Diary - January to March 2009

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31st March 2009 - Ashleworth on yet another overcast but dry day and the high pressure bringing this weather continues to dominate the UK. 1 Lapwing was again over at the back of the scrape to the right from the hide area. 45 pipits were flying around the Stank Lane crossroads area. These were undoubtedly Meadow Pipits. Interestingly, along Stank Lane, 2 Curlew were in fields 2 and 18 yet again. Good number of duck are still present of the last day of March including predominantly Wigeon but Teal, Gadwall and Shoveler were also still there.
As Slimbridge in the afternoon, the bird species of note on a short visit were 2 Wheatear on the fence to the north of the Dumbles which was a first for me for the year.

30th March 2009 - Westonbirt Arboretum was showing signs of spring with flowers in profusion including Primroses, Violets, Wood Anemone and Lesser Celandine.
Slimbridge in the afternoon on an overcast but dry day included 2 Swallows and oddly a leucistic Herring Gull distantly seen on the river from the Holden Tower.

29th March 2009 - Nagshead RSPB Reserve in the afternoon between 1300 and 1400 was quiet as expected but 2 Treecreepers on the same tree were of note on the short trail.

28th March 2009 - Ashleworth between 1030 and 1400 on an overcast and cold day with a strong breeze and an odd shower or two. A lot of gulls, about 110 birds including about equal numbers of Black-headed Gulls and Common Gulls were present with a handfull of Lesser Black-backed Gulls. 15 Tufted Duck and at least 7 Sand Martins pushing through against a stiff north head wind. 1 House Martin and 1 Swallow were there too and these both represented a first of the year for me. 15 Snipe were in the field opposite Colways Farm. Along Stank Lane, 2 Curlew were in field 2 again and 2 were in field 18 but no Lapwing were seen.

27th March 2009 - Another short visit to Slimbridge. The Tack Piece and the Dumbles held generally fewer birds than on Wednesday (25th). A Chiffchaff was singing by the butterfly garden and a Great Crested Grebe could be seen from the Holden Tower to be on the scrape in front of the Zeiss Hide which seemed a little unusual species for the site.

25th March 2009 - Slimbridge on an overcast and breezy day with some sunny periods. The Brent Goose was still present and as noted before it is still with the Greylag Goose flock. 2 Oystercatchers were on the Tack Piece were there were also a number of Curlew on this very short visit.

24th March 2009 - An overcast day with sunny periods at Ashleworth. At least 2 Sand Martins passed through and the Chiffchaff was singing in the copse. 36 Snipe were noted, most from the field opposite Colways Farm. 12 Tufted Duck were present and Wigeon, Teal and Shoveler remain, the latter being the next numerous to the Wigeon. 10 Gadwall were, proportionally, a good number. Along Stank Lane, Curlew were calling and 2 were in field 2. A Shelduck was on field 18 and 5 Lapwing were on the wet field 23 and possibly a third Curlew was with them. A number of Reed Bunting were along Stank Lane and the footpath across the back of the reserve. Along Dirty Lane, a Sparrowhawk was chasing a flock of about 26 Fieldfares although no kill was made. White Violets and Violets are in profusion in the copse at Meerend Thicket.

21st March 2009 - A sunny day at Ashleworth. 22 Tufted Duck were of note but more rarely for this site was the presence of one female Pochard. A Lapwing was around the waters edge and 2 Curlew flew over, calling and they were probably disturbed by a low flying helicopter. Also overflying, but higher, was a Cormorant. A Chiffchaff singing in the copse added to the spring like day and a Snipe was in the wet field on the corner of Stank Lane. Ducks included at least 100 Wigeon with good numbers of Shoveler. I also noted Gadwall, Pintail and Teal. 7 Sand Martin were a prediction species for the day and were the first for me at this site this year.

20th March 2009 - Not so much mist this morning. I decided to go to Cardiff Bay to see the much talked about area which has been constructed over the past few years and to try to find the reported Bonaparte's Gull. It did not take too much time to drive down and find the area, having checked the surrounding on Google Earth and also noted that the tide would be well in so that it would have driven the birds off any mud flats out in the river. I was in high hopes when I arrived and there were quite a number of gulls in the bay area. I scanned through them at least twice and on the last scan I found a Mediterranean Gull with the many Black-headed Gulls and the few Lesser Black-backed Gulls. At one end of the arc of scanning I was looking well into the sun, so I move a little along the bay front and began scanning again. After two more scans, I found the American bird which I considered to be really dainty, compared with the other gulls and it had a phalarope disposition about it. While all this concentrated looking was going on, I noticed some of the birds looking skyward and when I did likewise, I found a Buzzard overflying Cardiff City. 3 Sand Martins passed through which were a first for the year for me and a Sparrowhawk spooked the whole of the gull flock but I relocated the Bonaparte's Gull relatively easily afterwards and enjoyed its presence for another half hour. The new multistorey houses there afford good views of the bay but it is not the place that I would choose to live.
At Magor Services on the M4, a Chiffchaff was singing.
At Slimbridge, a very orange looking Black-tailed Godwit was on the scrape in front of the Holden Tower and the American Wigeon was there too. About 70 Wigeon were still present on the Tack Piece where there were 88 Curlew. The Brent Goose was surprisingly still there although I could not find any White-fronted Geese. This bird has joined the Greylag Goose flock.

