Diary - October to December 2008

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30th December 2008 - Ashleworth again today and it was even colder even though the breeze of yesterday had dropped out somewhat. Temperature en route at 0915 was 0 Deg. C.. The water was partially iced over and the ducks were generally out in the open so I took the opportunity to do an accurate count. 49 Pintail, 15 Gadwall, 161 Teal, 158 Wigeon, 6 Tufted Duck, 70 Shoveler, 52 Mallard, 2 Coot and 69 Canada Goose with a domestic goose in tow. Over 500 duck were therefore present. 2 Peregrine were on the pylons and along Stank Lane, the Bullfinches noted yesterday appeared to be still there and Long-tailed Tits were foraging on the hay bales which is a behaviour I have not seen before. The Fieldfare and Redwings flocks have now broken up with just a few indivduals scattered around the reserve. A Treecreeper was an usual species along the lane along with the Whooper Swans and Mute Swans which were in the same place again and in total, 36 species were noted.

29th December 2008 - It was a cold day again at Ashleworth with an easterly breeze and sunny periods. Temperature at 1115 was 1 deg. C.. The Barnacle Goose was with the Canada Goose flock again. The usual ducks were in evidence and additionally there were 4 Tufted Duck, 3 of which were male. 1 Common Gull was with 7 Black-headed Gulls. Along Stank Lane there were at least 3 Bullfinch and the 4 Whooper Swans were accompanied by 4 Mute Swans still in the same field as recent sighings.

28th December 2008 - A quick visit to Littledean to see the Waxwings again drew a blank although someone there said that they had been reported earlier.

27th December 2008 - A regular Saturday visit to Ashleworth. It remains cold with an easterly wind and at 1200 it was 3 deg. C.. Approximately 140 Canada Geese with one Barnacle Goose were seen from the hide. Also on view from there was a Little Grebe, at least 3 Tufted Duck and a Snipe along with the usual scattered duck. Along Stank Lane, the lone Whooper Swan has been joined by a family of 2 adults and 1 cygnet and they are with some Mute Swans. This latter Whooper Swan arrival makes a total of 11 different birds which have visited Ashleworth this winter so far. The water in front of the hide has receded some more partly because there has been no rain for a few days and the river level has gone down and the outflow gates must be able to open and drain the water from the flood plain. A Peregrine was on one of the electricity pylons and 50 Lapwing overflew in the late afternoon when about 140 geese arrived and these must have been in addition to those already there earlier because when I returned to the hide there were an appreciable number of Greylag Geese which were not present earlier. At Deerhurst, there was a small but well scattered flock of Lapwing and Golden Plover. I don't know if the Lapwing had been those that I had noted earlier but in any event, the plover were not with that flock. Earlier in the day en route to Ashleworth, I had noted many Blackbirds flying around the hedgerows near Tibberton giving the impression that there had been a little influx during this cold spell.

26th December 2008 - Overnight on Christmas eve/Christmas day it became cold and it continues this way today with a very cold easterly wind. It was 2 deg. C. at Longhope at 1600. The highlight of the day and the week was when I went to find the reported Waxwings along the main road at Littledean. They were in a medium sized tree on the north side of the road and were flying frequently across the road to a tiny front garden where there was a tree with pink berries and it was in this very small tree that they were feeding and it was possible to approach to within 5 metres without disturbing them as pedestrians and traffic passed the garden.

24th December 2008 - Ashleworth again. The mild and overcast weather continues. The Whooper Swan is still alone and in the same field as yesterday. A Barnacle Goose was again with the Canada Goose flock. The flood water in front of the hide on the flood plain is receding a little but there is still a vast expanse of water and the ducks are well spread out. 3 Tufted Duck were of note.

23rd December 2008 - Ashleworth. Overcast, calm and mild. At the top end of Stank Lane the flood water has just disappeared leaving matted vegetation again and a slight smell of rotting grass. 40 Pied Wagtails, 2 Reed Bunting and 2 Yellowhammer were around the soggy areas. It was again nice to see the latter species as they seem to be very scarce at this reserve. The lone Whooper Swan was still in a field to the north of the lane. Fog was forming in the Severn Valley as I drove home at dusk.

20th December 2008 - Mild for a change. About 11 deg. C. at mid morning. At Ashleworth, 270 Canada Geese, 1 Barnacle Goose, 2 Tufted Duck and 40 Black-headed Gulls. The remained of the duck, Pintail, Wigeon, Shoveler, Teal and Mallard were well spread out on the extensive floodwater.

