Diary - October to December 2005

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31st December 2005 - The Hawfinch was again present this morning and again was with a flock of Greenfinchses. A nice way to end the year.

28th December 2005 - A Hawfinch was again sighted from my apartment window this morning, while I was working on the computer.

25th December 2005 - A very short and fast walk in the area of Nagshead RSPB reserve on a quiet and partially sunny morning revealed a high pitched woodpecker call which upon investigation turned out to be a scarce Lesser Spotted Woodpecker which finally flew over my head and out of sight. A fine Christmas morning.

24th December 2005 - From my apartment this morning, I heard a woodpecker calling. I failed to find this bird but there was a flock of at least 15 Greenfinch and in amongst them was the highlight of the day and a new bird for the apartment list, a Hawfinch preening in a nearby tree. A great start to the day.
A short stop at Walmore Common en route to Ashleworth Ham revealed 4 adult Bewick's Swans. At the Ham apart from the usual collection of duck dominated by Wigeon, there was a Peregrine on the pylon and 39 Common Snipe were noted past the hide.

21st December 2005 - Another very short visit to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust Centre at Slimbridge. A check around the area from the Sloane Tower revealed at least 139 Bewick's Swans and on the Tack Piece there was a fine collection of birds. At least 2 Ruff were present amongst the gathered flock of geese, ducks and waders.

20th December 2005 - Coombe Hill Canal on an overcast morning. It was really quiet this morning, perhaps one of the quietest mornings at the canal in recent times. The scrapes were empty and there was the odd bird along the towpath including a party of Long-tailed Tits, Bullfinch and Goldfinch. A Water Rail was calling by the first hide and unusually, 20 Mallard were at the Wharf end of the canal.
At least 2 Whooper Swans were on the Leigh Meadows as I passed en route to Ashleworth. Here, the duck flock consisted, as usual, of Wigeon and Shoveler as the next most numerous species. Many Teal were out in the open today and although there were only a handful of Mallard and Pintail, there were at least 25 Gadwall which is a good number in my book. Finally, there was a Peregrine on the electricity pylon, again as usual in winter.

17th December 2005 - Coombe Hill Canal on a sunny but frosty morning with some of the canal and some of the scrapes covered in ice. The Canada Goose flock flew before I was anywhere near the area. I heard them calling and soon noted them airborne but unusually they scattered in several directions. 28 Lapwings also got airborne a little later but they remained in the area. Along the canal towpath there were flocks of Bullfinch, Goldfinch and Long-tailed Tits, the latter numbers exceeding 20 birds. On a piece of open water, there were 10 Wigeon, 2 Pintail and a female Goldeneye. I could hear many more Wigeon calling from the confines of the Long Pool.
At the Leigh Meadows, 2 unringed adult Whooper Swans were amongst the Mute Swans. It is really nice to see this species back in this area after a gap of 2 years.
At Ashleworth, the main duck flock consisted predominantly of Wigeon with good numbers of Shoveler. A male Tufted Duck was also present. The resident Peregrine appeared on a pylon mid morning and a Chiffchaff was seen and heard calling near the hide. The winter thrushes along the hedgerows consisted almost exclusively of Fieldfares. Several Great Spotted Woodpeckers were seen and a Snipe was in front of Colways Farm.

15th December 2005 - A walk to the north to Foxes Bridge and return over Crabtree Hill on a bright but slightly breezy day with a northerly wind. A Dipper on the Cannop Brook in Parkend was the first highlight followed by a Marsh Tit at the southern end of Cannop Ponds. I noted a uniformed individual with a swan hook between the ponds at Cannop. This, upon investigation, turned out to be an RSPCA offical with a double call out. One was to the ringed Greylag Goose that I had seen many times there but which now appears to have a damaged leg. I found the bird standing on the bank between the pools. There was not a chance of catching this bird from the bank as it can fly quite normally and along with the other wildfowl will not come anywhere near the bank with someone who has long hook implements to hand even if they are offering bread as an incentive to come in close. The second call was to a duck which appeared to be trapped in the reeds. I found this bird, which turned out to be the resident white domestic Mallard, but it was freshly dead so all in all not a very successful mission. However, while watching the goose I noted a flock of about 25 Siskins arrive in a nearby tree for a few moments before moving on.
Later while walking along Speech House Ride, I managed to stalk a Fox with really highlighted face markings and a white tip to its bushy tail. I observed the animal, which never knew I was there, for a few minutes, then I left it and continued on my way.

14th December 2005 - A short walk around the trail at Nagshead first thing this morning. There was very little to report other than a flock of thrush species foraging on the ground near York Lodge. They were disturbed by a dog walker before I got near enough to identify them but I suspect that they were Redwings on size alone.
The one thing of note was of the late date for falling leaves. In the light to moderate northerly breeze there was a constant stream and 'chatter' of falling leaves with even some trees with still green leaves losing them with them still in this colour. The forest floor is a mosiac of various colours of newly dropped leaves. An unuaual date for this phenomenon.

