Diary - July to September 2003

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30th September 2003 - At 0830 while driving through Newnham on Severn, I noted a corvid carrying nesting material. Unfortunately I was unable to identify the species from the brief look.
1335. Slimbridge.Temp 18 deg. C. Wind 165 deg., 7 mph. Dry. 1006mb. Here I took my lunch. On South Lake there were few birds but 1 Redshank, 2 Ruff and 5 Greenshank were of note. At the Robbie Garnett Hide, there were in excess of 250 Teal and a single Black-tailed Godwit. In the trees along the walkway to this hide were a mixed flock of tits and with them was a Treecreeper.

27th September 2003 - 0825. Temp 8 deg. C. Wind Nil. Dry. 1019mb. Coombe Hill Canal. A quiet morning along the canal but raptors present included 2 Buzzards, a Kestrel and a Sparrowhawk. In the sheep field by the gate which forms access across the meadows, 6 Stock Dove, 1 Grey Heron and a Jay were present. The two Mute Swans with their two cygnets are still on the canal.
At Ashleworth there were 14 Teal, 6 Mallard, 12 Grey Herons and a Green Sandpiper. The Teal and all of the Grey Herons flew off, the latter making quite a sight. The herons were feeding on the dead and dying fish on the rapidly drying out scrapes. Nothing can be done here as it is illegal to move the fish to river, or anywhere else, in case of transferring disease.

24th September 2003 - 0835. Temp 6 deg. C. Wind Nil. Dry. 1030mb. Coombe Hill Canal. Frost was on the grass this morning for the first time this autumn. 2 Jays were noted, both carrying acorns. Chiffchaffs were singing and Reed Buntings were along the canal. Blackcaps were also present and the resident Mute Swans on the canal were still present with their two cygnets.
At Ashleworth, there was a huge hirundine passage which included several hundred House Martins passing through at lunchtime and about 60 Meadow Pipits in one area of the reserve. Chiffchaffs singing seem to be a constant feature at many sites and here in the copse by the hide was no exception. Kingfisher and Grey Heron were by the scrapes as viewed from the hide. While walking along Ham Road from the hide in the direction of Stonebow Farm, I noted four, then five Common Buzzard thermalling away to the northwest. I then noted another Buzzard away from the rest and gliding much lower. This one flew on flat wings and remained away from the others. I watched it for about 3 minutes and it had many features of juvenile Honey Buzzard. It eventually was lost from view to the west. A report will be submitted to the appropriate committee.
During the afternoon, I had to visit the north Cotwolds. Soaring Common Buzzards seemed to be everywhere and in addition the passage of House Martins was also noted from this area as well.

23rd September 2003 - 1125. Temp 12 deg. C. Wind 330 deg., 8 mph. Dry. 1019mb. Nagshead RSPB reserve. A lunchtime walk around the reserve was quiet as expected. Chiffchaffs continue to sing and Bullfinches were around the car park and others noted included Jay, Treecreeper, Coal Tits, Great Tits and Blue Tits. The Campbell Hide has been repaired and is fully operational again although the pond in front of it is short of water.

17th September 2003 - 0840. Temp 16 deg. C. Wind Nil. Dry. 1019mb. Coombe Hill Canal and Meadows. A very quiet time with only 8 Lapwing in a field to the north of the reserve, 10 plus Meadow Pipits on the meadows and NO hirundines passing through at all.
At Ashleworth, a few hirundines were passing through and the House Martins are still around the farm buildings at Stonebow Farm. 2 Grey Heron and 8 Teal were on the reserve and raptors included Sparrowhawk which overflew, a resident Kestrel and a small, presumably, male Peregrine on one of the pylons. Chiffchaffs were singing in at least 2 different places.

15th September 2003 - 1045. Temp 21 deg. C. Wind Nil. Dry. 1024mb. Having to work in south west Gloucester, I took the opportunity to quickly visit the sailing lake at Frampton in the late morning and also a one hide visit to Slimbridge early at lunchtime. At Frampton Sailing Lake there were 3 Black Terns and a Common Tern. Chiffchaffs were also still singing. At South Lake, Slimbridge, there were 8 wader species which included 1 Curlew Sandpiper, 1 Spotted Redshank, 1 Ruff, 5 Knot and numbers of Black-tailed Godwits, Greenshank Lapwing and Redshank.

