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.

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