Diary - January to March 2004

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31st March 2004 - Coombe Hill Canal on a cool but bright spring morning. The two Mute Swans which for a few weeks have been prospecting the flooded field to the north of the canal are now nest building very near to the successful nest site of last year. The two are the male with the orange Darvic 'AAGX' and the unringed female. 2 Curlew were together in a field to the south of the canal and 16 Lapwing were present around the Meadows to the north along with 5 Redshank, 9 Shelduck some Teal, Wigeon and Mallard, 24 Snipe and a Swallow overflew. This is the first of the year as were some Sand Martins which hawked one of the scrapes for a few minutes later in the morning.
At Ashleworth, just a few ducks remain, mostly Wigeon but a few Teal, Mallard, Gadwall, Pintail and Shoveler are still there along with 3 Little Grebe which were seen but were first heard 'whinnying'. Reed Buntings and 3 Snipe were on Hasfield Ham, and in Stank Lane, there were 7 Fieldfares still showing, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Raven overflew.

30th March 2004 - On my way to the Forest of Dean, I noted what appeared to be a Barn Owl which had been the victim of a traffic accident near to the roundabout at Highnam.
In the Forest, I noted my first Red Admiral butterfly of the year.

28th March 2004 - A visit to New Fancy View to see the Goshawks displaying was successful with on two occasions there being at least 4 birds in the air at the same time. A flock of House Martins passed through, these being the first of the year for me, and a male Siskin shone brilliantly in a close tree with a dark background which highlighted his colours. This will probably be the last time this year that I will be seeing these raptors as the displaying season is drawing to an end, but in the late afternoon, a fitting end was of 11 Hawfinches in one tree as viewed from the viewpoint.

27th March 2004 - Coombe Hill Canal on a morning full of drizzle. Chiffchaffs were singing in many places and a Green Woodpecker was waffling along the tow path. At least 3 Redshank, 6 Lapwing and a Curlew were either on the Meadows or surrounding field. The number of Snipe was high with at least 33 birds seen and 1 Jack Snipe. Few duck were present but Teal, Wigeon, Pintail and Shoveler were all present in small numbers.
At Ashleworth, the highlight was of a male Merlin harrying a flock of at least 30 Meadow Pipits. Two Pergrines added to the raptor compliment.

25th March 2004 - A short visit to Slimbridge on a sunny and mild afternoon. There are still 8 Bewick's Swans present. A first for me for the year were of two Wheatears, foraging on the Dumbles during the afternoon.

24th March 2004 - Coombe Hill Canal on a cold morning with rain showers. 29 Lapwing were on the Meadows with 2 Redshank. 2 different Curlew were present, one on either side of the canal. Also on the Meadows were 1 Oystercatcher, which is a first for the year for this site, and Meadow Pipits and Skylarks. Ducks were down in number as expected at this time of year with 12 Mallard, 36 Teal, 8 Wigeon and 1 Pintail. Other waders included 11 Snipe but no Jack Snipe this time. A Sparrowhawk overflew the canal and 11 Coot were in the area.
At Ashleworth, at least 12 Meadow Pipits were near Hasfield Ham with Reed Bunting and one Stonechat also there. 2 Buzzards and 1 Peregrine were the raptor contingent and 3 Fieldfares remain. A male Great Spotted Woodpecker was in Stank Lane.

21st March 2004 - WeBS count day at Ashleworth. In addition to at least two different Chiffchaffs singing in the copse on either side of the hide, there was also one bird singing in Dirty Lane.
The count details are as follows :- 11 Mute Swan, 3 Canada Geese, 7 Pintail, 46 Coot, 4 Mallard, 3 Shoveler, 338 Wigeon, 7 Tufted Duck, 3 Gadwall, 32 Teal, 7 Common Gull, 2 Black-headed Gull and 1 Grey Heron.
I had some business in the Forest of Dean later in the day and I called into New Fancy View before lunch where, in the breezy sunshine, several displays were made by the Goshawks with a pair interacting with some talon grappling or at least touching and some aerobatics. Just before lunch first one Peregrine appeared and was joined by another. By the size difference this was a pair. They put on a display and then were joined by a third bird. Several Buzzards were in the air at various times as well. All in all, one of the best days for raptor watching this month.

20th March 2004 - A morning of very strong winds and driving drizzle. At Coombe Hill Canal, the towpath was graced by a Reed Bunting and on the Meadows, 3 Hare were running about, 17 Lapwing were on the wing and 4 Shoveler were on the scrapes. Redshank and Curlew were in the area and 18 Common Snipe and 3 Jack Snipe were present.
At Ashleworth, 10 Tufted Duck were on note and 6 Grey Heron were on the wing together. Of the general duck flock the numbers appear to have dwindled as expected with the south west winds and clear skies of the last few days.

