Sightings – September 2008

Guscar, Aylburton and Walmore (29 September, contributed by Mike Smart)

At Guscar and Aylburton on a high tide of 9.1 metres at 08.47am were 2 Little Egrets, 6 Teal, 1 Sparrowhawk, 80 Lapwings, 3 Ringed Plover, 1 Dunlin, 4 Snipe, 700 Curlew, 20 Redshank, 1 Wheatear, 2 Stonechats and 20 Ravens.

At Walmore where the floods were completely down: 1 Little Egret, 1 Wigeon, 20 Teal, 1 Sparrowhawk, 21 Snipe, 1 Stonechat.

Walmore Common (23 September, contributed by Andy Jayne and John Phillips)

Seen today were: 25 Wigeon, 80 Teal, a female/immature Garganey, five Shoveler, a Little Egret, Peregrine, Kingfisher and Sedge Warbler.

Coombe Hill (22 September, contributed by Andy Jayne)

Highlights at Coombe Hill Meadows today included 325 Canada Geese, two Shelduck, 335 Wigeon, 16 Gadwall, c.400 Teal, 40 Pintail, two Garganey (eclipse drake and female/immature), 21 Shoveler, two Pochard, 19 Tufted Duck, a Little Grebe, eight Little Egrets, a Sparrowhawk, a juvenile female Peregrine, ten Ringed Plover, a Knot, three Little Stints, two Dunlin, seven Ruff, a Snipe, 40 Black-tailed Godwits, a Kingfisher, a Lesser Whitethroat and a Siskin over flying south west.

Severn Hams (21 September, contributed by Mike Smart)

A post-diluvian flood disaster movie today: the water level is dropping, but there is still a lot of shallow water, with an oily film on the surface; any exposed vegetation is brown and dead with mats of cut but unbaled brown hay. Bales with plastic wrapping had floated all over the place, leaving trails of plastic in the hedges; rotting vegetation leaving a foetid smell everywhere; some dead worms in the puddles.

However, the birds seemed to like it, especially on the Hasfield Ham side at the bottom of Stank Lane: 140 Wigeon, 620 Teal, 35 Shoveler, 12 Pintail, 8 Gadwall, 1 noisy Hobby, a noisy Peregrine trying to dislodge a Buzzard which had pinched its place on the pylon, 240 Lapwings, 40 Black-winged Godwits, 2 Ruff (a ruff and a reeve, so not the ones that were at Coombe Hill yesterday), at least 31 Snipe.

That’s three days running that I have seen Blackwits and Ruff on falling floods in different Severn Hams sites: Walmore, Coombe Hill and Ashleworth; are these birds that have moved up the river from Slimbridge?

Severn Hams (20 September, contributed by Mike Smart and Les Brown)

Rather surprisingly, the Coombe Hill hides are still not accessible; although the flood water levels are dropping and the towpath is now passable, there is still too much water to reach the Grundon Hide. In fact, the situation now is still very much as it was after the summer flooding last year; the growing green grass has died under the flood, which means the water is anaerobic, with a thick oily film on the surface; both the Chelt and the Parish Drain are discharging into the Severn at Wainlodes, but the water discharged is black and stinking. There is a smell everywhere of decaying vegetation, and the grass on the fields emerging from the floodwater is brown and dead.

On the shallow floodwater, a good selection of birds was seen from the towpath (once the fog rose at 10.00am), in particular the first reasonable numbers of ducks: 1 Great Crested Grebe, 7 Grey Herons, 2 Little Egrets, 290 Canada Geese, 119 Greylag Geese, 220 Wigeon, 200 Teal, 8 Gadwall, 22 Pintail, 25 Shoveler, 51 Tufted Ducks, 1 Pochard, 19 Black-tailed Godwits, 2 Ruff, 400 Black headed Gulls

Guscar and Walmore (19 September, contributed by Mike Smart)

At Guscar/Aylburton today: 1 Little Egret, 8 Wigeon, 2 Teal, 25 Lapwings, 1 Ringed Plover, 1 Grey Plover, 27 Dunlin, 2 immature Curlew Sandpipers, 537 Curlew, 10 Redshank, 1 Green Sandpiper, 2 Common Sandpipers, about 100 Swallows moving southwest, 1 Rock Pipit, 50 Meadow Pipits, 5 Yellow Wagtails, at least 30 Ravens.

At Walmore, the water level has dropped: 14 Black-tailed Godwits, 1 Ruff, 100 Lapwings

Severn Hams (13 September, contributed by Mike Smart and Les Brown)

The level of the Severn has now gone down appreciably and river is no longer overtopping its banks. Flooding on the meadows has only just begun to drop: Ham Road at Ashleworth and Red Lion road past Wainlode are still under deep water; thrre is no chance of reaching hides at Coombe Hill or Ashleworth.

At Walmore Common there is extensive but fairly shallow flooding. 9 Grey Herons, 100 Mallard, 15 Shoveler, 12 Teal, at least 1200 Black-headed Gulls (and no other gull species) on the floodwater, 1 Kingfisher, light passage of Swallows – maybe 50.

