Cheltenham (24 February, contributed by Robert Homan)
Croaking from the garden pond last night suggested that the frogs were active and indeed this morning there were 5 clumps of spawn and a number of presumably female frogs present.
Coombe Hill (24 February, contributed by Mike Smart and Les Brown)
The floods have receded, leaving the meadows muddy, dank and desolate, more like a mudflat than a hay meadow. Some signs of early wader passage: 17 Curlews, which had obviously roosted, flew off to the northwest soon after first light; a flock of 44 Lapwing, still in winter plumage and flocking, whereas birds are already displaying at Walmore; a single Dunlin with the Lapwing; a lone Golden Plover flew over, calling; 30 Snipe on the southern meadows. Duck numbers were low: 5 Shelduck lekking, 170 Teal, 5 Shoveler.
A mink departed with alacrity as I entered the Long Pool Hide; from the smell, it has taken up residence there. Three brown hares were seen.
Witcombe (24 February, contributed by Gordon Avery)
22 Siskins were in alders at the reservoirs this morning.
Walmore and the Bewick’s Swans (23 February, contributed by Mike Smart)
More interesting sightings today. Two cygnets (presumably Gorgonzola’s offspring) were on their own, without their mother, at Walmore yesterday (22nd). They were there again this afternoon at least from 4.20pm onwards when I arrived, and I assumed that they would roost on the pool on the Common again. But no, at 5.55pm they took off and flew in the direction of Slimbridge. So they should have connected with the main flock of Bewick’s at Slimbridge again, and will presumably depart with them.
Interestingly, the usual group of Bewick’s (including TUV, BCH and 607) that flies over to Walmore for the day and returns to Slimbridge in the evening was not seen at Walmore either yesterday or today. Which suggests that they are probably among those that left on Sunday night.
Walmore and area (22 February, contributed by Andy Jayne)
Seen at Walmore Common were two juvenile Bewick’s Swans, five Shelduck, 100 Teal, 60 Snipe and a record count of six Jack Snipe.
At Broadoak, Newnham a first-winter Iceland Gull was seen late afternoon.
Sudmeadow (21 February, contributed by Gordon Avery)
10 Lapwing moved north over the Lower Parting at 08.08am.
Adult Male Peregrine on the pylon at Lower Parting at 08.30am, then seen twice more during the morning, once on the pylon at the Power Station at Port Ham and once on the pylon over on the ‘Manor’ Linton Farm.
A male Chaffinch singing at Sudmeadow, the first I’ve heard this year.
See below for additional observations concerning Bewick’s Swans in the area.
Severn Vale (21 February, contributed by Mike Smart, Les Brown and Gordon Avery)
At Walmore at first light this morning in bright clear conditions, there were three Bewick’s Swans, Gorgonzola and her two cygnets, who for at least a week have stayed to roost on the Common Pool at Walmore, rather then returning to roost at Slimbridge, like most other Bewick’s. They flew the 200 metres to their usual grazing field at 06h58. Then at 07h08 (a very early time for birds to arrive at Walmore from Slimbridge for the day’s grazing), a flock of 20 Bewick’s appeared over the Common, circled twice and, without landing, flew off upriver to the north; Gorgonzola and her family thereupon took off and joined them. At 07h20, there was one Bewick’s left on the pool at Walmore, which took off and landed on one of the fields, but sat looking agitated with its neck vertical; another singleton arrived from the north at 07.45am.
At 07.24am, at Sudmeadow, just south of Gloucester, Gordon Avery noted a flock of 22 Bewick’s Swans (including at least four immatures) flying NE along the Severn. Then at 07.35am, 13, probably some of the same birds, flew south over Sudmeadow again.