19th March 2004 - In the driving wind and rain I made a short visit to Severn Beach on the off chance that there may be some sea birds blown into the estuary by the near gale force wind. At first there appeared to be no birds at all but then, success with 3 adult Gannets fighting to fly against the wind back to the open sea. They eventually gave up and alighted on the water and floated downstream on the tide.
A quick visit to Slimbridge resulted in seeing 8 Bewick's Swans which appear to be all that are left. On South Lake I found a colour ringed Black-tailed Godwit which had been ringed in Iceland in the summer of 2002 and been seen at Slimbridge in the autumn of 2003. This was the first spring sighting at this site. It is probably returning to Iceland where it was seen last summer.

17th March 2004 - Commbe Hill Canal on an overcast but still mild morning. Curlew were seen and heard calling as was a Redshank. At least 6 Lapwing were dotted about the Meadows and a flock of 14 overflew. Wigeon and Mallard were present in small numbers but there were over 100 Teal noted. 14 Snipe and 3 Jack Snipe were also present as was a Hare which dashed off across the fields. Another pointer of spring was of a Chiffchaff singing along the canal.
At Ashleworth, 2 Buzzards and a Peregrine were the raptor contingent and the duck species and numbers were as yesterday.

16th March 2004 - A gloriously sunny and mild afternoon at Ashleworth. The duck numbers have dropped away but there are still Wigeon, Teal, Pintail, Shoveler, Mallard and a number of Gadwall present. 2 Buzzards flew over the reserve and on Hasfield Ham there were Skylarks, Reed Bunting and a flock of Meadow Pipits. Fieldfare and Redwing were still in evidence in the ploughed field along Stank Lane.

15th March 2004 - An afternoon visit to Slimbridge. 55 Bewick's Swans remain as the rest have now left on their migration.

14th March 2004 - I had promised to meet a birde,r from out of the county, in the Forest of Dean today. We duly met up but the conditions were horrendous with heavy driving range and very strong winds. It was useless to go to the view point at New Fancy since the low cloud obscured the trees. At least I was able to show him 3 Brambling at the feeder at the Cyril Hart Arboretum. We called it a day at that point but in the afternoon, the weather cleared somewhat and a Goshawk was visible in a distant tree for some time after which it gave a display for a couple of minutes in the now sunshine.
But, the surprise of the day was of a lone Sandwich Tern which flew low over the viewpoint, tracking south west and was seen by at least 20 people including the RSPB wardens. Definitely the bird of the day.

13th March 2004 - Slimbrdige. From the Zeiss Hide, there is much water and many birds. Wader included the Purple Sandpiper, 9 Ruff, 3 Black-tailed Godwits, 2 Oystercatchers, Dunlin, Lapwing, Snipe, Curlew, Golden Plover and Little Stint. Bewick's Swans are still there in numbers and at least 3 Snipe were showing at the Martin Smith Hide.

11th March 2004 - A very short visit to Slimbridge revealed that there are still well over 100 Bewick's Swans still present.

10th March 2004 - A fleeting visit to Ashleworth. 4 Buzzards were calling and circling over the hide and on the water there were several Gadwall and at least 100 Lapwing were on the water line. Wigeon, Teal, Pintail, Shoveler, Mallards and many Coot are still present but the total number of waterbirds seems to be dropping steadily.

9th March 2004 - A took my lunch in the car park at Nagshead RSPB Reserve today. There are often a pair of Carrion Crows which frequent the area and must be helped by the odd left over sandwich or crisps. I threw out a broken biscuit and was at first surprised to see one of the birds pick up firstly one piece and then another as if it was taking the food to a mate or young, the latter being not very probably just yet. I watched closely and discovered that the bird was caching the food under some leaf litter. I have seen Jays caching acorns, and Coat Tits in the garden secreting sunflower seeds away but this was a first for me for this species.

8th March 2004 - A late afternoon visit to Slimbridge saw me in the right place at the right time when a Purple Sandpiper was found from the Zeiss Hide. This is a very rare bird for the site and was a county tick for many of the visitors there. Also noted while looking at this bird were Ruff, Golden Plover, Black-tailed Godwit and Redshank with the Dunlin and Lapwing flock in which this bird slept.
Noted at least 88 Bewick's Swans still present and 5 Snipe from the Martin Smith Hide.

7th March 2004 - A fleeting visit to the Forest of Dean. Bramblings, Siskins and Great Spotted Woodpecker among others on the feeder at the Cyril Hart Arboretum. No Goshawks showing in the few minutes that I was at New Fancy View but I left quickly in a heavy sleet shower late in the afternoon.

