Diary - January to March 2003

For other quarter year diary archives, go to the Diary page by clicking here and scroll to the bottom of the page.

31st March 2003 - A very short lunch hour at Slimbridge on a cool but beautifully sunny day. Th only birds of note were 51 Black-tailed Godwits on South Lake.

30th March 2003 - A trip to Cleeve Hill this morning produced the Great Grey Shrike and plenty of Yellowhammers and two Stonechats plus a singing Willow Warbler but not Wheatears or Ring Ouzels. In the afternoon, I went to the Cotwold Water Park and on the Pit 84/85 complex, I noted two things. Firstly a new hide is under construction overlooking Pit 85B and on that pit was a Little Gull which moved over to Pit 84 before moving back again. This bird has asymetric plumage! On the left of its head is a dark spot below and behind the eye. On the right hand side, there is an identical spot and a three pointed star shaped grey mark below the eye which nearly merges into one mark. While looking at the folder wings it appears the on one or maybe two primaries on the right wing there are two dark grey bars but the left primaries are all white. I thought that this was the way the wings were folded until I saw the bird flying and this confirmed that the right wing is marked on the primaries but the left is not.

29th March 2003 - I went to Cone Pill, near Aylburton Warth to find the reported Water Pipit. On a cool and slightly misty morning, I walked up Cone Pill from the south, crossed it near the railway line and found a Water Pipit foraging on some mud on the north east side of the pill. It was a beautiful bird in breeding plumage. I lost sight of it as it moved off the mud but found it again in short grass with another one. The second bird was not as clean as the first but nevertheless was almost in its full breeding plumage with a pink flushed breast. Noted also were a Linnet flock and displaying Redshank and Lapwing. 28th March 2003 - While driving back from Stow on the Wold towards Gloucester, I noted over 100 Golden Plover and 2 Lapwing in the air near the junction of the old A road to Stow with what was the old B road to Bourton on the Water.

27th March 2003 - A very short visit at lunchtime to the South Lake Hide at Slimbridge on yet another fine, warm and sunny day. 40 Black-tailed Godwits and 2 Ruff were present.

26th March 2003 - A quick morning visit to Coombe Hill Canal to see how well the scrapes were holding water after 3 weeks of almost no rain. I was pleasantly surprised to see plenty of water there but was disappointed to see much churning up of the meadow from horses hooves along the footpath area. It looks as if the hunt at the weekend must have gone throught the reserve. The were 5 Tufted Duck there which was also a surprise to see these diving ducks on the shallow scrapes. 3 Lapwing were showing much aerial activity as the breeding season approaches and 1 Curlew was calling. A Yellowhammer at the Wharf was unusual in that location.
A Ashleworth, specifically in Dirty Lane, the first Willow Warbler of the season was singing. 7 Shelduck, 5 Snipe, 7 Curlew, 5 Lapwing, 3 Grey Heron, 2 Canada Geese and 1 Greylag Goose were also present with much more reduced duck numbers than on the 23rd March. A Brimstone butterfly was also a first for the year for the reserve but the real highlight was the overfly of two Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers which then momentarily settled in the tops of an old willow tree. I have not seen this species in the county for over a year.
In the late afternoon on a warm and sunny day, I went to Cleeve Common to try to photograph the Great Grey Shrike which had been reported there. It was an easy bird to find and watch for over an hour but much more difficult to photograph as it settled low over horizon and the heat haze ruined any chance of a shot. 3 Wheatear were near the car park by the aerials and a Stonechat was atop one of the many bushes. In the valley east of the Cotwold Way marker post number 24 where the shike seemed to spend much of its time, a Tawny Owl was calling. The co-highlight for the afternoon with the shrike, was a Red Kite found by John and Janet Datchens who were standing beside my as I tried to locate a possible Common Whitethroat. I didn't find this possible as my attention was then taken by this raptor which did not have any wing tags. This bird drifted slowly away in a steady line away from a possible breeding site as indicated from the internet. A fine sight in the sunshine and an excellent day in the field.

25th March 2003 - A Blackbird was in the garden this morning collecting nesting material yet on the road over Chosen Hill, there is hedgecutting taking place, this not being the only place where this is happening. At Slimbridge this afternoon, there was a stunning male Garganey from the Zeiss Hide and 2 Ruff. The former was very active, swimming with an urgent nature and feeding voraciously. On South Lake there were 58 Black-tailed Godwits and 2 Oystercatcher. The latter were engaged in a 'trilling' display. The rookery at the southern end of the reserve is very active and noisy with at least 220 nests.
Finally, the ringed Mandarin that I observed at Cannop Ponds on 13th March was ringed at Slimbridge on 8th January 2000.

