Diary - October to December 2003

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31st December 2003 - Coombe Hill Canal this morning was bound in thick fog. A Sparrowhawk flew over the car park again and a pair of Treecreepers made their way through the canal side vegetation along the towpath. A Hare ran into the fog across the Meadows and 4 Lapwing were briefly glimpsed in flight. At least 8 Snipe were present and Canada Geese, Wigeon, Teal and Mallard were noted but no counts could be made because of the weather.
At Ashleworth the weather was the same and in addition to the duck species mentioned above, Shoveler were also present. Finally a Tawny Owl hooted at lunchtime by The Boat Inn at The Quay, Ashleworth. A quiet end to the year. Happy New Year to everyone.

30th December 2003 - I went to the Cotwold Water Park, to Pit 31 specifically to look for the Yellow-browed Warbler which had been reported there yesterday. From the car park at the Country Park, I went on a anticlockwise circuit of the lake and was surprised to find at least three Chiffchaffs and 2 Goldcrest in the first section of straight path. Around the corner to the right and then to the left where another path departs to the right towards the hides at Shorcote, I came across more birds. These were a flock of Long-tailed Tits with Blue Tits and Great Tits mixed in. Also present was at least one Goldcrest and another, possibly the fourth Chiffchaff and then there it was only about 2m away, the Yellow-browed Warbler. I watched it for some 5 minutes when I lost it amongst the other birds which were moving through the scrub. A really fine and delicately marked bird and a good way to approach the end of the year. The only other bird of note was a Little Owl in the trees from the hide at Shorncote where the Barn Owls quarter the fields in the late afternoon. Oh, and in the excitement of the warbler I forgot to say that I noted a Redhead Smew and a beautiful male bird on Pit 75 on the way home. Again, a fine and superbly marked bird which would otherwise have been high on the list of the most beautiful bird of the morning.

29th December 2003 - A short visit to Slimbridge. I could not find the White-fronted Geese except for about 12 in the far distance to the south and about 6 scattered on the Tack Piece. The day was very quiet but I did manage to read the metal ring on a Black-headed Gull on South Lake. It was sporting a German ring (5313628) and was ringed at Holstein on 23/9/96 and aged at greater than 3 years old at the time of ringing. It was one that I had seen several times before on the following dates, - 2/3/97, 26/1/98, 14/11/98, 26/2/99 and 27/12/01, thus I had seen it in the winters of 96/97, 97/98, 98/99, 01/02 and 03/04. I have missed it during the winters of 99/00, 00/01 and 02/03 and now the bird has to be at least 11 years old if it was born at the latest in the summer of 1992.

28th December 2003 - Ashleworth on a bitterly cold but beautifully sunny morning. The water level has risen overnight and the number of wildfowl has also increased since yesterday. There are now well over 200 Wigeon with 30 Teal and 25 Mallard at least. The Pintail numbers are up to at least 8 and there are now 4 Gadwall. Buzzard and Kestrel were the raptors present with a Great Spotted Woodpecker in a tree on the reserve as seen from the hide.

27th December 2003 - A morning of heavy sleet showers and a biting cold wind. I checked the areas of Coombe Hill Canal where the following were noted. 11 Snipe, 3 Pintail, at least 130 Wigeon, about 110 Mallard and 100 Teal. 4 Mute Swans overflew and 4 Lapwing were in the area.
At Ashleworth the water levels are at their highest this winter and the seasonal wildfowl are beginning to show themselves with 130 Wigeon, 40 Teal, 3 Pintail and 30 Mallard with 2 Gadwall, the latter being the first of the season. Thus, with over 200 duck present this is the highest total count so far this winter. The Peregrine was on the pylon again as usual.

26th December 2003 - Ashleworth on a dark and damp morning. The water levels continue to rise as it continues to flow inwards from the high level of the river.
51 Wigeon, 10 Teal, 20 Mallard and 2 Mute Swan were noted although there were probably more duck masked by the tall vegetation. Raptors included the Peregrine atop a pylon and 3 Buzzards together in flight over the reserve. There are not many Fieldfares and Redwings around at the moment as the berry crop is almost depleted.
Finally on a sad note, I found a dead raptor in the ditch alongside Ham Road. It was a bit of a mess but I believe that it was a Buzzard. I could not see the cause of death but it had not drowned as the ditch is dry.

25th December 2003 - A damp and dark overcast day with intermittent drizzle. I made a short walk in the Forest of Dean today but as expected it was very quiet. Close up views of a Goldcrest and a Treecreeper livened up the gloom. At the picnic place between the two ponds at Cannop someone has tied over 50 fat balls in the trees for the birds to feed on. The most surprising sight of the day was of a Grey Heron deep in the woods along the Cannop Brook.
I noted the trunk of a cut off conifer tree on the western ridge of the Cannop Valley near the ponds. It appeared to have at least 37 rings and thus it must have been planted in the mid 1960s with others of the same girth on that slope. There are some broad-leaved trees mixed in with them but these would be much older as they are considerably wider in the trunk.
A Merry Christmas to all.

