Diary - October to December 2006

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30th December 2006 - Arrived at Ashleworth before dawn and witnessed a beautiful sun rise over Wainlodes Hill from the comfort of the hide. One Barnacle Goose was present with 37 canada Geese as it got light. More Canada Geese came from the direction of Coombe Hill Meadows as the morning progressed and some departed. A single Tufted Duck (unusual here) as joined by a Shelduck. 9 Bewick's Swans flew SW at 0756 and 3 more followed at 0820, the latter circled once and then continued on their way. At least 40 Lapwing were on a distant field but later, there was over 200 in a flock, flying in the distance. This coincided with a big movement of ducks in the vicinity of Coombe Hill Meadows, when there were estimated to be over 1500 in the air, many of them Wigeon and Pintail and which came to Ashleworth. Shovelers were plentiful in number as were Teal but they tended to be hidden away in the abundant vegetation. Among the plentiful passerines in the hedges by the hide were, Goldcrest, a Long-tailed Tit flock, Chiffchaff hunting flying insects, and at least one Blackcap. The raptors noted included two Buzzards and a Kestrel. A Raven was 'cronking' overhead and 7 Bewick's Swans flew NE towards Coombe Hill Meadows. A Redwing foraging on the road along the edge of the grass verge was unusual. It had its bill continuously open as if it was stuck in that position and the bird was 'fluffed' up. I suspect that it was not well. I moved off at lunchtime and was treated to some spectacular downpours while I went across Gloucester and later when I returned to the Forest of Dean.

27th December 2006 - I went down to Beachley Point, a strange place that looks out towards the so-called second Severn Crossing but is in Gloucestershire although it is almost surrounded by other counties. It was flat calm and very murky. The most numerous duck on the estuary were Mallard but Wigeon were also present as were Redshanks and Oystercatchers on the wader front. Stonechats were around the rocky headland. When the rain arrived, I departed. It could be quite good in a big storm when it is not possible to get across the closed Severn Bridge.

24th December 2006 - The fog has gone at last, leaving a murky, dreary day but a walk through the woods this evening was punctuated many times by the calling of Tawny Owls.

21st December 2006 - I have just returned from Norfolk/Cambridgeshire where my trip was cut short by dense freezing fog. That was on the 19th of the month and here in the Forest of Dean, in Gloucestershire, the fog has remained for at least 3 days and there is little to see.

16th December 2006 - A glorious, cool and clear morning for a change. The floodwaters at Coombe Hill Canal prohibit walking along the towpath and the only birds of note were a mixed flock of Redwings and Fieldfares, the biggest so far this winter. At Ashleworth, it was just possible to drive to the hide. The road is covered with water in several places. Wigeon and Pintail were the most numerous duck species but the birds are widely spread on the flood water. A male Stonechat was perched on a bit of debris in the middle of the water. 240 Canada Geese momentarily flew out of the reserve but circled and came back. This number of birds in the sky at close range was an impressive sight. 50 Lapwing overflew later. One Bewick's Swan was noted on the water in the distance not far from the river and this was joined by seven more. A Peregrine, as usual, was on one of the pylons.

14th December 2006 - A morning walk around the short trail at Nagshead revealed no surprises but there were a number of small mixed tit flocks roaming the woodland and quite a number of calls going on. Spring will not be far away!
At Slimbridge there continues to be good numbers of waders viewable from the Holden Tower. In addition to the thousands of Lapwing and Golden Plover, there are many Dunlin and Curlew. Also in attendance are a handful of Ruff and Redshank, and a few Black-tailed Godwits. A male and female Peregrine keeps the waders on their toes. Generally, the goose flock was more distant today. A number of Fieldfares spent some time making their way along the hedge near the river on the Tack Piece and gave exceptional views from the Holden Tower.

9th December 2006 - I noted a small flock of passerines in the tree tops in Parkend this morning and on further investigation with the telescope discovered that they were Greenfinches. That in itself would not normally be unusual but it was nice to see this species because, I had not logged these for some months and there had been some reports of dead birds around feeders in the Forest of Dean. I was beginning to wonder at the state of the numbers of this species but this sighting has made me more hopeful that they are surviving.

6th December 2006 - A similar trip this morning and at Severn Beach there were even more Leach's Petrels with 7 noted on one full scan of the river. A juvenile Great Northern Diver floated off the beach for a minute or so and I had both it and a Leach's Petrel in the scope at the same time. Near the original Severn Bridge there were 2 more Leach's Petrels and a third flying across the fields near the river!

