Sightings – October 2005

Witcombe (31 October, contributed by Gordon Avery)

A WEBs count produced 56 Tufted Duck and 6 Teal amongst the other wildfowl and also a female Stonechat along the one of the hedgerows.

Severn Hams (29 October, contributed by Mike Smart)

The level of the Severn had dropped somewhat at Haw Bridge, but not enough for the floodwater at Ashleworth and Hasfield Hams to flow away. Water levels on the GWT reserve at Ashleworth are now at their preferred winter level and are maintained by a sluice; so conditions are right for any Whooper Swans from Iceland which may deign to come this winter, after a two year absence; a couple of Gadwall had joined the Wigeon and Teal. At Coombe Hill, the scrapes are full, but there is no flooding; on 29 October there were 300 Teal (a respectable number for the season), 60 Wigeon, 14 Snipe and four Green Sandpipers with at least one Stonechat. On the Leigh Meadows, the local brooks have not overflowed either, so things are rather quiet; the main bird of note on 29 October was a Stonechat; plus of course the masses of Redwings and Fieldfares at all sites, in their hundreds in the hedges and flying over, obviously on migration.

Further downriver at Walmore Common, high Severn levels have also produced light flooding, with very attractive conditions for waterbirds; the juvenile Red-necked Phalarope found by Andy Jayne was the star of the show (was it the bird that had previously been seen at Slimbridge?), but there were good numbers of ducks too – 100 Wigeon, 120 Mallard, 100 Teal with half a dozen Shoveler and Pintail, and a couple of Bewick’s Swans, no doubt birds from Slimbridge put in an appearance. Interestingly, birds newly arrived at Slimbridge often make a recce in the first few days, to check on conditions at Severn Vale sites which they have visited in previous winters.

Sudmeadow (27 October, contributed by Gordon Avery)

A nice female Merlin today; it tried to take a Pied Wagtail but missed, then the wagtail had the audacity to start chasing the Merlin. Brave fool!

Looks as if the Stonechats have moved out.

Autumn hits the Severn Hams (27 October, contributed by Mike Smart)

Since the heavy rain of last weekend, autumn has clearly arrived, despite a last fine day of summer on Thursday 27 October. The rain in North Wales brought the Severn at Haw Bridge to its highest level since the light floods of last April. At the same time, local rainfall filled all the streams and ditches; since the Severn was so high, they could not discharge into the river and as a result have been back-flooding onto the meadows. As a result, water is pouring into the GWT reserve at Ashleworth and the fields in front of the hide are lightly flooded, the water extending over greater surfaces all the time; by the end of the week, most of the area normally flooded in winter will is likely to be under water (just in perfect time in fact for the Whooper Swans arriving from Iceland, which have not appeared in the last two years because of shortage of water). Over on Hasfield Ham, there is light flooding too.

On 27 October, about 250 Wigeon were on the floodwater, along with nearly 100 Teal, quite the highest number found in the area so far this autumn; about a dozen Shoveler were right in front of the hides. A Paregrine Falcon (the North American name of which is ominously duck hawk) sat eyeing them from the nearby pylon. There were as many as seven Herons, and about 14 Mute Swans. At least fifteeen Lawings and three Snipe. The hedges were full of wintering thrushes, mostly Redwings but a few Fieldfares too. Lots of migrants Meadow Pipits and Skylarks, with the odd Goldcrest and Long-tailed Tit in the hedges.

Nothing particularly unusual for the site, but all showing that conditions look right for the wintering birds.

Walmore Common (27 October, contributed by Andy Jayne)

A very unexpected new species for the site today was a very late first-winter Black Tern that flew in at 1.20pm and remained over the floodwater for nearly 40 minutes. Also present were 50 Wigeon, 2 Gadwall, 80 Teal, 100 Mallard, 5 Pintail, 5 Shoveler, a Cormorant, a Kingfisher and a pair of Stonechats. A Brimstone butterfly as well.

Sudmeadow (26 October, contributed by Gordon Avery)

This afternoon before the rain: male Stonechats at Port Ham; The Pond, GLS and at Fieldings playing field.

Cheltenham (17 October, contributed by Robert Homan)

2 Chiffchaffs singing and a third calling from the Honeybourne Cycle Path this morning.

Sudmeadow (5 October, contributed by Gordon Avery)

The overnight fog resulted in some migrants being grounded, including 6 Redwings and several new Blackbirds and Robins in the area plus at least 4 Chiffchaffs, a female Blackcap and some ‘crests’. The local Linnet flock is now up to 70 strong. In addition there was 1+ Golden Plover moving south and calling.

Cheltenham (5 October, contributed by Robert Homan)

The autumn is a time when evidence of the feeding activities of various leaf mining insects is fairly easy to find. Here are two conspicuous examples. The first image shows a series of mines of the micro-moth Lyonetia clerkella in a leaf from an ornamental cherry. The second is of a birch leaf with many mines of another micro-moth Ectoedemia occultella

Severn Hams (1 October, contributed by Mike Smart, Les Brown and Colin Butters)

Here we are in the last quarter of the year, long evenings and winter visitors approaching. Birdwise, rather quiet on the Severn Hams front, as there is not yet much water in scrapes or on fields. Practically no waterbirds about yet: 32 Greylags flew over Coombe Hill early this morning, going southwest, an unusually large number although more and more seem to be breeding higher up the Severn and Avon; otherwise just a few Snipe, perhaps half a dozen at Coombe Hill. On the other hand there was a fair amount of visible migration all morning at Coombe Hill, Ashleworth and Leigh Meadows: a small but steady stream of Swallows and House Martins, small numbers of Skylarks with rather more Meadow Pipits and the odd Yellowhammer; Chiffchaffs were singing or calling from very many hedges and the osier beds, and a good number of raptors – half a dozen Kestrels, fair numbers of Buzzards (six together at Ashleworth) and at both Coombe Hill and Leigh Meadows a number of Buzzards (young ones?) giving an unusual high-pitched call, much shriller than the usual mewing, generally from the top of a tree; and over Leigh Meadows a Merlin; in addition at Coombe Hill an October Whinchat and four Stonechats, and a Wheatear at Leigh Meadows.

Sudmeadow (1 October, contributed by Gordon Avery)

Not a lot about, although there was a Whinchat by Gloucester Football Club, Sudmeadow Road.

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