Diary - July to September 2005

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30th September 2005 - An early morning walk around Nagshead RSPB Reserve was a quiet one but on my return to the village, both Swallows and House Martins were quite numerous overhead, hawking insects on what was a very mild but humid morning. At lunchtime at Slimbridge, at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre, it was the same story with both species of hirundine passing steadily through.

27th September 2005 - A very brief visit to Ashleworth Ham this morning saw a steady stream of hirundine passage with both House Martins and Swallows passing in small numbers but not lingering.

24th September 2005 - At Coombe Hill Canal on a very cool, but bright morning, a Blackcap was at the car park at the Wharf end. 2 Grey Heron were on the Meadows. A Bullfinch flock was along the towpath and a Chaffinch flock was in the withy bed by the nearest hide. At least 3 Skylark were overflying as were 2 Swallows on passage. Yellowhammers were at least 3 in number and appeared to be doing likewise. Reed Buntings were in the reedy areas and 2 Common Snipe and a Hare were out in the open meadow.
At Ashleworth, at least 20 Meadow Pipits were on the move, 3 Raven were overhead and 4 Teal were on the scrapes. Both Sparrowhawk and Kestrel were high overhead the Ham but were being continually harassed by corvids.

22nd September 2005 - 4 Ravens were over the southern pond at Cannop today. A pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers were squabbling at Foxes Bridge Colliery.

21st September 2005 - A House Martin was still over Parkend village this morning.

20th September 2005 - A Goshawk, beautifully lit up by the morning sun was soaring over the northerly pond in the Cannop Valley this morning. The Swallows that are habitually around Cannop Ponds were not there this morning and must have just left. In the late afternoon, a party of House Martins appeared high over the ponds, hawking insects but this was an arrival of passage birds as none had been seen in the half hour or so before this sighting.

19th September 2005 - On the damp ground along the tracks of the Forest of Dean, there appears to be a very large number of Dor Beetles on the move. There were lots of leaves falling in the fresh breeze. This is the first time this autumn that this has been happening on this scale. The first true sign of autumn!

17th September 2005 - At Coombe Hill Canal this morning, 2 Buzzard, 2 Grey Heron, 2 Common Snipe, 2 Wheatear and a steady hirundine passage which were mostly Swallows. A Chiffchaff was singing well and there were at least 3 Yellowhammer, several Reed Bunting, a Bullfinch flock along the towpath, a Hare on the meadows and a massive number of Craneflies which seems to be in keeping with other parts of the country. Along the towpath near the Wharf, I was shown some Strawberry Clover, a fairly scarce plant for these parts.
At Ashleworth, later in the morning, there were a pair of Mute Swans moulting on the island on the scrape in front of the hide and a pair with 5 cygnets on the next scrape to the north. There were still House Martins around Stonebow Farm and there was still a steady passage of Swallows, mostly to the north.

15th September 2005 - A note on the Gloster Birders website informed me of a Little Crake at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust at Slimbridge yesterday and a further website indicated that it was still present. In pouring rain, I set off for the location and upon arrival I found it partially concealed by flag iris vegetation. However, this fairly secretive species came out into the open and spent some 10 minutes apparently feeding on a tiny piece of open shingle on the edge of a scrape. It then rushed back into cover but came back out into the open for a further 5 minutes. Having had, what has to be said, fantastic views, I had to depart, having postponed other appointments.
The bird appears to be a juvenile, being quite plain looking in general especially at the front and over the head. The upper parts appeared to be heavily streaked with white but this was an illusion for although there were some white marks, the outstanding lightness was water droplets, from the even heavier rain, remaining on its back. The long primary projection was very evident on this species and the undertail coverts were beautifully barred. Overall, on such a poor morning weatherwise, this was a stunning and very rare bird. I am told that this is a second record of this species for Gloucestershire, the first being in 1951, also at Slimbridge.

12th September 2005 - A short early morning walk on Crabtree Hill. A curious sight in the middle of the forest was of at least 14 Swallows and one House Martin perched in a tree in the middle of the forest. They were hawking insects and kept returning to the tree and chasing off any other birds that attempted to join them including several Linnets, what appeared to be a late Tree Pipit and a Spotted Flycatcher. There were numerous sightings of Fallow Deer some of which were 'barking' and the other mammal was a Fox which was so preoccupied in watching some prey in the long grass that I was able to approach it quite closely.

2nd September 2005 - Today was a busy day and I could only get out in the early morning and walk the long trail at Nagshead. Both Mistle Thrushes and Song Thrushes seemed to be showing themselves well and another flock of Bullfinches was around the information centre. tit flocks continue to roam the woodlands but as might be expected it is still a quiet time in the area but the winter migrants will not be long in coming!!