Severn Hams (9 September, contributed by Mike Smart)

This morning, the Severn had dropped very slightly at Haw Bridge, Wainlodes and Ashleworth. Whereas the reading on the stage board yesterday at Haw Bridge was 11.00, it was down to 10.95 today, but was still breaking its banks on either side of Haw Bridge.

In the meadows on the other hand, the water level (as is usual under current circumstances) had risen. On the Coombe Hill/Leigh Meadows side, the water level at the Parish Drain outlet was up to 10.10 (from 9.65 yesterday). Everything was on the same level, and the level of the Chelt was the same as in the meadows. On the Ashleworth side, the level was 10.46 in the meadows, as against 9.98 yesterday. So basically the meadows are taking up the water that is spilling over from the river; but I doubt if they can take much more without causing damage to properties.

The Environment Agency website gives “Flood Warning” (i.e. less than “Severe Flood Warning” but stronger than “Flood Watch”) for the Severn between Worcester and Tewkesbury and again for the Severn between Tewkesbury and Gloucester.

Still lots of Swallows hawking insects over the flood water at Wainlodes, with a few House Martins.

Severn Hams (8 September, contributed by Mike Smart)

The Severn has risen since Saturday, and this morning was breaking its banks not only on the right (east) left bank below Haw Bridge, but also on the left (west) bank above Haw Bridge. In addition, the Chelt has broken its banks in several places. This means that the meadows both at Coombe Hill and Ashleworth (which lie lower than the Severn) are being rapidly filled up to some depth. We now have a moderate river flood, which would be normal in January or February but not in September. It is not yet anything like as high as last summer’s two big floods in June and July, and a dry day today means that some of the river water can flow out to the estuary; but the weather forecast for the rest of the week is not good, and conditions may worsen. The minor roads at Wainlodes and the Ham Road from Tirley to Ashleworth are both impassable, but the main roads over Haw Bridge and to Maisemore are still open.

As it is, it seems likely that the conditions which occurred in last year’s summer floods will be repeated, and the meadows will remain flooded for a week or ten days: some hay and silage was not cut and grass has grown well where it was cut, so there may again be die-offs of grass, causing strong smells, anaerobic conditions and mats of dead grass when it recedes; fish are likely to die; and earthworms and other invertebrates may be swamped.

Leigh Meadows: fairly deep flooding; vast numbers of hirundines feeding over freshly flooded fields, probably 800 Swallows and 200 House Martins.

Coombe Hill: water over the towpath about 100 metres past car park: the Grundon and Long Pool hides completely inaccessible.

Ashleworth Ham: Hide inaccessible from road, but footpath over higher ground west of the reserve still open.

Walmore Common: light flooding. Again 150 Swallows and 50 House Martins (the floods seem to have coincided with the main southward passage of hirundines). 80 Mallard, 10 Teal, 2 Gadwall, 1 Shoveler, 2 Black Terns (brown backed juveniles, so not the birds seen at Coombe Hill on Saturday); one adult Common Tern; one juvenile Arctic Tern, all feeding over the floodwater and landing on wooden posts.

Severn Hams (6 September, contributed by David Scott-Langley)

The meadows on both reserves are starting to fill with water after heavy rain. Walking round Ashleworth Ham NR the tips of the grass stems still showing above water were acting as a refuge for rove beetles (Stenus juno in particular) and a few other beetle species, along with numerous small Bibionid flies. Where the sheep had been running, their droppings, either floating or stranded on vegetation, were proving popular with Dung flies (Scathophagus). At Coombe Hill meadows the same was the case with generally a couple of inches of water and a similar insect fauna, without the dung flies as the cow dung (no sheep) was too old (about 3 weeks), but with the addition of some Athaliid sawflies and young spiders. The weather conditions were grey and overcast with some showers, keeping the flying insects low hence the very low-flying hirundines over both reserves. At Coombe Hill they appeared to be segregated into species flocks of Swallows and House Martins.

Severn Hams (6 September, contributed by Mike Smart et al)

Following the rain of the last week, the Severn is rising dangerously fast, and may well break its banks below Haw Bridge in the next few hours; it is also causing smaller streams and rivers above Gloucester to back up.

On the Leigh Meadows the Chelt is already breaking its banks, flooding the Meadows on either side.

At Coombe Hill, the Grundon hide was still accessible this morning, but may no longer be accessible in the near future. This morning: one Spoonbill, 50 Mallard, 120 Teal, 2 Spotted Redshanks, 2 Black Terns, one Common Tern, very heavy hirundine passage (Les Brown).

At Ashleworth Ham, water is pouring onto the reserve. Very heavy hirundine passage, mainly Swallows and House Martins with very few Sand Martins, all feeding, apparently on dung flies, low over the water on Hasfield Ham, two Whinchats, at least one Hobby. Early morning ringing season produced two juvenile Redstarts, Sedge Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Whitethroat, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, several of them birds first caught a week ago and staying on to fatten up; fat and weight considerably higher than a week ago (Mervyn Greening, David Anderson, Mike Smart).

At Haw Bridge at 12h15 a flock of 40 Common Terns flew downriver, obvious migrants and a very large number for this area (Mike Smart).

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