Sightings – December 2003

Sudmeadow area (Posted: 29 December 2003)

Gordon Avery reported a second winter Iceland Gull at GLS on 29 December. Also 2 Chiffchaffs at nearby Llanthony Weir.

Ashleworth Ham (Posted: 29 December 2003)

Rising water levels have resulted in an increase in the number of ducks on the reserve. Mike Smart noted c.300 Wigeon, 10 Pintail and 2 Shoveler on 28 December. The Peregrine also showed well on the pylons.

Frampton Pools (Posted: 28 December 2003)

At Frampton Pools on the 26 December: the Bittern was showing very well along with a Little Egret, “redhead” Goosander and 2 adult Yellow-legged Gulls. The female Hen Harrier was also at Nebrow Hill near the River Cam. (Contributed by Andy Jayne)

Slight increase of water on Severn Hams brings a few birds at last (Posted: 25 December 2003)

In the last few days, with rain higher up the Severn catchment, and high tides in the estuary holding the river water back, there have been more birds in the Ashleworth and Coombe Hill area.

At Ashleworth, water levels are still the lowest for about twenty years, and there is still little or no surface water on the reserve. However, levels are rising gradually, and the open water area may be available for loafing ducks in the near future. The pair of wintering Stonechats has been showing itself in the last few days in front of the brand new Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust hide.

At Coombe Hill water levels in the Long Pool have begun to rise at last. On 24 December there were 200 Wigeon, 125 Teal and a few Pintail and Mallard, together with 20 Snipe and 2 Jack Snipe, and some small flocks of Stock Dove.

The best place at present in the Vale above Gloucester for wintering water birds remains Bredon’s Hardwick Gravel Pits, just across the Worcestershire border along the Avon above Tewkesbury. There are about 1,000 Wigeon there, with 100 Teal and some Pintails, as well as a couple of dozen Cormorants on the island. It seems likely that birds which would normally have been at Ashleworth and Coombe Hill are at Bredon’s Hardwick.

Still no sign of Whooper Swans (See however Colin Butters’ interesting notes on Whoopers in CWP(E)).

(Contributed by Mike Smart)

Frampton Pools (Posted: 24 December 2003)

Prolonged views of the Bittern feeding along the edge of the reed bed opposite Frampton Court this morning. A Little Egret and 2 “redhead” Goosanders also present. (Contributed by Robert Homan)

Walmore Common (Posted: 23 December 2003)

Despite the lack of flood water, Andy Jayne has today reported 11 Bewick’s Swans at Walmore Common.

CWP(W) (Posted: 18 December 2003)

Reported by Andy Jayne on 18 December from the Cotswold Water Park (W) were:

Red-throated Diver (pit 31)
2 Little Egret
5 Goosander (all drakes)
74 Ruddy Duck
1 Merlin (fem. type)
2 Barn Owl
2 Stonechat
8 Chiffchaff
plus aythya hybrid pit 44 (previously reported as a Scaup).

Severn Vale Update (Posted: 18 December 2003)

(Contributed by Mike Smart)

This autumn has been desperately dry in the Severn Vale, to such an extent that the main wetlands at Ashleworth Ham, Coombe Hill and Walmore Common have until recently had little or no surface water. With the light rain at the end of November and round mid-December, levels in the Severn and the inflowing ditches have risen a bit, and there is some hope of surface water in the near future. Because of the lack of surface water, some of the usual autumn birds have just not occurred. The little group of Whooper Swans that have wintered for the last twelve years or so simply have not appeared at Ashleworth or Coombe Hill (though there was a family party just over the Worcestershire border for a few days in early November, but even those did not stay); there is no water for them to roost and no grass for them to eat; where have they gone? The Bewick’s Swans, which come up from Slimbridge when the floods rise, flew over the area shortly after their arrival at Slimbridge, but did not stay. The numbers of surface-feeding ducks like Wigeon and Teal (which usually hit the thousand mark by late November) have not even reached a hundred. Nor have there been any numbers of wintering waders: no flocks of Lapwing or Golden Plover. Indeed, if you want to see Bewick’s Swans, Wigeon, Lapwing or Golden Plover in Gloucestershire at present, much the best place is the Severn Estuary at Frampton and Slimbridge.

There have been some birds to see in the Severn Vale however; the berries in the hedges have attracted good numbers of Fieldfares and Redwings, with flocks of up to a couple of hundred of each. Some Stonechats seem to be wintering, and there has been the occasional Green Sandpiper. Snipe numbers have been low, but there have been a few, and the very occasional Jack Snipe. The Peregrines have been pretty regular on the pylons. And I have twice had the good fortune to get good views of Merlins.