19th March 2009 - A foggy start to the day in West Gloucestershire but the sun soon thinned it and I went to Gigrin Farm Red Kite feeding centre. I arrived by 1315 having seen three Red Kites en route near the village of Llandegley. The feed starts at 1400 in winter and on previous occasions it appears to fade as a spectacle in about 45 minutes to an hour but today the kites were still feeding after 1 and a half hours and it was a grand spectacle in the brilliant afternoon sunshine.

18th March 2009 - A misty start to the day but then the sun came out to give a really pleasant day. At New Fancy View, Brambling, Siskin and Nuthatch were among the birds visiting the feeding station. Green Woodpecker and Adder were noted on the walk to the top. From there, a pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a Tawny Owl calling on two occasions, a Grey Heron flying down the valley over the forest towards Mallards Pike. Several Ravens and Buzzards were on the wing but in the misty conditions, only a fleeting glimpse of a Goshawk was made but I eventually found one perched up. A very small flock of hirundines flew over to the north which was a first of the year for me.
Nagshead RSPB Reserve was again quiet.

17th March 2009 - Another fine day. At New Fancy View, a male and a female Brambling were at the feeding station with Siskin. I found the Adder again alongside the path to the top of the viewpoint. 2 Goshawks were observed along with many Buzzards, and some Ravens were displaying. A Sparrowhawk had come through the feeding area and scattered the small birds but did not make a kill. The birds returned after a couple of minutes. A Chiffchaff singing was my first of the year.
It was quiet around the short trail at Nagshead and the path which was churned up by a tractor has dried out really well in this warm weather. 16th March 2009 - Again, another sunny day with high pressure prevailing over the country. At New Fancy View, there were alot of people near the feeding station which caused quite a bit of disturbance, nevertheless, I logged Siskin feeding there. In the relative warm conditions, at least one Red Admiral Butterfly was on the wing. At Gorsty Knoll, a Yellowhammer in a friends garden was a good sight. 15th March 2009 - A gloriously sunny day. At New Fancy View, it was 12 deg. C. at 1200, and during a 2 hour session of viewing, 6 Goshawk sighings were made including a close overhead encounter. Brambling were still present near the feeder and someone found an Adder near the path to the viewpoint.

14th March 2009 - The Robin noted on the 12th March now is taking nesting material into a gap in the foilage of the garden conifer so my thoughts seem to be correct.

12th March 2009 - A dry day but somewhat overcast. There is a Robin which is spending alot of time in my front garden near a 'tight' conifer which has been 'broken' open by the recent snow. I am wondering if it contemplating nesting in the said tree.

11th March 2009 - A dry day but generally overcast. There were 18 Tufted Duck at Ashleworth and again there were no sign of the Whooper Swans near Stank Lane but there were Skylarks were singing there. A Redwing and Fieldfare flock was again in the vicinity of the Stank Lane crossroads.
At Slimbridge, Rushy Pen was just about empty. Along the canal to the north, I was unable to find the Long-eared Owl. At about 1600, 57 White-fronted Geese flew very high over the Splatt Bridge area, heading north. Slimbridge staff had reported at lunchtime that about 60 of these geese remained. This looked like their departure but about 20 minutes later, they returned and were now heading in the direction of Slimbridge but still quite high. This must have been an example of pre-migratory restlessness.

9th March 2009 - Ashleworth at 0915 was sunny but windy. A Redwing flock of about 50 birds were at Stank Lane crossroads. No Whooper Swans were found in the fields along that lane. There is plenty of standing water in the fields presumably as a result of the heavy rain earlier last week and the torretial downpours of yesterday. A Fieldfare flock was along Stank Lane and these also numbered about 50 birds. Could this be along with the Redwings, a migratory movement. At the hide, White Violets are in bud for the first time this year. 14 Tufted Duck were present along with the usual Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Shoveler and Gadwall. I could find no Pintail. Of note, some of the rhines in the area of Dirty Lane have been dredged.
At Slimbridge, there were still quite a number of White-fronted Geese although I did not do a count, but the Brent Goose was still with them. At the feed on Rushy Pen, there were 100 Pintail present in contrast with the lack of this species at Ashleworth earlier in the day.

8th March 2009 - Fine, sunny start to the day but heavy showers had built up by mid-morning. At Slimbridge, there were still many White-fronted Geese present and the Brent Goose was still with them. A single Bewick's Swan remains and at the Kingfisher hide, there was no sign of them in the driving rain but a Little Egret was down the rhine.

