Sightings – May 2006

Severn Hams (27 May, contributed by Mike Smart and Mervyn Greening)

A visit to Ashleworth Ham for ringing this morning confirmed just how seriously the recent rainfall and flooding has affected the Severn Hams. Water levels are now higher than they have been all winter (water has poured back into the reserve over the top of the sluice); everything is ankle deep in water and has clearly affected ground nesting birds, particularly Lapwing and Redshank and no doubt also Curlew. The Severn is currently high with much freshwater coming downstream; furthermore, with a new moon, the tide is at the top of its cycle, slowing up the outflow of water downriver.

At Coombe Hill and Cobney Meadows, both Lapwing and Redshank have been washed out, though one or two Lapwing chicks which had hatched before the flood may have survived: Andy Jayne confirms that the same has happened at Walmore. Will the same thing happen to species like Sedge Warbler and Reed Bunting which nest fairly low down?

Today at Ashleworth: a Barn Owl hunting early in the morning, later found in its day roost tree. A Water Rail grunting from the floodwater was the first for some time. Numbers of birds caught low: numbers of adult Sedge Warblers caught respectable, but down a bit from last year, most of them retrapped adults already ringed in previous years.

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

Dramatic changes with the heavy rain of the last week; the Severn is very high, preventing smaller rivers and streams from discharging into the main river. So everywhere water levels have risen, and have probably had a serious effect on ground nesting birds as most meadows are now partially under water. At Coombe Hill the islands in the scrapes, where Lapwings had been sitting earlier in the week, are now submerged and it seems likely that Lapwings and Redshanks will have lost their eggs.

At Coombe Hill, maybe two pairs of Lapwings have young to judge from their behaviour to passing crows and raptors; but the Redshank appear to have lost their eggs. The Mute Swans on the canal have hatched and have four young. From the Grundon Hide (only just accessible with wellingtons) a female Marsh Harrier, undoubtedly a different individual from the one seen in late April; a male Garganey, the first definite record this year; a male Mandarin – new species for the reserve?; an Oystercatcher; two Dunlin; four Shelducks; two Reed Warblers singing near the board walk.

At Cobney Meadows, water levels very high again: Canada Goose with six or seven goslings; two Shelducks; no sign of Redshanks or Lapwing.

At Ashleworth, still two Wigeon, Redstart still singing well; three Lapwings behaving as though young birds about.

Cheltenham (week ending 27 May, contributed by Robert Homan)

A large web formed by the micro-moth Spindle Ermine forms a very promient feature in Manor Road between Swindon Village and Sainsbury’s. The larvae have defoliated their food supply, probably Euonymous japonica, and extended the web over adjacent plants.

Spindle Ermine, Cheltenham, May 2006 (R Homan)

Elephant Hawk-moth, reared from a caterpillar found in a neighbour’s garden last year, Cheltenham, May 2006 (R Homan)

Cheltenham (13 May, contributed by Robert Homan)

A Red Admiral seen briefly in Swindon Lane today.

Severn Hams (13 May, contributed by Mike Smart, Les Brown and Mervyn Greening)

At Coombe Hill this morning, a female Marsh Harrier seen from the Grundon Hide. At Ashleworth at midday, a Hobby chasing flying insects.

Standish (11 May, contributed by Juliet Bailey)

A colourful graden visitor today was this Asparagus Beetle (Crioceris asparagi).

Asparagus Beetle, Standish, May 2005 (J Bailey)

Cranham Woods (7 May, contributed by Robert Homan)

More Bluebells and this colourful clump of False Oxlips (Primula x polyantha).

False Oxlip, Cranham Woods, May 2005 (R Homan)

Queen’s Wood Open Day, Southam (6 May, contributed by Robert Homan)

A magnificent show of Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) and 3 newly emerged Large Red Damselflies (Pyrrhosoma nymphula)

Bluebells and Large Red Damselfly, May 2005 (R Homan)

Walmore Common (4 May, contributed by Andy Jayne)

A minimum of 162 Ravens flying onto a roost near the Common in the evening. There appears to be two flight lines into the roost, one from the ENE and another from the SE. There was one flock of 35, but they mainly arrive in singles, pairs or small groups of up to six.

Sudmeadow (3 May, contributed by Gordon Avery)

A walk this afternoon revealed 3 Greenland Wheatears, all females, on the sheep down (old GLS) plus another bird by Presswelds on the rubble area.

Cheltenham (3 May, contributed by Robert Homan)

6+ Swifts over the St Paul’s area on a typical Swift arrival morning with warm sunshine and a southerly wind.

Coombe Hill (1 May, contributed by Mike Smart and Les Brown)

An evening visit often gives a different perspective; birds become more active when going to roost and there are some crepuscular species that only start becoming active as night falls. This evening there were three species of owl: a Barn Owl hunting, several Tawny Owls and a Little Owl calling. Some birds were passing through: a Ringed Plover, six Dunlin in summer plumage and a Common Sandpiper, all of which started calling when darkness fell and probably continued their journey after dark; also a flock of 12 Pied Wagtails (mostly males) and two Yellow Wagtails, which left just before dark. Five Swifts and 20 House Martins. In addition there were all of the residents: as many as 14 Curlew coming to roost, Redshanks, Lapwings, Shelducks, all very excitable and noisy; some Mallard with young and squealing Water Rails. Plus at least two Snipe and 2 Little Ringed Plover, and a Barhead/Greylag Goose hybrid.

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