Diary – July to September 2014


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29th September 2014 – At Wilton Bridge in Ross-on-Wye a Grey Heron flew down to the river Wye and landed in shallow water with either a small rat or a very large mouse in its bill.  It dunked the mammal in the water, then, swallowed it and then the bird flew away.  A Kingfisher was perched nearby.  There were a few Black-headed Gulls moving around and these are the first here for some time and an indication of the changing of the seasons. 


28th September 2014 – I walked over May Hill.  I logged 25 species on my route which went over the top from the south and through Bearfoot Wood before descending the southern side again.  The highlight was two Stonechat.  They were on the top of the hill moving through the tops of the bracken.  Raptors noted included Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Buzzard all from the top of the hill.

          There was a small but steady passage of House Martins over my home in Longhope very late this afternoon.


27th September 2014 – At least 25 Tufted Duck on the southern pond at Cannop today was a higher number than seen all summer. 


26th September 2014 – A Sparrowhawk was high over the  same garden at Milkwall again and drifting to the south.


25th September 2014 – The Sparrowhawk was back through the same garden at Milkwall again today.


24th September 2014 – Sparrowhawk creating havoc when it flew through a garden at Milkwall.


23rd September 2014 – Red Kite over Milkwall was drifting slowly north.


18th September 2014 – There was a massive movement of House Martins over my home in Longhope this morning for quite some time.   There were ‘clouds’ of them and they were showing in all directions.  This was probably the most of this species that I have ever seen at any one time. 

          At the southern end of Crabtree Hill there were many Siskins moving through the conifers. 

          There was heavy rain this evening.  This was the first substantial rain this month.


17th September 2014 – At Kensley Lodge there was a steady flow of Siskins to the east and I could hear Common Crossbills calling.  I moved on to the dragonfly scrapes to the north of Woorgreens Lake where a Kestrel was hovering and hunting.  Later I saw this bird, a male flying through the trees in Sparrowhawk style.  I went on to Yewtree Brake and the newly cleared area where there was a good flock of Siskin singing in the edge of the conifer plantation which has not been felled.  Three Common Crossbills flew out and headed towards the road to the west of the crematorium.  When I retraced, the Kestrel had been replaced by a Buzzard which rapidly gained height on a warm and breezy day.  The temperature just after lunch reached about 24 deg. C.  I checked Woorgreens Lake and found a Greater Scaup duck on its own and making foraging dives very regularly.  I believed it to be a juvenile.  My reasoning is as follows.  The head shape was very rounded and with no hint of a crest at all thus good for Scaup.  The white at the base of the bill was very ill defined at the borders and not a crisp cut off of the colour suggesting a juvenile.  The eye colour was yellow but not very bright which again is a characteristic of a juvenile.  The bill colour was very dark and with only a small contrast with the black nail.   The latter feature would suggest Scaup rather than a black banded tip to the bill as on Tufted Duck and the former suggesting a juvenile.  The back was brown and the flanks a much lighter brown thus enhancing the indication of a juvenile bird.   

          Over a garden in Milkwall there was a pair of Sparrowhawks quite high and drifting south. 


16th September 2014 – I checked Wilton Bridge at Ross-on-Wye at lunchtime and no hirundines were seen at all. 

          Back at home in Longhope late this afternoon, there was a steady passage of House Martins and Swallows.


15th September 2014 – I made an afternoon visit to WWT Slimbridge.  There were a number of Ruff and Green Sandpipers on Rushy Pen and on the scrape outside the Halfway Hide.  The most unusual sights of the day were of a Spotted Redshank from the aforementioned hide and then later on the Rushy Pen where there was a Yellow Wagtail and a Blue-headed Yellow Wagtail amongst several Pied Wagtails.  Along the Holden Walkway, there were a number of Chiffchaffs.  I noted 4 separate individuals but there were probably more.  A single Sedge Warblers was also present from the Knott Hide. 


14th September 2014 – I checked Cannop Ponds again today but later than previous days.  The hirundines were not present at all.


12th September 2014 – The hirundines were again at the southern pond at Cannop again this morning.  Also, just to the north of Speech House Road Station, there was a flock of Siskins in the open wooded area to the east of the cycle track. 


11th September 2014 – There were many hirundines at the southern end of the south pond at Cannop again this morning at 1000.


