Our first destination as always was Goldcliff, Gwent, where shortly after parking the cars we heard a singing Lesser Whitethroat followed by another rattling from the bushes next to the car park, it didn’t take long to see them as both flew from thickets with one showing briefly before disappearing in to the undergrowth. A Willow Warbler then commenced singing followed by a Chiffchaff from the same tree it has called from on each of our yearly visits, I'd still love to know if it’s the same bird or whether it’s just the best tree to sing from. Just before we set off in to the site a Wheatear appeared briefly. We made our way towards the viewing screens bypassing the first two and making our way to the third screen in the hope that the Spoonbill that had been present for the last few days would be still around. Unfortunately it wasn’t but the lagoons/pools held a good number of other species with the best being at least 14 Avocet and a flock of 40+ Black-tailed Godwits which just as we were searching through for Barwits were flushed by a incoming Peregrine. The Blackwits circled round and landed even further away from us and it wasn’t till i had got home that i noticed one of them was ringed, because of the distance I'm having a few problems noting the exact colours from the photograph. The birds left leg from top to bottom looks like Blue over Yellow and the birds right leg from top to bottom is Red Flag over Yellow over ????? A bit more dectective work is definately needed when i get time.
A Raven also put in a appearance as it drifted over the pools at low level.
By this point we had walked west and all the way along the sea footpath and reached the RSPB Newport Wetlands reserve, from here a few Reed Warblers could be heard along with Sedge Warbler and the odd Common Whitethroat. A Southern Marsh Orchid was a pleasant find. We made our way back along the footpath towards Saltmarsh Lane hearing Cetti’s Warbler and spotting a pair of Whinchat before getting back in the cars and heading off to RSPB Newport Wetlands.
At Newport Wetlands we were greeted by singing Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Lesser Whitethroat as we made our way to the visitor centre, here we decided to warm up with a cup of coffee before venturing out in to the reserve. A familiar face soon appeared in the form of Mathew Meehan and we were soon chatting away, we got talking about the Oriental Turtle Dove at Chipping Norton and Mathew told me he had made the journey on the first day of the mega twitch and had seen me pass by No 41 The Leys as he waited on the doorstep, he had recognised me by my ever present pair of VANS that are attached to my feet most of the time, we both looked down and of course i was wearing them.
Once we’d warmed up and finished our beverages it was time to head out in to the reserve, It was a bit windy and not particularly good weather for one of a target species which was Bearded Tit or Titw Barfog in Welsh, we had seen them quite regularly on our previous trips here but today it didn’t look too promising. Sedge and Reed Warbler were present along with Common Whitethroat but there was no sign of any Bearded Tit, more unusual was the fact that we hadn’t heard a Cuckoo yet and having now visited 2 sites where we had seen them in the past it didn’t bode well. On the way out of the reserve a Lesser Whitethroat was rattling away from the hedgerow next to the visitor centre.
Nearly 2 hours later we arrived at the Elan Valley visitor centre where we parked up and had a spot to eat, there were a few blue skies which at times became shrouded with cloud but generally it was quite pleasant weather. Much like our previous stops again the water levels seemed very low. We then started our ascent towards Cnwch Wood finding Redstart and Wood Warbler singing at the bottom of the footpath followed further along the path by Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Garden Warbler, Blackcap and then Pied Flycatcher, a distant Nuthatch called and small groups of both Siskin and Lesser Redpoll passed over back and forth.
A pair of Ravens flew through the valley “Kronking” as they went and further along the path one of the resident Tawny Owls had a chick in one of the viewable nest boxes. Whilst we were viewing the nest box a Tree Pipit called from further up the path but despite searching it couldn’t be located. Finally our first Cuckoo was heard but sadly not seen as it called across the valley. By this point we were almost at the top and while a number of the group decided to turn round and take a slow walk back down the hill the remainder of us continued to the top in the hope that we might locate something special.
The habitat around the Elan Valley is ideal for Ring Ouzel but surprisingly we never manage to find any on our travels, well up until now that is. As we looked across the hills and woodland from the footpath a Redstart appeared on a fence post, agonisingly it dropped out of sight almost instantly and whilst we waited for it to appear again we scanned the surrounding hills and thickets. The Redstart didn’t show but instead one of the group spotted a Ring Ouzel foraging on the hillside, although slightly distant we got good views as it hopped around the outcrops and it was certainly a welcome sighting which rounded off our visit to the Elan Valley.
We left Elan Valley visitor centre and made our way up in to the hills before we headed home stopping at a small reserve on the side of a lake. A quick walk through the woods to a dam brought with it a few singing Blackcap and a solitary singing Willow Warbler and a distant calling Cuckoo.
Our last stop found us high up in the hills with great views of a number of Meadow Pipits perched on fence posts as we drove to our final destination. Sadly it was very quiet with few birds to be seen, a single male Wheatear showed briefly as did a rather tatty House Sparrow that didn’t seem to have any tail feathers and looked rather out of place.