Sightings – January 2006

North Cotswolds mammals (27 January, contributed by Ian Ralphs)

Observations during the day included:

65 Fallow Deer laying up in a large arable field, between Clapton-on-Hill and Sherborne. SP1716.

2 Roe Deer Great Rissington SP 2017

3 Roe Deer Great Rissington SP 2117

3 Hares (Boxing) Great Rissington SP2017

3 Hares (Boxing) Great Rissington SP2117

and a Fox at Beer Furlong Farm, Eastleach SP1906.

Cheltenham (27 January, contributed by Robert Homan)

There is another Starling roost in Cheltenham, this time in the NW part of the town centre. There were some 1000 or so birds in a pre-roost display at 4.30 pm today.

Sudmeadow (24 January, contributed by Gordon Avery)

2 Chiffchaffs in the area – one by the Parting and the other by Llantony Weir.

Tidenham Chase (21 January, contributed by Ian Ralphs)

A Red Admiral at The Park, Tidenham Chase, at lunchtime in beautiful sunny weather.

Sudmeadow (21 January, contributed by Gordon Avery)

2 pairs of Stonechats this morning: a pair on Sudmeadow and the other on Hempsted Nature Reserve.

Leigh Meadows (15 January, contributed by Andy Jayne)

A female Merlin this afternoon, perched for a while before being harassed by a Magpie. The two adult Whooper Swans were there again; also 2 Sparrowhawks, a male Stonechat and a Lesser Redpoll.

Sudmeadow (15 January, contributed by Gordon Avery)

A Green Sandpiper today near the site of the old barn.

Severn Hams (15 January, contributed by Mike Smart)

Today being WeBS count day, I went very early to Coombe Hill in the hope of confirming that the pair of Whoopers are actually roosting there with the Mutes. Alas, as I walked along the boardwalk in semi-darkness at 07h30, I heard the sound of Mute Swan wings, obviously birds flying out, so I presume that some Mutes flew out at first light, and probably the Whoopers with them.

At 07h30 on the scrapes there were still about 15 Mutes, and in the corner some indeterminate geese. The Mutes flew out in the direction of Leigh Meadows, all gone by 08h15. As the light improved, I realised that six of the geese were Canadas, which flew off at about 08h00 in the direction of Apperley, as observed on previous visits.

There were still ten grey geese on the water however, and as the light improved I realised they were Whitefronts; very nervous, sitting on the water, clearly after roosting, making no attempt either to fly out or to feed. As it brightened, I was able to that they were Whitefronts, and realised finally from the yellow bills and very heavy markings on the underparts of some adults, that they were Greenland, not European, Whitefronts. This would make sense, given the north west winds we have had in recent days. Closer observation revealed that they were a family party of two adults plus five (!) goslings, together with three other adults, the latter repeatedly chased off by the adults of the family party. At first they sat nervously on the water, not attempting to feed, but after a while they moved onto the grass by the scrapes, and began to graze; the male of the family party remained very alert, and never even tried to feed. They were very nervous: anything made them stick their necks in the air; a couple of Mute Swans flying in, a hare running past. At about 09h35, a very distant and very high-flying helicopter came past; this was too much for them and they disappeared in an instant, so rapidly that I was unable to tell in which direction they left. Just shows that birds have to get used to local conditions; all the many helicopters flying over Coombe Hill wouldn’t have bothered most of the local birds. I saw them well enough to check that none were ringed.

I went on to the adjacent Leigh Meadows, where I duly recorded the usual two adult Whoopers which must have flow out of Coombe Hill very early, together with about 20 Mutes. No sign of the Whitefronts, and they weren’t at Ashleworth either. It will be very interesting to see if they turn up at Slimbridge.

Severn Hams (14 January, contributed by Mike Smart and Les Brown)

An early morning visit to Ashleworth showed that the Whoopers were not roosting there; it seems as though they may be roosting at Coombe Hill. The water levels in the Severn and on the marshes were low; there were many more birds at Ashleworth than elsewhere.

Whooper Swan: the usual pair feeding on the Leigh Meadows after 10h00. No sign of any additional birds: are the pair reported from Slimbridge the Leigh Meadows birds or a separate, additional pair?

