under one roof, in order to respond to development pressures more effectively by: painting the ‘big picture’; and producing specific data on demand. They would plan to computerise all of our records, going back to the 60’s, to make them more accessible for research (we still hold all recording slips in shoe boxes!). The Glamorgan Bird Club has already joined their scheme but illness has delayed a meeting of a GOS sub-committee with SEWBReC to better understand their proposals. In principle this seems a sensible move but there are several concerns, including ownership and security, which need to be resolved before we would go ahead.

Heroic quantities of time and effort are managing to keep the ‘The Birds of Gwent 2’ project on schedule for publication in the Spring of 2006. Some grants have been received which have helped pay for stage payments to publishers Helm.

Goytre House Wood continues to demand routine maintenance work. Thanks, principally to Alan Williams, a gate has been replaced, hedges cut and rhododendrons removed. We have received a grant to buy and sow a Triticale crop next year which will be allowed to go to seed as an autumn feed for birds. The Bat Group has also installed more bat boxes and has cleared brambles and pathways. Watch for calls to join work parties to clear sycamores and other undesirables in the near future.

It was agreed to ‘spread our wings’ at Summer Shows in 2006 and attend some different and more widespread events in the county: the Garn Lakes Craft & Recreation Fayre in June; The Severn Estuary Open Day in July; The Blanaeu Gwent Event and the Newport Wetland Reserve Open Day both in July. More details will appear in later editions of The Dipper, but now that we are coming to an event near you, please volunteer for an hour or two’s stand duty!

Subscription rates starting January 2007 were discussed. Not having increased in the last seven years, it was proposed that the family rate be increased from £13 to £15, Adults from £10.50 to £13, Juniors & Seniors from £7 to £9. There was not unanimous agreement within the Committee when the vote was taken, but the proposals will be put to the AGM in January.

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

Field Trip Reports

Portland Bill weekend  14 – 16 October

Sightings of Arctic, Pallas’s and Yellow-browed Warblers at Portland earlier in the week meant the twelve GOS members who set off at varying times on the Friday arrived full of hope.  Sadly, this was to be dashed.  Common migrants were plentiful but rarities eluded us in spite of our splitting into smaller groups to maximise our chances of finding one.  Nor was anything unusual caught in the nets while we were there.  The unfavourable winds, clear skies and lack of rain (apart from one brief shower) were all against us.

Nevertheless, from the observatory terrace we had good views of Ring Ouzel among the numerous Redwing and Blackbirds, and a fleeting glimpse of Hawfinch.  In the bushes warblers were abundant, the vast majority being Chiffchaffs, but Blackcaps, Whitethroats and Goldcrests added to the numbers.  Stonechats, finches and wheatears were everywhere but only two Black Redstarts were located.  In the lighthouse area Rock Pipits and Turnstones dashed about on the rocks while seawatching produced Red-throated Diver, Common Scoter and Eider Duck and, for the lucky few, distant shearwaters, Arctic and Pomarine Skuas.  Just six species of gull and one tern (Sandwich) were noted.

Infuriatingly, several exciting rarities turned up at Portland shortly after our visit – surely no-one would suggest the GOS weekend there is fated?

Verity Picken

BTO News

This spring/summer's surveys seem to have gone well and enjoyed by those who took part.  I am still awaiting returns from some of the BBS, Heronry counts and Tawny Owl forms, I know that form filling is the "boring bit" but please let me have your returns as soon as you are able (or let me know if you were unable to complete the fieldwork).

Forthcoming Surveys have something which should interest everyone, please give me a ring (01873 855091) or email ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) if you are interested or want to know more about any of them.

Winter Gull Roost - the final winter for this survey and just 3 squares left.  Each needs a single visit in January (in the afternoon) to count any gulls coming in to roost   The three squares are at Newport Docks, Goldcliff (outside the Wetlands area) and Sedbury.  There is also an opportunity to do an additional count of the main Llandegfedd roost, this is an easy survey for anyone claiming to be a gull enthusiast or wanting to brush up on gull ID and look out for the odd rarity.

Tawny Owl Garden Survey - although this has already started, there is still a chance to join in as the survey period goes on until the end of March.  It involves a 20 minute count, once a week (from your own garden if you wish), listening for hooting owls.