24th December 2003 - Coombe Hill Canal on a mild but overcast morning. Some Bullfinches overflew the car park and this heralded a good morning with more of that species along the canal towpath along with a pair of Yellowhammer and some of this latter species also overflew later in the morning. On the Meadows there is the beginnings of free water and there was plenty of activity on the scrapes with 14 Snipe and 2 Jack Snipe, about 100 Mallard, 24 Pintail, at least 60 Wigeon, approximately 100 Teal and a Mute Swan cygnet. Nearby, there were Reed Buntings, Long-tailed Tits, Goldfinches, Treecreeper and a Grey Heron. Raptors were of three species, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Buzzard.
At Ashleworth, the water level has risen slightly since yesterday and there was an extra Mute Swan there as well as some duck. 35 Wigeon, 11 Teal, 2 Shoveler and a Grey Heron. Reed Bunting and Stonechat were present on the reserve and a Buzzard and Peregrine were the raptors noted.
Over near the public footpath along the west bank of the River Severn there is a gigantic log which is a cut off piece of an old Oak tree that may have been deposited by the last big flood. I was able to count the growth rings and discovered that it has at least 182 rings and taking into account the centre section which was ill defined in terms of rings, the tree was the best part of 200 years old. There are some very old oaks on both side of the river here and they have a similar girth to the one that has been felled near here at some time.

23rd December 2003 - A short, late afternoon visit to Ashleworth. I did not see the Peregrine but a Sparrowhawk flew through the copse where there was a Goldcrest foraging and a Kestrel was hovering over the reserve. The water level has come up slightly and there is more free water on the fields as viewed from the hide. A Mute Swan on one of the pools was a first for a long time. this bird and two on the grass in front of the Red Lion public house seem to the the only swans in the whole area.

22nd December 2003 - Slimbridge on a bitterly cold day. I could only find 174 White-fronted Geese with no more in sight. Bewick's Swans numbers were not at their highest either. There were a large number of Black-headed Gulls standing on the ice on South Lake. Although I could not read all of the details, there were gulls sporting Danish, Belgian and British rings amongst them.

21st December 2003 - On a very cold but sunny morning I went to the Cotswold Water Park East to try and find the Whooper Swans which has been reported in the area in November and which may be the missing ones from the traditional haunt in the Severn Valley at Ashleworth and Coombe Hill. These areas are very dry and with virually no grass which has made it unsuitable for these birds. I eventually found them in a field to the south of Lechlade. There were 7 adult Whooper Swans along with 108 Mute Swans. Although they were a few metres into the county of Wiltshire, they probabaly roost on the lakes of the Water Park and these are in Gloucestershire.
I called into the area in the Cotswold Water Park West at South Cerney sewage works towards dusk on the way home and found 2 Barn Owls quartering the fields. For the first time ever I had two owls in the same telescope view hunting together.

20th December 2003 - Ashleworth in torrential rain and wind at 0830. Temp 8 deg. C., Wind 13 mph., 175 deg., Rain 10mm., 999 mb. There were a few ducks present including the first Pintail of the winter. The others were 8 Mallard, 2 Wigeon and 5 Teal. 14 Meadow Pipits were on the Ham and the Peregrine was stood atop the pylon in the awful weather. The other raptor of note was a pair of Buzzards of which one was displaying.

19th December 2003 - Slimbridge on a day of fog and general poor visibility. I could not find the White-fronted Geese even when the weather improved a little. A Common Snipe from the Martin Smith Hide was bobbing in a fashion reminiscent of a Jack Snipe but it was plain to see when it emerged from the vegetation that it was the former. Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel were the only raptors noted from the Holden Tower and even the Peregrine did not put in an appearance. A dismal day.

18th December 2003 - Ashleworth on a sunny but very cold morning and the whole place seemed very quiet in the freezing conditions but the Peregrine was on the pylon again. Long-tailed Tits and a Treecreeper were in the shelter of the copse behind the hide but in keeping with my opening statement there were fewer Fieldfare and Redwing than of late. Buzzard and Grey Heron were on the reserve and from the hide at the end of my walk around the public footpath which passes behind the reserve, I refound 2 Stonechat and a Grey Wagtail. 5 Common Gull were an unusual find on the field in front of Colways Farm.
At lunchtime I walked along the western river bank, south toward Gloucester for a couple of kilometres from Ashleworth Quay and was surprised to find a variety birds in the fields and on the river. This was a stretch of the riverbank which I had never explored. A mixed flock of Blue Tit, Wren, Goldcrest, Long-tailed Tits and surprisingly, a Coal Tit were in the riverside trees. I suppose the Coal Tit had come from one of the two small copses on the other bank which would be more in keeping with its normal habitat. There were at least 20 Meadow Pipits in the nearby cattle fields with 2 Pied Wagtails, a small flock of Goldfinches, over 100 Woodpigeon and a Song Thrush. From the river, I must have flushed at least 20 Mallard in different locations and 2 Teal. The duck are keeping to the river at the moment as this is the only free water now that all of the rhines are frozen up.
Finally, late this afternoon at home, a Blackcap put in an appearance in my garden to add to the early morning sighting of a Song Thrush.

