Sightings – January 2008

St Briavels (25 January, contributed by Roger Gaunt)

Frog spawn seen today in a spring fed garden pond.

Macaroni Downs and Eastleach (24/25 January, contributed by Ian Ralphs)

A small bat species was seen at 12.45am on the 24th in flight between Ladbarrow Barn and Macaroni Downs Farm, and at least partly being chased by a Kestrel. The temperature out of the wind in the sun was 9 degrees celcius, but in the brisk wind it must have been several dergees lower.

On Eastleach Downs on 25th were 2 Roe Deer, 8 Fallow Deer and 2 Hares.

Cranham area (24 January, contributed by Juliet Bailey)

A real sign of spring, Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria), was in bloom yesterday at Cranham, Upton St Leonards and Brookthorpe. It joins other early flowers. Hazel (Corylus avellana) is shaking long yellow catkins in many places. According to my mother in Ashleworth, who keeps a phenological diary, Winter Heliotrope also known as Cherry Pie (Petasites fragrans), and Primrose (Primula vulgaris), are earlier than last year, and Sweet Violet (Viola odorata) later.

Gloucester (21 January, contributed by Gordon Avery)

A fine adult Yellow-legged Gull was on the roof of platform 4 at Gloucester railway station at 1050 this morning.

Severn Hams (14 January, contributed by Mike Smart)

The Severn rose a bit between Saturday and Sunday, but not much; however, as it had broken its banks on Saturday, the meadows at Coombe Hill and Ashleworth, which are lower-lying than the river itself, have filled up rapidly and will continue to do so, as the water is still coming over the banks at Wainlodes and Chaceley.

At Coombe Hill, the water is up to the car park, and the towpath is inaccessible and likely to stay that way for some time; the Red Lion road is deep under water and entirely impassable; so the only way of approach is from the north at Apperley, by footpaths over the fields.

At Ashleworth, the Ham Road is flooded, so the normal route to the hide is closed; you can however come at it from over the top on the northern side if you really want to.

At Walmore, the water has risen considerably, and there is extensive flooding; there were at least 18 Bewick’s there this morning, including a family with two cygnets: they were all feeding on the flood water (so not possible to read ring numbers), apparently collecting food from below the water surface: what could they have been feeding on? More ducks (Wigeon, Shoveler, Teal), a few Canada Geese, eight Shelducks.

The flood situation is not desperate (for the moment, at least; it might change if there is any more rain!). The main roads are still easily passable – both the A 417 Maisemore road and the B 4213 Haw Bridge road. And the Boat remains open, though you will have to climb in via the Churchyard and the metal walkway.

Walmore (14 January, contributed by Mike Smart)

There were 21 Bewick’s (2 juveniles) at Walmore today. My count also produced 15 Mute Swans, 21 Canada Geese, eight Shelduck, 82 Wigeon, five Gadwall, 280 Teal, 220 Mallard, eight Pintail and 26 Shoveler. Also an adult Peregrine and a Water Rail calling.

Severn Hams (12 January, contributed by Mike Smart and Les Brown)

Heavy rain on Friday has caused local streams to rise sharply; they can’t get out to the Severn which has also risen, so the small streams are flooding back over the meadows. As usual when floods rise, birds are widespread and difficult to observe.

Coombe Hill this morning: flooding extensive, as River Chelt water backs up over the whole area; from midday, the Severn was overtopping its banks near Haw Bridge, bringing even more water. The Grundon Hide no longer accessible, even with wellingtons, though viewing is still possible from the towpath. About 10 Mute Swans, no sign of any Bewick’s at first light, 100 Canada Geese, 13 Greylag Geese, 10+ Wigeon, 20 Snipe.

Leigh Meadows: extensive flooding as Leigh Brook and Collier’s Brook overflowed, with Chelt is beginning to overtop. The field where the swans have been feeding is partly flooded: three Whoopers there, but the three Bewick’s have disappeared – gone to Slimbridge? About 10 Mutes.

Ashleworth; water levels are higher, but the hides are still easily accessible: 140+ Wigeon, 1 Water Rail, 20 Snipe.

Walmore (11 January, contributed by Mike Smart)

The rain of recent days has caused water levels to rise and there are now more extensive areas of water on the fields at Walmore; it might be quite good for ducks and waders over the weekend. Today between 14h00 and 14h30, through the squalls there were: 11 Mutes, 10 Bewick’s, all apparently adults and including the same three ringed birds seen earlier in the week (TUV white ring reading up on left leg; BCH white ring reading up on right leg; 607, yellow ring reading up on left leg). Also 4 Shelduck.

