Sightings – March 2009

Sudmeadow (31 March, contributed by Gordon Avery)

Very quiet here really although 2 male Blackcaps were in song today plus at least 3 Chiffchaffs. Also new were 2 male Reed Buntings and a Snipe remains in the marsh.

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

All still very quiet, birdwise.

Coombe Hill: a flock of immature 24 Mute Swans was newly arrived on a neighbouring farmer’s field south of the canal (the field preferred by the Whoopers). 18 Canada Geese, one pair nest building within site of the hide. Again, a single Little Ringed Plover dropped in just for a short while; this seems to be the pattern here with migrants showing very briefly. Only one Lapwing and two Redshanks. 4 Shelducks, 30 Teal, 13 Shoveler. Three Pied Wagtails which were clearly migrants. A Blackcap and six Chiffchaffs singing.

Ashleworth: most boards have been removed from the sluice, to reduce water levels as per management plan. Four Pintail, 10 Tufted Duck with duck numbers overall dwindling rapidly. One singing Blackcap.

Standish (29 March, contributed by Juliet Bailey)

Two Swallows flew over this morning – the first of the spring here.

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

Coombe Hill: the fields are drying out at last after the dry weather of last two weeks and the cold winds. There is still plenty of water in the scrapes (but few birds!). At least three pairs of prospecting Shelducks, 2 Little Ringed Plovers (flew in separately during the morning, suggested they were passing migrants); at last three Lapwings displaying (not round the scrapes but at the west end of the reserve); at least four pairs of Mute Swan holding territories between the Wharf and Wainlodes. Only 12 Teal and 9 Shoveler on the Long Pool, also 4 Snipe. 10 Chiffchaffs singing and a Peregrine on the grass again, though not the same one as last week; this time a very obvious brown immature.

Ashleworth: a steady northward trickle of Sand Martins with two House Martins and a couple of Swallows. One Curlew, no Lapwings, 15 Tufted Ducks. Ducks decreasing rapidly: maybe 30 Wigeon and 20 Teal.

GLS “Sheep Downs” (28 March, contributed by Gordon Avery)

A walk in the area today revealed little! However, there was a minimum of 35 Ravens on the sheep downs, taking care of the carcases, etc.. On Minsterworth Ham there were 10 Shelduck, accompanied by the Australian type hybrid male.

Castle Meads (27 March, contributed by Gordon Avery)

5 Little Egrets were present yesterday (26th, per John Sanders) and I saw them again this morning – perhaps there are lots of frogs there or were!

Coombe Hill and Ashleworth (24 March, contributed by Mike Smart and Les Brown)

Rather quiet again today. The most interesting thing was a Peregrine, adult or near adult, on the ground outside the Grundon Hide at Coombe Hill, consuming what appeared to be a Mallard, with two Carrion Crows in close attendance only a yard away, eating scraps and two Brown Hares 20 yards away, taking absolutely no notice.

Otherwise, at Coombe Hill: 1 Little Egret, two pairs of Shelducks, 30 Teal, 10 Shoveler, 8 Snipe, 2 Curlews, absolutely no Lapwings, 7 singing Chiffchaffs.

At Cobney Meadows: another pair of Shelducks, 2 Curlews, 2 singing Chiffchaffs.

At Ashleworth: 60 Wigeon, 30 Teal, 10 Gadwall, 20 Shoveler, 10 Tufted Ducks, 25 Coot, 45 Snipe, 2 Jack Snipe.

Witcombe Reservoir (24 March, contributed by Gordon Avery)

A pretty mundane wildfowl count this morning enlivened by a ‘sinensis’ Cormorant – an Adult in breeding plumage with classic head and neck markings plus a good square gular patch.

Ketford (22 March, contributed by Juliet Bailey)

Eight members of GNS executive committee met at Ketford Bank this morning, a nature reserve known for its wild daffodils, which were at peak bloom. (See Juliet’s photo below). The Bank’s steepness may have saved it from agricultural intensification in the past, but the down side is that it requires manual attention to control the bracken and bramble.

This site has long had connections with Gloucestershire Naturalists’ Society. Sonia Holland, then county botanist, bought it some 20 years ago and gave it to the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group. John Hughes, one-time chairman of GNS and FWAG adviser also loved the site. We could not fail to be impressed by the swathe of daffodils, voted Gloucestershire’s county flower. We would encourage the reserve’s continued management and would like to see its future assured.

There is no access onto the reserve, but a public footpath lined with wild daffodils, the Poets Path, runs along the top of the Bank, giving excellent views.

Other species showing well this morning were white violets, yellow star-of-Bethlehem, moschatel, a comma butterfly and two beeflies. A chiffchaff was singing, and there was an occasional chur from fieldfare.

Newnham (21 March, contributed by Andy Jayne)

News passed on from David Eaton of the Glos RSPB Group concerns a Swallow flying upriver at Newnham today.

