With news of a Penduline Tit in south wales, plans were arranged with Neil Duggan to head down there and see this stunning example of a male bird.
For those who would be interested, Neil has recently joined the local Blogsphere and can be found here, so therefore, if you want to read about my birding exploits a month before i get around to posting it, or want to follow the birding exploits of a fellow local birder, head over there!
As if by coincidence, Martyn Y (Formally of 'Adult Plumage', 'Regional Birding' and 'Blurred Birder' fame- So many in fact that i'm not even sure which ones which anymore!), Kay D (The Lover of Black Redstarts (Ochruros) ) and Richard P (Local Birding) were also heading down to Newport Wetlands.
While on the M5 though, we heard news of Great Grey Shrike in the Forest of Dean, and with Two-bar Crossbills reported the day before it was worth the effort! Being only a few miles off the M50 it was worth the effort, so with no news having come out from Newport, we took a diversion.
Arriving at Woorgreens was greeted with confusion.
Where do we go?
As we walked up to the somewhat picturesque Woorgreens Lake, i heard the familiar 'glipping' of Crossbills as a flock of 15 flew over. Sadly that proved the be the only view we had of Crossbills, and no-one else found any rarer ones either! 2 Wigeon were the only birds 'of note' on the pool.
But anyway. To cut a long story short. We saw nothing. The Shrike did a bunk and didn't reappear for the rest of the day. We plodded around the Woorgreens/ Crabtree Hill area for a good couple of hours, but other than calling Brambling and Marsh Tit it was very quiet species wise.
Having contacted the other 'midland crew' down at Newport, it seemed as if the Penduline had done an overnight flit!
Not going to plan!
Right, what now? How about we cross the Estuary to Slimbridge WWT? Some nice birds around there, AND, if the Penduline was to be refound, we would be in a decent position to head down there via the Severn Bridge and the extortionate £6,20 toll charge!
As a lover of all things weird and wacky, my main priority was to get to the Rushy Pen to see the Purple Sandpiper. Within minutes of being on site we entered the Peng Observatory, and upon inquiring about the Sandpiper i was guided onto a wader at the back that looked suspiciously like a Redshank.........
So i then set about scanning the shorelines. Within a few minutes i came to the conclusion that it wasn't there!
At this point, i remembered reading on the site wardens Twitter that the bird was showing down to a few feet from the office buildings. Moving to the opposite side of the 'hide' i poked my head around the corner, and there is was! A mere 10ft away! Insane! A 1st winter PURPLE SANDPIPER!
Not being able to get my scope on the bird due to the somewhat awkward angle, i lifted my camera to my bins and took a few shots.
And its a good job i did! Very soon after, a brief chase form a coot pushed it out, further into the middle and it was then relentlessly hounded by Jackdaws until eventually, it just gave up and flew out towards the Estuary.
And that was it, gone. A far to brief sighting.
So then we walked to the Zeiss Hide, via the 'decoy' area. No Chiffchaffs were showing, so we moved on. A completely packed Zeiss hide were all looking out across the Teal flock. Of which there were a few.....
Yeah, a few in the 2000-3000 range!
And why was everyone looking? Its close new world cousin, a yank interloper was present among the ranks.
After some scanning, i eventually picked up the drake GREEN WINGED TEAL, its vertical white stripe making it stand out quite easily once you knew the basic area it was in. Sadly though, it was very inactive, no doubt well and truly knackered after its long haul across the Atlantic.
The birding from here was actually very good, as thousands of birds were present. Two GCP Common Cranes were wading in the shallows, which, as always, was an awe inspiring sight! However, the more interesting 'stuff' were the smaller birds, most particularly the waders!
Among the small flock of Dunlin we were informed a Little Stint was present, and after some time, a winter plumaged LITTLE STINT emerged from the flock and fed along the shallow waterline.
Soon after, a winter plumaged SPOTTED REDSHANK was found, wading in deep water at the back of the flash, and, on occasions, swimming quite actively! A flock of Golden Plover flew over, with a small number of Black-tailed Godwit and 6 Ruff.
In the Reedbed, a Cetti's Warbler was showing superbly!
With news of a Great-nothern Diver just down the road, we started to leave, moving again via the 'decoy' area to look for Chiffchaffs. We met up with a searching birder and walked the boardwalk. At the end i became aware of a gathering of birder/photographers on the opposite side of the hedgeline looking towards us.
And it soon became apparent why, as a striking Chiffchaff popped out of the ivy at close range. And by striking i mean a smack in the face obvious SIBERIAN CHIFFCHAFF. Very white underparts with an almost pale grey/light brown back. Actually a very attractive bird!
If i needed any more convincing, the bird spent some time calling, sounding almost like a Bullfinch, and it was joined by a Common Chiffchaff, just further emphasizing how different it was!
Having bagged a good 'cast', we took the last minuite decision to check the Holden tower, where we quickly locacted the Dark-Bellied Brent Goose out on the Saltmarsh, and 23 Eurasian White-Fronted Goose.
So, with the light now fading fast, we decided to hot foot it down to Sharpness Docks, after a while of moving around, we eventually found ourselves at the SARA building, watching a stunnning GREAT-NORTHERN DIVER showing very well on the tiny pool adjacent to the old lifeboat station.
What a way to end the day!