Diary – January to March 2011

For other quarter year diary archives, go to the Diary page, by using the ‘Back’ button, and scroll to the bottom.


31st March 2011 – New Fancy View just before lunchtime yielded a close flying Goshawk and another later in the distance.  Buzzards and Ravens were also on the wing and in a close conifer tree there was an immaculate male Crossbill with a female nearby and 2 others also not far away. 

          At Nagshead in the afternoon, a Nuthatch was nest building in a box along the lower part of the short trail.


30th March 2011 – A dull, overcast to the day and some heavy rain for a while mid-morning.  A Nagshead in the afternoon, I walked around the general area of the long trail.  There were two Greylag Geese on the Nursery Pond, one with a metal ring starting with the characters ‘52423’ but I could not get the full series.  There were at least 3 deer running near the forestry track on my return and another single Fallow Deer sat down not far from the rear of the information centre near the main forestry track. 


29th March 2011Slimbridge.  There was light rain en route but the day brightened up and in the afternoon, there was some sunshine.  The Lesser Scaup was on the scrape at the Robbie Garnett Hide and apparently paired with a Tufted Duck.  At the feeder in front of the Holden Tower, there were 4 Reed Bunting. 


26th March 2011 – On a visit to Slimbridge today to attend a swan study group meeting, I noted a green ringed Mediterranean Gull on Rushy Pen.  This bird was moulting into second summer plumage and was ringed in June 2009 in France and had been seen in Spain. 


25th March 2011 – A Peacock Butterfly in a garden at Milkwall was a first of the year for me.


24th March 2011 – Spent a couple of hours from 1235 at Symond’s Yat viewpoint.  The two local Peregrines were very active and there was much flying.  A Goshawk was noted to the north of the area and also later over The Doward.  A fine, sunny and warm day.


23rd March 2011 – I was walking over the Doward near Symond’s Yat west this afternoon and noted a plethora of primroses and wood anemonies out in full flower in the beautiful spring sunshine, the temperature at 1300 being 16 deg. C.


22nd March 2011 – I called into the hide at Ashleworth just after lunch.  There are still a number of duck present and the water level does not appear to have decreased over the past week.  Shoveler, Wigeon and Mallard were the most numerous species.  Teal, Coot and a Gadwall were also there but no Pintail noted.  A Little Grebe was heard ‘trilling’ and 2 Mute Swans were adjacent to the screen hide.  The only geese were 2 Greylag Geese over the back of the main scrape. 

          I walked down the Wysis Way at Barber’s Bridge towards Rudford Mill in the late afternoon and noted a mass of flowering white violets. 


19th March 2011 – A fine sunny day which was very spring like after a cold start and I had to scrape the ice off the car before I went to Devizes for a meeting.  On Etchilhampton Hill to the south east of the town centre, I noted a Corn Bunting in full song on top of a big bush.  Approximately 100 Golden Plover were swirling around over the downs very near to the town. 


15th March 2011Ashleworth.  I had a short visit to the hide just after lunch.  There are still a number of duck present and a reasonable amount of water given the dry conditions of late.  Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Pintail and Shoveler were the most numerous species present. 

          I moved on to Slimbridge later in the afternoon and now can confirm the reports that the last of the Bewick’s Swans have departed on their migration.  3 Greater Scaup were on the scrape in front of the Robbie Garnett Hide, 2 males and a female.  The first butterfly of the year that I noted was today near the car park and it was, as expected, a Brimstone.


12th March 2011Ashleworth.  En route I checked the brilliantly green field at Minsterworth for any sign of winter swans but found none and none were on the Hams at Ashleworth and Hasfield.  I stayed for about 20 minutes in the hide and noted a few duck present.  Most of them appeared to be Wigeon and Shoveler and of note there were 2 Little Grebe together, trilling, and 2 Tufted Duck.


11th March 2011 – I checked Rodley again today at 1300 in view of the apparent migration flight yesterday late afternoon.  I found no Bewick’s Swans, only Mute Swans.  I did a quick check of Walmore Common and again drew a blank.  Perhaps they were really on a migration flight. 

          I called in briefly at Symonds Yat in the late afternoon where there appeared to be one of the Peregrines perched in the Ash Tree between the two cliffs and there were also 3 Goosander (1 male) on the river below the viewpoint. 


10th March 2011 – To Slimbridge again.  There were only 20 Bewick’s Swans on the Tack Piece and at 1645, 3 flew on to the Rushy Pen, 16 went north but one which was not really with the flock returned and landed on the Tack Piece over at the back where one lone swan had been loafing away from the others.  The remaining 15 went on to the north east in line with the line of Turkey Oaks and eventually I lost sight of them in my binocular field.  It seems that only 5 now remain.  One of these is one named Winterling which is the longevity record holder at 28 years.  When she took off from the Tack Piece she looked a bit laboured and seems to be showing her age.  She was still on the Rushy Pen, flopped down with two other birds when I left. 