Sudmeadow (Posted: 16 December 2003)

Gordon Avery trapped a Firecrest at Sudmeadow on 15th December. Also at the site were a Chiffchaff, adult male Peregrine and at least 4 Ravens.

Blackcap Wintering Site Fidelity (Posted: 12 December 2003)

Gordon Avery trapped 4 Blackcaps at Cambridge on the 10th December. Included in that number was a male, first ringed in December 2001, re-trapped in December last year and again this year. Gordon describes this as “an unusual occurrence of a wintering bird returning to the same site.”

Severn Vale (Posted: 9 December 2003)

Currently not a lot at Coombe Hill – there is only a little water in the scrapes and the only significant numbers of birds are the Redwings and Fieldfares in the hedges by the canal together with some impressive flocks of Starlings that move north in the late afternoon, presumably to the Tewkesbury roost.
There is one wet field at Leigh Meadows with 15 Snipe and a Green Sandpiper.
Pair of Stonechats in front of the hide at Ashleworth, but no surface water on the reserve yet.
Based on reports from Mike Smart and Robert Homan.

Sudmeadow, Gloucester (Posted: 6 December 2003)

Reported by Gordon Avery on 6 December from the Sudmeadow area were:

male Stonechat
34 Linnets
‘sinensis’ Cormorant on the River Severn

Beachley Point (Posted: 5 December 2003)

Reported by Gordon Avery on 4 December from Beachley Point were:

40 Wigeon
3 Ringed Plover
130 Lapwing
1 Snipe
3 Curlew
25 Redshank
2 Rock Pipit
Stonechat pair
115 Chaffinch
6 Reed Bunting

Late Swallow Record (Posted: 2 December 2003)

A very late Swallow was at Purton on 30 November, flying in and out of a barn on the farm just over the bridge.

Cotswold Water Park Sightings Update, October – December 2003 by Gareth Harris

Winter 2003/2004 in the Cotswold Water Park has so far produced some surprising and spectacular bird sightings. Lake 31 at Keynes Country Park produced two of these; a Yellow-browed Warbler, first seen on the 29/12 and showing well through to the 5/1/04 by many who twitched this bird; and the Red-throated Diver, first sighted on the 14/12, producing many records for the rest of the month. In the New Year, 7/01/04, a Kumlien’s Gull (North American race of Iceland Gull) was sighted at a pre-roost gathering on Lake 68b by Kim Milsom.

The ever-popular influx of Smew has also yielded many records from around the CWP, including Lake 74, Lake 75 and Lake 57 (including KC, NA, SE), throughout December. As in previous years there are many records of Little Egret through October to December as well as for Goosander. The Goosander roost (location withheld) was counted on 24/12 (GH, NA) yielding 21 males and 14 females. More recent counts in January (PC) have yielded counts of 46 birds (21 males, 25 females). Additional Goosander records include Lake 41 (20/11 GH), Lake 32 (9/12 CW and 24/12 TA and JH) and Lake 34 (many sightings throughout November and December).

Several sightings of Bittern have been surprising, e.g. flying over L32 29/12 (NA). Two Bittern were seen together (location undisclosed due to sensitivity of site). Several Woodcock have been seen including the one at Lake 6 18/12 (AS) and debate continues on the Pochard/Scaup hybrid at Lower Mill Estate first seen at Lake 57 7/12 (GH and NA) but seen by many observers.

Records from the Hide Log Books are as follows:

Cokes Pit Local Nature Reserve (Lake L34)

Great Crested Grebes were frequently sighted in October and November (DW, DC, LM) and in December Goldeneye (KW) and Red Crested Pochard (PC, KW) were regularly recorded. Goosanders were seen on Lake 32/34 in December (many records) with a peak count of six spotted on 9/12 (CW). Reed Buntings were also seen by many observers throughout this time.

