Diary – January to March 2012

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29th March 2012 – Yet another sunny day with not a cloud in the sky.  Maximum temperature today was 21 deg. C.   There were 7 Snow Geese flying around at Slimbridge at lunchtime.  They then spent most of the afternoon on the Tack Piece.  I spent an hour at Mid Point but it was fairly quiet there with just a single Redshank and Little Egret along with a number of  Curlew and that was the sum total of the waders on the river.  On the Rushy Pen in the late afternoon, there were two Black-headed Gulls with white darvics, the lettering being 21J5 and 2P73.


28th March 2012 – The sunny and warm weather continues with the maximum temperature being highest of the last few days at 22 deg. C.  I went to Brierley to try to find Willow Tit as this is a known area for them.  Blackcap and Chiffchaff were singing near the car park and other of the latter were at several places down the track towards the electicity poles.  Sparrowhawk, Goshawk and Raven were overhead as were several Buzzards.  Great Tit, Blue Tit, Coal Tit and Long-tailed Tit were along this trail too.  I then heard a Willow Tit but could not see it but when I returned, I heard it again and then it showed really well in  a small tree at the side of the path.  A deer species ran off in the trees but  I only glimpsed it and could not identify it for certain.  Butterflies on the wing here were Brimstone, Peacock, Comma and a ‘White’.

          I moved on to Nagshead where it was quiet but there was an Owl calling in the distance at about 1415.  A Nuthatch was of note and a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming with the loudest resonance that I have ever heard from this species. 


27th March 2012 – Another warm and sunny day and a slightly lower maximum temperature of 19 deg. C.  I went to Ashleworth after lunch….. 

          New butterflies for the year on the wing today at various places included Orange-Tip and Small White with Brimstone also noted.  Orange-Tip, Peacock and Comma were in my garden tonight and bats were flying around the oak trees at 1945 with a Song Thrush in full voice. 


26th March 2012 – Another warm and sunny day and the temperature maximum was 20 deg. C. again.  I went to Symonds Yat between 1320 and 1620.  I had very good close views of Goshawk three times and several views of the local Peregrines in flight and perched up.  A Kingfisher appears to be inspecting a prospective nest site below the viewpoint and a Buzzard appears to be nesting in the area too. 


25th March 2012 – Another warm and sunny day with a maximum temperature of 20 deg. C.


24th March 2012 – I walked some fields to the south of Devizes today.  It was warm and sunny and Chiffchaffs were singing everywhere and there were a number of butterflies on the wing too including Red Admiral, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and a ‘White’. Max. temperature in Gloucester was 18 deg. C.


22nd March 2012 – I went to Ashleworth again today which was sunny and warm.  From the hide just after lunchtime there were 1 Grey Heron, 18 Wigeon, 27 Teal, 6 Mallard, 2 Coot, 3(1) Mute Swan and 4 Lapwing.  These comprised two pairs with one to the north of the hide and another pair to the south on the wet field.  Conditions in this area in front of the hide look absolutely fine for their breeding.  Also present were 3 Black-headed Gull, a Little Grebe was heard and the Chiffchaff was singing again in the copse behind the hide.  Along Stank Lane, there was another Chiffchaff singing as was a Skylark in the air.  A Peacock butterfly was along the verge of the lane and on Hasfield Ham there were the 2 usual Mute Swans and 2 Curlew in the field with the pylon to the south of the lane.  This field still has some standing water in the middle of it but without a source of water to run into this field the area will dry up very soon if there is not some rain.  A Hare was near the Stank Lane junction and a Red Kite flew over the eastern end of Stank Lane and continued to the north east. 


21st March 2012 – I had a short walk up the Gloucestershire Way from the Stoneworks at Cannop.  A Chiffchaff was singing near the barrier to Bixslade Valley.


20th March 2012 – A visit to Ashleworth on a fine day.  I walked up Stank Lane where a pair of Linnets was unusual and a Comma Butterfly was also present in the warmth.  I then walked up river to Haw Bridge where I found a Kingfisher just to the east along the causeway.  The river at Haw Bridge is low at 6.6m because of lack of recent rain.  When I had returned to the hide after lunch, I found a Chiffchaff in full song in the copse behind the hide.  8 Mute Swans were present and about 100 duck. 


19th March 2012 – A beautiful sunny day and the first Brimstone butterfly of the year flew through my garden at Longhope and this was also a first for the garden.  Also in the garden and on the move a little bit were many Ladybirds and most of them were of the 7-spot species. 

          I spent an hour or so at Symonds Yat just after lunch.  There were 10 Buzzards in the air at one time and the two resident Peregrines were perched up for a while before both took to the air, one thermally up on high for a while and eventually I lost sight of them.  They will be laying eggs any time now. 


18th March 2012 – Late this afternoon, I walked up the Gloucestershire Way from the Stoneworks at Cannop to the Information Centre at Nagshead and then returned.  There appeared to be Grey Squirrels everywhere today.  Other birds of note were a few Redwings still passing through and 7 Fallow Deer which ran off on my return down the Way to the Bixslade Tramway. 


17th March 2012 – It was an overcast day with some sunny periods but there was a period of heavy rain at about 1700 for an hour which produced about 5mm for period.  In the afternoon, I spent some time at Ashleworth and I walked Stank Lane again.  This was a quiet walk but from the hide, there is still some water and a few birds, specifically 99 Wigeon, 40 Teal, 3 Shoveler, 2 Gadwall and one injured Canada Goose.  There were also 7 Mute Swans and 3 Black-headed Gulls, one of which had a white darvic ring but it was too far away to read.  Other birds included 1 Kestrel, 4 Lapwing, 1 Grey Heron, 5 Coot and 2 Pintail. 


