So, I’m not quite sure if it’s spring that’s arrived or if we’ve gone straight to summer!
With such beautiful weather at this time of year it’s no surprise Perry Lane and the woodland up on the reserve are both filled with the sounds of chiffchaff. This member of the warbler family is easy to identify from its song as it simply sings its name – ‘chiff-chaff, chiff-chaff’. If only all birds did this it would make identification so much easier!
Although some chiffchaffs are residents and therefore stay in the UK all year round, the majority are migrants that arrive from Africa in late March/early April and stay here until September. As with many warblers, they are only the size of a blue tit making them relatively difficult to see, especially as their dull green, brown and dull yellowish colours mean they blend in well with their surroundings, so you’ll have to follow that distinctive song to spot them.
Great crested grebes and mute swans have been performing with their courtship displays, there have been several more sightings of wheatears passing through on their migration, plenty of stonechats, some bearded tit and whinchat sightings.
Marsh harrier and Cetti’s warbler continue to be regular sightings as well, and on March 14th we had out first swallow and sand martin sightings of the year. While sand martins can often be seen in March, most swallows arrive in April so this bird was very early and will probably have to wait a little while before it’s joined by other swallows migrating up from Africa.
On Friday 23rd March we had this year’s first recorded sighting of reed warbler – a plain looking warbler, slightly bigger than a chiffchaff and a very distinctive noisy chattering song, with churring and changes of pitch frequently thrown in for good measure. Later in the year you may well be able to hear this gem while sipping your coffee on the Visitor Centre veranda.
The same day a grasshopper warbler was spotted and yesterday kestrels were seen mating over the environs. The bittern hasn’t been seen since last Thursday but of course that doesn’t mean it’s not still here. However, it’s yet to be heard booming despite reserve managers and wardens venturing out onto the reserve in the very early hours, but there’s still time left so keep your fingers crossed.
Unfortunately, this will be my last blog for the RSPB and Newport Wetlands as today is my last day working here. I hope you’ve found my ramblings over the last year-and-a-half of some help and I hope to see some of you again as I’m sure I will be back at Newport Wetlands as a visitor ambling around the reedbeds, rather than racing through them during my lunch break!
Take care all and keep on enjoying all the wonderful wildlife this fantastic reserve has to offer!
So the judges have made their decision and the results are in!
The winners will be announced at the Visitor Centre on Saturday 7th April at 11am to coincide with the start of the exhibition of photographs. The judges were our very own photographic whiz Nick Evans, reserve manager Kevin Dupé and visitor centre manager Lorraine Leicester.
We had plenty of great entries and prizes have been awarded for first, second, third and highly commended.
The exhibition will initially run for six weeks and we will hold on to all photographs for three months afterwards for those who want to collect their photographs. If you’re unable to get to the Visitor Centre in that time and want your photograph returned, please contact the Visitor Centre on 01633 636363 and we will arrange an alternative with you.
The exhibition will be held in our Lakeside room in the main Visitor Centre and the winners will be announced and prizes given out in Lakeside by a member of staff.
I just want to say thank you all for your excellent entries. We had some absolutely fantastic photographs and they serve as a great reminder of all the wonderful wildlife we’re lucky enough to be able to enjoy here at Newport Wetlands and in the UK, so thank you again and good luck!
Bittern, marsh harrier, and bearded tit have been the star species of the last few weeks.
And with the daffodils out in time for St David’s Day, the mallards getting even feistier than usual and great crested grebes performing their mating dance on the lagoons, it seems spring really has sprung.
We usually get a few sightings of the elusive bittern in the deepest, darkest days of winter, often in January for just a few days. But it looks like all the effort put in by the reserve staff and volunteers may have paid off as the most recent sightings have continued for the last two-and-a-half-weeks. All the sightings of this secretive and very well camouflaged heron have been in flight along the foreshore to the east of the lighthouse and it was last spotted on Monday so we’re keeping everything crossed that it will stay here for a little while yet. And would it be too much to hope that a mate might join it…?
Marsh harrier and bearded tits have been seen most days, with the majority of the bearded tit sightings in reedbed five. If you’re not sure of the reedbed numbers, just ask at reception for a map with the numbers on.
We also had our first wheatear sighting of the season on Friday. This beautifully sleek insect eater can usually be seen at Newport Wetlands on passage between March and May as it comes up from Africa and flies on north to its breeding grounds and again in August and September as it heads back down south.
If you want to find out what else Newport Wetlands has to offer at this time of year, why not come along to our Spring Welcome guided walk on Sunday 25th March? The walk will focus on the variety of plants and flowers now starting to emerge and explore the folklore surrounding this time of year. If you want to come along, don’t forget to book either in person at the Visitor Centre or over the phone by calling 01633 636363.