Sightings – November 2004

Sudmeadow and Whiteway (29/30 November, contributed by Gordon Avery)

A Small Tortoiseshell in the morning sunshine on the 29th in the Sudmeadow area with 2 Chiffchaffs by the R Severn on 30th. A flock of 2000 Wood Pigeons flying SE over Whiteway on 29th.

Westbury-on-Severn (23 November, news via Gordon Avery)

A Waxwing feeding on rowan berries in a garden in the village today.

Longford Water Works (22 November, contributed Andy Jayne)

A Firecrest, Chiffchaff and Blackcap seen today.

Ashleworth Ham (17 November, contributed Mike Smart)

Twice in the last month, I have seen a Barn Owl at Ashleworth Ham, sitting in old pollarded willows, once in mid afternoon on 11 October, once at first light on 15 November. There was a record of one going into an outhouse near Haw Bridge last winter, so maybe they are quietly surviving there. The purpose of the early morning visit was to see if any Whooper Swans were roosting there on the open water; none found, nor in their usual day feeding area on the Leigh Meadows. The Purple Sandpiper seems to have moved on from Leigh Meadows.

Sudmeadow (16 November, contributed Gordon Avery)

4 new Chiffchaffs were ringed a.m. and there was at least one other unringed bird in the area, along with a male Peregrine.

Chaceley (16 November, contributed Robert Homan)

3 Swallows feeding around the church spire between 2.00 and 3.40 this afternoon: a real surpise!

On safari in….. Cheltenham! (13 November, contributed Robert Homan)

Just to prove that exotic destinations are not essential in order to record the unusual, a lunch time walk in the town centre this week produced these leaf mines of unusual micro-moths.

Top: Mines of Phyllonorycter platani in London Plane leaf; the uppermost mine is 4cm in length. Above: Tenanted mine of Ectoedemia argyropeza forming a “green island” in an Aspen leaf.

Winter Warblers (13 November, contributed Robert Homan and Gordon Avery)

In the past week there have been records of Blackcaps in gardens in Cheltenham and of 3 Chiffchaffs in the Gloucester area.

Ashleworth Ham (12 November, contributed Mike Smart)

With the official opening of the GWT reserve at Coombe Hill, we shouldn’t forget the long-standing GWT reserve just across the Severn at Ashleworth Ham. In fact the two sites are only a few miles apart as the Wigeon flies, and the birds certainly move back and forth.

The Ashleworth sluice is operating normally, so water levels have reached their usual winter state; because of the wet summer, it wasn’t possible to cut the vegetation on all the meadows in the reserve, so some of the area is looking more overgrown than usual. But the birds don’t mind! Today there were at least 1,000 Wigeon, with a sprinkling of other ducks (Teal, Gadwall, Shoveler, Pintail); a large whisp of more than 40 Snipe flew over, calling; a Sparrowhawk flew past; there was a pair of Stonechats, the male carrying a metal ring on his left leg – no doubt one of those ringed by Mervyn Greening and his team during the summer, described here; plus, as usual at this time of year, large numbers of winter thrushes, mainly Fieldfares sitting right up in the tops of trees with no leaves, and a few Redwings.

Still no wild swans, though!

Coombe Hill (9 November, contributed Mike Smart)

The floodwater has dropped a little at Coombe Hill, so that the new GWT hide in the withy bed at Broad Mere is easily accessible (to those wearing wellingtons). At present, there is a real wildlife spectacle at close range from the hide; about 2,000 ducks, mainly Wigeon, with a few Teal, Shoveler and Pintail; over 500 Lapwings, a dozen Dunlin and plenty of Snipe; over 30 Mute Swans, but neither Bewick’s nor Whooper Swans as yet; Little Grebe and Kingfishers too, and Water Rails squealing like stuck pigs from the withy bed. Every so often there is a scare, and the whole lot fly up with a rush of wings, but settle again rapidly. Walking down the canal bank the bushes and tall willows are full of Redwings and Fieldfares, several hundred today, there may have been an overnight fall of migrants with light winds and heavy cloud.

And the Purple Sandpiper is still on the Leigh Meadows.

Leigh Meadows and Severn Vale (6 November, contributed Mike Smart)

The Purple Sandpiper was still there on the morning of 5 November (accompanied by a Goosander, a Green Sandpiper and a Stonechat). It really is extraordinary that this maritime wader, which is normally found on rocky shores and is rare in Gloucestershire even on the Severn estuary, should turn up on an inland freshwater marshland site. However, it is not entirely unique; I remember a similar record, at exactly this time of year, some twenty years ago, at Coombe Hill. Perhaps birds nesting in Canada and Greenland cross central Britain on the way to wintering grounds in Brittany and continental Europe?

Incidentally, the floods of last week-end have now dropped, making the meadows along the Chelt, at Coombe Hill and Ashleworth altogether more accessible. All boards have been put into the sluice at Ashleowrth, so that water levels there should remain constant until the spring, providing habitat attractive to ducks, geese and swans.

Leigh Meadows (4 November, contributed by Andy Jayne)

A Purple Sandpiper was a surprising find by the River Chelt late this afternoon.

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