Saturday 29 March – Newport Wetlands.

County name 'Vicar of the marshes'

Male Reed Bunting © R Scantlebury

In overcast skies and mist, but with the sun trying to break through, some of the 19 of us applied our first sun cream of the year. The car park was surrounded by calling Chiffchaff, Greenfinch and Goldfinch and Wren. On the bird feeders at the Centre we were rewarded with many and both sexes of Reed Bunting, Mallard cleaning up and Coot and Moorhen chugging across the lake towards the Sand Martin house-home-shelter. Walking on, one of the many Cetti’s Warblers heard throughout the day, called from a bramble patch and took flight affording us a brief but rewarding view. Also in flight, a splendid pair of Mute Swans, who wheeled and landed at the first lagoon, much to the distress of the Canada Geese already there, although the Tufted Ducks and Pochard paid no heed. The first ‘Ping Ping’ of Bearded Tit was heard but no sighting was made until we’d been to the river, seen a distant Curlew, many Shelduck and probably Dunlin. Only three people (‘laggards’ who were not desperate for coffee and were far behind!) managed to see Bearded Tit one of which, unusually, left the reeds to fly behind and round the watchers before going back under cover. Sand Martins were admired as we moved on towards the hide. The overlooked lake gave us Gadwall, Great Crested Grebe, and Little Grebe. On the way back for lunch, sharp eyes caught the movement of a single Red-legged Partridge skulking along the hedge, and we heard and then saw Green Woodpecker.
At Goldcliff we visited all the hides and screens. The first gave distant views of Avocet with, a bit closer, Teal, Wigeon, Lapwing and a pair of Little Ringed Plover at the edge of stones – so well camouflaged. Moving further up the lake and into a better position to see the top end we were suddenly rewarded by a fantastic aerial display of Avocet, 80 plus birds wheeling and calling – superb. A Sparrowhawk put in an appearance, flushing the Avocets again and most of the other waders – Redshank and Godwit. At the last hide, around the far side of the lake, we found two Greenshanks, stalking and feeding in the shallows with two pairs of Pintail feeding alongside many Teal and Wigeon. A final hunt found a Bar-headed Goose with a large number of Canada Geese and a Starling in full headlong flight being chased by a slate backed Merlin.