6th March 2004 - Coombe Hill Canal and Meadows. On an overcast but mild day, the first bird of note heard from the car park at The Wharf was of a Curlew calling across the fields to the west. The two resident Mute Swans, one with an orange ring 'AAGX' are back on the canal. 7 Common Snipe, 5 Jack Snipe, a Shelduck and a pair of Lapwings were on the meadows and Skylarks were singing high in the sky. A Peregrine was the only raptor seen.
On the Leigh Meadows there were 20 Mute Swans, but again, no sign of the Bewick's Swans.
At Ashleworth, 6 Tufted Ducks were present. These are relative scarce at this location. At least 70 Coot were there as well but the Wigeon numbers are definitely down on last week although I did not do a count. 8 Shelduck, 3 Common Snipe, 20 plus Meadow Pipits, a number of Reed Buntings, more singing Skylarks and a flock of 180 Lapwing which contained a single Ruff were in the air and later on the field opposite Colways Farm. A Curlew was heard and later seen at this location as well as at Coombe Hill. At least 4 Buzzards were present but no sign of the wintering Peregrines.

5th March 2004 - Too busy to go out into the field today but here at home, a record 35 Frogs at least are spawning in the pond. The number may be greater as it is difficult to count the moving bodies in such a small area!

3rd March 2004 - Coombe Hill Canal was very quiet this morning but 4 Redwing, 2 Shelduck and 2 pairs of Lapwing were displaying as were a pair of Curlew. 80 Teal, 21 Common Snipe and 2 Mallard were in the wetter areas while a Reed Bunting was in the long vegetation and at least 2 Skylarks were singing overhead.
There were no Bewick's Swans on the Leigh Meadows but there were 21 Mute Swans.
At Ashleworth there were 2 more displaying Curlew, 12 Shelduck, at least 90 Coot, 7 Mute Swan, 1 Canada Goose, 3 Common Snipe and a Skylark singing as well as the usual Teal and Wigeon flock with some Shoveler, Pintail and Gadwall. In the copse by the hide, the first of the White Violets are coming into flower.

2nd March 2004 - A very short visit to Slimbridge produced no White-fronted Geese. Perhaps the last 9 have departed on migration. The Bewick's Swans, however are still in evidence.

1st March 2004 - On a brilliantly sunny but very cold day, I paid a visit to Slimbridge and found the remaining 9 White-fronted Geese. All of the Bewick's Swans are still in the area. After lunch I scoped the Black-headed Gulls on South Lake where many of them were stood on the ice accompanied by 2 Common Gull. Of the former species I was able to read 4 metal rings, 3 of which were British. These were ET77232, ET77261 and ET77255. The other ring read was U-519653 which was from Matsalu, Estonia.

29th February 2004 - On a bitterly cold day with a biting northerly wind, I stood on top of the viewpoint at New Fancy View for a short time in the early afternoon in light snow showers looking for Goshawks. One was noted perched in the medium distance tree and apart from 3 Buzzards and a couple of Ravens it was quiet.

28th February 2004 - Slimbridge on a frosty but sunny morning. I could not find any White-fronted Geese today but reports suggest that there are only 9 individuals left in the area.

26th February 2004 - There appears to have been an exodus of White-fronted Geese since two days ago. I could only find 129 individuals and unless there are others out of view, these are the only ones left at Slimbridge.

25th Febraury 2004 - Coombe Hill Canal on a sunny but frosty day with snow showers. A Vole slowly crossed the canal towpath making its way through the frosted grass leaves before going down a tiny hole. A pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers gave some sort of courting display by flying the same circuit around a set of trees on both sides of the canal many times and eventually they were distracted by the drumming of a third bird further down the canal and then the original pair went off to investigate.
A Hare sped off across the meadows where there were over 200 Teal and several other species of duck but 10 Snipe and 3 Jack Snipe were a highlight.
The usual 8 Bewick's Swans remain on the Leigh Meadows as viewed from Wainlodes Hill as I moved on to Ashleworth.
The duck were well spread out and there appeared to be similar numbers to the count that was made on the 22nd February. Highlight of the visit was undoubtedly the finding of two different Brambling with a Chaffinch flock in Stank Lane.

24th February 2004 - At Slimbridge today, the count of White-fronted Geese revealed a further loss of about 60 or so birds although it appears that no Bewick's Swans have left yet. A quick look around the site produced 2 Oystercatcher on the Dumbles, 2 Redshank with the Lapwings, Dunlin and Golden Plover on the Tack Piece. Also on this field was a Red Fox which ambled amongst the birds and the latter took very little notice of the mammal.
On South Lake there were a number of Black-headed Gulls, one was a German ringed bird which was ringed in 1996 and seen in many winters since then at Slimbridge. Also present amongst 3 British rings was a bird sporting a Danish ring.

23rd February 2004 - A visit to Slimbridge revealed that there have been no further loss of White-fronted Geese and none of the Bewick's Swans have left on their migration yet.