7th March 2009 - An overcast day with slight drizzle in the afternoon. Just about lunchtime, I went to New Fancy View and had very good views of Goshawk, Buzzard, Peregrine and Raven. At least 8 different Buzzards were in the air at one time and at least 3 different Brambling including a male in fine plumage were at the feeding station during a watch which only lasted a few minutes.
Nagshead was very quiet as expected around the short trail, late in the afternoon.
I moved on to arrive at a reported Hawfinch roost at 1655 but no birds were seen in the very light drizzle and at about 1715 a large raptor flew through the plantation and was lost to sight and I doubted if any birds would come to that position for a while so, I left.

6th March 2009 - A fairly bright day. I went to Slimbridge before lunch and walked up the canal to see the Long-eared Owl again. It was on the same branch as the last time that I had viewed it, but it was not in a position to be photographed. A Little Egret graced the reed bed and a Great Crested Grebe was again on the canal near Cambridge Arms Bridge where a Mute Swan was beginning to prepare a nest. At Slimbridge Centre, there are still good numbers of White-fronted Geese along with the Brent Goose. 3 Spotted Redshank were on the Tack Piece and I found 12 Bewick's Swans again (13 had been reported and one may be roosting in the grounds I have been told).

5th March 2009 - Late afternoon at nearly dusk, I walked the short trail at Nagshead RSPB Reserve on a cold day after lots of sunshine. Fieldfares and Redwings were twittering in the tops of the trees on this trail which suggested that they may be roosting there. Many Squirrels seem to be in evidence and in the rhine along the short trail by the seat, I found my first Frog spawn of the year.

4th March 2009 - Sunny periods today but with a breeze and somewhat cool. There were still at least 370 White-fronted Geese at Slimbridge along with the Brent Goose which appears to have been with them for most of the winter. There were 12 Bewick's Swans on Rushy Pen at the feed (13 had been reported). Both Pochards with bill saddles were present but I could not find the female Goldeneye.

2nd March 2009 - Another sunny start to the day but cloud built up by lunchtime and there were spits of rain by dark. Reported information from Slimbridge indicated that many of the Bewick's Swans had left overnight in the clear conditions and when I got there today, this appeared to be confirmed in that I could only find 20 birds, 18 being on the Tack Piece and 2 near the Zeiss Hide. At the end of the afternoon, 4 birds came onto Rushy Pen for the feed and 16 took off from the Tack Piece and flew around for a while but did not land on the Pen but eventually settled back onto the field. A good number of White-fronted Geese (>370) were still present along with the Brent Goose. 1st March 2009 - A sunny day with little wind and reasonable temperatures of about 9 deg. C. during the middle of the day. I went to Strumble Head to do some seawatching and have a walk along the coastal path. From 1150 to 1350, I noted a steady stream of auks passing to the west in flocks of about 20 or so. Gannets have returned and it was possible to see one at most times. 6 Common Scoter passed to the west in the two hours as did 2 of the resident Choughs. A Grey Seal and the resident Harbour Porpoises were showing well along the edge of the tide race most of the time. Along the coastal path, the resident Peregrines were around one of their nests.

28th February 2009 - A very dull day but dry. At Ashleworth, the Tufted Duck numbers were down to 9 but the Gadwall numbers were at a high of 45. In the distance from the hide, I could make out a flock moving through which consisted of Chaffinch and Meadow Pipit. Along Stank Lane, the horses from the hunt had churned up some of the fields that they had galloped across. The 4 Whooper Swans were still present and some Skylarks were singing which is a first for the year. Over Ham Road at about 1200, there was as steady movement of Redwings and Fieldfares heading south. At New Fancy View in the Forest of Dean, there was no sign of Goshawk in the dull conditions and Buzzards were hard to find but there were 4 flocks of Goosanders which did flybys and which consisted of a total of 20 birds, of which 8 were female. At Nagshead RSPB Reserve in the late afternoon it was quiet as expected except for some Song Thrushes on the forest floor.

27th February 2009 - A fine sunny day at dawn but which gradually clouded over after lunch. I walked up the canal from Slimbridge to see the Long-eared Owl again and found it on the same perch as I had viewed it before. Lesser Celandine flowers were open in profusion along the towpath of the canal. At Slimbridge Centre, I found a Mediterranean Gull on Rushy Pen. This was a beautfifully marked bird with the hood not yet complete but the bill was brilliant red with a yellow tip and a black band separating these colours. 103 Bewick's Swans were on the Tack Piece and 2 more were on the Dumbles. Some have therefore left for the season. Nearly 400 White-fronted Geese were either on the Tack Piece or the Dumbles although some were undoubtedly hidden by the sea wall. One which was not was the black neck-collared bird 'ZPC' which was on the Tack Piece as was the Brent Goose and 2 Spotted Redshank. Later on the Rushy Pen, there was the unusual sight of an Egyptian Goose standing on top of a pollarded Willow.