23rd March 2003 - Monthly Wildfowl Count day at Ashleworth on a sunny but hazy morning. The data are as follows. 26 Shoveler, 29 Coot, 8 Tufted Duck, 6 Mute Swan, 940 Wigeon, 8 Canada Geese, 6 Pintail, 50 Teal, 8 Curlew, 10 Mallard, 3 Shelduck,2 Grey Heron, 3 Black-headed Gull. Raptors are no longer included in the count but 2 Buzzard were present and several Chiffchaff were singing and a Great Spotted Woodpecker was in the copse by the hide. The remains of an enormous Pike, clearing shown by the intact head and tail was on the side of one of the rhines at the back of the reserve. The remains of winter visitors were present in the form of a small flock of Redwing which were also noted yesterday.
During the afternoon I went to Frampton to see if there was any activity of Lapwing or Redshank nesting behaviour but there was not although the former were present. However, 3 Short-eared Owls were present over the field by the swing bridge at The Splatt and a Merlin caught a small passerine and plucked it while perched on a log in this field. There was some interaction between this bird and an owl and the latter eventually came to sit on a log in the field quite close to the gate to the towpath but was flushed by a dog walker. The only other birds of note were at least 2 Little Egrets.

22nd March 2003 - A morning at Ashleworth Ham on a cool but sunny day. A variety of natural history was on show today. Firstly, however, I have to report on the demise of three animals. A cygnet Mute Swan appears to have hit the overhead electicity cables and been killed. The remains of the freshly dead body was directly underneath them Many parts of it have been scavenged probably by foxes and have been taken away leaving some parts to be finished off by a Buzzard which was noted doing just that. What appears to be an adult Mute Swan is lying dead on an island in front of the hide but it is inaccessable without a boat or until the water goes down. Finally in this sad tale, the body of what appears to be a Jack Russell terrier was found in a steep sided ditch on the back of the reserve. It appears to have fallen in and been unable to get back up the muddy banks.
On a much brighter note literally, a Kingfisher was seen for at least 10 minutes gleaming in the sunshine along the willow trees across the first stretch of water from the hide. Several Chiffchaffs were singing and both Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers were present. Several hundred Wigeon are still present with a number of Shoveler, a few Teal, 2 Pintail, 8 Tufted Duck, 9 Snipe, 2 Curlew, a few Mallard, 1 Lapwing, 3 Reed Bunting, 4 Shelduck, 2 Buzzard, 1 Peregrine on the pylon and 2 Grey Heron. Tracks which are almost certainly of Mink are in the dried mud at the back of the reserve and a Treecreeper graced the copse. On the botanical front, the White Violets around the hide area are now in flower and Lady's Smock is showing for the first time in bloom along Stank Lane. Finally, still on the raptor front, a female Sparrowhawk was over the reserve.

18th March 2003 - Working again today but in the garden was a very interesting sight. Much longer than 5 years ago, I constructed a hedgehog hibernation box which looks like a low rabbit hutch with a 2 foot tunnel approach to large opening. Inside there is a partial partition which shelters the doorway from the inner area. Although I have checked every year, there has been no sign of occupancy until this morning when in the warm sunshine, I saw a hedgehog come out of the tunnel, wander around the garden rather slowly and then go back in and not come out again. I think we have a hibernating hog at last.

17th March 2003 - Another walk in the Cotswolds on a day off. A sunny day but cool saw a Sparrowhawk pass over Churchdown quite purposefully in the direction of Chosen Hill. I wonder if breeding will take place there? One of the most notable things was the number of Chiffchaffs singing and on Leckhampton Hill and around the village of Coberley was the number of Yellowhammers singing. Finally, a Marsh Tit near Kilkenny was an unexpected find but more likely were the 3 Ravens, 2 Buzzards overhead and the resident Kestrel perched on the wires at the picnic spot. To finish, another piece of phenology, the first Brimstone butterfly of the season at Upper Coberley.

16th March 2003 - An hour or so was spent in the Forest of Dean at New Fancy View this afternoon on a glorious day to try and see some Goshawk. They duly showed up and at least 5 sightings were made not necessarily of 5 different birds. A Raven was also soaring as were numerous Buzzards at different times. Although the hawks were not displaying, a pair of Buzzards were and after some aerial activity, the pair came together on the branch of a distant tree and mated. Also in evidence were fly bys by Crossbills and Siskins.

15th March 2003 - A visit to the Cotswold Water Park found some Goosander, both male and female and at least 2 Smew as remnants of the winter numbers. Red-Crested Pochard appeared thin on the ground with just a pair noted on Pit 57. The Goosanders were on the pits opposite this one as were on of the Smew, the other being on Pit 57 itself. Work on the pits by 'Twitchers Corner' has disturbed these lakes where log cabins for fishermen are being built. On Pit 57 itself, more outline markers have been laid down for more houses.