Severn Hams (8 January, contributed by Mike Smart)

At Ashleworth this morning, there was no sign of roosting Whoopers at 07h00; none could be seen looming against the lights of Gloucester or Cheltenham, and as the light improved, they were not obvious. However, at about 07h40, calls could be heard and the three birds emerged onto the open water from the thicker vegetation at the back where they must have been roosting. After some calling and head bobbing, all three flew off towards Leigh Meadows, where they were found grazing a few minutes later in the company of 20 Mute Swans and three Bewick’s, which had obviously roosted somewhere else.

35 Snipe on Cobney Meadows (Wainlodes end of Coombe Hill), and a large female Sparrowhawk flew over putting up several hundred Fieldfares and Redwings; rather little on the scrapes at Coombe Hill.

Sudmeadow (7 January, contributed by Gordon Avery)

A Common Sandpiper at the Lower Parting was a suprise this afternoon. Also the wintering pair of Stonechats still by the first pylon past the Lower Parting and a pair on Port Ham near Lower Parting.

Leigh Meadows (7 January, contributed by Mike Smart)

Since about Christmas, the two Whoopers (an obvious pair) have been grazing by day on the Leigh Meadows, and were joined by a third adult on 4 January. Since 3 January there have been from one to three Bewick’s with them, one of which has a colour ring, which shows it to be a bird ringed at Slimbridge in winter 2006/07, though intriguingly it has not yet visited Slimbridge this winter. Both Whoopers and Bewick’s have been feeding on the same field of agriculturally improved grassland; with them are up to 25 Mute Swans, so that – as in previous winters – all three British swans can be seen feeding together on the same field.

The question has been however, where do they roost? Swans normally like to roost on water as a protection from foxes and other predators. Various observers have tried to find this year’s roosting site (in previous winters it was often Ashleworth but they haven’t been seen there yet at roosting time this winter), so far without success. So this afternoon at about 16h00, I took up a position on a height overlooking the feeding field, intending to see where they go to roost. As expected there were three Whoopers, three Bewick’s and 25 Mutes, all grazing (actually right under the power lines). The sun set, the light began to fade and nothing had happened by 16h45; then most of the Mutes started to walk across the feed with their necks up, and after doing this for some time, 16 of them flew off, heading northwest into the light westerly breeze; they circled a bit and I saw no less than three of them hit the overhead lines and drop to the ground some way off; the others may have landed on the nearby Severn. Then at about 17h10, when it was nearly dark, eight of the Mutes and the three Bewick’s, after more walking round with their necks up, took off in the opposite direction, northeast towards the Coombe Hill scrapes. Finally when it was almost completely dark at 17h25, the three Whoopers went off together, this time going southwest towards to Ashleworth. I rushed round to Ashleworth, but it was too dark to see anything on the water; tomorrow morning maybe?

Interesting that as in previous winters the same feeding group are clearly using different roosting sites; and that the Bewick’s followed the Mutes rather than the Whoopers.

The power lines are clearly a real danger to all three species.

Severn Hams (4 January, contributed by Mike Smart)

The Severn level is down, so water is flowing slowly off the marshes into the river; most marshes are now at the normal optimum winter level.

Whooper numbers on Leigh Meadows have increased, from two to three! They appeared to arrive at first light from the Ashleworth direction. Still accompanied by a single Bewick’s, with a yellow ring, number 675; this is apparently a yearling, ringed in winter 2006/07 which has not yet been to Slimbridge this winter. Also about 20 Mute Swans with all three swan species grazing together in the same field of agriculturally improved grassland. About 60 Snipe on a nearby wet field, with a Green Sandpiper and a Little Owl.

At Ashleworth, the water level is just right with about 1,000 ducks; maybe 600 Wigeon, 150+ Teal, 50 each of Shoveler, Pintail , Mallard and a couple of Gadwall; a couple of Stonechats and maybe 10 Snipe on one wet field.

Walmore and Rodley (2 January, contributed by Mike Smart)

At Walmore there was no flooding, but the pools on the Common are full. 16 Bewick’s Swans, all on improved agricultural grassland: one flock of nine adults and two yearlings, none of them ringed; separate group on another nearby field was a family party of two adults and three cygnets; both adults had white rings, one was a yellowneb, reading TXF up on the left leg, the other a pennyface, reading BAT up on right leg; all three cygnets were ringed, (recently because the sellotape was still on the rings, making them more difficult to read: 701, 702, and 703 all on left leg reading up). Also four adult and five cygnet Mutes, on same field as and in close proximity to the 11 Bewick’s.

At Rodley, no flooding either, though the fields were plashy underfoot: 2 Grey Herons, 2 Mute Swans, 11 Shelducks, 8 Lapwings and a Kingfisher sitting on a fencepost.

Sudmeadow (1 January, contributed by Gordon Avery)

Seen today were 1 Green Sandpiper, 1 Kingfisher and 1 Grey Wagtail.

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