Coombe Hill in the evening 6 March

For the last couple of weeks, signs of spring have begun to show at the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust’s reserve at Coombe Hill in the Severn Vale between Gloucester and Tewkesbury.  In particular Curlews have returned: they nest in the surrounding meadows, but have been absent in the winter, which they spend on the estuary.  Twenty to thirty Curlews have regularly been seen by day since late February, a lot more than would stay to breed.  It is suspected that these are migrant birds, en route from the estuary to breeding grounds in continetnal Europe.  One Curlew ringed on the estuary had already appeared in the Netherlands in late February, so I went for a look at dusk, when the birds often gather around the scrapes and are easier to see.  Sure enough there were 22 adult Curlews there, occasionally resting on the islands in the scrape, occasionally going to feed in the soft earth of the meadows round about, but with very little of the lovely bubbling breeding call – all signs that they were indeed passage birds staying fro a short stopover; sadly, no sign of colour-ringed birds!

Also present were a couple of Oystercatchers, which looked like a breeding pair.  And a very noisy group of 19 Shelducks, most of them paired off, and displaying at one another as if they might in the coming months be going to nest somewhere in the vicinity.

Evening visits often bring out something different: an interesting variation on the usual daytime visits.  No owls though; where have all the Little Owls gone, that used to be such a feature of the pollarded willows?

Mike Smart

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