Sightings – December 2005

Severn Hams (31 December, contributed by Mike Smart and Les Brown)

Coombe Hill: Water levels continue to fall, with islands in scrapes clearly visible. Few birds visible from the Grundon Hide, but a Merlin flew past. About 120 Lapwings, two or three Water Rails calling from Broad Mere. One Peregrine flying by. About 150 Wigeon and 350 Teal in the Long Pool, but very few Snipe there.

Leigh Meadows: The pair of Whoopers grazing with about 18 Mutes as usual.

Ashleworth: At least a thousand ducks (mainly Wigeon, some Teal, Shoveler, Gadwall, Pintail), not coming to graze on the edges as they did when the surface was iced over. A male Peregrine on the pylons. At least one Stonechat. About fifty Snipe and one Jack Snipe.

Sudmeadow (31 December, contributed by Gordon Avery)

Another unringed Chiffchaff by the river at Sudmeadow: this makes a total of at least 7 different birds during December and possibly 9! A pair of Stonechats by the Plantation pool (The field behind the old Fieldings playing field). 1 Green Sandpiper on waste ground pools by Presswelds.

Severn Hams (29 December, contributed by Mike Smart and Les Brown)

Ashleworth Ham: Freezing fog and ice at first light; birds sitting round holes in ice and it was hard to see through fog; not sure if Whoopers were roosting. When fog rose later in the morning, we had good counts of ducks on the ice: 1200 Wigeon, 375 Teal, 90 Shoveler, 30 Gadwall, 50 Mallard, but only 20 Pintail. The Wigeon were not feeding on grass round edges early on, but in mid morning, thye came over to water’s edge very close to road, with several hundred feeding on edge of the grass near the road unconcerned by passing traffic.

Walmore Common: 26 Bewick’s at 09h30; 16 adults or yearlings and 10 cygnets; there seemed to be family parties of three, three and four cygnets. About 10h30, ten birds flew off (three adults and seven cygnets) towards Slimbridge, leaving one family party of two unringed adults with three cygnets (birds already seen on 16 December?), plus eleven adults/yearlings.

All birds checked for rings and four rings were found and read:

– 541 yearling, yellow, already seen here twice;

other three were on adults:
– TXF black letters on white ground, reading up on left leg
– ZBJ black letters on yellow ground, reading up on left leg
– YLS black letters on yellow ground, reading up on right leg
All three appeared to be adults and to fly off with the cygnets at 10h30.

In addition to the Bewick’s: 1 Kingfisher, 1 Water Rail in the pond in the middle, 1 Snipe, 250 Lapwings flew over, 3 perhaps 4 Stonechats round pond in middle.

Leigh Meadows: 2 Whooper Swans grazing alongside 20 Mute Swans about 11h00; we don’t know where they had roosted.

Swindon Village/Stoke Orchard area (28 December, contributed by Robert Homan)

A Green Sandpiper flushed from Hyde Brook, near Brockhampton sewage works. A Peregrine Falcon causing panic among Fieldfares and Lapwings between Stoke Orchard and Hardwicke. A single Brambling with other finches at Elmstone Hardwicke.

Sudmeadow (28 December, contributed by Gordon Avery)

3 new Chiffchaffs being trapped in a morning ringing session. A female Blackcap still at Hemminsdale Road.

Sudmeadow (27 December, contributed by Gordon Avery)

A fairly quiet afternoon today.
A female Blackcap in Hemmingsdale Road. 3 Snipe at Sudmeadow marsh. 1 Chiffchaff by the river at Sudmeadow and 1 male Stonechat by the power station at Port Ham.

Sudmeadow (25 December, contributed by Gordon Avery)

In the morning there was an ‘abietinus‘ Chiffchaff by Llantony Weir with a tit flock. A nominate race Chiffchaff was by Lower Parting and a female Stonechat was nearby as well.

