Peterstone Sluice Farm – Birds and Butterflies.

There was a lovely mix of birds this morning and the predicted bad weather stayed away too. Swallows are clearly moving now migrating back to West Africa but still no Redwings overhead on migration in the evenings (listen for their ‘seep seep’ calls).

A Kingfisher flew off from the inlet gate as I arrived and on the inlet itself was a lone Little Egret, a Cormorant and several Mallards. Large and Small White and Common Blue butterflies were plentiful feeding on an abundance of flowers including Yarrow and Fleabane. On the exposed mud leading down to the sea wall was Common Redshanks, Grey Herons and overhead was a male Kestrel and a female Sparrowhawk hunting. A Yellow Wagtail and Siskin’s were heard calling and three Stock Doves flew across the mudflats.

The tide was out so there was plenty of exposed mud and plenty of birds too including a White Wagtail feeding on the rocks of the shoreline, a late Whimbrel which was nice to see, three Pintail, three Wigeon, eight Teal, forty eight Curlew, seventy seven Oystercatchers, two Great Black-backed Gulls, six Ringed Plovers, four Lapwing and twenty one Dunlin.

Seventeen Carrion Crows were feeding in the crop field and Meadow Brown butterflies were out in good numbers. A single Clouded Yellow butterfly showed briefly.

Guided walks for 2015

Please use the bookings page to reserve your places or for further information.

We have a list of upcoming walks and talks available open to anyone. Bring a drink and a bite to eat.
There are several exciting guided walks coming up this autumn covering many different habitats and a host of great species. Prices are set at £5 per person and sorry no dogs allowed. All of the walks are ideal for the beginner or intermediate who wish to improve their skills or simply learn about what is out and about. With the birds, all calls and songs will be pointed out and tips on recognising each species given.

Goldcliff Lagoons near Newport. There are several autumn trips planned to look at waders such as ringed plovers, curlew sandpipers, common sandpipers, greenshanks, little stints, ruff, curlews and much more. There will be a nice variety of ducks too including 500+ wigeon, shoveler, pintail, gadwall and others. Black redstart, merlin and marsh harriers are likely along with some surprises. We will visit the three hides and a viewing platform and enjoy views over the mudflats from the sea wall for more waders and gulls.
Meet at the entrance at 9am. Dates include Saturday October 3rd and Saturday 7th November. Car sharing may be available. Two miles and easy going.

Kenfig National Nature Reserve near Bridgend. We will be taking a stroll down to the bird hide for views over the huge pool for great crested and little grebes, a variety of ducks and waders and possibly tern species. Bittern and water rail are possible and the willows sometimes hold specialities such as firecrest. We will walk through the dunes where short eared owl is likely and down to Sker Beach to see more waders. A short walk to Sker Rocks to look for purple sandpiper, turnstone and other species will take us back through fields where pipits, wagtails, skylarks and 500+ golden plovers will be our species to look out for. Raptors are highly likely too and it is likely we will see well over fifty species on this walk. Meet at the reserve car park at 9.30am on Saturday 24th November. Five miles and easy going pace.

Winter Thrushes galore.
This walk will take us into the highest dune system in Europe – Merthyr Mawr near Bridgend. We will stroll down to the edge of the Ogmore Estuary and follow this along to Newton Beach looking at the many birds feeding along the way including goldeneye and other ducks, a variety of waders, kingfisher and gull which can hold some surprises such as Mediterranean gull. There have been some rarities along here too over the years. Water pipit is possible. A short walk along Newton beach will see us walking into the dunes and following the paths into where an abundance of sea buckthorn bushes hold billions of yellow berries which attract thousands of redwings and fieldfares. You will be amazed by the sight of thousands of these birds feeding on the berries.
Meet at the car park (£2.50) charge in the village of Merthyr Mawr at 9.30am on Saturday 12th of December. Five miles, quite easy going.

For dates of availability for the below courses and enquiries please use the bookings page.

Bird identification and skills courses.
Finally we have two one day courses available (dates to be set by yourself at a venue and time suitable to you). The first part of the course is classroom based followed by an afternoon guided walk to put your new found knowledge and skills into practice.

Our first course is how to improve your bird identification skills looking at sight and song and recognising them, tips of bird recognition, how to use a field guide correctly to eliminate the species down to the one you are watching, how feathers work, beaks and feet and looking for bird signs such as tracks, feathers, tree holes, pellets etc.

We also provide courses on how to set up a bird or wildlife survey looking at assessing the area you need to survey, setting out your routes to maximise the species you will see, what to look for, dos and don’ts, how to record the species you see, preparing and presenting a report.

Robins Pin Cushion

The Robins Pin Cushion (Diploepis rosae) can grow up to 25mm across.

It is a bright red colour forming a bush that uses a host species such as Dog Rose.

It forms a chamber in which a Gall Wasp is developing inside. Sometimes other species of Gall Wasp can get inside the chamber and so several different species may emerge.

Where host plants occur it is common and widespread.

Pincushion

Red Admiral Butterfly.