10th September 2014 – There were a similar number of hirundines around the southern pond at Cannop, as noted on 7th September and their behaviour was also similar.

          At dusk, I found 8 Fallow Deer together near the Gloucestershire Way at Nagshead which was a good number in one group.


9th September 2014 – A Dipper was near the Stoneworks at Cannop late this afternoon was the first of the year for me.


8th September 2014 – A female Stonechat was on Crabtree Hill this morning when I was trying to find the reported Wryneck.  I failed with the latter species.  A pair of Wild Boar, with at least 7 boarlets, was near Three Brothers in the Forest of Dean this afternoon.


7th September 2014 – There were at least 150 total hirundines at the southern end of the south pond a Cannop at 0915 with many perching in a tree.  This looks like a migration movement. 

          I found a dead Tawny Owl on the cycle path near Point Quarry this morning.  I checked for rings but there were none.


6th September 2014 – I was mock charged by a Wild Boar near the cycle path between New Fancy View and Three Brothers in the Forest of Dean.


5th September 2014 – There were no Sand Martins around Wilton Bridge at Ross-on-Wye today but there were some hirundines still present but distant.  More unusual was the sight of two Kingfishers together at the bridge.


3rd September 2014 – A hedgehog on the patio after dark this evening was an unusual sight.


30th August 2014 – I walked past Wilton Bridge at Ross-on-Wye at lunchtime.  There were still some Sand Martins present and although I did not see any visiting nest sites under the bridge, there was what appeared to be adult/juvenile interaction in flight, possibly passing food.  Many Swallows were in the area too and hirundines were over the town.


29th August 2014 – I went to WWT Slimbridge for a short visit and on the way there, I called into Frampton to see the Marsh Sandpiper which had been reported at Splatt Bridge.  I arrived to find a few people viewing from the towpath.  I set up my ‘scope and scanned the large field.  There were at least 9 Greenshank and about the same number of Ruff with a few Curlew loafing there too.  I soon found the Marsh Sandpiper which looked to be a juvenile judging by the brown colouration of the back.  The supercilium was noticeable and there was a degree of white around the base of the bill.  The long legs were evident when it made very short flights in the very strong wind.  This activity also showed the white rump which ran well up the back.  It was an elegant bird to see. Of note, I don’t recall seeing this number of Greenshank together before in Gloucestershire.


28th August 2014 – I checked Cannop Ponds again late this afternoon and found that many Swallows were still present and feeding well over the southern pond. 


25th August 2014 – A very wet day with about 16mm of rain recorded.


24th August 2014 – On the short trail at RSPB Naghead, there was a family party of Spotted Flycatchers. 


23rd August 2014 – I made a short visit to WWT Slimbridge today.  A Sedge Warbler was very ‘showy’ from the Halfway Hide and 2 Common Cranes were on the Tack Piece from the same hide and the Green Sandpiper numbers peaked here at 5.  From the Holden Tower , there were 2 more Common Cranes in the distance on the Dumbles. 

22nd August 2014 – When I passed Wilton Bridge, Ross-on-Wye, there were still some Sand Martins in the area and at least one was still visiting a nest site under the bridge.  Other hirundines were around the area too.


21st August 2014 – There were still a good number of Swallows low over Cannop Ponds when I checked late in the afternoon.


20th August 2014 – I had a walked in the Black Mountains today covering around 11.5 miles from the Gospel Pass to Waun Fach and back.  There were three Red Kites together, whirling around the peaks not far from where I had set off.  Indeed as I climbed my first peak of the day, I ‘pushed’ at least one Wheatear along the track in front of me for a short while.  Meadow Pipits were very numerous. 


19th August 2014 – In the RSPB Nagshead area this afternoon, I found a very brown juvenile Sparrowhawk perched up and calling incessantly and nearby was a single Fallow Deer. 

          Around Cannop Ponds (southern pond) there were still plenty of Swallows around but there appeared to be hawking insect quite high in the sky.


18th August 2014 – The Sand Martins are still going to their nests under the bridge at Wilton, Ross-on-Wye.  Also in the area were some House Martins.  There continues to be a steady movement of hirundines around this area.


17th August 2014 – Today, the order of the day was a short walk in the Forest of Dean.  It was very quiet as usual at this time of year but it was a beautifully clear and the temperature was about 18 deg. C., but the moderate wind made it a very pleasant day with an autumnal feel to it.  Of note was a single Fallow Deer grazing near the Gloucestershire Way near RSPB Nagshead. 


