Diary – January to March 2014

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31st March 2014 – I went to WWT Slimbridge to try to find the reported Hooded Crow from yesterday.  I went to the Holden Tower and found this bird to be on the flood defence to the south near the second pill box.  It was in deep vegetation but every few seconds it showed itself really well.  I then checked around the scrapes for waders and then checked through the goose flocks and found a Bean Goose which was a Taiga sub species.  I noted that it was with another bird which looked like a ‘funny’ Greylag with an all orange bill and a little bit of a white blaze.  Subsequent pictures from other people show that this bird has a black distal portion to the bill and is another Bean Goose.  I could not see this detail at the distant that I made the first find.  It appears that this subspecies has not been seen here since 1991 according to the annual bird reports.


30th March 2014 – On a walk around Nagshead RSPB Reserve, there were at least 2 singing Chiffchaff and then later at Cannop Ponds, I found a Kingfisher in the same place that I saw one yesterday. 


29th March 2014 - I had a walk on Crabtree Hill this morning.  At least one Chiffchaff was in fine song at the southern end and the Great Grey Shrike was still present.  A Goshawk in the distance was another first for the year for me and gave prolonged views. 

          At Nagshead RSPB Reserve it was a little quieter than I expected as far as song was concerned but all that will change very soon.  6 Fallow Deer were skylined near the old shooting chair near the Stoneworks.  At the ponds itself there was a Kingfisher in the south west corner and there was a Greylag Goose with a different darvic ring to that read on 15th March.  This one was white ‘F6C’.  Finally for today, at the middle car park, two Marsh Tits came through foraging as they went. 


28th March 2014 – A Grey Wagtail, a first for the year for me flew out of a rhine near the Stoneworks at Cannop as I passed by. 


24th March 2014 – I made an afternoon visit to WWT Slimbridge.  When I checked the Rushy Pen, 3 Sand Martins overflew to the east and a few minutes later, a Sparrowhawk flashed through.  From the Halfway Hide, a Red Kite could be seen in the distance.  It drifted off to the north east.  A single Little Stint was still on the scrape outside of the Holden Tower and 7 Golden Plover were on the Dumbles.  These were very smart birds in that several were in summer plumage which is a type not usually seen in this part of the world.  There were two Common Cranes on the Tack Piece and a great sight was of at least 4 House Sparrows at the feeding station at the new hide.  This is an uncommon species here and a reasonable scare species generally. Finally, I noted 3 Sand Martin from the Stephen Kirk hide which could have been the same three birds as seen earlier but then with a last look at the Rushy Pen, I saw five of this species.


23rd March 2014 – Two female Fallow Deer were ‘skylined’ on a ridge near the Gloucestershire Way near the Stoneworks at Cannop at dusk. 


21st March 2014 – I made a short visit to Symonds Yat Rock in the late afternoon.  The two resident Peregrines were perched up, one on a branch and another in one of the cliff holes.  On the other side of the river, there was a Fallow Deer buck, with grand antlers, sat in a clearing in the woodlands.


20th March 2014 – I made a return visit to WWT Slimbridge.  There were only 16 Redshanks on Rushy Pen and no sign of the Spotted Redshank.  Perhaps as mentioned yesterday some of these were passage birds and that they have moved on.  Also on the lake were two pairs of Avocets.  Two Little Egrets were in front of the Martin Smith hide.  The morning was a fine one but in the early afternoon, the cloud increased and rain started at 1500.  I was in the Holden Tower as the weather deteriorated and noted the 3 Little Stint near the scrape with 10 Dunlin.  However, I thought that the conditions might force any spring migrants down and sure enough, at least one Sand Martin flew through the scrape area but did not linger.  This was a first for the year. 


19th March 2014 – Today I went to WWT Slimbridge and on Rushy Pen there were 38 Redshank and a Spotted Redshank.  The latter was a first for the year for me and the only one that I have seen in the Severn Valley all winter.  The Common Redshanks nearly all spent a long time asleep.  They may be passage birds.  Also on the lake was a first summer Mediterranean Gull with a metal ring – ‘372579’ but I was unable to read the scheme.  I have sent the details to the BTO and to a scheme in Hungary since I was given information that the ring may have originated in Hungary.  From the Holden Tower, there were still 3 Little Stint and a pair of Common Cranes were wandering about on the Dumbles.  At South Lake there were good numbers of Black-tailed Godwits and at the back of the hide there was a singing Chiffchaff.  The gull and the Chiffchaff were new birds for me for the year too.  I checked the Big Pen for any wild Bewick’s Swans since there were 2 still there a few days ago but all I could find were 8 captive birds.  WWT state on their website that all of the birds have left on migration so the Bewick’s Swan project for the winter 2013/2014 has concluded.