16th March 2012 – In the afternoon which was cool, I went for a walk over May Hill from the car park to the west.  There were low flying Ravens, a Meadow Pipit which was a first for the year for me and singing Song Thrush (near the car park), Mistle Thrush and 3 Buzzards in the air together. 


15th March 2012 – Another misty start to the day as it has been for 3 mornings.  I went to Slimbridge in the afternoon.  To the south of Gloucester, a Green Woodpecker flew over the road which was a first for the year.  I had had a report that the last Bewick’s Swan had departed in the last day or so and although I did an extensive search, I could not find any Bewick’s Swans or White-fronted Geese as expected.  The wintering Lesser Scaup was still on the Rushy Pen as was a Grey Wagtail. 


13th March 2012 – A foggy start to the day but it cleared towards the middle of the day when the temperature was 8 deg. C. at 1200.  I went to Ashleworth after lunch and walked Stank Lane.  On a ploughed and rolled field near Colways Farm, there were at least 35 Pied Wagtails which were being watched by a Sparrowhawk which was perched on the far side of a nearby hedge but from where it could see over the hedge and scan the fields.  Along Stank Lane there was a mixed flock of Starlings and Fieldfares.  This has been the best winter for winter thrushes that I have ever known in as much as they have been seen on just about every field trip that I have made this season.  There were no Redwings today.  From the hide, there were 7 Mute Swans including the individual with an orange darvic ‘40C’, 1 Canada Goose, 2 Greylag Geese, 220 Wigeon, 60 Teal, 6 Shoveler, 2 Mallard and 1 Pintail with a number of Coot and Lapwing present too.  The water level seems to have stabilised after the recent decrease in level. 


11th March 2012 – A suuny and warm day heralded a feast of Goshawks.  One was flying over my house in Longhope early in the morning which was a new species for the house list.

 I went to Brierley just before lunchtime and there was another overflying the forest.  Siskin and Brambling were of note too.

 I then went on to New Fancy View which is a traditional site for viewing raptors and it didn’t disappoint.  There were one or two sightings in the distance as usual.  However, just as I was about to leave at 1430, there was the sound of rushing air which was being made by a Sparrowhawk which came over from behind me to my right, pulled up sharply which increased the loudness of the rushing air, rolled off the top of the climb and plunged down into the conifer trees immediately in front of the viewpoint.  There was much flapping within the trees and a Woodpigeon flew out to the left but behind the trees but there was continued flapping.  Suddenly, I was aware of a bird dropping vertically at speed behind the trees but I only glimpsed this action.  A few seconds later a Goshawk flew out of the tree and over my head and away behind me all at about 30m distance.  What had happened is that a Sparrowhawk had initially plunged into the trees and caught a Woodpigeon and this had been seen by a Goshawk which must have been soaring high overhead.  It then dived down at speed to try to either rob the Sparrowhawk or get another pigeon.  This it had failed to do and flew out leaving the Sparrowhawk presumably on its kill as I did not see the Sparrowhawk again.   Very close, fast action.

 I went  to a friends house near Coleford after this and saw another Goshawk over the forest near Milkwall.


10th March 2012 – Just after lunch I went to Ashleworth and noted that the water has receded a little bit more since last Saturday 3rd March.  It was a pleasant warm day with the temperature reaching 18 deg. C.  There were at least 121 Lapwing in front of the hide and there are still a number of duck present, predominantly Wigeon, Teal and Shoveler.  There were a few Fieldfare in Stank Lane. 


9th March 2012 – I made a visit to the Peregrine watch point at Symonds Yat on a cloudy but dry day.  I stayed for an hour and a half in the afternoon and during the whole time the two resident Peregrines were perched up near the right hand cliff face.  A Goshawk was soaring over Coppitt Hill just as I was about to leave and throughout my stay a number of Buzzards could be seen soaring in different areas from the viewpoint.  At least 18 Fallow Deer were on a hill to the north.


8th March 2012 – Slimbridge.  Today on a dry and partially sunny day, there were only 10 Bewick’s Swans which have not left on migration.  There were also fewer White-fronted Geese than on 6th March but I did manage to find one of the orange-billed birds. 


7th March 2012 – A visit to Goldcliff Lagoons and Newport Wetland Centre on a day which started off with rain but which cleared to give a reasonable nice day with sunny periods.  It was quite blustery but at the former site there were at least 10 Avocets which was the highlight of the visit.  At the latter site, the highlight  there was a Bittern seen in flight twice. 


6th March 2012 – I went again to Slimbridge to assess the numbers of the Bewick’s Swans on a beautiful, spring-like day.  Last night seemed to be ideal for migration with a light south westerly tail wind and a beautiful moonlit night.  There were still at least 47 birds present with 33 on the Rushy Pen and 14 on the Tack Piece where there were also 115 White-fronted Geese.  The swans yesterday were quite active, flying around a lot but today many were sleeping and this evening still looks good for migration so we will have to see if they go overnight.  On the Rushy Pen, the Lesser Scaup was still present and there was yet another Black-headed Gull with a white darvic, 2D36.  I have reported this one too.  Of the White-fronted Geese there were two juveniles with orange bills which I took to be young Greenland White-fronted Geese which have wandered in their first winter.  However, it seems that these are European White-fronted Geese which have been at Slimbridge all winter and which have orange bills.  There is literature on the net that describe such birds. 