26th February 2009 - Yet another overcast and dull but the clouds cleared a little bit at dusk to give a fantastic sunset with amazing cloud formations. The highlight of the day was two Kingfishers being very active around the nest hole at the South Finger area of Slimbridge. Late during the afternoon there was report of a Spoonbill on the South Lake. I managed to find it at the southern end from the Hogarth hide having only briefly glimpsed it from the South Lake hide proper.

25th February 2009 - Dull and generally overcast again. At Slimbridge, the Brent Goose was with the White-fronted Geese again as yesterday but this time there were 4 Spotted Redshank.

24th February 2009 - Overcast, dull and mild at Slimbridge. I managed to find the reported American Wigeon from the Zeiss Hide. The Brent Goose was with the White-fronted Geese on the Tack Piece where there was Spotted Redshank among the Common Redshank. There appeared to be fewer birds on Rushy Pen at the feed suggesting that some may have left on migration.

22nd February 2009 - Another fine and dry day with some sunny periods. At New Fancy View, Goshawks, Buzzards and Ravens were all displaying when I got there at 1145. This continued but gradually petered out at about 1400. At about 1500 there were at least 65 Chaffinch with at least 10 Brambling under the feeders at the feeding station there.
At Nagshead, the under foot conditions on the short trail are much drier and there was some song in the woodlands as might be expected.

21st February 2009 - Dry and fine with some sunny periods. At Ashleworth I did a WeBS count as an insurance in case no one was able to do it this weekend. 27 Tufted Duck was an exceptional number for this site. 1 Grey Heron, 32 Canada Geese, 2 Mute Swan, 233 Wigeon, 19 Teal, 20 Shoveler, 21 Mallard, 18 Pintail and 39 Coot was a good number. 13 Gadwall, 1 Barnacle Goose, 9 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 13 Black-headed Gull and 2 Common Gull.
From there I moved on to New Fancy View in the Forest of Dean for half an hour where the Goshawk were showing well.

20th February 2009 - A dry and fairly sunny day. En route to Ashleworth, of note was a Red-legged Partridge in the road near Hartpury. At Ashleworth, the water birds were spread over the large area of water. 20 Tufted Duck were of note as was the small number of Shoveler. A Curlew was calling, the first vocal one of the year for me at that site. From the top of Wainlodes Hill, a flock of Redwing and Fieldfare were on a field near the Leigh Meadows. I could not find the Whooper Swans.
I moved on the the Cotswold Water Park. The real highlight there was at the footbridge over the River Thames at Pit 57. I found a female Lesser Spotted Woodpecker which was joined a minute or so later by a Great Spotted Woodpecker in the next tree. 3 Goosander there were also of note.
I moved on yet again, this time to Slimbridge where there were 2 Spotted Redshank on the Tack Piece with some Common Redshank again and also with some Ruff and a single Black-tailed Godwit. The Brent Goose was with the White-fronted Goose flock as usual. 2 Peregrines were on the Dumbles but there were no sign of the Bean Goose although they had been reported earlier. 63 species noted today.

19th February 2009 - Dry and sunny at Slimbridge. Of note today were a Black-headed Gull on South Lake with a white darvic ring '2E60'. This is one of the Cotswold Water Park birds. Also there was a colour-ringed Lapwing, Orange over Pale Green on the left and a metal ring on the right leg. I believe that this is one of the birds ringed here at Slimbridge some years ago.

18th February 2009 - The mild spell of weather continues but with slight drizzle at times. The dawn chorus is in full swing now and a Song Thrush woke me up here at Longhope. At Westonbirt, the birds were singing too but the noticable thing was that several trees had broken branches or some of the smaller ones had split trunks as a result of the weight of snow.

15th February 2009 - Walked up the Sharpness Canal from Slimbridge to see the reported Long-eared Owl. It was present but was difficult to see from the towpath but by moving down the bank towards the rhine, it was possible to see its head and the long ears!! Also along the canal were a Little Egret perched in a tree and a Great Crested Grebe on the canal.
At Slimbridge, 2 Spotted Redshank were with 30 or so Common Redshank and Bean Geese on the Tack Piece. Also present there, White-fronted Geese, Curlews, Lapwing, Dunlin, and Black-tailed Godwits were among a variety of birds on and around the water.

13th February 2009 - At Slimbridge, the day started overcast but developed into a fine day. I walked the canal towpath to the north again. Yet again, the two sleepy Foxes were present but this time they were in a road field to the south of the road. Lapwing, Golden Plover and Dunlin were again on the flooded fields to the north of the road. A Great Crested Grebe was on the canal near Cambridge Arms Bridge. At Slimbridge Centre, the female Goldeneye was present again as yesterday. She moved back into the centre of the lake at the feed but did not depart as some nervous birds do and was seen again near the observatory once the feed was over. The Starling roost at about 1700 was very good again. WWT indicate that the Bewick's Swans have not started their migration as had been thought but some have moved out during the day to the nearby flooded area at Walmore Common.

