Sightings – March 2010

Witcombe Reservoirs (31 March 2010, contributed by Gordon Avery)

Seen around the reservoirs this morning were c.40 Swallows, 20 Sand Martins and 3 House Martins, all presumably knocked down by the cold weather.

Cleeve Hill (30 March 2010, contributed by Robert Homan)

No spring migrants, although there was a flock of 50 Fieldfares at Postlip which flew off high to the east.

Coombe Hill and Ashleworth (30 March 2010, contributed by Mike Smart and Les Brown)

The Severn level is slightly higher following recent rain, which means that the ditch levels in the meadows are a little bit higher, but with no additional flooding.

At Coombe Hill at first light there were 11 Curlews, most of which must have been passing migrants that had roosted, since they were harried by one of the residents. About eight of them flew off to the north pretty early on. It looks as though there are two pairs holding territory. Ten Shelducks including two (maybe three) established pairs, the rest lekking noisily. One Brent Goose, one Little Ringed Plover, one Green Sandpiper and a pair of Garganey on the Long Pool, which must have paired up on the wintering grounds. Group of 30 Swallows and Sand Martins, clearly migrants, arrived mid-morning.

At Ashleworth, there were still 90 Wigeon, 70 Teal and 10 Shoveler; the Great White Egret has moved on to pastures new near Slimbridge. All three full boards were removed from the sluice, which will allow the water to flow out in spring, as provided in the management plan, thus creating optimum conditions for breeding waders and hay meadow vegetation.

Chesterton, Cirencester (28 March 2010, contributed by David Scott-Langley)

A pair of Small Tortoiseshells and a Peacock butterfly flew through the garden this afternoon. Also a cuckoo bee was seen following a Buff-tailed Bumblebee all round the garden for some time, never more than 30cm behind the latter’s erratic flight path. Yesterday a Chiffchaff passed through the trees in the neighbour’s garden but was not heard today.

Stratton (28 March 2010, contributed by Ken Cservenka)

At about 4.00pm today a Red Kite was circling overhead. In my garden here, I have had between 6 and 12 Yellowhammers throughout March visiting the ground beneath my feeders and the bushes nearby. A cock Pheasant has also been a regular visitor.

Severn Vale (27 March 2010, contributed by Mike Smart and Les Brown)

Coombe Hill was again rather quiet: the Brent Goose was still there together with 15 Shelducks (the two established pairs, plus six males lekking with two females and two immatures); only two Lapwings, both males but with no display, probably off duty males from the arable nearby; three Little Egrets; a very hesitant Willow Warbler trying to sing; Chiffchaffs all over the place with at least four singing; one Green Sandpiper. A fox was sat out in the open, marking his territory and trying to get among the flock of 10 non-breeding Canadas but they were far too smart for him.

At Ashleworth the Great White Egret was still present.

At Staunton, the Golden Plover had of course moved on.

Someone had left a telescope tripod in the road hide at Ashleworth and the owner should contact 01452.830608

Staunton (27 March 2010, contributed by Mike Smart)

A surprising observation, but all the more pleasurable for that. I went to check on a field where Lapwing appear to be nesting at Staunton, near Ashleworth and sure enough, three Lapwings were displaying actively. All of a sudden there were liquid calls overhead and a party of Golden Plover, clearly migrants, circled the field, eventually landing. There were 27 of them, several in summer plumage, others moulting into summer. The Lapwings didn’t think much of the intrusion and tried to chase them off, but they crouched down close to the soil, only standing up when the Lapwings got bored of harassing them. Why did they pick this field? Because there were Lapwings present? Or do they have traditional stopping fields on the way north? They often seem to appear on the same field each spring.

Lechlade (24 March 2010, contributed by David Scott-Langley)

A single Swallow was circling the church spire this morning. Also nests of the following were noted in a garden near the church: Collared Dove (almost fledged young), Woodpigeon (eggs), Blackbird (eggs).

Gloucester (23 March 2010, contributed by Mike Smart)

In Cheltenham Road, a Blackcap was singing well at first light.

Coombe Hill and Ashleworth (23 March 2010, contributed by Mike Smart and Les Brown)

Coombe Hill was still quite although there were some signs of migration. There were no roosting waders, but when the early morning mist rose, one Little Ringed Plover came through, calling loudly and flew north without landing, followed soon after by two others, not calling but also going straight on to the north. Shortly afterwards, one Swallow and seven Sand Martins, all going straight on to the north. All seen between 07.30 and 08.15am, so it is worth getting there early, but probably worth sitting in the hide all day to see what happens!

