We have a great team of WeBS counters in East Glamorgan – 31 of us in total counting birds at 32 different sites which vary in size from reens and farm pools to Cardiff Bay and the Rumney Estuary. We go out to our own nominated patch of wetland once a month between September and March to count the waterbirds present and some, if not most of us, enjoy the survey so much that we also visit our sites during other months of the year too.
I’m pleased to say that three new members have started as WeBS counters within recent months. Richard Facey has taken on not only Sully Island in the Vale of Glamorgan but also Hendre Lake at St Mellons, and Rob Thomas has taken over from me at Llanishen & Lisvane Reservoirs. Before anybody asks, that doesn’t mean I’m now lazing about and taking my WeBS day off! The fact that Rob has taken over the reservoirs has enabled me to take on Roath Park Lake which recently became vacant . Neville Davies also re-joined the team in March, taking on Caerphilly Castle Moat – a WeBS site he once covered many years ago.
In September, 3 Water Rail were at Tir Founder Fields and 1 was back at East Aberthaw Lagoon, where the first 2 Snipe had also returned for the winter. A count of 21 Moorhen at Cors Crychydd Reen was impressive for such a small site and at Sully Island there were 46 Oystercatcher, 22 Turnstone, 4 Ringed Plover and singles of both Curlew and Dunlin – a decent assortment of waders by East Glamorgan standards!
Another area that can turn up a decent haul of waders is Ogmore Estuary. But the highlight there in October was a count of 108 Common Gull – the highest ever WeBS count at the site, beating the previous high of 45 set in February 1996. Gulls are optional for WeBS by the way – you don’t have to count them.
Shoveler is relatively scarce in the recording area and it’s always nice when one or two turn up on your WeBS count. There were 2 at the Wilderness Pond, Porthcawl in September and another 2 (or possibly the same pair?) turned up at nearby Pwll-y-Waun Pond in October. Single birds also turned up at Parc Tredelerch in October and at Parc Slip’s North Wetland in November.
Things started to pick up a bit in November. A Green Sandpiper was at Lisvane Reservoir – the first to be recorded there during a WeBS count. ‘Next door’ in the Llanishen Reservoir basin there were 42 Snipe and 32 Teal – both the highest ever WeBS counts at the reservoir. A count of 117 Mallard at Glamorgan Canal, Whitchurch was also the highest ever WeBS count at this site and not far behind the 131 highest ever for the canal. Water levels at Roath Park Lake have been very low lately to allow dredging of the site. This may account for the high number of Coot there – 204 in November, which is the joint 6th best WeBS count for the site in 12 years of recording there.
Numbers of wildfowl on the whole start to build up in September>November. This was certainly the case at East Aberthaw Quarry Pool where there were 35 Wigeon, 22 Mallard, 20 Teal, 2 Tufted Duck and 1 Pochard in November. At Caerphilly Castle Moat on the other hand numbers of Canada Geese appear to be down slightly during this period, compared to previous years.
And finally, it’s good to see Dipper restored as a regular sight on our South Wales rivers and the species was ever present during this period on WeBS counts on the River Taff between Radyr Weir and Llandaff North and at Taf Bargoed Lakes.
Do you fancy joining the team?
If you’ve always felt that you’d like to make a practical contribution to our knowledge of birds but didn’t know how, then taking part in WeBS is an excellent place to start. You don’t need to be an ‘expert’ birder to become a WeBS counter. We’ll help you find a site to match your ID skills level which means that anyone can take part, even beginners to birdwatching.
I’ve recently added some new sites in the area to the East Glamorgan WeBS page. Have a look to see whether there are any near you. No wetland is too small, so if you know of one which isn’t on the list please get in touch for a no-obligation chat.
Lewis James, a colleague in work, told me about a ringed Black-headed Gull he frequently sees on the handrail of the boardwalk that runs alongside the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. He grabbed a photograph of it one morning and managed to read the numbers and lettering: ‘2K64’ .
‘2K64’ turns out to have been ringed by John Wells as a nestling on 2nd June, 2008 as part of a study of Black-headed Gulls breeding in the Cotswold Water Park (CWP) on the Glos/Wilts border. It was next seen in Cardiff Bay in November 2010, at a landfill site at Bishops Cleeve, Glos in March 2011 and it returned to the Cotswold Water Park to breed in May 2012. It may be five and a half years old but it should have a few years left in it yet – the typical lifespan of a Black-headed Gull is 11 years.