12th February 2009 - Slimbridge on a dry day. Lapwing, Golden Plover and some Dunlin were in the canal side fields to the north of Patch Bridge. The two Foxes were again present and asleep again but this time they were in a field further south. Another Fox was moving through a field on the other side of the canal. A dead Mute Swan was floating in the canal. Perhaps this is a victim of the severe weather? The Bewick's Swan numbers seem to be down on previous days and data from the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust suggest that some have them have left on migration. Pochard numbers seem less also. The female Goldeneye (5th February) is still present on the Rushy Pen and the captive male is displaying to her.

11th February 2009 - An icy morning and a fine day. The short trail at Nagshead RSPB Reserve has been churned up by a tractor and is now very muddy. It was quiet in the woods but a Long-tailed Tit flock at nearby Gorsty Knoll was a nice sight especially after the cold night and recent cold days generally.

10th February 2009 - Overnight snow was melting on a fine, sunny but cold day with a noticable breeze. At Slimbridge there was no snow at all. There were very few birds on Rushy Pen at 1100. Presumably they had gone out into the fields to feed, the first time in a few days that they have been able to do this because of the recent ice and snow. Many birds were on the Tack Piece including many of the Bewick's Swans. Lapwing and Dunlin were there too as were many of the White-fronted Geese and the Brent Goose was with them. At least 15 Common Redshank and 1 Spotted Redshank and 1 Black-tailed Godwit were with the other waders. The Dumbles held a few swans and geese but were generally empty. At lunchtime I walked up the canal to the north and there were many birds in both the roadside and canalside fields. These included more Lapwing with Golden Plover, Dunlin and a few Ruff. 2 Foxes were asleep in a field surrounded by Lapwing! At about 1515, the Bewick's Swans, geese and ducks began to return to the empty Rushy Pen.
During the afternoon, I walked to the refurbished Lathbury Hide and on to the new Kingfisher Hide. The latter has some large windows on one side which reveals the people inside to the birds using the feeding station. Hopefully they will become used to the movement inside the hide. The new dragonfly pond at the side of the walkway to the Kingfisher hide is directly opposite the Van Der Bovenkamp hide and since the hedge has been removed for this pond, there is now no screening of the reeds and field from people making their way down the walkway. The rear viewing slots on the hide will probably not yield many birds because of the accidental disturbance of passing people. Perhaps this pond could have been created at another point along the path?

9th February 2009 - An overcast day with light rain in the morning, heavy rain during the afternoon turning to snow in the evening. In the gloom at Slimbridge, the highlight of the day was the unusual sight of a Turnstone on the Tack Piece.

8th February 2009 - Sleet and light rain started at midday at Longhope turning to snow at about 1500.

7th February 2009 - A dry day with some thaw of the snow during daylight hours, freezing again after dark. There is still some snow cover at Longhope.

6th February 2009 - There was even more overnight snow, more so than the previous night. There was some movement of birds south over Longhope during the morning.

5th February 2009 - There was a lot of snow overnight. On the way to Slimbridge, I noted a thrush flock flying east over Whitminster. A cold weather movement over the blanket of snow. At Slimbridge, the Bewick's Swans in the main did not leave Rushy Pen all day. The only collection bird on this pond which has elluded capture over the past few years, the male Goldeneye, now appears to have a possible mate as I note a female on the pond today. The Tack Piece and Dumbles were covered with snow and ice with some brown vegetation showing through. Greylag Geese were on the latter but the former was quiet, however, several Common Redshank, a Spotted Redshank, Lapwing, Wigeon and Teal were present. South along the canal, at least 170 White-fronted Geese were in a field on the east side. In the fields alongside the road between the canal and Slimbridge Centre, Snipe, Lapwing and Meadow Pipits were foraging in the furrows of the ridge and furrowed fields were there was no snow. The snow was on the ridges.

4th February 2009 - An icy morning. A cold day with sunny periods. Notes from Ashleworth include the water level is considerably lower than Saturday (31st January). Approximately 1350 duck present. There were some ice patches on the water. Also in evidence were 64 Canada Geese, 1 Barnacle Goose, 1 Tufted Duck, 110 Black-headed Gulls, 1 Common Gull and 4 Coot. Along Stank Lane, a Bullfinch again and 2 Reed Bunting, a Peregrine and a party of Long-tailed Tits, the latter especially nice to see after the recent spell of extremely cold weather.
At Slimbridge a search of the White-fronted Goose flock failed to find the Bean Geese. 2 Spotted Redshank were the hightlight of the birds on the Tack Piece. The dead swan of yesterday has disappeared apart from a few feathers. It has been scavenged. At the feed on Rushy Pen, one Bewick's Swans appears to have been oiled and some others have slight marks which could be oil. This may have come from the river as they have been noted swimming on it today.

