Coombe Hill and Ashleworth (29 June 2010, contributed by Mike Smart and Les Brown)
At Coombe Hill, the water level is dropping fast despite last night’s rain. The scrapes in front of the Grundon Hide are almost dry (three large fish just surviving), and the Long Pool level is also dropping. The Mute Swan by the Wharf has at last hatched its first cygnet, and another pair with two cygnets is eating duckweed (must be very nutritious) on the Parish Drain. 3 Teal, no Shelducks, 9 Little Egrets, 9 Grey Herons (two adults and seven birds of the year); the Oystercatchers still have one chick which they have taken to the Long Pool; at least four perhaps five broods of young Lapwings, only one curlew seen. Among early migrant waders one Little Ringed Plover, four Redshanks, five Green Sandpipers; at least one juvenile Black-headed Gull, which must have flown in from a breeding place elsewhere. At least four singing Reed Warblers, but most Sedge Warblers have given up singing; surprisingly , still two bursts of Lesser Whitethroat song.
At Ashleworth, hay cutting has started on the SSSI but not on the reserve: all very quiet, but one pair of Lapwings with young just off the reserve.
Walmore and Forest of Dean (19 and 20 June 2010, contributed by Andy Jayne)
On the 19th, at Walmore Common a Jack Snipe flushed twice;also, a pair of Curlew, a pair of Red-legged Partridges and a Kingfisher. At Flaxley Woods a singing male Firecrest and a Muntjac Deer.
On the 20th in the FoD there were two Hobbies at Clanna and a Curlew nearby at St.Briavels.
Jack Snipe is extremely rare in Britain in summer, even Shetland has only two or three records. When I first flushed it I thought it must be a half-grown juvenile Common Snipe. That in itself would be an exceptional record these days. The possiblity of Jack Snipe never even crossed my mind. Later, however, as I walked back I flushed the bird again and gained rather better views. It was clearly a Jack Snipe and if it was anytime between September and April I wouldn’t have given it a second thought. Walmore has been a very reliable spot for Jack Snipe for many winters with up to seven birds present in recent years. My last sighting this spring was a single on 27th March. I looked for it again today, but no luck.
Severn Hams (17 June 2010, contributed by Mike Smart)
River Severn near Lower Lode: 1 Oystercatcher, 20 Sand Martins around a colony in the river bank.
Lower Lode Brickpits: 20 Cormorants in dead trees, seven Herons, a pair of Mute Swans with three cygnets and a male Yellow Wagtail sitting on an oak.
Coombe Hill (17 June 2010, contributed by Mike Smart, John Wiltshire and Tim Cash)
Breeding waders: 2 adult Oystercatchers and two chicks; at least three broods of Lapwings with chicks (one of which has hatched since Thursday; at least three pairs of Curlew behaving as though they had young.
Waders on return migration: a flock of 25 Lapwings, at least 7 noisy adult Redshank, 3 Green Sandpipers, one additional Oystercatcher.
In addition, there were 2 Teal, 4 Little Egrets and still plenty of singing warblers (Sedge, Reed, Whitethroat, Blackcap, but no singing Redstarts). The Mute Swan by the wharf still as three eggs.
Sudmeadow (17 June 2010, contributed by Gordon Avery)
A Little Egret flew over this morning at 07.57. It then seemed to head off towards the SW.
Stratton (16 June 2010, contributed by Ken Cservenka)
A young Little Owl was calling from a tree at Stratton House Hotel near Cirencester with an adult calling nearby at 1.10am..
Coombe Hill (15 June 2010, contributed by Mike Smart and John Wiltshire)
The scrapes and Long Pool: two pairs of Shelduck, one pair of Gadwall, six individual Teal, one Tufted Duck, 3 Little Egrets; 1 Quail singing; two adult Oystercatchers with two tiny chicks (the first successful breeding record here), at least three late pairs of breeding Lapwings (one still sitting, two with tiny chicks), probably two pairs of Curlews; about four Redshanks considered to be non-breeders arrived from outside; at least two Redstarts singing or giving alarm notes. Still plenty of singing Sedge Warblers, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Willow Warblers.
In nearby arable fields: still one anxious adult Lapwing, in the area where small chicks were seen two weeks ago; one pair of Yellow Wagtails.
Cheltenham (12 June 2010, contributed by Robert Homan)
A weekend of large insects at home with an impressive 17mm long tabinid fly (Tabanus autumnalis) falling out of a pile of washing just brought in from the garden and a 20mm+ long-horn beetle (Stenocorus meridianus) seen in the garden. Pictures of the fly and beetle below.
