Sightings – January 2007

Standish (31 January, contributed by Juliet Bailey)

I heard the first blackbird song of the year today at dusk at the end of a fine warm day. He was perched on the apex of the roof overlooking the garden, and though possibly not at full belt, this was not sub-song and it was audible from some distance away above the sound of the rush-hour traffic. Last year (which was much colder) the earliest date I heard a blackbird singing in the garden was 1 March. According to ‘The Blackbird’ by A F Hillstead (1944) “although from time to time there are reports that it has been heard in January and December, I have no full song recorded before February or after August.”

Severn Hams (30 January, contributed by Les Brown)

The flooding in the Coombe Hill and Ashleworth areas has continued for most of the month of January, and has only just begun to drop. The Ham Road at Ashleworth is now open and the hide accessible; at Coombe Hill, the Grundon hide is still inaccessible today, but the road past the Red Lion at Wainlodes is now open.

The four Whooper Swans have been difficult to find, because of the vast extent of open water; all four were rediscovered in the Haw Bridge area on 23 January, where they had probably been lurking all the time. Today they were visible from the Ashleworth hide, though a long way off and quite difficult to see behind lines of flooded hedgerow and vegetation. No sign of Bewick’s Swans at either Ashleworth or Coombe Hill for the last two weeks. Still just over 1,000 ducks at Coombe Hill today, with 800 Wigeon and at least 220 Pintail.

Rodley and Walmore (28 January, contributed by Andy Jayne)

Two Jack Snipe, 15 Snipe and four Stonechats at Rodley near Longney Crib. Plenty of wildfowl at Walmore, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Gloucester (26 January, contributed by Gordon Avery)

A Short-eared Owl being mobbed by corvids and gulls over Hucclecote Meadows NR, Gloucester at 11.47am and a single Stonechat seen on Port Ham this afternoon.

Sherbourne (21 January, contributed by Robert Homan)

Wildfowl on Sherbourne Brook included Mallard, Tufted Duck, Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Wigeon (c.100) and Little Grebe. In Sherbourne Park naturalised Snowdrops, Winter Aconites and even 1 Daffodil were in flower. Signs of winter were 24 7-spot Ladybirds (Coccinella 7-punctata) hibernating in clusters of 2-4 in the junctions of branches on elder bushes and 103 Orange Ladybirds (Halyzia 16-guttata) hibernating in clusters of upto 12 on a beech tree.

Hibernating Orange Ladybirds, Sherbourne Park, January 2007 (R Homan)

Sharpness Docks (21 January, contributed by Gordon Avery)

Early in the afternoon there was a adult male Peregrine on the silo box and a Rock Pipit on the grass near the Post Office. However, there was no sign of any Black Redstarts.

Frampton and Fretherne (20 January, contributed by Robert Homan)

A Red Admiral was flying in early afternoon sunshine along the Severn Way near Fretherne canal bridge. In the woods above Hock Cliff, Dog’s Mercury (Mercurialis perennis) and Spurge-laurel (Daphne laureola) were in the flower. (The latter is noted at this site in the Supplement to the Flora of Gloucestershire). About mid-way between Fretherne Church and the canal swing bridge there was a flock of c.20 Little Egrets.

Spurge-laurel, Hock Cliff, January 2007 (R Homan)

Cheltenham (16 January, contributed by Robert Homan)

More effects of the mild January weather, so far, were evident today with a Peacock butterfly in flight over the Winston Churchill Memorial Gardens in the Lower High Street at lunchtime. More Lesser Celandines in flower – these along the Honeybourne Cyclepath and a very early record of the adventive micro-moth Epiphyas postvittana on the kitchen window at home this evening.

Walmore (15 January, contributed by Andy Jayne)

At Walmore Common today: 12 (3imm) Bewick’s Swan, 43 Canada Goose, four Shelduck, 80 Wigeon, 12 Gadwall, 200 Teal, 16 Pintail, six Shoveler, three Little Egrets, a Peregrine and six Stonechats.