5th March 2012 – I went to Slimbridge to see if there were any Bewick’s Swans remaining.  I, firstly, went to The Moors but there were none there.  At Slimbridge Centre, there were 6 swans on the Rushy Pen and 50 on the Tack Piece so I was pleasantly surprised that there were still a good number present.  There were also 149 White-fronted Geese on the Tack Piece.  Amazingly, there were 6 Black-headed Gulls with white darvics today.  The codes on the rings were 21J5, 2E62, 2P33, 2P73, 2N21 and J0J5, the latter bird being ringed in Norway.  I have reported all of these sightings and will await the details. 


3rd March 2012 – Ashleworth after lunch showed a similar distribution of birds to recent visits.  However, there were over 200 Black-headed Gulls on the water in front of the hide but  the water level has receded quite considerably since last Tuesday, 28th February.  The waterfowl are well distributed.  The highlight of the afternoon was of a Red Kite which drifted over to the west and gave long and close views.  Stank Lane was very quiet. 


1st March 2012 – A group of Siskins were noted in the woodland just off Lambsquay Road, Milkwall, Coleford.


29th February 2012 – I did another count of the Bewick’s Swans in the Slimbridge area again.  At The Moors there were 2 swans and at the Centre, the numbers were 24 on the Rushy Pen, 18 on the Tack Piece and none on the Dumbles.  The rest, 40 were on the river so the total today was 84.  Some of the swans may well have been hidden by the bank of the river and since 111 birds were reported on site this morning, I don’t think any have migrated especially as the weather overnight was again slightly misty and with low cloud.  176 White-fronted Geese were on the Dumbles, this being a similar number to two days ago and few if any of this species have departed.  On the Rushy Pen, a Black-headed Gull with a white darvic ‘2P73’ was present.


28th February 2012 – I went to Ashleworth on a dull and overcast day.  It was mild again with the temperature at 1300 being 11 deg. C.  A Skylark was flying over Hasfield Ham as seen from Stank Lane.  It was singing from aloft but half heartedly.  There is still plenty of water on Ashleworth Ham and the ducks are well spread out and a good number of Lapwing were on the field opposite Colways Farm.  A small number of Black-headed  Gulls were on the water in front of the hide.

          I moved on to do a Bewick’s Swan count in the Slimbridge area again.  There were no swans on The Moors but at the Centre, there were 31 on the Rushy Pen, 86 on the Tack Piece but none on the Dumbles, totalling 117 birds compared to the 124 yesterday.  The night was overcast, slightly misty and with low cloud so I doubt if any have left on migration.


27th February 2012   I did a count of the Bewick’s Swans in the Slimbridge area.  2 on The Moors, 16 on the Rushy Pen, 104 on the Tack Piece and 2 on the Dumbles which totals 124 possible birds.  186 White-fronted Geese were on the Tack Piece including a neck collared bird – black ‘M-YU’. 


26th February 2012 – Another nice day and I did a walk in the Forest of Dean.  Of note was frog spawn in some ditches.


25th February 2012 – A nice, sunny and mild day again.  This morning I went to the Symonds Yat area and had a look in 6 caves.  In one cave there were 4 Lesser Horseshoe Bats and this species were also noted in other caves.  A Herald Moth was deep underground too and there were many spiders of varying sizes. 


24th February 2012 – I went to WWT Slimbridge today but first called in at The Moors to see if there were any Bewick’s Swans present. I found 31(2) swans and none of them had a leg ring.  At the Centre, I found 268 White-fronted Geese on the Dumbles, 168(31) Bewick’s Swans on the Tack Piece.  These numbers indicate that hardly any of these species have left yet on migration.  This may well change in the next day or so with mild conditions, favourable winds and a good daylength, all positive for migration.  There was a Water Rail under the feeders near the Robbie Garnett Hide.  I noted a Black-headed Gull with a white darvic ‘2P33’ on the Rushy Pen which I have reported before. 


23rd February 2012 – In the afternoon, I had a walk at Nagshead RSPB Reserve.  At the Nursery Pond there were at least 160 frogs/toads and lots of spawn.  The very mild day with temperatures of over 14 deg C. and the sunshine was obviously good conditions for this.  Along the short trail, there was pollen blowing off a yew tree in great clouds. 


22nd February 2012 – Another visit to Slimbridge on a damp and overcast day.  I first went to The Moors at 1230 where there were 40(2) Bewick’s Swans present and these included two families of one cygnet.  Later at the WWT Centre, there were, at 1425, 37(7) Bewick’s Swans on the Dumbles and a further 109(20) on the Tack Piece.  I don’t think that many have migrated yet whereas there were very few White-fronted Geese to be found.  The Lesser Scaup was on the Rushy Pen at the afternoon feed.


20th February 2012 – A visit to WWT Slimbridge.  There is still nearly all of the Bewick’s Swans still present but they will be migrating any day now.  Firstly, I went to The Moors, just down the road from the Centre to check for Bewick’s Swans which were thought to be spending some of the daylight hours there.  The trip was fruitful in that I found 51(3) swans which included a family of two and a family of one cygnet.  I moved on to the Centre and went to the Zeiss Hide where there were still plenty of duck species, mainly Wigeon.  An Egyptian Goose was on the seawall along with a number of White-fronted Geese. Back on the Rushy Pen, there was a number of Bewick’s Swans which had come in for the feed although many of them were landing on the Tack Piece.  This is a little bit of restless behaviour and which is a sign of migration being imminent. 