17th December 2003 - Coombe Hill Canal, 0830. The morning was crisp and cold with dense patches of freezing fog in low lying places but in general it was a beautiful sunny morning. the Meadows were frozen up in terms of the scrapes and ditches. Fieldfares and Redwings were still in evidence although probably less of them than a week ago. A Sparrowhawk, flying over The Wharf was the first bird of the morning. This, or another, appeared later by the first bridge and scattered Bullfinches and a Wren. Two Hares were on the Meadows and at least 4 Skylark and a Meadow Pipit were flying around the same place.
At Ashleworth, the perennial (at least in the winter) Peregrine was on one of the pylons. A Buzzard was the only other raptor noted here. Over in the distance on the reserve, a Hare was noted for the first time in a long time. In the copse and the hedge opposite were Long-tailed Tits, Goldcrest and Bullfinch.
Finally, on the river at the Red Lion at Wainlodes, a Great Crested Grebe was present again.

16th December 2003 - The Severn Hams. I walked over the Coombe Hill Meadows this morning. Along the towpath from The Wharf, there were Redwings, Fieldfare, at least a pair of Bullfinch. Also present were a pair of Yellowhammer which are relatively rare there. Greenfinch, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Moorhen, Blackbird, female Great Spotted Woodpecker, Wren, Dunnock, Magpie, a small Goldfinch flock and a Squirrel completed the species in this habitat.
The mammmal of note on the meadows was another sighting of a Hare. There is now some small pathces of free standing water as the rhine water levels have risen.
At Ashleworth in the afternoon, Kestrel, Buzzard and Peregrine were the raptors present while a male Stonechat was again visible from the hide on the reserve as were a small flock of Goldfinches. Bullfinch and Grey Heron were also on the reserve. The water levels, here too, are the highest of the winter so far.
Along Stank Lane, the big old Ash tree that had died has been cut down. I did a bit of ring counting of the stump and here are my observations. The tree had two main trunks, and I counted the larger one which was, by chance, the more distinct. There were 64 rings noted. the tree has been dead for approximately 2 years and the centre ring is about 1 cm. in diameter thus I would estimate the the tree is at least 68 years old. It may be a few years older than this as the main trunk has not been cut but is of a similar diameter to this limb. An interesting feature is the size of growth rings. Working backwards, there seems to be steady and fairly vigorous growth until the death of the tree for about the last 22 years but the 19 years prior to that shows little growth each year. Before that, and going back at least another 23 years, the annual growth appears to be as vigorous as the latter years. Thus, the years between about 1960 and 1980 were those of little growth. The tree was probably germinated in the early 1930s.

15th December 2003 - I had to work in the direction of Swindon and I looked in at Pit 31 of the Cotswold Water Park to see if I could find the Red-throated Diver which had been reported there. After several scans of the lake, I found the bird and what a beautiful bird it turned out to be. I was able to get quite close by walking around the lake on the public footpath but I had difficulty in relocating the bird and had to walk back for a while until I could pinpoint it again. I watched in for about an hour, this being the first of the species that I had seen in the county. It was preening quite a lot and slept for some of the time and then several times it splashed about as it was bathing. Quite a few times it turned fully on its back, showing its white underparts, then still inverted, moved forward using its wings and then dived or submerged while still upside down. This appeared to be bizarre behaviour but I do not know of details diver habits.

14th December 2003 - Forest of Dean. I went to Brierley to look for Hawfinches but did not find any but there were 4 Jay together.
Next stope was the Cyril Hart Arboretum to see the monster bird feeder the RSPB have put up for the winter. Apart from the usual Greenfinches and Chaffinches here, Marsh Tit, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch and at least 5 Coal Tits together were on this feeder.
After that I moved on to New Fancy View to see if there were any raptors soaring in the sunny weather but only 2 pairs of Ravens were airborne and they were displaying.
At Nagshead, there were more Jays, plus Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Buzzard, Coal Tit, Goldcrest and finally a Grey Wagtail on the path by the site of the old information centre.