Severn Hams (14 January, contributed by Mike Smart)

The Severn continues to rise and to overtop its banks, and so the flood levels in the meadows have risen sharply even since yesterday, and are much deeper than in December. The floodbank on the Coombe Hill side is slightly lower, so that water comes over more easily, and the Severn and floodwater on Coombe Hill meadows are now at the same level; at the Grundon Hide at Coombe Hill, which can be viewed from overlooking high ground at Deerhurst Walton, the water now comes nearly half way up the hide, nearly to the lowest window slit; it will be a long time before this hide is accessible on foot again, as the floods on the meadows will drop more slowly than the river level. On the Ashleworth side, the water on the meadows is slightly lower than the river level, but still covers nearly all land in the area.

At Walmore (where water levels are also high, but not as high as in December) between 13h00 and 14h00, 5 Grey Herons, 12 Bewick’s Swans (notes on rings read below), 17 Mutes, 300 Wigeon, 1 Stonechat.

A walk along the Severn riverbank south of Haw Bridge in the late afternoon produced two Short-eared Owls, flushed from about the only unflooded bit of setaside / rough ground left; one flew across the Severn and landed in an oak; sharing the patch of rough ground were 25 Meadow Pipits, 10 Skylarks and 40 Pied Wagtails, no doubt preparing to roost.

Bewick’s at Walmore: the 12 birds were first seen sitting on floodwater on field E; they then flew over to field D, which is slightly higher and has been reseeded, and was the only field of reseeded grass still emergent; they fed happily there. There were three cygnets, keeping close company with two adults, both ringed, presumably their parents. None of the other nine were ringed; at least one was a yearling.

Cheltenham (14 January, contributed by Robert Homan)

A female Blackcap in Swindon Lane this morning – the first for this winter and a rather late date. Are there fewer over-wintering Blackcaps around?

Severn Hams (13 January, contributed by Mike Smart and Les Brown)

The rivers continue to rise and the floods to extend across the Severn and Avon Vales, and the water is now deeper than it was in December. The Severn is still rising and overtopping its banks in several places, both above and below Haw Bridge. As a result there has been a rapid rise in levels in the and several roads closed: Red Lion to Wainlodes, Tirley to Ashleworth, Tirley to Chaceley all impassable. Water is pouring under the causeways leading to Haw Bridge on the meadows side.

The hides at Coombe Hill are totally inaccessible, and the Ashleworth hide is only accessible by coming in from the high ground at the back.

This extensive deep flooding is not really attractive to waterbirds and the ducks and geese are very widespread: a couple of hundred Wigeon on the floods at Ashleworth, a few Pintail, about 100 Canada Geese, no sign of Whoopers or Bewick’s Swans.

Most of the ducks seem to have crossed the county boundary into Worcestershire; about 1,100 ducks at Longdon Marsh, five miles north of Ashleworth, including nearly 800 Wigeon and about 250 Pintail, plus 700 Lapwings, all sitting round the grassy edges of a little hump emerging from the floodwater; (no such humps left in the Ashleworth/Coombe Hill area or the Avon valley). This is probably typical of what happens in high flood conditions.

Severn Hams (11 January, contributed by Mike Smart)

A day for hydrology rather than ornithology, with appalling conditions of strong wind and rain. The Severn is rising fast (up a metre since Tuesday), so that local streams were unable to discharge and have flooded the meadows even more. The analogy of a motorway occurred to me: the Severn should go straight through without affecting feeder roads, though there may be congestion on the latter. However, from this morning, the Severn began to break its banks just below Haw Bridge, thereby adding to the floodwater from the River Chelt on the Coombe Hill Meadows; this means that the hides remain inaccessible. The road by the Red Lion is closed; the Ham Road from Tirley to Ashleworth is still open and the hide is just accessible, but for how long? Water is over the road by the GWT Reserve at Chaceley and the reserve itself is covered by a very shallow surface water – how does this affect the haymeadow vegetation? Chaceley Stock is only accessible by tractor. The Severn Ham at Tewkesbury is deep under water, and the valley of the Avon completely flooded from Tewkesbury, past Twyning and Bredon, and up to Eckington; the Bredon-Pershore road is impassable due flooding at Eckington Bridge. It is still not quite as deep as in November 2000, but almost, and it is still rising.

