Sunday 13 November – RSPB Newport Wetlands and Goldcliff Leader: Peter Bryant

The sun was shining as eleven of us including one guest arrived in the Gwent Levels. As we walked to the RSPB stall to peruse the sightings board we passed a set of bird feeders, enabling us to claim a variety of tits and finches as well as a female Pheasant that had established itself below the feeders. Some of us spotted a Sparrowhawk flashing behind the feeders. Full of expectation (RSPB staff had told us of recent sightings of both otters and Bitterns), we headed towards the East Usk lighthouse. Along the way we heard our first Cetti’s warblers and had sightings of Reed Buntings and Skylark. A Cormorant was perched high up on a pylon to our right. We paused at the lighthouse to scan the estuary. There were Shelducks and Curlews roosting on the grass (the tide was high); Wigeon and a few Teal swam in the channel. As we proceeded along the path, a Little Egret flew to the shoreline and some of us heard the squealing of a Water Rail deep in the reeds. We paused to admire some dragonflies and a Red Admiral butterfly. Reaching the Uskmouth hide, we learned that we had just missed a Bittern that had flown across the channel. A pair of Little Grebes was poor compensation. Resuming the trail, we soon reached the picnic area as there was almost nothing to be seen along the path that passed some inviting looking shrubs with berries although we did find a Goldcrest in the woods. During our picnic lunch, first a Heron and then a pair of Buzzards flew over.
Half the group decided to move on to Goldcliff wetlands. Some winter thrushes were seen (including good views of Fieldfare, the first of the winter for some). A Stonechat and a hovering Kestrel appeared before we reached the first hide. The deeper lagoons hosted several dozen Teal and Lapwings wheeled overhead. Suddenly there was pandemonium as a medium-sized raptor raced over the reeds – Peregrine! As we were watching this impressive bird, a female Marsh Harrier appeared (also hunting) which gave good views. We stopped at the largest hide; initially only a few Shoveler were seen but a pair of geese soon took our attention. These were probably Greylags but possibly hybrids, as they had orange bills, a hint of white around the bill base but dark- coloured backs. A walk along the seawall added Oystercatcher to our list but we were tipped off about an interesting bird that had just been seen. We eventually caught up with this – Black Redstart. A great ending to a lovely trip, good company and wonderful weather for the time of year. 52 species of bird seen. (Many thanks to Peter for offering to lead.) Peter Bryant