The early morning weather wasn't very good. Low level cloud and drizzly. I did not see a huge amount of birds. The hedgerows and woods along the path were full of winter thrushes. I did not see birds of prey but the Caldicott Pill area looks ideal for Short Eared Owls and Merlins. There was quite a few large flocks of Meadow Pipits and Linnets.
My highlight of the route was stopping at the pumping station and reading about how the Severn Railway Tunnel was constructed. It really is an incredible feat of engineering.The pumping station continues to pump millions of litres of water out of the tunnel every day.
The weather had perked up by the time I returned to my car so I decided to visit Aust Wharf on the off chance that I might see a Short Eared Owl there. Earlier in the year I had a great time there and was treated to some spectacular views of these wonderful owls.
Aust Wharf lies between the two bridges on the English side. Its actually a very similar environment to what lies opposite it on the Welsh Side. Exposed open countryside that is adjacent to the estuaries tidal mud flats. There are very little trees and most of the land is grassy with dead branches and fence posts dotted about. These make useful perches for birds of prey.
After walking along the Northwick Oaze I started talking to a friendly photographer who pointed out to me a female Merlin that was perched on a fence post. She was a really beautiful bird. I saw my first Merlin at Aust earlier in the year - a male, so getting to see another Merlin is always special. They are not exactly a common site.
The Merlin perched for a few moments before being disturbed by two Carrion Crows and then she made an exit flying back up towards Aust.
|Female Merlin at Northwick Oaze
The clouds had cleared by mid-day and the skies were a lovely blue.
I was missing Goldcliff if I am honest so I jumped back in the car and made my way back to Wales.
Goldcliff was looking good in the afternoon sun. High tide was quickly approaching so I made my way to the seawall. I met up with three of my regular birder friends. They have a considerable amount of knowledge between them and I always enjoy a chat and come away afterwards having learned something.
|I spy with my little eye
We watched a huge flock of Dunlins - at least 350+ birds. There may have been a Sanderling in there was well. The Dunlins were accompanied by an even bigger flock of Lapwings , Curlews and Shelduck.
|Close up shot of a passing Dunlin flock
All the flocks were at the waters edge but at quite a distance way on the mud. On several occasions they all went skyward and we wondered what was the cause. The protagonist turned out to be a Peregrine Falcon. I caught a glimpse of her flying low over the mud carrying a kill in its talons. The falcon landed just under the sea wall for a few moments an then flew off. Looking at my pictures I think she had caught a Dunlin but cant be sure.
|Peregrine Falcon with its prey at Goldcliff
I ended the day with a stop at RSPB Newport Wetlands. I was hoping to watch a Starling murmuration. Unfortunately the Starlings did not put on quite the show I was expecting. They did come in around sunset but stayed low and dived into one of the reed beds where the view is not very good. A Marsh Harrier made an appearance and could be seen quartering a reed bed.
The sunset was nice and whilst waiting around for the murmuration I grabbed a few pictures.
|Sunset at Newport Wetlands
|Starling Murmuration - straight into the reeds. Thousands of birds.