19th February 2012 – A day with good spells of sunshine but rather cold.  I went to Rhiwderin to the north of Newport to try to find the reported Common Yellowthroat.  I arrived at about 1100 and walked up the hill and joined many people who were watching a large bramble patch.  After a while, the bird showed for a few seconds and moved towards some more mature trees.  A little while later it came back and then almost immediately moved back to the patch where I first saw it.  Then perhaps half an hour later it flew across a lane and into a hedgerow where it showed several times but for only a few seconds.  Then, finally, it flew towards the crowd and dropped into the far side of the hedge on the far side of the lane.  During the hour, I had had quite a number of views albeit all quite brief but nevertheless I was able to see all of its markings.  A good day.

          I moved on to Wentwood Forest where there appeared to be a number of Crossbills and surprisingly a Dor Beetle was on one of the tracks. 


18th February 2012 – A Saturday visit to Ashleworth.  From the hide at 1400 in some rain, there were similar numbers to my visit of 14th February.  The species which were most numerous were Wigeon and Teal.  There were quite a number of  Coot, a few Shoveler and very few Pintail.  There were several Black-headed Gulls, two of which had full brown heads.  In front of Colways Farm there were about 600 Lapwing and along Stank Lane there were several small flocks of Fieldfare and Redwing.  From about 1400, the rain stopped and the sun came out as the weather front passed. 


16th February 2012 – A day at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust at Welney on the Ouse Washes.  The aim was to read rings on the winter swans and to do some flock counts.  On my way in, I came across several small flocks of swans around Upwell Fen, to the north west of Manea and again to the west of Stonea.  Again, I found three small flocks to the west of Welney village itself.  These comprised three distinct flocks separated by about 200m or so.  Later in the day, while motoring across Hilgay Fen to the north east of the Centre, I found two more small flocks quite close together.  I managed to read two rings near Welney and 25 other rings at the Centre.  As with my recent trip to Martin Mere in Lancashire, I found 2 rings which had worked their way above the leg joint.  This used to be unusual but seems to be happening  more often now.  Also of note here on the fens, there appeared to be many fields which have been ploughed.  Perhaps this is because this visit is a bit later in the winter than usual for me.  When I was leaving nearly at dusk, there was a Barn Owl just down the road from the Centre hunting along a watercourse and this bird caught a small mammal and eat it while I watched at about 20m distance. 

          Later in the evening at Eyebrook Reservoir, Leicestershire, I found a Badger ambling around the road which lines this waterbody which was another highlight of the day. 


15th February 2012 – A mild day with some sunny periods.  The temperature at 1600 was 10 deg. C.  I walked the short trail at Nagshead RSPB Reserve in the late afternoon.  Overall, it was very quiet but there were a number of SongThrush in the area as usual.  This reserve seems to be a stronghold for this species which has been reported nationally as in decline.  The sheep that are grazing the meadow as part of the management plan now have lambs for the first time this year.


14th February 2012 – En route to Ashleworth at about 1130, a Roe Deer crossed the A40 in front of me near Huntley.  I have now had several sightings of this species this winter especially at Ashleworth.  They have been noted at least twice in the Slimbridge area according to reports on the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust website.  There have also been more reports from Ashleworth according to the log book in the hide.  It seems that there is an upsurge in this species of late.  I have not logged this species at Ashleworth in the last 22 years.  At Ashleworth, the waterfowl numbers were about the same as 11th February but the birds are spread out more now that all of the ice has gone and there is much more open water.  There were at least 300 Lapwing in the field opposite Colways Farm this afternoon.  Stank Lane was quiet.


13th February 2012 – An overcast and mild day in the Cotswold Water Park.  The temperature was 8 deg. C. at 1100 and rain set in early in the afternoon.  At Pit 57 at 1200 there were Red-crested Pochard, many Coot and several Goldeneye and Goosander.  At least one Smew was on Pit 44 as seen through the hedge from the car park near Pit 57.  I moved on to Pit 74 and the rain became harder.  There were a lot of birds in the extensive open water (many lakes are fully frozen over).  At least 75 Gadwall were present and there were probably more as I was unable to see all of the lake.


12th February 2012 – A bright and much milder day.  The temperature was 6 deg. C. at 1430.  I went to Brierley between 1250 and 1410.  A mixed tit flock was in the general area to the east.  This comprised of Blue Tits, Great Tits, Coal Tits and Long-tailed Tits.  There was at least one Redpoll and one glorious male Siskin, looking brilliant in the full sunshine.  There were 2 Raven overhead but no sign of the local Willow Tits.


11th February 2012 – It was a very cold night and on the way to Ashleworth at 0800 it was -6 deg. C.  I arrived at 0820 to do the WeBS count.  There was even less open water than on 9th February and the birds were in two small groups.  The numbers were:- 5 Bewick’s Swans, 8 Mute Swans, 2 Black Swans, 285 Lapwing, 50 Coot, 450 Wigeon, 120 Teal, 10 Pintail, 6 Gadwall, 6 Shoveler, 1 Black-headed Gull, 2 Snipe and 5 Mallard.  I walked from the hide and up Stank Lane and then up river to Haw Bridge and back along the road.  I noted 3 different Hares, a Buzzard on a pylon and a Kestrel and Sparrowhawk in the area of Stank Lane.  There were a total of 7 Cormorant flying down river near to Haw Bridge.  In many of the riverside and roadside fields there were scattered flocks of Redwing and Fieldfare with some Song Thrushes and a few Lapwing.  It was a blue sky day all day and the temperature never got above 4 deg. C. and by 2100 it was already back down to -5 deg. C.