18th March 2014 – I made a short visit to the ponds at Cannop late this afternoon.  There is normally a pair of Mute Swans and a few days ago there were still young from last year in the area.  Today I could only see one swan and that had an orange darvic ‘AAEJ’. 


16th March 2014 – I made an early visit to Crabtree Hill this morning and found the Great Grey Shrike still present and showing very well.  I actually walked under it when it was perched on the top of one of the trees on the middle path.  It appears very confiding when in a position like this but is far more wary when it is perched lower or on the top of a low bush.  Another bird which caught my eye was a Pipit species on the top of one of the tall conifers in the middle of the heath.  I could not get a good view and I suspect that it was a Meadow Pipit. 


15th March 2014 – At Crabtree Hill early this morning, the Great Grey Shrike was still present as was the male Stonechat.  On my way there I noted at least one Hawfinch and one Common Crossbill near Kensley Lodge.  Again, today there were several Linnets perched on the trees or the gorse on the hill.  Further on, there was a pair of Goosander on Woorgreens Lake as was a Greylag Goose with a white darvic ring and the letters ‘D6T’.  Also there were 2 Little Grebe.


14th March 2014 – There were at least 2 different Small Tortoiseshell butterflies on the river bank in Ross-on-Wye this afternoon.  There were probably more as they appeared in several places along the river.


13th March 2014 – At Nagshead RSPB Reserve there was a Redwing on the short trail and further north on the Glouestershire Way there were 3 adult Wild Boar and 14 boarlets.


12th March 2014 – It was foggy or misty all day today.


11th March 2014 – In the afternoon, I went to Crabtree Hill and found the Great Grey Shrike to be still present.  At the top of the hill I could hear a low warble but I could not pin down from where it was coming.  Eventually, I noted that it was coming from the Shrike.  The sound appears to be far carrying and carried on for some time.  I had heard a Willow Tit to the east and then later found one at the bottom of the tarmac road.  It was calling and singing and eventually I got it visual.  On the lake there were 2 Little Grebe and 3 female Goosander.


10th March 2014 – I made a short visit to Ashleworth.  There is some damage from the floods and there is still a lot of water in the fields but the roads are bone dry.  Of note was a high number of 33 Mute Swans on the Ham.

          I had to go south and called in at WWT Slimbridge where there are still 2 adult Bewick’s Swans present and they have joined the Mute Swan flock on Big Pen. There are much less in numbers of birds present with migration in full swing. 


9th March 2014 – On Crabtree Hill, the Great Grey Shrike was still present and on the gorse, Robin, Dunnock and Linnet.  A Small Tortoiseshell butterfly on top of the hill and a Brimstone at the bottom were both firsts for the year for me. 

          Another Brimstone was at Nagshead.

          Back at my home in Longhope, a third butterfly species in the form of a Peacock was noted.


8th March 2014 – A quick walk over May Hill this morning produced 18 species of bird.  On top of the hill, the Meadow Pipits were in display flight.


7th March 2014 – There were still 2 adult Bewick’s Swans on Rushy Pen at WWT Slimbridge this afternoon. There was at least 1 Little Stint in front of the Holden Tower and 25 White-fronted Geese on the Tack Piece by the side of the tower.  Also there was a Spoonbill, Little Egret and Grey Heron which appeared to going around together!  Today was probably the warmest day of the year so far.


6th March 2014 - I made a short afternoon visit to WWT Slimbridge.  I could not find any Bewick’s Swans although there had been a report of the two remaining adults.  While I was looking for these birds from the Holden Tower, a Spoonbill came to the scrape in front of the tower for a short while and nearby was another white bird, a Little Egret.  The White-fronted Geese had also been reported too but as with the swans I could not find them this afternoon.  At times, the visibility was very poor in driving rain.  As I have written recently, the number of birds have dropped again as migration is in full swing.