1st September 2005 - A walk through the forest to the north of Cannop Ponds revealed some Bullfinches. This flock which has been noted several times in the last few weeks seem to have their territory around this area of the cycle track as I see them almost every tine I pass by.

26th August 2005 - A very short visit to Ashleworth in the morning prior to a supply trip into Gloucester city produced masses of House Martins over the reserve and Hasfield Ham. For a few minutes I scoured the flock from the hide in the hope of finding a different species amongst them but they were all House Martins. I did eventually find a Swallow around the neighbouring farm to the north as I motored by. As I drove over the river at Haw Bridge, again the air was thick with yet more House Martins.

25th August 2005 - A quiet day but there appeared to be plenty of House Martins over the village of Parkend today. It seemed many more than most days and could be explained by some migration through the area.

21st August 2005 - A light mist hung over the Cannop Valley at 0600 but the day became hot and sunny and I went out of the county to the British Birdwatching Fair at Rutland Water returning late in the night to the Forest. A stop both ways at Eyebrook Reservoir in Leicestershire is always worth it as it is one of the best inland lakes in the country because it has a wide variety of habitat from deep water near the dam end to shallow water and stream where in inlet is as well as on most occasions plenty of mud for waders. There is woodland with both broadleaf and conifer trees, rolling farmland and plenty of hedgerow and although it is well away from Gloucestershire and not really in the realms of this website I can recommend it to anyone passing.

17th August 2005 - I was walking in the Forest prior to manning the RSPB Centre at Nagshead for the afternoon. The forest was quiet as expected but the highlight was a fly through of a Clouded Yellow butterfly.
House Martins are still in the area of Parkend village.

16th August 2005 - I looked in on the reserve at Ashleworth this morning expecting that a start would have been made on some management work that was scheduled to be undertaken. I was pleasantly surprised to see that not only has the vegetation been cut for silage but many of the willows have been pollarded. The former will make the winter wildfowl counts much more easy to do. Last year this cutting could not take place as the ground was too wet to support the required machinery. The cutting of the tree has also improved the view from the hide all the way across to Hasfield Ham and this is another bonus for finding the wintering birds.
En route back from the Cotswold Water Park, I stopped for some refreshment on the Whiteway between Cirencester and Chedworth near North Cerney. I noted a Hobby interacting with a Kestrel and a Buzzard watching the outcome.
I then had some tea, sitting in a friends garden in Hucclecote on a warm and sunny afternoon, and watched the local birds keeping a low profile as a Sparrowhawk put in several appearances and a Kestrel was hunting prey nearby over the bypass grass.

15th August 2005 - Another day and sunny day which started cool but warmed up as the day wore on. On a general note, the leaves on the trees and the bracken of the forest have now started to show the colours of autumn. Grey Squirrels were eating Hawthorn berries at a fast pace in several areas of the forest. At Foxes Bridge, yet again there was an overfly of Crossbills. A Kingfisher swept by at the northen end of the southern pond at Cannop. More odonata were on the wing (See odonata page) and I came across many Dor Beetles today, righting some which had gotten themselves stuck on their backs!! I also rescued a Slow Worm which appeared to be dead on the cycle track but after I had placed it in the undergrowth it very gradually moved off into the leaf litter.

14th August 2005 - A dry day and around the ponds at Cannop, both House Martins and Swallows continue to hawk insects. A little way to the north east of Central Bridge, a Willow Tit was calling.

13th August 2005 - By mid morning, heavy rain had set in and this continued for most of the day after many days of dry weather. House Martins are still in the air around Parkend.

8th August 2005 - A day at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust Centre at Slimbridge. From the Robbie Garnett Hide, there were 11 Green Sandpipers, one with leg rings but they were covered in mud and the colour sequence could not be read. Also present was a Greenshank, a Black-tailed Godwit and a Common Sandpiper. At Middle Point a Peregrine was being harassed by a large gull and a Greenshank was on the estuarine mud. In the afternoon on South Lake, 137 Black-tailed Godwits, 2 Spotted Redshank, some Common Redshank, a Ruff and a Greenshank, a small plover which was possibly a Little Plover and a Common Sandpiper were present.

7th August 2005 - A Peregrine was over Cannop Ponds at 0845 on a fine sunny but cool morning. Along the cycleway between Cannop and Foxes Bridge, Fallow Deer were noted as well as a Spotted Flycatcher with a tit flock and a Willow Warbler was singing again. Finally, at Foxes Bridge, Crossbills were heard again.
An update on the Pike noted on the 4th August. The person who collects the fees from the fishermen at Cannop Ponds tells me that this fish was found dead in the weed at the edge of the pond a few days ago. It measured over 4 feet and weighed in at 19 lb..

