Sightings – January 2004

Sudmeadow area (29 January 2004, contributed by Gordon Avery)

A Woodcock on Sudmeadow this morning. Apparently the Barn Owl has been seen daily up to yesterday at least. It hunts over the rough pasture between the river and the old railway line on the Oxlease. Best viewed from the Severn Way down below the Llantony Weir. It has been seen very early in the morning or at dusk.

Sudmeadow area (24 January 2004, contributed by Gordon Avery)

The Chiffchaff still by Llantony Weir and the 2 Stonechats are still on Port Ham.

Woorgreens, Cinderford (24 January 2004, contributed by Robert Homan)

At last, something for the non-birders – a Peacock butterfly seen in the area of scrub on the south side of the lake today.

Sudmeadow area (23 January 2004, contributed by Gordon Avery)

Male Stonechat along the Severn Way at the Rea, Hempsted this afternoon and male and female Peregrines sat on the pylon at Lower Parting, Sudmeadow also this afternoon.

Lydney New Grounds (23 January 2004, contributed by Andy Jayne)

Three Peregrines together seen today.

Rodley (23 January 2004, contributed by Andy Jayne)

2 Short-eared Owls, 19 Golden Plover, 8 Snipe, 56 Curlew, 16 Raven seen today.

Sudmeadow (21 January 2004, contributed by Gordon Avery)

The Mediterranean Gull was seen again yesterday in the GLS area. It is worth noting that good views of the area of the tip where the gulls congregate can be obtained from the Severn Way with a telescope. Consult either the OS Explorer sheet 179 or the many guides to the Severn Way for access details to the footpath.

Severn Vale wetlands (20 January 2004, contributed by Andy Jayne)

275 Pintail at Coombe Hill Meadows, adult Peregrine at Ashleworth Ham and 5 Tree Sparrows nearby at Colways Farm.

Llantony Weir (19 January 2004, contributed by Gordon Avery)

A Chiffchaff seen today.

Sudmeadow area (19 January 2004, news via Gordon Avery)

A Mediterranean Gull reported from the area today.

Update from the Severn Vale wetlands (19 January 2004, contributed by Mike Smart)

In the note posted on 10 January, some details were given of recent events, mainly hydrological and ornithological, at Walmore and Ashleworth, two of the main Severn Vale wetlands in Gloucestershire. Since then, observations have continued and this note brings matters up to date.

The Severn has continued at a fairly high level because of rain in the upper catchment in North Wales, though levels have fortunately not reached flood proportions. As a result, water from marshlands in the floodplain has not been able to flow away, so that Ashleworth and Hasfield Hams and Walmore Common have had slightly higher water levels. At the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust’s reserve at Ashleworth (along the Ham Road between Ashleworth and Tirley, just south of Haw Bridge on the west bank of the Severn), the water surface has at last (after an unusually dry autumn) reached normal winter levels, and the sluice has been operated to maintain these levels for ducks and geese. Numbers of ducks have continued to rise, with over 1,250 Wigeon, several hundred Teal, up to 150 Pintail and 50 Shoveler, plus the odd Gadwall and Mallard. In addition the Canada Geese have returned in force with numbers up to 300 and a few feral Greylag and Barnacle Geese, even a couple of Pink-footed Geese (also considered to be feral), but no sign yet this winter of any wild White-fronted Geese coming up from the estuary at Slimbridge. These birds can be well seen at close quarters from the road hide or the newly installed hide in Meerend Thicket, overlooking the reserve. The Wigeon are particularly attractive, as they come out of the water to graze along the roadside, and are very little disturbed by passing cars.

At Walmore (by the A 48 from Gloucester to Chepstow), there is still very little surface water, so few ducks, but Bewick’s Swans have been using the area extensively to graze on the grassland, and their numbers have continued to rise. Most of these swans are birds that roost at Slimbridge but move to Walmore to feed by day, returning to Slimbridge in the evening. This has been proved by reading the plastic rings with which some are marked. Numbers at Slimbridge are at present about 225, but an appreciable number move out to feed further afield. After the 31 Bewick’s seen at Walmore on 10 January, numbers have varied from day to day, with 11 on 11 January, 24 on 13 January, 26 on 14 January, 15 on 17 January, and (the record so far for this winter) 52 on 18 January. Coronie (ringed TAS) has been a regular visitor, with her mate and two cygnets. Cleeve (white ring marked TBB) and mate Evesham (ringed TVL), with their cygnet, were seen on 14 January at Walmore, and then again at Ashleworth on 18 January, so they are obviously venturing further afield. There remains at least one family (a single parent with as many as four cygnets) however, that regularly roosts at Walmore without returning to Slimbridge every evening. Today there was a family with both parents ringed (Muir – TPU – and mate Widemouth – ringed TUV – with no less than five cygnets. Apart from the swans, Walmore remains attractive to Ravens and some can be seen there at all times of the day, but specially at nightfall.

