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Purple on the rocks

  I have the real pleasure of writing my first blog post of 2022 about a trip to Battery Point, Portishead, Bristol to photograph Purple Sandpipers (Calidris Maritima). As many of my readers will know I love waders probably above all bird species and so when I had the opportunity to get some pictures with my good friend Paul Joy of this rare, specially protected and very confiding wader species that winters in the UK coastland I was really excited. Up until this point I had never seen a Purple Sandpiper. They are small waders, bigger than a Dunlin but slightly smaller and less robust than a Turnstone.  They migrate to the UK in the winter from as far away places as Canada, Greenland, Svalbard, Fennoscandia and Russia. They then spend their time along the coasts roosting and feeding on various rocky outcrops. They have a preference for rocks covered with seaweeds where they forage for insects, molluscs and crustaceans. They get their names because of a Purple sheen that can be seen in t

A year of blogging marked by a spectacular evening at Goldcliff Lagoons

This post marks a year of blogging for me. The Wildlife Oculus blog started as a bit of an experiment but soon became a little weekly indulgence for me. Whilst its covered some locations outside Gwent it has given me the opportunity to document and showcase some of the fantastic wildlife we have in the "Gwent area".

So, whilst I am on the subject of fantastic wildlife I am going to blog about my latest visit to what has become my favourite location in Gwent - Goldcliff Lagoons. I cant spend enough time on the reserve. I always find it a real drag when I have to leave.

Tuesday evening I escaped from a days work and got to the lagoons in a hurry. The weather was pretty good when I arrived. It was getting warmer and dryer again after a few days rain. The lagoons remained very dry and only two of the lagoons now had any water in them.

After a walk towards the seawall hide the weather began to turn and I thought it was going to rain. Clouds swept in from the estuary and it went quite dark.

The bird life was quite scarce, a few Dunlins , Redshank and Black Headed Gulls and not much else. High tide wasn't until 9 pm so I was going to have to wait for the birds to arrive and keep my fingers crossed that the light got better. Whilst walking around the reserve I followed a Kestrel that was busy hovering along the Lagoon 1 and 2 banks hunting.

The mud flats were surprisingly dead. Not a wader in sight. At the Seawall hide I had a view of the shrinking lagoon 3. The recent rain has made no improvement and it was shallower than ever.

A small flock of Dunlins and Black Headed Gulls were mixing it with a large flock of Lapwings.  Several Grey Herons and a Little Egret were busy stalking fish in the shallows. Generally however it was quiet. 

After couple of hours or so the clouds broke and the evening light got better. All of a sudden it was like switch had been flipped and more and more birds started to make an appearance. A curlew with a broken leg awkwardly landed in front of the hide and started feeding. Its a real survivor and has so far lasted a couple of weeks. It was feeding well and looked quite healthy apart from leg.

More Curlews descended from the heavens and joined the Lapwings. Two birds that I later discovered were Greenshanks (Id help from my birding friends) showed in Lagoon 3 and a snipe was feeding close the edges of the lagoon.

Things were on the up with a certain buzz of activity in the air. With a burst of motion everything suddenly when skywards and high. Indicative behaviour of  a Peregrine making an appearance and frightening the birds silly. I enjoyed watching the swirling flock before the majority of the birds decided to land in Lagoon 1.

It seemed like a good time to exit the Seawall hide and make my way around to Lagoon 1. The light was reaching that sweet spot with amazing orange light breaking through the clouds.

At the Redshank Platform a considerable sized flock of Black Headed Gulls and lapwings had gathered to roost. In amongst them was the odd Dunlin. As I sat watching the sun get lower and lower in the sky more and more birds joined them. In came a flock of about 30 Black tailed Godwits and then in drips and drabs the odd Curlew or two.

I love hearing their mournful call. It really is the "call of the wild" in my opinion.

At first it was just a couple of calls and then I started hearing more and more calls and then waves of Curlews began to fly into  Lagoon 1. The sky at one point was full of them. I got joined by a fellow birder and he was amazed at the numbers , as was I. It was obviously that golden time period when high tide and coincided.

The sun was setting and illuminated the whole sky and lagoon waters in a gorgeous orange glow.

It gave me the opportunity to take some different pictures in interesting light. The Curlews did not disappoint and just kept on coming. It was probably one of the best visits I have had and it was definitely the most Curlews I have ever seen. A great way to celebrate a year of  The Wildlife Oculus.

Curlews flying in to roost at sunset


Black Tailed Godwits

Curlew silhouette 

Evening sun starts to break through on the sea wall

Formation of Curlews

Wave of Curlews

Canada Geese back-lit by the setting sun

Lapwings react to appearance of a raptor

The Setting sun at Goldlcliff Lagoons

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