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This is certainly one of our prettiest butterflies in my opinion to be found in the British Isles, striking vibrant colours and always an attention grabber.

The Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta), started off with the name Admirable in teh 18th century due to the bright colours, and the modern name we see today followed.

At one time this butterfly was also called the Alderman in reference to wings resembling the robes of noblemen.

It’s presence in Britain depends on the influxes of migrants from the Continent every year. The first are arriving in May. It is a fast flyer and will chase away other butterfly species. It often rests and opens the wings to absorb the sun revealing the stunning colours.

This species of butterfly is unusual in that it can also occasionally be seen flying at night. It drinks water from puddles and sap from trees.

In teh wild it feeds on the nectar of Teasel, Scabious, Clover and the flowers of Ivy.

Plants and Fungi walk

A lovely walk this morning along the Cefn Onn Ridge near Thornhill (Cardiff) to look for autumn fungi. There was an interesting mix of birds too seen along the route including Nuthatches, Raven, Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers, Siskin, a pair of Sparrowhawks circling over the quarry and a Tawny Owl which flew out of a tree as I walked past.

Puffball

However the walk was to see what autumn species of plant and fungi was about and the list was interesting, starting with a lovely Common Puffball (picture above, copyright ND), Blushing Brackets, Birch Mazegill, a very large group of Trooping Crumble Caps, some young Birch Polypores and some Dryads Saddle which unfortunately had gone over. A nice group of Cramp Balls was growing on an Ash tree and some Ganoderma or Artists Fungus had totally eaten into a Beech tree with the brown spores covering everything around it, including some spider webs.

Plants were plentiful too with some interesting species found such as several Common Twayblades (a member of the Orchid family), carpets of Dog’s Mercury in the woodland and a good covering of Ground Ivy too with a few Enchanter’s Nightshades mixed in. Meadowsweet and Bird’s Foot Trefoil (picture below, copyright ND).

Trefoil The lovely yellow flowers of Trefoil.

In a damp meadow the recent Common Spotted Orchids had gone over but there was plenty of colour from other species such as Marsh Thistle, Meadow Buttercup, Sorrel. Devil’s Bit scabious and Lesser Stitchwort. Numerous Cross Spider webs were covered with a light dew.

On the edge of the nearby disused quarry I found a plant I had been waiting patiently to see – the Autumn Gentian. Patches of Eyebright, Carlisle Thistle, Weld and the delicate blue flowers of Harebell were close by.

Gentian

More migration news.

Ruff

The migration down at the Goldcliff Reserve continues with three Whinchats seen from the front of the first hide. Teal numbers have increased to one hundred and forty eight and nine Avocets was a nice surprise out on the mudflats.

Ten Ruff was a nice surprise and Greenshank numbers have also increased to ten. Common Snipe were counted at nine and several Yellow Wagtails are still lingering.

A newly emerged Small Tortoiseshell butterfly was nice to see along with several Common blues and Gatekeepers.

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Migration

Well what a fantastic day at the Goldcliff Lagoons today with a friend of mine Dan Webb. We seen sixty species (the most I have seen here) starting with en-route to the first hide Blue Tits, House Martins, Woodpigeon, Jackdaws, Chiffchaffs, Common Buzzard, House Sparrows, Goldfinches, Magpie, Wren, Carrion Crows, two juvenile Green Woodpeckers, Robin, Swallows, Kingfisher flying over a reen, Lesser Whitethroat, Starlings, Song Thrush, a first-year Lesser Black-backed Gull, Linnets and a female Reed Bunting.

The bird watching just got better and better and from Hide One we watched three Grey Herons, two hundred and forty eight Black Headed Gulls, two hundred and twenty five Ringed Plovers, three hundred and thirty two Dunlin (one with colour rings on its legs which we are going to try and establish its history), eight Greenshank (picture of one of these at the bottom), seven Little Egrets, Mallards, three first-year Great Black-backed Gulls, Cormorant and an adult female Marsh Harrier hunting.

From Hide Two we watched two Ruff and noticed the Teal numbers have rapidly increased to one hundred twenty six birds, twenty six Shoveler (their numbers are also increasing), Canada Geese, two Knot and small groups of Sand Martins passing through. The new platform gave us views of three Common Snipe, twenty Black Tailed Godwits, juvenile Moorhens and a Skylark.

A White Wagtail was feeding with several Yellow Wagtails by the sea wall and out on the mudflats was fifteen Oystercatchers, sixty seven Curlew (no whimbrel today), an adult Great Black-backed Gull and four Shelduck. From Hide Three we watched a female Sparrowhawk hunting over the lagoons and surprisingly the male too about forty minutes later. A Common Sandpiper was also seen from here.

As we walked back towards teh car park we seen a Raven but had a stunning view of a male Goshawk flying just above the field and trying to catch the local birds. It flew right past us showing the distinctive eye stripe and the barring across the chest. A pair of Broad Bodied Chaser dragonflies and several Gatekeeper butterflies were also seen.

Greenshank

Goldcliff Lagoons – Warblers and Waders

An early start today paid off with plenty of bird song and some interesting sightings too. Butterflies were out in force especially the Meadow Browns with a Common Blue, Small White, Large White and several small and dainty Gatekeepers mixed in (also known as Hedge Browns).

