Merlin Magic

This weekend has been an interesting one on the Ornithology front.

Saturday I was up at the crack of dawn and turned up at a mist covered Goldcliff Lagoons and experimented with a few long exposure pictures at dawn. I was a little frustrating on the bird watching front as a lot of my usual feathered friends did not put in an appearance and spent their time out on the estuary as the tide was out. I did get to see a couple of  female Marsh Harriers ( or the same one at different times).

Its good to see them regularly making an appearance lately. They are one of my favourite birds.

In the evening my friend Paul Joy and me went to a Gwent Ornithological Society talk to listen to a talk by the talented Mick Jenner who's been filming Dippers and other wildlife. Dr Step Tyler ( A Dipper expert) also attended . I last saw her on  the TV Show Hughs Wild West (Hugh Fearnely Whitingstall). I enjoyed the talk and film a great deal and the work involved to get the film of fledgling Dippers was considerable with fantastic results. It was also good to meet some of the other GOS members as this was my first meeting.

It was a great evening and I would recommend it to any one interested in birds and wildlife - especially in Gwent.

Sundays weather turned out to be a lot better than I expected and I was determined to get a visit in at high tide. I am struggling lately to get down there in the week and the nights are rapidly drawing in.

I invited Paul along and arrived at the lagoons eager to see some bird activity.

We got as far as the sea wall and then saw a big  flock of lapwings went high into the sky in panic and flocked over Becs lagoon. they went quite high so I thought "Peregrine". I scanned the sky looking for the raptor protagonist but failed to see one.

Then from my left moving at speed from the estuary hurtled a raptor. It was fast but small. At first it seemed to have targeted the lapwings but instead banked right and vectored off toward Prior Lagoon zeroing on a flock of Starlings and Meadow Pipits.

The little birds hit the emergency button and scattered in all directions. The Merlin rocketed past and shot off towards the barns out of sight.

I was ecstatic with Joy ( Actually that is a bad turn of phrase at this moment as Paul missed the Merlin -he was fuming).

We headed off to the seawall hide and hoped that coming hide tide would bring some birds in.  We ended up sharing the hide with a few other birders.

As the afternoon progressed I was struck by the amount of Canada Geese activity. This evening they were coming into the lagoons in waves of 20 to 40 bird at a time. Honking all the time. At times it was getting as busy as one of Heathrow Airports runways as they descended in and landed on the Becs lagoon.

A male and female Marsh Harrier made appearances but did not linger for too long. Good to watch always.

Then coming through a gap in the reeds at Priors lagoons darted in the female Merlin again. This time she landed on the mud opposite the hide.

After short time she catapulted herself up into the sky and gave us a magical flypast the hide. I was hoping she would perch on the post but she chose not to. I managed to capture in flight so I am happy - and so was Paul - this time he hit the jackpot and got some pictures :)

High tide arrived at sunset. It brought in good numbers of Dunlins, Redshanks, Knot and 3 Little Stints. The curlews seemed to have gone elsewhere. I was expecting them to roost in large numbers but they did not show this evening.

Merlin (female) dashing in front of the Seawall hide. (aka Avocet Hide)

Merlin swooping in and scaring the starlings

Merlin on the mud at Priors Lagoon.

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