13th December 2003 - 0830 to 1030. Temp 12 deg. C., Wind 215 deg., 4 mph., Rain 12mm, 1006 mb.. Ashleworth and the monthly wildfowl count (done a day early). Water is now present on the reserve but only in tiny puddles in various places. Totals were 1 Wigeon, 14 Teal, 10 Mallard and 1 Grey Heron. Raptors included the usual Peregrine plus a Buzzard, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk. In the hedge opposite the hide were Robin, Great Tit, Dunnock, 2 Bullfinch, Goldcrest, and a flock of Long-tailed Tits.

11th December 2003 - A short visit to Slimbridge. A single Ruff was on the Tack Piece among the Lapwing. The White-fronted Geese were to the south but mobile possibly as a result of a 'gas gun' going off at regular intervals to scare the birds on the farmland. 2 Ruff were on South Lake just after lunch but one of those may have been the bird on the Tack Piece earlier. Among the Black-headed Gulls on the South Lake was one with a Finnish ring but I was unable to see all of the characters on the ring.

10th December 2003 - Coombe Hill Meadows in thick fog. Very quiet but there was a noticable increase in the proportion of Redwings to Fieldfares than of late which is probably explained by a new influx over the past few days in the good migration conditions of tailwinds from the continent with clear nights and a near full moon. These conditions have brought in more White-fronted Geese and Bewick's Swans to the Severn Valley.
At Ashleworth the only two birds of note were Bullfinch and in the small copse opposite the one in which the hide is situated was a lone bird feeding on the tall dead vegetation. This was a very light Redpoll. It had white markings on the mantle and had two white wingbars. This is a bird of the old race Carduelis flammea flammea from Scandinavia or Mealy Redpoll, now a full species with the scientific name of Carduelis flammea. This bird is probably a newly arrived migrant with the Redwings.

9th December 2003 - Slimbridge. 4 Snipe from the Martin Smith Hide today.

8th December 2003 - Another 2 Blackcaps in the garden this morning, this time a male and a female. Also, and only the second time in the history of the house, a Redwing came into the garden. Today was very cold (-3 degrees C. early morning) and the only other time we had this species visit the garden was under similar conditions with snow some years ago.

7th December 2003 - Slimbridge on a sunny and crisp day. The White-fronted Goose numbers have risen to at least 340 and there are over 100 Bewick's Swans on site after an influx over the last two days. The 7 wild Greylag Geese are still present. These are bigger and paler than the collection birds and have very vivid and large orange/red bills. At 1310 a Raven was noted mobbing a raptor which eventually overflew the area and this bird turned out to be a Hen Harrier.

6th December 2003 - Coombe Hill Canal at 0830. Temp 8 deg. C., Wind 040 deg., 3 mph., Rain Nil but in drizzle, 1021 mb.. A gloomy, dark, cold and damp morning. A wild swan overflew the car park but in the very dark and poor conditions I could not positively identify the species. 3 Stock Dove, 2 Lapwing, approximately 100 Woodpigeon, a male Blackcap and a male Bullfinch were the only birds of note seen in the gloom. A Hare ran across the meadowns.
At Ashleworth, the Peregrine was, as usual, perched on the electricity pylons and a Great Spotted Woodpecker was in the first line of trees as viewed from the hide. 1 Shipe, 2 Mallard and 60 Teal were the only wetland birds there but both Buzzard and Sparrowhawk boosted the raptor numbers. Surprisingly, Mole activity was noted on the reserve.

5th December 2003 - Today 2 brown capped Blackcap were in the garden together.

3rd December 2003 - Coombe Hill Canal. On a dark, overcast and damp morning it was good to see that there was an appreciable amount of water in the scrapes and rhines. Not only that but there were 39 Wigeon, 7 Teal and a Mallard on one of the scrapes. These are the first duck here of the autumn/winter. 10 Skylark overflew and a Kestrel was hunting over the reserve. 6 Stock Dove were in the field by the canal and there are still a reasonable number of Fieldfares in the hedgerows.
At Ashleworth it was a similar story as regards the water levels. No flooding yet but plenty of water in the ditches and scrapes. Here there were even more duck with an estimated 60 Wigeon and 60 Teal and a Mallard. Raptors in the area included Kestrel and Peregrine.
At Slimbridge, 2 Peregrines made a kill of a Lapwing but they were robbed of their booty by three Buzzards, one of which eat the kill. On a dark afternoon, a mixed flock of geese including the feral Canada and Barnacle Geese, were in the distance and although a count of the White-fronted Geese was not made due to the poor light and long distance it appeared that few if any have boosted the approximate number of 140 of about a week ago.

1st December 2003 - A general note. It rained heavily for just about all of the daylight hours and about 21mm. were recorded. With the rainfall from yesterday, it amounts to just over an inch of rain which is the first real appreciable rain of the winter.

