Seriously addicted to Goldcliff Lagoons


Inspiring the new generation with a wonderous view.

I am sure my readers already know, I am seriously addicted to Goldcliff Lagoons. Since December last year I have endured over three months of going "cold turkey". To keep me going, my Goldcliff substitute has been "local patch birding" which I must admit I have seriously enjoyed. However, on returning to the reserve I just can't get enough at the moment. Friday mornings visit had been awesome but by Friday evening my thoughts had turned to planning another visit - Saturday morning.

Once again at the crack of dawn I rolled up at the lagoons. I wasn't the only person either. A number of my good friends also joined in the fun. The reserve has been busy since the lockdown has eased and by midday there has been lots of visitors. 

What has made the reserve very attractive has been the significant number of species on offer , especially different types of geese and this has meant lots of potential year "ticks" for birder year lists.

Since my return I am up to ninety different species all observed within Gwent.

This Bank Holiday weekend it has been absolutely bitter. The wind has been bone chilling especially if you are in the Sea Wall ( Avocet) Hide. We are seriously thinking of renaming it the "icebox". It was incredibly cold in there and the wind chill factor was monstrous. At several times my mind started fantasying about how nice it would be to have a log burner inside it.

Anyone who visited this weekend who managed to endure more than an hour inside it deserved a medal. However, if you did persevere the rewards were great. The waders this spring have favoured Becs lagoon. I call it the "Goldilocks Effect". Monks Lagoon is not quite right, Priors is too deep and "Becs" is just right for them.

The view from the Marsh platform showing the location of the flock on Becs Lagoons

The numbers of Black Tailed Godwits have been huge. The flock loves to congregate at the end of Becs Island often spreading out far and wide across the back of the lagoon. At times it can be deceiving as from the Seawall hide they can become almost hidden from view. Whilst if you were to peer across from the Marsh Platform you would see hundreds of the birds behind the island.

Black Tailed Godwits

Note the solid Black Tails

I would suggest that at several points there has been over five hundred Black Tailed Godwits at high tide. There has been very few other waders mixed in with them apart from the flock of about eighty or more Avocets.

The Avocets are doing what they always do at this time of year. The come together in a big flock and then start to pair off and mate. Soon they will each find their own bit of a scrape on Becs and Monks Island and lay eggs. I do hope they have more success this year and the chicks don't get predated.

H9's ring

The Nikon P1000 camera is very useful for reading ring numbers

You may remember that on Friday I noticed a ringed avocet H9. Well , I was able to report the sighting to the ringers with some help from my birding friends and I got the results back. H9 has a long history of sighting at the Newport Wetlands reserve and is no stranger to Goldcliff Lagoons. The bird is over ten years old and was hatched in 2011 in the Dunkirk colony on Cambridgeshire. It was first sighted at Goldcliff in 2013. Since then it has been seen in Alkborough Flats, Holland and Slimbridge. The Avocet is thought to be a female ( although that's not 100% and there is some doubt that it could even be a male) and according to the records has had at least three or four chicks. I love all this information and thank all those involved in the ringing program for their efforts. This is a good example of the value of reporting ringed bird sightings.

The Black-Tailed Godwits differ to the Avocets in that they are gathering at the lagoons not to breed. They are preparing for an epic journey to Iceland to their own breeding grounds. At this time of the year they are looking incredible in varying levels of breeding plumage. These magnificent waders will hang around for a while but will eventually migrate north.

All these waders tend to stand out like a sore thumb to predators and sure enough before long a number of birds of prey start to show up.

I got to see my first Marsh Harrier of the year on Saturday as it cruised in over the pill and put the birds up. The female Merlin has remained in the area and has been seen several times by various birders. I was able to grab a quick picture of it as it was perched up near the seawall. There has also been a Peregrine Falcon observed several times zeroing in on the wader flocks and on occasions eating an unlucky bird or two. On Friday I watched a Buzzard causing havoc as it hovered almost Marsh Harrier like over priors.