Dartford Warbler breeding Survey - a selection of upland squares in the hills north of Pontypool have been selected, each needing two visits to search for this attractive warbler.  Members will recall that the first breeding record for Wales was on a Gwent hill some years ago, and with the species expanding in South Wales, any of our hilltops could be colonised.  There is also a Woodlark breeding survey taking place at the same time, but with no known breeding records since Penyfan Pond (in the 1960s) we have not been allocated any squares.  However, it may be worth spending some time this spring on any forest clearfell or heathland area - you could be the person to discover the recolonisation of the county.

Scarce Woodland Bird Survey - this is the final year of this survey to find out why our specialist woodland species are declining.  Last year's response was good and this year there is the option to repeat the survey in the same wood or choose two new woods.  For newcomers, two 500m routes are selected, each in a different wood, and the routes are each walked twice to record a selected range of woodland species.  The idea is to have one wood that you know/think is good for some of the species (e.g. Tree Pipit, Redstart, Wood Warbler, Nuthatch or Song Thrush) and another that isn't.  Casual records of the woodland species are also required, visit www.birdtrack.net to enter casual records or for more information.

Wintering Warblers - as everyone is aware, Chiffchaff and Blackcap have been wintering in the UK in increasing numbers in recent years (a minimum of 920 and 1426 respectively last winter).  Dartford and Cetti’s Warbler do not migrate of course, so were also present in good numbers, but a few individuals of the more unusual species also decided not to migrate to warmer climes.  These included Willow, Sedge, Reed and Garden Warblers plus Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat as well as some rarities such as Dusky, Yellow-browed and Pallas' Leaf Warblers.  It all looks as if other species may be taking advantage of the UK's relatively warmer winter climate, and if they survive may set new migration strategies.  The survey is continuing this winter and Greg Conway at the BTO would like to hear about any of the above species (plus Goldcrest and Firecrest) seen between November 1st and March 31st.  Contact him on 01842 750050 or enter your records via Birdtrack (see above).

This leads up nicely onto Winter Feeding.  It looks like this winter will see wild seeds and fruit in short supply, so now is the time to be thinking about your winter bird food requirements.  Lots of different species have now come to rely on garden food for their survival and, with the range of foods commercially available, putting out food couldn't be easier.  The BTO/CJ Garden BirdWatch Team have put together an advisory leaflet - available free from GBW Feeding Leaflet, BTO, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk, IP24 2PU or by telephoning 01842 750050

The results of last year's Swallow Feeding Survey have just been published, with the main results indicating a preference for: areas with cattle, then horses, then sheep (attracted to the flies and other insects), a mix of grassland and arable areas, a mix of arable crops and a good number of hedges with mature trees (to provide shelter).  They least prefer large, open fields of wheat or barley.  The main declines in Swallow numbers are in the east of England (probably due to the increased areas of arable land) and in the southwest (probably due to increased fertilizer improvement of the grassed areas).

Hawfinch - The late winter/early spring is probably the best time to look out for the elusive Hawfinch at their preferred feeding sites.  If anyone is lucky enough to see any, have a good look at their legs for rings.  Some may have only a dull grey metal ring, others may have a plastic colour ring (red, yellow, dark blue, white) on the other leg.  The birds will have been ringed at various feeding sites over the last few years and their movements could give us an insight into how the Wye Valley/Forest of Dean Birds are interacting.  Darryl Spittle and Richard Clarke recently saw a small group flying past Goldcliff, so their movements could be greater than we think.  Please keep a look out and report any sightings to me as soon as you can.

Finally, in a years time, the new National Breeding and Wintering Atlas fieldwork will start.  Organising volunteers and paperwork is likely to be time consuming - on top of the other regular survey organising that I have to do.  If anyone would like to offer to give me a hand during this busy three year period please let me know (phone, write or talk to me at an indoor meeting).  Thanks in anticipation.

Jerry Lewis, BTO Representative (01873 855091)

News from Newport Wetlands

Planning permission for the Environmental Education and Visitor Centre has now been granted by Newport City Council. The partnership are now awaiting confirmation of European funding before construction can start next summer with the centre opening in summer 2007.  Plans are also underway to improve the visitor experience up on the reedbeds. Watch this space for developments. The RSPB and Newport City Council have already started bringing local school children down to the reserve. 492 pupils from all the nearest primary schools, have been on visits between February and July this year. Reserve Voluntary Wardens have helped out with every visit. They have helped the children to use binoculars and ‘scopes effectively to see and identify the birds.  Their passion for, and detailed knowledge of, the site and its species certainly enthused the children further.  The aim is that every primary school in Newport will have had a free visit to the reserve by 2007.