6th August 2005 - Coombe Hill Canal on a cool and overcast morning at 0800. 5 Little Egrets, 2 Green Sandpipers, 4 Snipe, a Lapwing and Greenshank were the wading birds and in addtion to a small Swallow passage, both Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff were singing and a lone Redstart was present. The mammals were represented by 3 Hare.
At Ashleworth/Hasfield, approximately 30 Lapwing were on a distant field, and another Willow Warbler was in song. Swallows were again noted as passing while House Martins were still frequenting the area around Stonebow Farm.

5th August 2005 - A little bit of rain this morning in the Forest of Dean. The woods were very quiet but the highlight of the walk this morning was of a Hobby perched on a dead tree in the cleared area to the east of New Fancy View. At Cannop Ponds a Kingfisher flew down the lake, on more typical habitat than yesterday.
On a general note, during these damper mornings of late, I have noted both slugs and snails crossing the many shale tracks that criss cross the Dean. These routes are covered in fine grit with many larger stones and gravel and are used by motor traffic. These animals, although taking time to make the crossing, appear to have little difficuty in proceeding. Now it used to be the practice that gardeners, with plants that were susceptable to slug attack, would surround their prized specimens with a layer of grit in the belief that soft-footed animals such as these did not like to venture across the rough grit. These observations of crossings of 14 feet plus seems to disprove the old gardeners idea.
On another note, there appears to be a large number of small mammals found dead on the many footpaths of the Dean. These include various species of mouse and shrew. There may be the suggestion that it has been a good breeding season for these small species and there are a large number of them at the moment in the forest and thus explaining why there are so many out in the open.

4th August 2005 - A sunny start to the morning but soon clouding over before the sun returned at lunchtime. Early in the morning, however, more than 30 hirundines, Swallows and House Martins were pecking on the ground on the wicket of the cricket square in Parkend, Undoubtedly, they were finding a food source in the closest cropped part of the pitch. A little later to the east of Cannop Ponds, an unusual sight was of a Kingfisher flying through the woodland. Finally, at Foxes Bridge Colliery, several Crossbill overflew, calling loudly.
I came across the remains of a Pike on the side of the lower pond at Cannop. Although it had been predated, I was able to measure what appeared to be a large specimen. The distance from the leading edge of the lips to the gape was over 5 inches. I examined some photographs of this species and noted that the length of these fish are approxiamtely 12 times the distance of length that I measured above. This would make this specimen about 5 feet long. Quite a whopper!!

3rd August 2005 - A very clear sunny morning with no mist at all unlike yesterday. There appeared to be much hirundine activity in the sky where mostly House Martins were on the wing including juveniles as well as Swallows. The Swifts appear to have departed. The Hornets noted yesterday were still around the base of the oak tree and the hole they were investigating has now got a lot bigger. I think a nest is looming. A short walk around Nagshead early in the morning was quite quiet but I could hear a lot of alarm calls on the return leg of the short trail and this turned out to be made by a 'tit' flock and the birds included Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Pied Flycatcher, a late individual which seemed very dull in colour, Nuthatch, and a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker which was seen off by a Great Spotted Woodpecker! On my return at about 0845, 27 Pied Wagtails were on the cricket pitch in Parkend.
At Slimbridge, later in the day, 11 Green Sandpipers and 3 Snipe were at the Robbie Garnett Hide and a quick look on South Lake resulted in about 100 plus Black-tailed Godwits, Redshank, Ruff and Greenshank.

2nd August 2005 - A magical autumnal morning in summer! It was quite misty this morning with visibility down to less than 200m in places and a cool crispness was about the air. However, the sun soon burnt off the mist. At 0730, there were a record 35 Pied Wagtails on the cricket pitch at Parkend and on the square itself, some fungi had appeared overnight and was being feasted upon by one of the resident Carrion Crows. There is a large 'damp' patch at the base of an oak tree near the new pavilion which has been there some weeks. Today this patch was covered with many flies of varying descriptions and also showing an interest in the many cavities were two Hornets.
By the east side of the lower pond at Cannop, a Willow Warbler was singing its full song and it showed itself atop a Birch tree.

1st August 2005 - A long walk in the Forest this morning but not long after starting out, the rains came and lasted for about 2 and a 1/2 hours. The quiet woodlands were even quieter in the steady rain. However, at least 2 parties of Long-tailed Tits were around Nagshead.
Another noticable fact was that there seemed to be more Grey Squirrels around again. Earlier in the spring I commented on the fact that there appeared to be many of these in the reserve at Nagshead for example but it seemed that there had been a planned cull which had taken place fairly recently. The animals today seemed to include many small ones suggesting that new young have filled the gap created by the culling. There may be more problems with the bark stipping antics of these little creatures soon.
When the sun eventually came out so did the insects with butterflies on the wing including Silver-washed Frittilaries and some anisopterans (See Odonata page).