10th February 2012 – The icy drizzle that fell into the darkness yesterday had turned to snow overnight and a thin covering was present at dawn.  It continued to snow very lightly until about 1400 but it was thawing fast and the roads were clear by midmorning.  Siskin and Long-tailed Tits were coming to a neighbours feeder today.  This must be a result of this cold weather. 


9th February 2012 – Coombe Hill Canal.  Overcast and cold again.  The temperature at 0900 was only -1 deg. C.  There was no free water on the flood water at the Grundon Hide.  There were small flocks of Fieldfare on the watery meadows with some Pied Wagtails and a flock of about 30 Goldfinch.  As I approached the boardwalk I saw a Red Fox coming towards me along the path.  I stood by the end upright of the guide rail and remained motionless.  The fox came to within 30m but was suspicious of this ‘structure’.  It was occasionally leaping onto prey in the long grasses which line the canal and the parish drain but it seemed to have no luck in catching anything.  Eventually it diverted across the drain by walking on the ice and reappeared from under the boardwalk in the small field to the north of the path. It moved across this but when it was about 20m from me, it caught my scent from the northerly breeze and ran in a determined fashion into the withy bed.  I walked along the boardwalk and caught sight of it again for a few seconds before it was gone.  Upon my return to the car park at The Wharf, a Kestel was giving quite a flying display and 20 Mallard were on the free water at the end of the canal. 

          At Ashleworth, the scene was just about identical to yesterday with the same number of birds present and the same amount of ice present. 

          Back home at Longhope at about 1500, an icy drizzle began to fall.


8th February 2012 – Another cold and cloudy day.  At Ashleworth, the temperature hardly  rose above 0 deg. C. all day.  Just before noon the numbers of wildfowl in the much smaller patch of free water in front of the hide were 360 Wigeon, 5 Mute Swans including an orange ringed individual,’86A’ again.  There were also, 60 Coot, 4 Tufted Duck, 2 Shoveler, 2 Pintail, 9 Teal, 4 Black-headed Gulls, 5 Gadwall and 7 Lesser Black-backed Gulls came to bathe and then departed.  A Song Thrush was on the grass verge opposite the hide.  Amazingly at 1400, the was a Roe Deer grazing just beyond the flooded area.  Two sightings of this species in two days.  Further down the road were the two Black Swans  were with a single Greylag Goose.  I walked up Stank Lane to the river and then upstream to Haw Bridge and back to the hide via the road.  There were several fields with small flocks of Redwing and Fieldfare with some Song Thrushes and a Mistle Thrush.  Some of the fields held small numbers of Lapwing. 


7th February 2012 – A grey and cold day at Ashleworth with the temperature at 1300 only 2 deg. C.  There was much ice on the floodwater and all of the waterfowl were in the free water which was directly in front of  the hide.  The numbers were approximately 300 Wigeon, about 50 Lapwing and the same number of Coot, some Teal and a very few in number of Gadwall, Pintail, Shoveler and Mallard.  There were 7 Mute Swans including a resighting of an orange darvic ring of ‘Z27’ on one of them.  There were a further 2 Mute Swans near the rhine which crossed Stank Lane near the junction with Ham Road.  These are a resident pair.  The two Black Swans were in front of Colways Farm and a Grey Heron was also in that area.  When I returned from Stank Lane, a Common Snipe flew up from the pond at the gateway to Colways Farm.  Then, amazingly a single Roe Deer appeared to come from near the building of this farm.  It then ran down the field, through a gap in the hedge and crossed Ham Road before disappearing into the reserve. 


6th February 2012 – I had a walk around the Farmers Green area near Parkend and found a flock of Redpolls in the trees.  There was a slight low level mist amongst the trees on a very grey and cold day with some snow on the trails.    I walked up to Nagshead information centre area and then along the Gloucestershire Way to Cannop Ponds which were in some of this low level mist.  Back at Farmers Green, there was flock of 30 Redpolls in a lone birch tree near where the Great Grey Shrike was a few years ago.  Of more interest was a male Yellowhammer in another of the prominent young trees.   This bird flew off north and was followed by a probable second bird of this species.  An unusual sight in the middle of the forest. 

          Near the junction of the Bream Road in Parkend,  I saw the first lamb with the sheep in the Forest. 


5th February 2012 – A thaw seemed to set in late last night and continued this morning with the roads becoming clear. 


4th February 2012 – A bright early morning but it started to snow at about 1100 and then it became heavier after lunch and continued until after dark. 


3rd February 2012 – I walked up the River Wye from Ross-on-Wye today under a blue sky but it was a very cold day.  The temperature dropped down to -9 deg C. overnight.  74 Mute Swans  were near the bridge at Foy and just to the south of this footbridge there was a Tawny Owl perched in an old oak tree.  Further south near the tight bend in the river near the dismantled bridge, I found a Goosander pair and a flock of at least 20 Chaffinch was nearby.  I noted a Kingfisher in the same location on the river near the A40 bridge. 