14th March 2003 - A walk from home up the Cotwolds via Greenway Lane and on to Severn Springs via Leckhampton Hill and return yielded not many birds but the first three butterflies of the spring were noted, 2 Small Tortoishell and 1 Peacock on a sunny and mild day.

13th March 2003 - I needed to attend a meeting in the Forest of Dean today and so preceded it with a visit to Nagshead RSPB reserve and noted that the shell of the new information centre has taken shape and is in situ in its new place in the car park. Generally speaking, the bird life was fairly quiet but there were a lot of Song Thrush present. At the picnic site between the two ponds at Cannop there were more than ten of this species alone and along the various tracks, there was evidence of recently broken snail shells. At the picnic place, I managed to read the metal ring that one of the Mandarin Ducks was carrying and this will be submitted to the British Trust for Ornithology and should give some information on the origin and age of this bird. Also in evidence in many places around the forest was a large number of flocks of Siskin. At Woorgreens Lake where I thought that I might see some early hirundines, all that was present were 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls on an island, a Reed Bunting near to me, 4 Greylag Geese on the water and 3 Buzzards circling the area.

9th March 2003 - A female Blackcap in the garden today was a pleasant early morning surprise. A walk over Chosen Hill later in the morning was a quiet one for bird song but the resident Green Woodpecker could easily be heard. I thought that on this windy day that it would be good soaring weather for raptors but for a while only corvids were out and about and then I noted a large Sparrowhawk hanging on the wind to the south of the hill. It was joined by another, smaller bird, probably the male and then another bird appeared followed by a fourth. It looked as though there were two pairs soaring and giving some indication of display as the dived quite steeply only to reclimb with ease and continue to glide on the wind. The only other raptor on the wing there was a Buzzard.

8th March 2003 - Slimbridge on a wet and windy day. South Lake was very quiet but on the Tack Piece there were at least 42 Bewick's Swans which is just about all that remains from the winter flock. The Wigeon flock is still quite numerous but very scattered. The number of Curlews foraging on the Tack Piece has increased. Pied Wagtails are still plentiful but generally in the conditions it was a quiet hour.

2nd March 2003 - A fine sunny and mild afternoon at Slimbridge. On the Tack Piece, 2 Oystercatchers, a good number of Curlew, at least 30 Pied Wagtails with a lesser number of Meadow Pipits to keep them company. On the Dumbles, the birds of note were two Ravens.

1st March 2003 - A day of very heavy showers. The frog spawn continues to be produced and late this afternoon, the number of frogs in the two pools increased to a record 51 at least.

28th February 2003 - Another piece for the phenologists out there. Late last night, for the first time this year, I could hear the 'frog chorus' quite loud from the garden ponds and sure enough this morning there was the first frog spawn of the year therein.

26th February 2003 - A spring-like morning at Ashleworth. A walk around the reserve produced 2 Grey Herons together, 2 Snipe, 4 Curlew, 2 Lapwing and several Reed Buntings. Raptors included a Buzzard soaring and a Peregrine. About 200 Redwing were 'singing' in Stank Lane. Among the dwindling Wigeon flock were Pintail, Shoveler, Mallard, Teal and Gadwall. Diving ducks included the male and female Tufted Duck and the lone female Goldeneye. Finally, for all phenologists reading this, the first Bee of the year was over the reserve.

25th February 2003 - Slimbridge at lunchtime produced on the Tack Piece, the remains of the White-fronted Goose flock including neck collared birds U37, U40, U41, U43, U53, U54, U55. Also within this flock was the juvenile Lesser White-fronted Goose. 6 Ruff were present too.

23rd February 2003 - I went to Ampney Crucis to look for the Great Grey Shrike but failed to find it, so I moved over to Pit 16 again to try to find the Iceland Gull. I went to a better position with the sun, which was fairly covered by cloud anyway, behind me. A Ring-necked Parakeet was high in one of the lakeside trees. That was the sighting before I found an Iceland Gull. This gull had a plain white head just like the one on Wednesday last and was a full adult. However, the find of the day was when I saw that its primaries were edged with grey, a similar colour to the mantle. This was very noticable when it was sideways on. Thus, this may have been a different bird to the one noted on the 19th but on that occasion it was in poorer light conditions. Undoubtedly this has characteristics of the subspecies, Kumlien's Gull, Larus glaucoides kumlieni.

22nd February 2003 - Ashleworth on a foggy morning at 0800. 5 Bewick's Swans took off on the hour and disappeared into the fog and a few minutes later the 7 Whooper Swans did the same. A handful of Canada Geese followed some 5 minutes later and thus there were left the usual, but now small, Wigeon flock with Teal, Pintail, Mallard and Shoveler. There were also a a few Gadwall and a Shelduck present as well as 2 Tufted Duck and the female Goldeneye. The diving ducks are more scarce here at this site because of the shallowness of the water. The Peregrine was on the pylon and at least 2 Buzzards were soaring.