Female Merlin

Cropped picture for a better look.

As breeding season approaches the crow numbers seem to be increasing and I have seen a Raven roaming the skies. The corvids will be keeping a close eye on the fledglings in the coming months for sure.

The seawall itself is always a cracking place to look out for birds as they arrive from their various migratory journeys. Wheatears are now turning up more regularly and on Saturday we saw two White Wagtails feeding along the wall.

White Wagtails

On the wall

From the wall you can also get a good view of the saltmarsh that borders Goldcliff Pill. This area is always good for Curlews and geese as they use it as high tide roost.  Out on the marsh land a Brent Goose was spotted in with the Canada Geese. That makes it now three rare types of geese being found on the reserve at the moment - Bean, White Fronted and Brent.

Brent Goose observed at great distance on the Saltmarsh

The Bean Goose

White Fronted Goose

Saturdays birding had been great but I must admit I was frozen solid after several hours in the "icebox" but it has been worth it and the banter with my friends has been a real boon.

By Saturday afternoon the weather had got better and better and the skies were clear and blue. When my daughter suggested it would be good to go out and catch a sunset I did not need any further encouragement to gather up my camera kit again and then head off with her to Goldcliff  - any excuse will do ;)

Sunset at Monks Lagoon

The reserve in the evening can be a very tranquil place. It does not get visited so much and tends to be free of lots of people. The tide was way out and the big wader flocks were out at the waters edge in the far distance. The reserve was turning golden as the sun set and the whole reserve really does become tinged with a golden hue. I really enjoyed the company of my daughter and I know she enjoyed that view from the Redshank platform. 

Making a Canada Goose look cool at sunset

On Easter Sunday I took a break from the wetlands and headed North to the Gwent Uplands. I have a separate post to write later this week about that trip.

Today - Bank Holiday Monday resulted me in yet again walking into the reserve to chance my luck again with a "birding fix".

I made my way around to to the seawall after catching up with one of my birding pals and watching a couple of Ruffs on Monks.

From the sea wall I could see that the tide was turning and on the saltmarsh was a flock of Canada Geese including the "odd one out" - the Brent.

Despite quite gusty wind the weather was pretty good and the sun was nice and warm on the wall. A couple of Swallows and a  Sand Martin passed me by. 

But, soon I was back in the "icebox" again gluten for punishment. There was a huge flock of Black Tailed Godwits again on Becs and I just could not resist waiting for some more acrobatic displays to take place. I was joined by friendly birder from Oakdale who was clad in so many winter woollies he looked like he was about to go on a trip to the Antarctic.

It was not long after I arrived at the sea wall hide that there was the loud noise of cackling Canada Geese as they flew in to the reserve over the wall from the Saltmarsh. I said to the birder "Keep your eyes out on that geese flock as there may be a Brent in with them" and right on que there was the Brent flying in with the Canada Geese hoard.

The Brent Goose flies in.

Brent Goose flypast

The Brent splash landed on Priors Lagoon. Took a drink settled for a while and then flew off and landed on Becs. Getting a flight shot of it was quite special.

Then the fun started with the waders. On separate occasions involving two different Marsh Harriers ( Male/juvenile form and a female form) the wader flock went Beswick. They whole flock exploded into the air and put on a fantastic display of synchronised flying. On the second occasion the Marshy was quite persistent and the flock that consisted of Black Tailed Godwits and Avocets remained airborne for over five minutes.

Female form Marsh Harrier

Black Tailed Godwits

BTG flyby.

I must admit I can't get enough of Goldcliff - the "rush" never disappoints. Big thanks to all my readers for your continued visits to my website, Facebook and Twitter likes and the blog comments. Very much appreciated. "Happy Easter".


  1. Fantastic blog and photos, good to know you’ll be there to witness the return of Flossy and family at some point!


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