At 07.45am, Les Brown, who was in the hide at Coombe Hill, heard Bewick’s overhead and saw a flock of 18 which circled, did not land, then flew west towards the Severn. At 07.53am, Richard Cook who was driving along the Gloucester by-pass at Over saw “about 20” swans (not definitely Bewick’s, but it seems very probable) flying south back downriver. Meanwhile at Walmore, two more adults came in from the north at 08.10am, and the two already present began a furious threat display against them; at 08.20am, all four took off and headed over the Chaxhill ridge in the direction of Slimbridge. At 08.32am, seven swans flew into Walmore from the north and landed, four of them unringed adults, the other three, an adult and two cygnets which must have been Gorgonzola and family. These seven remained and no more arrived (i.e. not the usual morning influx from Slimbridge) before 10.30am when I left. The seven were still present at 14.15pm when I took another quick look.
It looks very much as though this was a “practice departure”: the flock of 20 left Slimbridge in the early morning (as they often do on departing NE migration), overflew Walmore, called up Gorgonzola & kids, then all flew north towards Coombe Hill, losing heart as they went, and various birds peeled off, returning southwards, until the whole flock returned south. It will be interesting to see how many are recorded at the roost at Slimbridge this evening. But in these perfect conditions for return migration, they surely won’t be around much longer.
There is a great deal of information on Bewick’s Swans and their comings and goings at Slimbridge here.
Sudmeadow (19 February, contributed by Gordon Avery)
A superb female/imm female Merlin seen this afternoon flying over the tip towards Minsterworth Ham.
Severn Hams (17 February, contributed by Mike Smart and Les Brown)
Water levels remain high at Coombe Hill and the hides are inaccessible, but birds can be seen from the canal towpath. Highlights today were the first Curlew of the spring, a flock of nine, with three Dunlin. At Ashleworth, the water also high and not many ducks were visible; there were 19 Snipe and 3 Jack Snipe near Stank Lane. At Leigh Meadows the four Whooper Swans still present.
At Walmore, five Bewick’s roosted and were joined by 19 more from Slimbridge. A coordinated count yesterday afternoon gave 166 at Slimbridge and 14 at Walmore, which is very close to the winter’s maximum of 183, so departures haven’t begun yet. 20+ Ravens flew out from Walmore at first light in the direction of the land fill site at Gloucester.
Cheltenham (16 February, contributed by Robert Homan)
A male Blackcap was singing in Swindon lane today and a Peacock butterfly was a brief garden visitor in the late morning sunshine. Yesterday in Cheltenham town centre a male Blackbird was in full song at 6.00pm.
Walmore (15/16 February, contributed by Mike Samrt)
Following the big tides last week (the largest of the year with tides of over 10 metres for four days running), Walmore was lightly flooded.
With the floodwater dropping gradually on the 15th, at first light there were 29 Bewick’s Swans (three cygnets) which had roosted on the water there. They included three ringed birds (607, TUV and BCH) which have been recorded regularly at Walmore since the beginning of the year. (The three ringed birds were back at Slimbridge in the evening, so did not roost again). Also at least 400 Teal, 8 Snipe, 7 Canada Geese.
On the evening of the 16th, with the water level lower, there were only 14 Bewick’s (with three cygnets), none of them ringed, which stayed until 6.00pm when it was practically dark. Some appeared to fly to Slimbridge but some stayed to roost. Also at least 48 Ravens coming to roost in oak trees, flying in from the direction of Gloucester between 5.15 pm and 6.00pm, presumably from the land fill site.
Arlingham Warth (15 February, contributed by Andy Jayne)
A male Goshawk was seen today being mobbed by Crows and gulls. Also a Jack Snipe and four Snipe were flushed from a stubble field.
Sudmeadow (14 February, contributed by Gordon Avery)
A Chiffchaff was by the marsh this morning, hawking for insects.
Walmore (14 February, contributed by Mike Smart)
The floodwater at Walmore is decreasing and not iced over now. At first light 29 Bewick’s were present, including three cygnets. They had obviously roosted, which accounts for a slight decrease at Slimbridge in the last few days. Also present were 375+ Teal, 13 Pintail, 1 Shelduck, 1 Raven.
Severn Hams (14 February, contributed by Les Brown)
At Coombe Hill the floodwater has risen again, making the hides inaccessible, though the central reserve can be viewed from the canal towpath. The water is higher at Ashleworth too, but the hides were still accessible along the road.