21st February 2003 - A short afternoon visit to the Forest of Dean to look for Dipper. I walked upstream along the Cannop Brook towards the stone works and eventually I found Robin, Wren, Kingfisher and Dipper all together along the brook. Also of note was a Grey Heron perched high in a tree overlooking the lower pond at Cannop.

20th February 2003 - Slimbridge at lunchtime on a milder day than of late was fairly quiet. However, there was a biscuit/white Wigeon with a pink bill and pink legs and feet which was in among the flock. This would appear to be a new bird to the flock since I have been scanning the flock on a regular basis throughout the winter and I have not seen this bird before. Is this a movement of birds associated with return migration to the breeding grounds?

19th Febrauary 2003 - An early morning visit to Ashleworth on another bitterly cold and breezy day. Only small patches of water were open again with most of the waterfowl occupying this water. There were similar numbers to the count of Sunday (16th). One noticable feature of the day was the lack of flocks of passerines. Tit flocks did not seem to be present and the same with species such as Chaffinch and Greenfinch which were only seen singly in most cases. It will be interesting to note any difference in numbers of passerines when the weather becomes milder.
Late this afternoon I made a visit to Pit 16 of the Cotwold Water Park to find the Iceland Gull which had been reported. I searched the several thousand gulls for about an hour before I saw it. In addition, there were numerous Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Herring Gull and some large gulls with shades of grey back in various degrees of intensity between the two suggesting Yellow-legged Gull. The Iceland Gull turned out to be a full adult and a very crisp and clean plumage with no apparent head markings.

18th February 2003 - Slimbridge at lunchtime on a beautiful blue sky but extremely cold day. I spent a good half an hour looking closely at the Lesser White-fronted Goose that has recently arrived at Slimbridge. This is the first one that I have seen for 4 years and it is a fine bird. The head is very angled, the neck and head are quite dark compared to the lighter brown, relatively unmarked body. The bill is tiny compared to the Greater White-fronted Geese nearby although the overall size difference is not that great. There is the beginning of the white blaze just above the bill but it is really a smudge rather than a white mark at the moment. It is clearly a juvenile bird and a fine sight for the year.

16th February 2003 - Monthly wildfowl count day at Ashleworth. Although it was still bitterly cold, all of the ice had gone and the birds were more spread out than yesterday and there were fewer of them. The numbers were, 640 Wigeon, 51 Shoveler, 40 Pintail, 80 Teal, 27 Gadwall, 5 Canada Geese, 2 Tufted Duck, 3 Little Grebe, 5 Coot, 1 Peregrine, 15 Mallard, 2 Mute Swan, 2 Grey Heron, 1 Buzzard, 6 Common Gull, and 2 Great Black-backed Gull. The latter 2 gulls caused a bit of a stir among the ducks but they only flew around at low level for between 5 and 10 minutes and then disappeared. As I was about to leave, a Stoat was noted running around in the vegetation at the back of the hide.
In the afternoon, I went to the Forest of Dean and spent an hour or so at New Fancy View, looking for Goshawks which I did not find. Buzzards were soaring as were 10 Ravens together, the most I have ever seen at any one time. Small flocks of Crossbills came by several times and gave good views as they sat in the tops of nearby trees. Occasionally they were accompanied by a few Siskins. Some of the male Crossbills had really bright salmon pink rumps and a few others had pink and yellow cross-striped rumps.

15th February 2003 - Ashleworth on a very cold day with most of the water frozen over and only a few patches of open water showing. The total duck numbers were lower than the middle of the winter with very few Teal. Most of the duck were Wigeon with some Pintail and Shoveler. A few Gadwall were also present. 2 Tufted Duck and the female Goldeneye were still there and the Peregrine was on the pylon as usual.

13th February 2003. - Lunchtime on an overcast and bitterly cold day at Slimbridge. There are still well over 100 White-fronted Geese present with at least 4 neck-collared birds in spite of much of the flock leaving early this year. Black-headed Gulls were again among the Wigeon flock. A Carrion Crow, Raven and Buzzard were lined up on adjacent fence posts on the Dumbles. The latter two were of similar size and dwarfed the former. On the Tack Piece, a spread out mixture of Lapwing and Dunlin were present and the majority of the Bewick's Swan flock was close in front of the Holden Tower.