18th December 2008 - A Sparrowhawk was perched on the apex of the roof of my old house in Hucclecote today as I drove by.

17th December 2008 - A fine, sunny but cold start to the day. The woods around Cannop Ponds were really quiet today.

16th December 2008 - A cold, overcast and sometimes foggy day. Ashleworth. There was a relatively high proportion of Pintail but the ducks were generally widely scattered on the flood water which is up to the road tarmac near Dirty Lane. This is a river flood and is the 7th in 3 years. I walked to Haw Bridge where the river level was 10.56m. 2 Reed Buntings were of note near Colways Farm and a mixed flock of Redwing, Fieldfare and Chaffinch were near to the Stank Lane crossroads on maize stubble. A Peregrine was a flyby back at the hide.

15th December 2008 - Overcast and cold again. At Slimbridge, the Tack Piece was full of birds. Among them, the Lapwing were very unsettled and many times they took to the air and flew around for a while before alighting again. Spotted Redshank, Common Redshank, Golden Plover, Curlew and Lapwing were in roughly increasing order of abundance. The Water Rail was in the same place as yesterday. On the Dumbles, 2 Peregrines, a Buzzard and a Kestrel were the raptors present. The White-fronted Geese are still favouring the Tack Piece. Bewick's Swans were on the south middle field as I drove in to the Centre at about 1230 and some were on the Tack Piece. These swans seemingly came in to the the Rushy Pen early at about 1530 or before. I checked as many Wigeon and Teal as possible for any vagrant but to no avail. Goldcrests were in evidence around the car park and along the Holden walkway.

14th December 2008 - The weather remains cool with temperatures around 4 deg. C. at 0945. I had a general run around a few sites in Gloucestershire today including Slimbridge, Nagshead RSPB Reserve and around the area where I live in Longhope. No special species found but a Water Rail out in full view at Slimbridge was a species not seen every day. White-fronted Geese numbers remains low but the Bewick's Swan numbers have increased of late after a slow start to the winter season.

13th December 2008 - Very wet overnight with the Gloucester Weather website recording 28mm of rain. This morning many lanes are flooded by run off from the fields and I was unable to get to Ham Road at Ashleworth.

8th December 2008 - I was away in Norfolk, Suffolk and Lincolnshire for 3 days reading rings on swans and doing flock counts on the fens. A successful trip with nearly 60 rings read and several flock encountered. Generally very cold, icy but sunny.

2nd December 2008 - A sunny but cold Ashleworth. From 1230, the duck species are spread on the vast amount of open water. There were 138 gulls on the water just to the left of the hide and these included 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull, several Common Gull and most were Black-headed Gull. 1 Buzzard was in a distant tree and from the hide it was possible to see that Hasfield Ham is flooded. Along Stank Lane, 2 Jay were of note and back at the hide, 1 Tufted Duck and other duck species included Wigeon, Teal, Pintail, Shoveler, Gadwall and Mallard all spread out. 7 Canada Geese accompanied the duck. In front of Colways Farm, 6 Pied Wagtails and a pipit species.

1st December 2008 - A fine but very cold day in sunshine. I did one of my bird atlas tetrads today - SO60N Yorkley Slade - Species 1st hour/2nd hour, Jay 3/1, Great Tit 3/0, Dunnock 1/1, Blue Tit 2/0, Wren 1/3, Blackbird 11/2, Robin 12/8, Buzzard 1/2, Long-tailed Tit 2/4, Bullfinch 1/0, Carrion Crow 3/4, Woodpigeon 5/9, Raven 1/1, Magpie 3/0, Mistle Thrush 1/0, House Sparrow 10/4, Starling 12/0, Pied Wagtail 1/0, Jackdaw 2/0, Song Thrush 1/0, Feral Pigeon 3/0.

29th November 2008 - Ashleworth. The fog from last night had cleared somewhat by dawn at Longhope. There was no fog at Ashleworth but it was slightly misty and cold with temperature at 2 deg. C., at 1000. Unusually there were quite a number of gulls, mainly Black-headed Gulls with a few Common Gulls and a couple of Lesser Black-backed Gulls. There was a sole Tufted Duck but the Wigeon and Teal were very flighty. At the top of Stank Lane there was a sizable flock of birds including Greenfinch again which is an unusual species for this part of the Ham. Also in the flock were Chaffinch, Fieldfare, Reed Bunting and Yellowhammer, the latter being a species which I have not seen at Ashleworth for a long time. It was a lovely bird to refind.