2nd February 2012 – I went to WWT Slimbridge again to try to find the Bittern.  It was a very cold but blue sky day and most of the water was frozen.  Just as I arrived the bird slowly walked out of the reed bed and gave fantastic views very close to the hide.  It stayed in the sun for about 20 minutes and then again very slowly walked back into the reedbed.  I moved back to the Centre and took some more bill pattern photographs of the Bewick’s Swans for the research team.


31st January 2012 – I walked along Stank Lane after lunch and found 350 Lapwing on Hasfield Ham.  There was some free water when I looked at the Ham from the hide but there was much ice.  Wigeon, Teal, Pintail and Shoveler were on this water and the two Black Swans were in the field opposite Colways Farm. 

          I also found an amazing 105 dumped gas cylinders blocking the top of Stank Lane. I have reported this to the local council and have received an email detailing that they have taken pictures for evidence and an attempt at tracing the culprits and they have made arrangements to remove them.  The council have had to make special arrangements since because of the sheer volume of the cylinders. 


30th January 2012 – I spent some time in the Zeiss Hide at WWT Slimbridge to try to see the Bittern which has been widely reported.  Unfortunately I was unsuccessful in my efforts. 


29th January 2012 – I made a short visit to Brierley on a cloudy day after a cold night.  3 deg. C. at 1200.  A large flock of Siskin was in the area and some of the birds were coming low down in the trees and giving good views.  Several Crossbill were nearby too as were many tit species and a Great Spotted Woodpecker was near the parking area. 


28th January 2012 – A cold day with sunny intervals.  2 deg. C. at 0900.  I went to the Grundon Hide at Coombe Hill Canal.  The ducks were flying when I arrived because of disturbance by people walking along the public footpath across the meadows.  61 Greylag Geese and a flock of 60 Goldfinch were nearby and 350 Lapwing were in the air.  A female Blackcap was a good find near the car park at The Wharf. There were 2 unringed Mute Swans in the same area and this is the first time this year that I have seen them here. 

          At the hide at Ashleworth, 13 Gadwall were of note and a Lapwing flock were in the fields opposite Colways Farm.  A Barnacle Goose was with the Canada Goose flock and a single Tufted Duck was present.  2 Shelduck seemed to be the only birds on the small amount of water on Hasfield Ham.  A new Mute Swan was present with an orange ring ‘60A’.  A Peregrine was on the pylon and 2 Buzzards were in the vicinity. 


26th January 2012 – A showery morning with heavy rain in the afternoon and some very wet snow just after dark and then skies clearing to give a cold night.  I went in search of the reported Bittern at the Zeiss Hide at WWT Slimbridge in the afternoon but failed to find again.  At the Holden Tower there were 154 White-fronted Geese, split between the Dumbles and the Tack Piece.  There were 9 Bewick’s Swans on the Dumbles and a further 118 on the Tack Piece.  There were more on Rushy Pen but they were moving about and I did not get an exact total count.   The Tack Piece was golden in patches with a large number of Golden Plover on the ground.  There was a male Pochard with a lime green bill saddle on the scrape in front of the Robbie Garnett Hide with the characters D-KK which was a new bird for me. 


25th January 2012 – A short visit to Brierley in the Forest of Dean at lunchtime revealed a large flock of 70 birds high in the trees near the car park area and many of these birds were Brambling.  On the opposite side of the track again in the tops of the trees were at least 3 Hawfinch but 5 flew from the area later.  I noted 1 Siskin but more could be heard not far away but I could not locate them in the multitude of trees.


24th January 2012 – I went to Ashleworth just after lunch.  There were more birds there than of late, a great number of these being geese.  180 Canada Geese, 21 Greylag Geese and an escaped Bar-headed Goose.  This latter species suggests that many of these geese have come over from Coombe Hill Canal area since there was a specimen of this with the many geese there on 13th January.  There were 15 Mute Swans and the 2 Black Swans.  Careful scrutiny of these suggests that they are a pair.  One is bigger than the other and the head shapes are slightly different.  Among the duck there were 5 Tufted Duck, 4 Shoveler, 1 Pintail, 2 Gadwall and a number of Wigeon and Teal.  Lapwings were on Hasfield Ham and on the field opposite Colways Farm.  The total of this species appeared to be of the order of 500 birds. 


23rd January 2012 – At Martin Mere at lunchtime it was a little bit breezy and 7 deg. C. with the sun shining on and off.  I managed to read 52 Whooper Swan rings and found the only Bewick’s Swan on site.  There were quite a number of Ruff wading around the edge of the pond at swan feeding time.  At the nearby feeding station I was pleasantly surprised to find one Tree Sparrow and a female Brambling among many other birds including a great number of Chaffinch.  There was at least one Marsh Harrier over the reed beds with another possible on the ground near this area but a long way from the hide. 


22nd January 2012 – A day of sunny periods and mild.  In the afternoon, I walked the short trail at Nagshead at about 1600 but it was very quiet in the woodlands.


21st January 2012 – On the Marlborough Downs not far from Devizes, I came across a number of Yellowhammers and a Skylark singing from on high, this being the first for the year on a mild but blustery day.


18th January 2012 – A very fast and odd weather change overnight.  At 2300 the temperature was below freezing and there were ice crystals on the paths here in Longhope and I was looking down at fog in the valley.  At dawn it was mild and all of the frost had gone.  By 1300, it was 12 deg. C. I did not do a field trip today.