30th July 2005 - A morning visit to Coombe Hill Meadows and Ashlworth on a drizzly and cool morning. At the former, it was one of those days when on looking out of the hide, there appeared to be nothing about. But, upon careful observation, a variety of species were present. A Goldfinch flock including juveniles were making their way along the towpath and nearby 2 Common Whitethroats were also on the move. On the Meadows, a Curlew was heard, 2 Green Sandpipers, 3 Grey Herons, 10 Little Egrets, 2 Stock Doves, a Sedge Warbler singing, 2 Reed Bunting, a Lesser Whitethroat, a Common Snipe and over 120 corvids which were mostly Rooks with a few Jackdaws. There was a noticable Swift, Swallow and House Martin passage and apparently a small Starling passage. On the canal the resident Mute Swans have 4 cygnets. On the mammal front, a Hare ran across the Meadows while the only raptor was a Kestrel overhead. The numbers of Little Egrets logged today was the highest number that I have ever recorded at this site.
At Ashleworth, the Ham was quiet with high growing vegetation but from Stank Lane, a reasonable view across the recently cut fields yielded 93 Lapwings and a good number of Starlings with them.

26th July 2005 - I went just over the border of the county boundary into Herefordshire to see the pair of Bee-eaters which have nested in a hole of the river bank on the Wye at Hampton Bishop just to the south of Hereford. These birds were stunning on a sunny day with their bright and somewhat gawdy plumage. The young have hatched and the pair were busy finding food which did not appear to be in short supply. Many bees were recorded in my 4 hour stint as being prey but one Brown Hawker dragonfly and two Black-tailed Skimmer dragonflies were also on the menu along with a very large two toned but unidentified moth.

21st July 2005 - A Common Lizard in the hallway, brought in by a neighbours cat I suspect. It has much of its tail missing and was just about alive. Only yesterday, I rescued a Woodmouse from a cat in the neighbourhood. The cat is fed regularly, so I reckoned it would be better if the mouse lived for another day!

15th July 2005 - Only 14 Pied Wagtails on the cricket pitch this morning although it was at a later time of 0810.

14th July 2005 - The heatwave continues. At least 17 Pied Wagtails were on the cricket pitch in Parkend at about 0650 in the cool morning air. The Bullfinch flock of the past few days was still present and a Siskin was at Foxes Bridge Colliery. Finally, a Spotted Flycatcher was just north of the Dilke Hospital. Many odonata were on the wing at Cannop Ponds (See Odonata page). To the east of the ponds along the cycle track to Three Brothers, there is a newly cleared area on both sides of the track. Over the past five days there has been Buzzard activity there with a maximum of three birds. One bird today was seen to descend on prey which is probably the source of the activity unless there is breeding nearby or both.

13th July 2005 - Yet another sweltering day. The Bullfinch flock was still to the north of Cannop Ponds this morning. At 11.00am there was a torrential shower and the moisture brought out tens of small froglets from the Ponds at various places. With the rain past, a Common Lizard scrambled up the loose debris of the bank at the far end of the straight walk along the Gloucestershire Way from the short trail. SO605100.

12th July 2005 - Another hot and sunny day and by the middle of the day the sky seemed to be a very vivid blue, more so than usual. There were 3 Grey Wagtails together at the southern end of Cannop Ponds on the long waterfall. All around the Forest walks and cycleways are a number of Silver-washed Fritillary butterflies, probably the most that I have seen in any one year. The juvenile Dipper was still at the waterfall between the two ponds in the Cannop Valley and the Bullfinch flock, noted yesterday, was in the same place.

11th July 2005 - For the second day running I have 'pushed' a small flock of Bullfinch along the cycle track to the north of Cannop Ponds not far south of the railway track sculpture. At Foxes Bridge Colliery a juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker was foraging amongst the pines around the remains of the pit.

10th July 2005 - A walk across the causeway between the two lakes at Cannop Ponds revealed the juvenile Dipper at the shallow waterfall again. This bird seemed quite unpeturbed at the number of people gathering at the picnic site nearby.

General Note - The woods are now very quiet even in the very early morning as the breeding season draws to a close. The bracken of the Forest of Dean has now just about reached its peak height and the trees are in full leaf, indeed with the latter there is some evidence of die back being caused by damage to the bark caused by squirrels stripping the bark. The number of Grey Squirrels in the area seems to be very high this year as has been commented on before in the spring. There are many fledglings along the tracks and paths including Robin, Song Thrush, Blackbird and Dunnock, for example.




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