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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

The weekend before Christmas

This weekend I spent my bird watching time at my favourite place and in the company of some good friends.

Despite the very wet and boggy conditions it was good to be on the reserve. Both my visits this weekend were at the crack of dawn and both resulted in hardly a ray of sunshine to speak off. Clouds spoiled the show and put a dampener on any kind spectacular sunrises.

I visited on both occasions just after high tide. As usual the Curlews were roosting in Monks Lagoon. As regular as clockwork as soon as the day light appeared they took off and flew out towards the Pill.

There appears to be at least 100+ birds staying the night. I have become familiar with their roost behaviour now and I can tell when they are about to take flight as they all begin to call to each other. One or two will initially take flight and then the rest will follow. I never tire of watching them. They are the UK's largest wader and whilst some breed in the British Isles this is becoming a rare sight due to breeding grounds vanishing - thought partly due to poor agricultural practises.

Curlews Roosting at Monks Lagoon. Shelducks also in good numbers throughout the reserve.

Various ducks are becoming more abundant. There is a  big flock of Wigeon consisting of something like 300+ birds. They are very skittish at the moment and tend to take flight on seeing any kind of human activity approaching them.

The good thing about duck numbers increasing is that they tend to draw in the Raptors.

Early on Saturday a juvenile Marsh Harrier cruised in and quartered the reeds in Priors Lagoon. The light was difficult to work with but I think the pictures I did get, captured the feel of the day.

Marsh Harrier ( I think this is a juvenile having see how dark the upper wings are in other pics)

One of the Peregrines was perched on a rock on the island of Monks Lagoon. This behaviour is now becoming a habit. Early on Saturday just before first light I saw it perched on the small mini island opposite Hide 1 on Monks within a couple of meters of a flock of roosting Curlew.

Peregrine Falcon stretching its legs after perching for an age on that little rock.

There were plenty of species about throughout the weekend but in general it was quiet. I have included a few pictures to brighten the blog up. Probably the most abundant species are Canadian Geese they just about everywhere throughout the Gwent Levels.

Back lit Canadian Geese over the Goldcliff Pill

I took a stroll up the Saltmarsh on Saturday and watched a Buzzard fly over with one hell of a full crop. It must have just eaten something size able.

Buzzard with a full crop visible.

In the distance I watched a Marsh Harrier quartering near Redbarn but it failed to fly closer.

Sundays visit was damp and miserable. "Bosprey" was perched in its usual spot but there was little to write home about.

What made my weekend really enjoyable however was not the birds or the damp fresh air. Instead it was the great company I had from my birding friends. I enjoy a good conversation and it must be said there was plenty of that to be add with plenty of  good Christmas spirit and laughter.

So on that note - I would like to take this opportunity to wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas.

Saturdays birders in the Seawall Hide

Sunday in Hide 1 with my "Musketeer" friends.

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