En-route to Hide One I watched House Martins, Wren, Magpie, House Sparrow, Chaffinch (a male in striking breeding colours), Blue Tits, Blackbird, Woodpigeons, Carrion Crows, Pied Wagtails, Swallows, Dunnock and several Herring Gulls. Other common species were seen from the first hide such as Linnets, Green Woodpecker (heard calling), numerous adult and juvenile Starlings, several Sand Martins, Meadow Pipits, Song Thrush (singing its heart out), Goldfinches feeding on the seed heads of Creeping Thistles whicha re just about shedding their seeds forming little clouds of air-borne seeds, a Skylark singing, a Chiffchaff calling, a Common Buzzard circling and giving its distinctive ‘mewing’ call and a Reed Warbler calling.

Water birds included four Grey Herons, three Little Egrets, forty five Lapwing, Canada Geese, Black Headed Gulls, Mallards, a male Peregrine flying off towards the power station, eighteen Dunlin and two Raven. From Hide Two was an adult female Marsh Harrier quartering the lagoons, one Ringed Plover and eleven Teal. A Yellow Wagtail called as it flew overhead.

Below: Dunlin enjoying the food source found in the mud of the lagoons (copyright ND).

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The lagoon from the nearby viewing platform seen most of the action however with five Greenshanks, thirty nine Common Redshanks, one Common Sandpiper and one Common Snipe (the last two species being an unexpected surprise at this time of the year), Moorhen, a juvenile Shelduck and a Whimbrel heard.

Approaching the sea wall I stopped to watch four Yellow Wagtails feeding amongst the sheep. The wagtails have learned to exploit the many insects that follow the sheep and also get disturbed amongst the grass giving them easy pickings – especially ideal when they are on migration and needing to eat as much food as possible.

Two more Yellow Wagtails (an adult and a first year bird) was feeding by the manure pile and from the sea wall the tide was out exposing large expanses of mud where two more Dunlin fed amongst nine Ringed plovers, twenty six Oystercatchers, sixty six Curlew (with two Whimbrels mixed in), two adult Great Black-backed Gulls and numerous Herring Gulls.

Finally from Hide Three I watched a single Little Grebe, a female Kestrel hovering over the grass areas of the lagoons and suddenly a brief glimpse of a small warbler caught my attention flitting amongst the Soft Rushes in front of the hide. Unfortunately it went out of view before I could identify it, but several minutes later it re-appeared and I got a better view of the tail shape and pattern on its feathers – brilliant, a Grasshopper Warbler. What a great little bird and an end to a good mornings bird watching.

Below: Gatekeeper butterfly (copyright ND).

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Voluntary work at the Goldcliff Lagoons.

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On the 4th of August (2015) I joined a fellow birdwatcher from the Bedwas area and two staff members from Natural Resource Wales and we met at the second hide to erect a screen which had blown down during the winter gales in 2014.

The screen is made from Willow and placed between two rows of panels and acts to hide the visitor to the adjacent bird hide from the birds feeding and resting on the lagoon beyond. For obvious reasons work had to be delayed until now to allow the birds peace and quiet as they get ready to breed on the lagoons – particularly the Avocets and Redshanks.

The screen is now in place and serving it’s purpose well. There is a group called ‘Friends of the Goldcliff lagoons’ which undertakes voluntary work of this and a similar nature with the interest of the birds and wildlife at heart. Please email us for further details.

Top picture: Work before the screen was replaced and below: The finished result which blends in well with the surroundings.

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Plovers, Plovers and more Plovers.

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Above: Whimbrel – copyright ND

Well it was a great visit today to the Goldcliff Lagoons even though the Lesser Whitethroats and the Redstarts had moved through. The tide was high and this had pushed many of the waders onto the lagoons and from Hide One I watched four Little Egrets, two Grey Herons, twenty eight Lapwings, one Oystercatcher, two hundred and seventy five Black Headed Gulls and a decent number of fifteen Little Ringed Plovers. But it was the amount of Ringed Plovers that amazed me – there were small groups all over the lagoons, and although they were flighty I managed to count seventy two individuals, but I have no doubt the total number was probably over a hundred.

From the second hide was nine Teal in eclipse plumage, one female Ruff (or Reeve), Moorhen, Cormorant and twenty four Avocets which looked lovely in the bright sunlight of the early afternoon. A pair of Large Copper butterflies was a nice surprise too.

There were no Wagtail species around the manure pile by the sea wall so I continued on to Hide Three where I watched three juvenile Shelduck out on the far lagoon, seven Greenshanks, twenty two Curlew with a lovely looking Whimbrel mixed in and a Common Buzzard overhead.

A group of thirteen Linnets in front of the hide gave me a nice surprise however – as a Yellow Wagtail was mixed in with them. A large group of Starlings comprising adults and juveniles entertained us from the hide, and eleven Black Tailed Godwits finished off a delightful morning and early afternoon walk.

Below: Curlew – copyright ND.

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