15th August 2014 – I had a walk in the mountains some miles north of Abergavenny.  Of note were several Redstart including a beautiful male.  This species were noted generally around some of the hill farms.


14th August 2014 – It was an unusual day.  I spent a few hours from 1130 to about 1600 at Symonds Yat Rock watching the Peregrines.  I noted both the male and the female but no young which reports suggest may have gone.  The two adults spent a long time perched up and it was not until mid-afternoon that the male came in with some prey which was light in colour and was probably a Woodpigeon. There was a steady passage of House Martins for an hour or so and there were a few Swallows with them.  A lone Swift was of note. Meanwhile, there were some hefty storms about both to the north and to the south.  The former storm gave much rain to Ross-on-Wye and the one to the south soaked Coleford and the surrounding forest but the Rock stayed dry all of the time.  There was what looked like a funnel cloud to the east at one point but it was not.  It was dark smoke from a farmer’s field being ‘wound up’ by the storm and blending in with the lowering cloud in colour and texture.  When I drove back to my HQ, the roads around Brierley were awash and in some cases there was standing water across the road but by the time I had got to Longhope the roads were dry.  It was that kind of day with the torrential downpours being very local. 


13th August 2014 – I had a walk through the Forest from the Stoneworks at Cannop to Milkwall and back.  It was very quiet as expected and the only sighting of note was of a single Fallow Deer near Point Quarry.


12th August 2014 – At Nagshead today there was a beautiful Black Arches moth on the Gloucestershire Way.

          At Cannop Ponds in the late afternoon, there were many Swallows feeding over the southern lake when they were interrupted and spooked by a Hobby which chased some of them.  There were some really aerobatic chases and then the raptor appeared to leave to the south.  Later on the western ridge of the valley there were at least 2 Swifts with some hirundines.  They are still about!


10th August 2014 – Nothing to report today other than it was very wet with about 20mm of rain recorded and under clear skies tonight the moon was exceptionally bright. 


9th August 2014 – There were three Roe Deer together this afternoon in Russell’s Inclosure, a male, a female and a smaller animal.  I don’t recall seeing three of this species together before.  I see from the internet that one of this species was seen down in the Severn Valley.  For many years, I never saw this species on my old local patch at Ashleworth and then began to have a few sightings a few years ago and these sightings coincided with sightings further down the Severn south of Gloucester.  When my sightings dried up, so did the others.  It seems that there are movements of this species from time to time.

          A Spotted Flycatcher was near the Information Centre.


8th August 2014 – There was a small passage of Swifts, Swallows and a few Martins under a dull, grey sky this evening but about an hour later there was a brilliant red sunset. 


7th August 2014 – After very heavy overnight rain, it dawned a fine day with a lot of blue sky.  There was a small hirundine passage in the morning and again during a gorgeous evening there was more passage. 


6th August 2014 – On a short afternoon visit to WWT Slimbridge, I found 7 Avocets and 17 Green Sandpipers on the Tack Piece and at least 3 different Redstart at the Holden Tower.  They were a juvenile, a female and a male bird. 

5th August 2014 – At Wilton Bridge, Ross-on-Wye, some Sand Martins are still attending their nests and Swallows are doing the same at the public house just to the south of the bridge.


4th August 2014 – Back at Nagshead RSPB Reserve, I found a single Fallow Deer near the Gloucestershire Way.  Around the short trail, I, again, found a Treecreeper in the area where I see them almost on every visit.  There was a Spotted Flycatcher in that area too.


3rd August 2014 – I did a short walk at Nagshead RSPB Reserve this afternoon.  On my way back to the Stoneworks, I found two Fallow Deer with a small, young one.  This is now the fourth time that I have seen such a combination and very young deer are rarely seen as they spend a lot of time lying in thick vegetation.


1st August 2014 – I made two visits to Wilton Bridge, Ross-on-Wye today.  The first before lunch provided only one or two Sand Martins and I noted only one visiting a nest site but by the afternoon, the day had warmed up and had become more humid and more insects were on the wing and there were more of this species and a number were still visiting nests under the bridge. There were at least 126 Canada Geese on the river downstream of the bridge.  They seemed unaffected by two fishermen fishing from the middle of the river having got to their location by wading out, the river being at a very low level.  Only one Swift was seen but there appeared to be a small passage of Swallows and House Martins. 