14th September 2003 - 0830. Temp 12 deg. C. Wind Nil. Dry. 1028mb. A short morning walk up Chosen Hill. Generally quiet although an unidentified warbler was flycatching from the roof of the church. Over 30 House Martins were in the vicinity and for most of the morning there was a steady stream of Swallows flying south. Both Buzzard and Sparrowhawk were thermalling over the hill, a pair of the latter disappearing into the distance towards Gloucester Cathedral. Finally as I was leaving the trig point, a Raven appeared and disappeared near the nest site and a Chiffchaff continued to sing nearby.

13th September 2003 - 0815. Temp 13 deg. C. Wind Nil. Dry. 1028mb. Coombe Hill Canal. The male Mute Swan appears to have returned and is again with the ringed female and the two cygnets. Of note on the Meadows were at least 20 Meadow Pipits and 3 Whinchat. Jay, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Long-tailed Tits were all fly overs and Chiffchaffs continue to sing in the small Withy Bed.
At Ashleworth, 13 Teal, 2 Common Snipe and a Grey Heron were on one of the scrapes and a steady passage of Swallows continued for most of the morning.

6th September 2003 - 0815. Temp 12 deg. C. Wind Nil. Very light showers. 1012mb. Coombe Hill Canal. I walked down to the meadows to see the new work that has been carried out. The rhine to the right of the footpath across the meadows has been extended before the withy bed and has been created to the left of the path after the bed and now continues to the main rhine which bisects the meadows. There is now no longer any water in the scrapes except the small one to the right of the path across the meadows. No waders were seen although, Redstart, Lesser Whitethroat and several Chiffchaffs were seen and some of the latter were still giving bursts of song. 6 Stock Doves and a Swallow passage were the only other birds of note. An invertebrate study seems to be being carried out as there were several sunken plastic cups alongside the path across the meadow and a number of beetle were trapped therein.
At Ashleworth, 4 Mallard and 5 Teal were on the water but noticably there were also 12 large but dead fish floating there. 2 Raven were overhead and they were apparently chased off by the arrival of 3 more from the Barrow Hill direction. This trend of Raven activity continues.

3rd September 2003 - 1300. Temp 21 deg. C. Wind 330 deg, 5 mph. Dry. 1028mb. A walk around the public footpath surrounding the reserve at Ashleworth. 2 Ravens flew in from the north and started to thermal, then moved on to Barrow Hill where they did a repeat. 10 Lapwing were flocking on the newly cut field in front of the hide.
Over 100 hirundines, mostly House Martins with a few Swallows were perched in the large, dead Ash Tree in Stank Lane. Some of these birds then proceeded to mob a Peregrine which circled the reserve. A Bullfinch flock, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a lone Common Whitethroat were all in Stank Lane and on the field in front of Colways Farm, over 100 Rooks were present.
I noted the damage caused by someone setting fire to a car at the end of Dirty Lane. The car has been removed but the burnt area is quite extensive and include damage to several large trees and many bushes as this is almost a small wooded area with a canopy.

2nd September 2003 - 0800. Temp 10 deg. C. Wind Nil, Dry. 1026mb. A walk to Wainlodes and the west bank of the River Severn. Of note was a flock of 26 Collared Dove at Innsworth sewage works where 2 Swifts overflew. Several Spotted Flycatchers were in amongst a tit flock on the east bank of the river north of Wainlodes.

1st September 2003 - 0900. Temp 17 deg. C. Wind 350 deg, 4 mph. Dry. 1021mb. I had to go south today, so took the opportunity to visit Frampton and Slimbridge. At the former, sailing lake there were at least 4 Common Tern with one feeding young and a bird with a metal ring on. Chiffchaffs were singing in the nearby scrub. On the canal towpath south of Splatt Bridge was a Reed Warbler in the small reed bed. This, too, had a ring on it. Buzzard and Kestrel were the raptors present and there was a steady passage of Swallows and House Martins to the north.
At Slimbrdige, there were 4 Green Sandpipers from the Robbie Garnett hide and two Buzzards were soaring over the Holden Tower. On the estuary from Middle Point it was a quiet morning with a big tide covering all of the the mud but a Greenshank did fly down river.
Finally on South Lake, there were at least 36 Black-tailed Godwits, 16 Common Redshank, a Spotted Redshank and 3 Ruff.
When I returned home in the late afternoon, a Grey Squirrel was in the garden, this being only about the third occurrence in over 15 years. Also this evening, only the second time recorded in the garden over that period was a Hummingbird Hawk Moth. What a beautiful creature!