5th December 2006 - Although not in Gloucestershire but in South Gloucestershire, I called in at Severn Beach en route to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust at Slimbridge this morning. Just after I had set up my scope, I noted a petrel species flying away from me albeit a bit distant. Then I found another and near the bridge there were two together. By this time I had got my eye and these were Leach's Petrels and then another was pointed out to me which was flying along the edge of the water less than 100m from me. My closest views of a Leach's Petrel. While at Slimbridge, I called into the hide where the Yellow-browed Warbler had been reported and I had little difficulty in locating this absolute gem of a bird. An excellent day in the field on a blustery, cool and heavy showery day.

2nd December 2006 - A walk around the Parkend area, the first such walk for a few days. Of note were a Redpoll flock near the Information Centre at Nagshead and this concentration appeared to have both dark and light birds present. Along the cycle path near Coleford Junction, a flock of Siskin were present and apart from that, a few Nuthatch, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Treecreeper and mixed tit flocks were roaming around. Several Chaffinch were around the bird feeders at the Stoneworks along the Cannop Valley but no Greenfinchs were noted. I have had a report of the lack of this species in the area because of disease and this is something that I need to monitor to see if this is true and widespread.

1st December 2006 - At Berkeley this morning, the water level has receded considerably and there were hardly any birds present. 3 Mallard and 6 Grey Heron were the only birds on and around the remaining water. There were no gulls present.

29th November 2006 - A round trip to Walmore Common, Ashleworth Ham and Coobe Hill Canal in search of winter swans. Of note was the increased amount of water at all three sites. At Ashleworth, the far end of Stank Lane was under water and along the canal, the meadows are well and truly flooded and at several points, the water is nearly onto the towpath. It is not possible to get to the Grundon Hide without a boat.

28th November 2006 - Another visit to Berkeley and the swans were present again but this time there were less birds and similarly, the gull flock was of lower numbers. The lower numbers of gulls was my findings at The Moors also.

27th November 2006 - Following a report that there were some Bewick's Swans on a flooded field near the Berkeley Bypass, I called in there this morning on my was to Slimbridge. Indeed, there were 15 swans present but also there was a big gull flock which was comprised of Common Gulls and Black-headed Gulls. I moved on to The Moors. Again there was plenty of water, probably because of the large amount of rain recently where it has rained at some time every day for well over a week. Here there was a similar sized gull flock and the species represented were similar also to that at Berkeley.

17th November 2006 - While noting that the White-fronted Goose flock had increased a little to 68 birds, my attention was drawn to a bird standing on a fence post at the western end of the Tack Piece. This turned out to be a Merlin which gave exquisite views from the Holden Tower.

13th November 2006 - Winter thrushes including Fieldfare were in the hedgerows at The Moors and Curlew were calling from the surrounding fields. Along the canal at lunchtime I noted another late Red Admiral butterfly such is the continuing mild weather.

11th November 2006 - At The Moors, to the south west of Slimbridge, I was looking for the Bewick's Swan flock but there were no birds present at that site, but there was a Pergrine on one of the electicity pylons to the north and it appeared to be eating a kill. At lunchtime in a field alongside the road to the centre, a Fieldfare was present, the first that I have noted this autumn.

9th November 2006 - At Slimbridge, a late flying Red Admiral butterfly was of note and the number of White-fronted Geese now stands at 56 birds and the Bean Goose was still present.

8th November 2006 - At Slimbridge today, the White-fronted Geese were very widespread with some on the north Dumbles and some on the Tack Piece. On the latter field in the afternoon, the Bean Goose appeared to be feeding in close company of a White-fronted Geese and this pair were away from the rest of the partial flock.

4th November 2006 - Another day at Slimbridge. A quiet day but I noted a Black-headed Gull on Rushy Pen wearing an Estonian ring which looked very rusty, pitted and general gave an old appearance to it. Unfortunately I was unable to read the ring before there was a flush of the birds and the said gull departed and I was unable to refind it.

3rd November 2006 - Again, the number of White-fronted Geese was the same as yesterday with 46 birds being present.

2nd November 2006 - At Slimbridge, the White-fronted Goose flock numbered 46 birds on the Dumbles. While I was counting them, I noted a different bird and upon further inspection of the bird which was at long range, I found that I had discovered a Bean Goose.