8th March 2011 – I went to Rodley again this morning to find that there were 14(7) Bewick’s Swans on the same field.  I then checked Walmore Common at 1125 en route to Ashleworth.  On the Common I found the 4(1) Whooper Swans.

 At Ashleworth there were a few duck present, the two main species being Wigeon and Shoveler.  There were also 4 Tufted Duck, a Little Grebe and a Common Snipe.

At Slimbridge there were 38 Bewick’s Swans on the Tack Piece and 3 more were on the Rushy Pen and so there were 41 birds which is the number reported as being present.  It seems that I was correct in the prediction of a migration last night.  The Lesse Scaup was present on the scrape in front of the Robbie Garnett hide. There were 205 White-fronted Geese in total on the Tack Piece and Dumbles so many of them seem to have departed too.

At Patch Bridge in the trees by the cow shed, the single rook nest which has been there for some time has now been ‘joined’ by 3 others!


7th March 2011 – A visit to Slimbridge to see what the state of play was concerned regarding the Bewick’s Swans migration.  I found 129 swans on the Tack Piece at 1530 including 2 of the neck collared birds (002T and 008T) and there were 314 White-fronted Geese on the Tack Piece with 53 on the flood wall making a total of 367 but there were more over the wall too as occasionally I could see heads popping up.  This is a good number for this date in March. 

          En route home, I noted an easterly drift to the wind in the smoke from cottages along the A40 to the west of Gloucester.  I checked the conditions at 2315 and by now the wind had dropped out and thus I think that conditions would be good for a migration flight tonight. 

6th March 2011 – I did an early morning walk around the cycle trail starting and finishing at Cannop Ponds via The Dilke Hospital.  Just above the ponds on the track to New Fancy View, I caught sight of some deer in the early morning darkness.  When I got to the junction where right is Farmers Green where the shrike was a couple of years ago, I refound the deer herd.  Among them was the mythical white stag.  Found at last and in the general area where it has been reported several times. 


4th March 2011 – A cold but beautifully sunny day and I walked from Rodley on the banks of the River Severn upstream to find some swans which had been reported to the north.  I found 6 Mute Swans, 4(1) Whooper Swans and 40(11) Bewick’s Swans making a total of 50 birds at 1200.  Skylarks were seen and heard along the river bank.


3rd March 2011 – Today, I went to the Cotswold Water Park and initially parked at pit 57.  I was disappointed to see that the vegetation has grown up along the Thames Path at pit 57 and it is not easy to see much of the water.  This pit has been spoiled from a natural history point of view by the housing development.  I walked north along the Thames Path through the Neighbridge area and into a field system which was more pleasant. There were 6 Goosander on Neighbridge Lake.  I returned to the car and repositioned it to Waterhay car park and walked the path towards Ashton Keynes where there were several Red-crested Pochards.  Things have not changed much here since I last visited some time ago.  I returned towards Waterhay and then went on to the north-west.  I see that the first hide has been repositioned and the willows which were growing fast and obscuring the views when I last visited are now in total dominance as far any viewing is concerned.  I went into the hide and see that although there is some open water in front of it, there will be an incursion soon if it is not managed.  I eventually ended up at Hailstone Hill.  The many lakes along the Thames Path had a variety of ducks including a good number of Gadwall and Tufted Duck.  It was a bitterly cold and overcast day with a biting north easterly wind and there were very few people about and thus the birds were largely undisturbed.


1st March 2011 – I went and walked some field footpaths in the Rockhampton area to the south of Slimbridge to look at the general habitat.  There are large fields, few houses and farms, plenty of hedgerows and some small woodland plantations in the gentle rolling terrain.  I must try and get back in the spring and see what birds are breeding in this relatively undisturbed area.

          I moved on to Slimbridge and managed to get some more bill pattern photographs of the Bewick’s Swans for the database.  The Lesser Scaup and one male and one female Greater Scaup were noted on the Rushy Pen.


28th February 2011 – A colder day than of late and I made another visit to Slimbridge to take some more Bewick’s Swan bill pattern pictures.  Before lunch, the two male Greater Scaup and the female Lesser Scaup were on the Rushy Pen and later in the day, a female Greater Scaup joined them.  After lunch, I moved over to South Lake and looked both from that hide and the Hogarth Hide for the reported Spoonbill on that lake.  I did not find it but after a visit to the South Finger hides in search of Bewick’s Swans, I found the Spoonbill on the Bottom New Piece which held quite a number of birds including 10 Ruff, several Redshank and Dunlin.  There were 4(2) Bewick’s Swans on the Top New Piece.  I moved back to the Holden Tower where I could see more swans on the Tack Piece.  I made a count there of 146 swans and 5 minutes later, there were 6 on the Rushy Pen, thus there was a minimum of 146 birds and a maximum of 156.  There had  been a report of about half of the daily wintering visitors having departed on migration and this seems to be correct.