30th August 2003 - After 4 days out of the county at Portland Bird Observatory where the highlights were several Arctic Skuas and Balearic Shearwaters on the sea, a Wryneck caught at the observatory and an Ortolan Bunting at The Verne, I made a usual weekly trip to Ashleworth this morning. On a sunny but cool 'autumnal' morning, a Chiffchaff was singing in the copse along from the hide and a Kestrel was hunting over the reserve. I walked all around the reserve along the public footpath. Near the river, I heard Ravens calling and two came overhead from the direction of Barrow Hill. They joined several gulls in a spiralling thermal. I then heard more calls and saw two more Ravens coming in from the north. The first two birds then appeared to hurriedly break away and move off rapidly to the south pursued by the second pair.
Along the path by the willow copse, I noted a sheep away from the rest of the flock. It has got its front left foot caught in the bottom hinge bracket of an old gatepost with no gate. I managed to calm the beast down and with a bit of effort I extracted the foot from its entrapment. The sheep limped away and sat in a dry ditch. I contacted the farmer when I got back.
Many hirundines were passing through in a steady stream and several Redstarts were still in residence in the hedgerows.

23rd August 2003 - Slimbridge on another hot and humid day. There were now 2 Wood Sandpipers from the Robbie Garnett Hide with 4 Green Sandpipers and a singing Chiffchaff. There was also a Blackcap in the vicinity.
At Middle Point there were 2 Whinchats and a Meadow Pipit on the fence posts. One of the former caught a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly and eat it whole, wings and all. On the river, there were 2 Little Egrets together, one with lime green legs and feet. Among the Dunlin flock were some Ringed Plover and at least 4 Sanderling. Curlew were scattered all over the river mud banks. Of note and something I have not witnessed in numbers before but at least 16 Gull corpses (differing species) were counted in a telescope sweep.
On South Lake, the 3 Ruddy Shelduck which had been reported earlier in the week were still there along with a Ruff and a Spotted Redshank among the numerous Lapwing, Common Redshank and Black-headed Gulls whose flock included one Common Gull. A Common Tern was also among these birds and three more were at the Sailing Lake at Frampton. For odonata recorders, there was a Black-tailed Skimmer on the shore of the lake.

22nd August 2003 - I was doing some work in the Forest of Dean and called into Nagshead RSPB reserve. As expected the reserve was quiet but I did note over 20 Mistle Thrushes feeding on Rowan Tree berries near the junction where the short and long trails diverge.
However, I was saddened to see that some mindless people have kicked out about one third of the back wall of the Campbell Hide. I met a Forestry Commission person who heard a commotion from this area last night but quite rightly did not investigate alone, but today the damage was revealed. I have spoken with the warden who is closing the hide and the path to it until repairs are carried out which may take a couple of weeks.

21st August 2003 - A took a look at the oak tree where I used to see the Barn Owl at Haresfield when I went to Slimbridge today. There are no signs of the owl. I did not expect to see it but I was looking for excrement, signs of wear at the entrance to the crevices but there was none. The tree itself has a very large crop of acorns and appears to be in good health. I estimate it to be over 300 years old.
At the Robbie Garnett hide at 0845, there were 2 Green Sandpipers, 1 Redshank, 4 Black-tailed Godwits, and a Chiffchaff, with possibly 4 more Black-tailed Godwits, on Rushy Pen at 0900.
By lunchtime, there were 2 Black-tailed Godwits, 6 Green Sandpipers, 1 Wood Sandpiper, and a Redshank at the first mentioned hide, and finally at 1600 there were 3 Oystercatchers, one appeared to be a juvenile on the Rushy Pen.

20th August 2003 - Slimbridge on a pleasant, sunny and cool day. At lunchtime I noted from the Robbie Garnett Hide, 5 Green Sandpipers, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Wood Sandpiper, 2 Reed Warblers and 1 Sedge Warbler. The Wood Sandpiper was a brilliant individual in the fine light with a white and gold spangled back.

14th August 2003 - Same place as yesterday and this time I managed to digiscope the Wood Sandpiper (it was too close yesterday!). A handful of Black-tailed Godwits were also present and a Little Egret flew in.

13th August 2003 - At Slimbridge at lunchtime, I spent a few minutes looking over the scrape in front of the Robbie Garnett Hide. Two Greenshank flew in to join the very dapper Wood Sandpiper.

12th August 2003 - A short walk at Nagshead on a hot and sunny day. It was very quiet in the woods but I noted a Grey Squirrel eating a fungus, holding it in both front hands like someone with an ice cream cone. I could not identify the fungus.