We now have a complete years data from people counters that we had installed in 2004. Figures from 1st July 2004 to 30th June 2005 indicate that 18,870 people went through one of the kissing-gates from the Uskmouth car park (this figure does not include the 500+ who came to our open day in 2004). Comparing figures for May, June and July for 2004 and 2005 shows and increase of 751 visitors (18.8%). Approximately 45% of this increase is attributable to the schools visits.

Our open day on July 17th was a tremendous success and we must thank GOS and the Goldcliff Ringing Group for their enthusiastic participation in this annual event.

The summer drought again led to the Goldcliff Lagoons becoming hyper-saline and in mid-September we pumped fresh water onto them from our reedbeds. The heavy rains in early November have now produced the opposite problem, with salinities too low and water let on from Goldcliff Pill having little effect. A survey of the invertebrates in the lagoons in October produced the surprising discovery of good numbers of polychaete worms (ragworms) living in the mud. A survey in 2004 produced none of these worms and a survey in 2000 produced only one, so it is hoped that they can survive the inevitable fluctuations in salinity that the lagoons are experiencing. The heavy rains in November were very welcome on our wet grassland. We had already brought the water levels in several fieldblocks up with water from the reedbeds, so with the rain they flooded up very quickly. Good numbers of ducks and waders are now using these fields.

A Marsh Harrier has been present for over six weeks, from early October onwards. Marsh Harriers have previously only stayed for a day or two, so this is a very pleasing occurrence. A ring-tail Hen Harrier has also been around for almost as long.

Last year we set up a transect to monitor the commoner species which we normally overlook.  Once a month some of our Voluntary Wardens walk this transect which starts in the car park and goes up Perry Lane to the reedbeds, turns left along the bund, then goes out to the sea-wall along to the round-a-bout, up Farmfield Lane and then back to the car park via Fish House Lane and the Dog-leg Track. It sometimes produces surprising results, for example on November 23rd, a cold and foggy day, 24 species were recorded, including 62 blackbirds, 18 robins, ten wrens, 47 blue-tits and 58 goldfinches. There was no ‘partridge in a pear tree’, but we would like to wish all GOS members a merry Christmas and a happy New Year. If you want to add to your 2005 list or get your 2006 list off to a flying start then remember that our car park is open all over Christmas and New Year. Last year, according to our ‘people counters’, 183 people visited Uskmouth on Boxing Day and a total of 848 visited over the holiday period. At least 18 people came down on Christmas Day itself!

Kevin Dupe, Reserves Manager

Recent Sightings: September – november

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 and requiring a description to be sent to the county recorder) 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: Steve Appleton, Mick Bailey, A. Batchelor, Martin Bell, John Bennett, Nicholas Beswick, ‘Billy’, Mike Bosley, ‘Braddie’, Julian Branscombe, Phil Bristow, Matt Broome, Ruth Brown, Bryn Burgess, Steven Butler, Barry Catlin, Maurice Chown, Richard Clarke, Craig Constance, ‘Steve D’, James Daly, John Davies, Allan Dowson, John Evans, Jeff Fisher, John Gale, John Garside, Nigel Garside, Tim Griffiths, Jeff Hall, Tim Hall, Adrian Hickman, ‘Holly’, Chris Hurn, Jackie Huybs, Barry Ingram, Jan Jenkins, Mal Jenkins, Roger Jenkins, Tony Jenkins, Marcus John, Chris Jones, Clive Jones, Hadyn Jones, Keith Jones, M. Kennett, Andrew King, ‘Little Dai’, Llandegfedd Rangers, Rhod Llewellyn, Howard Lloyd, Mary Lloyd, ‘Mark’, John Marsh, John Martin, Mark Molyneux, Jeff Morgan, Ken Morgan, John Moseley, John O’Sullivan, Martin Peers, Verity Picken, Jackie Pointon, Mike Pointon, Marilyn Pope, Mike Powell, Roger Price, Jeremy Richards, Leon Rose, Judy Rosser, Andy Rowlands, Keith Roylance, Angus Scott, Chris Shroll, Ian Smith, Darryl Spittle, Gareth Stamp, Ed Stevens, Mark Stevens, ‘Steve T’, Adrian Thomas, Brian Thomas, Geri Thomas, Vaughan Thomas, GT Thorne, Ian Walker, Eddie Wang, Mike Warburton, Chris West, Julie West, Steve Williams, and John Wilson.