Not much to report birdwise; neither Bewick’s nor Whoopers visible at Coombe Hill or Ashleworth; Mute Swans sitting mainly round the edge of the flood (where they could find an edge!), 16 at Wainlodes and 15 on the Avon above Tewkesbury. A flock of 150 Lapwings on the edge of the flood at Wainlodes. Still appreciable numbers of ducks at Ashleworth, but they didn’t like the wind and waves; maybe 500 Wigeon, 100 Pintail, 5 Tufted; Canada Geese on the flood, not at Tirley Court Lake.

A fair number of ducks (about 500) on Bredon’s Hardwick Gravel Pits (just in Worcs), mainly Wigeon, but about 30 Tufted and Pochard; so deeply flooded that you couldn’t tell the pits weren’t part of the floodplain.

Sudmeadow (10 January, contributed by Gordon Avery)

A pair of Stonechats seen today on Fieldings old playing field, Sudmeadow Road.

Severn Hams (9 January, contributed by Mike Smart, Les Brown, Julia Newth, Colin Butters, Mervyn Greening, David Anderson, et al)

A co-ordinated Bewick’s Swan count in Gloucestershire was made at 09.00 today. All sites that have recently held Bewick’s were covered. The result was a total of 191 (including 28 cygnets), which is pretty much in line with the current total of different individuals identified at Slimbridge so far this winter (260). So, numbers are so far low in this mild winter. Of the 191, 179 were at Slimbridge, 10 at Walmore and the remaining two roosted at Ashleworth before flying over to Coombe Hill. None found at Berkeley or the Leigh Meadows.

The main excitement of the day however was the sighting of not two, but four Whooper Swans, two pairs on the water at Ashleworth; so another pair has joined the birds that have been about since late November. This is in line with events of previous winters, when the first arrivals have often been joined in January with additional birds.

Otherwise, vast extents of water: the Severn is rising again, and so the smaller rivers are unable to discharge into it, so that water is also rising on the meadows. Not a blade of grass to be seen from the Ashleworth hide; the same is no doubt true of the Coombe Hill hides, but you can’t reach them because of the depth of flood water.

Severn Hams (6 January, contributed by Mike Smart and Les Brown)

A typical Gloucestershire winter’s day: low grey clouds, light persistent drizzle for most of the day, wind mild and southwesterly probably originating somewhere in the Sargasso Sea; if this is global warming, it’s very like previous years! Conditions in the Severn Hams reflected the weather; not very good for precision ornithology as binoculars and telescopes were constantly steaming up, water was running down your neck and getting into the gap between sleeve and glove.

The Severn continues to drop, but not enough to allow the water on the meadows to flow away through the outfalls. Water levels still high at Coombe Hill, no question of reaching the hides and the canal bank is under water in places; vast areas of open water with ducks dotted about in the distance. Plenty of ducks about, but very widespread and difficult to assess numbers; the air was full of the sound of Wigeon and Teal calling, still lots of Pintail about; all the surface feeding ducks still doing courtship displays as they have been doing since November; this is logical really as they come into fresh full plumage in about November and so they start courtship rituals and displays straight away. The mild weather and wet conditions must be important for forming and strengthening the pair bond before they leave to breed in the north. Probably 1,000 Wigeon, 200 Teal, 75 Pintail, 40 Shoveler, 6 Tufted, 3 Pochard, a lone Shelduck. No sign of Bewick’s or Whooper swans.