27th February 2011 – A walk down the Gloucestershire Way at Nagshead RSPB Reserve in the afternoon, then up and around the long trail.  There were three, stinging hail showers on the walk and probably because of this weather, the woods were very quiet.


25th February 2011Slimbridge.  Overcast weather which deteriorated into rain after lunchtime.  There appeared to be plenty of Bewick’s Swans still present, indeed, there seems to have be no departures at all.  Another batch of Bewick’s Swan bill pattern pictures obtained.


24th February 2011 – A warm, spring-like day.  I was walking around the open area opposite the Rising Sun Public House at Moseley Green.  What was noticeable was the amount of frog spawn not only in the small pools but also on the mossy ground and even on the top of sawn off tree stumps!


23rd February 2011 – A day visit to Strumble Head.  I helped in the creation of a 25m sand sculpture of a whale which was a publicity venture for Seatrust, the marine mammal arm of the Pembrokeshire Wildlife Trust.  I made a short visit to the Head. Surprisingly, there were a number of Gannets passing which is unusual at this time of year. 


22nd February 2011 – Another very short visit to Slimbridge.  One Greater Scaup still on Rushy Pen.


21st February 2011 – A very short visit to Slimbridge to get some more bill pattern photographs.  It would appear that none of the Bewick’s Swans have departed on migration yet.  This is not surprising as the previous few nights have been overcast if not somewhat misty and the wind, although not strong, has been in the east and thus would form a headwind for them on their way.  This situation may change in the next couple of days.  Both of the Greater Scaup and the Lesser Scaup were present on the Rushy Pen this afternoon.


19th February 2011 – I went to Ashleworth hide for an hour at 1400.  There were approximately 80 Black-headed Gulls which is an unusual species for this site.  5 Curlew were of note but generally there were very few ducks present but there were several of the usual species, Mallard, Shoveler, Pintail, Teal, Wigeon, Gadwall and 2 Tufted Duck.  The only geese present were 2 Greylag Geese.


18th February 2011 – Another day at Slimbridge, this time to take many bill pattern pictures of the Bewick’s Swans for the swan research data.  The Bewick’s Swans seem much more settled than of late and the Rushy Pen was quite tranquil.  The birds are not doing much and they are sleeping a lot on the Tack Piece, all in preparation for their migrantion which will start any day soon when the weather conditions are favourable.  I logged 127 on the Tack Piece, 12 on the Top New Piece but none on the river or Dumbles.  They have been using the river recently but usually only when they have been disturbed and at the moment they appear to be very relaxed and contented.  On the feeders at the Hogarth Hide, among the usual birds, there was a Rook actually clinging to a seed feeder.  Also present was a female Brambling and on the feeders, a male and female Reed Bunting.  The two Greater Scaup were on the Rushy Pen but there was no sign of the Lesser Scaup.


15th February 2011 – A day at Slimbridge where I took a series of videos of the Bewick’s Swans.  On the way back at about 1700, there were two big flocks of pre roosting Starlings at either end of the Quedgeley Bypass.


14th February 2011 – Went to Symonds Yat today at 1400 to 1600.  There was an odd shower but generally very good visibility and dry but a little cold.  It was 5 deg. C. at 1700.  Both Peregrines were seen, 12 Buzzards were in the air together and about 190 Woodpigeons were perched up around the Peregrines breeding cliffs.


13th February 2011 – A lot of rain today – 14mm.


10th February 2011 – A rainy, mild day.  I went to Slimbridge by lunchtime.  The usual packed Rushy Pen was empty as there was a reported flush earlier in the day.  On the Tack Piece at 1430, there were 63 Bewick’s Swans, an Oystercatcher flew over calling which was the first of the year.  Of note, there were 10 Ruff, 2 Greater Scaup, a Lesser Scaup  and 203 White-fronted Geese.  There were a further 178 swans present on the river in the far distance at 1500 but I believed that some more may have been hidden by some distant sandbanks.  There were 8 more swans on the Top New Piece making a total for the day of 249 swans.  From 1530, swans were flying in from the river but after circling the Rushy Pen for a few minutes, they retreated to the Tack Piece.  This kept happening. By 1615, the feed had been cut short as there were few waterfowl present and they were backing off from the warden and there were only 19 swans present.  A little later, the only neck-collared bird of the day, ‘008T’ flew in.  Could this strange behaviour be explained as pre-migratory restlessness?


7th February 2011 – A short walk over Crabtree Hill, here in the Forest of Dean.  Nothing apart from a single Fallow Deer was of note. 


