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.

screen after

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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School Nature Walk, Tal-y-Bont On Usk, July 23rd.

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Above: Dipper on the Caerfannel River, Tal-y-Bont (copyright ND).

This walk was arranged in conjunction with Anna at the Star Inn in Tal-y-bont and involved fifteen children from Llangynidr Primary School being led by myself on a nature walk around the Usk Valley. The weather was good and along with several parents we set off. I had already walked the route that morning to find items of interest for the group. This started with stopping to look at a group of Rose Bay Willowherb growing and explaining how it got it’s nickname of ‘Fireweed’ (it grows after the ground has been burnt or disturbed as the seeds lie dormant for many years). It was particularly abundant during the blitz of World War II after the ground was disturbed after the bombing. Next I showed the group a pile of feather remains belonging to a Woodpigeon and explained that this was likely to be the result of a kill by a Sparrowhawk. We found three other Woodpigeon feather piles on the walk. Various plants were pointed out along this section including Wild Arum with its bright red berries, Greater Plantain (and its nickname of Rats Tail Plantain), Goosegrass (Common Cleavers) – the children loved this one as they stick to fleeces and other clothing, Meadowsweet with its root that resemble the smell of Germaline and Cow Parsley.

A Golden Ringed Dragonfly was spotted and then we made our way down to the river stopping to look at Himalayan Balsam and then the large Oak tree where we played a group game involving the parents representing trees which are cut down one by one and the children being the animals that depend on them and appreciating how less and less trees can become and how much more they would be dependant on the remaining trees for their survival – a great way to understand deforestation and habitat loss and good fun for the parents too, particularly the last one that had all the children/wildlife surrounding her.

We stopped to look under some logs for insects to tick off the colour charts that were provided and found Earthworm, Woodlouse, Common Slug, Red Ant, Cricket, and Ground Beetles. I lifted a nearby log to show the group a stash of Hazelnuts that had been stored by rodents, and the group were amazed to see the tiny teeth marks on some of the opened shells. I explained that some were made by Woodmice due to the angle of the teeth marks and others that had been split open by Squirrels.

A Dipper was briefly seen flying upstream and some Crow feathers were found offering a chance to explain what a feather is made of and how it works. A large Sandstone slab next to the river was shown to the group explaining its approximate age and showing the ripples across the surface made by the flow of the water over the mud as it settled in layers.

We returned to the Star Inn for refreshments and ended the walk with a quiz showing some wildlife artefacts I brought along. The winner got a prize of a nest box.

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Sand Martins and more.

Sand Martin

Above: Several Sand Martins resting from a group of around fifty (copyright ND).

Goldcliff Lagoons near Newport produced plenty of interesting birds today with three singing Reed Warblers, Cettis Warbler calling and a male Hobby flying over the first hide. From this hide we watched Little Egrets, forty Lapwing, one hundred and thirty two Common Redshanks (no sign of the Spotted Redshank today), nine Oystercatchers, four Ringed Plovers and a family group of Little Ringed Plovers – two adults and three fully grown chicks. Another adult was seen elsewhere on the lagoons. A female Kestrel was hovering above the sea wall.

From the second hide was a pair of Greenshanks, eighteen Black Tailed Godwits and a first-year Great Black-backed Gull. The nearby viewing platform offered lovely views of three summer plumaged Knot showing some striking red on their bellies with forty eight Dunlin, fourteen Teal, a female Ruff (or Reeve) and forty five Lapwing mixed in. A Common Buzzard flew across and caused a stir amongst the waders.

Numerous Meadow Brown butterflies were feeding everywhere and several Broad Bodied Chaser dragonflies were on the wing. A single Red Admiral butterfly was seen also.
Knot

Above: Summer plumaged Knot (copyright ND).

By the time we reached the sea wall the tide had receded and twelve Curlew could be seen feeding on the exposed mud along with thirty six Shelduck (three of which were fully grown chicks). Four Avocets was a nice surprise and a family group of Pied Wagtails were fluttering about on the sea wall. Finally from the third hide we saw a Little Grebe diving in the shallow water, a Stock Dove feeding on the edge of the vegetation and a male peregrine Falcon appeared above the lagoons and also caused a stir amongst the waders and hirundines.

Back at the car I noticed a large area of Agrimony growing forming talk stalks covered with delicate yellow flowers (see image below – copyright ND).

Agrimony

Cranes

There are a pair of Common Cranes at the Goldcliff Lagoons in Newport at the moment. They were showing well from the first hide.

Black Tailed Godwit numbers have increased to over forty and the summer plumaged Spotted Redshank is still present.

Black Tailed Godwit

Goldcliff Lagoons Newport – Birds Galore!

IMG_1549 roosting birds

Well what a fantastic visit today with two guests from Caerphilly who were interested in me showing them what was on offer at the lagoons. They were impressed with the variety of species on offer. As we walked to the first hide we watched Goldfinches, Common Whitethroat, Swallows, House Sparrow, Wren, Chiffchaff, Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Moorhen, Reed Warbler, Common Buzzard, Woodpigeons, Meadow Pipits, Ravens, Skylark, Reed Bunting, Magpies, Common Swifts, a family group of Pied Wagtails, Starlings and Linnets.

High tide had brought in numerous waders to the lagoons and from the first hide we saw a female Marsh Harrier hunting along with twenty one Little Egrets (my highest count here), Grey Herons, Lapwing, 150 Common Redshanks (also my highest count here), twenty six Oystercatchers (one with a chick), Canada Geese and a flock of three hundred and sixty eight Black Headed Gulls – we scanned through the flock but there were no surprises mixed in. A Little Ringed Plover had three chicks in tow and a pair of Ringed Plovers fed a bit further away. Common Blue

From the second hide the species grew in diversity with a single Bar Tailed Godwit in full breeding plumage along with thirteen Dunlin, four Black Tailed Godwits, three Wigeon, four Greenshanks, two Knot and a first-year Great Black-backed Gull. Numerous Sand Martins were aerial feeding over the lagoons with House Martins and Swallows mixed in.

At hide three we watched a Little Grebe, several Coot, a pair of Tufted Ducks, Mute Swan, Curlew and a flock of fifteen Avocets on the water. The bird of the day for me though was seeing a dark bird in amongst some distant Common Redshanks – and there it was, a Spotted Redshank in full breeding plumage. What a stunning looking bird it was too. It fed for some time before eventually moving out of sight. A male Broad Bodied Chaser dragonfly was seen on the return to the car park.