2nd August 2003 - Coombe Hill Canal on a warm and sunny morning. A Green Woodpecker was yaffling near the car park and both Chiffchaffs and Common Whitethroats were moving through the canal side shrubs and hedges. Near the scrapes six Lapwing were flying around as was a lone Curlew which was calling alot and returning to the same distant field. Did it have young hidden away in the long vegetation? Far away to the east was a large flock of birds which were moving steadily north. The looked like a fast moving dark cloud and sometimes they "bunched up" to from a blackish disk just like the winter roosting Starling do at Slimbridge. I have no idea of the species by it was an odd sighting. A female Sparrowhawk flew down the canal causing lots of alarm calls from the passerines in the hedgerows. Also patrolling one section of canal was a Brown Hawker, a beautiful insect with vivid sky blue spots on the abdomen and yellow streaks on the thorax and its golden wings lit up in the blazing sunshine. Finally there the lone female Mute Swan still has her two cygnets.
At Stank Lane, Ashleworth, a family party of Great Spotted Woodpeckers were flitting from tree to tree including at least one juvenile. The resident Bullfinches were there as well and at least one Common Whitethroat. From the hide, the lone Mute Swan and Canada Goose were on the water, the former in heavy wing moult.

1st August 2003 - An afternoon in the Forest of Dean. An afternoon of gradually improving weather which became sunny and quite warm. The woods were quiet as expected although Blackcaps were showing themselves in two different areas. Near New Fancy View, Buzzards were soaring with at least 3 different birds seen. Two Ravens were high overhead calling and on the insect front, 2 Silver-washed Fritillaries were also present there. There appeared to be a steady passage of hirundines and Swifts.
Of note at the viewpoint was two areas of woodland close by and to the north east have been cleared with work ongoing. One area butts onto the track at the back of the viewpoint which leads to the colliery screens. The other area is slightly further away and to the north of the nearest. It will be interesting to see how much more is cleared and what species this new area may attract in the future. The far area has a few broad-leaved tree left in the middle of it and this may attact Tree Pipit next year or maybe Nightjar in the years to come. Any species which frequents these open areas can be easily seen from the viewpoint.

30th July 2003 - Coombe Hill Canal on a humid and warm day which eventually developed showers. Quite a number of House Martins were swooping over the canal at least at the Wharf end. Warblers including Chiffchaffs were still moving along the canal side vegetation. On the scrapes, there were 3 Grey Herons and 4 Little Ringed Plovers. A large number of blue butterflies were present and at least 3 Painted Ladies. A Brown Hawker dragonfly patrolled the canal and the lone adult Mute Swan still has the 2 well grown cygnets in tow. The water levels have risen again slightly after yet more heavy rain of recent days.

26th July 2003 - Coombe Hill Canal. After the recent long and heavy rain, the level of water not only in the canal but also in the scrapes has come up a little. A band of warblers were movig along the bushes at the canal side and over on the scrapes, a Sedge Warbler was still singing. On the scrapes, a pair of Little Ringed Plovers were present but there was no sign of any Lapwing, Green Sandpipers or Redshank. A Brown Hawker sped past me along the towpath and at Stank Lane, Ashleworth, a Ruddy Darter and female Banded Demoiselle were the odonata present and a pair of Bullfinches were passing along the lane. Finally, along Dirty Lane a two Redstarts were again present with a Yellowhammer singing.

23rd July 2003 - Coombe Hill Canal on a warm but overcast morning. Newly hatched Mallard ducklings were by the Wharf this morning along with the lone Mute Swan orange ringed AAGX and its two cygnets. A new notice has been put on the gate leading to the new meadow to say that it has been included by DEFRA in the Countryside Stewardship Scheme. Along this path, there were Painted Lady and Small Tortoiseshell Butterflies making the total number of these species up to 15 over the last two visits. Over the scrapes which are just holding some water were 2 Redshanks and a Green Sandpiper and lots of Swallows. A female Sparrowhawk was overhead and the remains of a Lapwing were noted although otherwise none of the latter species were noted. Along the canal were amixed flock of tits including juvenile Long-tailed Tits and Blue Tits along with some unidentified small warblers (Willow Tits and/or Chiffchaffs). Finally, after hearing a 'plop' in the water I noted a Water Vole swimming across the canal.
. At Ashleworth, the whole scene was fairly quiet but at the top of Dirty Lane there were at least 2 Redstarts, a Yellowhammer, Greenfinch, a juvenile Goldfinch, a Reed Bunting and 18 Mistle Thrushes.