5th February 2011 – Just half an hour in the hide at Ashleworth just after lunch. The raptor presence included 2 Buzzards, one of which was harassed by a Peregrine and later a lone Kestrel overflew.  Waterfowl included the usual selection of ducks 2 Greylag Geese and 8 Tufted Duck with 2 Mute Swans in the vegetation at the back of the scrape.  The water level has dropped a bit since the last visit.  It was an overcast day, very mild (12 deg. C. at 1300) and very windy. 


4th February 2011Slimbridge in the afternoon on a day of gloom and drizzle with very strong winds.  229 Bewick’s Swans were on the Tack Piece, 4 on the Top New Piece and 2 on the rain and windswept Dumbles.  Again, in spite of the conditions, I was able to get more pictures of the neck collars and more data on them for the research department.  An excellent afternoon in poor weather. 


3rd February 2011 –One of the local Buzzards came down in my garden this morning and was foraging only about 5m from my bedroom window.  This was a first for the garden.

 Another afternoon at Slimbridge.  I walked from the Centre down the canal to the south.  In the roadside fields there were many Lapwing and 1 Ruff.  There were also many more Lapwing in the various canalside fields.  I noted a small number of Bewick’s Swans using the field at the back of the Van de Bovenkamp hide.  This is not a field that they use very often.  Back at the Centre, the majority of the swans were on the Tack Piece where I logged 214 at 1525.  There was also many Dunlin, Lapwing, an even bigger number of Wigeon, a few Redshank and a handful of Linnets.  I managed to get a good amount of data from the neck collared birds present in terms of their behaviour and the position of the electronics package on the collar. 

Late in the afternoon and overnight it was quite windy. 


1st February 2011 – A bright, sunny and mild afternoon at Slimbridge.  The main aim of the trip was to photograph the newly neck-collared birds from the recent swan catch for the research department.  The light conditions were good and a number of photographs of the birds in many differing postures were obtained.  An excellent afternoon.  By contrast with the afternoon, it was quite cold and very foggy in the late evening.


31st January 2011 – A bright but cold day.  At Nagshead between 1350 and 1630, I walked down to Cannop Ponds around the southern pond and back via the western ridge.  There is a lot of work being done on the eastern bank of the pond where an unstable wall has had to be repaired.  Unfortunately this has meant that a lot of trees and thick vegetation has had to be removed. 

          On the Gloucestershire Way, a single Fallow Deer took its time to cross.  It appeared to be looking at me for a while as I watched it through my binoculars.  It eventually lost interest in me or decided that I was no threat as I had not moved, fed for a short while before wandering slowly off.  I noted that the ice has been broken at the Wild Boar wallowing site.  All other small puddles are frozen over as is the majority of the pond at Cannop. 


30th January 2011 – I did the RSPB  garden birdwatch today for an hour at 1040 from the lounge window.  Totals sent in were, Blue Tit 3, Jackdaw 1, Blackcap 1 male, Woodpigeon 2, Robin 1, Great Tit 1, Magpie 2, Chaffinch 1, Nuthatch 1 and Great Spotted Woodpecker 1 plus a Grey Squirrel (not counted of course). 

          Had lunch in the car park at the back of Speech House Hotel with the large log in the middle of it.  Here, someone feeds the birds and in the half hour that I was there, the following species were noted on or around this log.  Robin, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Carrion Crow, Nuthatch, Treecreeper (moving horizontally on the log which looked strange), Jay, Stock Dove, Chaffinch and Coal Tit. 


29th January 2011Ashleworth between 1120 and 1150.  It was very cold and overcast with the temperature at 1100, only 1 deg. C.  There was ice on the scrapes with some free water.  There was only a little water on Hasfield Ham.  There were about 600 waterfowl in front of the hide and about 400 one field back but many concealed by vegetation, thus makin about 1000 birds present.  Of note, 5 Tufted Ducks which are rare here and 4 Pied Wagtails on the ice at the edge of the water nearest the hide.  There were 3 Mute Swans but no wild swans seen. 


28th January 2011 – A walk on Chosen Hill, near Churchdown.  Just as I was leaving in the late afternoon, I heard a Raven calling in the area that I had seen them nesting in 2000 and 2001.  I expect that they are now regular breeders here.


27th January 2011 – A dull and cold day again.  Went to Slimbridge to give the pictures of yesterdays catch to the research officer.  All of the neck collared swans were at the feed and the lake has returned to normal. 


26th January 2011 – Another early start to go to Slimbridge for a second attempt at the swan catch.  Although it was raining at 0645, the morning was overcast by dry and the catch went ahead and was an excellent one with all aims achieved and 29 Bewick’s Swans caught.  . 