12th February 2003. - Ashleworth on a foggy and cold morning. Few duck were present but of those there, the number of Shoveler and Pintail were high. 19 Gadwall, 3 Tufted Duck and the female Goldeneye were also present. A Shelduck was among some Black-headed Gulls and a few Common Gulls. A number of Lesser Black-backed Gull were present in the earlier part of the morning. 8 Lapwing turned up and the usual Peregrine was on the pylon and at least one, probably two Buzzard were in the vicinity. Finally, in excess of 20 Chaffinch were along the road infront of Colways Farm.

11th February 2003. - A short look out on South Lake and across the Dumbles at Slimbridge at lunchtime. On the former, 5 Ruff were among over 2000 Lapwing with many Dunlin present. Over the latter, it was fairly quiet with many Bewick's Swans actually on the river and 141 White-fronted Geese including the neck-collared bird U53 were on the grass areas.

10th February 2003. - A glorious morning in the Forest of Dean where near Blaize Bailey I found a flock of Chaffinch and Brambling with Goldfinch, Bullfinch and Greenfinch not far away. Coal Tits seem to be roaming in pairs now and Song Thrushes are singing at intervals along the forest track. To the south of this location a lone Goshawk soared overhead and was well lit by the brilliant sunshine. Several Siskin flocks were also combing the forest and at least one small Crossbill flock overflew. A quick walk along Cannop Brook from the south to the Stoneworks marsh produced one Grey Wagtail and 3 pairs of Mallard at regular intervals but no sign of a Dipper.

9th February 2003 - The second day of the bird fair and the numbers of people in the hides was less than yesterday. Although more people came through the door, many were families and many of these did not frequent the hides. On South Lake, a single Ruff was in amongst a large flock of Lapwing. On the Dumbles a small flock of Pied Wagtails had built up and this flock included a Meadow Pipit. Nearby 120 White-fronted Geese were present which is a fair representation of the remnants of the winter flock. Finally, against a beautiful sunset the Starling roost seemed more spectacular than ever with a Peregrine causing some mass aerobatic action on several occasions. A fitting end to the Bird Fair.

8th February 2003 - The first day of the two day Great West Bird Fair at Slimbridge. There were many people there and viewing from the hides was quite difficult. From the bird point of view the area was quiet. Of note were the remainder of the White-fronted Goose flock including 3 neck-collared birds, U37, U55 and U53 all together on the Tack Piece.

6th February 2003 - A short lunch hour in the Holden Tower at Slimbridge where the weather was continuous drizzle and poor visibility. Some of the remaining White-fronted Geese were on the Dumbles where a yellow leg ringed bird 'AN' was present. The Wigeon flock has produced an interesting sight on Tuesday and today. There are a number of Black-headed Gulls loafing within the flock of ducks and nowhere else on the Tack Piece. Unlike the ducks, they are not foraging but simply waiting and suddenly rushing forth for a worm occasionally. Are they using the fast pecking of the Wigeon as a substitute for the 'paddling' effect that gulls sometimes display when 'hunting' for worms?

5th February 2003 Ashleworth in the morning. A Great-spotted Woodpecker was again drumming in the copse where a Treecreeper was also present. One female Tufted Duck and one female Goldeneye were among the Teal/Wigeon/Mallard/Shoveler flock. 17 Shelduck and a handful of Coot were also present. A dead Canada Goose remains washed high into a hedge by the recent floodwaters and a very much alive Peregrine was on the pylon as ususal.
In the afternoon, I went to Nagshead RSPB reserve near Parkend in the Forest of Dean to take some photographs of the old information centre which is about to be demolished and a new one built in the car park area. I was only just in time as the new centre was being pegged out in the grass and the old centre was being emptied prior to demolition in a few days time. The new centre complete with solar panels will be officially opened in May.
The woods were generally quiet with a few roving tit flocks and at dusk several Tawny Owls were calling and flying over the open field by the information centre.

4th February 2003 - A quiet lunchtime in the Holden Tower at Slimbridge. A very cold wind was blowing and not many birds were present. The local Peregrine was perched as usual near the southern cross fence and at least some of the remaining White-fronted Geese including 3 neck collared birds were in view if distant.

3rd February 2003 - An afternoon in glorious sunshine spent in the Frampton area. I walked north along the canal towpath from Splatt Bridge and found 51 Shelduck and 11 Curlew on the Great Narles. On the next field north which is also flooded, there was only one bird, a Spotted Redshank. I retraced and did the cirular walk along the public footpaths of Green Lane to Cambridge Arms Bridge and then walked back up the towpath to Splatt Bridge. In the early part of this walk I could look over the 100 acre which is nicely flooded with plenty of waterfowl (Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall, Shelduck, Mallard, Shoveler, Mute Swan) and waders including Lapwing and Dunlin. When I commenced the towpath walk I was treated to a raptor and owl extravaganser. I was about half way back to Splatt Bridge when a Sparrowhawk came out of the trees on the east bank of the canal, flew low over the water, lifted over the hedge on my side and dropped down on some prey. It then took off and was immediately joined by another Sparrowhawk and they both flew back over the canal and as they did so, the one bird dropped the prey which turned out to be a Moorhen which flew away. The two hawks landed in the canalside trees on the far bank and then a Kestrel 'buzzed' them and it continued on up the canal. In the fields to the west, I noted a dark bird perched at the top of a small tree. This turned out to be a very dark, almost completely brown Buzzard. A few moments later I was treated to over 10 minutes of hunting from two Short-eared Owls which also kept calling. I eventually lost sight of them but as I was about to cross the canal at Splatt Bridge one bird flew over the bridge.

