Sightings – April 2007

St Mark’s Fly (25 April, contributed by Juliet Bailey)

St Mark’s Fly, so called because it usually appears around St Mark’s Day (25 April), is in our garden in Standish today, and in Longridge, Painswick yesterday. I wonder if it was named after the change from the Julian to Gregorian calendar in 1752, the upshot of which is that what had been May 1st became May 11th. May blossom (hawthorn flower) was one of the traditional flowers of May Day revels, hence its name, but because of the calendar change does not now normally appear until about the second week of the month. This year, of course, may blossom is already abundant, but it has been a record-breaking warm Spring. Perhaps the life cycle of St Mark’s Fly is not governed by temperature.

Severn Hams (23/24 April, contributed by Mike Smart)

The fine anticyclonic weather seems to have been replaced by fronts coming in from the west. At Leigh Meadows on 23 April at dusk: one Whimbrel, apparently roosting in the fields; one Redstart with alarm calls; one Lesser Whitethroat singing. On 24 April at Coombe Hill (with Les Brown, Graeme Watson, John Wiltshire) all was pretty quite on the scrapes: 33 Mute Swans grazing on Southern Meadows, 3 Greylags, 10 Canadas, a pair of Shelducks, 6 Wigeon (all males, where are the females?), 3 Tufted Ducks, 1 Hobby, 12 Lapwings, 1 Redshank, 2 Curlews, 1 Cuckoo singing. There was a fair showing of migrants along the canal and in the willows with 5 Sedge Warblers, 2 Lesser Whitethroats, 4 Whitethroats, 3 Blackcaps, 2 Chiffchaffs, 4 Willow Warblers plus 3 Redstarts.

Coombe Hill (18 April, contributed by Mike Smart)

A rather quiet evening at Coombe Hill. There is no spring flooding this year, but water remains nicely in the scrapes. Many birds came in to roost in the evening: at least 30 Mute Swans, nearly 40 Canada Geese, 2 Shelducks, 6 Curlews. Still 7 Wigeon, about a dozen Lapwings, a couple of Snipe calling. Not much birdsong – just a couple of Chiffchaffs and a Willow Warbler.

Cleeve Hill (17 April, contributed by Andy Jayne)

At least 16, probably 19 Ring Ouzels on Cleeve Hill early this morning, no doubt held up by the northerly wind. Also four Stonechats, four Wheatears, 35 Fieldfares, a Redwing and a Grasshopper Warbler ‘reeling’ and showing very well on top of low gorse.

Whelford (14 April, contribution per Gareth Harris)

Large Red Damselflies started to emerge today.

Cleeve Hill (12 April, contributed by Robert Homan)

Willow Warblers have arrived with a total of 10 singing from various scrubby areas around Cleeve Hill this morning. In addition there were 3 Wheatears near the aerials and 4 Ring Ouzels in flight over the Washpool Valley. In the extensive gorse on the east side of the common there were 2 male Stonechats and 1 male Reed Bunting.
Bluebells are already in full flower in Queen’s Wood and the area of scrub to the east.

Bluebells and Glow-worm larva, Cleeve Hill, April 2007, Robert Homan

Coombe Hill (11 April, contributed by Robert Homan)

The day belonged to the Mute Swan – in addition to the breeding pair there were 30 birds on the scrapes at lunchtime with many of them later moving to the fields on the south side of the canal to graze. In addition, there were 2 Tufted Ducks, 6 Shelduck, 2 Canada Geese, 1 Shoveler, at least 3 families of Mallard including with one with 9 ducklings, 1 Little Egret, 2 Grey Herons, 2 Coot, only 3 Lapwings and just 1 Willow Warbler singing. There were many butterflies flying including a Red Admiral, many Brimstones, Peacocks and 2 Small Tortoiseshells.

Gloucester Landfill Site (10 April, contributed by John Sanders)

A pair of Shelducks have reared 6 ducklings on the GLS pond – an early record for the species from an unusual site.