25th January 2011 – An early start to be at Slimbridge by 0730 for a planned swan catch but this did not take place as conditions were not quite right.  Waked south down the canal and found 20 Bewick’s Swans at 1025 on the Four Score field and there were 24 at the same place on my way back at 1040.  There were 70 Curlew in the roadside field nearest to South Lake as I set off on my wallk.  Back at the Centre, there was quite a bit of movement around the area of several species of birds.  These included Golden Plover, Lapwing and White-fronted Geese in discreet flocks.  The geese came into the Tack Piece at 1230, some bathed and some drank or both and then they flew off in small groups.  There is plenty of fresh water on that field as it is partly flooded.  Steady rain in the afternoon.


24th January 2011 – A dull but dry day.  I went out in the late afternoon for a short walk.  I parked at the top of Plump Hill and walked the Wysis Way around the area known as The Wilderness.  Of note was yet another Treecreeper busy foraging and a singing Great Tit which suggests that spring is not far away.


23rd January 2011 – I was in the hide at Ashleworth at 0730 in the darkness.  As it slowly got light, it was an overcast day which slowly got lighter and indeed there were some very light showers at 0800.  I could just make out some white domes in the far distance on field 27 and at 0800, these ‘domes’ woke up and I could see that they were swans.  I was able to see that they were Bewick’s Swans so I went up Stank Lane and found 4 Mute Swans on Hasfield Ham, field 22 and finally 13(5) Bewick’s Swans on the said field 27.  A large flock of Long-tailed Tits were all around me as I watched the swans.  I left them alone, having made the count, and returned to the hide.  I was able to get closer today because the flood water had virtually gone from the lane and I had my telescope with me. 

          In the afternoon, I made a visit to Coleford and walked around the long trail at Nagshead where there were at least 2 Treecreeper, 1 Goldcrest and a flock of Long-tailed Tits.  There was a flock of 20 Siskins around Nagshead Lodge but I suspect that there were many more than that as there seemed to be a lot of movement.  I checked the baited areas at the two Cyril Hart Arboretum car parks.  There were a lot of birds including Blue Tits, Coal Tits, Great Tits and Chaffinch but there was continual disturbance because there were so many people about as the afternoon had brightened up.  I will have to go back and check these areas again on a weekday.  I had noted some peanut strings around some tree branches at New Fancy View, so that car park is being baited too. 


22nd January 2011 – Ashleworth in the afternoon.  The were many duck and numerous Canada Geese on the Ham which has a lot of flood water on it.  A walk along Stank Lane I thought would be unproductive because I thought that the pheasant shooters had been up there.  I had seen a lot of four-wheeled drive vehicles passing the hide with a trailer with dead pheasants on it.  There were lots of tyre tracks in the mud up the lane giving the impression of many vehicles.  A small flock of Fieldfare with a few Redwings and Starlings were in a field to the side of the lane.  On Hasfield Ham there were 2 Mute Swans and 10 other swans in the far distance which I thought to be Bewick’s Swans.  I could not get any closer for a look with the binoculars because the top of Stank Lane was flooded.  I retreated to the hide and tried to get a positive identification with the scope but the light was failing fast and I was unsure of the sighting.  As I left the hide in the near dark, I heard them calling.  They were Bewick’s Swans.


21st January 2011 – Another dry day but with a little more cloud and still cold.  I walked from Lower Lydbrook again but this time along the other bank and followed the footpath which used to be the railway line towards Symonds Yat.  I didn’t see any Goosander today but there was a Fallow Deer on the hill on the other side of the river.  Generally it was quiet but there were dozens of Mallard on the river, a few Buzzards over and many Pheasants.  I did not see anything of the Peregrines as I passed below their breeding cliffs.  I passed the tunnel under Symonds Yat Rock and then climbed up to the viewpoint from further downstream.  It was very quiet up on top and no Peregrines were on view.  I had my lunch there accompanied by Great Tits, Robin, Coal Tits, Chaffinch and Nuthatch.  I returned the way I had come before taking a sloping track of the Wye Valley walk and returned to the railway track upstream of the tunnel.  Here I could hear a Tawny Owl hooting but no sign of the Peregrine.  Back by the big disused factory near Lower Lydbrook, a pair of Bullfinch were near the public footpath. 


20th January 2011 – Yet another fine and settled day with blue skies.  I walked from west of Lower Lydbrook, across the railway bridge and towards Symonds Yat along the far bank of the River Wye, finally going up the permissive path onto Coppet Hill.  3 Goosander (1 male) were very close on the river.  5 Buzzards were overhead together at one point.  At lunch below Yat Rock, a Sparrowhawk passed through.  Up the hill, I came across a very young Fallow Deer just off the path and I passed within 10 metres without it running away.  There were 43 Mute Swans in a field near Huntsham Bridge as seen from the hill.  Back down to the river and one of the Peregrines was in a tree near the eyrie cliff.  Another pair of Goosander were near the railway bridge on my return with the sun almost setting at 1630.