Minsterworth Ham area (11 February, contributed by Andy Jayne)
At Minsterworth Ham today 17 Shelduck, a Green Sandpiper and 100 Meadow Pipits and nearby at Calcott’s Green a Hawfinch in an orchard and a redhead Goosander on the Severn.
Frampton and Longney (10 February, contributed by Andy Jayne)
At Frampton Pools today there were three female Scaup among 208 Tufted Duck and ten Pochard on the Sailing Lake.
At Longney there was a pale second-winter Glaucous Gull on the sands for well over an hour mid-afternoon. Also a first-winter Herring Gull with white primaries and 100 Skylarks on a nearby field.
Cheltenham (10 February, contributed by Robert Homan)
A pair of Ravens was seen in flight low over Swindon Lane this afternoon. Their presence in the area in now a more or less daily occurence.
Sudmeadow (9 February, contributed by Gordon Avery)
A female garden Blackcap was seen this morning.
Sudmeadow (8 February, contributed by Gordon Avery)
Seen in the area this morning were: 8 Cormorants
5 Canada Geese
300 Wood Pigeons in the area probably due to shooting on the other side of the river
28 Siskins feeding in riverside alders, less than annual here.
Standish (5 February, contributed by Juliet Bailey)
I had been feeling a bit deprived; there have been all these reports of heavy snow, but it seemed to have missed this part of the Vale until this morning, when there was about 4 cm lying. I went for a short walk round the local farmland (see my picture below), looking for animal prints. Rabbit prints were abundant, a few fox tracks, but only birds apart from that. What particularly surprised me was the lack of deer prints. Roe are very common round here and I see them more often than not when on this walk. I wonder if they had retreated to the woods. In the garden the birds showed beautifully, lit from below as well as above. A Fieldfare was guarding the lawn where I have put out stored windfall apples, and it chases off all other Fieldfares, Blackbirds and Song Thrush. Perched on the shed roof, it started pecking the moss cushions. This looked like displacement activity rather than feeding. I had previously noticed a chunk of apparently healthy moss on the ground and wondered why it had broken off. This could be the answer.
Aust (4 February, contributed by Juliet Bailey)
Seen in Aust churchyard today, a little patch of celandines in full bloom.
Sudmeadow (4 February, contributed by Gordon Avery)
An adult male Peregrine heading SE over this morning at 08.05 and a male Stonechat in the area.
Severn Hams (3 February, contributed by Mike Smart)
The Severn continues to drop, but there is still extensive water, much of it iced over, on the riverside meadows. At Coombe Hill, the hides are still inaccessible and likely to remain so for a couple of days yet, but the area of open water can be seen from the canal towpath. At Ashleworth, hide easily accessible, and most birds sitting round the edges of the water on the main reserve field. Biggest combined total of ducks so far this winter, 2,500 or so; unusually in relation to previous winters, Teal are much the most numerous, with a lot less Wigeon, normally the commonest species; the cold snap clearly hasn’t scared them off yet.
At Coombe Hill today, a total of over 800 ducks (not immediately obvious because a lot are sitting round the edges, hiding and loafing in the vegetation): 200 Wigeon, 500+ Teal, 10 Gadwall, 60 Mallard 150 Pintail, 40 Shoveler, 65 Coot 43 Lapwings.
At Ashleworth, at least 1,500 ducks maybe nearly 2,000: 2 Little Grebes, 800 Teal, 400 Wigeon, 100 Pintail, 70 Mallard, 40 Shoveler, 30 Gadwall, 10 Tufted Duck; in fields along Stank Lane, 20 Snipe, 1 Jack Snipe.
I couldn’t find the Whoopers today, but the are probably tucked away somewhere.
Severn Hams (2 February, World Wetlands Day, contributed by Mike Smart)
The Severn is still dropping, despite the snow and water is pouring off meadows at Coombe Hill and Ashleworth.
The 4 Whooper Swans are back on Leigh Meadows. Also seen today were: 190 Canada Geese in flight over Coombe Hill; a Grey Wagtail perching on flotsam below Haw Bridge; a Raven at Wainlodes and a flock of 40 Stock Doves near Ashleworth Ham, the biggest for some time.