GLS Shelducks, adults and 6 ducklings, May 2007, John Sanders

Severn Hams (7 April, contributed by Mike Smart and Les Brown)

At Coombe Hill the flooding has gone, but water levels in the scrapes and Long Pool remain reasonably high: two Little Egrets, 1 Peregrine, 1 Little Ringed Plover (appeared to move off to the north, but could have returned), only 7 Lapwings, 3 Redshanks, 2 Curlews, duck numbers dropping fast: no more than 5 Wigeon and 40 Teal. Half a dozen Sand Martins moved through to the north. Plenty of Chiffchaffs singing, no sign of a Willow Warbler.

At Ashleworth, water levels have dropped by 50cms since the boards were removed from the sluice last Saturday; all remaining boards removed today, so levels will continue to drop. No Willow Warblers either.

At least three Mute Swan nests already being incubated in the general Ashleworth/Coombe Hill area.

Cheltenham (7 April, contributed by Robert Homan)

Continuing the theme of early butterflies – a Holly Blue was in Swindon Lane early afternoon.

Severn Hams (6 April, contributed by Mike Smart)

An evening visit to Walmore showed that the water level is back down to normal: 10 Mute Swans (two very territorial and aggressive, chasing others off); 2 Canada Geese (looking broody); 2 Shelducks (apparently a pair, perhaps thinking of breeding), 25 Teal, 1 Peregrine (a large brown female), 22 Lapwing, 2 Snipe, 2 Redshank, 2 Skylarks singing, 1 Chiffchaff singing but no other warblers, 2 Ravens, but no vast roosting assembly, 2 Reed Buntings.

Ashleworth after dark was quiet on a still windless evening and perfect for the display of nocturnal species, but there was nothing showing, just the calls of Grey Heron, Wigeon, Teal, Mallard and Coot.

Overall it seems that the northerly winds have held up northward migration.

Cleeve Hill (6 April, contributed by Gordon Avery)

1 Ring Ouzel seen this morning.

Highnam Woods (6 April, contributed by Robert Homan)

An afternoon walk around the nature trail produced at least 15 singing Chiffchaffs but just one Willow Warbler. Many Peacock butterflies and a few early Orange Tips and one Speckled Wood. Large numbers of Cuckoo flowers Cardamine pratense along the rides with some flowers visited by bee flies (Bombylius major).

Cuckoo Flowers Cardamine pratense, Highnam Woods, April 2007, Robert Homan

Leigh Meadows (5 April, contributed by Mike Smart)

It was all a bit quiet: two or three Grey Herons, many pairs of Mallards looking as though they had nests somewhere close, two Shelducks. It seems better not to comment on potential breeding waders as you never know what malevolent souls might be looking at websites. The biggest thrill was a sizeable flock of Fieldfares, about 400 in all with a very tiny number of Redwings, collecting at dusk at the tops of willows as they often do before going to roost in winter; at this time of year it seems more likely that they migrants about to set off for Scandinavia. I understand Andy Jayne had a flock of about 260 at Hasfield Ham.

Cleeve Hill (5 April, contributed by Robert Homan)

4 Ring Ouzels this morning in the SE corner of SO9825 where the Cotswold Way leaves the common. 100 Fieldfares in and around the beech wood on the Bill Smyllie Reserve.

Collinpark Wood (2 April, contributed by Robert Homan)

A great deal to see and listen to this afternoon at this GWT reserve. All three species of woodpecker heard calling and/or drumming; parts of the wood are carpeted with Wood Anemones and male Brimstone butterflies were patrolling the more open rides. Mines of Ectoedemia atrifrontella were present in the stems of young oaks – this is an unusual micromoth which mines the bark of young oak growth, typically on the warm, south side of the trees. (If you are tempted to go, note that the road via Upleadon Court is closed between Upleadon and Oridge Street near the A417)

Ectoedemia atrifrontella mine in oak (top) and fungus (above), tentatively identified as Trametes versicolor, Collinpark Wood, April 2007, Robert Homan

Cheltenham (1 April, contributed by Robert Homan)

A complete surprise today was this Orange Underwing in Swindon Lane. This is a species of day flying moth usually associated with birch woodlands. There are some birch trees in my garden, but this individual was a long way from its known haunts.

Orange Underwing, April 2007, Robert Homan

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