22nd February 2004 - WeBS count day at Ashleworth Ham. The following figures were submitted. 1655 Wigeon, 47 Teal, 1 Mallard, 121 Pintail, 73 Shoveler, 10 Gadwall, 48 Coot, 19 Canada Geese, 11 Mute Swan, 21 Shelduck, 346 Lapwing, 1 Grey Heron, 300 Black-headed Gull, 30 Common Gull, 40 Lesser Black-backed Gull and 1 Herring Gull.
At New fancy View a Goshawk gave brief flight views before perching and giving good but distant views in the bitterly cold and strong wind.

21st February 2004 - Coombe Hill Meadows on a very cold but sunny morning. A Reed Bunting was singing on the canal towpath and a Peregrine Falcon was hunting over the meadows although there were few birds there in the freezing conditions. However a Grey Wagtail was around one of the scrapes and there were fresh Mink tracks in the slowly thawing mud.
At the Leigh Meadows as viewed from Wainlodes Hill, there were 8 Bewick's Swans with 7 Mute Swans and one bird which was asleep at long range was unidentified but was thought to be an eighth Mute Swan.
At Ashleworth the birds of note were of 22 Shelduck and over 200 Lapwing on Hasfield Ham.

20th February 2004 - A quick visit to Slimbridge. The White-fronted Goose flock numbers appear to have dropped again from about 580 birds on 17th February to about 480 birds today in spite of the steady north east or easterly winds of the past few days. The Bean Goose could not be located today as indeed it was missing on the 17th. Finally, at least 4 Snipe were present from the Martin Smith Hide.

19th February 2004 - The 8 Bewick's Swans were on the Leigh Meadows again this morning. At Ashleworth, there were at least 1080 duck on Hasfield Ham as viewed from Stank Lane and nearby there were 30 Shelduck, over 250 Lapwing and many assorted gulls. Tree Sparrows were again present as resident at Colways Farm.

18th February - 2004 - The first Frog spawn of the year in the pond at home continues this weeks firsts for the year.
Coombe Hill Canal on a beautiful, sunny and clear but cold morning. The two resident Mute Swans, one with the orange ring AAGX, are showing interest in a nest by The Wharf. Another first for the year was the sight and sound of two Curlew, calling on each side of the canal. Quite a number of duck were present with the predominant species being Pintail and Wigeon and there were 2 Shelduck present.
At Ashleworth, 15 Mute Swans were present, at least 11 Tufted Duck and 6 Shelduck were on Hasfield Ham where there were an estimated 2000 duck, about one quarter of which were Pintail. This figure is approaching again the numbers required regularly for it to be a site of international importance for this species. Yet another first for the year was the sight of a Buzzard on a nest in the Ashleworth area. Finally, a Hare did an impression of an olympic sprinter across the fields to the east of Colways Farm.

17th February 2004 - The numbers of White-fronted Geese at Slimbridge appears to have dropped from nearly 800 birds to about 580 and I could not find the Bean Goose today. Just after lunch there were 164 Bewick's Swans amassed in a tight flock close in front of the Holden Tower. This behaviour would suggest that they may be on their way within a few days now. Other birds of note was of a single Ruff on the Dumbles and a noisy Oystercatcher flying around the Tack Piece/Dumbles area. Raptors included one Buzzard and onePeregrine.

16th February 2004 - A Robin has started to build a nest in my open fronted nestbox which has been unused for nearly 15 years!! I noted it taking nesting material into the box at first light this morning. Also, at home, a new bird on the house list with a flyover Cormorant which is the 70th bird on the list.
An early morning trip to Ashleworth failed to produce any wild swans but a Great Crested Grebe was a first for the year for the site. Tufted Duck numbers have increased to at least 19 birds. 4 Shelduck were on Hasfield Ham as seen from Stank Lane now that all the roads (except for Dirty Lane) are now clear of floodwater. Golden Plover was new for the year here and there were at least 5 birds in with a Lapwing flock of at least 350 birds. Pintail numbers were good also with more than 190 birds on the Ham. A Treecreeper was in Ham Road. A botanical first for the year was Lesser Celandine which was in flower near Stank Lane in a location which was underwater on Saturday(14th) and would only have been clear of water yesterday. On the subject of flowers, another first for the year were Violets which I noted when reading the river depth marker at Haw Bridge.
At Slimbridge the reported Spoonbill was on South Lake and later it gave brief, but close, and well lit views in the sunshine on the Tack Piece. A rough count of the distant White-fronted Goose flock produced 610 birds but I suspect there were a few more which suggests that none have left for the spring migration just yet. Finally, 7 Snipe were on view from the Martin Smith Hide.

