Dawn and Dusk spent at Goldcliff


Northern Wheatear

We really have been experiencing some fantastic weather over the last week. For the most part I have been more or less chained to my desk during the day and have not had the opportunity to take advantage of it.

I have reviewed the various sighting reports with envy - especially in regards to those that concern Goldcliff Lagoons. So on Friday evening I was busy scheming up my plans for Saturday. It would inevitably involve me visiting my favourite reserve at least once. I had arranged to meet up with an old friend from my past vocation in life and looked forward to showing him around Gwent's finest birding patch.

Goldcliff is coming alive now with birds. The "big six" - wader species that breed on site - Avocets, Redshanks, Lapwings, Ringed Plovers, Oystercatchers and Little Ringed Plovers, are all busy and a number of Lapwing chicks have been observed already. I wish them all lots of luck and I do hope this year we have some success.

There is far more on site than those "select" waders. Passerines are turning up everywhere. The hedgerows are full of the song of Cettis,Whitethroat, Blackcap, Chiffchaffs, Sedge and Reed Warblers. Adding to them are the usual Wrens, Great and Blue Tits, Dunnocks and Robins.

The reserve also attracts Skylarks which are now singing on the wing and the bramble bushes are often the territory of Linnets. The seawall hide's guttering has become home to a pair of Starlings.

The seawall area this week has been very lively. The wall is often a stop over for migratory birds such as Wheatears, Yellow Wagtails, White Wagtails and even Whimbrel. The stones of the wall appear to attract enormous numbers of flying insects which in turn become a banquet for the birds. This weekend I saw several Swallows twisting and turning coursing the air over the wall sweeping up the insects. I am sure I saw my first House Martins pass through over the wall and several birders reported a Swift over the skies of the reserve.

It would be no surprise to any of my regular readers that on Saturday I was up at the crack of dawn and walking along the Goldcliff Seawall. I fancied chancing my luck with a sunrise again.

Waiting for sunrise

The wind was quite chilling and the skies were quite clear but there was a haziness on the horizon near the Severn bridges due to a thin veneer of cloud.

The tide was in and the wind was whipping up a small swell. I then heard a very distinctive shrill call come from the estuary behind me and low across the waters came a small flock of Whimbrel.  These are migratory birds that are smaller relatives of the Curlew. The two species can be easily confused. Whimbrel sound different, are smaller, have a shorter slightly more curved beak - reminds me of "Gonzo" off the muppets and they have an eye stripe.


They shot on ahead of me and then turned away and landed further on along the wall. It's great to see the Whimbrels and they are showing bang on time as I was predicting that would be make an appearance this month.They only pass through the Uk, they breed rarely in the uk and in low numbers. They will be travelling North to breeding grounds in Iceland and even further afield such as Russia.

The sun eventually made an appearance as it burned through a thin layering of cloud behind the Prince of Wales bridge.

The sunrises

I headed back and walked to an area located a good distance outside the Goldcliff Lagoons reserve area so I could use my drone. This amazing piece of technical wizardry has been keeping my mind occupied lately with its many potentials for use. For a long time I have wanted my own aerial pictures - from a respectful distance of the reserve, to use on my website and for presentations that I have been asked to do.

Up went the drone and it opened up a whole new perspective on the area. From above Goldcliff is very interesting. I marvel at the "channels" that show in the fields. I am assuming its for drainage. Goldcliff Lagoons were looking fabulous.

A different perspective.

It was time then to move on and check the reserve out. I met up with my friend Steve and gave him a guided tour of the reserve. His day started with a Merlin swooping across Monks in front of the first hide terrorising just about anything feathered. I am not sure what it had targeted but everything scattered just in case.

Female Merlin Sweeps in

The Spotted Redshanks did not show at all. There were also reports of two Greenshank in the morning.

My highlights in the morning were seeing the Merlin first thing, Yellow Wagtails , capturing some great pictures of a Wheatear that was very accommodating to me and the company - it was good to meet up with my fellow birders and have some social time.

Wheatear takes off

Yellow Wagtail

Steve, I think left the reserve a little gob struck at how good the reserve was. It is a real gem of a place.

I headed off quite early by my standards, as I had some errands to run but ended up returning later in the evening a few hours before sunset for high tide.

During the evening Goldcliff Lagoons becomes quite different. The light changes. On a nice day the sun becomes glaring and its almost impossible to view the lagoons unless you are in on the Marsh Platform or on the Sea Wall side.

Becs Lagoon was the busiest of the three pools. I sat in the seawall hidden which was now thankfully a little more than it has been recently.

There was a flock of approximately 300 Black Tailed Godwits, a Greenshank and two Pin Tail Ducks. Whizzing around between Becs and Monks was a small flock of Dunlins. The Avocets and Lapwings were busy mobbing anything that remotely looked threatening and Shelduck were roosting all over the place.

Black Tailed Godwits

On a number of occasions everything went up but eventually the birds returned and life went back to normal.

I stayed until dusk and watched the sun go down from the Redshank Platform . Sunset at Goldcliff is always a sight to behold and it was pretty good last night.

Lapwings at sunset

Calm over the lagoons

Sunset approaches

A great ending to an eventful day of birding. As ever I left the reserve wanting more :).

Stay safe all.

Species List

  1. Merlin
  2. Whimbrel
  3. Yellow Wagtail
  4. Pied Wagtail
  5. Marsh Harrier
  6. Wheatear
  7. Swallow
  8. House Martin
  9. Starling
  10. Linnet
  11. Greenshank
  12. Redshank
  13. Little Ringed Plover
  14. Ringed Plover
  15. Dunlin
  16. Curlew
  17. Linnet
  18. Common Whitethroat
  19. Wren
  20. Chiff Chaff
  21. Blackcap
  22. Blue Tit
  23. Great Tit
  24. Lesser Black Backed Gull
  25. Herring Gull
  26. Goldfinch
  27. Oystercatcher
  28. Black Tailed Godwit
  29. Shelduck
  30. Avocet
  31. Carrion Crow
  32. Pint Tail
  33. Shoverler
  34. Gadwall
  35. Coot
  36. Moorhen
  37. Mute Swan
  38. Bean Goose
  39. White Fronted Goose
  40. Greylag
  41. Canada Goose
  42. Skylark
  43. Mallard Duck
  44. Woodpigeon
  45. Cettis
  46. Reed Warbler
  47. Sedge Warbler
  48. Lapwing
  49. Little Egret
  50. Grey Heron
  51. Blackbird
  52. Robin


  1. A cracking blog as always with wonderful photos. I went on a course about the Gwent Levels once and was told that those ‘reans’ were dug by the Romans and improved by the Benedictine monks. There’s a really fantastic publication about the levels with some very fascinating stuff about Goldcliff here: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5a1d5fb38a02c70db7c34f81/t/5eb29b5068bead2851621e8e/1588763480264/History+of+the+drainage+of+the+Gwent+Levels+FINAL.pdf

  2. Thanks John. Yes, when they built the reserves they were not allowed to dig too deeply because of those ruins. Thanks for the link to the document , I will have a good read and I think it will be very interesting and useful.


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