Forest of Dean (23 December, contributed by Andy Jayne)

Seen in the Moseley Green/Oakenhill/Parkend/Cannop were: 12 Little Grebes at Cannop Ponds, 2 Willow Tits in Churchill Inclosure, 2 Crossbills at Oakenhill and 4 Hawfinch in Yew trees at Parkend.

Walmore Common (23 December, contributed by Andy Jayne)

In the afternoon there were 4 Bewick’s Swans, 100 Teal, a Little Egret, a Kingfisher and 4 Stonechats.

Sudmeadow (20 December, contributed by Gordon Avery)

25 White-fronts south over Castle Meads at 10h20 then across the docks towards Tuffley. 3 Chiffchaffs, 1 in the osier and 2 along the river below the Parting with a small tit flock. 2 Snipe over GLS towards the Manor and lastly a pair of Stonechats on Port Ham.

Severn Hams (17 December, contributed by Mike Smart and Les Brown )

Whooper Swan: the adult pair present at first light, flew out at 08h15 to west, seen at 09h00 grazing with Mute Swans on Leigh Meadows; looks as if they are here to stay.
Ducks: almost a thousand present, mainly Wigeon, but nearly 50 Shoveler and good numbers of Pintail and Gadwall, a few Teal.
Peregrine: one on pylons.
Water Rail: squealing early on.
Snipe: at least 50, mainly in fields of uncut Canary Grass Phallaris with open patches.
Jack Snipe: two at Ashleworth.
Green Sandpiper: one on the muddy bank of the Severn near Wainlodes.
Barn Owl: one hunting over Ashleworth at first light.
Stonechat: two calling on the reserve at first light.
Chiffchaff: one calling and seen in patches of ivy on old oak trees.

Coombe Hill (17 December, contributed by Ian Ralphs)

3 Tench and 1 small Pike (1-2 lbs) at the eastern end of the Canal, with a Brown Hare in the fields nearby.

Swindon Village (16 December, contributed by Robert Homan)

2 mines of the RDB micro-moth Celypha woodiana were found today in mistletoe leaves growing in hedgerow trees near Swindon Village. This moth is something of a Three Counties speciality, though as its status nationally suggests there are but few records in Gloucestershire. Should you come across locally sourced mistletoe in the run up to Christmas then look out for the distinctive yellow cresent shaped mines, an example of which is shown below.

Walmore (16 December, contributed by Mike Smart)

13 Bewick’s Swans, on field G, from 12h30 to 14h00 at least. One family of two adults with three cygnets; three first winter birds still with some dark feathers on the head, one of them very strongly marked; five additional adults. All feeding on grassland. Only one was ringed and that was the bird seen here on Monday, yellow 541, which was ringed in the Petchora Delta, Russia, north of the Arctic Circle, in August 2005.

About 350 Teal left on the Common side, at least 20 Snipe, 15 Lapwings, at least six Ravens, a Sparrowhawk and a Buzzard.

Severn Hams (15 December, contributed by Mike Smart)

I went to Ashleworth before daybreak this morning to check whether the Whoopers seen yesterday at Coombe Hill and the Leigh Meadows had roosted there; two of them had; perhaps this means that they had visited the area in prevous winters? They were sitting in thick vegetation at the back, just opposite the hide, when it became light enough to see them. They became more active witt the sunlight (though it had been biright moonlihgt before) swam around together, rather imperiously, with a fair bit of head bobbing; finally at about 08h30, they took off, whooping loudly, and headed off straight across the river, as though they knew their way; a little while later, I saw them grazing in the Leigh Meadows, alongside the Chelt, on the same field as yesterday with a dozen Mute Swans.

The ringed bird was not with them; he had separated from them yesterday when they took off from Coombe Hill canal; it will be interesting to see (a) whether he joins them (is he perhaps on the floodwater at Coombe Hill right now, or has he moved on?) and (b) whether the others stay round and perhpas attract more Whoopers.

Other birds at Ashleworth early on: two Little Owls calling at dawn; a Water Rail squealing; moderate numbers of Wigeon, Pintail, Shoveler, some coming to feed along the edge of the water very close to the road; a couple of Goldcrests and at least two Chiffchaffs calling.