  • Great Northern Diver – A single bird flew ‘up-channel’ off the NWR on 5th November (D. Spittle & R. Clarke).
  • Slavonian Grebe – A bird was seen ‘offshore’ at Sluice Farm on 25th October (R. Price).
  • Shag – An immature bird was found at Llandegfedd Reservoir on 5th September and attracted a trickle of observers until last being seen on the 10th (Llandegfedd Rangers, et al.).
  • Little Egret – Reported from seven widely spread sites, the largest count was of up to 63 at the NWR on 17th September.
  • Spoonbill – Three birds were at the NWR on 4th September, two were seen on the 7th and again, for the last time, on the 10th (S. Butler, J. O’Sullivan, H. Jones & P. Bristow).
  • Bewick’s Swan – Five birds were found at Llandegfedd Reservoir on 20th November.
  • Dark-bellied Brent Goose – A flock of 15 flew ‘down-channel’ at Goldcliff Point on 29th October.
  • Pale-bellied Brent Goose – A single bird, generally thought to be this subspecies, was found at Peterstone on 21st October and last reported on the 8th November (N. Garside, E. Wang, G. Stamp & M. Chown).
  • Garganey – Four reports were logged, one at the NWR between the 5th-6th September, one at Peterstone on 17th and three there on the 20th.
  • Cinnamon Teal – A ‘possible’, moulting individual was reported from the NWR on 15th October, given the date and unprecedented number of Nearctic vagrants in Europe at the time, this could have sparked quite a twitch if relocated (M. Bell).
  • Common Scoter – A single female was found at the NWR on the 9th November.
  • Goldeneye – Small numbers were reported from the NWR and Bulmore Lakes during November, five at the first locality was the maximum count.
  • Ruddy Duck – Singles were reported from the NWR and Ynysfro Reservoirs.
  • Marsh Harrier – One or two birds were reported from the NWR between 11th October and 12th November (many observers).
  • Hen Harrier – Reported from six localities between 19th September and 27th November, most sightings referred to ringtails but males were at the NWR on 26th September and 27th November, and at Trellech on 8th November (many observers).
  • Osprey – Two southbound migrants were noted, one was at Llandegfedd Reservoir on 5th and 6th September with another seen at Abertillery on the 12th.
  • Merlin – Three reports in September were followed by four in October, the majority referred to single birds at the NWR.
  • Hobby – Single birds were regularly reported at the NWR throughout September whilst another was seen at Gobion. A late bird was at the NWR on the 20th October
  • Red Grouse – Once again just one record was logged, three birds were on The Blorenge on 16th November.
  • Red-legged Partridge – Counts came from four sites, the greatest numbers being 32 at West Pill, 18 at Collister Pill, ten at Llandegfedd and three at Bulmore Lakes.
  • Grey Partridge – This species showed a very similar distribution to Red-legged, the highest counts were of nine at Collister Pill on the 17th September, two at Llandegfedd on the 5th and 11th and one at West Pill on 10th.
  • Grey x Red-legged Partridge hybrid – A single bird was seen at West Pill on 10th September.
  • Avocet – A lone individual remained at the NWR until 5th October whilst two were seen at Peterstone on the 15th (many observers)
  • Little Ringed Plover – All reports came from the NWR and most were of between one and four birds, the maximum, however, was a good count of 15 on the 21st September.
  • Golden Plover – Eight were at the NWR on 24th September, one on 31st October and three were at Collister Pill on 12th November.
  • Sanderling – Just one bird, at the NWR on 4th September, was reported during the period.
  • Little Stint – Most reports derived from the NWR with numbers reaching a peak of seven on 8th September, however, the latest record was of a single at Peterstone on 3rd October.
  • Baird’s Sandpiper – A juvenile was reported from the NWR on 6th September, it was last seen on the adjacent foreshore but couldn’t be relocated later in the day (J. Holmes per M. Pointon).
  • Pectoral Sandpiper – Presumably found by birders looking for the aforementioned Baird’s, a Pectoral Sandpiper was found at the NWR on 6th September and was last seen on the 10th (C. Constance, ‘Little Dai’, J. O’ Sullivan & P. Bristow).
  • Curlew Sandpiper – Good numbers of this species were present at the NWR in early September with a maximum of 11 reported on both the 6th and 7th. Elsewhere, a maximum of six was seen at Peterstone on 24th September.
  • Ruff – Reported from the NWR between 2nd and 24th September, the maximum count being of four on the 4th.
  • Jack Snipe – A single report was logged of one bird at the NWR on 3rd October.
  • Spotted Redshank – Regularly recorded in small numbers at the NWR until early October, however, the greatest number was seen at Peterstone with 16 on 3rd October.