25th November 2008 - Slimbridge. Sunny and cool and hardly a cloud in the sky. 48 Bewick's Swans were in the southern road field, 8 more on Rushy Pen and the family with 2 cygnets were on the Tack Piece, making a total of 60 birds seen. There must, therefore, have been a swan fall sometime between Saturday night (22nd/23rd November) and last night (24th November).

22nd November 2008 - Ashleworth. Overcast and cool and 5 deg. C. at 0900. Hasfield Ham is still flooded but the roads are clear. The duck were well spread out. Highlight of the morning was the overfly of a rare species to the reserve, a female Goosander. In total, I noted 900 duck when they took to the air having been disturbed by the sound of shooting in the distance. Gadwall, Shoveler, Mallard, Wigeon, Canada Geese, Teal, Little Grebe and 1 Barnacle Goose were present from the hide. Along Stank Lane, Chaffinch and Fieldfare were present in numbers and the 2 Whooper Swans were in the same field as when I first saw them before the flood. Other birds included 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 2 Peregrine, Buzzard, 2 Bullfinch, Grey Wagtail, Water Rail in the open, Reed Bunting and 55 Lapwing over Hasfield Ham where a Greenfinch flock was an unusual sight.
At Slimbridge, 10 Bewick's Swans were in the southern road field at 1425 and 15(2) were at the feed on the Rushy Pen.

18th November 2008 - Ashleworth. The floods have receded and it is almost possible to drive to the hide with the water about one foot deep by the entrance to Colways Farm. This flooding is definitely becoming regular in the past few years whereas in the 1990s there was not necessarily a flood or floods every year. 100 Lapwing and 120 Canada Geese were noted and then I move on to Slimbridge. I finally caught up with the Bewick's Swans when I found 17 present at the feed including 2 cygnets. 5 Ruff and 2 Redshank were of note on the Tack Piece and on the Rushy Pen a Black-headed Gull with an Estonian ring was seen. 16th November 2008 - En route to Slimbridge, I checked several places. No swans were at the Berkeley Bypass where in spite of the recent rains there is almost no water and high vegetation making the habitat far from ideal for these species. No swans were on The Moors either or the road fields on the approach to Slimbridge Centre. I even checked the Caldicot Levels as I had to go down the M4 as the M48 bridge was closed for roadworks. There were swans there but as far as I could see there were no winter swans.

15th November 2008 - As expected, there was another flood at Ashleworth and Ham Road is inaccessable. From the high ground to the west I could see geese in front of the hide and there were hundreds of thrush species near to the Stank Lane junction and to the north of this. A female Sparrowhawk was over Colways Farm again. There were a few duck but they must be spread out over the vast expanse of water.

11th November 2008 - 2 adult Whooper Swans were on the north side of Stank Lane, Ashleworth this morning.
At Lydney on the lake near the station, there was a Lesser Scaup. I initially found the reported bird when I saw it through the hedgerow while I was scanning the nearest lake to the station. I had several views but they were not very good so I moved further up the road where there was a gateway and a resonably uninterrupted view of the lake. Here I had trouble refinding the bird as I had noted it swimming to the far left of the water as seen from the road. The bird must have come back as I was repositioning as I eventually saw it again on the right hand side of the lake. The overall structure, head colouration and composition of the nail on the bill appeared to be accurate for a non hybrid. A fine bird.

4th November 2008 - Ashleworth was overcast, misty, calm and damp and the water level was much higher than on Saturday (1st November). The hedges along Stank Lane were alive with thrush species and small passerines. 166 Canada Geese, 16 Greylag Geese, 20 Mallard, 29 Teal, 1 Pintail, 10 Gadwall, 11 wigeon and 2 Shoveler. From the hide, Fieldfares were all over the dead trees, a Peregrine on the pylon and many gulls on Hasfield Ham. Over 300 duck species were on that Ham. Kestrel, Buzzard, Jay and Reed Bunting were the other birds noted.

1st November 2008 - Ashleworth was cold and partially overcast. Only 2 deg. C. at 0845. A Peregrine was on the ground on Hasfield Ham. The ducks appear to be more hidden than of late but I noted 110 Wigeon, 70 Teal, 24 Mallard, 3 Shoveler, 2 Snipe and a Buzzard on a pylon. Redwings and Fieldfares were noted in small flocks and other birds included 20 Goldfinch, 2 Canada Geese, 4 Greylag Geese, 21 Lapwing on Hasfield Ham and a Sparrowhawk overflying. I have noted this latter species nearly always seem to be in the area bounded by Stank Lane, Colways Farm, in other words the northerly section of the reserve.

