On my way to Goldcliff, I told Tim and Alan, our leader for the day, that I wanted to see a Curlew sandpiper, a Little stint, a Hobby and a Marsh harrier, as they would all be year ticks for me to add to my 2018 birding list. Amazingly, I saw three of those four – only the Marsh harrier failed to appear – and I still managed to add four new birds to my list as we also had a fly-over of four Pintails.
Our small but enthusiastic group of eight started the day at Goldcliff, where the lagoon water levels are still very low after summer’s drought conditions – in fact, the fresh water pool is just a sea of cracked mud, awaiting some decent rainfall to refill it. It was a couple of hours before high tide and the birding started very slowly as small flocks of waders began to fly in from feeding out in the channel.
A Curlew probed the mud for small molluscs, and one of several Little egrets flitted from place to place.
Then the cattle started heading our way, shepherding along with them a veritable herd of Yellow and Pied wagtails.
How entertaining these little birds are as they flit lightly up and down, snapping up the insects stirred up by the cows’ feet.
The wagtails seem incredibly brave as they strut between the cattle’s relatively enormous legs and dice with death within an inch of a cow’s be-whiskered face, yet the cattle ignore them, probably happy to have their very own and very active insect catchers.
The high tide was crashing against the sea wall when we eventually made our way to the furthest hide and we sheltered there, checking out Wheatears, water birds and waders, while a couple of heavy rain showers blew through. By that time, more and more flocks were landing in the pool in front of the first hide so back we stomped to turn the ’scopes and bins on those birds.
Almost as soon as we returned, a friendly local birder put us on to some of the more special birds, and they were my year ticks, the Curlew sandpipers, the Little stint and that stunning bird of the prey, the Hobby.
No sooner had I said I’d like to see the Hobby fly that up in to the air it went, flew a swift circuit of the pool and landed back near where it had started. Magical!
Eventually, we left Goldcliff’s lovely lagoons and headed along the road to the RSPB’s Newport Wetlands reserve at Uskmouth. After a welcome drink, we had a wander down to the lighthouse at the sea wall, adding a few more birds to our day’s tally as we went. One of our Tims (we had two Tims on this trip) was very lucky to see a Bearded tit in flight and our other Tim spotted a couple of Porpoises just off the coast, which was a delightful way to round off a most excellent day.
My total list for the day was 59 species: Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Shelduck, Eurasian Wigeon, Gadwall, Eurasian Teal, Mallard, Northern Pintail, Little Grebe, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Cormorant, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Hobby, Moorhen, Coot, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, European Golden Plover, Northern Lapwing, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Eurasian Curlew, Greenshank, Black-headed Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Raven, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Swallow, House Martin, Long-tailed Tit, Common Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Starling, Robin, Northern Wheatear, House Sparrow, Yellow Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Reed Bunting, and Wren. And there were 3 species I didn’t spot (Stock Dove, Sand Martin, Skylark) so the trip list was a whopping 62 for the day.