"au revoir" Golfcliff for a while

Flossy the Glossy backlit by the evening sun.

We are living in unprecedented times. Living under the shadow of the Corona Virus threat is a real worry where all of us have to start thinking hard about our social responsibilities.

I've been giving it all a lot of thought and had to make some tough decisions personally about traveling to my beloved Goldcliff.

On the weekend I think it's fair to say a great many of us weekend birders had been suffering from cabin fever since January as almost without fail the heavens have opened up with rain on every weekend. So when a fine weekend was forecast for a change, its no surprise that so many people decided to go out and enjoy the sunshine. 

The problem was though, lots of people decided to travel to various hotspots and soon even small nature reserves like Goldcliff Lagoons ended up being unusually busy ( partly I think because many of the popular WWT and RSPB reserves and parks had closed).

Keeping a social distance of two meters apart in these circumstances can then become a problem - especially in hides.

I visited Goldcliff twice on the weekend. One late afternoon visit and one dawn visit.
On Saturday I was hoping that there would be hardly anyone there. Instead, I found lots of parked cars. There were so many I started wondering whether some super rarity had been spotted.

I found the reserve to be quite busy with a lot of people. For the most part, everyone was very respectful and keeping their distance from each other. It was good to talk to some friendly faces. But if I am honest though on reflection I wish it had not been so busy. I prefer as few people as possible - not that I don't like people, I am very sociable but I don't like lots of people in hides especially when there is a nasty virus around. 

On Sunday I visited for a short time just after dawn. It was quiet with only a few people but I made a conscious decision to leave early before the crowds turned up.

I noticed on both occasions unfortunately that there were a few dog walkers as well with the dogs running freely and not on a lead. It seems to be happening more frequently lately on the reserve near the back of hide 1. Not a good trend to see on a dedicated nature reserve that at times has sheep grazing.

It was so encouraging to see more waders on the reserve. Redshanks were everywhere in good numbers, the flock of Avocets has grown and I am sure it is heading for the 100 mark. The Black-Tailed Godwits are growing in numbers and many of them are in lovely breeding plumage. The smaller waders have started to arrive. I watched a flock of Dunlins, Ringed Plover and even a Little Ringed Plover feeding not far from the first hide on Monks.  I spotted a Ruff and a flock of Knots flew over at one point. A Spotted redshank was also observed by some birders on Priors.

Avocets on Monks

The Marsh Harriers are being seen more frequently on the reserve. Both on Friday and Saturday there were reports of a Hen Harrier ( Ringtail - female bird) having been seen. I have not seen a photo yet from any observers.

The Marshy I saw on Saturday was a "male" looking bird that might well be a juvenile female.

Marsh Harrier ( Heavy Crop)

The Marsh Harrier ( Heavy Crop)

On Saturday I "almost" had a grandstand view of a Peregrine attack on the Avocets but by the time I got into position and lined up the camera I missed the shots.

Ducks have been in good numbers with all kinds of species ranging from Wigeon, Gadwall, Mallards, Tufted, Pintail, Teal, Shelduck, and Goldeneyes. As usual, talking into the Marsh Platform is like setting off a tripwire as it results in an explosion of ducks into the sky.

Wigeon and teal

There has been a huge flock of Starlings on the lagoons. On occasions, they all panic and do a mini murmuration.

Big flock of Starlings

On Sunday there was a flock 30 or more Carrion Crows on Monks. I have never seen so many. I really hope they will NOT be a problem this year for the breeding waders. From what I am seeing so far this year there appears to be a huge amount of Corvids around the reserve and this does not bode well for chicks as I suspect the crows are a significant factor when it comes to chick predation.

A murder of crows

Lapwings giving an errant Carrion Crow a hard time

My highlight though from the weekend was getting a photograph of Flossy the Glossy Ibis backlit by the evening sun which had caused the sky to glow a cool orange color.

Another Flossy silhoutte

Flossy remains a firm favorite of mine. I have a huge collection of pictures of this gem of a bird.
Its an incredibly difficult bird to take a picture of even in good conditions and its horrendous in poor light.

Flossy flight shot

Sunday I got up early and tried to socially isolated myself as possible standing on Goldcliff sea wall at 5.45 am in the morning - there was little chance of bumping into any other crazy people like me to wait for a sunrise. It was well worth the wait though.

Sunrise on Mothers Day

Me in my element

Its got to be said - the weather was great on the weekend and the amount of birds on the reserve - especially waders is becoming fabulous but it's happening now at the most importune time.

 The NHS is advising to stay home to save lives. It's a horrible conundrum to face if you are a dedicated birder who loves his patch.

 I have decided to say firewall, for now, to the reserve and return when I feel its right. 

So this will be the last of my Goldclliff blog posts for a while. I am sure I will find some more local things to write about but for now, I am not going to traveling far.

That's it for now, I am off to socially isolate myself and do my bit to help the NHS and stay as close to home as possible. Let's hope we all can weather out the storm. I wish you all good health and good luck.

Stay safe readers.


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