Dawn on the wall


Dawn on the wall

My morning started before dawn doing a quick step march through the Goldcliff Lagoons reserve with my friend Paul Joy in tow. I think I have turned into Pauls personal trainer and for his senior age he is the fittest chap I know, sometimes I have a job to keep up with him once his steam is up.

Compared to yesterday when it was snowing throughout a lot of Gwent the weather this morning was positively  heavenly. The sky was pretty much clear, stars were shining overhead and the moon was illuminating our path through the reserve. I was determined that we reached the wall, well before dawn today. Firstly I had estimated the sun should start rising just to the right of Hill Farm and it was looking odds on for a good sunrise and secondly there was going to be another opportunity to see the Black Redstarts.

We arrived at the sea wall with plenty of time spare to set up. I have taken more pictures that I can remember of sunrises at Goldcliff but this year there has been very few opportunities due to the Covid-19 lockdowns. As ever I was very excited, I love a good sunrise. Watching one always gives me a buzz and makes me feel full of energy.

Whilst waiting for the sun I could hear lots of small birds around the manure heaps near the farm barn and the skip. I caught sight in the dark, of the silhouettes of Pied Wagtails, Robins , Meadow Pipits and Stonechats. Well they may not have been Stonechats, they may have been Black Redstarts but it was difficult to say in the pre-dawn gloom.

A number of other photographers joined us on the wall. Paul Coombes I haven't seen in ages , and was good to chat to later, started setting up also for the  sunrise.

For a fleeting moment I started to doubt if I had got the suns position correctly and was worrying that it was going to come up behind Hill Farm. I was soon reassured when the orange fireball broke the horizon and up it came - a new day had started.


Here comes the sun

So Objective 1 - to catch a sunset was done. Next up Objective 2 - find the Black Redstarts.

A number of people were convinced they were near our location and some had spotted them at a distance further up the wall near the fishermen that had gathered.

As the light got better there were a few more sightings. The best place this morning appeared to near the manure heaps. Rather than chase around after small birds along the wall I decided to just sit up and wait for a while. There was lots of small birds hanging around the manure. The obvious reason for this was that the manure was attracting lots of insects. A Robin, four Meadow Pipits, a Wren, Stonechat and a Pied Wagtail were regularly showing. Then two Black Redstarts showed up flying up from the sea wall. The male Black Redstart headed for the manure heaps. I managed to track it with the Nikon P1000 as with this camera I have got reach. Whilst the image quality is nothing like my Nikon D500 and Sigma C lens its a bit of a compromise I am willing to take to get a reasonable picture.

Last weekend I did not get an opportunity to see the male so I was well pleased especially when it landed on the sea wall. Whilst it always remained at distance it was quite happy doing its thing without any disturbance to it. 

Black Redstart (male) on the wall

Black Redstart.

The Redstarts eventually disappeared further along the wall and no one picked them afterwards.

With my two objectives achieved it was time to move on and take a look at what else was on show.

On the foreshore, there was a nice flock of twenty or more Grey Plovers and a similar number of Dunlin. They were feeding at the waters edge. On the rapidly flooding Saltmarsh near the pill was a good flock of Curlews ( too distant to see any rings).

The "Goldcliff Gang" of birders, ( that is what we call our friendly group of regulars) headed to the Avocet Hide ( Seawall) for some breakfast. On the grassy verges of Priors near to the left of the hide were four Barnacle Geese in with Canadas. On Becs Lagoon was nice flock of Black Tailed Godwits (40C). The Godwits did not hang about once the tide started to recede and flew over the hide on the way to the foreshore.

At one point a Sparrowhawk landed on a post and then flew off. Moments later a Great Spotted Woodpecker did the same but it was gone before I could even raise the camera.


Later we walked back around the reserve. On Priors Lagoon roosting in with a small flock of Redshanks was a Spotted Redshank. It did not pop its head up once.

Spotted Redshank in with Reshanks on Priors

The hedgerows continue to harbour plenty of winter thrushes. In my opinion though the numbers have dropped compared to last month.

To finish off the day Paul Joy and I check in at Boat Lane to see if the Glossy Ibis were about.

It did not take long to pick up "Flossy" and "Bossy" as I call them from the roadside view point.

"Bossy" and "Flossy" the Glossy Ibis

Incoming Glossy Ibis

"Flossy" Preening 

"Bossy" the younger and smaller Glossy Ibis

They took flight at one point and then landed together. "Flossy" was busy preening and the younger "Bossy" was feeding most of the time. A flock of Lapwings took to the air and whilst we were watching them wondering what had put them up a female Marsh Harrier flew in quartering the reeds. A nice bird of prey to finish the day off for sure.

Backlit female Marsh Harrier.


  1. Always a pleasure to read your blog. Fabulous photos too. Great to have you back keeping us up to date on the Goldcliff scene, even though I was there you still manage to spot more than me!

    1. Thanks John for the feedback, enjoyed our catch up.


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