5th March 2014 – I walked over Crabtree Hill this afternoon and found the Great Grey Shrike, having not seen this bird for quite a few days.  A male Stonechat was also present.  Serridge Ridge was fairly quiet with just a few Chaffinches in the beech woodland.  At the southern end of Crabtree Hill there was a flock of at least 3 Brambling. 

At the car park on the Cannop Valley road between the two lakes, there were 2 Fallow Deer including a buck with beautiful antlers.  On a much smaller size, a tiny mammal was foraging in the grass near the car.  I suspect that it was a vole species. 

On my drive back, on two occasions, Fallow Deer ran across the main road in front of my car. 


4th March 2014 – There are still 9 Bewick’s Swans at Slimbridge but overall partly because of the mild weather, the birds have made their migration early this year.  In fact the overall numbers in the Severn Valley this winter has been lower than usual with many swans remaining on the continent and not moving their usual distance to the west.  At least 24 White-fronted Geese are also still present.  2 Little Stints near the scrape in front of the Holden Tower were of note.  Good flocks of Dunlin and Redshank were a good spectacle.


3rd March 2014 – I made another short afternoon visit to WWT Slimbridge.  There remains the 7(5) Bewick’s Swan.  Two adults without any cygnets were on the Top New Piece and the family of 4 with the additional lone cygnet were on the Rushy Pen until late afternoon when they flew out to the Tack Piece.  These remaining swans may leave this evening if the wind drops out and the sky remains clear.  I spent a short while in the Holden Tower and noted a good number of Dunlin and Redshank on both the Dumbles and the Tack Piece.  There were a few remaining White-fronted Geese on the Dumbles and to the south there was the resident flock of Barnacle Geese with which was the long staying Brent Goose.  Also on the edge of the Dumbles there was one of the resident Peregrines. There is still a lot of birds present but much reduced from the fantastic midwinter spectacle. 


2nd March 2014 – At Slimbridge today there were still 9 Bewick’s Swans.  Also of note were 3 Little Stints from the Holden Tower and a big flock of Common Gulls on the Dumbles.  A dull day with some drizzle at lunchtime became even worse by mid-afternoon with torrential rain.


1st March 2014 – I had a walk over Crabtree Hill on a sunny morning.  I noted at least one Mistle Thrush again and also a male Stonechat.  11 Fallow Deer were a large group. They all seemed to be female.  Later, I noted 6 more deer and these may have been part of the first herd.  Also of note was a Peregrine which overflew the top of the hill. 

28th February 2014 – A wet morning but the rain stopped at lunchtime.  I spent an hour on an overcast afternoon watching the garden and recorded 15 species in that time. 


27th February 2014 – Tonight at 2230 there was a faint pink glow of the northern lights over Longhope, the third time that I have seen this in this area since 1976.


26th February 2014 – I found my first butterfly of the year near Cannop Ponds today as a Red Admiral flew weakly past the car while I was having lunch.  At other points around the Forest today my highlights were at least 3 Two Barred Crossbills and a Stonechat.


25th February 2014 – I had some business at Churcham church today at lunchtime.  I knew that Whooper Swans had been seen in the area and a scan from the high point of the church car park provided 2 adults of this species which I was able to scope in the distance. 

          At Slimbridge, my total Bewick’s Swan count was a mere 31 individuals remaining now that migration is in full swing.  Other highlights of the afternoon visit were of two Little Stints in front of the Holden Tower and a large flock of Dunlin on the Tack Piece.  There still seemed to be a good number of White-fronted Geese present on the Dumbles.


24th February 2014 – A walk up and over Crabtree Hill proved to be a quiet one today but on Serridge Ridge, I did find at least 6 Common Crossbills and a number of Siskin.  The latter species seemed to be in several locations today.


23rd February 2014 – I made a short afternoon visit to WWT Slimbridge.  The total number of birds has dropped but I found 44 Bewick’s Swans and there are still a good number of White-fronted Geese.  There was a Brent Goose and a Bean Goose with this flock. A Reed Bunting from the Knott Hide was a highlight in the hedgerow and Common Cranes were of note on the Dumbles which were rather windswept today, and on the Rushy Pen.  The local Peregrine was perched up on the edge of the Dumbles later in the afternoon.


