Thanks Godwits there are lots of birds at Goldcliff Lagoons

Black-Tailed Godwits and Red Knots

Autumn passage is now upon us and many migrating species of birds particularly waders have started putting in an appearance at Goldcliff Lagoons. This year the lockdown has significantly impacted my visits to this wonderful nature reserve and with work being busy has resulted in me only managing to find time for birding on the weekends.  It does at times get quite frustrating, especially when this week at least six Cattle Egrets were sighted at the lagoons by Goldcliff veteran Brian Thomas, something I really would have liked to have seen.

It's been great to read the reports on Gwent Birders Sightings Page and posts on the various social media of "Flossy" the Glossy Ibis being observed regularly at the lagoons. My friend Nev Davies was the first to catch a glimpse of it since the end of the five-mile lockdown in Wales and I hope he forgives me for doubting him a little as the Ibis really did keep its head down initially for a while before gradually returning to its usual pre-lockdown habit of showing well at the reserve

"Flossy" is one of my favorites at the reserve and the last couple of weekends I have have had brief views of the enigmatic bird. It is now in adult breeding plumage and looking really colorful in a good light. My friend and brilliant videographer  "Video Jonn Lawton" has been spending a lot of time at the lagoons the last few weeks and had made some fabulous videos of Flossy feeding with a horde of Little Egrets. I have put a link below and I am sure John will not mind you viewing his great video.

The water levels on the reserve are now very low with lots of mud being exposed on all three lagoons.  Monks has been attracting lots of waders such as  Black Tailed Godwits, Avocets, Dunlins, Sanderling, Redshank, Lapwing, Turnstones, Ringed and Little-ringed Plovers, Greenshank, Common Sandpipers, and Curlews. The lagoon is also a favorite of roosting Black Headed Gulls with the odd Mediterranean Gull mixed in if you look close enough. Many a birder is scanning the mud for signs of Green and Wood Sandpipers. I have not seen them myself this year but I am sure a Green Sandpiper has been seen a couple of times.

Priors lagoons technically is the only freshwater lagoon on the reserve ( they are all saline to a degree).
As a result, it always seems to start to teem with little fish at this time of year. When the water gets low the fish get concentrated and this in turn attracts lots of Egrets and Herons. I have seen lots of photos this week from birders showing the herons and egrets feasting on elvers ( eels).

Little Egrets

Grey Heron, Redshank and Dunlin

I suspect that the numbers of invertebrates that the waders feed on, particularly the Black-Tailed Godwits have also increased exponentially in the summer heat. This has resulted in this lagoon becoming a magnet that has attracted a lot of birds to its waters and muddy banks.

The Snipe and Marsh Platforms have really come into their own as great places to watch the bird inhabitants up close without disturbing them. It has been a good while since I have seen such large numbers of waders gathering on Priors as during the winter it was just too deep.

Over the last couple of weeks, there has been an ever-growing flock of Black Tailed-Godwits (BTG) If you have keen eyes you may spot the occasional Bar TailedGodwit as well. I love "BTG's". They are my personal favorite waders. They are big colorful birds that thanks to a lot of conservation efforts are breeding in small numbers in the United Kingdom again.

Black-Tailed Godwits, Knots and a Ruff

The Godwits we are seeing at Goldcliff have either migrated to breed in Iceland or maybe newly fledged birds that have all returned to the UK to winter. You will notice that the Godwits are usually accompanied at Goldcliff by a smaller flock of smaller waders called Red Knots. At this time of the year, many of these are a pale grey color but there are some that have retained their red breeding plumage and look very nice.

Knot and Black-Headed Gulls

There has also been a lot more Dunlins on the reserve as a whole. They too will start to build in number and I look forward to seeing them whiz around in large flocks.

Another species of waders that will also start to increasingly show up is the Ruff. Oer the last week there has been a number of sightings of Ruff being seen including one that has a broken leg.

Becs Lagoon ( the furthest lagoon to walk to near the sea wall hide) has also had its fair share of birds. This lagoon has been attracting lots of Black Headed Gulls, Dunlins, and Ringed Plover but on the whole, has been a little quiet compared to the other pools.

So with all this wader activity going on you would think that this would have attracted lots of predators. I have seen reports of the Marsh Harriers, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk  Kestrel, Peregrine, and a Hobby being seen but my gut feeling this year is that it has been a little quiet so far this year. However its been breeding season and as autumn quickly approaches I expect the birds of prey to start being seen more regularly again. Who knows perhaps we will see a few more Hobbys and a Merlin or two.

Over the last three years, I have spent a huge amount of time at the reserve and taken thousands of pictures. I never tire of visiting but I have started to become a little more selective with my photography. However, there is one type of bird activity I can never get enough of and that is flight shots of wader flocks. I just love this sort of stuff.

Today the wader flock got startled by a Sparrowhawk that swooped in over the heads of me and the two "Pauls" ( Joy and Stephens) who were my company for the day.

The waders exploded into the air and soon the whole sky was filled with Black Tailed Godwits, Knots, Dunlins, Redshank, and a Ruff. They went into murmuration mode and hurtled around in a tight flock giving us quite a display of formation flying. Absolutely brilliant to watch and it certainly made my day.

The startled flock

Black-Tailed Godwits, Knot, Redshank, and a Ruff.

The good numbers of birds at the beginning of August is really encouraging and I predict that things should really start to get busy as we progress towards the end of the month. Let's hope a couple of rarities turn up. I will certainly be keeping my eyes open for Stints, Wood Sandpipers and Curlew Sandpipers.

Lastly thanks to all those I had the company to chat with today at the reserver it really brightened up my day.

Todays Birds List -
  • Black-Tailed Godwits
  • Knot
  • Ruff
  • Common Sandpiper
  • Avocet
  • Oystercatcher
  • Lapwings
  • Curlew
  • Glossy Ibis
  • Redshank
  • Little Egret
  • Grey Heron
  • Moorhen
  • Coot
  • Mallard
  • Shelduck
  • Yellow Wagtail
  • Carrion Crow
  • Pied Wagtail
  • Woodpigeon
  • Canada Goose
  • Greylag
  • Buzzard
  • Black Headed Gull
  • Herring Gull
  • Lesser Black-Backed Gull
  • Ringed Plover
  • Starlings


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