Thursday, 14 May 2009

TABCG Wales Trip - 03/05/09


We arrived at Goldcliff to glorious sunshine and parked up in the small car park at the entrance to the reserve. As we got out of the car a Chiffchaff greeted us with it's song, amazingly from the same tree as in the previous two years trips, whether it's the same individual each year is another question but is does seem that it's waiting for our arrival each year!

After we had grabbed a quick bite of food, our scopes and binoculars the group headed through the gate and along the track next to the wetlands getting views of Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Common Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler along the hedgerows. After assembling at the first screen we viewed the reserve, Avocet, Little Egret, Shelduck, Oystercatcher, Redshank & Ringed Plover being the more interesting species present.


Plenty of Skylark and Meadow Pipit activity in front of the screen with one individual sitting on the post in front of us while it preened, surprisingly no Curlew or Whimbrel which we could normally guarantee seeing.

Meadow Pipit

Viewing the wetlands from the second screen found a single Bar-headed Goose and Barnacle Goose hiding in the grass, presumably both are escapees from Slimbridge. No sight or sound from Lesser Whitethroat which we have been treated to in previous years but did have a Cuckoo calling from the field behind the reserve for most of the visit. we left Goldcliff with the car park Chiffchaff doing his bit and a male Blackcap skulking in the bushes below him.

A short drive and we soon arrived at Newport Wetlands RSPB, from the car park we soon heard Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler calling and after assembling ourselves we headed towards the reserve centre. Whilst I was hoping that the Subalpine Warbler that had been seen the weekend before would still be present I wasn't very optimistic, sadly the Subalpine Warbler hadn't been seen for a few days and although I was disappointed there would still be plenty to see.

Newport Wetlands RSPB

Walking out into the reserve from the RSPB centre we were greeted with a Cuckoo calling long and hard from a nearby tree, plenty of Warblers skulking in the hedgerows which included Blackcap, Common & Lesser Whitethroat. I was tuned in to the Lesser Whitethroat call due to our garden visitor only days before and Roy and I waited for it to show, it didn't and as the rest of the group left us and began to head towards the reserve we left the Lesser Whitethroat hoping to catch views of it on the way out. We caught up with the group at the entrance to the reserve and in good time as a Cetti's Warbler burst in to song quickly followed by another at the other end of a long thicket, we waited and listened to them as they continued their rivalry by song, each bird bursting in to song as the other finished. We had a few brief views and then headed in to the reserve. The reedbeds were a hive of activity and we quickly spotted Sedge Warbler as a singing bird edged it's way up a reed stem in full view, Sedge Warblers could be heard singing throughout the reeds and the gentle breeze often showed individuals as the reeds parted in the wind. We headed towards the East Usk Lighthouse stopping at the first viewing screens on either side of the path that view the waterways, they had little activity with a few ducks but little else until somebody called 'Bearded Tit'. I quickly looked through the scope to find a female at the top of the reeds which soon dropped to the bottom of the reeds and out of sight, it was so quick that most of the group missed it and it was then that everybody searched the reeds intently in the hope of finding another. We didn't have to wait too long and by the end of the visit everybody in the group had one or two good views of them.

Common Whitethroat

Feral Rock Dove

We carried on towards the East Usk Lighthouse crossing over the rubber walkway and through the dense reedbeds on each side, you really get the feel of the reedbeds as you pass over the water beneath you and cross into the reeds. Looking out to sea from the lighthouse we could see the tide was out but there was nothing to be seen across the mudflats, we continued along the pathway hearing and seeing Reed & Sedge Warbler and a few Common Whitethroats put on good shows as they sang from he top of many of the thickets and bushes along the path. Another view across the mudflats and out to sea brought a few distant waders in to view but sadly they were just too far to identify.

Sedge Warbler

We had a long day ahead of us so we headed back to the centre for a quick coffee and use of the amenities before we headed off to look for Dipper at our regular site. Making our way back to the reserve centre we stopped at the viewing screens again where we got fantastic views of a pair of Little Grebes with four young in tow, each adult had two young with them and they dived for small fry below us which they then fed to their young. We continued on to the centre where Roy and I stopped at the hedgerow hoping that the Lesser Whitethroat would show itself, after a few minutes we got some great views as it appeared at the top of the thickets along the edge of the path and then later by the car park.

Little Grebe
Little Grebe

After leaving Newport Wetlands we headed off to our regular Dipper site on the River Usk, on arrival we searched some of the regular spots and after awhile we finally found a Dipper along the river bank. No Goosander or Common Sandpiper this time but we did mange to see Grey Wagtail. The Dipper eventually showed well allowing everybody in the group to get a good view as it preened on a rock on the side of the river and by the time we left we had also seen another flying along the river.

River Usk

Our next stop was the Elan Valley, this is one of my favourite locations on the Wales trip and gives an excellent opportunity to see Pied Flycatcher and Wood Warbler up close. As we entered the pathway up the side of the Elan Valley we soon were gifted great views of a singing male Pied Flycatcher in the trees next to the path, he continued to flit through the trees before being lost to view amongst one of the Oak trees. As the Pied Flycatcher disappeared from sight we were soon picked up on the unmistakable "spinning coin" trill of a Wood Warbler and didn't have to wait long before we spotted it as it flew into the trees in front of us. we hadn't walked more than 25ft and already seen two of the key species of the day and I decided to get the camera at the ready, digiscoping isn't easy here due to most of the birds flitting around in the tree tops and not sitting still for too long. As we made our way along the path and up the hill we soon spotted Redstart, Willow Warbler, Garden Warbler, Nuthatch and Siskin amongst some of the commoner members of the Tit family, a few more Wood Warblers and Pied Flycatchers were also seen and further up the path we managed to see a Tawny Owl in one of the nestboxes

Wood Warbler

On the way back down we added Goldcrest and Treecreeper to the day list and again had great views of Pied Flycatcher and Wood Warbler, approaching the car park 2 "Kronking" Ravens drifted over the hills. This is where we said our goodbyes before heading for home, the rest of the group headed to the Rhayader hills where they saw Wheatear, Whinchat and Stonechat.

Elan Valley
Photos from previous trips can be found on the TABCG website here

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