Ashleworth (18 January 2004, news via Gordon Avery)

A Tree Sparrow feeding with the finch flock at Colways Farm today.

The British Trust for Ornithology Winter Gull Roost Survey (18 January 2004, contributed by Mike Smart)

Every ten years, the BTO organizes a national survey of wintering gulls, and in 2003/04 the time has come round for the latest one. In the past, only the most important sites have been covered, but this year there will be an attempt to cover all sites in the country and thus get an idea of the numbers of gulls wintering in the UK. The aim is for observers to count gulls in the afternoon and early evening as they return to their roost.

In Gloucestershire, the biggest roosts are on the Severn estuary, and the last survey ten years ago suggested that 20% of all the Lesser Blackbacks wintering in Britain were to be found in the Frampton/Slimbridge area. However, the Cotswold Water Park also holds large numbers of roosting gulls. A co-ordinated count was held on the weekend of 17/18 January, with teams of observers covering the Frampton/Slimbridge and Sharpness/Berkeley areas on the east bank, the west bank of the Severn at Awre and below Lydney, and the Water Park. The observers were drawn from many of the county’s ornithological bodies, including the GNS.

Weather conditions were good (unlike mid-November when a first trial was held) so there should be clear results. First indications are that numbers of gulls, particularly Common Gull, are down. Watch this space for further details of the figures!

Port Ham, Gloucester (15 January 2004)

A pair of Stonechats today seen by Gordon Avery.

Littledean (14 January 2004)

2 male Bramblings trapped in a garden at Popes Hill today. (news via Gordon Avery).

Awre (13 January 2004)

A single Kittiwake seen today. (news via Gordon Avery).

WWT Slimbridge (12 January 2004)

An adult Tundra Bean Goose on the New Grounds, midday today. (news via Gordon Avery).

Sudmeadow (12 January 2004)

The Barn Owl seen again today flying over to Sudmeadow from Port Ham, Gloucester (contributed by Gordon Avery).

Aylburton Warth (11 January 2004)

A Green Sandpiper, Water Pipit and two Tree Sparrows (contributed by Andy Jayne).

Withington (11 January 2004)

2 female Bramblings in a small finch flock in the remains of sunflowers along the Withington – Colesbourne road, approx. 500m west of Withington (contributed by Robert Homan).

Bournside School (Cheltenham) (11 January 2004)

John Sanders saw an adult Ring-billed Gull on Bournside School playing fields, Warden Hill Road, Cheltenham at 1030 this morning. All the gulls flew up at about 1100 and the bird was not seen again.

Guscar Rocks and Aylburton Warth (GNS Field Meeting) (10 January 2004)

2 Grey Heron
1 imm Bewick’s Swan
9 Shelduck
120 Wigeon
30 Teal
45 Mallard
1m Pintail
6 Lapwing
6 Dunlin
40 Curlew
35 Redshank
1 Rock Pipit
(contributed by Gordon Avery)

Severn Vale (10 January 2004, contributed by Mike Smart)


Bewick’s Swans continue to use the site. It looks as though two family parties (one with one adult and four young, one with one adult and two young) are staying to roost on the site and not returning to Slimbridge to roost at night. These birds are joined in the course of the day by others which fly in from Slimbridge, usually after the morning feed there, and graze on the grass all day.
On 7 January 31 Bewick’s Swans at 09h00, two of them wearing darvic rings: yellow YLS (baptised “Dylan” at Slimbridge, previously seen at Walmore on 2 January and first recorded at Slimbridge this winter on 29 December) and white TAS (baptised “Coronie”, also seen at Walmore on 2 January after first Slimbridge sighting of the winter on 1 January).
On 8 January, eight birds (the two families) at 08h35, five adults and a yearling flew in at 09h07, two more adults flew in at 09h40. By 14h45 there were 18 present. None of these birds were ringed; no sign of Dylan or Coronie.
On 9 January 13 birds at 13h45 (the two families plus five adults, none ringed, so no Coronie or Dylan again). At 16h45 15 birds, including the two families, all of which stayed on a fine evening, till well after dark.
There are still lots of Ravens at Walmore, at least 25 or 30 came in from the west at dusk, presumably to roost, Where had they come from – the Gloucester Landfill Site?