Shorncote Reed Bed (Lakes 84/85)

Apart from the usual several hundred waterfowl including Mallard, Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall, Shoveler and Pochard, regulars to Shorncote from October-December were Fieldfare, Green Sandpipers and a pair of Stonechats (Many Records). There were also high counts of Golden Plover in November (JM and Unknown). A Barn Owl showed regularly at Lake 84/85 with sightings throughout October-December (including PG and LG 11/10, GD 21/11 and LH, SW and JR 30/12). There have also been records of Buzzards (JM, RS, KC) in October and early November, a Peregrine Falcon on 06/11 (JM) and a Sparrrowhawk in late December (LH, SW and JR 30/12). Yellowhammers have also been sighted on several occasions on Lake 84/85 in November (KM and AW). CW gained a spectacular sighting of a Peregrine Falcon hunting Snipe over the reed bed, failing to catch the bird before flying higher to join two other Peregrine Falcons (5/12). Two days later, a pair of Peregrines were seen talon grappling over Lake 68c 7/12, (NA).

Waterhay Hide (Lakes 68c and 68d)

Frequent sightings at the Waterhay include numerous records of 1-2 Cetti’s Warbler and 300-1000 Lapwing from October-December; 200-300 Golden Plover in October and November; and up to five Water Rail in November and December inc 5 heard and seen 7/12 (MP, NA, GH). There are frequent records of 2-300 Teal. In October Fieldfare were regularly recorded (Many records) and Meadow Pipits (Walton, SE LM) and Redshank (Walton, RT, LM, RG) in November. In December there were many records of Reed Buntings (SE, GD, and JB) and Smew (KC, NA, SE, GH) on Lake 68a and Lake 74. There were also three sightings of Goosander around the Waterhay on the 7th and 8th December (SE). Special guests to the Waterhay include Hen Harrier, recorded on 13/10 on Lake 68c/d (Walton) and Sparrowhawk around Lake 68c/d throughout October and November (Walton, CM). Peregrine Falcons have been seen throughout November and December around Lake 68c (PC, NA, JB) as have Treecreepers (JB, SE, GD). Also, three Buzzards were recorded on Lake 68a 09/12 (GH, NA).

WEBS Counts at Cleveland Lakes (Lakes 74, 68a, 68b, 68c and 68d), (15/12 GH & MM) yielded 2 Whooper Swans and 2 male Smew, 86 Ruddy duck, 114 Tufted Duck and 32 Goldeneye, 125 Wigeon and 106 Pochard and 42 Gadwall and many others, including 814 Coot!

Continued efforts to ring at the Reed Bunting roosts throughout the winter have yielded many new birds and several re-traps, including a bird caught & ringed at Lake 68d in December 2002 by Matt Prior returning to winter in December 2003. A Water Rail was ringed in the Eastern CWP by John Wells. The cannon-netting of the Wigeon met with some success in December. Several hundred Starlings have been ringed at the Lake 6 roost site, producing some invaluable research data and also yielding a Snipe and several Reed Buntings too.

Peregrine Falcons in the City of Gloucester, 2003 by John Wells

I first saw a pair of Peregrine Falcons at Gloucestershire Royal hospital on the 25th May 2003. There had been reports of them there for at least a few weeks before this. As I work at the hospital I was then able to look for them on an almost daily basis.

A single Peregrine had been seen on the tower block in 2002 which prompted the placement of a peregrine nest box on the East side of the tower (the Peregrines were never seen to use this in 2003).

One or both of the pair were observed on a regular basis from May onwards. The birds almost always used the in the same spot on the north side of the hospital tower block, on a ledge between the 9th and 10th floor. The ledge is completely inaccessible and impossible to view directly from the tower itself. However using a mirror I was quickly able to prove that there was no nest present.

Whilst it is possible that they had attempted to breed and for some reason failed, before I first observed them, it seem more likely that they are a non breeding pair.

It was clear that they were a pair as the female was significantly larger. Their behaviour was also of a bonded pair. The male was seen to regularly bring food for the female. They displayed to each other and the female was often seen sitting on a “scrape” on the ledge as if incubating although no eggs were present.

The pair was seen almost daily throughout the day in June and July. As the year progressed they were seen more frequently at dusk going to roost on the ledge or leaving at first light.

By September most sightings were of the female although on the 18th October the pair was seen performing a characteristic head bowing courtship display on the ledge.

The actual capture of prey was only seen on one occasion but they were regularly seen plucking and eating prey on the ledge. It was possible to see that the main prey species was feral pigeon of which there a large number around the tower.

On one occasion the female was seen carrying a magpie in its talons however she was mobbed and robbed of her prey by Lesser Black Backed Gulls.

Any hope that the presence of Peregrines will deter the breeding gulls would seem unfounded. When perched in the open the peregrines were mobbed by gulls and the roosting site’s advantage would seem that it is inaccessible to the gulls.