31st July 2014 – Late this afternoon I had a short visit to the southern pond at Cannop.  There were plenty of Swallows hawking insects over the pond and on the nearby feeders there were many Goldfinches including at least one juvenile and there were 2 Siskins there too.  On the outflow, there were 2 Grey Wagtails. 


30th July 2014 – In the afternoon, I went to Symonds Yat viewpoint.  The resident Peregrines did some flying but did a lot of calling.  There was a steady passage of House Martin and Swallow with a few Swifts passing too. 


29th July 2014 – There was a party of Wild Boar very near the Gloucestershire Way near Nagshead RSPB Reserve this afternoon.  At least 10 boarlets were present and 3 adults.  I managed to get near enough for some photographs, one of which is in the photographs section of this website.  Song Thrushes are in profusion but this part of the Forest has always had a good population of this species. 

          At home there was a steady stream of hirundines over this evening suggesting a small passage. 


28th July 2014 – There were only a few Swifts screaming over the rooftops of Ross-on-Wye today.  However, the Sand Martins nesting at Wilton Bridge are still attending their nests.  On the river were 139 Canada Geese.

          At dusk, there were at least 3 Swifts hawking insects over the western ridge of the Cannop Valley.


25th July 2014 – There were a few Swifts, Swallows and House Martins over the River Wye at Wilton Bridge today and the Sand Martins are still there in numbers at their nests. 


24th July 2014 – At Ross-on-Wye, the Swifts were still present but I got the impression there were not as many as two days ago.  At Wilton Bridge, the Sand Martins were still present in good numbers along with some House Martins and a Swallow or two.  They must be gone soon.


23rd July 2014 – At RSPB Nagshead today there were a good number of Gatekeeper butterflies around the car park area and the nursery pond.  At the latter place in the day, there was an Emperor Dragonfly, a Four-spotted Chaser and a Southern Hawker all interacting with each other.  Azure Damselflies and Emerald Damselflies were present too.  Around the short trail there was a single Spotted Flycatcher still present.  The very local Treecreepers were still around the lower part of this trail.  I have seen them on every visit for a few weeks now always within about 50m of where I first noted them.  It must be their little territory.


22nd July 2014 – Swifts and hirundines were still in great profusion over Ross-on-Wye town.  The former were screaming and making a fantastic spectacle.


21st July 2014 – Another warm day which continues the trend of the past few days.  At lunchtime today there were many Swifts screaming over the town of Ross-on-Wye.  They were over the town centre and also around the Walford Road area out of the town as well as along the Gloucester Road.  I have not seen so many together for some years.  It was a really great sight to see and most spectacular. 


20th July 2014 – There were plenty of butterflies on the wing at RSPB Nagshead at lunchtime today including several Red Admirals on the shale track as usual and at least two Silver-washed Fritillaries on the thistles by the Information Centre.  Just off the shale track at the rear of the Centre, a tiny wild boar grunted at me and ran off to the right of the track. I noted an adult about 10m away behind a patch of very thin saplings.  It looked my way.  I remained still to see what it would do.  It moved towards me with difficulty as it had to push between some of the small trees.  It came to with 7m and then started sniffing.  It must have caught my scent as it turned and trotted away with another adult.  There are fine creatures and I have never had any problem with them.  Sometimes they grunt and snort and make a very short mock charge, particularly if they have young with them.  In general they are very placid and somewhat timid. 


19th July 2014 – A violent thunder storm came up from the south in the early hours of the morning accompanied by heavy rain.  The total rain fall up to lunch time was about 32mm and by the end of the day another 7mm was added to the total for the day.  This is about one and a half inches. 


18th July 2014 – There seems to be some Song Thrush activity around my home in Longhope recently.  There have been a number of broken snail shells on my path and now I am regularly seeing at least one bird.  This species have not been a regular visitor. 

          I passed by my old home in Churchdown.  From spring 1990, I compiled a maximum count per week of species in the garden there.  I noted over several years the decline in the local House Sparrow population.  I plotted the data on a graph and extrapolated it to see when they would go locally extinct and this came out to be approximately at the turn of the century.  This indeed was exactly what happened and they were not recorded after July 2001 except for a single bird in January 2002 but the good news is that they are back! There were several birds in a hedge in the next garden to my old house.  I am finding colonies in many places now and I am mapping my finds.  I hope to put some of this maps on my website at some time in the future when I have covered more ground. 