John is a member of the Cotswold Water Park Ringing Group (CWPRG) who have been visiting breeding colonies of Black-headed Gulls at the CWP since 2004 to fit nestlings with a metal BTO ring and a Darvic ring. The purpose of this project is to monitor the birds’ movements and to study their return to the CWP to breed. A significant number have been sighted away from the CWP and thanks to the group’s efforts we now know that many of the CWP birds migrate South and West in winter to Ireland, Wales, Cornwall and Spain. A few also stay in the CWP over winter and a large number of the adults breeding in the CWP were ringed there as nestlings.
You have to admire ringers. They’re a dedicated bunch, plying their trade week in, week out at highly unsociable hours, often with low returns and freezing cold fingers! They depend on the rest of us making the effort to report sightings of ringed and colour ringed birds. To report a ringed bird please visit the Euring web page where you’ll find a step by step guide of how to submit your sighting.
For a bit of recent local ringing interest I’d recommend a visit to the BTO’s Summary of Ringing Recoveries for Glamorgan 2012 and also to blogs written by Cardiff Bird Ringers and Gower Ringing Group. Citizen science in all its glory!
Some birders’ names are synonymous with particular well-known local birding sites. If you look back through old copies of the Eastern Glamorgan Bird Report you’ll notice that the wildfowl and waterbirds of Roath Park Lake in Cardiff have been counted regularly for many years. Most of those records since 2001 will have come from two people – Graham Duff and Margaret Morgan.
Graham and Margaret counted the birds on Roath Park Lake for the BTO’s Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) for over 10 years. Graham sadly passed away in 2011 but, after a short break, Margaret continued to visit the Lake once a month to continue conducting these valuable counts.
However, a couple of days ago Margaret contacted me to say that it’s time to hand over the baton to somebody else. It goes without saying that we’re all very grateful to Margaret and Graham for their efforts over the years. Our knowledge of the bird populations of Roath Park Lake would be much the poorer without their important contribution.
Margaret’s ‘retirement’ means of course that a vacancy has arisen as a WeBS counter at Roath Park Lake. Would you like to take it on? If you’ve never done a bird survey before, WeBS is a great place to start. It’s the survey that monitors non-breeding waterbirds in the UK and all you need is the ability to identify common waterbirds and to count the birds at Roath Park Lake once a month between September and March (and, although optional, any additional months between April and August too if you can make them). The added bonus at Roath Park is that you can reward yourself after you’ve finished your count by buying an ice cream at the kiosk!
If you’ve been looking to add value to your birding this could be the opportunity you’ve been waiting for. If you’re interested in taking on Roath Park Lake for WeBS, or if you know of another wetland site which you may be interested in monitoring, please get in touch for a no obligation chat.
WeBS Local Organiser for East Glamorgan
t: 029 20 621394
The programme and booking forms are now available for the BTO Annual Conference at Swanwick, Derbyshire.
As ever, there’s plenty to hold a keen birder’s interest, with talks ranging from Honey-buzzards, demographic changes seen during the Bird Atlas 2007-11, the success of Buzzards to visual perception in birds and conserving the Pink Pigeon.
Delegates will also hear about how weather effects birds, including Long-tailed Tits, Sand Martins in Africa, Reed Warblers in Norfolk and birds in Iceland. We’ll also be given updates on many of the surveys that BTO lead, including BirdTrack, BBS and WeBS. The conference concludes with seabird tracking, the timing of moult, social media and how BTO can help conservation .
All this and more, along with an opportunity to mix with like-minded folk over dinner and a pint at the bar, browse the bookshops or inspect the latest optics from Swarovksi.
It’s well worth a trip.
The Winter Thrushes Survey resumed on 15 September 2013, with the start of the winter walks recording period. In two parts, the aim of this survey is to identify the key habitats and food sources used by our passage and wintering thrush species – Blackbird, Fieldfare, Mistle Thrush, Redwing and Song Thrush.
The survey methods and procedures are unchanged in this second and final year, except that we are no longer collecting data for species other than thrushes, i.e. Starling and Waxwing.