29th November 2003 - Coombe Hill Canal was very quiet in torrential rain and strong wind. There were, however, plenty of Fieldfares present and a small flock of Bullfinches were also there. There is plenty of water in the newly cleared ditch which runs across a private field to the north of the canal and the rhine which runs alongside the footpath across the meadows now also has water in it and it is nearly enough to run through the pipes under various bridges. The main scrape to the west of the small withy bed is also beginning to hold water.
Ashleworth was quiet also, although, surprisingly there was a Peregrine on the pylon in this poor weather. Three Teal were on the scrape which now has more water in it.

28th November 2003 - A Kingfisher just down river from the Red Lion Public House at Wainlodes was the highlight of the day.

27th November 2003 - Slimbridge in the fog. It was not possible to see any birds on the Dumbles until later in the afternoon because of swirling fog. However, 3 Chiffchaff and at least one Goldcrest were along the Holden Tower walkway and 2 Snipe were visible from the Martin Smith Hide. From the Zeiss Hide, a Cetti's Warbler was very vocal and very easy to see for some considerable time.

26th November 2003 - Ashleworth on a very wet morning. Temp 6 deg. C., Wind Nil., Rain 14mm., 983 mb. The usual Peregrine was atop one of the electicity pylons and both Buzzard and Kestrel were one field over the reserver from the hide while a flock of Long-tailed Tits roamed through the hedgerow opposite the hide. More hedgerow laying has now taken place to the north of the screen hide.
In the afternoon I passed through the Forest of Dean and called in Nagshead RSPB reserve for a few minutes. It was very quiet as expected but a Grey Wagtail and Jay were on the ground in the field where the adders bask on the grass piles in summer, opposite the site of the old information centre.

23rd November 2003 - 1000. Slimbridge on a wet and cold day. Temp 3 deg. C., Wind 5 mph., 340 deg., Rain 5mm., 1002 mb. Peregrine, Buzzard and 2 Raven were on the Dumbles along with some of the White-fronted Goose flock. 13 Bewick's Swans were in front of the Lathbury hide and these included 2 cygnets. On South Lake, there were 29 Black-tailed Godwit, 3 Ruff and a small Dunlin-sized wader with a very long bill which was very restless and moved around very quickly in apparent alarm for about 10 seconds before flying off over the hide. A postive identification could not be made. 2 Dunlin arrived about 20 minutes after this sighting. Also of frustration was of a crest-sized bird which landed on the fence by the binocular and telescope shop and immediately went through the overlapping boards of the fence into Rushy Pen and was not seen again. The noticable feature of the extremely brief glimpse as the bird momentarily alighted on the wood was of two prominent yellow wingbars. Again a definite identification could not be made.

22nd November 2003 - Ashleworth at 1300. Temp 5 deg. C., Wind Nil, Rain 7mm., 999 mb. A few Redwings and Fieldfares along the hedgerows but one of the most notable sightings of the autumn was of 15 Mallard overflying in the rain. Because of the extreme dryness of the summer and autumn there is little water or vegetation for the wintering waterfowl and this is the biggest number of a duck species so far. Great Spotted Woodpecker, 2 Snipe, a Goldcrest and more than 10 Meadow Pipits were on the reserve and in the distance, 2 Stonechats were again present. Raptors included Peregrine, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Buzzard. Water levels have risen of late and the level now is exactly 7 metres on the gauge board.

21st November 2003 - Three relatively rare visitors to the garden today included a Song Thrush, Coal Tit and a male Blackcap.

16th November 2003 - Ashleworth and wildfowl count day. There were no wildfowl present and no more water seems to have entered the scrapes even after the 11mm or so of rain on Friday(14th). Apart from a mixed flock of Redwing and Fieldfare along Ham Road, there was little in the way of birds present. However, the new hide is up and running and is at a slightly higher elevation to the old one and the view is even better.

15th November 2003 - Cotswold Water Park. A cool but sunny day and at Keynes Country Park, many gulls were on the islands by the ranger centre. Several were Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Three were ringed and one had an orange darvic with the possible characters - F633, however before I could get nearer to confirm this they flew, apparently disturbed by a dog walker. At Pit 84 there were 2 Green Sandpipers and 8 Snipe. At Pit 85a/b, there were 2 Stonechats. Several Goldcrest were in the trees along the footpaths to the east of the park and at least 2 Grey Wagtails were on the gravel pits. Finally, an unidentified red Darter dragonfly passed me by the older hide. This is yet another record late date for my sightings of odonata.
I had plannned to go to Pit 57 but the track past the old farm is blocked off both to cars and walkers and is temporarily inaccessable while some road widening takes place. A cycle track has been built on the far side (east side) of the hedge in the lane to the new houses and which will disturb Pit 44 as the hedge used to screen people on the lane.

