Exploring the Pill

This weekend I have been fortunate that some of my family duties have resulted in me having to be in the vicinity of the Gwent Levels. It goes without question that  a week stuck in doors has had me pining to stretch my legs around Goldcliff Lagoons.

Saturday morning the weather was pretty dire. The sky was thick with cloud and it was dark . Not the greatest for photography. I spent a few hours at Goldcliff in the good company of two other regular visitors.

 There was plenty to watch despite the inclement weather conditions. Early on there was healthy flock of about 80 Curlew and a single Dunlin at Lagoon 1. Wigeon are now all around the reserve in large numbers and one flock numbered 100+ individuals.

Out on the Estuary were flocks of Redshank and also some Turnstones which was a first for me on the reserves boundaries.

From the Marsh Hide we watched the mud on Priors Lagoon ( It was more interesting than it sounds - honest). Whilst scanning the reeds and mud for life I saw a Stoat burst out of the reeds and dart across the mud to the other patch of reeds carrying what looked a like a vole in its mouth. I watched it through the scope and it was gone before I could switch to my camera.

Giving the mud further scrutiny resulted in us discovering that there were Common Snipe hiding on it. They have incredible camouflage. The more we stared, the more we found. When I got back home later and reviewed the pictures I had taken of the patch of mud I had seen them on it was like a "Wheres Wally?" puzzle as I kept finding  more Snipe.

From the snipe platform we watched a Water Pipit feeding quite close. On the other side of Becs was a solitary Greenshank feeding and from a distance I saw a Common Sandpiper.  The hedgerows around the reserve continue to attract large numbers of Redwing and Fieldlfare but the numbers seemed to have lessened since last weekend.

Sunday morning  I arrived around high tide . It was nice to see a little sunshine break between the clouds. I had a quick walk around the reserve. It was quiet. The Peregrine was back on its spot at Becs and as usual this deters just about anything interesting landing on Becs lagoon. I decided to try the Goldcliff Pill - also known as the Saltmarsh area for a change of scenes.

As I made my way to this other NRW reserve area that is adjacent to Goldcliff lagoons one of my birding friends, literally  "chased" me down and accompanied me. I ended up having a guided tour  from him of this area and was given some insider knowledge of what it had to offer.

We arrived at the sea wall and had an excellent view. To the left we had a view  across the Pill towards Goldcliff Lagoons. To the right we had a view towards Redhouse Barns and Boat Lane.

I really enjoyed seeing the area from a different perspective. There were plenty of raptors about.

A Sparrowhawk was perched on the sea wall. It seemed to be interested in something on the grassland - so was a Magpie that was shadowing it just about everywhere it went.

Swooping up from the Pill came a Red Kite . On the saltmarsh around the Pill were two Buzzards (one of them was a "Bosprey" - a very light coloured bird). They caused a big flock of  Wigeons to evacuate the Pill and fly out onto the estuary.

Looking towards Redhouse was an enormous flock of Lapwings. To be more accurate it seemed to consist of about three flocks. Easily about 400+ birds. They spent quite a bit of time filling the sky with their numbers and on occasions flying  en-mass across to the saltmarsh  and onward towards Goldcliff Lagoons.

A female Marsh Harrier began to quarter across the Pill into Goldcliff. She was a magnificent looking bird. As ever Marshys  menacingly float across the seal wall  flying at almost stalling speed and scare all the ducks and waders to hell.

Out on the mud we noticed 12 Avocets which was a good spot.

We then caught sight of a female Kestrel flying low across the grassland area behind us and she briefly perched on a fence post. I grabbed a couple of pictures before she flew off and landed in amongst a reed bed. I saw that she had caught what looks like a Robin and she clutched it tightly in her talons as she flew.

The Kestrel marked the end of my birding for another weekend. Not a bad weekends birding, until the next time :)

Female Kestrel

Female Kestrel with her prey - a Robin

A big female Marsh Harrier

Female Marsh Harrier dropping  over the Pill into Goldcliff Lagoons

A Birders view of the Saltmarsh and the Pill with Goldcliff Lagoons in the background

Water Pipit


Super camouflaged Common Snipe

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