Bird numbers increase in the Severn Hams

The level of the Severn has risen considerably in the last week; the level at Haw Bridge yesterday was 10.36 metres, the highest so far in 2015.  This is not a dangerous level – no risk of the river breaking its banks, and is normal for the time of year, but it does mean that all the tributaries (Avon, Swilgate, Chelt, local Parish drains) can’t discharge their waters into the main river, and are backing up, causing shallow local flooding on the meadows – perfect for the birds.

Coombe Hill at its winter best, a real wildfowl spectacle, with fresh flooding providing good grazing and lots of invertebrates near the surface; the level on the stage board in the scrape was on 0.49 on 28 November, 0.69 on 3 December, 0.89 yesterday, waters extending well beyond the edges of the scrapes.  Sharp increase in surface feeding ducks round the edges: at least 1,330 Wigeon, at least 630 Teal, 150 Mallard, 31 Pintail, 3 Gadwall, 5 Lapwings; big increase in geese too: 380 Canada Geese and 1 Barnacle Geese (latter unlikely to be wild), 80 Greylags (accompanied by hybrids already seen here and at Ripple in the last couple of months – a White Farmyard Goose with very obvious black flecking, a Swan Goose hybrid, a Canada x Greylag cross).  And feeding in the wet grass, good numbers of crows (200 Jackdaws, 40 Carrion Crows, 20 Rooks) and 120 Starlings, all clearly looking for invertebrates brought to the surface by the light floods.  Also 1 Grey Heron, 1 Meadow Pipit, 30 Fieldfares and 15 Redwings in hedges along the towpath,  1 Meadow Pipit; I looked for the pair of Stonechats but couldn’t find them, probably too windy for them.

I went to Upham Meadow, Twyning, to see if the Canada Geese seen last week were still present; they weren’t  – only 35 left (in place of 350 odd earlier in the week, so they had clearly gone to Coombe Hill).  Similar light flooding to Coombe Hill, crows feeding round the edges, plus 30 Fieldfares.

I wonder where all the Coombe Hill ducks came from?  I would have guessed they are up from the estuary, taking advantage of teh good feeding conditions.  The geese on the other hand clearly came from Ripple (Greylags) and the Avon valley (Canadas).

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