Sightings – January 2009

Coombe Hill (31 January, contributed by Mike Smart and Les Brown)

The level of the Severn continues to drop gradually, but the water is much slower to drop on the riverside meadows.

At Coombe Hill, flooding is still extensive and there has been no drop in the water level. The hides are still inaccessible, but the floodwater can be viewed from the towpath. Not as many ducks as on 27 January: 60+ Wigeon, 100+ Teal, 27 Pintail; two Song Thrushes singing already (a difficult bird to find for BTO Atlas roving records).

At Ashleworth, duck numbers were also lower: 120+ Wigeon, 380+ Teal, 20 Pintail, four Little Grebes and a Peregrine on the pylons.

There was no sign of the Whooper Swans anywhere.

Coombe Hill (28 January, contributed by Mike Smart and Les Brown)

Severn level is a bit lower today, allowing the Chelt to discharge; but it is still too high for water to flow off the meadows at Coombe Hill, so the Long Pool and Grundon hides are still inaccessible.

The four Whoopers were back near Wainlodes, on slightly higher grass emerging from the flood, accompanied by four Greylags.

Plenty of Teal on the floodwater at Coombe Hill, but no sign of Garganey or Goosander.

Severn Hams (27 January, contributed by Mike Smart and Les Brown)

The Severn is dropping, but slowly and water is still high on the meadows at Coombe Hill and Ashleworth.

At Coombe Hill, the hides are still cannot be reached, but access is still possible along the towpath. There was a magic atmosphere at first light: light ice on the water, with the sun just catching the brown stems of the dead canary grass and turning them to gold, behind the willow stems showing wine red; already some pussy willows showing white. There was perfect visibility with a very faint east wind. The air was full of the sounds of ducks, mainly Teal, which were carrying out vigorous courtship display, the males (much more numerous) throwing back their heads at the small numbers of females they surrounded. A group of Mallard “decoyed” a fox: that is they all swam towards it as it sat on a spit of land, swimming very close and peering intimidatingly at it from only two or three metres, until it turned away and slunk off. Altogether about 900 ducks present, one of the highest counts this year: 590 Teal, 130 Wigeon, 30 Pintail, 15 Tufted and a Pochard. On the way back we stopped to have a closer look and to our astonishment found a male Garganey, not yet in full plumage but obvious among the Teal ; this is a species that should be in Senegal right now; it must have stayed to winter with its close relative the Teal; as if that wasn’t enough, a redhead Goosander swam past.

At Ashleworth, the Ham Road is just open and the hides accessible and conditions similar to Coombe Hill with lots of ducks on the water – a total of about 1200 ducks with the majority (about 550) Teal, but 400 Wigeon and 180 Pintail.

There was still no sign of the Whoopers; where have they gone?

Slimbridge (28 January, contributed by WWT)

A juvenile Glaucous Gull was seen around the reserve on a number of occasions today.

Sudmeadow (27 January, contributed by Gordon Avery)

A single Green Sandpiper, a Peregrine and 3 very vocal Little Egrets, that headed towards Port Ham, were all seen just before 9.00 am.

Walmore and Rodley (26 January, contributed by Mike Smart)

At Walmore today, nine Bewick’s Swans were seen at midday: two of the nine were ringed and were white TUV and BCH, which have been regular visitors from Slimbridge to Walmore over the years and have been seen at Walmore several times this January; there were two cygnets (probably the one parent family that has been regular in January) among the nine, but the other seven were not ringed. By 3.00pm two more Bewick’s had joined them. There were also 12 Mutes, keeping quite separate from the Bewick’s. One Stonechat was seen.

At Wilmer Common, Rodley, there was still some floodwater, but not a lot of birds, just one Grey Heron and four Shelducks. Bird highlights were more in the passerine line: a Goldcrest in the hedges a Grey Wagtail on a wet spot and a flock of 100 Fieldfares.

Ashleworth and Walmore (24 January, contributed by Mike Smart and Les Brown)

The Severn is still pretty high (9.98 metres at Haw Bridge) but has not broken its banks. However, this means that local streams, swelled by the recent heavy rain, cannot flow out into the Severn, so are flooding the meadows. The Red Lion and Ham Roads are still both open. Shallow water was icebound this morning.