17th January 2012 – Very cold again today and at 0930 it was -1 deg. C.  I went to Coombe Hill Canal where it was overcast and cold.  There were not many birds present compared to dusk yesterday.  There was not very much open water after the freezing night and this may have caused many birds to depart.  There were 36 Pied Wagtails on the field on the opposite side of the frozen water to the towpath.  There were 58 Pintail on the water and a few Wigeon, Teal and Mallard.  There were also 2 Canada Geese and a few Greylag Geese.  I tried to get to the hide overlooking the Long Pool but I could not cross the water in the rhine in the last field to the south of the hide. 

          After lunch, I went to Ashleworth hide.  There were a few Wigeon, Teal, Pintail and Mallard.   There were also 15 Mute Swans and I managed to read the ring that I had failed to do on 14th January.  This was an orange darvic ‘Z27’.


16th January 2012 – At Coombe Hill Canal this afternoon to look again for the American Wigeon.  It was a blue sky day but very cold.  I spent an hour or so on the towpath scanning the flock of birds.  There were a great number but not such a diverse variety of species as 13th January.  A handful of Greylag Geese, 4 Mute Swans and the only duck species were Teal, Wigeon, Pintail and a few more Gadwall than of late.  Again I failed to find the American bird.


15th January 2012 – At Cannop Ponds in the Forest of Dean, I noted a Mute Swan with an orange darvic  ‘AAEJ’ which had an unringed mate and two unringed cygnets from last year still in attendance.  They were on the northern pond of the two.  Near the Stoneworks was a Grey Wagtail, a new species for the year. 


14th January 2012 – It was very cold overnight with the temperature at Ashleworth just after dawn at -5 deg. C.  Totals for the Wetland Bird Survey day were, 16 Mute Swan, 6 Black-headed Gull, 103 Mallard, 39 Teal, 22 Wigeon, but at least 100 arrived much later, 10 Shoveler, 2 Black Swan, 10 Pintail, 1 Grey Heron, 14 Canada, 1 Lapwing and 1 Snipe.  There were an additional 171 Lapwing in a field near Hasfield village.  The two Kestrel were perched up in the usual tree as seen from the hide  and Buzzard was the other raptor species present.  There was a good number of Fieldfare and Redwings in a field to the north of Stank Lane and in the lane hedgerows, there was at least one Bullfinch.  Later in front of the screen hide there were several Mute Swans and I was able to read a series of orange darvic rings – ‘39C’, ‘71C’, ‘40C’, ‘25A’,’V54’ and ‘86A’ again.  ‘40C’ and ‘71C’ appear to be a pair. 


13th January 2012 – I went to Coombe Hill Canal to look for the reported American Wigeon.  It was cold with frost on the grass but there was plenty of open water.  The bird species noted were, 7 Greylag/Canada Geese hybrids, Canada Geese, Greylag Geese, 1 Barnacle Goose, 1 escaped Bar-headed Goose, Pied Wagtail, Mute Swan, Teal, Wigeon, Pintail, Moorhen, Coot, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Black-headed Gull, Starling, Lapwing, Carrion Crow, Shelduct, Shoveler, Golden Plover, Grey Heron and Mallard but I did not find the American Wigeon. 

          At Ashleworth, the Ledbury Hunt were in the area and thus there was much disturbance.  Wigeon, Mallard, Pintail, Teal and Mute Swan were present in very few numbers.  A Black Swan was also there. 


12th January 2012 – I walked to Cannop Ponds from Nagshead and found at least 3 Little Grebe on the northern pond and at least 6 Mandarin Duck on the southern pond.  The males of this species are currently in tip top plumage condition.  A Siskin was near the stoneworks and a Great Spotted Woodpecker was on one of the feeders.  Of note around Nagshead reserve is that Wild Boar seem to be digging around the very decayed old tree stumps and one dead tree has fallen in the recent high winds but was helped on its way by some extensive digging around the base of the trunk.  I have not seen this activity before other than the usual turning over of the turf. 


11th January 2012 – At Symonds Yat this morning the two resident Peregrines were perched up.  Near the car park there was a large flock of Chaffinch with assorted tit species including Coal Tit and Marsh Tit.  Down in Parkend later there was a Sparrowhawk perched on a roadside grit bin.


10th January 2012 – A warm and a day of sunny periods at Ashleworth.  Very few duck were present and the water level was slightly higher than on 7th January.  On Hasfield Ham there were 9 Mute Swans and I found later 4 more in front of the hide.  80 Lapwing overflew Hasfield.  There was a small mixed flock of Redwing and Fieldfare along Ham Road.  Kestrel and Buzzard were the raptors seen and a Common Snipe flew over the floodwater near the hide later. 

          I went to Slimbridge to look for the reported Bittern but I did not see it.  There were, however, good numbers of Lapwing, Golden Plover, Dunlin, Wigeon and Teal.  I did note a Reed Bunting in the reeds.


9th January 2012 – Two pair of Goosander on the river in the middle of Hereford city centre.


8th January 2012 – 10(3) Bewick’s Swans at Walmore Common.  Also there were the 2 Whooper Swans and 5 Mute Swans.


7th January 2012 – When I stepped out of the house to go to Coombe Hill Canal this morning, I heard a Tawny Owl calling.  It was a day of sunny periods and at 1030 at the start of my walk at the canal it was 10 deg. C.  There were Bullfinches at two different points along the canal towpath.  As a few days ago, there is so much floodwater that it is not possible to get to the hide as the boardwalk is under water.  I walked on to view the water from the towpath.  The geese present included a good number of Greylag Geese, Canada Geese, a single Barnacle Goose, 3 Egyptian Geese and an escapee Bar-headed Goose.  There were at least 138 Pintail and numbers of Wigeon, Teal and Mallard.  Also there was a single Shoveler.  A few Redwing were flying around the canal towpath as I walked back.