3rd February 2009 - A cold and sunny day. The temperature was less than 4 deg. C. all day. At first this morning over Longhope and at about 1000 over the A40 near Oakle Street, there was a marked passage of thrush species and Woodpigeons to the south. This is almost certainly a cold weather movement.
At Slimbridge, there was a dead Bewick's Swan by the Martin Smith hide. It looked as if it had hit the fence and telltale feathers stuck in the latter seemed to confirm the theory. During the morning with a strong south east wind many of the swans were having difficulty maintaining height when flying low over the Rushy Pen and there were several crash landings and another fence collision but with all of these, the outcome was of no damage to the birds. The Glaucous Gull in the Tundra Pen looked hunched up and unwell. On the Dumbles, there appeared to be only 3 Bean Geese with the White-fronted Goose flock.

2nd February 2009 - Snow on and off all day with some heavy in the afternoon.

1st February 2009 - A cold day with very short sunny spells and very light snow showers. The temperature was between 0 deg. C. and 2 deg. C. all day. The feeding station at Cannop Stoneworks was a hive of activity on this cold day and a Cormorant on the southern pond was unusual. There was light snow cover late in the evening.

31st January 2009 - Ashleworth on an overcast and cold day. There was more water on the reserve than my last visit on 23rd January. The water was across the road at the junction of Stank Lane and Ham Road and was almost meeting in the middle of Ham Road near Dirty Lane. 8 Tufted Duck (1 female) were present and among the 150 Canada Geese was the usual one Barnacle Goose. 2 Peregrine were on the first pylon and 2 Little Grebe were present together in front of the hide. About 400 duck were counted when they were disturbed at about 1230 by shooting in the distance.

26th January 2009 - I walked to Newent today. En route, a new bird for the year was a hunting Sparrowhawk flying low along the hedgerows of the lanes around the area. I had lunch by the lake in the centre of the town and was dismayed to see at least 4 fishing floats out on the water. No doubt there would be some line attached to some or all of these and this must be a danger to the waterbirds which frequent the lake.

25th January 2009 - A walk over Huntley Hill and May Hill today which was a dry one with sunny periods. Signs of spring are all around with Honeysuckle starting to shoot on the former hill and in many places around May Hill village and other spots, Snowdrops are in full flower. At the top of May Hill, I noted a pair of Ravens displaying with the usual aerobatics including rolls.

24th January 2009 - A walk around the long trail at Nagshead RSPB reserve in the afternoon produced little in the way of birds which was to be expected at this time of year and the late time of day. The tracks are the muddiest that I have ever known with some being disturbed by foresty machinery but with the recent frosts thawing and the 19mm of rain over the past week has made for ideal mud conditions.

23rd January 2009 - A short visit to Ashleworth confirmed what I have been thinking over the past few days and that is the water has just come over Ham Road near Stank Lane and is almost meeting in the middle of the road near Dirty Lane. This is a result of the recent rains over many days. Water level on the river at Haw Bridge was 9,44m.. The ducks were spread out and a count of the birds visible revealed 100 Wigeon, 100 Teal as approximations but there was only 1 Pintail and no Shoveler and no Gadwall which was unusual. At least 160 Canada Geese were scattered also and with them was one Barnacle Goose. Also on the water was a Little Grebe and in the distance there were 90 Lapwing wheeling around probably over the Coombe Hill Canal area.

22nd January 2009 - A fine afternoon and at Slimbridge the light was good so I concentrated on taking more photographs of the bill patterns of the Bewick's Swans. There were over 150 present at the afternoon feed at dusk.

21st January 2009 - A day trip to Martin Mere in Lancashire to see the Whooper Swans and the Pink-footed Geese. It was a fine day which gradually clouded over during the afternoon and heavy rain back in Gloucestershire on our return. The geese were flying around in skeins all day and were a great spectacle as were the Whooper Swans which were there in their many hundreds. A very good day.

20th January 2009 - Ashleworth was sunny and cool. There was more water than yesterday. The ducks are widely spread again. The 2 Tufted Duck were still there.

19th January 2009 - Sunny periods and showers at Ashleworth after 8mm of rain overnight. Water levels are high and the far end of Stank Lane was under water. The ducks were spread out but many Teal (251 counted) were the highest species by proportion. 3 Tufted Duck were of note and a Treecreeper was by the hide. <> 18th January 2009 - Slimbridge and a sunny but cold day with a stiff breeze. Gales and heavy rain (16mm on the Gloucster Weather Website) had gone by this morning. On the Tack Piece, 6 Bean Geese and a Brent Goose with the White-fronted Geese flock. 4 Ruff and a Redshank were on the Rushy Pen where at least one of the Pochard with a bill saddle (3=) was still present.

The two Pochard with bill saddles originate from France, being ringed in November 2005(3=) and November 2006(BCS) - see 9th January..

17th January 2009 - Ashleworth was sunny and mild. 6 Tufted Duck and about 50 Wigeon were seen from the hide on the high water. Shooting flushed several hundred duck from the vegetation and these would otherwise not have been seen. Eventually, noted 21 Gadwall and 45 Pintail among the many Wigeon, Shoveler and Teal. The shooting was from the north of Stank Lane. Also there but in a field much nearer Ham Road was a large flock of Redwing with a few Fieldfare, the size of this flock was reminiscent of the early autumn flocks. 4 Stock Dove were near Colways Farm and a Grey Heron was on the reserve, returning after the big freeze. The hunt galloped up Stank Lane causing some disturbance.