Cleeve Hill (11 June 2010, contributed by Robert Homan)
The picture below shows one of thousands of Garden Chafers (Phyllopertha horticola) swarming over Cleeve Hill today. They attracted the attention of a few gulls and a dragonfly attempted to pick the beetles off gorse bushes.
Coombe Hill (8 June 2010, contributed by Mike Smart and Les Brown)
Midsummer at Coombe Hill: luxuriant vegetation in the rain, wild roses in all the hedges, all the northbound migrants gone through, none moving south yet, but they’ll be coming soon; still plenty of birdsong.
The Mute Swan by the wharf which laid late is still incubating; 31 Canada Geese including three goslings, now almost full grown; 10 Greylags flew in; a single male Shelduck (is there a female on eggs somewhere?); 80 Mallard (two females with ducklings); 1 Little Egret; 2 Oystercatchers still incubating (changeover seen); at least two Lapwings incubating eggs in the rain (they started late too; first chicks seen on 2 June); 2 adult Curlews behaving as though they had young; a single Redshank, non breeder; at least one Redstart singing; at least four Reed Warblers singing; at least six Sedge Warblers singing; five Whitethroats singing; at least five Reed Buntings singing.
Coombe Hill (6 June 2010, contributed by David Scott-Langley)
Life is returning to the canal and the meadows after the floods of 2007 and 2008 and in the canal this has been helped by the work on the south bank in 2009. A walk along the canal at the beginning of June produced sightings of six Tench grubbing about in the weed, including one lurking under some floating debris only 3 metres away from a 60cm (2ft) long Pike. The tench were probably on the large side for the pike and it was more likely to be lying in wait for ducklings or moorhen chicks. There were also Sticklebacks, both old and young, basking in sunny spots. Invertebrates of the surface film were in evidence, those above being Pond Skaters (Gerris) and Whirligig beetles (Gyrinus) while beneath them were several species of Water Boatmen and Backswimmers along with some small Dytiscid beetles. Paired Enallagma damselflies were busy depositing eggs on waterweeds near the surface. Along the margins on the south bank, invertebrates are returning following the clearing of scrub. The carabid beetle Elaphrus riparius was prowling the edges looking for prey with its large round eyes while the much smaller Bembidion and Stenus species were also on the lookout for insects such as springtails. From the bund to the footbridge the water gives the impression of being not such good quality, i.e. cloudy. However, hanging over the rails on the footbridge and looking straight down into the water, this cloudiness turns out to be many millions of Daphnia water fleas, rendering the canal bottom barely visible. The canal paths were also patrolled by Orange-tip, Green-veined White and Brimstone butterflies, as well as the occasional territorial Speckled Wood.
Out on the meadows the buttercups and hawkweeds add a vigorous splash of yellow to the green background, with Cuckoo flowers just going over and Ragged Robin and Red Clover just beginning to open. Green-veined White and Common Blue butterflies were visiting these flowers in the sunshine. The vegetation is now long enough to hide the occasional Hare. In some fields the dock plants are growing well but will soon be found by the Dock Leaf Beetle (Gastrophysa viridula) whose larvae will convert most of them to brown lace before too long. Already the females with overly-distended bodies are laying bunches of yellow eggs on the undersides of the leaves. After the recent spell of hot weather the newer ditches are low on water and being choked up with vegetation but the water edges are still being patrolled by Bembidion and Stenus beetles and the prolific predatory waterside bug Salda littoralis. Patches of Crowfoot flowers brighten up these ditches here and there. In the older ditches and drains Great Pond Snails (Limnaea stagnalis) and Ramshorn snails can be seen moving around on the underside of the surface film accompanied by water beetles such as the 18mm Colymbetes fuscus and smaller relatives. Where the Duckweed has built up into a thick raft it might be possible to see species such as the Screech Beetle (Hygrobia hermanni) which, when alarmed, makes a quite audible sound – less of a screech and more like the sound of running your fingernail rapidly along a comb. In these ditches were also to be seen young Sticklebacks in some numbers.
In one of the fields is a muddy dip that is normally wet into early summer but this year has dried out with deep cracks and blocks of soil. These cracks are hiding places for Bembidion, Salda and a number of small Staphylinid beetles, including the brightly-coloured red and black Paederus littoralis. Under the blocks of soil were several Horse Leeches (Haemopis sanguisorba) trying to find the last vestiges of moisture to see them through the summer dry spell. One group that particularly suffered in the floods was the Wolf Spiders that do not spin webs, do not balloon when young, and live in the ground layer of vegetation. This year a few can be seen running through the grass as they recolonise the area from outside, some carrying their eggsacs as they go. There is no mention of birds here as they are well covered by other observers!