Coombe Hill, GNS Field Meeting (6 October 2007, contributed by Mike Smart)

Five members gathered on a calm morning at the top of the Canal, then walked along the former towpath to the meadows; they completed the circular walk round the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust reserve, visiting the Grundon hide, which overlooks the shallow pools excavated in the meadows, then the hide looking into through the old withy bed into the willow-encircled pool, returning along the towpath. At this early stage of the winter, only a few ducks had arrived, but Wigeon, Teal, Mallard and Shoveler were noted on the Long Pool. A few passage waders, including a Greenshank and a Ruff had joined the wintering Snipe on the scrapes. The heavy southward passage of Swallows and Meadow Pipits noted in the previous week had diminished sharply, and instead a pair of Stonechats, just arrived for the winter, was noted.

Much interest was devoted to the state of the vegetation: many of the meadows had been “topped” by neighbouring farmers ie. a mower had been driven over them in an attempt to remove the mat of dead vegetation caused by summer flooding; in fact this seemed to have had little effect other than compacting the matted dead grass; however the leaves of many typical meadow plants (cinquefoil, burnet, silverweed, grasses and sedges) were pushing through the gaps in the matting, and there seemed hope that the mat of dead vegetation would disappear naturally with the frosts and rain (and probably more flooding, hopefully light) of the winter. Along the hedgerows a tidemark several feet up was still clearly visible, but the tops of the bushes and tress seemed t have survived and there were some signs of new shoots, and even some flowers, among the dead branches of hawthorn and dog rose. But it look like a poor crop of berries for the wintering thrushes.

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