15th February 2004 - New fancy View in the Forest of Dean. A Goshawk spent quite a time distantly perched in a tree and in the afternoon, two were in the air together after a dull and drizzly morning. Buzzards and Ravens were also aloft and after 4.00pm with the light beginning to fade there was a steady stream of finches flying towards Cinderford, some being identified by their white rumps as Brambling. Presumably these birds were all flying towards a roost site. The final bird of the day was a Tawny Owl in the near darkness at Nagshead RSPB reserve.

14th February 2004 - A morning visit to Coombe Hill Canal. The flood have receded greatly overnight but the towpath is still flooded to the west of the footpath which leaves the canal to proceed across the meadows which are totally flooded. A Coot was unusual on the canal but there were more on the floods. A Mistle Thrush was singing and a female Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming. A Grey Wagtail was flushed from the towpath and on the flood, 69 Pochard and some Tufted Duck were a first for the winter at this site. 4 Gadwall were another first and of the duck, there were good numbers of Pintail.
At Ashleworth, it was possible to get to the hide by wading through the water on Ham Road although it was marginal to drive through it. A Treecreeper was in the copse by the hide and at least 4 Tree Sparrows were at Colways Farm as viewed from Ham Road. 4 Bewick's Swans were on Ashleworth Ham although I later found these and the other four on the stubble field where four of them were yesterday.

13the February 2004 - A late afternoon trip to the Ashleworth area. The road past Wainlodes is still flooded as is Ham Road but just a little way along this road towards Stank Lane, I found 4 Bewick's Swans including 2 cygnets on a partially flooded stubble field. I later discovered another 4 swans, this time with only one cygnet two fields further on.

9th February 2004 - A day of business in the Forest of Dean was combined with a visit to several bird filled areas. First stop was Brierly and there the trees were full of birds including a Hawfinch that I managed to photograph. Blue, Great, Long-tailed, Marsh and Willow Tits were all present as well. Next I called into the Cyril Hart Arboretum and a look at the giant bird feeder. At least 17 Brambling were there and 3 Siskin were on the feeder itself. I then moved on to New Fancy View and noted several Goshawks and, although none were displaying in the calm but very cold and sunny air, they were just soaring as were Buzzards and Ravens. Finally, late in the afternoon I was going to walk through Cannop Marsh to look for Dippers but I did not have to as I spotted one on the rocks at the bottom of the waterfall by the Stoneworks as I viewed the stream from the bridge.

8th February 2004 - A beautifully sunny but very cold morning in a biting wind after gales overnight. As expected the whole area is flooded and it is not possible to get along the Coombe Hill Canal or to the hide at Ashleworth but from Wainlodes Hill, I could still see the 4 Bewick's Swans on the Leigh Meadows.

7th February 2004 - Four Bewick's Swans were on the Leigh Meadows this morning and at Ashleworth, the Tufted Ducks number 28 with at least 107 Lapwing present. The duck are well scattered on the rapidly rising flood water.

5th February 2004 - The Bewick's Swans at the Leigh Meadows could not be found today and the river has risen more and there are now flooded fields at intervals all the way to Maisemeore. The 10 Tufted Ducks are still at Ashleworth and another new colour ringed Mute Swan cygnet has shown up, orange ring G12.
In the afternoon at Slimbridge, the White-fronted Geese were to the south of the Dumbles and I made a rough count of just over 700 birds which is a really low number for this time of year. 2 Ruff were on the Dumbles but 35 Redshank were in a tight flock on the Tack Piece. Following one of the biggest Bewick's Swan catches for many yearts, a couple of weeks ago I was able to read 25 rings on the 127 bird visible from the Holden Tower. Undoubtedly there were more rings but some of the birds were either sitting down or were in deep water and thus their legs were not visible.

4th February 2004 - Another wet and windy morning, a familiar story of late and the river at Haw Bridge has risen yet more and is now showing 10.44m on the gauge board there. Again, the Bewick's Swans remain on the floods at the Leigh Meadows but at Ashleworth a Chiffchaff was calling by the hide and the first of the Tufted Ducks this year put in an appearance with at flock of 10 birds. Reed Buntings, Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and more than 20 Pied Wagtails were on Hasfield Ham, at least that part which is not flooded. Two Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a male chasing a female through the tree branches in Stank Lane was another sign of spring. Finally, another colour ringed Mute Swan, AAEX (orange), was present in front of the hide.

3rd February 2004 - The Bewick's Swans remain at the Leigh Meadows. The river is just lapping over its banks near Wainlodes and the duck on the now extensive waters at Ashleworth Ham are spread out. The Lapwing flock was of similar number to yesterday.
At Slimbridge, the White-fronted Goose flock was way to the south beyond the southern cross fence on the Dumbles. However, there were 11 Raven together and some of them were 'playing' with sticks. They would pick up some small pieces of wood and fly just a few metres into the air before dropping them and then the bird would land, pick up the stick and repeat the process. Peregrine and Buzzard were the raptor representatives today and on South Lake, the first Oystercatcher of the season was present.