13th November 2003 - 0900. Newnham. A Single Redshank was on the sand banks with a Lapwing flock which contained a few Golden Plover.
At Guscar Rocks, a passerine flock contained Goldfinches, Robin, Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Linnets, Reed Buntings, Meadow Pipits, 3 Rock Pipits and at least 10 Pied Wagtails. On the river mud and rocks, 21 Redshank were with a few Dunlin. A few Ringed Plover were with 155 plus Lapwing and 3 Grey Herons were in the area. On the water, ducks included Wigeon, Teal and Mallard. 3 Common Snipe were flushed from the bank and finally a Peregrine flew up river.

12th November 2003 - Coombe Hill Canal and meadows. 0815. Temp 10 deg. C., Wind Nil, Dry, 1012 mb. Flocks of Fieldfare and a few Redwings appeared to be everywhere this morning. Two flocks of Canada Geese, 12 and 22 in number flew south to the east of the canal. Treecreeper, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Green Woodpecker were on or around the meadows and in flight were a small number of Meadow Pipits and Skylarks. A small Chaffinch flock over the back of the meadows included Greenfinch and Reed Bunting. Two Mute Swans, AAGX(orange ring) and its unringed mate were back on the canal this morning.
At Ashleworth, the new hide is being built. The reserve was quiet with Grey Heron, Buzzard and Kestrel being the birds of note. The only gull, strangely enough, was a Common Gull on the field by Colways Farm. An unidentified Darter dragonfly flew by me on Ham Road. A very late date.
At Slimbridge in the afternoon, there were 115 White-fronted Geese on the Dumbles. 3 Snipe were viewable from the Robbie Garnett Hide and 2 more were visible from the Martin Smith Hide. The Red-crested Pochard was still on South Lake.

11th November 2003 - Leigh Meadows and Ashleworth. I checked the Leigh Meadows from the top of Wainlodes Hill for any wild swans but found none this afternoon. However, there was a Peregrine on one of the electricity pylons.
At Ashleworth, I walked the length of Stank Lane, again, to check for swans but yet again, none were found. The were small flocks of Fieldfare but no Redwings. A Grey Heron was at the pond in the field alongside the lane. A Bullfinch and 14 Long-tailed Tit were moving through the hedges and a Buzzard was perched on one of the pylons.
I could see as I drove past the hide that it had been demolished as per the timetable and some hedge laying had begun to the north of the screen hide on the other side of the road.

8th November 2003 - Coombe Hill Canal. At first it appeared that there were fewer winter thrushes in the area but as I walked along the canal and meadows footpath there appeared to be a constant presence of Fieldfare and Redwing. Buzzard and Kestrel were the only raptors present over the meadows and a Common Snipe was flushed from the canal. A single Grey Heron and a lone Lapwing were also on the meadows>
At Ashleworth, the day was a typical cold, damp and overcast, grey November day. If the Redwings and Fieldfares had not been there, it would have been a very quiet day. A lone Peregrine was on top of one of the pylons and at least one Stonechat was on the reserve. A party of at least 8 Long-tailed Tits were roaming through the trees lining Dirty Lane. On the return along Ham Road to the car, I was viewing the Peregrine which was still atop a pylon when 9 adult swans came through my binocular view. They were a long way away and impossible to identify at that range. It was 1130 and I later learnt that a flock of 9 Bewick's Swans had overflown Coombe Hill canal at that time. It was almost certain that this was the flock that I had seen. I later learnt that there had been a "swan fall" of about 40 birds to Slimbridge overnight.

7th November 2003 - Slimbridge. 1015. Temp 10 deg. C. Wind 115 deg., 6 mph. Dry. 1025mb.There are now more White-fronted Geese present with a count of 94 birds this afternoon. Included in these are neck collars U37, U53, U04 and yellow leg rings AN and CD. At least one Grey Plover was on the river as were 5 Brent Geese. 2 Goldcrests were in the bushes along the Holden Walkway and the usual Peregrine was on the Dumbles. 5 wild Bewick's Swans were on Rushy Pen in the middle of the afternoon.

5th November 2003 - Coombe Hill Canal. 0830. The two resident Mute Swans still had one cygnet with them this morning but it took off and was followed by the adults and they flew west down the canal. Just before they left a third adult bird arrived at the Wharf with a resounding splash! Over the meadows, there were a number of Skylarks singing in the air and giving aerial chases. A few Meadow Pipits were there too. At the back of the meadows was a huge flock of Redwing and a few Fieldfares with some Starlings. Upon my return, there was a pair of Stonechats on the meadow with a Grey Heron nearby and a Great Spotted Woodpecker somewhere in the small withy bed.
At Ashleworh, there is now a little more water following the recent rain. 4 Teal and a Grey Heron were on the scrape with a Kestrel above. A Grey Wagtail was catching insects on the mud and two pair of Common Darter dragonflies were egg laying in November! A Buzzard and Common Snipe were fly overs and around the main scrape there were some fresh water Mussels which were high and dry. By the road I found the shell of one of these, perhaps dropped by a heron. It measured 104mm in length. Finally at Wainlodes Hill, a Great Crested Grebe was on the river.

