Burnished wings at Goldcliff Lagoons

Burnished Wings

I forever marvel at the colors of birds feathers. Every shade, color, dazzle, tint or hue imaginable seems to exist. Goldcliff Lagoons has its fair share of amazingly colored wildfowl.

On Saturday I was on my patch at the crack of dawn but the skies were dark and cloudy and any chance of a bit of color being provided by the sun looked most unlikely. I would be proved completely wrong as just after dawn like a huge fireball the sun burned through its blanket of clouds and looked absolutely huge next to the farm tower.

The rising "fireball"
Timing sometimes is everything - actually it was lucky I was leaving the seawall hide and stopped to speak to a friendly birder.

Priors Lagoon had hordes of ducks dabbling away on it. My favorite duck is the strikingly colored drake Shoveler. What an amazing looking bird. I love to take pictures of birds in flight - especially flocks so I was delighted when two Marsh Harriers upset the dawn calm and caused all the ducks to explode in the air. A nice flock of Shovelers flew directly in front of me on the Snipe Platform and I was able to grab a nice picture.

Drake Shovelers


There were all kinds of duck species all over Priors Lagoon. Wigeon are now in big numbers and they are regular winter migrants to the reserve. If they are not paddling close to the edges of the water they are grazing on the grass. Teal, Mallards, Gadwall and even a Pintail duck were present. There were three species of diving ducks present -Pochard, Tufted, and Goldeneye ducks.

They were not the only diving species of birds present. A Little Grebe popped up every now and again and the Black-necked Grebe continues to show regularly. The Black-necked Grebe has stunning red eyes and I must admit has been one of my standout birds this year so far ( but not my favorite).

Black-necked Grebe

At high tide, a huge amount of Shelduck started flying into the reserve. They all started to drop on Monks Lagoon. They did not seem bothered at all by the Peregrine Falcon that was busy feeding on its unlucky breakfast on the island.

Shelducks have amazing colors and I think this is the largest number I have seen doing a high tide roost for some time. There were over two hundred eighty birds at one point.

Shelducks incoming


I was joined by my friend "Video" John Lawton. He specializes in making videos and his latest claim to fame was having one of his "Flossy" the Glossy Ibis videos played on Winterwatch. Click on this link if you fancy a watch.

Talking of the TV celebrity "Flossy" I almost forgot to mention it :). Since dawn, not only were ducks putting in an appearance. The Glossy Ibis had been roosting in the reeds and during one of the commotions had risen out and landed in front of the Snipe Platform. It was very windy and "Flossy" seemed to have been struggling to fly against it on several occasions. I had been trying to get some pictures of it with another friendly birder ( "The man with the van") but for the most part, all we were getting were the usual silhouette shots. Anyone reading this that has visited the lagoons and tried to get some decent pictures of the Glossy they will know what I mean. In poor light, it just appears matt black in the pics with nothing remotely Glossy about it.

"Flossy" the Glossy Ibis


So when Video John turned up after trudging through the quagmire of a reserve to reach me he brought the sun with him as things started to brighten up.

Flossy was feeding on the far bank and was a little too distant for our liking. However, eventually, the ducks got very skittish because in came another Marsh Harrier that caused absolute chaos with birds in the sky everywhere. It was just what we needed as "Flossy" decided to do some aerobatics in front of us and for once in pretty good light.

The light shone on the Ibis's wings and its burnished wings shone. The fantastic metallic "glossy" green was revealed at last. It was just fabulous. You can only really appreciate how cool "Flossy" looks until you see it in good light. I think I probably managed to get my best photos so far. John managed to grab a good video of it as well despite the strong wind.

Ibis flypast

Look at those colorful wings


The metallic green really shows in good light


Now it is a Glossy Ibis

The Glossy took a while to settle so we had a few flypasts before it settled in the reeds well out of sight.
On our journey out of the reserve, all the Shelduck erupted out of Monks lagoons. I raced ahead of John in my enthusiasm to get to Hide 2 and almost face-planted when I tried running up a muddy bank. I reached hide 2 just in time to catch a glimpse of the Peregrine and the Marsh Harrier having a bit of an airborne argument.

The Shelducks panic



Marsh Harrier ( male) had a squabble with the Peregrine who was defending its patch on Monks.


A female Marsh Harrier

Another fantastic morning at Goldcliff Lagoons. It continues to never disappoint.


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