Sightings – December 2007

Severn Hams (31 December, contributed by Mike Smart)

Severn and Chelt are rising again, but the meadows are not back-flooding yet.

Walmore at 12h30, water levels low, just a little surface water, no real flooding: 15 Mutes, 11 Bewick’s Swans (all feeding on agriculturally improved grassland with no mat of dead grass, all adults, still quite nervous – “talking” to one another and raising necks when I approached – all definitely unringed), 2 Shelducks, 200 Teal, 6 Snipe, 1 Stonechat.

Leigh Meadows (from above Red Lion): 2 adult Whoopers, 1 adult Bewick (not checked for rings), 20 Mute Swans: all together on field of lush agriculturally improved grassland without mat of dead grass.

Walmore Common (29 December, contributed by Andy Jayne)

An adult male Merlin stooped unsuccessfully at a Meadow Pipit. Also nine Bewick’s Swans, 180 Teal, six Shoveler, 14 Snipe, a Kingfisher and five Stonechats.

Plusterwine/Aylburton Warth (29 December, contributed by Andy Jayne)

A huge flock of up to 1000 Bramblings with 500+ Chaffinch in a field of sunflowers and an oiled adult Kittiwake resting in a stubble field. Also 45 Teal, adult Peregrine, 500+ Lapwing, 50+ Dunlin, 205 Curlew, 21 Redshank and a Common Sandpiper in Cone Pill.

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

Although the level of the Severn is slightly down, water is still rising on the riverside meadows as it cannot escape to the river. At Coombe Hill, the Grundon Hide is still accessible with wellingtons, though the water is over the boardwalk; shallow flooding has submerged the scrapes. 240 Canada Geese and 1 Barnacle roosting – the biggest group so far this winter – but all had left (mostly to the north going beyond Apperley) by 08h30. A few Mutes Swans roosting, but they also left early. 2 Shelduck, 340 Wigeon grazing round the edge of the flood, 30 Shoveler; on the Long Pool 120 Teal. One large female Sparrowhawk. The most unusual observation was probably a trio of Great Black-backed gulls that landed on the floodwater with the more familiar Lessers and Black-headed. At the Wainlodes end, a Little Owl, about 60 Snipe on one flooded field.

On the Leigh Meadows, same field as on Boxing Day had a flock of 17 swans grazing: two adult Whoopers, and adult Bewick and 14 Mutes. The Bewick was the same bird as on 26th December, now cleared of its limp and looking fully recovered; ring yellow on left leg, reading up, read as 675 again; a penny face with a striking face pattern.

Severn Hams (26 December, contributed by Mike Smart)

The Severn has risen sharply, presumably following the heavy showers over Christmas, causing slightly increased flooding round the scrapes at Coombe Hill. At first light today there were about 170 Canada Geese and seven Mute Swans, most of which had left by 0815, presumably to graze elsewhere. Otherwise it was distinctly quiet: only 25 Wigeon, lots of Teal calling from the Long Pool; 15 Lapwings on floodwater. No sign of Whoopers on the fields where they have been grazing for most of the month, but these fields now have large numbers of sheep on them, and the grazing is nowhere near as good as it was.

However, the Whoopers were found again on one of their usual fields on the Chelt Meadows at 09h30 this morning. They were on one of the fields where silage was cut in May, so there is no mat of dead grass and the grazing is fresh and appetizing. There were two adults, presumably the same ones, plus an adult Bewick’s Swan, with a yellow ring number 675 reading up on its left leg. It has an injury to the left leg and is limping and avoiding putting its weight on the left leg (which means that it holds the ring leg in the air, making it easier to read for once!). Also a Green Sandpiper and a Grey Wagtail.

Severn Hams (24 December, contributed by Les Brown and Mike Smart)

The two Whoopers have not been seen at Coombe Hill since 15 December; two were at Ashleworth on 17 December, but they clearly hadn’t roosted at Coombe Hill on 22 December; so, the objective for 24 December was to find the missing Whoopers. Off to Ashleworth, arriving before first light at 07h00. But there was no sign of any roosting Whoopers; where have they gone? Every winter they seem to take a few days off and disappear.

Instead about 180 Canadas were roosting at Ashleworth; the water level is just right and fair numbers of duck were present: about 500 Wigeon, 200 Teal, 90 Pintail, 75 Shoveler, 50 Mallard, 7 Gadwall and a single Tufted; 300 Lapwings passed over, no doubt a weather movement; about 20 Snipe and 1 Jack Snipe at the bottom of Stank Lane; and a couple of Reed Buntings.

Severn Hams (22 December, contributed by Les Brown and Mike Smart)

After the recent flooding, water levels have dropped, and there is little floodwater left, just the usual waters in the scrapes and Long Pool. Still quite a bit of ice on fields and Long Pool, so rather few birds about: 16 Mute Swans and 80 Canada Geese had roosted, but no sign of the Whoopers. About 200 Teal but few other ducks. Whoopers not on Leigh Meadows either.

Rather more birds at the Wainlodes end: 1 Green Sandpiper, 40 Snipe, 1 Little Owl, 1 Grey Wagtail.