Sudmeadow (15 December, contributed by Gordon Avery)

At least 2 Chiffchaffs in the area as a new one was trapped today and there is still at least one unringed bird about. Also a male Peregrine in the area.

Brockhampton Sewage Works, Swindon Village (15 December, contributed by Robert Homan)

3 Chiffchaffs and a Goldcrest feeding in undergrowth by Hyde Brook on the south side of the works. 3 Buzzards in the area with a fourth nearby in Swindon Lane.

Coombe Hill (14 December, contributed by Mike Smart and Les Brown)

The recent floods at Coombe Hill are dropping slowly. The Grundon hide is now accessible reasonably easily (with wellingtons – beware the missing board on the boardwalk), and the new Long Pool hide is now also accessible, (again with welllingtons, but without too much difficulty).

The number of geese and ducks present in the early morning has decreased somewhat – they don’t seem to have moved over to Ashleworth where winter water levels are maintained, through manipulation of the sluice, at a slightly higher level. This morning there were about 700 Wigeon, about 190 Canada and 3 Greylag Geese; also about ten Shovelers and three Pintail, 300 Lapwings and a Dunlin. A new arrival on the floodwater was a Tufted Duck. From the Long Pool hide we could see five Gadwall and an immature male Ruddy Duck (first record for the reserve?). There were half a dozen Lesser Redpolls along the canal bank.

Halfway through the morning three adult Whooper Swans arrived, calling loudly as though they were making their first visit. They landed in a field alongside the canal bank, and two began to feed hungrily, while the third kept watch rather nervously. Bird number three proved to be ringed with a yellow ring, number LX5; it had been ringed as an adult at WWT Martinmere in Lancashire on 29 January 2003, seen there again the following winter on 3 November 2004 and 31 December 2004; it will no doubt have nested in Iceland but has never been seen there (yet). Had it been to the Severn Hams before it was ringed perhaps?? After a while, all three flew off, but two of them were later seen feeding among a flock of grazing Mute Swans on the nearby Leigh Meadows. This is a very encouraging observation, as small numbers of Whooper Swans wintered in the Severn Hams from 1990 to 2003, but have not stayed for the last two winters. We hope that these birds will stay all winter and attract other passing Whoopers to join them.

It transpires that the yearling Bewick’s Swan whose ring (yellow 541) was read at Walmore on Monday last, had been ringed as a first year bird on the Petchora Delta, Russia, north of the Arctic Circle (68 degrees North, 54 degrees East!) in summer 2005. It had made a brief appearance at Slimbridge on 4 December.

Cheltenham (14 December, contributed by John Sanders)

2 adult male Goosanders have returned to Pittville Park (lower lake, by the island), the first sighting here this winter. Their plumages are stained brown, which suggests that they have just flown in from an acid, iron rich water area.

Walmore (12 December, contributed by Mike Smart)

The floods have gone down, but there are still plenty of birds: 3 Bewick’s Swans (one a first winter wearing Slimbridge yellow colour ring 541); 15 Mute Swans; a vast concourse of Teal on the Common with a very high count of over 900 birds; 10 Shoveler but only two Wigeon left; 130 Lapwings; a minimum of 2 Snipe; the usual Ravens, with about half a dozen flying round, calling.

Cheltenham (12 December, contributed by Robert Homan)

The Starling roost in the Windyridge Road area is much depleted – now down to only 200 or so birds. What has happened to the other 4000+?

Prestbury (12 December, contributed by Robert Homan)

A single Chiffchaff in the farm yard in Gravel Pit Lane this morning.

Sudmeadow (12 December, contributed by Gordon Avery)

Three Chiffchaffs in the area this morning: one in the old osier and two together by the Lower Parting. All were of the nominate race.