20th February 2014 – Further to my note of 17thFebruary there were still a good number of Siskins in the trees around my home along with, this time, at least one Lesser Redpoll. 

          I had a walk around Nagshead from the Stoneworks at Cannop in the afternoon but it was generally quiet in the woods.


19th February 2014 – I made yet another trip to WWT Slimbridge and did another count of the Bewick’s Swans and cygnets.  Although I found more than I did yesterday, there is still a shortfall in the total numbers and this reflects the reports of the spring migration commencing a few days ago.  It was a very mild day for the time of year with the temperature at 10 deg. C at 1115.  Also of note today was the good numbers of Redshank scattered around the Tack Piece and a Little Stint was around the main scrape in front of the Holden Tower.   There is still a lot of birds on the very wet fields around the Slimbridge area and it is still a great spectacle to see but the numbers of birds have fallen somewhat over the last few days and spring migration for just about all bird species, which do move, is underway. 


18th February 2014 – I went to WWT Slimbridge to get more flock data on the Bewick’s Swans.  There was a reduced number today and it seems that some birds have left on migration.  Once I had finished the counts, I had a look around and found the Bean Goose with the White-fronted Geese and the long staying Brent Goose was with the Barnacle Goose flock.  From the Knot Hide, there was a brilliantly coloured male Bullfinch in the hedge beyond the narrow reed bed.  This hedge very often harbours numbers of passerines and is well worth watching for a few minutes most days. 


17th February 2014 – It was another very wet day.  There were at least 15 Siskin in a tree outside my home today.  This is by far and away a record number of this species here.


15th February 2014 – Today was still very windy with the gusts slowly abating throughout the day.  I went to Ross-on-wye.  The river is over the banks and there is substantial damage to some trees. 


14th February 2014 – I made an afternoon visit to WWT Slimbridge and spent a few minutes in the Holden Tower.  Among the many birds on the Dumbles were the Bean Goose with the White-fronted Goose flock and a Brent Goose with the Barnacle flock. It was another windy day with the winds increasing as the day went by and, just after feed time on the Rushy Pen, there were over 1000 Lapwing which was an usual sight.  There were presumably sheltering from the wind.


13th February 2014 – During a walk at RSPB Nagshead at dusk, I came across a Dor Beetle making its way very slowly along the trail.  An unusual sighting in February and particularly so when there was a snow flurry earlier in the day and ice crystals were still on the nearby grass.


11th February 2014 – Today marked the 50th anniversary of the start of the Bewick’s Swan bill pattern research and associated projects.  It was on the Rushy Pen on 11th February 1964 that Peter Scott first noted the difference between a Bewick’s Swan which visited the lake on this day and the one swan which had appeared for the first time the day before.  He drew the bill patterns and this has been done for all of the swans that have visited Slimbridge since.

I made another visit to Slimbridge for more Bewick’s Swan flock data.  After I had finished this at the Holden Tower, I was able to find the reported Bean Goose in among the White-fronted Geese.  Later when I had returned to the Rushy Pen at feeding time, I found a female Greater Scaup on this pond.  It was a fine end to the day. 


9th February 2014 – I returned to Slimbridge to gather more Bewick’s Swan data.  The Glaucous Gull was still present and in the blustery conditions a Gannet and Guillemot were seen from the Holden Tower on the river.


8th February 2014 – I went to Slimbridge again to get some more Bewick’s Swan flock counts and managed to catch up with the reported Glaucous Gull from the Holden Tower as it rested on the edge of the river.


7th February 2014 – I had a walk over Crabtree Hill and found the Great Grey Shrike again.  It was near the top of the hill over towards the Gloucestershire Way.  It occasionally dropped over the ‘ridge’ of brash and out of sight but soon returned. It was quiet with no new food prints in the mud on the middle path and I was able to watch this bird for 55 minutes until I returned towards Kensley Lodge where I found a Hawfinch at the top of a tall tree.

          Over at Nagshead RSPB Reserve, I found a Hawfinch along the short trail as I returned towards the Stoneworks.


4th February 2014 – I was in Ross-on-Wye this lunchtime and noted 2 female Goosander on the River Wye in the town area. 