1st February 2003 - Ashleworth. The water here was mostly frozen over with just small patches of water kept open by the small number of water birds. These included a small number of Canada Geese which had 4 Greylag Geese with them and a hybrid. The local Peregrine was on the pylon and a Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming for a long time. The overwintering Chiffchaff, which has a ring on, is still present. The ring almost certainly is from the ringing site here.
In the afternoon, I had to go over Oxford way and I called in at Huntsmans Quarry where a Corn Bunting was singing and several parties of Red-legged Partridge were foraging. There was a fox hunt in progress nearby and several shooting parties could be heard in the distance as it was at Ashleworth this morning. Finally, I noted at least 70 Golden Plover in a field near Salperton.

31st January 2003 - A half day in the Forest of Dean. At Tidenham Chase I eventually caught up with the Little Bunting. It was calling down the slope and flew into a Birch Tree in front of the pool where it gave brief views. A short time later it reappeared and gave another short view. There were many Reed Buntings and a few Dunnocks mixed in with the flock. A small party of Crossbills remained close in one of the conifer trees by the pool.
At Mallards Pike, while I was eating my lunch, a Little Grebe spent just as long trying to down a fish and three Mandarin Ducks came by. In the trees a party of Siskins was joined by some Long-tailed Tits and a Willow Tit.
At New Fancy View, a small flock of Siskins and a separate flock of Coal Tits were below the viewpoint but on this very cold day there were no raptors soaring. In the carpark as I was about to leave, there were Greenfinches, Chaffinches, Bullfinches and one Hawfinch which gave good views atop a nearby tree.

30th January 2003 - A bitterly cold day with a strong northerly wind and a windchill of -8 deg. C.. The Smew was still on South Lake at Slimbridge at lunchtime and at least 6 Snipe were sheltering in front of the Martin Smith Hide but generally in this cold snap, there are fewer birds present.

29th January 2003 - Again, just a few minutes in the field at Slimbridge at lunchtime. A redhead Smew was on South Lake but generally the reserve is fairly quiet. I spent a few minutes scanning through the Black-headed Gulls but no different small gulls were noted. The Black-headed Gulls are showing a variety of colours both in their hoods, with the brown feathers beginning to be seen in many cases, and in the bare part colouration. Some have very pale, washed-out, orange beak and legs while others have really red legs and beak. There are a myriad of colours in between these extremes.

28th January 2003 - I have been out of the county for 4 days but today, I spent about 5 minutes looking over the Dumbles at Slimbridge at lunchtime. It was generally very quiet in a blustery and cold wind. No White-fronted Geese were seen and I have been told that many of them have left the reserve which is an early departure. The usual Peregrine was present and a Raven was also there.

22nd January 2003 - At Ashleworth this morning, the usual Peregrine was not on the pylons but perched in a tree much closer to the hide. There were only a few Canada Geese present but there were 7 Barnacle Geese in with them. A female Goldeneye in front of the hide was fairly unusual as was a Chiffchaff in the copse by the hide. In the leaf litter in the same general area was a Field Vole with a Wren close by to it and a Treecreeper also on the next tree. 4 Whooper Swans with including the 2 cygnets were on Hasfield Ham but these were later found a few fields to the north with 26 Bewick's Swans which had a ringed bird which unusually was ringed at Martin Mere in Lancashire.
In the afternoon, I had some work in the Forest of Dean and I called into Tidenham Chase to look for the Little Bunting again. Unfortunately, I found that Forest Enterprise were doing extensive work there. At least 21 people were covering all of the open area including the favoured place of this bird. Work, planned some time ago, was going on to remove the small birch saplings, gorse and some of the other vegetation in the hope of returning this land to a heath. Some of these workers had strimmers going. Some of them had dogs with them and there was a lot of cutting, pruning and general ground clearance going on as well as two large fires to burn off the cuttings. In short there was no hope of seeing any birds with the amount of activity going on. As to whether this disturbance will cause the bird to relocate, only time will tell. I understand that the work was only a one day task.