15th January 2009 - A fairly overcast but mild day with some bright spells. I decided to go to Slimbridge in the afternoon to do some more Bewick's Swan bill pattern photography. A quick look out from the Holden Tower revealed the Brent Goose with some of the White-fronted Geese and on Rushy Pen, the Ruddy Duck was still there. Notable tonight as dusk set in, the Starling flock is building up nicely and is already a reasonable spectacle at close quarters over the Pen.

14th January 2009 - Slimbridge. Overcast but light enough to continue with the bill pattern photography that I have been pursuing this winter. A Ruddy Duck on Rushy Pen was unusual.

13th January 2009 - Sunny periods and relatively mild at Ashleworth. The ice has completely gone. Not many duck were present but there appeared to be a high proportion of Gadwall with 20 birds noted. 2 Tufted Duck were also of note. Surprisingly, although 2 Peregrines are often seen, they are almost never perched on the same pylon but this was the case today. No swans at all were seen.

12th January 2009 - I went to Welney with staff from the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust. This was a ring reading trip and a chance to meet some Dutch researchers who were conducting several days of field work. We arrived a 1000 and read nearly 35 rings on Whooper Swans from the main observatory. It was overcast with a little rain but when we went out into the fens, the main problem as we expected was the wind buffeting the car and the telescopes. Nevertheless we obtained some more rings and neck collars details on both Bewick's Swans and Whooper Swans and did some general flock counting and the counting of juveniles. The two main flocks we observed were of 2500 and 1500 birds, which were a mix of these two species, respectively.

11th January 2009 - Mild and overcast becoming windy. Temperature to a relatively high of 8 deg. C.. At New Fancy View feeding station there was a steady flow of birds including a number of Coal Tits/Chaffinch/Robin/Greenfinch/Great Tit/Blue Tit/Nuthatch. The highlight was 2 Brambling, a male and a female.
At Nagshead RSPB Reserve it was very quiet along both the long and short trails into the afternoon.
At Cannop Ponds at dusk, the southern pond is still frozen over with a layer of water on top. The northern pond has the northern half clear of ice and at least 36 Mandarin Duck, a Little Grebe, many Mallard and some Mute Swans.

10th January 2009 - Another cold night, the temperature down to almost -3 deg. C. as shown on the Gloucester Weather website.
A general note about the reserve and some disturbance before I give details of the birds noted. This morning at Ashleworth there was a constant drone of helicopters as two of them flew circuits and practiced approach and almost landings on a couple of fields on Hasfield Ham. I have noted this several times over the past few months but this is the first time that there have been two of them at the same time. At the moment, because of the cold weather and the ice covering of the water there are not that many water birds present but on warmer days in winter the numbers of such can easily exceed 1000. This must pose a risk to these low flying machines which come down behind the hedges to just a few feet above the ground but they never actually touch down. I believe that a bird strike is a much higher risk here than over other areas because of the nature of the reserve and the birds it contains. The disturbance may be a factor in the general lack of breeding of waders here too.
On to the details. It was slightly misty. The water is still frozen over and the only patch of open water contained about 175 birds including 35 Teal, 95 Mallard, 2 Gadwall, 2 Pintail and 30 Wigeon. 4 injured Canada Geese were also present. Along Ham Road, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Chaffinch flock near Colways Farm were there were also 5 Reed Buntings. 3 more of this species were along Stank Lane where it was nice to see a flock of Long-tailed Tits and a Wren, both small species which are surviving the cold weather. Snipe were flushed again from the rhines were there is unfrozen water because of the flow. I walked upriver to Haw Bridge and on the river there were 2 Cormorants, one in breeding plumage with the white thigh patch and also a Grey Heron, the latter being the first that I have seen this year as they are not frequenting the scrapes because of the frozen state of most waterbodies. Back along Ham Road, a Kestrel was also a first for the year.

9th January 2009 - A misty start but the day soon brightened up to sunshine but it is still cold. At Slimbridge, 6 Tundra Bean Geese were on the Tack Piece in the middle of the afternoon. On the Rushy Pen there were two Pochard with nasal saddles, one male and one female and on both the saddle was light green. The male had the characters '3=' on both sides and the female had the characters 'CS' on both sides and 'B' on the top. The ringer had been informed.

8th January 2009 - Cold but at least it has been above freezing just. On the slopes of May Hill, there are small flocks of Redwings in the fields that hold sheep. A Siskin flock was in the garden of a house near May Hill village and a Green Woodpecker was in an old orchard.