Severn Hams (21 March, contributed by Mike Smart and Les Brown)

It was rather quiet at Coombe Hill this morning: 2 Little Egrets, 40 Teal, 12 Shoveler, no Lapwings which is really worrying, 1 Curlew, 6 Snipe; 4 Black-tailed Godwits resting in Long Pool which then flew off high and were clearly passing migrants; 5-6 singing Chiffchaffs, two Pied Wagtails.

At Ashleworth, it looks as though the 4 Whoopers have departed – they haven’t been seen since Tuesday and their normal departure dates are 16-19 March. 80 Wigeon, 20 Shoveler, only 2 Pintail, 15 Tufted Ducks, 3 Snipe, 1 singing Chiffchaff.

Cheltenham (18 March, contributed by Robert Homan)

A Peregrine Falcon circling high above the town centre at lunchtime today, its presence betrayed by gull alarm calls. Later a Comma butterfly along the Honeybourne Cyclepath near St Paul’s.

Coombe Hill and Ashleworth (17 March, contributed by Mike Smart and Les Brown)

The floods are pretty much gone at both sites and the ground is very slowing drying out after the constant flooding since last September. Today was a fine windless spring day. Duck numbers are decreasing fast. There has been little sign of breeding waders as yet. The Sand Martins reported last the weekend had moved on.

At Coombe Hill: 5 Shelduck, 54 Teal, 3 Little Egrets, 1 Little Ringed Plover, 2 Lapwings (didn’t look very interested in nesting), 3 Little Egrets.

Cobney Meadows (The Wainlode end of the canal): 2 bubbling Curlews, no Lapwings, 1 Green Sandpiper heard.

Ashleworth: four Whooper Swans roosting on the water; they flew out to graze on the field by Stank Lane at 06.25am, but hurry, they will be going to Iceland any day now. 167 Wigeon, only 30 Teal, 61 Shoveler, only two Pintail, 22 Tufted Duck, 1 Pochard, no Lapwings, 1 Curlew, 64 Snipe, 7 Jack Snipe, Little Grebe whinnying; at least five Chiffchaffs but not much song yet. Lots of Reed Buntings, which are very active, chasing one another and singing.

Sudmeadow (16 March, contributed by Gordon Avery)

A good day today in this area.

This morning at Sudmeadow were 4 Teal, 9 Snipe, Barn Owl and at least 2 Chiffchaffs. Later at the Landfill Site was a new species for the area in the guise of a Red Kite floating over towards Minsterworth Ham at 1.55pm. A great find!!

Cheltenham (16 March, contributed by Robert Homan)

A Chiffchaff was singing by the Honeybourne Cyclepath near Wyman’s Brook this morning.

Forest of Dean (15 March, contributed by Peter Fitchett)

A wide variety of easily seen birds was on offer this morning, including make and female Mandarins at Mallards Pike and Nuthatch, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Brambling and this male Siskin on the feeders at New Fancy View. In addition the Great Grey Shrike at Boys Grave was showing well. See Peter’s pictures below.

Cheltenham (15 March, contributed by Robert Homan)

A male Brimstone butterfly was a brief garden visitor this morning.

Newent area (15 March, contributed by Peter Fitchett)

The wild daffodils in Gwen and Vera’s Fields were at their best today in the spring sunshine – see Peter’s pictures below.

Ashleworth (12 March, contributed by Juliet Bailey)

White violets were blooming abundantly today on a woodland edge, and inside the wood the earliest wood anemones were in flower.

Castle Meads, Gloucester (12 March, contributed by Juliet Bailey)

While driving past Castle Meads today I noticed a single Little Egret on the pools to the east of the causeway. Presumably the same bird was also present on Thursday 5th March.

Standish area (12 March, contributed by Juliet Bailey)

Spring is starting to gather pace with flowering celandine now widespread, and a few early buttercups. I saw my first flowering cow parsley over the weekend, though only in May will it come to dominate the road verges and hedgerows.

Coombe Hill (11 March, contributed by Mike Smart)

Evening look at Coombe Hill today from the Grundon Hide:

1 Little Egret, 4 Shelduck, 13 Curlews roosting round edge of scrapes – were they migrants, stopping off to roost, or local breeding birds gathering to roost? Also a big pack of perhaps 200 roosting crows, Carrion Crows and Jackdaws, gathering on the grass before going to roost in the withies, unnerving the Curlews by their social interactions. No Lapwings , where have they gone? Perhaps intimidated by the crows. Just a little calling by Snipe, after 7.45pm. Also a fox slinking through the Phallaris.

At midday, a flock of 62 migrant alba wagtails, at least two of them White and a Water Pipit had been recorded in the hide log-book.