2nd February 2014 – I helped out again on the second day of the Festival of Birds at Slimbridge.  I arrived early and went to the Holden Tower for 0930 where the very high tide eventually came over the Dumbles and almost covered the cattle drinking trough just beyond the flood defence.  It was a sight that is not seen very often.


1st February 2014 – I was helping at the Festival of Birds at Slimbridge today so did not have much time for a round of the hides but of note was an increase in the number of Pochards on Rushy Pen.  This was the biggest number that I have seen so far in this mild winter.


30th January 2014 – In the near dark at about 1700, two groups of two Fallow Deer were roaming Crabtree Hill in the Forest of Dean. 


29th January 2014 – Siskins were in a neighbour’s garden today.


28th January 2014 – Snowdrops are out in my neighbour’s garden.  Spring will not be far away! 

          Several days ago the total rainfall exceeded that for any month in the last twelve.  It really has been a very wet few weeks.


25th January 2014 – I took part in the ‘Big Garden Birdwatch’ which is an RSPB project.  My hour of observation of the garden started at 1330 in windy but dry weather.  With 16 minutes to go a fine drizzle started and with 7 minutes to go the rain set in.  The totals for my watch were, 2 Great Tit, 7 Blue Tit, 2 Long-tailed Tit, 1 Robin, 1 Coal Tit and 1 Marsh Tit.  Thus there were a total of 14 birds.


22nd January 2014 – I had a walk over Crabtree Hill and Serridge Ridge today.  It was very quiet except for 3 Fallow Deer on the heath at the former in a place that I have seen them before. 


21st January 2014 – This morning, I walked around Poor’s Allotment near Tidenham.  Highlight of the trip was 3 Stonechats which included 2 females.


20th January 2014 – I had another walk over Crabtree Hill and on to Serridge Ridge.  There was mist early but by the time I got to the hill at lunchtime, the sun was breaking through.  The light was good and the wind was calm and generally viewing conditions were excellent but there were very few birds to be seen.  A Goldcrest was outside Kensley Lodge but the Shrike was nowhere to be seen.  A Cormorant was an unusual flyover at Serridge but there was no sign of any Crossbills or the Chaffinch flock along the ridge.  I walked down to Brierley and back along the lower track but it was unusually quiet.  Back on the heath, 3 Mistle Thrushes were on top of some conifers and the mist was beginning to form just after 1600.  It was a generally quiet day.


19th January 2014 - It was a beautifully sunny day and I had a walk over Crabtree Hill after breakfast.  There were a lot of people in the area but I did find a large flock of Lesser Redpolls with a few Siskins with them at the southern end of the heath alongside the shale track.  There was a very light bird with few flank stripes but it was difficult to find the bird again in the flock once it was lost to view. 


18th January 2014 – It has been very wet during the last 4 days with heavy showers and only fleeting sunny periods.  This afternoon, a Marsh Tit was in my garden.  This is a scarce bird here in Longhope and was a year tick. 


13th January 2014 – An afternoon was spent at Slimbridge.  It began in sunshine but rapidly clouded over and it was raining and dull by mid-afternoon.  In the gloom, the large flock of Golden Plover made a great spectacle when flushed from the Tack Piece.  Not only was there a lot of birds, the colours of the Golden Plover flock were stunning.  As the flock wheeled and swooped over the field, the colours changed from gold to white back to gold again with each turn.  There were many birds on the Tack Piece and the Dumbles and the spectacle is excellent.  The Bewick’s Swans were spread out, 36(3) were on the Tack Piece and 49(14) on the Dumbles.  Another highlight of the afternoon, a Cetti’s Warbler was foraging in the vegetation very close to the front of the Stephen Kirk hide.


12th January 2014 – I had a short walk at Nagshead but it was very quiet on a day when it was cold, slightly misty and heavily overcast. 

          Later, I walked over to Russell’s Inclosure and found Ravens interacting.  The breeding season is not far away.  On Cannop Pond (south) I found a male Mandarin Duck which was the first one that I had seen on this pond this year.

          Three Fallow Deer crossed the main road in front of me as I was driving past Northern United industrial area on my way home.  The animal bringing up the rear was a fine buck with big antlers. 


