Here's a guest blog by Robert Magee, Membership Development Assistant at Newport Wetlands:
The awful weather this week hasn’t dampened spirits at Newport Wetlands with the arrival of an American Wigeon.
Only the third ever sighting of this dabbling duck species in Gwent and a first for the reserve, a drake has been hanging out with our more familiar Eurasian Wigeon on the foreshore near the lighthouse.
The last time an American Wigeon was in Gwent was in 1999 so it’s nice for one to stop by and say hello after over a decade of waiting. It was first sighted here on Monday 3 February by Clive Rutter while conducting a high tide count, and has been seen Tuesday 4 February, Wednesday 5 February and Thursday 6 February so pop down to the Visitor Centre in the next few days to see if it’s still around. To give yourself the best opportunity to see it, come at high tide. Check on the web or in the Visitor Centre for when this is.
American Wigeon. Photo by Mathew Meehan
This rare straggler to Europe is one of a number of other American vagrants that has caught the attention of birders across the UK over recent weeks, likely to have come across the Atlantic due to persistent westerly winds.
Almost identical in size and shape to the Eurasian Wigeon there are clear differences in plumage, especially around the head. The head of the American Wigeon is mostly green with a white forehead, whereas the Eurasian tends to be chestnut and yellow coloured.
Did you know, the American Wigeon was formerly known as "Baldpate" because the white stripe resembled a bald man's head!
Last Sunday 2 February we were lucky enough to host the Goldcliff Ringing Group for the day as they carried out their important work for conservation and demonstrated the ringing process to visitors.
House Sparrow. Photo by Steve Jones
Bird ringing is carried out all over the world, and in Britain and Ireland is organised through the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO). By putting a uniquely numbered metal ring around the leg, individual birds can be identified in the future allowing information to be collected about how long birds live, and when and where they move which is essential to conservation. It is harmless to the birds, (as it says on the BTO website "Ringing has little effect on birds because relative to the bird’s weight, wearing a ring is similar to a person wearing a watch") and is carried out by licensed, trained ringers who can handle the birds in a safe way with full consideration for their welfare.
The Goldcliff Ringing Group have been active since 1994 and focus principally on the Newport Wetlands reedbeds. See the Gwent Ornithological Society website here for more info about the Goldcliff Ringing Group and access to their ringing reports from 2004 onwards.
Pointing out identifying features on a Goldfinch. Photo by Lisa Robinson
Richard Clarke, Vaughan Thomas, and Gareth Lang were the ringers on Sunday. In between the sudden downpours, they set up and monitored mist nets near the visitor centre. When birds were trapped in the nets, the ringers then safely removed them and brought them to the nearby marquee where the birds were weighed, measured and ringed, then safely released.
Gareth weighing a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Photo by Steve Jones
The ringers were absolutely brilliant, and were able to demonstrate to visitors what they were doing and why, and also showed us how they identify the age and gender of various birds. It was absolutely fascinating stuff. The most exciting to see were the two Great Spotted Woodpeckers and the Sparrowhawk - but my personal favourite was the Long Tailed Tit.
Gorgeous Long Tailed Tit. Photo by Steve Jones
Richard sent us the following data about the birds trapped and ringed at Newport Wetlands on Sunday:
A total of 64 new birds were trapped by the Goldcliff Ringing Group during the day, details of which are set out in table 1.
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Two further birds were trapped on the day that had been ringed previously by the Goldcliff Ringing Group, details of which are set out in table 2. The re-capture of Greenfinch (TK38024) is interesting given that nearly six years have elapsed since it was originally ringed at a local farm, some 4km to the east of the RSPB centre.
Uskmouth shelter belt
We hope to have a few more demonstrations throughout the year so keep an eye on the events website or pick up a leaflet in the Visitor Centre for dates and times. I'm going to keep a close eye on the visitor centre feeders now to see if any of the birds there are ringed!
Thanks so much to the Goldcliff Ringing Group for a fantastic demonstration.
Sparrowhawk ringed by Goldcliff Ringing Group, 2 February 2014. Photo by Lisa Robinson
I hope you all spent an hour doing the Big Garden Birdwatch last weekend! Remember to input your results here if you haven’t already done so. The website had a few problems over the weekend unfortunately, but you can submit your results any time until 16 February.
What was the best thing you saw when doing your birdwatch?
It was a great day here on the reserve last Saturday, lots of enthusiastic people out and about spotting birds and other wildlife. Thanks to all the visitors who contributed to our sightings board that day; we ended up with 46 bird species seen in various areas of the reserve – some were seen in multiple locations but I’ve just put them into sections based on where they were first recorded that day.
Scrape and environs
Great spotted woodpecker, Green woodpecker, Grey heron, House sparrow, Lesser redpoll, Little egret, Magpie, Mallard, Song thrush, Tufted duck
Blackbird, Blue tit, Cetti’s warbler, Chaffinch, Dunnock, Fieldfare, Goldcrest, Goldfinch, Great tit, Greenfinch, Kestrel, Long tailed tit, Redwing, Robin, Starling, Wren
Avocet, Curlew, Reed bunting, Shelduck, Stonechat, Wigeon, Hen harrier flying over
Bar headed goose, Black tailed godwit, Canada goose, Curlew, Dunlin, Gadwall, Lapwing, Meadow pipit, Peregrine, Pintail, Redshank, Ringed plover, Shoveler, Teal
Please note that we take our recent sightings list from the visitor sightings board that anyone can contribute to. This is great as everyone can get involved, but obviously can lead to potential errors too as they aren’t always verified! We try to keep this list as accurate as possible but if you see something unusual feel free to comment here!