Otherwise 2 Mute Swans and two or three pairs of Canada Geese, all looking territorial; two pairs of Shelduck plus three hangers-on, the Brent Goose still (is it a wild bird or feral?) and the Bar-headed Goose is back; also 4 Wigeon, 15 Shoveler, 20 Teal, 3 Little Egrets, no Lapwings on the reserve, but seven displaying on arable just outside; two Curlew displaying; Saturday’s three Redshanks seemed to have moved on. Still 2 Green Sandpipers on the Long Pool. Three Chiffchaffs singing.

The Great White Egret was still at Ashleworth. It seems to have been feeding on toads, with a shivering movement of the legs like a Little Egret.

Walmore (22 March 2010, contributed by Mike Smart)

All was pretty quiet in wet and windy conditions: about four pairs of displaying Lapwings, 12 Snipe (no sign of drumming), no Redshanks, 15 Teal, 20 Meadow Pipits. A solitary Chiffchaff gave a brief burst of song.

Chapman’s Cross, Sapperton (21 March 2010, contributed by David Scott-Langley)

A flock of approx. 200 Golden Plovers flying around a field near the crossroads at about 5.00pm.

Overley Wood, Cirencester (21 March 2010, contributed by David Scott-Langley)

2 Brimstone butterflies were seen flying through the wood during a field meeting. Wood ants were very active in the sunshine and there were clusters of hibernating Orange Ladybirds on Hazel and Oak branches.

Overley Wood, Daglingworth Field Meeting (21 March 2010, contributed by David Scott-Langley)

The day before this meeting it had rained solidly and the prospects were not good but fifteen members met on the roadside by Overley Wood above Daglingworth in full sunshine. This brought out some Brimstone and Peacock butterflies and a Comma looking for early spring flowers. Three species of ladybird were seen including the Orange Ladybird, usually in clusters on oak and hazel twigs. This species was quite rare but in recent years it has expanded its range.

Overhead, a Buzzard was being harassed by a Raven, while other birds were heard as they flew above the trees such as three Skylarks and some Siskins. In the trees were Marsh, Coal, Long-tailed, Blue and Great Tits accompanied by an occasional Treecreeper and Nuthatch. In all we recorded twenty-eight bird species. Mammals were in evidence – earthworks by Moles on the woodland floor; Fallow Deer droppings everywhere; a Hare was put up and ran off deeper into the woods; and part of an old badger skeleton, including the skull, was found in the thorn scrub which lead to a demonstration of the permanently-hinged lower jaw. Grey Squirrels had been eating hazel nuts on some old cut tree stumps and in two cases they had also eaten the large ground beetle Carabus problematicus, leaving the wing cases and thorax. This beetle is approximately 30mm long, dull black in general colour with an iridescent purple edge to the thorax and wing cases.

Close study was made of a rare springtail which looks like an orange 2mm long Michelin Man with long hairs (Monobella grassei) and its much commoner cousin that looks like a grey version of the same thing (Neanura muscorum). The long life (11 years) of the Pill Millipede (Glomeris marginatus) was mentioned. The Wood Ants were out in the sunshine warming up in preparation for rebuilding their nests after the winter ravages, and renewing their trails across the woodland floor in search of food to keep these huge communities alive. Some were even sitting on sun-warmed scrap black plastic soaking up the heat. The White-lipped and Brown-lipped snails were both found and there was a discussion about the differing ground colours and number of bands within each species and how this related to where they lived in different habitats.

Spring flowers such as Primrose and Ground Ivy were beginning to open in the warm weather and Wild Arum, Bluebells and Dog’s Mercury were just starting to push their leaves through the leaf litter. Some Scarlet Elf Cup fungi were seen growing among the mosses on the ground beneath the thorn scrub and several other species were seen during the walk. Thirty-one lichen species were recorded from the various tree species. We also had an introduction to reading a woodland and being able to determine its history – in this case it appeared to be lapsed coppice with standards with some mature conifer planting.

I would like to thank Mark Leebrecht, who manages this part of Earl Bathurst’s woodland, for permission to allow the group to meet in Overley Wood, and to all those who have contributed records which will be forwarded to Mark.

North Cerney (20 March 2010, contributed by Robert Homan)

Two Little Egrets were once again by the River Churn – one north and one south of the village.

Coombe Hill and Ashleworth (20 March 2010, contributed by Mike Smart and Les Brown)

It was quiet at Coombe Hill today, although there were signs of the breeding season starting. The Brent Goose was still there, a pair of Canadas mating on the scrapes, four Greylags including one with a white ring inscribed FT6, 2 pairs of Shelducks, 2 Wigeon, 20 Teal, 2 immature Cormorants fishing, 2 Little Egrets, 1 Sparrowhawk, no Lapwings, 2 Curlews bubbling, 3 Redshanks in full summer plumage, 2 Green Sandpipers. Skylarks and Reed Buntings singing lustily.

At Ashleworth the Great White Egret still showing well.