2nd February 2004 - An afternoon visit to Ashleworth. The 8 Bewick's Swans were still on the Leigh Meadows but this time they were on water although in the same field. With all the recent rain, the meadows were nearly completely covered in water and the river was just brimming over its banks.
At Ashleworth itself, there were over 200 Lapwing but only about 100 Canada Geese in the distance with at least one Greylag Goose. Mute Swan numbers were of at least 14 birds with much pushing about by some of the males who were cruising around in a hunched up posture and exerting their dominance over others. 12 Gadwall were notable and in the lane there was a lone Goldcrest in the hedge and 3 Bullfinches were likewise. The river, at 10.26m at Haw Bridge was the highest that I had seen it this winter and I feel sure that it with flood the land soon.

28th January 2004 - There were 8 Bewick's Swans on the Leigh Meadows early on this bitterly cold morning but there were few birds on the Coombe Hill Meadows. Here there were only 8 Pied Wagtails and 5 Lapwings plus an animal which ran steadily across the Meadows and eventually disappeared into the small withy bed from which there is no exit, being surrounded by water with ice lumps in it. This looked like a dog, the size of a small alsatian but it also had characteristics which resembled both a wolf and a hyena. It was almost black and plastered in mud and had large upright ears. An odd looking animal which surprisingly did not flush the Wagtails as it passed by them. No one appeared to be with it nor did I see anyone all the time I was there.
At Ashleworth, the usual duck flocks were there but the Canada Goose flock was much reduced in size relative to the count on Monday (26th), although the 3 Greylag Geese were present. A Stonechat could be seen from the hide and from the public footpath at the back of the reserve there were 13 Meadow Pipits, 2 Pied Wagtails, a Reed Bunting and a Snipe.

27th January 2004 - At Slimbridge today, I was given a lift by the warden who was taking several members of the public out on to the reserve to see the Lapland Bunting which had been found there on Sunday. The net result was fantastic views of this bird at 30m with the telescope. It appeared to be a female although winter plumage of both sexes are similar. It was certainly the bird of the year so far. While we were watching the bunting, a Hen Harrier flew past. Quite a 20 minute spell!
Other notes were of a female Buzzard which caught a rabbit out in the open on the Dumbles, killed it and eat most of it although the raptor was harassed by a Raven at one time. Later, it let a smaller Buzzard onto the kill, this latter bird probably being here mate. Finally, a Water Rail gave close up views at the Knott Hide to end the day.

26th January 2004. WeBS count day at Ashleworth. The following totals were submitted, 30 Mallard, 160 Teal, 800 Wigeon, 60 Pintail, 6 Shoveler, 8 Mute Swan, 400 Canada Geese, 2 Barnacle Geese, 3 Greylag Geese, 6 Coot, 6 Gadwall, 2 Grey Heron, 30 Lapwing, 1 Common Gull, 12 Black-headed Gulls. Other birds of note there were a Song Thrush and 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers together along Stank Lane and a flock of 13 Pied Wagtails on the edge of the floods in a field at the top of the lane. The trusty Peregrine was on the pylon again.
I had to visit someone in the Forest of Dean and on the way, I called in at Brierley where bait is put down for the birds. I had the longest and closest view of a Hawfinch that I had ever had. A stunning look at close range through the telescope on 60x and not much more than the head filled the field of view!!

25th January 2004 - A very quick look at Ashleworth just as dawn was breaking but it was stangely quiet but there were 2 Peregrines on the pylon. Late in the afternoon I looked in on Coombe Hill Canal. The local resident pair of Mute Swans are back, one with the usual orange ring enscribed AAGX, were starting to nest build. The Meadows were absolutely empty, very quiet indeed.

24th January 2004 - Coombe Hill Meadows on a beautiful and sunny, if cold, morning. The orange ringed Mute Swan, AAGX and its unringed mate appear to be back on territory and may nest again on the canal. The Meadows are nicely flooded and the Wigeon, Pintail, Teal and Mallard flock were joined by 2 Shelduck, some Mute Swans and two unringed Bewick's Swans. Gulls present included Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed and Herring Gull. 92 Lapwing were flying about and along the canal was a substatianl Greenfinch flock.
At Asleworth, the Canada Goose flock is of at least 430 birds strong and there were 2 Barnacle Geese and 3 Greylag Geese with them. The first two Coot of the spring were also noted. The Peregrine was on one of the pylons and at least 3 different Buzzards put in an appearance. A Raven overflew Stank Lane and in the stubble field off this road there was a flock in excess of 50 Chaffinch but I could not find a Brambling amongst them. On Hasfield Ham there were 2 Bewick's Swans which could have been the two which left Coombe Hill Meadows earlier in the morning. At Colways Farm, there were at least 2, maybe 3 or 4 Tree Sparrows and finally at The Boat public house, the were two Mute Swans, one unringed but the other sported an orange Darvic, 3OK and A metal ring X0942.