Coombe Hill (10 December, contributed by Ian Ralphs)

In the afternoon from the Grundon hide, a Grey Squirrel was seen swimming across the flooded meadows. It appeared along the side of the drain that leads from the Long Pool area and was seen to successfully reach the eastern end of the Broadmead willows. It made slow but steady progress across the floods and appeared completely unfazed by all the geese and ducks

Severn Hams (10 December, contributed by Mike Smart and Les Brown)

The level of the Severn is now lower and the water has gone down a little at Coombe Hill, although the Grundon Hide is still only accessible with difficulty and wellingtons. The level is down rather more at Ashleworth. At Coombe Hill in the morning: a minimum of 2,100 ducks and 500 geese. Ducks included at least 1900 Wigeon, 20 Shoveler, 80 Pintail, a minimum of 100+ teal, probably many more hidden in the Long Pool. 470 Canadas, 35 Greylags, 1 Canada x Greylag hybird, one adult Whitefront. Eight Lesser Redpolls, a little Grebe, a Black-tailed Godwit, a Dunlin, 95 Lapwings. No sign of Bittern or Whooper Swan. At Ashleworth at least 1,500 ducks, mainly Wigeon. Also 150 Canada Geese,at least 50 Snipe, 2 Jack Snipe, a Peregrine on the pylons, Sparrowhawk, two or three Buzzards, at least two Chiffchaffs calling, two Stonechats. The total number of ducks (at least 3,500, maybe 4,000) suggests an influx over the last few days. No sign of any Bewick’s

Sudmeadow (9 December, contributed by Gordon Avery)

A Chiffchaff trapped for ringing today, with a Golden Plover seen flying north.

Coombe Hill and Ashleworth (7 December, contributed by Mike Smart)

Water levels are still high and the Grundon Hide at Coombe Hill is only just accessible and many fields at Ashleworth are still under water.

There seems to be about 2,000 to 2,500 ducks (mostly Wigeon, 200+ Teal, about 100 each Shoveler and Pintail, about a dozen Gadwall, maybe 50 Mallard) in the general area, moving back and forth between the two sites, more at Coombe Hill when water levels are high, more at Ashleworth when they drop. No sign of any Bewick’s or Whoopers, nor of Bittern.

Two Peregrines on the pylons at Ashleworth, a Green Sandpiper on the banks of the Severn (everything else was frozen!), three Redpolls in Stank Lane at Ashleworth and two Stonechats at Ashleworth.

Sudmeadow (6 December, contributed by Gordon Avery)

A Chiffchaff feeding by the floodwater today.

Cheltenham (5 December, contributed by Robert Homan)

As in March 2004, there is a large Starling roost in the Windyridge Road area of Cheltenham with the birds congregating on the pylons over the road in the late afternoon – perhaps 5000+ birds today.

Cheltenham (3 and 4 December, contributed by Robert Homan)

Winter warblers are about, including a Chiffchaff calling from the Honeybourne Cyclepath at St Paul’s and a male Blackcap seen in a garden in Swindon Lane.

Ashleworth (1 December, contributed by Mike Smart)

With the level of the Severn dropping, floods are decreasing at Coombe Hill, but at Ashleworth water levels are kept at a high level by the sluice, so that there is plenty of water for the ducks. It looks as though ducks in the Severn Hams are moving from Coombe Hill to Ashleworth. At first light this morning, no sign of the Whooper Swans reported on 23 and 26 November, so they do not seem to be roosting at Ashleworth; no Bewick’s either; ducks rather noisy first thing, mostly small mating parties of Wigeon, Gadwall, Mallard and Pintail, with a single female surrounded by up to eight or nine noisy drakes. Rather few birds coming to graze close to the road – maximum of 40 or so – but the water has another few centimetres to drop yet, so this behaviour will no doubt develop; most ducks sitting placidly round the edges, asleep. Over a thousand in all, maybe 12 Gadwall, 50 Pintail, 70 Shoveler, 200 Teal, about a thousand Wigeon. Canada Geese not roosting, but up to 150 arrived mid morning. Stacks of Snipe round the back, over 50 and at least one Jack Snipe. At least three Stonechats. All four common raptors: Peregrine, Kestrel, Buzzard and Sparrowhawk. No Bitterns!

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