12th December 2005 - Walmore Common at 0845 yielded at least 3 Bewick's Swans, one with what appeared to be a white ring on the right leg. It was too far away to read the ring and there may have been more of this species with some Mute Swans but viewing is hampered still because amazingly many of the leaves are still on the trees and thus blocking certain views. The duck flock was mostly of Teal with just a very few, Mallard, Wigeon and Shoveler.
At Ashleworth from 0930 on an overcast day which gradually became bright and sunny with a northerly drift to the wind, the main birds, in terms of voice and presence were Canada Geese which numbered over 310 with 2 Greylag Geese with them. A Peregrine was on a pylon, at least 2 Buzzards were seen and a Kestrel was hovering over Hasfield Ham. Coot numbers were up to at least 12 and 2 male Tufted Duck were present. 45 Black-headed Gull were present nearly opposite Colways Farm where there were two Stonechat again. At the junction with Red Lane, a Great Spotted Woodpecker was calling, a familiar sight in this location. In terms of thrush species, many Blackbirds are now foraging along the various rhines, some Fieldfares were present but, literally, only one or two Redwings. Finally, as I was preparing to leave at 1215, a flock of approximately 300 Lapwing were wheeling overhead for some time. A careful check through this flock while they were airborne revealed no other species with them.

11th December 2005 - A generally foggy day, especially after the sun went down. It was not really possible to see many birds today but I did make a trip to Cribbs Causeway Shopping Centre at Bristol. Although it is out of the county, I took the opportunity to see what birds were around this massive shopping complex and equally massive car park and the crowds there thronging. As expected, the residents around the buildings and lights poles in the car park were gulls. Black-headed Gulls, Lesser Black-backed Gulls and the most numerous Herring Gulls. Various corvids were also in evidence including Carrion Crow and Magpie. On the ground was a lone Pied Wagtail amongst the hordes of Christmas shoppers and the open air ice rink.

8th December 2005 - A short visit to Slimbridge. More Bewick's Swans seem to be in evidence. Some were in some of the fields by the lane into Slimbridge Centre at lunchtime. On a brief visit to the Holden Tower hide, a Little Stint, one Brent Goose and 2 Pink-footed Geese were amongst the resident Canada Geese and Barnacle Geese and the migratory White-fronted Geese.

2nd December 2005 - Ashleworth this morning after yet more heavy rain overnight. Some of the lanes were deep in water and necessitated a detour to get to the reserve. This was caused by water running off the fields and is not yet a river flood. Along Stank Lane there was a Kestrel, at least 30 Fieldfares and 3 juvenile Mute Swans in the field with the pool. A count of the reserve produced the following, 5 more Mute Swans, 485 Wigeon, 35 Shoveler, 16 Mallard, 20 Gadwall, 1 Tufted Duck, 38 Canada Geese, 76 Pintail, 2 Coot, 25 Teal, 1 Peregrine, on the pylon, 9 Black-headed Gulls, 1 Moorhen and 2 Stonechats, the latter opposite Colways farm. Nearer to the farm but not on the reserve were more gulls including a Common Gull and 80 plus Lapwing. A Buzzard was soaring over the farm where there was a flock of at least 20 Chaffinch.
Now that the water has receded from the levels of a couple of weeks ago when the road was almost covered, it is more difficult to make an accurate count of the birds present as there is so much vegetation for the birds to hide behind. Although the water levels with probably rise again soon as the rhines drain onto the flood plain and therefore make a count a little bit easier, todays count must be viewed as a low one with other birds remaining hidden.

1st December 2005 - A visit to Slimbridge which started in the morning as an overcast and damp day but torrential rain set in just after lunch and continued for over an hour whereupon I decided to abandon the observations and return to the Forest. More than 80 Bewick's Swans were either on the reserve or scattered in some of the surrounding fields including some ringed birds. 76 White-fronted Geese were on the Tack Piece but this number cannot be the total flock. There were flighting out as I watched mid morning. From the Holden Tower, a pair of Peregrines were together on the southern cross fence on the Dumbles.

15th November 2005 - Ashleworth on a showery day which brightened up and was very mild. A Green Sandpiper overflew and Redwings were present in Stank Lane. There has not been that many of these winter thrushes so far this winter and the berry crop in very small this time. There was a Lapwing flock on about the only field on the Ham which is not flooded but they were mostly hidden by a hedge and it was not possible to do a count. On the raptor front, there was a female Kestrel in the area with 5 Buzzard and the ususal Peregrine on the pylon. A female Stonechat was opposite Colways Farm again. Generally there are few duck so far this winter on this site.

5th November 2005 - On an overcast day, I did the WeBS count at Ashleworth. The numbers were, 6 Mute Swan, 23 Wigeon, 1 Teal, 110 Mallard, 3 Shoveler, 44 Canada Geese, 2 Barnacle Geese, 12 Black-headed Gull and 22 Lesser Black-backed Gulls. A Grey Heron and 2 Stonechat were on the reserve opposite Colways Farm.

4th November 2005 - Another walk around Nagshead Reserve but this time on a much brighter day. At least 100 Woodpigeon were heading purposefully east over the reserve. This is in keeping with large flocks reported from all over the country over the past few days of big movements of this species.

