Spring Birding at its Best – 25/iv/15

This visit to the wetlands followed on from a brief one a week previously on the 11/iv/15, when a summer plumage Spotted Redshank, a few Avocet and a pair of Little Ringed Plover were the highlights.

On the evening of the 24th, news had broken of a Pied-Billed Grebe, just over the bridge in Gloucestershire. With this in mind, my Dad and I set out early with the plan that we would bird at the Newport wetlands in the morning, and wait for news of the grebe.

So we found ourselves pulling into the car park at Saltmarsh Lane just after eight in the morning. Within a few minutes, we had seen a Blackcap and a Chiffchaff, and were enjoying good views of a singing Lesser Whitethroat. Moments later I noticed the reeling call of a Grasshopper Warbler, and after a short walk up the track, we saw the bird perched in the open on a Bramble patch.

P1250417 Ced P1250423 CedAs we moved up towards the Uskmouth area of the reserve, we heard a couple of Reed Warbler and Cetti’s Warbler, and saw a few Sedge Warblers. There were four Whimbrel on the mudflats and a single Curlew. A group of five Bearded Tits were heard and seen only in flight over the reedbeds east of Uskmouth and a male Whitethroat was seen in the same area.

We spent about an hour and a half birding around Uskmouth. There was a good selection of species including; Gadwall, Shoveler, Pochard, Little Egret, Stock Dove, Sand Martin, Cetti’s Warbler, Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler and Bearded Tit. The highlight was a drake Garganey which showed well from the hide, but appeared to have some minor damage to the feathers around its right eye. We also thought that it might be a young bird, as it appeared to still have some scruffy juvenile feathers.

P1250430 Ced P1250436 CedWe headed back to the car pleased with how things had gone so far. I decided to have a quick check of birdguides for news of the grebe, and found that there had been no sign of the bird that morning. I continued scrolling through the sightings, and was surprised to notice that a Hudsonian Godwit had been reported in Somerset. We were both keen to see this bird, but decided that the best course of action would be to nip over to Goldcliff for a quick visit and wait for further news.

So we arrived at Goldcliff at eleven, and headed up to the first hide. There were plenty of waders on the lagoon; 60+ Dunlin, 20+ Avocet, four Ringed Plover, a Little Ringed Plover, eight Bar-Tailed Godwits (including two summer plumage birds), four Black-Tailed Godwits (also including two summer plumage birds), 20+ Lapwing, about fifteen Redshank, four summer plumage Spotted Redshank and three Whimbrel.

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We were about to leave, when I noticed a pair of gulls flying in and quickly checked them with my bins. I was surprised to see that one of the birds was a 2nd-summer Little Gull! It flew in low and landed on the lagoon, showing very well through the scope for a few moments. moments later it took flight again, gained height and disappeared away high to the east.

A quick check of the birdguides app, confirmed that the Somerset godwit was still present, so off we went.

An hour later we had arrived and joined the massed birders at the Meare Heath reserve on the Somerset Levels. The female HUDSONIAN GODWIT was with a flock of over a hundred Black-Tailed Godwits, but was sleeping when we arrived. It still stood out from the others as it was strikingly dark, particularly on the underside. In the image below, it is the fifth bird in from the left.

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After about half an hour, it suddenly woke up and took a short flight across the lagoon, showing the black underwing coverts, dark centered feathers on the mantle and scapulars, finely barred underside and long bicoloured bill (orange at the base and black at the tip). It began to feed actively on the near side of the lagoon giving good views.

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This was only the third record of this species in Britain (and the first since 1988), and was a great bird to see.

We spent the rest of the afternoon birding the reserve and the nearby Ham Wall RSPB too. There are some remarkable species there including Britain’s only breeding Great-White Egrets. We saw several, all in breeding finery including this bird which I managed some flight shots of…

P1250508 Ced P1250509 Ced P1250512 CedWe also saw three Hobby, a Bittern (in flight only and heard ‘booming’), a pair of Marsh Harrier, two male Cuckoo (singing and seen well), Garden Warbler, Swift, House Martin, Sand Martin and Little Egret. I also saw a Marsh Frog (and heard hundreds more), which was a new species for me.

We arrived back home at the Gwyddon valley with just enough light to drive up onto the moors and see Tree Pipit, Siskin, Raven and Jay (amongst others), and finish off an amazing days birding!

In total we managed to see 93 species, which is a new record for me.P1250513 Ced

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