Saturday, 3 May 2008

TABCG Wales Trip 4th May 2008.

The Last Stand

The TABCG Wales trip is always a great day out with the chance to see many of the Welsh specialities and also some great scenery. Dipper, Wood Warbler, Raven are just a few of the species we hoped to see on a day visit that would incorporate Gwent Levels, Newport Wetlands and the Elan Valley.

The first stop was at Gwent Levels where the usual Chiffchaff greeted us for the third year running from the same tree near the car park, we made our way towards the first screen which looks out across the wetlands. Looking out over the wetlands we soon viewed Shelduck, Common Sandpiper, Ringed & Little Ringed Plover, Whimbrel amongst the more common species. The reeds played host to Sedge Warbler and many of the hedges and thickets had Common Whitethroat singing from them, as we approached the second screen I picked up on a sharp, harsh "tak" call coming from the thicket behind the screen and by the time almost everybody from the group joined us a Lesser Whitethroat appeared from the undergrowth and showed fantastically well. From the second viewing screen we had better views of the wetlands and soon found 2 Avocets.

We then headed off to the new RSPB Newport Wetlands reserve, we haven't been to this site for a few years during which time the reserve centre has been built with a number of amenities. We headed out towards the reserve with the song of both Blackcap & Whitethroat in our ears shortly followed by a distant Chiffchaff. As we made our way along the path and through the reedbeds both Sedge & Reed Warbler were in good voice and often gave good views as they swayed in the wind at the top of the reeds, Little Grebes were busy feeding in the dykes between the reedbeds and occasionally a Cetti's Warbler would burst in to song. We approached the sea wall and a Cuckoo soon began to call from one of the pylons giving brief views before it flew off to a different location and again resumed it's call. Looking out from the sea wall a Raven was spotted flying over and a few Whimbrel & Curlew were dotted about the mudflats, Roy Rose soon picked up on a Black Tern as it flew in to view from the sea and followed that up with 2 Wheatears along the front of the wall. We then heard a Bearded Tit calling nearby and soon had very good views of a female perched in the top of the reeds next to where we were standing, it remained in view for sometime giving everybody the chance to get a good view of it.

Off to our favoured Dipper site on the River Usk next and by the time we had assembled on the bridge I had found a single individual hiding on some rocks along the side of the river, it remained standing on the rock long enough to give good views. Nuthatch, Grey Wagtail, Common Sandpiper and a pair of Goosanders were also seen and both Mistle Thrush and House Sparrow were seen gathering nest material.

Off to the Elan Valley next and as we arrived the first bird song to be heard as we got out of the car was a Wood Warbler, the coin spinning call echoed out across the valley and immediately lifted the sprits knowing that they were still breeding here, a very uplifting song from this fast declining species.

We started the walk up the hill soon finding our first target species as we came across a Wood Warbler with a male Pied Flycatcher in an adjacent tree, a short distance along the path a Willow Warbler called from the tree canopy followed by another Wood Warbler and shortly after came a female Pied Flycatcher. As we reached the first turn in the path to take us further up the hillside another Wood Warbler showed incredibly well, we stood beneath the tree it was perched in and watched as this small Warbler which migrates all the way from sub-Saharan forests singing with all it's might, we watched as the birds body quivered as it sang it's coin spinning trill, a remarkable little bird and the brightest of all the British leaf Warblers. After the Wood Warbler flew to another tree I picked up on a bird singing from further back in the trees, the song was too long and hurried to be a Blackcap and after a search of the trees I found a Garden Warbler perched nearby, it gave good views for a good few minutes before heading off further in the woods. Roy and I soon found a male Redstart singing from the same area which hung around for a few of the group to see before it to headed off. Along the path we continued until we came to the Tawny Owl nest box which seemed empty so we carried on up the path finding Nuthatch, Chiffchaff and another Garden Warbler. At the top of the hill a Tree Pipit could be heard calling and soon after passed overhead. On our way back down the hill we Stopped at the Owl box again to see if there were any occupants inside, this time we were lucky and could see at least two Tawny Owl chicks peering back at us from the back of the box, still covered in their white down their big brown eyes watched our every move until we moved on. I was disappointed to hear that we missed two Hen Harriers passing over by other members of the group but by the end of the visit to Elan we had seen 10 of the British Warblers which wasn't bad going.

We left Elan and headed up into the hills before we headed home seeing a number of meadow Pipits perched on the fence posts next to the road as we drove to our last stop. Arriving at a regular stop off point on previous visits we scanned the hills and I wasn't long before we saw Wheatear, Meadow Pipit and a passing Raven. Red Kite & Buzzard drifted slowly over the hills and our first Peregrine of the day made an appearance. A Whinchat soon followed and surprisingly a Snipe flushed from the ground near us and flew down next to the car park. As we continued to scan the hills Derek McEwan had walked along the stream finding a Dipper which certainly came as a surprise to me as I had looked on previous years to no avail. The day ended well with Pete Hickman spotting a male Hen harrier drifting over the hill tops which made up for missing the two at the Elan Valley.

A fantastic day's birding and well worth the visit.

Added To My Year List.

163. Lesser Whitethroat
164. Raven
165. Black Tern
166. Dipper
167. Wood Warbler
168. Pied Flycatcher
169. Redstart
170. Tree Pipit
171. Whinchat

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