23rd January 2004 - A morning visit to Ashleworth to check for wild swans but found none. A small Redwing flock of over 20 birds was in Stank Lane, the first of this species in numbers for a few weeks. A lone Great Spotted Woodpecker flew down the lane as well.
At long last after recent reports and a few unsubstantiated older sightings, I caught up with a Tree Sparrow at Colways Farm as viewed from Ham Road. This bird was in with some House Sparrows and Chaffinches. 20 Lapwing overflew and at least 3 Greylag and 1 Barnacle Geese were with the Canada Goose flock which increased in numbers as handfuls kept flying in from the north.
In the afternoon, I went to Slimbridge to log some goose data and was surprised twice to see a Kingfisher near the entrance ramp. A Peregrine overpowered a female Pochard on the Dumbles, riding it like a cowboy on a bucking bronco until the duck died. The raptor ate its fill and was then followed onto the carcass by two Buzzards.
The lone Bean Goose which looks to have paired up with a White-fronted Goose was very close to the Holden Tower with a small flock of the latter at lunchtime. Reports suggest that this flock is now about 800 strong but this is still a low number. Finally, a lone Redshank was on the Tack Piece among the large Wigeon flock and the usual Snipe, this time two were seen from the Martin Smith Hide.

20th January 2004 - A very short trip to Ashleworth this afternoon. The usual geese and ducks were there and the Peregrine was on the pylon again with two Buzzards on an adjacent pylon. Two of the Canada Geese had colour rings without inscription, one pink and one orange. The latter had a metal ring on the other leg. A different colour ringed Mute Swan was present, a first winter bird with orange "G19" with an unringed adult.

17th January 2004 - Slimbridge and the White-fronted Geese were almost out of sight to the south. At least 3 Buzzards were present and the Tack Piece was again full of birds in the wet conditions. Several Redshank, plus a Spotted Redshank and a Ruff were among the black geese, Wigeon, Teal and Pintail.

15th January 2004 - Working from home all day today. The only birds of note were 2 Song Thrushes together in the garden and a Sparrowhawk which also visited later.

14th January 2004 - An early morning visit to Ashleworth at first light to see if the Bewick's Swans had roosted proved positive when I found at first 4 adults and then I found the other adult and the cygnet. A horserider going up Stank Lane flushed the birds and they were last seen heading high to the south, possibly going to Walmore Common or Slimbridge. There was no sign of the Pink-footed Geese.

13th January 2004 - An interesting late afternoon at Ashleworth. On a bright, sunny and cold afternoon, I found 2 Pink-footed Geese with 201 Canada Geese, 9 Greylag Geese and 2 Barnacle Geese. Duck numbers seemed low but with a lot of water now present, they could just be spread out. Towards dusk, I glimpsed with the 'scope a swan in the far distance from the hide. I was sure that it was a Bewick's Swan and by later looking across the meadows from Stank Lane, I found 6 Bewick's Swans which included 1 cygnet.

12th January 2004 - I made another attempt this afternoon to catch up with the White-fronted Geese at Slimbridge and this time I was able to observe them quite closely in good light and obtain some feeding rate data. I was also able to find a lone Bean Goose which has joined them and by observing its behaviour, it seems to have paired with a White-fronted Goose. The pair were acting together to drive others away from a particular feeding patch.
Good numbers of birds including Lapwing, Golden Plover and Dunlin along with Wigeon and Teal and other birds are frequenting the partially flooded Tack Piece.

11th January 2004 - A partial day at Slimbridge with very heavy showers. The very wet fields are excellent for birds at the moment and the Lapwing and Golden Plover numbers are very high. The Dunlin flock spends a great deal of time on the river but at least 3 Redshank and 3 Ruff were on the Tack Piece amongst thousands of other birds. The Linnet flock which frequents the open spaces of the Dumbles also appears to have increased in size. Buzzard and Peregrine were the raptors present and while the Bewick's Swan numbers are about average for this time of the winter, the White-fronted Geese numbers are still very low.

10th january 2004 - Ashleworth again and a similar story with the usual Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Shoveler and Pintail flock and Canada Geese with at least 8 Greylag Geese. In excess of 41 Lapwing were the waders and raptors included Buzzard and Sparrowhawk. There were two Mute Swans present which are different to the any of the three which have been seen of late with the rising water levels. The original ones were unringed but today the two swans had orange rings with the inscriptions, AACD and J05.

9th January 2004 - A short visit to Slimbridge. Most of the White-fronted Geese were out of view from the public hides but the Tack Piece was full of birds including Canada Geese, Barnacle Geese, Greylag Geese, Dunlin, Ruff and Redshank. The ducks were predominantly Wigeon and Teal. On the Dumbles, the main species were Lapwing and in the distance on the river were Golden Plover.