11th January 2014 – It was a sunny, but cold day.  I had another walk over Crabtree Hill.  As I neared the top my constant scanning paid off and I found the Great Grey Shrike which I had last seen last year.  It appeared to have something in its bill and when it landed I could see that it had captured some prey.  It appeared to impale this on a short spike in the ground.  Later this was reported to be a Goldcrest.  The Shike flew off and perched in a variety of high perches and eventually it was lost from view. 

          I moved on to Serridge Ridge.  A pair of Common Crossbills was feeding on the hill up to the ridge and then along the ridge a pair was feeding there.  It could be that this was the same pair having moved probably less than 100 metres. Further along the ridge just past the barrier, there was a large flock of Chaffinch with a good number of Brambling with them.

          A Tawny Owl was again in the trees near Cannop Ponds later in the day.


10th January 2014 – I had a walk over Crabtree Hill today and generally it was quiet apart from a large flock of birds which comprised mainly Siskins with a few Redpolls.  This flock was working its way through the trees to the north of Woorgreens Lake and south of the main shale track.


9th January 2014 – Today was a sunny day but cool.  I had a walk around Russell’s Inclosure and inspected the mine entrance at Whitelea.  The entrance has a metal barred gate with some horizontal slot for bats to fly in and out.  A new infil of gravel has been done about 5 metres in.  There is room for bats to hang from the roof but it does appear very damp and maybe not suitable.  I will keep an eye on this location as the weather dries up.


7th January 2014 – I went to Slimbridge for the afternoon and again there were a lot of birds present and a lot of water in the various fields.  Conditions seem very good and the birds are taking advantage. 


6th January 2014 – Today was a day of sunny periods but with a lot of very heavy showers and a strong wind.  I went to Slimbridge where there continues to be a lot of birds present.  There are very impressive flocks of Golden Plover and Lapwing and also Wigeon and Teal.  The Little Stint was again present on the Dumbles and the Brent Goose was also present.  A good number of Ruff were present on the Tack Piece and the Bewick’s Swan flock appeared to be split between the Tack Piece and the Dumbles but there was a lot of movement between the two.


5th January 2014 – Highlight of the day as the forecasted rain started was 5 Hawfinch in and around the tops of the Lime Trees near the timber company premises in Parkend.  A Blue Tit inspecting a nest box by the stone works at Cannop seemed a little early. 


4th January 2014 – I walked over Crabtree Hill but it was a damp day with mist swirling around the trees and conditions were very poor.  There were however some Goldcrests foraging in and around various small and dense conifer trees.  Generally and not surprisingly it was very quiet.


3rd January 2014 – Today was a day of more heavy showers and an occasional short sunny period.  I walked from the Stoneworks at Cannop up to the Nagshead RSPB Reserve.  It was very quiet in the woods in the poor conditions which were often quite dark.  A Jay in the Meadow was an addition to the year list.  On my return down the Gloucestershire Way I found a Redwing in a tree and the bird was ‘singing’.


2nd January 2014 – It was a brighter day with some sunshine.  The temperature was 8 deg. C. at 1100 and 9 deg. C. at 1700.  I went to WWT Slimbridge.  The reserve was packed with birds.  There was plenty of water in many of the fields and the Tack Piece and the Dumbles held a tremendous number of birds including large flocks of Golden Plover, Curlew, Dunlin, Wigeon and Teal.  I went first to the Rushy Pen  and found 4 Avocets and a single Common Crane flew over, circled a couple of times and landed just over the fence on the Tack Piece.  The majority of the Bewick’s Swans were on the far side of the Dumbles and by contrast on the near scrapes was a single Little Stint.  This was a beautifully marked bird. 

          After lunch, I went to the canal and walked up to Cambridge Arms Bridge where I found another 16(4) Bewick’s Swans in a partially flooded field to the north and west of the bridge. 

          Back at the Centre, I scanned the many birds on the Tack Piece from the Martin Smith hide and eventually found the American Green-winged Teal at the back of the field among Common Teal.  A single Ruff was notable but really the sheer number of birds was the highlight.  The Bewick’s Swans were late returning to the Rushy Pen this afternoon but the first arrived just after 1530 to a relatively empty pen. 


1st January 2014 –Today was one of the rare days of the year when it rained continuously from before sunrise until after sunset.  In the abysmal conditions, I did not go out into the field.




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