Diary - January to March 2006

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30th March 2006 - A trip to Ashleworth on an overcast day. Very heavy rain and a high tide caused the river to approach the edges of the main road at Maisemore. There were fewer duck than on 28th March. Only 4 Tufted Duck remain but signs of spring continue with Skylark singing from the skies and a Chiffchaff singing strongly in the copse by the hide.

28th March 2006 - An overcast and breezy morning at Ashleworth. The first Sand Martins of the year for me were noted mid morning along with one Swallow. Just before lunch a single House Martin joined them and then the surprise of the morning was a first winter Little Gull which did a fly by but was seen again by other observers later. 8 Tufted Ducks remain, a Little Grebe was seen and heard and and the same for a Chiffchaff by the hide. At least 2 Shelducks were over on Hasfield Ham where there is water again after the past two days of rain. The river is high too.

26th March 2006 - Three Brambling were on the bank near my apartment this morning.

25th March 2006 - A mild and breezy day. About 20 Fieldfare and a few Redwings were in Stank Lane, Ashleworth during the morning. Curlew were noted near Great House Farm and in two places in Stank Lane but this could have been just one bird moving around. There was a Curlew calling near Haw Bridge but in the wind this also could have been the same bird. The Chiffchaff which has been calling for most of the winter by the hide except for the last few weeks was singing today. Is this the same bird, we will never know. Seven Tufted Ducks were also present today and just one Redshank. On the way to Ashleworth, I noted a number of dead Toads on the road alongside Cannop Ponds. The sudden change to the mild weather has brought them out and started their migration to their breeding ponds, some not making it.

23rd March 2006 - A walk around Nagshead RSPB reserve and Cannop Ponds. A flock of several tens of Redwings were foraging on the forest floor to the south of the information centre on a very cold and sunny day. The water on the pond by the car park was frozen over.
At Cannop Ponds there were 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, fairly rare here. They were in immaculate plumage with brilliant white underparts and head and were the classic of the graelsii race of Britain and near continent. Also present were 5 Tufted Duck(3 males) and a further male on the northerly pond. There were two Greylag Geese on this pond and I was wondering if the injured one has found a mate. I am not sure that either one is the resident yet. In contrast with the ones noted at Ashleworth yesterday, these two look to be smaller, have the same orange bill but have brilliant pink, not orange legs.

22nd March 2006 - Ashleworth, mid morning on a bright, cool and sunny day. From the hide, 2 Redshank, 5 Lapwing and 1 Snipe. On the water, there were 4 Tufted Duck which are scarce here, 2 Shelduck and 2 Greylag Geese. These geese looked to be really sturdy individuals with bright orange, powerful bills and brilliant orange legs. The Peregrine was on the pylon.
While scanning with the 'scope from the hide, I was surprised to pick up a car in the distance across the fields. It was moving and I watched with fascination. It appeared to be coming down Stank Lane towards Ham Road but was along the eastern end where it is very rough. Eventually, it stopped and the driver got out and tried to put some material by the front wheels. This did not succeed in freeing him as I suspected he was now stuck. Several times he tried to move forward but only succeeding in moving a little way before dropping back. I was too far away to see if there was wheelspin but he tried a few times to either put material such as small branches under the front wheels or dig some soil down to the wheels. Each time this did not help much and he even went down the lane a little way with a bucket to get some brash to try to get grip under the tyres. All this seemed to fail and he was last seen digging near the front wheels of his dark blue estate car. The car was either stuck in a bad rut or 'beached' on some of the debris along this track. There is not much in the way of mud and indeed it is very dry at that point as there has not been any rain for a while, but it is very uneven with large holes. It is not advisable to go further than the rhine bridge without four wheel drive and good ground clearance.
After this visit I drove up to Birmingham and although it is out of the county I noted a Red Kite flying east over the M5 motorway 17 miles south of the M42 junction.

17th March 2006 - Three Hawfinches were in the tree just outside my apartment this morning. A nice view to start the day.

14th March 2006 - Ashleworth on a wet morning. 11 Tufted Duck (6 male) and 4 Pochard (all female). These species are unusual at this site. 2 Little Grebe were seen and heard trilling. 2 Shelduck in front of the hide were slightly unusual as they normally occur in the open distance of Hasfield Ham. The Peregrine was back on a pylon as was a Buzzard (not the same pylon).
On a general note, the Chiffchaff which has been heard calling almost throughout the winter seems to have disappeared over the last two or three weeks. Perhaps the cold weather has moved it on?

13th March 2006 - There was still some snow left on the open areas this morning after the fall yesterday. A walk to Cannop Ponds produced a number of Song Thrush flocks, the biggest being at the picnic site at the ponds where there were 18 birds. A Grey Wagtail was underneath the feeders at the stone works. At New Fancy View there were some Goshawks soaring, Buzzards and Ravens displaying.