21st January 2003 - Slimbridge. Late morning a an unusual visitor on the Dumbles in the form of a Great Skua. On the river beyond were a Grey Plover and a Bar-tailed Godwit. The three white geese which I erroneously identified as Snow Geese have turned up at Slimbridge.

19th January 2003 - I called in at Tidenham in the Forest of Dean to look for the Little Bunting but to no avail. Indeed it was an extremely quiet day with no birds whatsoever been seen for tens of minutes at at time.

17th January 2003. I had to go south today on business and I called into Michael Wood Services on the M5 motorway to look for the Ring-billed Gull which has graced this food emporium over the last two winters but I could not find the bird. On the way back from Bristol, I checked the estuary north of the Severn Bridges but it was very quiet as was Sharpness Docks where I also failed to find a Black Redstart. I called into Slimbridge for half an hour and found that the White-fronted Goose flock, or at least 425 birds which represents about half of the flock were again close to the Holden Tower. Also on the Tack Piece amongst the Lapwing were Dunlin and a lone Ruff. A quiet day.

16th January 2003 - CORRECTION -- Ooops. A birder has pointed out that the "Snow Geese" that I reported, yesterday, at Ashleworth with the Canada Geese do not have black in the wing tips. I saw them briefly swimming and then they went to sleep. I should have noted the lack of any black even with the closed wings. I made a mistake and they are not Snow Geese. Sorry if anyone went rushing to Ashleworth in pursuit of this species.
At Slimbridge at lunchtime, a Peregrine was out on the Dumbles as usual and the White-fronted Goose flock were relatively close to the Holden Tower, near to which they have not been of late. Two sleepy Common Snipe were just outside the Martin Smith Hide.

15th January 2003 - On a gloomy and drizzly morning at Coombe Hill Meadows, the 7 Whooper Swans are now back together.
At Ashleworth, there were 27 Bewick's Swans and the local Black Swan overflew. This latter species although not native is a very impressive sight when it is flying with its white primaries glistening in the newly arrived sunshine. Among the several hundred Canada Geese by Ham Road, were one Greylag Goose, one hybrid between a Greylag and a Canada Goose and 3 Snow Geese. I have never logged Snow Geese at this location before. After checking the pylons, I could only find one Peregrine today.
Finally a walk around Apperley yielded a Little Owl which I was lead to by some Great Tits scolding something in the hedgerow which turned out to be the owl.

14th January 2003 - A short lunchtime at Slimbridge where the White-fronted Goose flock came onto the Tack Piece for the first time for some time. 3 neck-collared birds were present, U04, U06 and U10. 2 Peregrines were together out on the Dumbles, a large and a small bird which were undoubtedly a pair.

13th January 2003 - Another Cormorant survey, this time at Wainlodes. First, I checked Ashleworth on a mild and breezy day. Two Peregrines were on the same pylon which was unusual. There were few wildfowl on the high floodwater at Ashleworth generally.
I checked the apparently disused Cormorant roost at Wainlodes beneath the cliff and found that it was being used with at least 8 birds present.

12th January 2003 - A bitterly cold day (-5.5 degrees C. at dawn) and a trip in the morning to Tidenham Chase to look for the Little Bunting which was reported again yesterday. I didn't find it but at least 5 Reed Bunting were present and a Yellowhammer made a brief appearance. Common Crossbills were in evidence and the biggest flock noted was 14 over the distant pines. Unusually, 5 Lapwing also overflew.

11th January 2003 - More Cormorant survey work, this time at Haw Bridge on the River Severn. Unfortunately this was cut short by freezing fog in the localised area.

10th January 2003 - I have been out of the county today doing a Cormorant survey in Herefordshire.

9th January 2003 - Slimbridge at lunchtime. The Tack Piece was almost completely devoid of birds as the freeze continues. 2 Peregrines were out on the Dumbles. One much bigger than the other suggesting a male and female pair. A Red Fox was again prowling. This is becoming a common sight during daylight hours now. The scrape on South Lake was completely frozen over but a number of Teal were sleeping on the bank and 5 Dunlin and 1 Snipe were the only waders present. A quiet day with the majority of wildfowl on the river.

8th January 2003 - A walk today along the southern boundary of Gloucestershire Airport and then north to Priors Norton, south to Twigworth and then back home. In the bitterly cold weather, many Fieldfare and a few Redwings and Meadow Pipits were combing the grass of the airfield. Generally, it was fairly quiet but I did flush 3 Snipe from near the sewage works on the airfield boundary and later in the afternoon, I noted a Grey Wagtail at Innsworth sewage works among the Pied Wagtails which frequently are seen there.

