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Big Moment

It's all becoming very real for me this year. New Job in September and followed by my first conference talk at Welsh Ornithological Societies National Conference in November. Having my name last on that poster list isn't at all daunting... with Iolo Williams as our opening speaker and some fantastic topics / speakers throughout. Nice to see some familiar names on there too, with Steve Smith being the very guy who helped get me my new Job at the Brecon Beacons National Park.  

Details of the conference can be found Here with a brief description of the topics for the evening. My Topic is a particularly interesting one for me, 'Be aware of what you hear: how mimicry can influence breeding success '. Without giving away too much, I will be speaking about the art of mimicry and what it means to be a mimic from as close to a birds point of view as I can get. I will also talk about a new mimic on the scene from which you'll have to attend to find out just what that is. I'll speak more about this in future blogs. #exciting

Savi's Warbler

I've been so busy this last week, buzzing here, there and everywhere! Spring is such a special time of year and this year we're lucky enough to be graced with the sound of the Savi's Warbler which was last heard on the Gwent Levels in 2014. We're lucky to get another or the same bird arrive which can be heard singing early morning.

The sound is pretty incredible, so much so that I didn't even focus on getting a photograph!. It was very windy and the forecast for this week isn't looking much better but I have high hopes for Sunday evening so I'm hoping that the bird stays for long enough. 

The picture below was taken by Matthew Scott and if you click on the picture it will take you directly to his flickr page. I don't often use other peoples photographs but in this case, I thought a recording would be more important to share! 

The sound of the Savi's is iconic and very similar to our Grasshopper Warbler. In comparison, the Savi's has a much faster trill making it sound very electric, where the Grasshopper Warbler is slower, quieter and more delicate (but equally satisfying). A Gropper is described to sound more like running your finger nail down a hair comb, spacious and high pitch. The Savi's is more like an electric churr with much greater speed and has more presence. It's much easier to miss a Grasshopper Warbler singing where Savi's will stand out. 

Newport Wetlands @ Sunset

After my last post and possible finding a Golden Oriole, there has naturally been some questioning and debates about the sound file I've posted. It's not as straight forward as it appears with all the mimicking species of bird there are in the Uk. It's that reason that the last two nights I've re-visted the same area to study all the Blackbird and Thrushes of the area to see whether they possess any 'oriole' like qualities. Considering most birds are already breeding, if there was a Blackbird with an oriole like phrase, I would have been able to pick this up again. 

I didn't however find any resemblance of the sound I recorded on the 5th of May. The recording is being examined by local expert so hopefully will get some confirmation soon. Either way I'm happy with what I recorded despite it being in the background. I've certainly never heard that song before and will continue to look out for these birds in the future. 

Last two days have been completely different for sound recording however.. with gusts on the coastal path averaging from 10-30mph, which is no good for sound recording. Despite this I did manage a few Cuckoo recordings and a windy Grasshopper Warbler recording, but I won't be posting these as I believe I can do better. Instead, below the pictures I'll conclude with a Blackcap song which literally was my conclusion to the end of today as I got back to my car. 

Looking forward to Spring!

Can't wait for Spring to arrive and the days to start getting longer! :D This will be my first official spring being able to drive so I'm going to try my best to make is my most productive spring ever. I have lots on my species list to document and study so should make for an interesting one for photography. Below is a Male Bearded Tit and 1 particular species I intend on photographing just before Spring arrives where I find they are most active fighting off other Males and pairing up. This shot was taken at Newport Wetlands RSPB Nature Reserve in what ended up being 1 successful trip out of 100 failed visits! They are not easy to spot amongst the miles of Reed Bed on the reserve and even harder to photograph. 

Unexpected Twitch to Ham Wall Nature Reserve (Hudsonian Godwit)

Well, I was not prepared for this today! a few of my birding friends rang me up asking if I'd like to go see this Hudsonian Godwit and not only did we get to see it, I got to see some other birds for the first time also! Had my first ever Great White Egret and also heard 2 Booming Bitterns! Saw lots of Hobby fresh in along with 2 swifts (good sign of summer). 

Newport Wetlands Result!

This trip was legend, I won't be forgetting it for quite some time! A good friend of mine called Paul Joy has been trying to organise a trip to see the Bearded Tits at Newport Wetlands for a while now and we finally set out on my day off as early as we could to get the best chance of seeing them. We did everything according to plan by turning right as you get onto the reserve and making your way back on yourself once you hit the sea wall and returned using the lighthouse path over the water. By this point we had already seen some fantastic Migrants like Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler and many others but we soon found ourselves surrounded by at least 10 Bearded Tits! They appeared only feet away from us having been there all along and that really shows how well camouflaged they really are when in the thick reed beds. I snapped 17gbs worth of photos on this trip so I've only managed to edit a few of the best. Just as we thought we were done for the day having saw what we came for, we got a tip off about a couple Grasshopper Warblers fresh in off the coast and soon enough we were onto that iconic sound of a Grasshopper Warbler right in the middle of the thick brambles. We had to have quite a bit of patience on these Birds though but boy, did it pay off! For a spit second he came out and sang right on top of the brambles for long enough for me to burst a dozen shots. Other migrants came soon after in the form of Wheatears, Whinchats and we also heard a distant Cuckoo. A female Marsh Harrier showed briefly and the Garganey Ducks were still present. 

Having spent more time at Newport Wetlands, Goldcliff and Magor Marsh this spring, I'm really starting to see for myself just how important our Gwent Levels actually are for nature of all sorts. It provides such a variety of specialised habitats for all sorts of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and insects. What is it that makes the Gwent Levels so good for nature? Well, in short.. Water! If you take away the obvious bodies of water like that at Newport Wetlands and the smaller ponds / lagoons in Magor and Goldcliff, we would still have one of the largest networking systems of water in the country! If you look from above on google maps or in a helicopter, you'll struggle to even see the water that I'm talking about, especially during spring and summer. This is because they surround all of the fields in a historic mote fashion. They can stretch for miles and miles connecting into various water sources together and disconnection labouring farmland. This provides absolutely vital habitats for insects like Dragonflies that need naturally fresh water to reproduce and survive while giving a home to our protected Watervoles. This vast connection of water without the sacrifice of solid land and fertile fields creates and forms the majority of our gwent levels and that alone provides a balance that suits both our coastal birds AND our inland species like Starlings throughout the winter. To add to that, we have miles of Reed Bed in various shapes and forms which needs to be protected because literally every inch of a reed bed matters! The more reeds, the more diversity and the more space for breeding birds like Reed Warblers, Sedge Warblers, Grasshopper Warblers, Bearded Tits, Marsh Harriers, Bitterns, Little Egrets, Great White Egrets ect ect. I was also surprised by the amount of breeding avocets at Goldcliff! I had no idea that we had such a stronghold of Avocets! If you haven't seen them, check out my photo below or go and see them for yourself at Goldcliff. They are well protected with an electric fence around the lagoons but there are also plenty of hides to appreciate them. 

RSPB Shocked at M4 Relief Road Black Route

Words do not describe how disappointed I am with this result. All I can hope for now is our Government to change in the next election and maybe, just maybe! there is some hope in this situation. Yet another selfish decision made for the good of first world people. In other news, I spent an hour re-editing some photos that I missed in my Raw collection so here are some from last year and this year from various places like Llandegfedd (last year) and Forest Farm (This Month)