4th November 2003 - Slimbridge at lunchtime. The 58 White-fronted Geese were still feeding on the Dumbles with another 4 of this species feeding well away from this flock. Maybe the latter are new arrivals. On South Lake there were a pair of Greylag Geese with non WWT plastic rings. I will try and find the origin of these birds.

3rd November 2003 - 0830 Coombe Hill Canal. Temp 12 deg. C., Wind 310 deg., 7 mph., Dry, 995 mb. This morning my aim was to walk along the newly opened path on the south side of the canal. It it easy walking and affords good views over the fields to the south where the winter swans have been known to gather. The clearance has been done as sensitively as possible and there is still good habitat for breeding passerines next spring. I still am of the opinion that this should not have been cleared when there was an alternative path parallel to this one only 15m away but fortunately not all of the habitat has been destroyed. It will be certainly easier to do some territory mapping of the breeding birds next year. Along the path there was a roving tit flock including Long-tailed Tits. Redwing and Fieldfare moved along the larger trees lining canal and a female Sparrowhawk spooked a larger flock of these thrushes near the bridge at the western end but I did not see a kill take place. The two Mute Swans which seem to be on a territory near The Wharf have one of their cygnets back with them. The only other swan was one with a metal ring only and this bird was in the newly cleared ditch to the south of the canal. On my return walk along the north side of the canal, I noted a Kestrel over the small withy bed and 2 Common Snipe were flushed from the nearby meadow. Finally a male Great Spotted Woodpecker flew into one of the large canal side trees near The Wharf.

2nd November 2003 - Today I was in the Forest of Dean on a training day but I managed to get a short walk at Nagshead before the lessons, It was very quiet with very heavy showers and at times a strong wind. The most striking feature of the twenty minutes that I was there were the brilliant autumn colours which changed in their intensity with the changing degree of sunlight which was itself created by the fast moving clouds and associated showers. At times, even the wind died away and then parts if the forest held a fine mist which was very local and equally transient in its nature. Sometimes the mist was there, sometimes it had gone, sometimes it was in front with crystal clear visibility behind and sometimes the mist crept up from the back. A photographers paradise.

1st November 2003 - Coombe HIll Canal at 0800. The vivid red berry-laiden Hawthorn trees along the canal were brilliantly lit with the early morning sunshine. A few Redwings flittered along the canal trees but further into the reserve, Fieldfares became more evident. Two Blackcap were at the Wharf end of the canal and the resident Mute Swans now no longer have their two cygnets with them. The newly cleared path on the south side of the canal beyond the first bridge is now open. On the meadows, there were Buzzard, Grey Heron and Great Spotted Woodpecker. On the ground, a Jay and a Grey Squirrel were competing for some dropped food, probably an acorn. Along the canal towpath, I flushed a Jack Snipe which, as is usual, did not fly far and landed on the other side of the canal. During the morning, two separate flocks of geese flew north along the line of the motorway. In the second flock there was a white bird with them. Unfortunately these flocks were too far away to identify the species, but they were probably Canada Geese.
At Stank Lane, Ashleworth, there were two Great Spotted Woodpeckers together and more Fieldfares than at Coombe Hill.
At Slimbridge in the afternoon, the White-fronted Geese were on the Dumbles with at least one Raven and late on, a female/juvenile Merlin came and perched on a fence post near the Holden Tower hide for about 20 minutes.

27th October 2003 - Slimbridge. At least 57 White-fronted Geese on the Dumbles and 2 Peregrine. These falcons were probably a pair as they were closely associating with each other and one bird, the female was clearly larger than its companion. Both were adults. The geese included the two neck collared birds and a further leg ringed bird, 'AN' yellow. There were 4 Buzzards present from the Holden Tower.

26th October 2003 - Ashleworth at 1245. Having been unable to check the area yesterday, I walked along the public footpath which surrounds the reserve looking for the Whooper Swans. It is now several days after the date of arrival last year and I wanted to check for their appearance but I did not find them. I also looked over another of their haunts, the Leigh Meadows from the top of Wainlodes Hill but again I drew a blank. However, an interesting observation has emerged in the light of the dry weather of the past 3 months. Most of the fields have a uniform brownish cast to them. Viewing at long range, there is hardly any difference in appearance between those fields that have been ploughed and seeded and the seeds have not yet germinated because of lack of water and the fields which have been left as grass and which have turned brown because of the same cause.
At Ashleworth, there was a Green Woodpecker in Dirty Lane and at several points around the reserve there were small flocks of Fieldfares. These flocks were ususally between 10 and 20 birds and occasionally there was an odd Redwing with them. A Buzzard overflew and surprisingly there was a Peregrine perched on the ground in a field at the back of the reserve. Normally this latter species perches on the electicity pylons. A Grey Heron overflew twice. Apart from a couple of the main rhines and the river itself there is no water for this species. A pair of Bullfinch were in Stank Lane as well as a late dragonfly. Finally, Stonechats could be seen on the reserve from the road.