At Ashleworth, water returned to normal winter level: a few hundred duck including about 20 Pintail. One Jack Snipe and one Common Snipe at Hasfield. Still no Whoopers.

Tewkesbury (21 December, contributed by Andy Jayne)

Four Shelduck, 34 Snipe, 50 Pied Wagtails and two male Stonechats on Severn Ham. A Little Grebe, two Water Rails (heard) and a Cetti’s Warbler at The Mythe.

Longford (17 December, contributed by Andy Jayne)

This afternoon a Jack Snipe flushed from the Hatherley Brook near Longford was then taken by a Sparrowhawk.

Sudmeadow (17 December, contributed by Gordon Avery)

Seen this morning in Sudmeadow Marsh were a Water Rail and a Chiffchaff (nominate race); there were also 30 Meadow Pipits on Sudmeadow itself.

Cheltenham (13 December, contributed by Robert Homan)

After a long run of years in which a winter Goosander flock was a regular feature in Pittville Park, in last few winters the birds have made only erratic appearances. Therefore, a male on the boating lake today was a welcome sight. This Harlequin Ladybird on one of the Holm Oaks in the park was a surprise, perhaps the almost completely black colour enabled it to warm up in the early afternoon sunshine?

Harlequin Ladybird, Pittville Park December 2007, R Homan.

Sudmeadow (11 December, contributed by Gordon Avery)

2 Redpolls, trapped for ringing, were the first ever at this site! A single Woodcock in the marsh and also a Water Rail calling plus a Kingfisher nearby.

Severn Hams (8 December, contributed by Mike Smart and Les Brown)

The Severn is rising further (level of 9.4 m at Haw Bridge today – it overtops at 10.75), and the BBC reports that flood defences are being put into place at Worcester and Upton. The higher Severn level means that the streams in the Severn Hams area cannot flow out into the main river, so are backing up and flooding riverside meadows. This weekend is duck count day, or as it‘s now called WeBS (Wetland Bird Survey day).

At Ashleworth, the reserve is now flooded to the normal winter level. The increased water level has attracted additional Pintail and other surface-feeding ducks in the last couple of days. This morning there were: 300 Wigeon, 250 Teal, 70 Pintail, 60 Shoveler, 55 Mallard, 7 Gadwall, 1 Stonechat.

At Coombe Hill: 190 Canada Geese, 1 Barnacle Geese, 2 Whooper Swans, 290 Wigeon, 110 Teal, 6 Shoveler, 58 Pintail , 1 Redshank, 1 Green Sandpiper.

Framilode and Priding (7 December, contributed by Andrew Jayne)

106 Golden Plover on the sands this afternoon plus up to 1000 in flight overhead. Also 33 Curlew, an adult Yellow-legged Gull and four Chiffchaffs along the footpath just west of Priding House.

Walmore and Ashleworth (6 December, contributed by Mike Smart)

With continuing rain, the Severn is still rising and causing the Severnside marshes to back-flood. There was a little more surface water on Walmore Common this morning, though you could hardly call it flooding. Even so, it did not attract any Bewick’s Swans which have been few and far between there this autumn and early winter. Just one family of Mute Swans (two adults and three grown cygnets, the male still extremely aggressive to a pair of Mutes that flew in); 100 Teal; 2 Snipe; 1 Stonechat; about 40 Meadow Pipits.

At Ashleworth, water is still pouring into the reserve, and normal winter levels on the main reserve fields should soon be reached. The hedge in front of the hide has been cut to give excellent views over the reserve.

Sudmeadow area (6 December, contributed by Gordon Avery)

2 Woodcocks at Sudmeadow osier bed. At least 2 Stonechats on Port Ham and 1 Green Sandpiper over to Sudmeadow after being flushed by a jogger over on Port Ham.

Severn Hams (5 December, contributed by Les Brown and Mike Smart)

Following the rain of last weekend, the level of the River Severn above Gloucester has risen sharply (though, I hasten to add, there is no risk of serious flooding at present). Since the Severn level has risen, the local streams round Coombe Hill and Ashleworth cannot discharge into the main river, so are backing up, filling ditches and causing light flooding on many meadows.

At Coombe Hill, there is little extra flooding as yet, but at Ashleworth, water levels on the main reserve are gradually increasing and conditions are just about perfect for surface-feeding ducks. Already Pintail have found it, and there were 31 there yesterday and 47 today. Also 50 Shoveler, 250 Wigeon and 150 Teal.

Walmore and Wilmer (Rodley) Commons (3 December, contributed by Mike Smart)

The rain over the last couple of days had caused a slight increase in surface flooding; conditions looked ideal for Bewick’s at both sites, but none at all were found. No Teal or Snipe either, perhaps because of the strong wind. At Walmore a pair of Stonechats. At Wilmer: five Shelducks lekking already, plus the Common/Paradise Shelduck cross that was there last winter; another Stonechat, 15 Pied Wagtails and eight Meadow Pipits foraging round the edge of the floodwater.

Hempsted (2 December, contributed by Gordon Avery)

2 Green Sandpipers on Sudmeadow Marsh in the morning.

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