1st November 2006 - At 7.00am here in Parkend, there was a passage of birds high in the sky and moving steadily south. Well over a thousand birds moved through in parties of around 30 to 50 birds. Unfortunately, they were too far away to identify them.
This morning I went on a walk for supplies to Coleford. Highlights on this trip was of a Siskin flock near Nagshead Lodge. Also there was the first of three Red Admiral butterflies and this is November.

31st October 2006 - Very few birds on the Coombe Hill Meadows this morning but a Buzzard and Sparrowhawk represented the raptors and 6 Mute Swans, the injured Canada Goose, one Little Grebe and a first winter Black-headed Gull were all the representatives of the inhabitants of the water.
At Ashleworth, there was a sizable flock of ducks which were primarily Wigeon and Shoveler with some Pintail, Teal and Mallard. A Kestrel was on the pylon which usually in the perch for Peregrine or Buzzard.

29th October 2006 - Slimbridge again today on a fine, mild and calm day. 2 Little Stints were on the Dumbles with 2 Peregrines and 10 Ruff being the notable birds. Unusual but probably overlooked were 2 bats roosting in the Holden Tower. One had particularly large ears but they were difficult to see in the darkness and the exact species remain unknown to me.

28th October 2006 - At Slimbridge today, a Little Stint in front of the Holden Tower this morning was a notable bird.

24th October 2006 - A cool and overcast start to the morning but sunny conditions soon prevailed. At Coombe Hill Meadows there were at least 200 Wigeon with some Shoveler and Teal in the flock. About 175 Canada Geese were present at 0930 with 2 Barnacle Geese. A female Stonechat was on top of a tree in the middle of the meadows when a Raven turned up and caused some interaction between it and the Carrion Crows and Jackdaws. 11 Lapwing overflew. Also present were a Grey Heron, a Little Grebe, a Water Rail was heard and a female Great Spotted Woodpecker was in the small with bed as was a Goldcrest.

21st October 2006 - A partly cloudy morning with a strond breeze but dry conditions. At Coombe Hill Meadows, there were 7 Mute Swans, 3 Little Grebe, a Grey Heron, and the Wigeon and Shoveler flock numbered well over 100 birds. A Raven was trying to feed from the carcass of a Mute Swan but was being harried by Carrion Crows. 10 Teal appeared and by contrast, summer migrants in the form of 2 Wheatear were present on the island in the scrape. A female Stonechat was perched at various spots along the rhine and there was a small passage of Skylarks.
At Ashleworth, 2 Buzzards were perched up and there was a small passage of Chaffinch with Meadow Pipits. The find of the day was my first Clouded Yellow butterfly for the reserve and then a second specimen appeared and is possibly the first multiply sighting for the reserve.

18th October 2006 - An afternoon visit to Ashleworth Ham at 1800. While distracted trying to find out what heavy animal had landed on the roof of the hide, I became aware of a flock of about 50 Greylag Geese flying towards the hide. The circled around for a short while and then appeared to descend and probably landed in the vicinity of Coombe Hill Meadows where they probably roosted. I never did find out what was on the roof of the hide.

17th October 2006 - A short visit to Ashleworth Ham and noted at least 400 Chaffinch moving south in a period of about 20 minutes.

15th October 2006 - A short walk around Nagshead RSPB reserve this morning. Near the Cannop Road, I heard what I first thought was a loud roaring but then it became clear that I was listening to Wild Boar grunting very powerfully and loudly.

3rd October 2006 - A trip to Coombe Hill Canal and Meadows. Fairly quiet today in the sunny periods. Still warm for the time of year with midday temperatures of nearly 17 deg. C. 2 Mute Swans were on the canal with 8 more on the scrapes. 4 Grey Heron were present and the Shoveler flock amounted to 10 with a Little Grebe nearby. An injured Canada Goose was there and a Teal, Little Egret and 3 Mallard made up the numbers seen from the hide.
There was a steady but small passage of hirundines including Swallows around the Ashleworth area at 11.00am and 2 Buzzards were around the reserve.

2nd October 2006 - Sunny periods and heavy showers again today and the hirundine passage was similar to yesterday.

1st October 2006 - An overcast morning at dawn with a little drizzle in the air turned more unsettled as the morning moved on a torrential rain became a full blown thunderstorm with the rain easing by midday. There has been a passage of hirundines along the Cannop Valley today but in less numbers than recent days.

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