Coombe Hill (19 March 2010, contributed by Robert Homan)

Seen or heard from the canal bank: male Reed Bunting, Great Spotted Woodpecker, a single Fieldfare and a Peacock butterfly. Seen from the Grundon Hide in the morning: 2 Little Egrets, a Mute Swan, 4 Teal, the Brent Goose, a Brown Hare and a Sand Martin which by through at 11.00am.

Ashleworth Ham (19 March 2010, contributed by Mike Smart)

The Great White Egret, which has been present for a couple of days, is a much travelled bird – ringed as nestling at Besné (Loire Atlantique, France) on 6 May 2009, metal ring CA 69229.
It has been seen on 25 September 2009 at Brockholes Wetland LWT, Lancashire
from 8 – 13 November 2009 and from 13 – 28 December 2009 at Crossens Outer Marsh, Lancashire
on 29 December 2009 and 8 January 2010 at Churchtown Moss, Lancashire
on 1 January and 20 January 2010 at Marshside RSPB, Lancashire
from 22 – 23 January 2010 at Castleton Court, Fortran Road, St Mellons, Cardiff
and at Ashleworth Ham from 17 – 19 March.

New Fancy View (14 March 2010, contributed by Andy Jayne)

Several Adders were seen in the area basking in the warm sunshine. One of them is shown below in Andy’s photo.

Cheltenham (14 March 2010, contributed by Robert Homan)

A Red Admiral was seen briefly flying in Swindon Lane today.

Cheltenham (13 March 2010, contributed by Robert Homan)

The first Frog spawn of the year was in my garden pond this morning. By comparison, in 2009 the first was noted on 24 February.

Port Ham and Castlemeads (11 March 2010, contributed by Andy Jayne)

In the Port Ham/Castlemeads area today there were at least 85 Teal, three Shoveler, a Little Grebe, a male Sparrowhawk, a Water Rail, five Snipe, three Green Sandpipers, two Cetti’s Warblers, 40+ Goldfinch and ten Lesser Redpolls.

Frampton Court (9 March 2010, contributed by Andy Jayne)

The female Ring-necked Duck was sen again on the Court Pool this afternoon.

Sudmeadow area (6 March 2010, contributed by Gordon Avery)

12 Teal on the marsh and either another or the same Woodcock from was flushed from inside the osier bed at 10.55am.

Sudmeadow area (5 March 2010, contributed by Gordon Avery)

There were c.7000 Starlings at the Landfill Site, 1 Chiffchaff at Lower Parting, 1 Woodcock and 4 Common Snipe in Sudmeadow marsh and 10 Meadow Pipits at Sudmeadow.

Ashleworth (3 March 2010, contributed by Mike Smart and Les Brown )

All rather quiet, as though the bulk of the winter birds has left and the passage migrants and summer visitors have yet to arrive. There has been a slight rise in the water level as a result of the big bores of the last few days.

The three adult Whooper Swans had roosted on floodwater at Hasfield Ham and at 7.20am flew off across the river in the direction of the Leigh Meadows. They were later found there, not in the meadow immediately visible from the hill above the Red Lion, but in one of the fields half way between Wainlodes and the A38. Also seen at Ashleworth were: 4 Shelduck, 100 Wigeon, 200 Teal, 20 Pintail, 10 Shoveler, 8 Tufted Ducks, 30 Lapwings looked like migrants. Only one Snipe was seen despite a careful search. One Curlew was heard in bubbling territorial song with another on Leigh Meadows.

Standish (2 March 2010, contributed by Juliet Bailey)

Another sunny day and an even better sign of spring. The first Small Tortoiseshell of the year for me, on Snowdrops on my lawn.

Sudmeadow (1 March 2010, contributed by Gordon Avery)

A Red Kite flew SE over Llantony Weir at 3.00pm today.

Cheltenham (1 March 2010, contributed by Robert Homan)

This tephritid or picture winged fly (Tephritis formosa) was disturbed from a privet hedge in my garden today, where it was presumably over-wintering. The adult fly shown here is approximately 7mm in length. The larvae cause galls in the flowers of Sonchus species.

Standish (1 March 2010, contributed by Juliet Bailey)

Signs of Spring today included this Crocus in my lawn being visited by honey bee and a fly species.

Forest of Dean (1 March 2010, contributed by Ken Cservenka)

At New Fancy View this morning there were 2 Goshawks displaying overhead, also 4 Fallow Deer in the adjoing clear fell area. In the trees below Parkend Church at 12.30pm there was a Hawfinch. Another Hawfinch was seen from New Fancy View in the afternoon with an Adder basking at the side of the path just below the summit of the viewpoint. Also 2 Raven overhead. Nuthatchs appear to have survived the winter unscathed as I saw them at every location I stopped at.

Stratton near Cirencester (1 March 2010, contributed by Ken Cservenka)

There was an early morning count of 6 Yellowhammer today.

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