Autumn migration spectacular at the Goldcliff Lagoons.

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What an amazing days birdwatching today with sixty species seen, glorious autumn sun shine and perfect light conditions. I was joined by a good friend from Ross-on-Wye and birds seen en-route to the hides included Robin, Magpies, Pied Wagtails, Woodpigeons, Crows, Herring Gulls, Mallards, Mute Swans, Moorhens, Wren, Starlings, Stock Dove, Chaffinches, Great Tits, Goldfinches, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Stonechat and a pair of Common Buzzards.

There was very obvious migrating movements under way with Sand Martins aerial feeding with nearly three hundred Swallows and six hundred House Martins. How many of these seen today will be roosting in a reedbed in France by sunset? What an inspiring thought. One hundred Meadow Pipits was counted with three Yellow Wagtails, six Skylarks, Siskin’s, a juvenile and an adult White Wagtails, a Whinchat and a Cettis Warbler was heard calling too.

On the lagoons themselves the species continued to impress with good counts of waders and water birds seen such as twelve Curlew, ninety eight Lapwing, six Dunlin, seven Greenshanks, seventy six Shoveler, ninety four Teal, sixty three Redshanks, a lovely pair of Spotted Redshanks feeding close in, eighteen Avocets and five Ruff.

A skein of two hundred and ninety one Canada Geese flew through with a single Bar-Headed Goose mixed in (where has this one been hiding for the past few months). The birds kept getting better with thirteen Black Tailed Godwits seen and three Little Stints showing well from hide three. A single Wigeon was found roosting, their numbers should be quite high by now.

Three Snipe were seen from hide three along with a Little Grebe, Cormorant, Grey Herons, Little Egrets, a pair of Gadwall, twenty Shelduck and a Whinchat. Only one of the six Wheatears remain now – it’s amazing to think this one and the others will soon be feeding amongst the feet of Zebras in West Africa, an impressive journey. A Skylark (picture below) flew down to feed for a while with the Wheatear.

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Fungi with a fun guy!

Despite the heavy showers, we took a walk through the Draethen Beech Woods this morning knowing that the conditions would be good for fungi. I was not to be disappointed either as the warm weather with a good mix of rain had brought an interesting mix into fruit.

Shaggy Scalycap

First to be seen was a clump of Sulphur Tufts showing off their orange colours in the sunshine (between the showers). Birch Polypore and Common Ganoderma (Artists Fungus) was plentiful with the latter showing signs of having released the distinctive brown spores that cover everything around it.

A nice little clump of Shaggy Scalycaps was found at the base of a Beech tree (picture above) with a large group of Trooping Crumble Caps close by and Milk White Russulas formed a dense group on the floor of the coniferous forest.

Blushing Bracket and Common Puffballs were evident along with groups of one of my favourite fungi – Slimy Beech Caps (below) – they really are slimy to the touch and form bright white delicate clumps on the Beech trees which give them their name.

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Apart from the fungi, there was an interesting mix of birds about too such as Buzzard, a mixed feeding flock of Great, Blue, Coal and Long Tailed Tits (they flock together during the autumn and winter as there is safety in numbers). A Treecreeper spiralled its way up a tree close by, several Nuthatches called and Siskin’s flew overhead calling as they went by.

Field Scabious and Dog’s Mercury was prominent and a Burdock plant had a Green Shield Bug (below) feeding on the flowers.

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A rainy sea watch.

Despite the weather, the destination today was Porthcawl sea front where there is a very handy sewage outlet building that has a very convenient overhanging roof – ideal to stand under to keep dry whilst scanning out over the sea.

A few hours spent here this morning was rewarding with some interesting species seen starting with a distant Shearwater picked up in our telescopes. The dark back and light underneath showed it to be a Manx Shearwater.

This was a good start on a miserable morning and two Gannets out over the sea showed well, a first year bird and an adult. The usual suspects were close by such as Black Headed Gulls – one eating a fat chip it had picked up from somewhere, several Crows and several Herring Gulls.

A pair of Kittiwakes flew past close in showing the distinctive dark trailing edge to the wings. They looked stunning as they flew effortlessly past.

A single Turnstone flew very close in hugging the shoreline and was later followed by five more.

Finally a pair of Sandwich Terns flew slowly past soon followed by two more.

A drive down to the Ogmore Estuary (taking advantage of the Sun breaking through the clouds)gave us Cormorants, Mallards, Mute Swans, one hundred and eighty five Canada Geese, a Rock Pipit calling, a Common Sandpiper flying past low and fast, Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Grey Heron, several Swallows and House Martins, Siskins and a single Blackbird.

Southern Hawker Dragonflies

Southern Hawker

Dragonflies are stunning insects, often brightly coloured and amazing to watch as they skim, dart and fly around ponds and vegetation, the strong wings buzzing when they pass close by you.

During a recent trip to Goldcliff (near Newport) I was able to get these shots of a pair of Southern Hawkers mating. The mating technique in Dragonflies is very unique. To mate successfully, the male grips hold of a female literally by the scruff of the neck with ‘claspers’ at the tip of the abdomen.

The pair are literally in tandem and it is not uncommon to see a pair clasped together in flight. I was lucky here though in that this pair were on the ground and the male was busy going about his business, too busy to be bothered by my camera.

The above shot shows the amazing compound eyes with the below shot showing the male (on the right) and the female joined together (pictures copyright ND).

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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.

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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.