7th January 2003 - Slimbridge at lunchtime. On another bitter cold day with a biting easterly wind, the fields are frozen and many duck such as the Wigeon flock have gone, presumably to the river and are out of sight. 2 Peregrines and a Raven were on the Dumbles along with a Common Buzzard which has a very pale front. The White-fronted Goose flock was to the south and I was able to find a Pink-footed Goose amongst them in the good light.

6th January 2003 - I had no work today so I decided on a trek in the Forest of Dean. I walked from Nagshead down to Cannop Ponds, then up to New Fancy View, down to Mallards Pike and then along to Staple Edge Wood, Lightmoor Colliery, Dilke Hospital and then west towards Woorgreens, Beechenhurst and back south down the Cannop Valley and back to Nagshead. A steady 11.5 miles. The woods were fairly quiet. I did not see another person until I was near New Fancy View where I met Ivan Proctor, the warden from Nagshead who was doing a survey transect. It was bitterly cold and a number of Redwings were foraging inside the forest and there were numerous Great Tits, Blue Tits, Marsh Tits, Goldcrests, Nuthatches and other passerines foraging on the ground. Common Crossbills overflew Staple Edge Wood and a Raven was soaring there too. There was no sign of the Great Grey Shrike. 4 Fallow Deer were to the east of the Cannop Valley. Lightmoor Lake and Woorgreen Lake were devoid of bird life as they were completely frozen over. Mallards Pike lake and Cannop Ponds were free of ice. Sheep are back in the forest. 4 were in Nagshead a couple of weeks ago but these have gone but there are some near the Stoneworks at Cannop.

5th January 2003 - Today was the monthly wildfowl count day at Ashleworth. I set off from home and immediately saw two Sparrowhawk over the sports field at Winston Road School. They were interacting with each other, in a sort of 'dog fight'.
The road at Wainlodes was closed because of the high water but I checked Coombe Hill Canal at the Wharf end but as expected the car park was completely flooded and the water was half way up the information board. Also because of the very low overnight temperatures (-4.2 degrees C.), the water was frozen over. I moved around to approach Ashleworth from the Tirley end but ran into freezing fog at Deerhurst and then found the main Tirley road was flooded and impassable near the river. I abandoned the idea even of a partial count.
I decided to pay a quick visit to the water park near Cirencester and back in the sunshine, I drove to Pit 75 by was of the hamlet of Harnhill were I noted the resident Tree Sparrows. On this pit were some female Goosander but not the usual Smew. The Smew, male and female were on Pit 44 and on Pit 57, Goldeneye and a number of Ruddy Duck were present as were some Red-crested Pochard. Two Little Egret had flown over Fridays Ham Lane in this direction but I could not relocate them.

4th January 2003 - I had some business in the Forest of Dean today so I decided to have a quick look around some of the usual spots in the Forest. Mistle Thrush and Redwing were on the field at Speech House but no Hawfinch could be seen. Just down the road, a Goshawk flew low over the road and landed on some prey just in the woodland. Near Moseley Green, a Hawfinch did put in an appearance in front of the public house and at Nagshead, Goldcrest, Nuthatch, Coal Tit, Treecreeper and a flock of Redpoll were in the nearest wood to the information centre. A possible Goshawk was soaring in the sun at New Fancy where some Crossbills flew over. At Cannop Ponds, Mandarin Duck, Kingfisher and Marsh Tit were present but there was no sign of the Dipper and Grey Wagtail by the water outfall because there were a lot of people in the area. Near the road at Brierley, a flock of Siskin were roaming through the trees.

2nd January 2003 - Slimbridge after an early morning of torrential rain and localised flooding on many roads. The American Teal remains on show from the Robbie Garnett Hide. At least 2 Water Rail were present near South Finger. Nearby, I was listening for Cetti's Warbler from the Zeiss Hide but I could not hear it because of the noise from the rookery where the Rooks are commencing to nest. On South Lake I could only find 14 Snipe today.

1st January 2003 - A morning run to Ashleworth and Coombe Hill Canal or it should have been. Heavy rain in recent days has brought flooding to the area and for the first time this winter the River Severn has burst its banks. I was unable to drive through the water near the Red Lion public house at Wainlodes and I was forced to go back and went on to Coombe Hill Canal. Although I was able to walk along the towpath from The Wharf, I soon came to the flooded fields and the waterfowl had spread out considerably. I did not want to flush them and as they were close to the canal I observed from a distance. I was able to see the large Canada Goose flock and 27 Greylag Geese but the ducks were widely spread. I decided to retreat and went to Slimbridge.
The Tack Piece was teeming with birds and the two highlights of the day were an American Teal and a Sanderling amongst the Dunlin and a few Little Stints. On South Lake, 18 Snipe were showing. The total number of birds is very great, the big numbers are of Wigeon, Lapwing, Golden Plover and a good number of Pintail. It needs a considerable time to scan through them all.




Back to the top