Sightings – September 2005

Haresfield Hill (29 September, contributed by Gordon Avery)

A Willow Tit and 2 Chiffchaffs with a small tit-flock, also 8 Common Buzzards up together over the hill.

Cheltenham (29 September, contributed by Robert Homan)

2 Chiffchaffs singing along the Honeybourne Cycle Path between Wyman’s Brook and the town centre in the morning.

Berkeley Shore (28 September, contributed by Gordon Avery)

Along the shore towards Severn House Farm were 2 fairly early Rock Pipits and a first winter ‘Greenland’ Wheatear.

CWP(W) (27 September, contributed by Andy Jayne)

Around CWP(W) this afternoon were 80 Red-crested Pochard, 1 Hobby, 3 Little Ringed Plover, 1 Ringed Plover, 2 Dunlin, 1 Ruff, 9 Snipe, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 4 Green Sandpiper, 2 Common Sandpiper and 1 Reed Warbler.

Ashleworth (27 September, contributed by Mike Smart)

Rather quiet: a few Meadow Pipits and the odd Snipe. Water control structures have been built during the autumn on some of the ditches outside the reserve with the aim of retaining water in the ditches in spring.

Coombe Hill (27 September, contributed by Mike Smart)

One Whinchat and two Stonechats on the same bush; one Wheatear. A few Swallows, Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and Yelowhammers going over (visual migrants); song from Chiffchaffs and Blackcap. The excavation and scrape construction work now finished for this year: work on extension of the scrape in front of the Grundon Hide couldn’t be completed because of the problems of disposing of spoil in the floodplain; will be completed next year.

Severn Hams (Late September, contributed by Mike Smart)

From the ornithological point of view, late summer and early autumn is a dull time in the Severn hams, because the breeding birds have finished their business and, with water levels low, not many waterbirds appear. Still, the blackberry crop has been exceptional, and the Spindle Trees with their pink fruits are in full colour.

Summer 2005 appears to have been a very poor breeding season, to judge from the ringing evidence at Ashleworth. Catches have been much lower than last year’s bumper numbers, and the numbers of young birds have been very small; whereas last year there were very large catches (mainly juveniles) of the three main species, Sedge Warbler, Whitethroat and Reed Bunting, all three were few and far between in July and August. On the other hand a Barn Owl definitely raised young on a farm at Apperley; a number of nest boxes have been put up in the hope of attracting more; and there have been a rather more records of Little Owls, which appeared to have decreased of late: one calling at midday at Ashleworth on 24 September.

At both Ashleworth and Coombe Hill, water levels have dropped as usual, though the massive thunderstrom (nearly three inches of rain in the afternoon at Ashleworth) on 10 September soon refilled the scrapes at Coombe Hill. This is the (dry) time of year, best for management and conservation work, and much has been done at the two GWT reserves: at Coombe Hill, silt has been removed from the Long Pool (for the first time for very many years) to create a pool for ducks and other waterbirds in front of the second new hide overlooking the Long Pool, on the Apperley side; the opportunity was taken to take a soil sample using an auger which allowed a core two metres long to be collected; this showed that the surface silt surprisingly extended only about 30cms down, before being replaced by the underlying non-porous Compton clays; there were signs of periods of marine incursion deeper down. In front of the existing hide in Broadmere by the canal, the existing scrapes are being extended; very importantly, the long vegetation (including much pioneer willow) which had grown up over the last two years around the existing scrapes has been cut, so that conditions for ducks this winter and breeding waders next spring should be ideal.

At Ashleworth, much of the young willow growth along the main ditch opposite the Meerend Thicket hide has been removed, restoring the wider vistas that had been screened out. Most of the fields have been mown (which was not done last year), though the decreasing numbers of animals raised by local farmers made it difficult to dispose of hay and to provide beasts to graze. A new second roadside hide has been constructed, offering much improved viewing facilities over the northern part of the reserve. The annual process of raising water levels through manipulation of the sluice has begun, and the reserve should be under shallow water as soon as there is any appreciable rainfall or higher levels in the Severn.

Birdwise, it has been quiet: the odd Green Sandpiper at Coombe Hill, a couple of Redstarts (probably the last of the year) on 7 September; some signs of autumn migrations, with little flocks of Meadow Pipits, the first since April coming to roost in the evenings, and in fine weather more Meadow Pipits and Skylarks going over to the southwest, with the odd Yellowhammer and late Swallow. The star bird has been a Merlin, which has showed itself to two lucky observers at Coombe Hill in the last ten days or so.


Tewkesbury (25 September, contributed by Robert Homan)

5 Jays in flight near Mythe Water Works in the morning – there have been reports of small flocks of Jays moving through sites in northern England and it seems that birds have moved in from the continent perhaps because of a lack of acorns. On a related theme, there is very little, if any beech mast in the Cheltenham area this autumn which might have an effect on finch and tit flocks later in the year.

Sudmeadow (24 September, contributed by Gordon Avery)

7 Buzzards up together, 1 adult male Peregrine,3 Grey Wagtails,1 male Stonechat and 40 Linnets today.

GLS (23 September, contributed by Gordon Avery)

Very little present compared to notes below. Only a Common Sandpiper, juvenile Little Grebe and a Grey Wagtail.

Sudmeadow (19 September, contributed by Gordon Avery)

A Wheatear on the old tip at the Rea end. On the pond in the afternoon were 1 juvenile Spotted Redshank plus 1 Dunlin, 1 Snipe, 2 Green Sandpipers, a Common Sandpiper plus the juvenile Dabchick still present.

Sudmeadow (13 September, contributed by Gordon Avery)

A hatch of Comma butterflies in the morning, most of which were feeding on the brambles. There were also at least 2 Red Admirals in the area. At about 4.30 pm there was a first winter ‘Caspian Gull’, Larus cachinaans, roosting and preening with other gulls on the now ‘split’ pond at GLS.

CWP(W) (11 September, contributed by Andy Jayne)

A Black-necked Grebe, a Water Rail and Kingfisher at pit 31. There was a Black Tern briefly at pit 57 and the pits 79/84/85 area produced a female Ruddy Duck with 2 small ducklings, 1 Hobby, 2 Little Ringed Plover, 2 Ringed Plover, 2 Curlew Sandpiper, 4 Dunlin, 5 Snipe, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Greenshank, 3+ Green Sandpipers and 1 Common Sandpiper. Also 9 Common Terns scattered around, but few passerines of any note.

GLS Pond (8 September, contributed by Gordon Avery)

1 adult Dabchicks and 3 Green Sandpipers.

GLS Pond (3 September, contributed by Gordon Avery)

2 adult Dabchicks, 1 juvenile Shelduck, 1 Teal, 3 Shoveler, 2 Snipe and 2 Green Sandpipers.

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