At Ashleworth there was no sign of the Whoopers at first light, and they were not grazing on the heavily flooded Leigh Meadows later. Still plenty of ducks on the floodwater at Ashleworth, though they are very widespread and difficult to count:

perhaps 200 Wigeon
perhaps 400 Teal (very active courtship display)
10 Gadwall
180+ Pintail (also active courting)
40+ Shoveler
3 Tufted Duck

A Peregrine was on the pylons and there were one or two Snipe on the icy fields. At least ten Reed Buntings were also seen.

At Walmore, where there is very little flooding: 11 Bewick’s on grassland, including at least two ringed birds BCH and one of its offspring 607 (both seen there in the last week). Rodley was largely iced over with eight Shelducks and a dozen Meadow Pipits.

Slimbridge (23 January, contributed by WWT)

A pre-roost flock of 15,000 Starlings has been performing some spectacular dusk displays over the last few days.

Sudmeadow (22 January, contributed by Gordon Avery)

Continuing Tuesday’s theme of unusual species locally was a drake Pintail at the lower Parting this afternoon – the first seen by me in this area for 5 years.

Sudmeadow (20 January, contributed by Gordon Avery)

A new species for the area in 2009 this morning was a Little Egret, which flew over towards Castle Meads. Also 2 Green Sandpipers on Sudmeadow.

Severn Hams (20 January, contributed by Mike Smart and Les Brown)

The Severn is high again (though not overtopping its banks), and causing tributaries to back-flood. As a result, the hides at Coombe Hill are inaccessible again, though the towpath along the canal is still accessible. From the canal bank today: 13 Mute Swans, 5 Greylags, 1 Shelduck, 120 Wigeon, 30+ Teal (many more calling from behind the willows in the Long Pool), 2 Gadwall, 39 Pintail, 149 Lapwings, 1 Snipe.

At Ashleworth, the meadows are flooded but the road and hides still accessible: 250 Wigeon, very good numbers of Teal – at least 600, 40 Mallard, 30 Pintail, 30 Shoveler, 2 Tufted, at least 60 Snipe (which seem in winter to like fields of lightly flooded Glyceria), 3 Jack Snipe.

No sign of the Whoopers on the Leigh Meadows or anywhere else, but they are probably out there somewhere.

Severn Hams (17 January, contributed by Mike Smart and Les Brown)

At Coombe Hill this morning: 130 Teal, 60 Mallard,13 Wigeon, 7 Shoveler, 190 Lapwings.

At Leigh Meadows: 4 Whooper Swans (three adults and one cygnet) grazing behind the Red Lion; 1 Peregrine.

At Ashleworth (water just above the normal winter level); birds returning slowly after cold snap of last week, though Snipe present in force: the Whoopers had been recorded coming in to roost late last night, but were not seen at first light this morning; 75 Canada Geese, 12 Greylags, 130 Wigeon, 300 Teal, 23 Gadwall, 45 Mallard, 87 Pintail (in active courtship display on the water, with lots of drakes surrounding and chasing lone ducks amid excited calling), 50 Shoveler, 6 Tufted Ducks, 3 Lapwings, 88 Snipe, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming.

At Walmore: 16 Bewick’s Swans, all on “improved” agricultural grass: 14 adults and two cygnets; the cygnets again with a single parent, no doubt the same group previously seen there: three of the adults ringed: 607 yellow ring, reading upwards on the left leg(“Wylfa” seen earlier in the week); TUV white ring, reading upwards on left leg; and (not read with absolute certainty, but it’s TUV’s mate) BCH white ring, reading upwards on right leg. 607, TUV and BCH have all been regular visitors to Walmore from Slimbridge in previous years.

Cheltenham (17 January, contributed by Peter Fitchett)

A flock of 17 Waxwings on a house roof in The Grove, off Hales Road this morning at 10.30. Pictures below taken by Peter.

Sudmeadow area (17 January, contributed by Gordon Avery)

A Green sandpiper seen today by the river.

Port Ham and Castlemeads (16 January, contributed by Andy Jayne)

Birds seen in this afternoon were very predictable. The highlights were 150+ Teal, 16 Shoveler, 22 Snipe, one Green Sandpiper, a Grey Wagtail, three Stonechats and three Reed Buntings.

Witcombe Reservoir (15 January, contributed by Gordon Avery)

Not much about this morning as the 3 tanks had been almost completey frozen over during the cold snap. Of interest though was an extremely handsome male Gooseander, the bird of the day!!