8th January 2004 - A fleeting visit to Ashleworth on my return home from an appointment. There were the usual ducks with probably more Gadwall than so far this winter. Also increased in numbers were 18 Greylag Geese with the Canada Geese and the 2 Barnacle Geese. No raptors were noted.

7th January 2004 - Ashleworth at dawn. I wanted to check to see if any swans had roosted overnight but I found none. What appeared to be the 7 Greylag Geese with the large and colourful bills which I saw around the Slimbridge area a few weeks ago seem to have joined the flock of Canada Geese, at least temporarily, as have 2 Barnacle Geese. 10 Grey Heron were of note as was a Raven which passed overhead. The Lapwing flock was again present with probably more birds now present than yesterday but no other waders could be found. Finally a single male Stonechat was seen from the hide.

6th January 2004 - Ashleworth on a beautiful and mild afternoon. There were the usual mixture of duck including Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler, Pintail and at least one Gadwall. With a small party of Canada Geese were 11 Greylag Geese, 2 Shelduck and 2 Mute Swan. Raptors included Peregrine and Buzzard and waders were represented by about 60 Lapwing. A Tawny Owl called near dusk and a Barn Owl was hunting the fields not far from Haw Bridge. 4 Grey Herons were other visitors at dusk when they arrived together.

5th January 2004 - A visit to Slimbridge to try and get some data on the White-fronted Goose flock and their feeding activity. Many were out of sight of the public hides but I managed to get some data before they and many hidden birds took off and disappeared onto the river.
Other odd birds noted were 3 Common Snipe from the Martin Smith Hide and a Treecreeper in the walkway to the Holden Tower. The German ringed Black-headed Gull noted again on 29th December 2003 was present again but this time in Big Pen and not on South Lake.

4th January 2004 - Cotswold Water Park. At least 4 different Chiffchaffs and more than 6 Goldcrests around Pit 32 and more than 200 Golden Plover overflying. On the lake itself there were a pair of Goosanders. A lone Green Sandpiper was on the next working pit. At another location there were more than 60 Ruddy Duck. If the cull is to take place, it had better be soon otherwise there will be many more with a good breeding season just ahead. A Barn Owl was in a dozing in a cleft in a tree near South Cerney Sewage Works. Finally, a beautiful 'china' drake Smew was on Pit 75.

3rd January 2004 - Coombe Hill Canal with a light dusting of snow and some of it still falling as I made my way down the towpath and towards the Meadows at 0830. Bullfinches were along the path as usual and although there was only one Stock Dove over the Meadows, there were 8 Pied Wagtails and 16 Meadow Pipits feeding there along with some Skylark. A flock of about 80 Canada Geese held 3 Greylag Geese. There were few duck but Mallard, Teal and Wigeon were noted as were 8 Common Snipe. Kestrel and Buzzard were the only raptors present.
At Ashleworth, the number of duck is still about the highest of the winter so far and these included Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler and Pintail. Again, Meadow Pipits were in evidence and the Peregrine was on the pylon at lunchtime. 2 Common Gull were a little unusual but the disappointment of the day was when the hare hunting Bassett hounds came through the reserve. I went home.

2nd January 2004 - I had an appointment in the Forest of Dean and called into the Cyril Hart Arboretum on the way and noted that the gigantic seed feeder was once again almost empty but in spite of that there were at least 5 Coal Tits together on it at certain times along with a Nuthatch and some other common species. A Treecreeper was nearby. An equally short trip to Nagshead revealed 2 Marsh Tits together not far from the car park with 4 Jay together in the field and a Raven calling overhead.
In the afternoon I called in at Ashleworth on my way home. The water level is the highest of the winter and although I did not do a count there are more waterfowl present that at any time this winter so far. Today there was an additional Peregrine, the second bird being down in a field and looked to be on a kill.

1st January 2004 - A Happy New Year to all.
At the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust today there were quite a number of birds with good flocks of Dunlin, Lapwing and Golden Plover. There were at least 2 Little Stints with the Dunlin and 7 Ruff with a Spotted Redshank and 2 Common Redshank nearby on the Tack Piece. A Sparrowhawk tried to catch a Blackbird near the Holden Tower, other raptors present included Buzzard and Peregrine. More of the Greylag Geese that were colour ringed in the Forest of Dean were noted today and on the subject of ringing, a Finnish ringed first winter Black-headed Gull was on South Lake but I could not read all of the characters. Fortunately, I have enough information to know this bird if I see it again and maybe I can complete the picture. The White-fronted Goose flock is reported to be about 550 strong but I could only find 400. There are about 150 Bewick's Swans of which 90 were present on one field along with a lone Whooper Swan.




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