11th March 2006 - A visit to Ashleworth this morning to do the monthly Wetland Bird Survey Count. The following figures were obtained. 24 Lapwing, 2 Grey Heron, 2 Canada Goose, 200 Wigeon, 62 Teal, 10 Mallard, 32 Gadwall, 13 Pintail, 1 Little Grebe, 25 Shoveler, 13 Coot, 2 Mute Swan, 10 Tufted Duck, 45 Black-headed Gull, 32 Common Gull, 1 Mediterranean Gull, 7 Shelduck, 2 Curlew, 21 Snipe and 1 Jack Snipe. The other bird of note but not included in the counts was a Barn Owl seen from the hide. The counts were done with help from Les Brown and were done between 9.30am and 11.30am.

1st March 2006 - A cold and generally frosty day with plenty of sunshine. A little snow from yesterday still lies in sheltered spots but it is only a tiny amount. At 5.00am this morning a Red Fox was seen ripping open the refuse bags in the bin store at a location in Parkend, no doubt looking for food.
Later in the day, I took a walk through Nagshead RSPB Reserve to Cannop and back along the cycle way. This produced a mixed flock of thrush species together including Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush and Redwing along with Blackbird. The bird of the day was, however, a male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker in the trees along the short trail. At Cannop Ponds, the lone Greylag Goose was present with the Mallard and Mandarin Ducks. It has been limping for some time and the cause is now clear. It has had some fishing line which has bitten into its right leg which at one time was very discoloured. It is now the same colouras the good leg and the limp is not as bad but there is still evidence of the fishing line. The bird is ringed with a metal ring, number 5234008.

18th February 2006 - Another short visit to Ashleworth was not very productive in terms of visibility with fairly thick fog. Two male Pochard were glimpsed. This species is unusual for this site.

19th January 2006 - A quick visit to a potential Peregrine eyrie before the breeding season commences. One bird noted in the area.

17th January 2006 - A short visit to Ashleworth revealed that there were 55 Gadwall there today and the male Tufted Duck has been joined by another and 4 Snipe were viewable from the hide.
The Gadwall numbers have been below what was the national threshold of 80 birds but not that far below as I consider that all ducks are under recorded at Ashleworth on account of the mass of vegetation. New literature available in the last week has seen the threshold level rise to 171 in line with the fact that the overall population of this duck is on the increase. It means that this site is nowhere near the level required on a regular basis for national recognition at the moment.

15th January 2006 - Ashleworth on the Wetland Bird Survey day. In the darkness at 7.15, Tawny Owls were making quite a racket as if there was some sort of disturbance nearby. Duck numbers were quite low with only 20 birds being on the open water as it got light at 8.00. The counts were, 1 Little Grebe, 1 Tufted Duck, 400 Wigeon, 30 Teal, 7 Mallard, 30 Shoveler, 30 Pintail, 44 Gadwall, 4 Mute Swan and 8 Coot. Surprisingly there were no gulls present and no Peregrine on the pylon. A not very typical day but with a higher water level than yesterday as noted by the disappearing vegetation in front of the hide.

14th January 2006 - At Ashleworth the Peregrine was in the pylon as usual and the Gadwall numbers reached 62 birds.
On a quick visit to the Cotwold Water Park area to pick up some supplies, 7 Smew were noted on Pit 57, 4 being brilliant males.

11th January 2006 - A brilliantly blue sky day, the first this year. The BBC report a Cardiff meteorological station as recording only 4 hours of sunshine this year before today, such has been the gloom.
A short visit to Ashleworth recorded 55 Gadwall but many ducks were asleep in the vegetation and thus there may have been more of this species. The lone Tufted Duck was still there. The Peregrine was on the pylon as usual and a flock of Long-tailed Tits were around the hide area as yesterday.
On the Leigh Meadows at lunchtime, not only were there two Whooper Swans but there were four Bewick's Swans, two being juveniles.

10th January 2006 - Another damp day with varing degrees of rain and now with a breeze adding to the discomfort. At Coombe Hill Canal the scene was generally quiet under the dark skies. The only thrushes in the towpath bushes appeared to be Fieldfares and there were not that many of them. A Sparrowhawk sped from this cover and swept across the southern meadows. 26 Mallard were packed in the water at The Wharf, an unusual number.
At Ashleworth, a bird of note up Stank Lane was a Grey Wagtail, while not an scarce bird, this species is rarely seen at this location. Amongst the duck flock was a lone male Tufted Duck and the Gadwall numbers hit 70 birds. A solitary Lapwing was in front of the screen hide as on Saturday. This bird may be sick. Finally, a flock of Long-tailed Tits roamed around the hide area for some time.

9th January 2006 - Yet another damp, cold and generally dank day which is now the fifth consecutive one with no sun. An afternoon walk through the woods was a very quiet one as expected. A flock of several Song Thrushes on the open field at Nagshead RSPB reserve was a nice surprise. Another visit to Cannop Ponds could only produce two Goosanders, a pair this time. On the north pond there were 6 Little Grebe amongst the duck.

