An unexPected arrival at Goldcliff

Goldliff Lagoons

 Over the last couple of weeks or so I have been lucky enough to visit Goldcliff Lagoons on several occasions. The reserve has had a real harvest feel about it as the local farmer has been incredibly busy and cut the grass throughout the reserve and produced hundreds of hay bales.

The bales of hay have attracted lots of birds including Wheatears, Meadow Pipits, and Yellow Wagtails. The raptors have really loved them and the Kestrels and Buzzards have been taken full advantage of them. Even one of the Marsh Harriers has been seen perched upon them.

Female Marsh Harrier has been using the hay bales as perching points

The lagoons are looking pretty good and have plenty of water in them at the moment. Priors Lagoon, which is the "freshwater" lagoon as been full for most of the summer and has become very attractive to the various duck species. Wigeon has been arriving at the reserve and will now gradually start to build up as the autumn season progresses.

Anotated picture of the reserve

Monks Lagoon has had some good sightings of waders. It's usually good for a few Ruffs, Dunlin and Redshank. Only a month or so ago it was my favorite spot for a Spotted Redshank that hung around for a while. However, this year during the "autumn passage" Monks have been fairly quiet compared to previous years in my opinion.

By far the preferred lagoon for waders and generally the more interesting species has been Becs Lagoon.

Becs Lagoon (Top) Priors Lagoon ( Bottom)

Becs is best viewed from the Avocet Hide ( aka Seawall Hide) but can also be viewed albeit at a greater distance from the Marsh Platform. The birds this year really have seemed to prefer this lagoon. It's a little annoying from a photography point of view as on most occasions the birds are distant and you are forced to use maximum magnification.

Fortunately, I have a Nikon P1000 which I use primarily as a scope has plenty of reach and many times this year has been a godsend when watching waders at a distance. The camera is very useful for record shots at these distances for identification purposes and it captures excellent 4k Video.

I have visited at various times of day to mix it up a little. I have tried to coincide my visits with high tides as I find I tend to see more waders on the lagoons when the tide is in.

The drone has come in handy as well to get some different views of the reserve and the surrounding landscape. I always take great care when flying my drone and don't fly it over the reserve as I dont want to cause any disturbance.

Using the drone has also enabled me to get some good aerial shots to help people understand the layout of the reserve and the names of the lagoons as you can see in the annotated picture I have included in this post.

Goldcliff Point

There has been more than my drone in the skies at Goldcliff. Even an old fighter jet flew over one morning and I quickly grabbed a few pics.

Jet Provost flies over

During most of my visits, I have seen plenty of Wheatears. They have been perched up all over the place. They love the perimeter fence posts, the hay bales, and the seawall. The Wheatears are using the reserve to fuel up on lots of insects before they make their journey south to West Africa.


The nice warm "Indian summer" we have been experiencing has also brought out the dragonflies. If you look carefully in the hawthorn hedgerows at the back of the Greenshank Hide ( aka hiding 2) you may be lucky to find some Hawkers.

I found a rather gorgeous-looking Migrant Hawker dragonfly the other day which was sunbathing in amongst blackberries.

Migrant Hawker Dragonfly

So back to the birds and particularly the waders which are my personal favorites at Goldcliff.

Becs Lagoon has been the place to go if you want a good chance of seeing good numbers and I have spent the majority of my time during my visits in the Avocet ( aka Sea Wall Hide).

There has been a nice flock of Lapwings which seems to attract other wades to it. This autumn passage has been marked by a lot of sightings of Ruff. At one point there have been about 11 of these birds. There has also been Greenshank, Redshank, Knot, Little Stints, Curlew Sandpipers, Wood Sandpipers, and Green Sandpipers. The Black-Tailed Godwits don't appear to have gathered in any kind of numbers approaching previous years in my experience. 

Most of the birds that have been arriving, even the rarities have been pretty much expected.

Last weekend however one of the Bristol Birder who had been visiting the reserve spotted something totally unexpected. Whilst scanning the birds on Becs Lagoon he found a Pectoral Sandpiper.

A really nice find. I have only ever seen one previously at Pilning Wetlands over the other side of the water last year.

"Pec Sands" normally migrate from North America and Siberia to South America where they will overwinter. It is thought that birds that turn up in the UK tend to be juvenile birds that have been blown well off course. These Pectoral Sandpipers may eventually move Southwards and winter in Africa.

The wader gets its name from the streaky brown markings that cover its "Pecs" - chest.

I have been lucky to see the bird on several occasions and was able to grab some video footage and some record shots.

Pectoral Sandpiper on Becs

Pectoral Sandpiper

You can see the chest "Pectoral" Markings clearly

The PecSand

I must admit this year there has been a lack of big flock aerial action to photograph but I have been able to get some flight shots. I always like to review my pictures later to see if I have anything unusual in the pictures.

On reviewing the pictures I took yesterday I noticed that I had captured the Pectoral Sandpiper flying with the Lapwing flock when they got startled.

Can you spot it?

Pectoral Sandpiper in amongst the flock

One of the things that always marvels me about the reserve is how much of the wildlife also do "expected" things such as turning up more or less the same time every year.

For the last four years a Kestrel has always put on good shows in September and it's been no different this year.

Yesterday the Kestrel was having an incredibly hard time from the crows. At one point there was a real Murder of Crows as there was a mixed flock of over twenty Carrion, Magpies, and Jackdaws mobbing the Kestrel and also causing trouble to the Marsh Harrier that has taken a real fancy for the reserve and has been seen daily at the reserve.

Kestrel and Carrion Crow.

I enjoyed a catch-up with Hugh Gregory who had strayed from his normal patches of Magor Marsh and between the Severn Bridges.

There was a marvelous moment when we were chatting at the back of the Redshank Platform and we saw a female Common Darter Dragonfly perched on a perch. Hughe walked up to the insect and flew into the air and then landed on his hand for a few minutes - amazing stuff.

Hugh Gregory the human dragonfly perch

Common Darter ( female)


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