Bewick’s Swan: none at Ashleworth or Leigh Meadows; at Walmore 27 between 11h00 and 11h30 on field E: 22 adults/yearlings and five cygnets in families of two and three. Two birds ringed, the familiar yearling 541 (yellow right reading down) and almost as familiar adult ZBJ which appeared to be the parent of the three cygnets (yellow left reading up).

Mute Swan: wintering flock on the Leigh Meadows and at the Red Lion now numbers about 35 birds, grazing with Whoopers.

Wigeon: maybe 1,000 at Ashleworth.

Gadwall: good numbers at Ashleworth, probably 50 or more.

Tufted Duck: two drakes at Ashleworth.

Snipe: at least 35 at Ashleworth, couldn’t find any Jack Snipe.

Barn Owl: one at Ashleworth early on.

Winter Heliotrope (11 January, contributed by Juliet Bailey)

The first wild flower of the year, Winter Heliotrope (Petasites fragrans), is now coming into bloom on wasteland and road verges round the county. This was introduced from the Mediterranean into Britain in 1806. It spreads rampantly by rhizomes, and was recorded as a wild plant at least as early as 1835. The first Gloucestershire record is 1872. All plants in the British Isles are male. The flowers look a boring ashy grey from a distance, but up close its colours are positively shocking and the cherry-vanilla scent is wonderful. It is a close relative of coltsfoot and butterbur, and the flowers often emerge before the leaves, usually in time for Christmas, but this year it is at least a week late.

Winter Heliotrope, Ashleworth, February 2005 (Juliet Bailey)

Witcombe Res. (11 January, contributed by Gordon Avery)

A Jack Snipe seen today be the reservoir.

Severn Hams (4 January, contributed by Mike Smart and Les Brown)

Coombe Hill: 150 Wigeon, 200 Teal, 10 Shoveler, 8 Snipe in the Long Pool; Water Rail squealing in both the Long Pool and Broad Mere.

Leigh Meadows: the two Whoopers grazing late morning among a group of about 18 Mute Swans.

Ashleworth: duck numbers very much as they have been in the last ten days: perhaps 1200 Wigeon, 350 Teal, 30 Gadwall, 90 Shoveler, 20 Pintail; 50 Lapwings, 35 Snipe and at least one Jack Snipe.

Sudmeadow (4 January, contributed by Gordon Avery)

A male Peregrine over Llantony Weir at 0815h. A Green Sandpiper over Sudmeadow and female Stonechat still by the Parting.

Cheltenham (4 January, contributed by Robert Homan)

A male Brambling and a female Blackcap in a garden in Swindon Lane today.

Minsterworth Ham (3 January, contributed by Mike Smart)

One Green Sandpiper in a ditch; three Shelducks; 13 Cormorants – sitting in a riverside tree and on the floodbank in the most secluded part of the site.

Walmore (3 January, contributed by Mike Smart)

No Bewick’s at first light (08h00) but at 08h21, five flew in from the Slimbridge direction, not calling, landing without fuss as though they knew what they were doing and where they were going. Only one was ringed, a yearling with a yellow ring on the right leg; I didn’t read it so as to avoid disturbing them, but it must have been 541 on the basis of plumage and bill pattern. This bird has been a regular over the last couple of weeks. In addition, one or more Ravens moving out towards Gloucester; 90 Teal, 150 Lapwing; only a single Snipe, despite careful searching; a single Jack Snipe flushed from alongside the main ditch; at least two Stonechats.

Hempsted Nature Reserve (2 January, contributed by Gordon Avery)

A morning visit morning revealed 3 Stonechats (1 male and 2 females) and 6 Snipe.
(The Nature Reserve is the area betwen the Rea Lane and the boundary of the southern end of the tip alongside the Severn Way in SO8016. There is quite a bit of rough pasture there and a small pool, in essence its all part of the flood plain.)

Sudmeadow (1 January, contributed by Gordon Avery)

The Green Sandpiper from December 2005 is still by Presswelds. A female Stonechat by the Parting. A male Stonechat on Port Ham by the electricity station and 2 Chiffchaffs found along the river at Sudmeadow.

Lower Dumball, Rodley (1 January, contributed by Andy Jayne)

Good views of a female Merlin this afternoon. Also 480 Golden Plover, 2000 Lapwing and 25 Curlews there.

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