3rd November 2005 - A walk around Nagshead RSPB Reserve revealed a dead tree which has blown down in the recent strong winds and now lies across the short trail. Today it was still windy with rain which turned showery with a brighter end to the walk. I returned via Cannop Ponds and the cycle trail to Parkend. A mixed tit flock was foraging near to Fairmoor Green. They included Blue Tit, Great Tit and other species included Goldcrest and Bullfinch.

25th October 2005 - A very short visit to Slimbridge revealed that no more Bewick's Swans have arrived for the winter. The original 3 birds are still there and are favouring the European Pen where there are two collection birds.

22nd October 2005 - Early morning at Coombe Hill Canal on a bright and mild day, an unusual sight on the Meadows was of 66 Greylag Geese, easily the biggest flock I have seen in these parts. 19 Canada Geese accompanied them. 70 Wigeon, 40 Teal, 3 Mallard and a Shoveler completed the duck count and 6 Lapwing and a Common Snipe were around the scrapes. There were many Meadow Pipits and Skylarks were singing. A Sparrowhawk flew through the Meadows a couple of times.
At Ashleworth, 40 Wigeon, a single Teal, 18 Common Snipe, 2 Mallard and an over fly of 25 Canada Geese completed the picture apart from raptors which were represented by 2 Buzzard, a Peregrine and a Kestrel.

20th October 2005 - The first of the winter Bewick's Swans arrived at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust Centre at Slimbridge today and the three birds were there on Rushy Pen when I visited mid morning. White-fronted Goose numbers have now topped 65 but an exact count could not be made as there were in the distance in long vegetation and undulating ground on the distant part of the Dumbles.

18th October 2005 - Ashleworth on a dull but dry morning. The first of the winter ducks are in evidence for the first time in double figures. 70 Wigeon, 30 Teal, 2 Pintail, 28 Snipe, 50 Mallard and 2 Mute Swans were present on a very wet field which is now carrying standing water for the first time this autumn. Sadly, on the lane near the hide was a dead Grass Snake, the victim of a road kill, which was approximately 3 feet in length.

17th October 2005 - Again at Slimbridge where the White-fronted Goose count is now up to 48 birds with about 20 juveniles amongst them. One bird, ringed at Slimbridge some years ago has returned. This bird carries a yellow darvic ring with the black letters, of 'CD'.

13th October 2005 - At Slimbridge today on a short visit, the Red-necked Phalarope was still present and the number of White-fronted Geese has increased to 14 with 4 adults being the newer birds.

10th October 2005 - Another short visit, this time to Slimbridge where the first 6 White-fronted Geese had been reported yesterday. This comprised, one family with 4 young. I found 10 birds on the Dumbles mid-afternoon. There appeared to be two families, one with 4 goslings and one with 2 goslings.

8th October 2005 - A visit this morning on a grey day to Ashleworth Ham for about an hour hardly produced a bird. Of note, 4 Swallows passed through on migration and Kestrel and Buzzard were the only raptors. There was precious little else.

5th October 2005 - A short visit to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust at Slimbridge produced two scarce birds of note. One, a really dainty and beautifully marked Red-necked Phalarope was very close to the viewing slots of the Robbie Garnett hide. This bird, although predominantly black and white with a hint of dark brown on the back and wings, was really tiny. When compared with a Teal, which itself was dwarfed by a Mallard, this bird was miniscule. A stunning little bird. The other bird was a Jack Snipe in front of the Martin Smith hide.

1st October 2005 - A fine but cool morning at Coombe Hill Canal. A surprise, at least in terms of numbers was of 32 Greylag Geese flying over to the south. The main species of geese which move around this area are usually Canada Geese with perhaps the odd grey goose with them. A Treecreeper was along the towpathand at least 4 Kestrels were in the air together near The Wharf. On the Meadows, at least 4 Stonechat were present and along with them was a lone Whinchat. Some House Martins were passing through but later in the morning, the passage was largely confined to Swallows which passed low over the fields. Several Jays were present as were a number of Meadow Pipits.
I walked to the second hide but was disappointed in that on sunny mornings, the sun is directly in the face and the hide windows are dirty and do not open so that viewing is very restricted. The approach to the hide needs to be addressed and this is to be done I am told. At the moment any waterbirds on the body of water in front of the hide can see any approach under the hide and will easily be disturbed. Finally there is a ditch to be crossed to reach this hide and even though it has been fairly dry recently, it is only just possible to cross it. When more rains come, it will be very difficult to follow the path to the hide.
At Ashleworth, later in the morning, I was very disappointed to find that a hunt was about to pass through the reserve. About 30 riders and in excess of 20 hounds passed right across the reserve on a broad front in front of the hide. Any birds there were disturbed including several Mallard and Teal which flew from the scrapes.
Once the disturbance had died down, a Chiffchaff started to sing by the hide and a steady passage of House Martins started with smaller passerines also on the move and 4 Jays moved purposefully through.
So, a new month has started and today produced probably the most conspicuous passage of an assortment of species of the autumn.

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