          At Ashleworth, there were two highlights in my short visit between 1115 and 1135.  These were the arrival of 6 Tufted Duck which is an unusual species at this site.  A Red Admiral butterfly was an unseasonal first butterfly species of the year.  I called by again after lunch and was surprised to see a Mute Swan nest building. 


6th January 2012 – I went to Ross-on-Wye with the intention of walking up the river for a while but many of the riverside fields are extensively flooded and thus a walk was not possible.  A number of Black-headed Gulls and Common Gulls were on the floodwater and at the edge of the water there were a number of Redwing.  I was amazed to see, in a back street in the town, a mural with a number of Bewick’s/Whooper Swans painted on it. 


5th January 2012 – A very windy night.  I had a trip to Slimbridge as the winds very gradually subsided.  First I stopped at Walmore Common where in the distance there were 10(2) Bewick’s Swans, 2 Whooper Swans and 4 Mute Swans. 

          At Slimbridge, there were a large number of Teal sheltering near the hedge as seen from the Zeiss Hide.  On South Lake there were many Cormorants, a Great Crested Grebe, a Kingfisher and the female Pochard with the nasal saddle.  This bird had been ringed in France in May 2011 and had been seen at Blagdon Lake in Somerset this winter.  At the Robbie Garnett hide, there were a number of Pochard and Tufted Duck very close to the hide sheltering from the very strong wind.  Among these birds was the reported Lesser Scaup.  On the Tack Piece there were 40 Redshank no less, one Oystercatcher which is a very early bird and at least 3 Ruff. 


4th January 2012 – A Mistle Thrush at the car park end of Coombe Hill Canal was very vocal this morning.  I was unable to get to the hide as the boardwalk was under water and the meadows are flooded.  I viewed the area of the scrapes from the towpath.  There were 190 Greylag Goose and a large number of Canada Geese.  There were two Shoveler, 72 Pintail, some Teal and Mallard, and a good number of Wigeon.  Of the gulls there were 24 Black-headed Gull and a single Common Gull.  A Jay flew over the canal as I returned where there was a mixed tit flock which included a number of Long-tailed Tits. 

          At Ashleworth in the early afternoon, there were 50 Black-headed Gull, 5 Teal, 54 Mallard, 23 Wigeon, 4 Gadwall and 4 Pintail.  There were 3(2) Mute Swans and one of the first winter birds sported an orange plastic ring with the characters ‘86A’.


3rd January 2012 – A very wet and stormy morning which cleared through by midday.  I went down to Severn Beach to see if there had been any seabirds storm blow up the estuary.  Although a few Kittiwakes and a Fulmar had been reported, I did not see any but there were a good number of Turnstone and a Peregrine flew out over the river.

          It was very squally at Aust and with some very heavy short showers.  It was very quiet there in the poor conditions.

          I called in at WWT Slimbridge on my way back.  I had a quick look on the Tack Piece which has plenty of water on it and lots of birds which amounted to many hundreds into the thousands and there were at least 24 species on the ground.  Rushy Pen, too, looked good in the clear afternoon light. 


2nd January 2012 – A dry and sunny but cool day with the temperature at 4 deg. C. en route to Nagshead RSPB Reserve.  I walked from the car park down the Gloucestershire Way to Cannop Ponds.  Nuthatch and Treecreeper were the first birds that I noted on the lower part of the short trail.  A flock of Siskin overflew, calling near where the trail turns left.  At Cannop Ponds, the only duck were Mallard and the feeders at the stone works were empty probably because of the holidays.  All of the tracks are quite muddy and wet. 

          I moved on to Farmers Green where a Great Grey Shrike has been seen in previous years.  I did not expect to find one today and I didn’t.  The young birch trees here are growing up and I doubt whether the habitat is now suitable for a shrike.  I walked back to the car park and had lunch.

          I then moved down to the Lower Hide where there was a Kingfisher doing what it is supposed to do – fishing.  On the way back to the car park, I found several Bullfinch to end the day.


1st January 2012 – Happy New Year.

          A day at Strumble Head in Pembrokeshire.   At the start of my  journey it was 10 deg. C. at 0730 and clear patches.  The tide was in at the Flagpoles car park in Goodwick but there were a number of gulls, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull and a single Common Gull.  A Great Crested Grebe was on the sea and a number of Turnstone and Oystecatcher were on the remains of the beach. 

At the Head it was heavy rain showers and the wind was in the south and force 5-6 and decreasing throughout the day.  I did a short seawatch from 1205 to 1305.  There was a steady if light passage of auks and a few Kittiwakes passing by.  Surprisingly, there was also a number of Gannets passing, all but one being full adults.  After lunch, I walked about a mile up the coastal path to the east.  As I stepped off the road, I noted the first surprise of the year in the form of a Short-eared Owl over the site of the old coastguard station.  This moved off east and I saw what I assumed to the the same bird over a green field to the east of the station site.  When I came back, I attended the Sea Trust porpoise and dolphin watch at The Head between 1435 and 1545.  Several Common Porpoise were noted but it was difficult in the conditions with a sea state of 4-5.  Additionally, a Red-throated Diver passed and there were at least 3 more diver species noted.  26 species seen today.





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