Sudmeadow area (14 January, contributed by Gordon Avery)

At least 1 Redpoll this morning (less than annual here) and 4 Goosanders (including 3 males) flew downriver at 11.20ams after the bore had gone up, this is another species hard to come by here.

Sudmeadow area (11 January, contributed by Gordon Avery)

3 Stonechats, Hempsted Meadows Nature Reserve.
5 Snipe on the Sheep Downs (old tip).

On the Severn between the NR and Minsterworth Ham were:
12 Mute Swans ( the Lower Parting gang!)
60 Wigeon
40 Teal
35 Shoveler

Also 3 Canada Geese on Minsterworth Ham.

Cheltenham (11 January, contributed by Robert Homan)

What a difference a day makes – yesterday there were some 300 Fieldfares feeding on apples in Swindon Lane. Today, with much milder temperatures, the flock was much smaller with only 50 birds present.

Standish (11 January, contributed by Juliet Bailey)

The cold snap seems to have come to an end and the ice on the pond, that was thick enough to slide on yesterday, is finally melting. Chasing up a report of Waxwings I had a good morning birdwatching. Among the more unusual sights was a white-headed Fieldfare and some Siskins. Manure has been spread on some of the nearby arable fields, which are now laden with gulls (Herring, Lesser Black-backed, Common and Black-headed), Rooks, Carrion Crows, Jackdaws, Starlings and Lapwings. Smelly it might be, but a fantastic spectacle. Snowdrops and aconites are starting to bloom.

Sudmeadow area (10 January, contributed by Gordon Avery)

A mega find this afternoon was a Short-eared Owl by the Severn Way. This the first live record of SEO in the area since there were 2 on Sudmeadow on October 13 1989. I did find a dead bird attached to barbed wire in May 1990.

14 Mute Swans are now in the general area of the Lower Parting and 24 Teal were also noted.

Tewkesbury area (10 January, contributed by Robert Homan)

Still the flock of 100 Golden Plover in the fields on the west side of the A38 opposite the Odessa Inn and 20 Lapwing an autumn sown cereal field north of Staverton village.

Severn Hams (10 January, contributed by Mike Smart and Les Brown)

It was very quiet at Coombe Hill today, the ground was very hard and the scrapes and ditches almost completely frozen over. There were practically no ducks on the scrapes and Long Pool, but 200 Teal at the Wainlodes end on the flight pool, with about five Wigeon. There were about ten Snipe, all on the open water at the edges of icy ditches. One Sparrowhawk. Very few Fieldfares and Redwings in the hedges. One Treecreeper.

There was another Sparrowhawk at Bishop’s Norton which put up a flock of 300 Fieldfares from an orchard in which there were also two Blackcaps.

At Ashleworth about 40 teal and 10 Wigeon.

There was no trace of the Whooper Swans at Coombe Hill or at Ashleworth.

Most of the Teal and Wigeon have abandoned the Severn Hams in the icy conditions. Mallard, on the other hand, seem to survive in the area by sitting on the Severn.

Sudmeadow (8 January, contributed by Gordon Avery)

On the river below the Parting there was a dramatic change in the Teal numbers with only 18 being found. The Gadwall had increased to 5 with another male appearing. 13 Shoveler and at least 1 Wigeon had also turned up. A male Peregine was seen flying SW over Sudmeadow at 1.10pm and the Stonechats continue to survive by the Parting.

Ashleworth (7 January, contributed by Mike Smart and Les Brown)

Main reserve at Ashleworth still almost completely iced over today, and even less ducks in view: 100 Mallard, 3 Wigeon, 10 Teal 2 Pintail and 1 Shoveler. No sign of roosting Whoopers at first light and they weren’t on the field by Stank Lane where they usually graze either.

Passerines in the hedges were very few and far between, most seem either to have left or to be keeping their heads down in the cold weather. However, one set-aside field had about 20 Greenfinches, 25 Reed Buntings, a dozen Yellowhammers and a few Bullfinches.

We looked along the Severn at many spots from Lower lode to Wainlodes in search of Goosander or Smew, which sometimes appear in cold snaps like the present, but we had no luck.

