The sunshine brings some surprises at Goldcliff

Dawn Breaks over a mirror calm Severn Estuary

At last we have had a break in the rain. A stranger put in an appearance today at Goldcliff - "The Sun".

My day started on Goldcliff Sea Wall. I trudged along the coastal path, which resembled a quagmire, until I got to a spot that is about half a mile from Redwick. The mist had formed a white blanket over the fields and was spilling over the seawall onto the estuary. The Prince of Wales bridge was partially obscured by a thick cloud of mist and above it the sky had turned a pink colour. There was a really strong smell of smoke and apparently this was caused by a big fire that occurred at Newport docks.

The Prince of Wales Bridge with a white tide of mist rolling in

By the time I had reached the spot I had decided to set my tripod up at, the sky had turned a cool orange colour. The horizon had a thick band of cloud so the rising sun was hidden behind  it but the orange glow was rising up above the wall of cloud, and being refracted down onto the waters of the Severn Estuary. The tide was on its way but there was hardly a breath of wind and the estuaries waters were mirror calm.

The white mist spills over the seawall into the glowing orange waters of the estuary

There was some bird activity at the shore line. Oystercatchers excitedly piped and the haunting calls of Curlews could be heard. 

A strange looking goose came flying across the wall and having now at had time to study the photograph, it appears to have been a Brent Goose. 

Brent Goose

Eventually dawn reached its zenith but the burning disc never showed but it did warm the whole skyline up a wonderful orange colour.

The clouds are back lit by the rising sun and it causes them to glow orange.

I headed back along the wall towards Goldcliff Café. Marching towards me were groups of fisherman carrying all their fishing equipment. I was told that a swimming competition was taking place today and lots more were expected. That probably explained why a flotilla of small boats was heading along the shoreline.

In order to get to Goldcliff Lagoons today I decided to take a different route. I walked through the fields following the public right of way that brings you out behind the Redshank Platform.

As I walked through the fields I stopped to watch a big flock of Starlings that were feeding. Suddenly out of no where came a Merlin swooping in really low to the ground straight at the flock. The Starlings panicked and exploded into the air. The Merlin carried on heading towards the reserve.

The reserve looked busy as I approached. Yesterday there had been an incredible amount of species of Geese seen in Gwent - many of them at Goldcliff.

I think I am correct in stating the following had been seen -

  • Brent Goose
  • Barnacle Goose
  • White Fronted Goose
  • Bean Goose (This was seen today at Nedern)
  • Pink Footed Goose
  • Canada Goose
  • Greylag Goose.
Reports of the above had no doubt attracted a lot of attention from the birders.

My first stop was the Snipe Platform. I had a chat with two of my birding friends. Priors Lagoon had a small flock of Lapwing, a Black Headed Gull and plenty of ducks -Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler and Mallards. On  the grassy banks between Priors and Monks was a nice flock of about twenty Curlews - none of them were colour ringed.

On Monks Island was a female Peregrine that was yet again munching its breakfast. They really are amazing killing machines. In the distance on the perimeter wall was a Buzzard watching the various goings on.

There was a lot of birders with scopes up at the sea wall so I walked over there to see what was grabbing their attention.

Well, they were looking for the geese and had found the Brent Goose. It was out on the Saltmarsh near the Pill with a flock of Canada's ( I wonder if it was the same Brent I had seen earlier).

Brent Goose on the saltmarsh between the Canada Geese

Perched up on a clump of grass near the waters edge and a flock of Curlews was a lovely looking male Merlin. Bit of a shame it was so distant as I would have loved to have photographed it closer. Out on the foreshore more waders could be seen. Oystercatchers, Dunlins and a nice flock of Grey Plovers flew in.

A flock of Grey Plover and a Dunlin

A male Merlin perched up.

Whilst up on the wall I met up with my friend Paul Joy and we enjoyed basking in some sunshine - nice to have some sun on our faces for a change on the sea wall.

It was then that the "balloon went up" that a Black Redstart had been seen near Redbarn on the rooftop of one of the houses nearby. It had been spotted by one of Gwent's keen eyed birders - Craig Constance who had ventured away from his usual patch at Llandegfydd Reservoir. There was now an air of excitement amongst many of the birders and soon people were moving off in groups hurriedly heading out of the reserve.

I ended up following after them as I had never been lucky enough to see a Black Redstart close up and the eagerness to photograph one got the better of me.

After a very long walk (in my wellies and I think I burned a load of calories and settled my carbon debt for the day) I eventually made it to where the Redstart has been found. It was on the roof of a house directly opposite where we stop to watch the two Glossy Ibis that have been showing in the flooded fields near Redbarn ( the NRW site).

An amazing find I must say. The Black Redstart was feeding on insects that appeared to be attracted to the warmth of the slates on the roof. It was competing with a pair of Pied Wagtails and a Robin which would try chasing it off.

Just look at that tail

Lovely looking bird

Black Redstart on the roof 

My first relatively close encounter with a Black Redstart

I must say it was a lovely looking bird with a strikingly coloured red tail. It was quite happy to be photographed and was busy darting around the roof to catch any flies that dared to fly near it.

Now the Black Redstart was a really big surprise and was great tick to finish my morning off at Goldcliff Lagoons.

Bird List

  1. Curlew
  2. Herring Gull
  3. Lesser Black Backed Gull
  4. Great Black Backed Gull
  5. Black Headed Gull
  6. Pied Wagtail
  7. Moorhen
  8. Starling
  9. Merlin
  10. Peregrine
  11. Fieldfare
  12. Redwing
  13. Bakckbird
  14. Robin
  15. Wren
  16. Mallard
  17. Wigeon
  18. Teal
  19. Shoveler
  20. Shelduck
  21. Canada Goose
  22. Greylag Goose
  23. Brent Goose
  24. Buzzard
  25. Stonechat
  26. Blue Tit
  27. Great Tit
  28. Little Egret
  29. Grey Heron
  30. Black Redstart
  31. Oystercatcher
  32. Avocet
  33. Grey Plover
  34. Dunlin
  35. Reed Bunting
  36. Goldfinch
  37. House Sparrow
  38. Collared Dove
  39. Wood Pigeon
  40. Carrion Crow
  41. Glossy Ibis
  42. Snipe
  43. Lapwing


  1. That was a fantastic description of the sunrise and the amazing day you had. Those landscape shots are spectacular!


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