Leigh Meadows: also extensively flooded; the two Whoopers were eventually found there; they later flew over to Ashleworth.

Ashleworth: floods extensive and the reserve can only be surveyed from the hide in Meerend thicket, or from the river bank between Haw Bridge to Ashleworth Quay which is a long walk in the rain, but the light is better; 2 Bewick’s Swan (as yesterday), about 300 Canada Geese, 1 Little Owl; about 15 Snipe and 15 Meadow Pipits on partly flooded setaside fields on slightly higher ground near the river bank; we tried to find a Jack Snipe but failed. Ducks widely spread as at Coombe Hill.

In short absolutely normal observations for the time of year with nothing at all unusual.

Walmore (6 January, contributed by Andy Jayne)

At Walmore Common this morning there were 12 Bewick’s, 4 adults on field C2 and 8 including 3 cygnets on field J. The group of 8 flew off south at 09.30. The highlight today though was 6 White-fronted Geese, my first for several years here. Also 1 Greylag, 49 Canada Goose, 1 Shelduck, 4 Gadwall, 220 Teal and 44 Pintail. I did not count the Wigeon, but there were not many. At Rodley there were 65 Shelduck, two Little Egrets and 250 Lapwing.

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

Following the floods in December, the waters went down in the week after Christmas, and the Grundon Hide at Coombe Hill became accessible again. However, in the first few days of the year, the Severn level rose, and the floods recurred at Coombe Hill, Ashleworth, Leigh Meadows, Walmore and Rodley. The river was at its height on Wednesday, and is now dropping, though hardly enough for the floodwater on the meadows to decrease yet; the Grundon hide is inaccessible again.

It looks very much as though the Bewick’s have spread round a bit, with no significant number at Walmore.

At Ashleworth there were two Bewick’s Swans (both adults/yearlings) on the floodwater far off, feeding by sitting on the surface and putting their heads underwater, rather than upending; at least 300 Canada Geese roosting; some ducks, at least 12 Gadwall, but others rather widespread.

At Walmore, five Bewick’s Swans on field C2. All adults/yearlings, again sitting on the floodwater and feeding by putting their heads underwater. There has been a sharp decrease in ducks since last week: about 150 Mallard, 200 Teal, 65 Pintail, 200 Lapwings, 1 Little Egret, 4 Stonechats.

At Rodley, (where water was a good deal higher than it has been in the last month) 74 Shelducks, plus the curious Australian/Paradise Shelduck cross that has been about for some time at various sites, 150 Lapwings, no Little Egret today, lots of gulls.

At Leigh Meadows, Whooper Swans not in view, but they are probably hidden away somewhere in the vast extent of floodwater.

Cheltenham miscellany (early January, contributed by Robert Homan)

In flower along the Honeybourne Cyclepath on 2 January were: Red Clover, Yarrow, Ox-eye Daisy, Oxford Ragwort, White Deadnettle, Groundsel, Herb Robert, Wild Carrot, Ivy-leaved Toadflax, Daisy, Stinging Nettle, Smooth Sow-thistle and Bristly Oxtongue. In Pittville Park on 5 January Dandelion, Lesser Celandine and Common Chickweed were in flower.

There were 2 Chiffchaffs at Brockhampton Sewage Works on 4 January and a Kingfisher in Pittville Park on 5 January. The mild weather has had an effect on the Great Crested Grebes in Pittville Park – on 5 January there was a first winter bird, probably the off-spring of breeding in 2006, as well as the usual breeding pair, the female of which is currently sitting on a nest!

Chaceley (1 January, contributed by Robert Homan)

Another record of the rare micro-moth, Celypha woodiana, today with the discovery of a leaf mine in mistletoe near Chaceley. For the purists, the site is in VC 37, although now Gloucestershire. The picture below shows the underside of the leaf with the charactersistic crescent shape of the early stage of the mine.

Celypha woodiana mine in Mistletoe, Chaceley, January 2007 (R Homan)

Skip to content