19th January 2011 – Another fine, sunny day.  I went to Slimbridge to try to get more bill pattern photographs.  I walked south along the canal again to look for any swans.  There were at least 500 Lapwing in the fields either side of the road nearest the Centre.  There were many more in field beyond which I noted when they flew up.  A female Kestrel was in the canal side trees.  I didn’t find any swans but I was not surprised as 2 hunts people rode down the lane and then turned down the track at the back of South Lake and proceded to the south of the reserve and then were lost from view.  Ice was still on the field and roadside puddles.  At the Centre, a Ruff was of note from the Zeiss Hide from where I could see at least 146 Bewick’s Swans on the river in the distance but many more must have been under the bank and out of sight. From that hide there were many Teal, Wigeon and Lapwing. 


18th Janauary 2011 – A fine, sunny, blue sky day.  I went to Symonds Yat and arrived at 1435.  Upon arrival, the two resident Peregrines were in the Ash Tree between the two eyrie cliffs.  They were gone by 1545 but must have been hunting because at 1600, they both returned and one had feathers in its talons which it removed and which floated away on the breeze.  There were many Buzzards soaring during the afternoon with a maximum of 7 at one time. 


17th January 2011 – A short visit to Ashleworth on a dull day with low cloud but with an occasional sunny interval.  There was more water there than on the 15th January.  Mallard/Teal/Wigeon were the main birds present with Pintail/Shoveler/Gadwall in smaller numbers.  3 Tufted Duck, unusual here, were also present.  There was a Buzzard on a pylon.  There was also much more water on Hasfield Ham where there were more birds including many Black-headed Gulls.  2 Mute Swans were on Ashleworth Ham and 2 were on Hasfield Ham where 14 Lapwing were in flight.  A Great Spotted Woodpecker was in the copse by the hide. 

          In the afternoon, I moved on to Slimbridge.  I walked south along the canal between 1400 and 1500 in search of Bewick’s Swans but I found none.  Back at the Centre there were 111 swans on the Tack Piece at 1530 and 15 on the Dumbles.  3 came off the river from under the near bank where I suspected that there were more.  I noted a Snipe from the Martin Smith Hide in exactly the same place as one had been on the 14th January.


16th January 2011- A very wet afternoon after an unexpectedly dry morning.  The local Buzzards were flying again this morning to confirm their reappearance first noted on 14th January.


15th January 2011 – A lunchtime visit to Ashleworth found much more water there than on Tuesday 11th January.  There was considerable water on Hasfield Ham as well.  There were very few waterfowl and what was present were well spaced out.  Teal, Mallard and Wigeon were the most numerous and also there were 1 Gadwall and 3 Tufted Duck.  Two Peregrines on the same bar of a pylon was unusual.  At Haw Bridge, the river level was 10.08m at 1430, this being very high.  I think that there could be a river flood later in the week. 


14th January 2011 – Slimbridge.  Another flush had taken place on this overcast day which gradually got brighter as the afternoon progressed.  47 Bewick’s Swans were on the Dumbles and 197 on the Tack Piece.  A Snipe, seen from the Martin Smith Hide was in the same place as yesterday. 

          At home at Longhope, I noted for the first time this year and the first time since the very cold weather that the local Buzzards have returned.  I had not had a sighting of them this year until today.


13th January 2011 – A short visit to Slimbridge.  A mild day with the temperature at 12 deg. C. at 1200.  Another flush had taken place in the morning and there were very few birds on Rushy Pen after lunch.  The Bewick’s Swans were on the Dumbles and the Tack Piece, 64 and 127 birds respectively at 1405  with only 10(4) on the Rushy Pen.  By 2100, 7mm of rain had fallen making a total of 16mm over two days.


11th January 2011 – A very quick visit to Ashleworth and the water level has risen since last night.  There were, however, far less birds present.

          I moved on to Slimbridge only to find again that there had been a flush of Rushy Pen.  I managed to get some more Bewick’s Swans bill pattern photographs as they came in to the lake later in the afternoon.  I did find 7 adult Bewick’s Swans on the Tack Piece at 1515 and 199 swans were on the Dumbles.


10th January 2011 – A quick visit to Ashleworth at 1615 to check the water levels and to see if any wild swans came in to roost.  The river at Haw Bridge was quite high and there was more water on Ashleworth Ham than on 8th January.  The duck were well scattered mainly around the perimeter of the water and were mainly Wigeon and Teal.  Just before my arrival it started to rain which got progressively heavy and by dark at 1700, it was torrential.  No swans came in to roost by 1700.