16th July 2014 – A large juvenile gull in a derelict compound off Great Western Road this morning sported a lime green darvic ring but it was too far away to read the characters on the ring  and there was no way to get closer to the bird because of the security fence. 


15th July 2014 – Hirundines and Swifts were very high over Longhope this morning.  Binoculars were needed to see them and then they were really just ‘dots’ in the sky.

          At Symonds Yat Rock the resident Peregrines were a bit quiet in the afternoon.  Only saw three flights and probably three different birds.  One made a steady but purposeful trip to the north and was lost from sight.  Swifts and hirundines were again high over the Rock this afternoon similar to that activity noted this morning at Longhope.


14th July 2014 – I made an afternoon trip to WWT Slimbridge.  A first summer Mediterranean Gull was on the Rushy Pen and there were at least 17 Green Sandpipers from the Halfway Hide.  This latter number was a new record for me.


13th July 2014 – A quiet day in the Forest of Dean.  A single Fallow Deer was feeding on the grass edge of the shale track at the rear of the Information Centre at RSPB Nagshead.  Along the short trail there were at least two Treecreepers together in a spot where I often see one or more of this species.  The House Sparrow flock in Parkend seem to be thriving along Hughes Terrace. 


12th July 2014 – There were parties of Swifts screaming around the roof tops of Ross-on-Wye town Centre just before lunch.  This was a great sight to see.  At Wilton Bridge at lunchtime, there were a good number of Sand Martins and Swallows.  There were also smaller numbers of Swifts and House Martins.  Again, this was a wonderfull sight to witness while having lunch on the side of the river.  A Buzzard was soaring overhead and gradually drifted down river and a Kestrel was hunting just on the upstream side of the bridge.  This is a species which I have not logged very much this year.  It may be declining in the Gloucestershire/Herefordshire area.


11th July 2014 – A Ringlet butterfly was on my patio this morning.  This species is unusual at this site. 

          In the afternoon, I had a trip to Symonds Yat Rock.  The Peregrine pair has raised 3 young and all 5 birds were flying at one time or another.  There was much action and some feeding going on from the larder in the hole on the right hand rock face.  This was my first visit for some time and there is a massive scar on the landscape to the left and beyond the nesting cliffs where there has been a huge landslip. 


9th July 2014 – I walked around the cycle trail in a clockwise direction from Cannop Ponds to Cannop Ponds.  At various locations during the 9 mile trek I noted three Fallow Deer including the smallest one I have ever seen, a pair of adult Wild Boar with at least 3 young and countless Silver-washed Fritillary butterflies. I also noted at least 6 newly cleared areas, all of which, except one having been cleared by machines.  One, between Burnt Log and Three Brothers is purely windblown because all of the trees have root balls on them.  This happened back in the winter but I have only walked this path for the first time this year.  Around the Forest, there are quite a number of trees blown down but in general they are in ones and twos. 


6th July 2014 – I went to Essex for the day and en route M4/M25, noted 6 Red Kites on the way there and 4 on the way back.


5th July 2014 – After a damp start to the day and then some very heavy but very local downpours mid-morning, the day turned out to be fine and warm again. At Nagshead RSPB reserve, at least 3 Fallow Deer crossed the Gloucestershire Way where there were a party of newly fledged Nuthatch.  On the short trail there was a similar party of Treecreepers in an area I often see them and which contained the nest.  I found my first Silver-washed Fritillary for the reserve near the Information Centre.  Along the lower short trail, there was at least one Spotted Flycatcher.  A Fallow Deer appeared to be browsing on some Holly at the far end of the short trail and also here, a Willow Warbler carrying food.  There were at least 2 Red Admiral on the shale track which cuts past the rear of the Information Centre and near its end, another Spotted Flycatcher. 

          At Cannop Ponds, a Buzzard was perched up near the Stoneworks and at Plump Hill, there was a Buzzard displaying in a rollercoaster flight over The Wilderness area and then this bird was joined by another and they both went soaring.  A Common Whitethroat was also on Plump Hill.



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