16th July 2003 - A walk along the Coombe Hill Canal this morning was a very hot one again. Bird life was quiet although there were 9 Grey Heron, about 80 Lapwing, 1 Little Ringed Plover, 3 Redshank, 2 Green Sandpiper and one other wader on the main scrapes which are drying out fast. In the hot and humid conditions, many odonata were on the wing including Brown Hawker, Southern Hawker and Emeperor Dragonfly and 13 species of butterfly were recorded. They were Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Large White, Red Admiral, Speckled Wood, Small White, Small Copper, Small Skipper, Green-veined White, Ringlet, Brimstone and Common Blue. Surprisingly no Small Tortoiseshell were seen.
At Ashleworth Ham, Emperor Dragonfly, Brown Hawker, Emperor Dragonfly, Banded Demoiselle, Blue-tailed Damselfly were noted and the highlight was 2 or maybe 3 Black-tailed Skimmer.

13th July 2003 - A walk in the Forest of Dean on a very hot day with the thermometer registering 30 degrees C. Bird life was very quiet but the highlights of the day were the many Silver-washed Fritillary Butterflies along the forest rides. I don't remember seening so many on one occasion before. At one point a beautiful Grass Snake crossed the path just in front of me and finally, a superb specimen of a huge Golden-ringed Dragonfly passed me on the cycleway south of Cannop Marsh.

12th July 2003 - a short walk along Green Lane at Frampton on a hot morning was a quiet one in terms of wildlife but Common Terns which are probably nesting on the 100 acres were mobbing a Common Buzzard. A Brown Hawker dragonfly passed down the lane and a Kingfisher flew up the canal.
At Slimbridge, the Bittern was not seen but around the reed bed, Reed Warblers were feeding young as were Blue Tits. A Little Egret was on the scrape near the hide. Finally, 8 Green Sandpipers were on a scrape off the Holden Walkway.

10th July 2003 - Slimbridge. I went down to the Zeiss Hide in the warm afternoon sunshine to look for the Bittern that was reported yesterday. A Little Egret seemed to be the only member of this order to be present. After about half an hour, the Bittern was spotted directly in front of the hide in amongst the Reedmace. I watched it for about an hour and a half. The wind was quite brisk and this moved the Reedmace leaves out of the way fairly often to give good views at times. When there was a noise, such as a Coot running across the water in the act of taking off, the Bittern picked up its head and did a bit of the tradional "sky pointing". It seemed to preen quite extensively and generally these were the most prolonged view that I have ever had of this species.

5th July 2003 - Coombe Hill Canal this morning was overcast but warm and calm. The Mute Swan on the canal still has two cygnets and the Reed Warbler and Common Whitethroat along the canal are still vocal. 19 Lapwing were in a flock on the scrape and the resident one still has at last 2 juveniles. A Redshank kept flying about giving an alarm call suggesting that it too has either a mate on eggs or young in the long vegetation. A lone Teal was in residence on the scrapes and at least 3 Little Ringed Plover were there. A Great Spotted Woodpecker flew into the small withy bed.
Along Stank Lane, Ashleworth later in the morning, it was very quiet but both Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff were singing as was the latter species doing the same in the copse by the hide as one has done all spring and summer so far.

3rd July 2003 - A lunchtime at the Robbie Garnett Hide at WWT Slimbridge on an overcast, but warm and calm day. 51 Redshank, 2 Dunlin, and 6 Black-tailed Godwits, of which 3 were in stunning breeding plumage graced the scrape. A single Green Sandpiper flew over from the direction of the scrape on the other side of the path where there were 4 more of this species.

2nd July 2003 - Coombe Hill Canal at 0825 on a cloudy but calm and warm day. Mute Swan with the orange darvic ring 'AAGX' was on the canal at the nest with two very well grown youngsters. Along the canal a Reed Warbler was singing and a Common Whitethroat with a juvenile in tow was also present. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the scrapes are still holding water and around one of them there was one adult Lapwing with three small young ones. A single Redshank joined this Lapwing in the air for a time but they both soon settled back down although 17 Lapwing overflew with some Starlings. A Curlew was heard away to the south and 2 Little Ringed Plovers were also present. On the return to the car park I noted a juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker in the tall Willow Trees.
At Ashleworth it was very quiet although the Chiffchaff and Blackcap which have been singing in the copse by the hide all spring and summer continue to do so. At the waters egde I found some feathers which looked to have come from the injured male Shoveler and then this was confirmed when I found both the mandibles of the bill. This bird had come to a sticky end. There was no sign of the other two invalids, the Pintail and Wigeon.

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