River Severn rising sharply over the last couple of days, at its highest since early 2003 at Haw Bridge today (9.40 metres). Water gradually coming on to the reserve at Ashleworth, where water levels do not necessarily follow river levels and are still low for the time of year. Terrific views from the roadside and hides: over 1,000 ducks in the last two days, including about 800 Wigeon, 200 Teal, 50 Pintail, 30 Shoveler, 6 Gadwall and 2 Shelduck (the latter the first of the season); also influx of feral geese: 175 Canadas, nearly 20 Greylags and a couple of Barnacles. Worth a careful look in case something more unusual turns up. Are the Whoopers going to come, now the water levels are rising?

A Green Sandpiper on the River Chelt by the Leigh Meadows.

Forest of Dean (9 January 2004)

Apart from the usual Robins, Blackbirds and Jays, very few small birds evident – certainly no finch flocks. At Soudley Ponds: 3 Little Grebes and 6 Mandarins. At Mallards Pike: 4 Goosanders (inc 1m). At Cannop Ponds: 8 Goosanders (inc 4m), 7 Little Grebes, 21 Mandarins and 2 Tufted Ducks (contributed by Robert Homan).

Pittville Park (Cheltenham) (7 January 2004)

A male Goosander on the boating lake at lunchtime today (contributed by Robert Homan).

Severn Vale (4 January 2004)

At Ashleworth water levels continue to rise and there have been over 1,000 ducks present, mostly Wigeon, but up to 200 Teal and a few Shoveler and Pintail, for the last two days. Excellent views from the roadside hides, especially of grazing Wigeon. The Peregrine was on the pylons too this morning, and a couple of Ravens flew over.

This morning there was a surprise on the water, a group of eleven Bewick’s Swans, nine adults and two yearlings, looking as though they had arrived yesterday evening or during the night and needed a place to roost on the water. They had probably arrived from the east and had not been to Slimbridge at all. They sat on the water, all very nervous, calling and holding their necks in the upright alarm position, then they became even more restless, with much head-bobbing and even more calling, and finally took flight at about 0900, leaving not towards Slimbridge but to the North West, though they were not found later in the day in the Worcestershire wetlands of Longdon Marsh, Bredon’s Hardwick or Nafford (Gwen Finch).

Another surprise was the arrival of a single male Ruff, the first this year in the Severn Hams. Perhaps, like the ducks, he had got the message that there was water and good feeding at Ashleworth and had come in (from the estuary?) to see for himself.

At Walmore, the Bewick’s Swans are still coming from Slimbrdige, 13 yesterday, 15 today. Still plenty of Ravens to be seen and heard there. (contributed by Mike Smart)

CWP(W) (4 January 2004)

Reported by Andy Jayne today:
1 Little Egret
8 Goosander
redhead Smew (pit 65)
4 Water Rail (1 seen, 3 heard)
80 Golden Plover
1 ad Yellow-legged Gull (pit 32)
pair Stonechat
3 Chiffchaffs
plus the usual Red-crested Pochard, Goldeneye and Ruddy Duck
No sign of the Yellow-browed Warbler

Sudmeadow (4 January 2004)

There was a Barn Owl hunting in the rough field just past Lower Parting at Sudmeadow this morning. A first for the site! (contributed by Gordon Avery).

Walmore Common (2 January 2004)

34 Bewick’s Swans feeding at 12.30 today. Also present were 8 Mute Swans, a male Stonechat on the main ditch, about 18 Teal in the ditches, and at least ten Ravens overhead. (contributed by Mike Smart).

Ryall’s Lane, Cambridge (2 January 2004)

2 Little Egrets present for most of this morning, either in the roadside ditch or adjacent fields. (contributed by Gordon Avery).

Guiting Power (1 January 2004)

A Red Kite reported from the area today. (contributed by James Milton).

CWP(W) (1 January 2004)

The Yellow-browed Warbler showed well this morning in New Year’s Day sunshine in the bushes at the NE corner of pit 32. Also a single male Goldeneye on pit 79 (contributed by Robert Homan).

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