7th January 2009 - Again a very cold start to the night and -9 deg. C. again recorded but cloud cover increased in the early hours and by 1000 the temperature had risen to 0 deg. C.. Ashleworth was overcast and still. A small amount of free water remains to the north and it is slightly reduced from Saturday (3rd January). 90 Mallard, 1 Wigeon and the 2 injured Canada Geese were there. It appears that the bigger bodied duck (Mallard) remain in the cold conditions. The rhines, surprisingly, still have open water. No doubt a little bit of flow has kept some of them clear of ice. 6 Snipe noted at different parts of Stank Lane having being flushed from the rhines. 2 Buzzard, 2 Peregrine and 2 Bullfinch were noted from the lane and a further 2 Bullfinch were on Ham Road. A Yellowhammer was with a Chaffinch/Dunnock/Reed Bunting flock at the end of Stank Lane.
At Slimbridge, a Goldfinch and Siskin flock were in the car park again. Rushy Pen is almost completely frozen over but there are some open areas of slushy ice. An unusual sight.

6th January 2009 - Very cold again overnight, -9 deg. C. on the Gloucester Weather Station website. Sunny day but cold. Noted a rookery on the A40 west of Longhope.

5th January 2009 - Another very cold day and this morning I woke up to snow, about 1 cm. of it. Although a thaw set in during the day, the wet ground had started to freeze again at dusk.

4th January 2009 - A very cold day once more but it was very grey and overcast with intermittent slight frozen drizzle. From Gorsty Knoll, Coleford, I walked to Nagshead RSPB Reserve. The woods were very quiet with just the usual Great Tits, Blue Tits, Robins and Blackbirds present. Two different Long-tailed Tit parties were good to see during such a long cold spell of weather. A small party of Jays were near Parkend. The Nagshead Lodge feeders were very busy and Bullfinches were of note on my return to Gorsty Knoll. At Cannop Ponds feeders near the Stoneworks, there were many tits all in bright plumage and good condition. Marsh Tit and female Siskin were of note. The southern pond at Cannop was completely frozen over, an unusual sight.

3rd January 2009 - At Ashleworth it was very cold again with the overnight low of about -6 deg. C.. The water in front of the hide was frozen over and the waterfowl were concentrated in a small patch of open water to the north but still visible from the hide. 2 Ravens overflew 'cronking' and later when I walked up Stank Lane, 15 Greylag Geese overflew. 2 Snipe were another species to overfly the lane where the 4 Whooper Swans were still present although this time there were only 2 Mute Swans with them. A flock of about 30 Meadow Pipits were in a field near the end of the lane, foraging in a frozen field, still with brown vegetation from the recent floods. A Chaffinch flock were around the entrance drive to Colways Farm on Ham Road.

At Slimbridge, 3 Siskin and 2 Goldfinch were in a tree in the overflow carpark. Nearly all of the Bewick's Swans were on the river with much of Rushy Pen frozen over. From the Martin Smith hide, a Cetti's Warbler was showing reasonably well as it made its way through some vegetation foraging as it went. A Water Rail was under the feeders along the Holden Walkway. 207 White-fronted Geese were on the far side of the Tack Piece. It was a very sunny day and cold again tonight.

2nd January 2009 - It was a very cold and misty start to the day but by 1500 from the top of May Hill, the visibility was about 40 miles. There was a snow layer under the trees where the sun could not penetrate and there was ice crystals and water falling from the trees. The were small flocks of Redwings on some of the fields on the slopes of the hill but there were no birds at all on the exposed tops.

1st January 2009 - Happy New Natural History Year.

First bird of the year was Tawny Owl calling in the early hours here in Longhope. I went to Strumble Head, near Fishguard at 0720. The temperature did not go above 0 deg. C. at all until I was about 4 miles from my destination. The first bird in the daylight on the way there was a Magpie near Monmouth. From the service area at the end of the M4 motorway and beyond to my destination, there were many Song Thrushes which was presumably a cold weather movement. At Strumble Head, the wind was south east, light to moderate backing easterly by midday. A 2 hour seawatch from 1100 followed. A small flock of Lapwing flew north west out to sea. There was a steady Kittiwake flock movement to the east and in among the nearer feeding flocks were two juvenile Mediterranean Gulls. Highlight of this watch was a Great Skua which I first noticed chasing a gull. The skua then alighted on the sea for a minute or two before flying off steadily to the east. At the beach about 1 mile east of the Head, a Peregrine did a couple of flybys and a Red-throated Diver passed to the west offshore. On my way back along the coastal footpath, a small flock of 8 Golden Plover appeared to come from the field behind the first car park. I did a cetacean watch with Sea Trust from 1430 to 1530. The Harbour Porpoises which are resident all year were particularly active around the lighthouse island all afternoon and at least one Grey Seal was near the observatory. I left at 1620, checked the beach at the flagpoles car park in Goodwick where there were many waders, mostly Oystercatchers but difficult to see in the gathering darkness. Back at the service area at the start of the M4 motorway, I noted a Pied Wagtail roost in some trees next to a large three-lamped car park floodlight which must have generated some heat in such a cold spell. It was 0 deg. C. at the time (1800). There were at least 25 birds in the roost. A total of 40 species were noted today.

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