  • Wood Sandpiper – Singles, possibly the same individual, were recorded at the NWR between 24th and 28th September (P. Bristow, M. Bosley, J. Hall & J. O’Sullivan).
  • Arctic Skua – Two dark phase birds were recorded from the NWR, one on 10th September and another on 5th November (P. Bristow, D. Spittle & R. Clarke).
  • Mediterranean Gull – Two reports were logged, a juvenile/first-winter was at Peterstone on 18th September and two first-winters were at Llandegfedd Reservoir on 6th November.
  • Little Gull – A juvenile was found at the NWR on 24th September.
  • Sabine’s Gull – On 29th September, a juvenile was at Peterstone for an hour before disappearing back out into the channel (J. Marsh).
  • Yellow-legged Gull – Recorded from three sites, one was at Peterstone on 18th September, three were at Llandegfedd Reservoir on 6th November with another at Usk on the same day, and finally anther single was at Llandegfedd Reservoir on 12th November (P. Bristow, I. Smith & C. Jones).
  • Sandwich Tern – A ‘possible’ was at Llandegfedd Reservoir on the 25th September (C. Constance & ‘Little Dai’).
  • Common Tern – Between one and five birds were present at Llandegfedd Reservoir in early September. The highest count, however, was of 13 at the same location on the 25th September and the last bird of the year was at Peterstone on 19th October.
  • Arctic Tern – A single adult was at Llandegfedd Reservoir on the 25th September.
  • Little Tern – Two birds were at Llandegfedd Reservoir on the 5th September and a single was reported on the 10th (Llandegfedd Rangers & M. Bell).
  • Black Tern – To round off Llandegfedd’s excellent series of terns, Black Tern was reported on three dates: singles on 5th and 8th September and two on the 10th.
  • Barn Owl – Reported from three sites, all records related to single birds in ate October and November.
  • Lesser Spotted Woodpecker – Single birds were reported from three sites: at Gobion on 7th September, Cwmbran on 6th October and Blaenavon on 17th October.
  • Swift – The last record was of a single at Bulmore Lakes on 16th September.
  • Swallow – A late bird was at the NWR on 5th November.
  • House Martin – The latest birds logged were two at Peterstone on 16th October.
  • Tree Pipit – Small numbers of migrants were reported, singles at the NWR and Collister Pill in early September and two near Bassaleg on the 13th.
  • Rock Pipit – Two singles were noted, one at Peterstone on 20th September and another at Goldcliff Point on 5th November.
  • Water Pipit – Reported from Peterstone and Caerleon during the period, the highest count was of six at Peterstone on 18th November (R. Price, E. Wang & K. Jones).
  • Yellow Wagtail – Good numbers built up at the NWR with 30 or more birds reported regularly in early September, there were also 20 at West Pill on 2nd September, 10+ at Collister Pill on 4th September and the last was a single at Peterstone on 24th September.
  • White Wagtail – Reported from two sites on the levels; between one and three were at the NWR on 8th and 10th September and 2nd and 14th October and another single was at Peterstone on 18th October.
  • Redstart – Just one migrant was logged, a single at Magor Marsh on 6th September.
  • Whinchat – Passage birds were seen at three sites with a maximum of three at Bassaleg on 16th September.
  • Wheatear – The latest migrant was a bird at Peterstone on 8th November.
  • Ring Ouzel – A national influx was reflected in a good series of records. One or two were at Peterstone between the 18th and 21st October, with another reported on 7th November; and between one and three were reported from the NWR between the 19th and 23rd October. Inland, one was seen at Llanvaches on 5th November. Given the number seen in the hills of Glamorgan many must have passed through unnoticed.
  • Yellow-browed Warbler – A single bird was seen at Blackrock on 22nd October (J. Bennett). This is potentially just the fourth county record. Boy, are we starved of decent passerines round here!
  • Spotted Flycatcher – The only migrant noted was one at the NWR on 2nd September.
  • Bearded Tit – The birds at the NWR continued to be reported throughout the period with a maximum of five on 19th October.
  • Great Grey Shrike – A bird was near Ynysddu on 1st November (I. Walker).
  • Brambling – Migrants were noted at the NWR on the 5th and 9th of November and another was at Llandogo on the 12th.
  • Hawfinch – Two records were noted, two were at Llanover on 20th October and five flew west over Goldcliff Point on 5th November. The latter record may well have been part of the influx into the UK occurring at the time, presumably involving continental birds.
  • Snow Bunting – A single, secondhand report, was logged involving a single bird at the NWR in late November (per K. Jones).
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