I am hopeful that in 2003 I have witnessed the prelude to Peregrines breeding in the city of Gloucester. The literature suggests that the behaviour seen in 2003 is typical of a non breeding pair which contains at least one immature bird which are prospecting for a nest site prior to breeding.

Normally the potential breeding site of such a sensitive schedule 1 species would be kept confidential. However the site is very secure and completely inaccessible with no potential for disturbance.

Since the 26th October to date (28th December) there has been only one sighting. On the 17th December a female landed briefly on the roof. However I understand that it is not unusual for a pair to vacate the “breeding” site in winter.

I can only speculate where the pair is spending the winter. It is possible that the regular sightings at Ashleworth Ham and occasional sightings in the Sudmeadow area are from this pair. I would be interested to hear of any sightings of Peregrines around Gloucester (please also send records to the county recorder). It would be useful if observers could record time, if possible the sex and the date, as this information may help to determine if they are indeed the same birds that are using the tower. Please send information to [email protected]

As 2004 approaches I am hopeful that the Peregrines will return and maybe breed. I will update on this web site as developments occur.

Sightings – November 2003

CWP Birds (Posted: 26 November 2003)

Reported by Andy Jayne on 26 November from the Cotswold Water Park (W) were:

Bittern in flight at pits 43/65
Little Egret (pit 41)
2 Shelduck
60 Red-crested Pochard
25 Goldeneye
1m Goosander
46 Ruddy Duck
250+ Golden Plover
1 Dunlin
23 Snipe
1 Green Sandpiper
Stonechat pair
6 Chiffchaff
2 Raven.

November Moth Records (Posted: 25 November 2003)

At this time of the year there is still a wide range of moth species on the wing as shown by the following lists, submitted by Roger Gaunt and Robert Homan. On the 17 November, a particularly mild night, Roger recorded 16 species at St Briavels near the Wye Valley. His list consisted of: Merveille du Jour, December Moth, Brick, Shuttle-shaped Dart, Barred Sallow, Yellow-line Quaker, Snout, Feathered Thorn, Epirrita sp almost certainly at least two sp, Beaded Chestnut, Turnip, Spruce Carpet, Green-brindled Crescent, Red-green Carpet, Red-line Quaker, Sprawler. Two nights later he added Blair’s Shoulder-knot and Udea ferrugalis. In Cheltenham, in the same mild week, Robert recorded Epiphyas postvittana, Blastobasis decolorella, Rush Veneer, Feathered Thorn, Winter Moth, December Moth, Red-lined Quaker, Dark Chestnut and Silver Y. You can see what many of these species look like by going to the UK Moths website – the Merveille du Jour is especially worth a look.

Birds records – Sharpness/Berkeley Pill (Posted: 24 November 2003)

Reported by Gordon Avery on 23 November from between Sharpness and Berkley Pill were:

1 adult Peregrine in the nest box on the Docks Silo.
Along the foreshore:
100 Teal
140 Wigeon
20 Mallard
1 ad Yellow-legged Gull (seen later on docks entrance)
110 Dunlin
15 Redshank
3 Snipe
4 Curlew
80 Lapwing
2 Rock Pipits
2 Ravens
10 Reed Buntings

Sea Birds in the Estuary (Posted: 6 November 2003)

Strong south westerly winds on Sunday and Monday, 2 and 3 November, were no doubt responsible for three unusual birds reported from the Gloucestershire sections of the Severn Estuary at the start of the week. First to be seen was a juvenile Sabine’s Gull off Slimbridge on Sunday, followed by a Little Auk and a Leach’s Petrel on Monday. The Little Auk, a first winter, was picked up in Mabey & Johnson Ltd factory in Lydney on the morning of the 3 November and taken into care at Beckford. Despite the wind dropping on Monday morning, the petrel was seen late in the afternoon flying strongly between Awre and Hock Cliff.

The Lydney Little Auk

Bryophyte Field Meeting, Ban-y-Gor Wood November 2003 by Peter Martin and Juliet Bailey

The Moss Group – Peter Martin (county bryophyte recorder), with Juliet Bailey, Cathy Beeching, Libby Houston, Claire and Mark Kitchen, and Richard Lansdown – visited Ban-y-Gor wood (ST536967) on 1 November 2003. Ban-y-Gor is a Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust reserve of steep woodland and shaded cliff on the banks of the Wye near Chepstow.

In total, 49 species of moss and 12 species of liverwort were recorded.

