The heavy flooding that submerged the meadows for the first ten days of January is now dropping, leaving lots of shallow floodwater in the Coombe Hill, Cobney/Leigh Meadows and Ashleworth/Hasfield Ham areas. The Red Lion Road at Wainlodes on the east bank, and the Ham Road between Tirley and Ashleworth on the west bank, are now open (they were impassable until about Friday last). At Coombe Hill, the meadows can now be seen from the towpath (but the boardwalk leading to the Grundon Hide is still under deep water), or from Wick Lane by Apperley. At Ashleworth the road hides are easily accessible (though the one has had its foundations lifted out of the earth by the flood).
It’s still quite difficult to assess waterbird numbers, because there is so much suitable habitat, but we got a fair count; we stationed ourselves so as to avoid the risk of double counting:
Coombe Hill: 8 Mute Swans, 583 Canada Geese, 215 Greylag Geese, 1 Bar-headed Goose, 12 Shelducks, 3340 Wigeon, 1900 Teal, 10 Gadwall, 165 Mallard, 162 Pintail, 26 Shoveler, 80 Tufted Ducks and 10 Pochard, (unusually high numbers here for diving ducks and a sign that the water is still deep), 2 Grey Herons, 2 Moorhens, 40 Coot, 570 Lapwings.
Cobney /Leigh Meadows: 9 Mute Swans, 4 Canada Geese, 24 Shelducks (lekking actively, not seen in such numbers here of late), 1000 Wigeon, 150 Teal, 10 Gadwall, 50 Mallard, 30 Pintail, 4 Tufted Ducks, 1 Grey Heron, 1 Cormorant, 110 Lapwings, 1 Snipe (the only one found in icy conditions).
Ashleworth/ Hasfield Hams: 3 Mute Swans, 370 Canada Geese, 1 Barnacle Goose, 15 Greylag Geese, 1 White Farmyard Goose, 75 Wigeon, 250 Teal, 30 Mallard, 10 Pintail, 10 Shoveler, 15 Coot . (Les Brown and Mike Smart). Also a Chiffchaff feeding in the hedges at Hasfield.
That makes quite a lot of ducks – about 5,500 at Coombe Hill, 1,500 at Cobney/Leigh plus 400 odd at Ashleworth. Mainly Wigeon and Teal as usual, with no sign (yet) of influxes of Pintail, as sometimes occur in these conditions. We didn’t see any such numbers of ducks (though the geese were there) during the big flood of late December and early January: they could have been on site and overlooked because so many areas have been inaccessible; though this seems unlikely because why would they be on such deep water where they can’t feed? They may well have been off at sites like Minsterworth Ham and Walmore Common where quite large numbers of ducks have been recorded in recent days.
Mike Smart, David Anderson, Les Brown