Let’s talk about Springtime and Newport Wetlands Reserve.

Formally, Spring starts on 1 March each year and lasts for three months.  The natural world works to its own timings and our plants and animals respond to day length and temperature changes.  For the past few weeks we’ve been noticing this as the reserve comes out of the quiet of winter.

Some of the changes we see around the reserve are quite gradual.  A few plants like the Primroses near the entrance started to show more green leaves, then a few buds turned into bright yellow blooms signalling the start of Spring.  The Willows’ bark turned from dull brown to yellow and orange and began to catch the sunlight when the weather was in our favour.  The recent storms tore the last of the leaves from the trees and bushes allowing us to see a little more of the arriving birds.

 The most notable feature of the past couple of weeks, evident as soon as you opened your car door, has been the volume of birdsong.  We’ve had Robins and Song thrushes singing since January, but now a dozen species can be picked out by their songs.  The Great tits seem to be loudest and the Chiffchaffs announced their arrival only last week.  Away from the visitor centre, a male Bittern has been booming daily and has been seen flying low above the reedbeds.  Further afield, at Goldcliff Lagoons, spring visitors have been showing nicely.  Some, like the Ringed plover and Avocets will stay with us for the summer and some, like the two Spoonbills, will probably move on.

Plenty more has been happening and I’ll just summarise it here.

  • We’re hearing more reports of Bearded reedlings being heard and seen in the Uskmouth reedbeds;
  • A Barn Owl has been hunting around Visitor Centre at dusk;
  • A House martin and three butterfly species (Small tortoiseshell, Red admiral and Brimstone) appeared at the beginning of this week;
  • Buff tailed bumblebee queens have been zigzagging just above the ground looking for places to establish this year’s nests;
  • We’re seeing large numbers of Greenfinches (a species in decline) on our Perry Lane feeders and we learned from the ringing demonstration in February that we have far more than we thought (37 were ringed);
  • The café scrape looks as if it will be home to nesting Coots, Mallards and Canada geese in a few weeks;
  • There is increasing evidence of Water vole activity.

Our maintenance team has been busy bring the area around the visitor centre back into full use.  This looks rather dramatic as a lots of grounds work went by the board in 2020 and 2021, but it important in maintaining the wetland habitat.  The most recent work has removed Spear thistles, pollarded Willows and opened up the reedbeds ready for our pond dipping and education work to resume.

What will we see in the coming weeks?  Watch out for much more in bloom, for the arrival of our warblers and the departure of many of our overwintering ducks.  Expect to hear more from our Bitterns and from our Cuckoos to announce the start of their brief stay.

 Quotes from the Visitor Centre team:

“Spring is my favourite season of the year, it's the beginning of warmer weather, new life, and lots of colour. One of my favourite things is to see all the young wildlife emerging and flowers blooming”

“Spring is the season of surprises; it’s a joy to get out of the car, walk round and spot the new arrivals”

“I like the sounds of Spring, especially the cuckoo”

“The changing colours and the early sunlight striking the fresh foliage.  The reserve actually smells different and fresh”

“Everyone we meet here seems to have a renewed sense of optimism”

“I like spring because there's a sense of hope and new beginnings.”

"The light nights!"

Our sightings for the first half of March include:

Avocet, Barn owl, Bearded reedling, Bittern, Blackbird, Black-headed gull, Blue tit, Bullfinch, Buzzard, Canada goose, Carrion crow, Cetti's warbler, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Collared dove, Coot, Cormorant, Curlew, Dunlin, Dunnock, Fieldfare, Gadwall, Goldcrest, Goldfinch, Great spotted woodpecker, Great tit, Green woodpecker, Greenfinch, Grey heron, Grey wagtail, Greylag goose, Herring gull, House sparrow, Jay, Kingfisher, Lapwing, Lesser black-backed gull, Linnet, Little egret, Little grebe, Long-tailed tit, Magpie, Mallard, Marsh harrier, Meadow pipit, Mistle thrush, Moorhen, Mute swan, Oystercatcher, Peregrine falcon, Pheasant, Pied wagtail, Pintail, Pochard, Raven, Redshank, Redwing, Reed bunting, Ringed plover, Robin, Shelduck, Shoveler, Siskin, Skylark, Snipe, Song thrush, Sparrowhawk, Spoonbill, Spotted redshank, Starling, Stonechat, Teal, Tufted duck, Water rail, Whinchat, Wigeon, Woodpigeon, Wren,

White/buff-tailed bumblebee, Brimstone butterfly, Red admiral butterfly, Small tortoiseshell butterfly, Clouded drab moth, Common quaker moth, Early thorn moth, Hebrew character moth, Twin spotted quaker moth

Otter, Rabbit, Stoat

  Jeremy White