28th October 2008 - I arrived at 1030 at Ashleworth to be greeted by 6 Whooper Swans on the ample water in front of the hide and it was particularly pleasing to note that 4 of these birds were birds of the year. All 6 departed at 1222. Other birds included 100 Teal, 8 Shoveler, 3 Mallard, 3 Pintail, 20 Snipe, a female Blackcap and raptors, Buzzard and Peregrine. Amazingly at this late date in the year, a dragonfly was on the wing in the cold and rain.

25th October 2008 - Partly sunny and cool at Ashleworth where it was 6 deg. C. at 0900. Birds noted were, Sparrowhawk, 60 Fieldfare, 24 Teal, 17 Wigeon, 4 Shoveler, 4 Pintail, 10 Mallard and a Lapwing. 20 Goldfinch were on the footpath at the back of the reserve. In the afternoon, there were more birds, 101 Teal, 4 Shoveler, 18 Wigeon, 2 Pintail, 6 Mallard, 1 Snipe 1 Little Grebe and a hirundine passed to the south.

23rd October 2008 - A quick check at Slimbridge but no Bewick's Swans are present but there was a Buzzard and 1 Black-tailed Godwit noted from the Holden Tower when looking for swans and there was an odd plumaged Meadow Pipit which had a black belly very like a summer plumaged Dunlin.
Ashleworth at 1715, 47 Teal, 56 Wigeon, 2 Shoveler, 4 Pintail, 5 Gadwall, 27 Mallard, 2 Little Grebe, 33 Canada Geese and 14 Greylag Geese.

21st October 2008 - On a very short visit to Slimbridge, I noted the same Swedish ringed Black-headed Gull but unfortunately I was still unable to read the full ring. There were no Bewick's Swans present at the end of the 4 day window in which they have first appeared so many times over the years (19th October plus or minus 2 days).

19th October 2008 - Slimbridge. From the Holden Tower, 7 Little Egret, 2 Grey Heron, Peregrine, Buzzard, Kestrel and a Spotted Redshank were of note. On South Lake, 2 more Spotted Redshank, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, an Egyptian Goose and a Kingfisher flashed by. Notably, there were 3 dead gulls around the lake.

18th October 2008 - Ashleworth at 0935 had sunny periods and was calm and cool. Yet another Red Admiral butterfly was noted and it is now into the second half of October. 59 Teal, 8 Shoveler, 14 Wigeon, 5 Mallard, 1 Stonechat, 10 Snipe, 1 male Blackcap and 1 Canada Goose. A walk around the reserve yielded Fieldfare but no Redwing, the Great Grey Shrike and a Peregrine.

17th October 2008 - Slimbridge in the afternoon. From the Swan Observatory, 4 Buzzard and a Kestrel. On the Rushy Pen there was a Grey Heron with a yellow wing tag with the black letters 'HV'. There was a blue darvic on the left leg on the tarsus and a metal ring below.
At Ashleworth at 1715, 62 Teal, 9 Wigeon, 3 Gadwall, 1 Snipe and a Water Rail was heard.

14th October 2008 - Ashleworth was sunny and calm, 13 deg. C. at 0830. From the hide, 98 Teal, 17 Mallard, 17 Wigeon, 10 Snipe, 1 Pintail, 6 Lapwing, 3 Gadwall, a Peregrine on the pylon and a Skylark present. Near the sluice, 10 Linnet. The Great Grey Shrike was still present and a Buzzard was noted.

13th October 2008 - Nagshead where it was overcast, mild and dead calm. The coloured leaves are very noticable now and they were beginning to fall in profusion and in the absolute calm conditions within the wood fell slowly and serenely to the ground.
At Slimbridge, there were at least 90 Canada Geese on the river and the raptors were represented by Peregrine, Buzzard and Kestrel. At Middle Point, 670 Golden Plover, 450 Lapwing, 130 Dunlin and a Stonechat.
On to Ashleworth at 1540, 14 Mallard, 13 Wigeon, 60 Teal, 4 Snipe, 1 Shoveler, 1 Pintail and a Grey Heron. The Great Grey Shrike was still present. A male Great Spotted Woodpecker was in Stank Lane and there was a dragonfly on the wing.