9th January 2011 – A bright, blue sky day but rather cold.  0 deg. C. at 0925 en route to Symonds Yat.  A particularly wanted to visit this site early in the year to see how the resident pair of Peregrines were faring  after the weeks of very cold weather.  I arrived at the view point at 1000.  Looking across towards the breeding cliffs at this time on a bright morning was looking almost into sun and difficult to pick out any detail.  However, at 1025, the apparent local pair were seen flying purposefully away from the cliffs and over Coppet Hill and then they interacted with another bird, by size, a male which was seen off.  Then 10 minutes later, the local pair were noted again flying purposefully over the flagpole and off towards The Doward and again appeared to see off another bird.  These interactions in the 35 or so minutes were great to see in that not only have the local pair come through the month or so of severe weather but are very active and defending their territory well in preparation for the breeding season.  

          Later in the afternoon, I went to Nagshead on my way home from Coleford.   Along the short trail it was nice to see a party of Long-tailed Tits and at Nagshead Lodge there were Chaffinches, Blue Tits, Great Tits, a Coal Tit and some Siskins near the garden which has feeders in it. 


8th January 2011 – Coombe Hill Canal 0915 to 1045.  It was bright, breezy and cool.  12 Mallard were on the canal and in the canal side bushes there were Dunnock and Bullfinch.  From the Grundon Hide, 1 juvenile White-fronted Goose with 82 Greylag Geese and 27 Canada Geese.  At least 29 Lapwing but there was almost certainly more hidden by the vegetation.  At least 1000 Wigeon and 50 Teal but they were very mobile around the scrapes and associated field and this is an underestimate.  2 Shelduck and 2(1) Mute Swans were also present.  A Grey Heron and 2 Cormorant completed the picture.  Back along the canal, Fieldfare and Redwing overflew.  There was still some ice on the canal where the bank side vegetation has been cleared on both sides to the footbridge.  There was no ice on the scrapes.

          Ashleworth 1105 to 1130.  More water noted than on 4th January and no ice today.  Duck numbers were 24 Mallard, 17 Gadwall, 6 Pintail, 36 Wigeon, 3 Shoveler, 88 Teal with Redwing and Fieldfare again overhead.  Almost certainly more duck were hidden in the vegetation.

          Slimbridge 1400 to 1615.  A flush had taken place on the Rushy Pen and when I arrived, there were very few birds on that lake.  I found the Lesser Scaup on the South Lake where there was also a redhead Smew.  I took the opportunity of taking more Bewick’s Swan bill pattern photographs in the bright conditions which were the best for quite a number of days.


7th January 2011 – A cold, wet and misty day.  However, the temperature started to climb in the evening and was almost 10 deg. C. by 2100, which was the highest for over a month.  A total of 7mm of rain recorded today.  At Nagshead between 1500 and 1530, it was very dark, cold, wet and foggy and apart from a couple of Blackbirds and a Jay around the short trail, I noted nothing else other than a fleeting glimpse of an unidentified bird on two occasions.  The conditions were dire really and this showed itself in the bird presence.


6th January 2011 – Slimbridge between 1245 and 1620.  It was overcast becoming brighter.  It was cool with the temperature at about 3 deg. C. all day.  Rushy Pen was empty apart from a few Mallard and Coot with 3 Mute Swans because of some essential work which had to be carried out in the morning and which unavoidably caused a disturbance.  I went up the Sloane Tower to locate the Bewick’s Swans and discovered that the majority were either were on the Dumbles or on the river sandbanks.  I walked down the canal and in the roadside fields before the canal, I noted a Song Thrush together with just a few Redwing.  There were many Lapwing on one of the canalside fields and down near the South Finger hide, the remaining Bewicks’ Swans numbering 59(14).  A Little Grebe was on the canal and a Kestrel was overflying the swans.  Back at the Centre at 1600 for the feed, a small number of birds had returned to the Rushy Pen including the long staying Pink-footed Goose.


5th January 2011 – It was a very wet start to the day with 4mm of rain by noon.  By early afternoon it was very dark but brightened up later and stopped raining.  I had a quick trip to Nagshead RSPB Reserve, walking up from the stone works at Cannop.  Here a Nuthatch flew over with food.  At short way up the Bixslade Tramway there were 3 Fallow Deer.  Towards dusk, a light mist came down.


4th January 2011 – It was too cloudy to see the partial eclipse of the sun at dawn.  I called in at Minsterworth on my way to Ashleworth and Slimbridge.  In a field just a few hundred metres south of the A40/A48 junction there were two adult Whooper Swans and a cygnet and two adult Mute Swans.

          At 1115, I was at Ashleworth and the sun was beginning to come out.  All of the water is still frozen except for a small portion in a field two back from the road.  I could hear Wigeon but initially I could not see them but with a bit of careful scanning, I picked up one or two with a Teal or two behind thick vegetation which precluded an exact count.  A small Chaffinch flock passed through, numbering 7 birds and Long-tailed Tits with Blue Tits were in the hedgerow near the hide.  Above this, a Peregrine was chasing a Carrion Crow.