The first part of the survey is based on volunteers selecting their own chosen sites, based on 1km squares, and collecting information on thrushes each time they walk there. Walks can be made any time during the survey period. The second part of the survey entails a single visit to randomly selected, core sets of squares for synchronized counts. These results, because of the random selection, will be far more applicable to wider regions or the UK as a whole as a snapshot of thrush distribution and food in mid-winter.
Both parts of the survey involve walking along a chosen route, recording all thrushes seen, sighting location, key habitat features and food resources associated with each thrush or flock of thrushes noted.
If you surveyed last season, then you can use your own existing sites for winter walks, select others or carry out the midwinter count in your core square. The core count period is 27 December 2013 to 10 January 2014. Repeat walks along the same routes as last year will be especially valuable.
Across the country, during the survey’s first winter, over 1,600 observers made more than 12,600 visits to over 3,100 different sites, counting more than 811,000 birds. These numbers easily exceeded expectations and enable BTO to do even more with the results. In our region, we had 39 volunteers monitoring in over 70 1km over the September to April recording period, including coverage in 40 core squares. We are very grateful for your part in this major citizen-science project.
Despite a massive late-October movement of thrushes on parts of the North Sea coast in 2012, thrush numbers through the winter were lower than usual in most places across the UK – a poor berry crop apparently prompting many birds to move quickly onwards.
The survey’s web pages and data module have been updated and the BTO’s database is already set to begin receiving your new season’s data. With a heavier berry crop to support the thrushes this winter, we should discover how their numbers and food sources can differ between two consecutive winter seasons and to what extent conclusions from the survey can be generalised across winters, regions and habitat types.
We have a few vacant core squares, and we’d be delighted to hear from new volunteers to these or indeed those electing to chose their own winter walk routes.
tel: 01443 430284
Anyone birding our coast over the last few days, will have witnessed a steady stream of Swallows moving through as they begin their autumn migration south. For some, this whets the appetite for other migration spectacles to come.
In late October and early November huge numbers of Woodpigeons move through south east Wales. Large numbers are well documented in the East Glamorgan Bird Report, and peak counts are up to 10,000 – 30,000 birds per hour at Peterstone Wentlooge, Gwent.
It is thought that these birds are of British origin, as there are few records of incoming flocks on the east coast at that time of year. From what is known, many birds move south west over the English Midlands and seem to get ‘bottled up’ somewhere in the area from Forest of Dean through to the area between the rivers Wye and Severn. It is not clear how they reach the south Wales coast from there, but they do, in large numbers and continue to move westwards through Gwent and Glamorgan and probably leave the Welsh coast at some unknown point heading southwards into south west England
This year, Adrian Plant, would like to get together a coordinated observation of direction and numbers. It’s not known if Woodpigeons enter our region via the Severn, Wye or Usk nor how far west they travel in Wales before heading out to sea. He would like to get a small group of observers stationed at a few critical points to try and sort this out. In Glamorgan, it would need someone at Lavernock Point (perhaps also further inland as many birds follow the edge of the line of hills in Gwent and may also do so in Glamorgan). Also somebody looking seaward and inland in the Kenfig area, and of course if sites further west could be managed then all the better. Possible dates would be preferably the weekend of 2/3 November or perhaps 9/10 November. It would be best if all observers were in ‘phone contact with each other to help better coordinate things.
Are you willing to participate for 1 or 2 days?
Please contact Adrian, if you’d like to get involved.
This year’s annual joint conference of WOS, BTO Cymru & RSPB Cymru will be held on Saturday 2 November, at The Bridges Community Centre, Monmouth, Gwent with the theme Wales’ birds – from Gwent to the World.
Another excellent programme of speakers has been put together this year, including:
- Dr Mark Avery Conservation concerns for birds
- Dr Al Venables GOS: the first fifty years
- Dr Nigel Clark The Severn: has the tide turned for birds?
- Professor Tony Fox Winter birds on the Dyfi
- Jerry Lewis Hawfinches: still a lot to learn
- Steve Roberts Honey-buzzards
It’s also a great chance to meet other birdwatchers from around Wales, hear updates from BTO Cymru and RSPB Cymru, and browse the books at Subbuteo Natural History Bookshop.
Further details and booking are available.