24th October 2003 - Sharpness Dock, 1035. Temp 4 deg. C., Wind Nil., Dry, 1021mb. 10 Redshank, 3 Curlew and 1 Lapwing were on the mud just to the south of the dock and a little further south near the sewage works, 25 Wigeon and 6 Mallard were on the shore.
Later at Slimbridge, 56 White-fronted Geese were on the Dumbles and at 1525 they, surprisingly, came onto South Lake but departed again at 1530. The two black neck-collared birds were present, U53 and U37. A lone Bewick's Swan was on Rushy Pen.

22nd October 2003 - 0830 Coombe Hill Canal. Temp 3 deg. C. Wind 360 deg., 3 mph. Slight Drizzle. 1005mb. The most noticable feature this morning was the steady overflying of Redwings and Fieldfares. They were not in great numbers but in small flocks of about 10 - 20. At least 25 Meadow Pipits and 9 Lapwing were near the Meadows with at least one Yellowhammer and Goldcrest. Work is still going on to clear the overgrown footpath. This work is progressing from the 'inside out' so that from the other parallel path and the approach to the bridge, there is no sign of work being done at all. However, the workmen tell me that they are nearly finished and by next week it should be open.
At Ashleworth there was a Sparrowhawk flying through the copse by the hide and a Buzzard perched on a telephone pole alongside the road. Apart from this it was very quiet there with still no water.

21st October 2003 - 1400. Temp 10 deg. C. Wind Nil. Dry. 1008mb. An afternoon visit to Slimbridge. A lone Bewick's Swan on Rushy Pen, 40 White-fronted Geese were the signs of winter on a very cold day with a morning frost. One of the geese is a very 'frosty' coloured adult with one belly stripe like and inverted 'Alice' band. A very noticable individual. From the Robbie Garnett Hide, 69 Black-tailed Godwits joined the Teal while on Rushy Pen, there appeared to be a large number of Mallard and Pochard for the time of year, the latter will be migrants from the continent and the former probably the same. At home, the first noted Coal Tit of the winter was present.

12th October 2003 - 0955. Temp 10 deg. C. Wind 120 deg., 8 mph. Dry. 1021mb. WeBS count day at Ashleworth but there is now no water and the only birds for the count were 5 Grey Herons which were feeding on the dead fish from the scrapes. The only other birds of note were Great Spotted Woodpecker along Stank Lane and Common Buzzard and Kestrel overhead and a lone Peregrine on the electricity pylons. I had to go the the Forest of Dean in the afternoon and this was also, as expected, very quiet and again the only birds of note were Ravens overhead Coleford.

10th October 2003 - I have not had the chance to go out 'into the field' for a number of days, but here is a tiny update on the state of the birds in my garden here near Gloucester. It has been the worst summer and autumn of all time here so far. Over the past three or four weeks, there have effectively been no birds in the garden. This is supported by the fact that the seed feeder has shown no sign of the level of seed dropping and no seed shells on the ground beneath. All is very puzzling. There just seem to be no birds about. Having said that, there was a flurry of activity for about half an hour at midday today with 3 Blackbirds present along with atleast one Chaffinch, a Greenfinch, a Great Tit, possibly two and a Blue Tit. The highlight was an October Chiffchaff. For a while there seemed plenty of activity but it has all gone quiet again. I don't know the cause of this decline but I suspect cat activity although I have no data to back up this theory. Maybe the winter will bring some birds back.

1st October 2003 - Coombe Hill Canal and Meadows, 0835. Temp 13 deg. C. Wind 110 deg., 11 mph. Dry. 1006mb. 4 Jays flew over the car park at the Wharf and a Kingfisher was perched by the canal when I arrived. There was a steady few Swallows passing through and on the Meadows and surrounding fields, there were at least 40 Meadow Pipits. A single Wheatear was on the Meadows itself. 5 Yellowhammers, 1 Reed Bunting, several Bullfinches, 1 Kestrel and 2 Buzzards were also logged along the footpaths. The 4 Mute Swans were there as usual and the only butterfly noted was a Specked Wood along the towpath.
The clearance of an overgrown footpath has started today. This is the path on the south side of the canal which links the two bridges. It is excellent habitat for breeding birds and it is a shame that it is to go. There is no path which joins it beween the two bridges and people could easily use the path on the other side of the canal to get from one bridge to another and so I cannot see why two paths are needed and the subsequent loss of habitat.




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