The outstanding plant found was the very local Marchesinia mackaii, which in places covered areas as large as 1 sq m. At times this was the only bryophyte on the rock faces and was clearly a pioneer in areas of relatively new rock fall.

In the first quarry (old tractor) the bryophytes on the boulders were luxuriant. A Ctenidium was found that looked different from the normal Ctenidium to the extent that those who knew Ctenidium could not recognise the plant. I thought that this was the variety fastigatum and I sent the specimen to Gordon Rothero (BBS recorder of mosses). He was not that convinced. He said he had just received a specimen very similar from Cliff Townsend (once of Gloucestershire) which Cliff had named var. condensatum, which Gordon also rejected. I am not convinced about our plant and hope to have a look at more specimens of C. molluscum some time.

Near the bottom of the path there was the very slender Amblystegium confervoides (formerly Platydictya). This was on the top surface of a stone and it made Amblystegium look robust by comparison! This has not been seen for about 60 years in Gloucestershire and is therefore officially re-recorded. A specimen has been lodged with the BBS herbarium.

In the first quarry there was Hylocomium brevirostre on the boulders along with the local Eurhynchium striatulum (formerly Isothecium). On the rock faces above was the minute liverwort Cololejeunea calcarea. The red carpet of liverwort on a decaying log was Nowellia curvifolia. Scapania nemorea was quite common on the more sheltered rock faces, a liverwort I have not seen further to the east in the Cotswolds.

Plenty of commoner bryophytes were found. Trichostomum brachydontium was extremely common on cracks in the rock face or ledges often growing with Eucladium verticillatum – which is unique in the moss flora in having rounded teeth only at the base of the leaf. These are visible with the hand lens (x20). It is always a pleasure to see Schistidium ! We found 2 species – most of the plants seen were S. crassipilum with a few scraps of S. apocarpum. Unusually, there was a tuft of S. crassipilum on a tree next to the river. The tuft was about 2m. above the ground. I have seen in the past some strange assemblages of bryophtes on trees close to active quarries. Here the dust settles on the trees and odd things are found on them such as Tortella, Didymodon etc.. The tree here did not seem like that. I do not know whether dried dust from the riverbank might get blown onto the trees to produce a similar situation.

This visit was part of series of visits to survey the bryophyte flora of Gloucestershire nature reserves. Anyone is welcome to attend the meetings, no experience necessary. Contact Peter Martin ([email protected]) for details of future meetings.

Ban-y-Gor Wood is a Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust reserve, and is open at all times. Casual visitors are requested to keep to the main path.

This list covers what in the end was a short walk into the reserve, starting at the old quarry at ST540968, then proceeding along the lower rock faces at ST541968 then finally briefly down the path to the river at ST542970.

Mosses

Amblystegium confervoides(NVCR)

Amblystegium serpens var. serpens

Anomodon viticulosus

Atrichum undulatum

Barbula convoluta

Barbula unguiculata

Brachythecium rutabulum

Bryum capillare var. capillare

Calliergonella cuspidata

Cratoneuron filicinum

Cryphaea heteromalla

Ctenidium molluscum var. molluscum

Dicranella heteromalla

Dicranum scoparium

Didymodon fallax

Didymodon sinuosus

Didymodon tophacea

Encalypta streptocarpa

Eucladium verticillatum

Eurhynchium praelongum

Eurhnchium striatulum

Eurhynchium striatum

Fissidens dubius

Fissidens taxifolius var. taxifolius

Fissidens viridulus

Homalia trichomanioides

Homalothecium sericeum

Hylocomium brevirostre

Hypnum cupressiforme var cupressiforme

Isothecium alopecuroides

Isothecium myosuroides var. myosuroides

Mnium hornum

Neckera complanata

Neckera crispa

Orthotrichum affine

Plagiomnium undulatum

Polytrichum formosum

Rhynchostegiella tenella

Rhynchostegium confertum

Schistidium apocarpum

Schistidium crassipilum

Thamnobryum alopecurum

Thuidium tamariscinum

Tortella tortuosa

Tortula muralis var. muralis

Trichostomum brachydontium

Ulota bruchii

Zygodon conoideus

Zygodon viridissimus var. viridissimus

Liverworts

Cololejeunea calcarea

Cephalozia bicuspidata

Frullania dilatata

Lejeunea cavifolia

Lejeunea lamacerina

Marchesinia mackaii

Metzgeria furcata

Nowellia curvifolia

Pellia endiviifolia

Plagiochila asplenioides

Plagiochila porelloides

Scapania nemorea

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