          At Slimbridge in the afternoon, it was much more overcast.  On South Lake, there were several Gadwall among the Tufted Duck.  There was also plenty of ice but some free water.  On Rushy Pen, there were a lot of birds.  The most interesting and the most educational was the appearance of the Lesser Scaup, a bird very like it alongside accompanied by a female Tufted Duck and a Greater Scaup.  The lookalike Lesser Scaup had a black band across the tip of the bill, had a dark eye and the head shape was subtly different and not quite right but at a glance it gave the impression of a Scaup.  At the Zeiss Hide, there was a lot of ice but there were some Teal and Wigeon.  At the Holden Tower at 1500 it was very quiet but on the Tack Piece there were many Wigeon, making like a slow moving carpet on the field. No White-fronted Geese were seen today.


3rd January 2011 – I went to Speech House today to attend the rally to prevent the Forest of Dean being sold off to private enterprise.  First, I went to Woorgreens Lake but as expected it was frozen over.  A small party of tits appeared with some Goldfinches.  They were mostly Blue Tits and they spent time out of sight in the rushes at the edge of the ice foraging whereas the finches remained in the trees.  Speech House Lake was, unsurprisingly, also frozen over.  I would guess that these lakes have been like this since the beginning of December 2010 such has been the severity of the cold.  The Met Office has announced that December was the coldest for 100 years!  Around 1115 a fine and very light granular snow/sleet began to fall and by 1400, more fluffy snow was in evidence.  There was a very light dusting of snow by dark and the temperature hovered around 0 deg. C. all day. 

          Nagshead between 1600 and 1630 around the short trail was very quiet apart from a Long-tailed Tit flock not far from the information centre and the calls of Blackbirds going to roost on a very dark late afternoon, made somewhat magical by the ectremely light covering of snow, the roads being unaffected.


2nd January 2011 – Ashleworth 1150 to 1220. Still overcast and at 2 deg. C. it was a cool morning.  There was still some ice on the scrape but two of the surrounding fields were quite wet and apparently ice free.  On the field behind the scrape there were about 100 duck of 3 species, Mallard, Teal and Wigeon but it was not possible to make a count as many were hidden by vegetation.  A Cormorant overflew as did 3 Mute Swans.  A flock of Long-tailed Tits were near the hide. 

          Slimbridge, 1335 to 1620.  A slightly brighter afternoon but not as light as forcast.  Nevertheless, I covered part of the reserve.  There is a large number of Wigeon present and which have returned after the big freeze of December.  There appeared to be more Bewick’s Swans present too.  I had a count at 1530 of 200 birds with more arriving as the feed approached.  On the Rushy Pen among the myriad of birds, there was at least one Greater Scaup and one much rarer Lesser Scaup, the latter showing very close to the hide near the binocular shop. 

          Out from the Robbie Garnett hide there were at least 480 White-fronted Geese in the far distance of the Tack Piece.  One had a neck collar which was difficult to read but it may have been H-YU on a very dark background.  I will have to try to find it again in better light and at closer range to confirm the details. A Peregrine oversaw the field from the top of the oaks to the north and by contrast, almost under the hide, a Water Rail ambled by and then flew. 


1st January 2011 - Happy New Year.

          It was an overcast opening day to the new year at Longhope at 0715 and the temperature was only 5 deg. C.  The first bird of the year was a Tawny Owl heard calling near the house. 

I went to Strumble Head in Pembrokeshire.  Near the end of the M4 motorway, a Red Kite sailed over. Once inside the county, there appeared to be many, small Starling flocks foraging at the roadsides.  They were not particularly disturbed as the traffic was very light.  At the Flagpoles car park in Goodwick, I scanned the beach and harbour.  Singles of Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Turnstone, Redshank, Curlew and Turnstone were accompanied by the usual multitude of Black-headed Gulls and Herring Gulls and a few Great Black-backed Gulls with several Oystercatchers roaming the beach. On the water was a sole Great Crested Grebe.  

I moved on to Strumble Head.  Upon arrival, I immediately was alerted to a Black-throated Diver which was flying past.  I recorded several dense flocks of gulls loafing on the surface and feeding steadily.  Many of these were Kittiwakes.  There were plenty of auks, Razorbills and Guillemots but mainly the former were also passing frequently.  Two pairs of Common Scoter passed to the west and surprisingly at this time of year there were several Gannets in evidence.  I walked to Portsychan Beach and back up the farm tracks to the road where I found the usual resident House Sparrows.  It is always great to see this species which appear to be in a deep decline.  A few Redwings were in the field behind the farm.

Back at Strumble Head, I joined Seawatch for the new years day Porpoise Watch.  See the cetacean page. 42 species noted today.





Back to the top