8th January 2006 - Another cold, damp and generally misty and gloomy morning which produced heavy rain in the afternoon. Not surprisingly, the woods around Nagshead were very quiet but at Cannop Ponds, four male and one female Goosander were on the southern lake. In the afternoon, in spite of the heavy rain, I went to Lydney, en route to an appointment, to look for the reported Scaup. My first scan of the lake produced no birds but then I noted one bird, then two and finally three. These were two males and one female immature birds. While scanning, I picked up a Kingfisher rushing across the lake. A bright ending to a dark and dismal day.

7th January 2006 - A very cold and damp day which was fairly quiet at Coombe Hill Canal. However, as I walked the footpath across the meadows, a Short-eared Owl suddenly put in an appearance and flew back towards the hide, over the canal and dropped behind the hedge on the south side. Although the habitat looks idea for such a species, this is the first that I had seen in this location. An excellent find for such a dismal morning. Other birds of the area included a flock of about 20 Meadow Pipits feeding on the ground, a Goldcrest along the towpath which is a relatively unusual bird here. For the second day running, a Great Tit was singing.
The two Whooper Swans were on the Leigh Meadows and after seeing them, I moved on to Ashleworth where the Gadwall numbers have increased to at least 45 birds but of the other ducks, the total seemed to be down today. The Peregrine was on the pylon as usual, another Goldcrest was in the copse and approximately 200 Lapwing were overhead for a time. the first Lesser Celandine flower of the year was in bloom on Ham Road not far from the hide.

6th January 2006 Another walk over the same ground and in the same conditions as yesterday. The Dipper made an appearance in the village of Parkend as did a small flock of Bullfinches. The only other noticable feature today was the sound of a Great Tit giving the "teach - er" call which is the first that I had heard this season.
A short afternoon visit to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre at Slimbridge produced a Brent Goose on the Dumbles with the White-fronted Geese and a pair of Peregrines which gave a beautful example of the size difference between the big female and the smaller male. Over 150 Bewick's Swans came into roost late afternoon on Rushy Pen.

5th January 2006 - A short walk at Nagshead RSPB reserve on a damp, very cold and overcast morning produced, not surprisingly, not much in the way of bird activity. However, there seemed to be many alarm calls ringing out through the woodland but I was unable to discover the cause of these calls. There were a couple of Long-tailed Tit flocks on the move near the information centre and one of them had Blue Tit, Great Tit, Treecreeper and Goldcrest with them.

4th January 2006 - Coombe Hill Canal on an overcast by bright morning which gradually turned colder. Both Green Woodpecker and Great Spotted Woodpecker were along the towpath along with the usual Bullfinches. A Jay was slightly more unusual there. Fieldfare and Redwing were in the area and the Buzzard which squeals away to the south of the canal appeared to be perched in the usual general area. A small flock of Meadow Pipits seemed restless and a Water Rail was calling from the small withy bed.
The two Whooper Swans were in company with over 20 Mute Swans on the Leigh Meadows and at Ashleworth, the resident winter Peregrine was on a pylon, the two likewise Stonechat were near Colways Farm and at least 49 Lapwing were loafing on the reserve as viewed from the hide. Along Stank Lane, the biggest flock of late of Redwings numbered over 30 birds and also there was a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a flock of more than 15 Long-tailed Tits. A lone Snipe, asleep, was in view from the hide at midday.

3rd January 2006 - A trip to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust Centre at Slimbridge. As I drove from the Forest of Dean, the damp and overcast day turned decidedly foggy on the high ground and upon arrival the visibility was not particularly good. The White-fronted Geese were difficult to pick out on the edge of the river from the Holden Tower hide but a visit to the Martin Smith hide produced both Common Snipe and 2 Jack Snipe, the latter taking quite a time to find in the vegetation. There was a lot of birds on the Tack Piece including a good number of Bewick's Swan and wader included, Dunlin, Lapwing, Golden Plover and Curlew. As lunchtime approached, the visibility got worse and I returned to the Forest.

2nd January 2006 - A visit to Coombe Hill Canal and meadows on a sunny but very cold morning when some parts of the scrapes were still frozen over. A flock of at least 10 Redpolls along the towpath was of note to start the year. Several Bullfinches were also along that stretch. There were not many birds on the scrapes but 2 Shelduck were a good find. From the Grundon Hide, a Peregrine was flying strongly and menacingly over the Long Pool but I did not see a kill take place. Away to the south of the canal, I could hear a Buzzard making a squealing call. It was a call that I have heard from this location several weeks ago and after careful searching this morning, I eventually found the calling bird in a tree one field from the canal.
At Ashleworth Ham, there was no morning ice. The duck flock contained mostly Wigeon and Shoveler but there were at least 30 Gadwall. The usual Peregrine was on a pylon and the 2 Stonechats were in the field opposite Colways Farm. In the sky, a flock of at least 140 Lapwing were wheeling overhead at mid morning. The gull flock which seems to rest on the waters to the northern end of the floods or frequents the fields to the east of Colways Farm consists of Black-headed Gulls and Common Gulls.

1st January 2006 - A Happy New Year and good birding in 2006 to all my readers.

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