Tewkesbury and Hasfield Ham (10 March, contributed by Andy Jayne)

At Tewkesbury today there was a 1st-winter Mediterranean Gull on the Severn Ham with a metal ring on the left leg and a large orange-red ring on the right leg. Unfortunately I couldn’t read it due to the long grass, but it has been suggested that it is from Eastern Europe. Also four Snipe and four Curlew there.

At Hasfield Ham two adult Peregrines (a pair), a Jack Snipe, 45 Snipe, three Curlew and a female Stonechat.

Severn Vale Wetlands (10 March, contributed by Mike Smart and Les Brown)

Walmore: the two Bewick’s cygnets (Stinking and Bishop, offspring of Gorgonzola) which had stayed on at Walmore last week on their own, were last seen on Saturday afternoon. Interesting, because 12 of the remaining 13 Bewick’s at Slimbridge departed on Friday night. There was no sign of them on the Common by day yesterday; they definitely didn’t roost on the Common pool last night (not present at 0545 this morning with only 11 Mutes present) and weren’t at Slimbridge either. So they have set out on their own.

Coombe Hill: 1 Little Egret, 3 Shelducks, 150 Teal, 12 Shoveler; some sign of wader passage: 1 Little Ringed Plover, 3 Dunlin; also some resident waders looking territorial – about 5 each of Lapwing and Curlew, lots of bubbling from the latter; and 2 Green Sandpipers at the Wainlodes end.

Leigh Meadows: still four Whoopers grazing.

Ashleworth: 34 Gadwall, 60 Coot and lovely flock of migrant wagtails, 55 Pied and a single male White.

Sudmeadow (9 March, contributed by Gordon Avery)

Seen the afternoon were: 19 Teal, 5 Snipe and 2 Woodcock.

Hempsted Meadows NR (6 March, contributed by Gordon Avery)

A look around Hempsted Meadows NR this morning produced 2 Snipe plus a pair of Reed Buntings, the first this year, and the first Skylark here in song. On Minsterworth Ham there were 2 pairs Shelduck, 1 pair of Canada Geese and a drake Shoveler.

Sudmeadow (6 March, contributed by Gordon Avery)

A Green Sandpiper, 1 Snipe and 4 Teal on Sudmeadow plus a pair of Shelduck on the waste ground pools by Presswelds factory, Hempsted.

Walmore Bewick’s (5 March, contributed by Mike Smart)

There is a note below about the practice departure migration flight taken by 20 or 30 Bewick’s on 21 February. Those birds went up the Severn in the morning passing over Walmore , Sudmeadow and Coombe Hill but then returned to Slimbridge. Since then, as you can see from Julia’s blog on the WWT website, they have in fact departed, usually at night, and numbers at Slimbridge are down to 13 with two cygnets.

However, Walmore Bewick’s have been doing their own thing: there was a family of one parent (Gorgonzola) with two cygnets, which had been visiting Walmore since January, and often roosting on the Common Pool, even when other Bewick’s Swans returned from Walmore to Slimbridge in the evening. Gorgonzola + 2 had joined the practice departure on the morning of 21 February, but I saw them return to the Common together later in the morning, and carry on feeding. However, on the night of 21/22 February, a night when about 40 Bewick’s departed from Slimbridge, Mum (Gorgonzola) disappeared, most unusually leaving her two cygnets behind. These are birds born on the Russian tundra in summer 2008, which flew to Gloucestershire in autumn 2008 with Mum (Dad has never been definitely identified), but have never made the return trip to the breeding grounds.

Since 22 February, they have been observed in daylight every day at Walmore, generally keeping aloof from the local Mute; some evenings they fly back to Slimbridge, some evenings they roost on the Common. What is going to happen to them? Are they going to link up with the last 13, and depart to the tundra? Or, if they don’t link up, how are they going to find their way? Are we going to have summering Bewick’s in Glos? Watch this space!

Severn Hams (5 March, contributed by Mike Smart)

At Walmore: the two unaccompanied minor Bewick’s (offspring of the departed Gorgonzola) are still present, and probably roosted there last night without going back to Slimbridge; also 2 Shelduck, 35 Teal, 14 Lapwings (one displaying a bit), 10 Snipe, at least 5 Reed Buntings singing.

At Ashleworth, the water level on the reserve is still high, although little or no floodwater remains on the surrounding meadows. Only about 400 ducks left: 180 Teal, 120 Wigeon, 25 Gadwall, 40 Shoveler, 15 Pintail, 10 Tufted, 55 Coots (as usual an increase in spring before the waters drop); 3 Curlews (one giving the bubbling display song), 82 Snipe, 1+ Jack Snipe, 5 Reed Buntings singing. No sign of singing Chiffchaffs or of the Hen Harrier reported recently in the area.

At Leigh Meadows, four Whooper Swans, still grazing placidly.

Sudmeadow (5 March, contributed by Gordon Avery)

An immature male Peregrine was over the tip the afternoon heading towards the Lynton Farm.

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