Ashleworth (6 January, contributed by Mike Smart)

Extremely quiet today, as almost all the water is frozen over, except for a small and contracting pool near the main ditch, around which the few remaining ducks are sitting. No sign of Whoopers on the field where they have been grazing for the last week; have they taken a holiday at Slimbridge? Only 5 Canadas, 100 Mallard, 30 Teal, 10 Wigeon left at midday; one Grey Heron, couple of Buzzards, a Sparrowhawk and some Redwings feeding on short grass in the absence of berries.

Sudmeadow (6 January, contributed by Gordon Avery)

The Teal numbers on the River below the Lower Parting have increased dramatically for here. I counted 140 this morning, also a surprise find was a pair of Gadwall which is a very rare species here, a young Coot and a first winter Great Crested Grebe. The pair of Stonechats are still by the Parting and a female Blackcap continues to visit the garden.

Cheltenham (6 January, contributed by Robert Homan)

Until a flurry of records in late June 2008 (see the June News Archive page), the Hornet Moth Sesia apiformis had not been seen in Gloucestershire since 1946. The adult moth is a tricky insect to find, but the pupal exit holes are a noticeable feature around the bases of the trunks of large poplar trees. The pictures below were taken in Pittville Park today and similar holes have been seen in the area between Tewkesbury and Ashleworth. The holes have a diameter of 8-9mm.. These records suggest that the moth is more widespread than previously thought.

Nearby in Swindon Lane, a flock of 200 Fieldfares and 1 or 2 Redwings were feeding on wind-fall apples and there was a male garden Blackcap.

Sudmeadow (4 January, contributed by Gordon Avery)

A single Snipe and a Kingfisher seen this morning.

Sudmeadow (3 January, contributed by Gordon Avery)

9 Mute Swans (2 First Winter) now at the Lower Parting and an increase in the Teal numbers with 65 being present along the river bank. A pair of Stonechats still at the Parting and 1 male seen on Port Ham. Also 2 Snipe Sudmeadow marsh.

Severn Hams (3 January, contributed by Les Brown and Mike Smart )

Certainly the coldest day of the winter so far, with temperature down to about -5 C. At first light the whole water surface was iced over, except for one of the small pools near the main ditch, where geese, ducks and swans had been roosting and had kept a small area free of ice. The four Whoopers had roosted on this pool, and flew out to feed on the usual grassy field along Stank Lane at 08.57am, once the geese had left, leaving them room to take off. About 23 Greylags, about 320 Canadas and one Barnacle Goose took off between 08.30am and 08.50am, heading north (is this the flock that feeds at Bredon’s Hardwick?). About 50 Shovelers, 8 Pintails, 4 Gadwalls, 60 Mallard and only about 70 Teal and 40 Wigeon left.

Interestingly, there were two Bewick’s in the middle of the ice at first light, which had obviously roosted, quite separate from the pool. One was an adult the other appeared to be a yearling; it looked as though they had been looking for Slimbridge, got lost and landed, but didn’t associate at all with the other waterbirds. At about 08.10am, not having been served breakfast, they got up and flew off to the south in the direction of Slimbridge; will be interesting to see whether they were noted as new arrivals at Slimbridge today.

Otherwise, two Peregrines on the pylons, a couple of Ravens, only about 10 Snipe in the whole area; 45 Lapwings flew south in an obvious weather movement, together with a single Golden Plover. Also a dozen Reed Buntings and a similar number of Yellowhammers.

Tewkesbury (3 January, contributed by Robert Homan)

A flock of c.100 Golden Plover in the fields on the west side of the A38 opposite the Odessa Inn.

Ablington (2 January, contributed by Ian Ralphs)

An Otter spraint was found by the River Coln today.

Sudmeadow (1 January, contributed by Gordon Avery)

8 Mute Swan, 6 adultss and 2 first winter birds at the Lower Parting. (High number for here, presumed iced out from various local sites)? 65 Wigeon flew downriver at the Lower Parting at midday. 44 Teal on the river below the Parting. 2 Grey Wagtails at Sudmeadow and a pair Stonechats on the Severn Way below the Parting.

Walmore Common (1 January, contributed by Andy Jayne)

Seen in the morning – three Bewick’s Swans, 50 Teal, one Peregrine, one Water Rail, one Snipe, one Woodcock, two Stonechats and a Cetti’s Warbler. Nearby at Broadway Farm, another Woodcock and a Lesser Redpoll.

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