10th October 2008 - Sunny and mild with a fresh south-westerly wind on the estuary at Slimbridge. From the Holden Tower, Wigeon numbers continue to build and Kestrel was hunting over the Dumbles and it was a Buzzard that was doing the hovering. The other raptor present was one of the resident Peregrines. A Red Admiral butterfly was also there. A Black-headed Gull on Rushy Pen has a Swedish ring from Stockholm but I was unable to read all of the combination of characters.
A short evening visit to Ashleworth produced only 2 Mallard and the 2 Canada Geese in the evening gloom and the water level was noted to have risen since Wednesday (8th October).

8th October 2008 - Ashleworth. Sunny, calm and cool today. Bearing in mind that it is now well into October, 2 Red Admiral, 1 Peacock and 1 Large White were the butterflies on the wing as well as several dragonflies. From the hide, I noted, 1 Grey Heron, 28 Teal, 3 Wigeon, 3 Mallard, 3 Gadwall, 24 Snipe, 2 Peregrine and a passage of small passerines. Stank Lane had 1 Canada Goose, a Cormorant and 18 Goldfinch. At the southern end of the reserve, 5 Buzzard, 1 Goshawk and a female Great Spotted Woodpecker with a metal ring.

7th October 2008 - Ashleworth. It was overcast at 1310 and the heavy rain was stopping but there was a strong southerly wind. 55 Mallard, 20 Teal, 5 Wigeon, 3 Snipe and 2 hirundines on passage were the birds noted and the wildfowl numbers are just hinting at the beginnings of the winter influx.
At Ashleworth again but this time in the evening at 1805, the brilliant autumn colours were lit by the setting sun which was going down over the back of the hide and thus lighting up the trees both in the foreground on the reserve but also those in the distance on Sandhurst Hill and even further away on the Cotswolds. There appeared to be similar numbers of duck to this morning but more Mallard appeared to be flying in to roost at dusk. 4 Moorhen were extra.

4th October 2008 - Hirundines were passing over Huntley in the morning and at Ashleworth, 5 Mallard, 2 Teal, the Little Grebe and the 2 Canada Geese were noted on a short visit on an overcast, cool and breezy day.

3rd October 2008 - Ashleworth. Sunny, cool and breezy. In the area of the sluice, there was 3 Reed Bunting, the Great Grey Shrike and 3 Buzzard. From the hide, 6 Mallard, a Little Grebe which is becoming a regular in the deep water area of the scrape and a Grey Heron. A Kestrel was flying down river in the distance.
6 hours later at 1735, I returned and there were 10 Teal, 9 Mallard, 2 injured Canada Geese, the Little Grebe, 7 Snipe, a Moorhen and the Peregrine.

2nd October 2008 - An afternoon visit between 1400 and 1745 on a day of sunny periods with a cool temperature. 25 Snipe in front of the hide only became apparent when they were flushed by a Grey Heron. The Great Grey Shrike was still present. 11 Mallard, 5 Teal and a Grey Wagtail were noted and a bird perched on the top of the dead tree that the shike tends to use was a Merlin.
Following the flood, I had a walk around and made some habitat notes. 1. The oily film in the puddles and the rhines has gone and the puddles are clear and the rhines where they are flowing are flowing clear. 2. On the north edge of field 26 and the unnumbered field to the west has a 15cm depth of hay matted down and moving across it is like walking through deep, fresh snow. 3. The unnumbered field west of field 24 has Meadowsweet coming through. The dead vegetation is bent over at 30 deg. to the horizontal and air and light are getting in through this dead material and thus the regeneration is going on faster than where the matted, dead vegetation is flat on the ground and suppressing new shoots so far. 4. Field 24 has Dock and Persicaria as the first plants to shoot through. 5. The Nettles along Ham Road are producing green shoots from many parts of the stem but the tops are dead. 6. The hedgerow has been taken out of the north side of field 27 and the west side of field 22 (between fields 22 and 23). This is nothing to do with the recent flood but it is just an observation that the habitat has changed. 7. Some of the bales of hay have now been cleared up and undoubtedly this will continue. 8. There appeared to be no insects on the wing in the area of Hasfield Ham although there may be many deep in the flattened vegetation. No birds were seen. 9. The field at the end of Dirty Lane (south east of field 14) has patches of dead, but still standing vegetation. Some of the vegetation is matted and horizontal but there are fresh blades of very fine grass coming through. 10. Finally, in various parts, there are the brillian green, fresh leaves of Yellow Flag Iris but I doubt if there will be a second showing of flowers.

1st October 2008 - Ashleworth. Today was a day of moderate to strong wind with sunny periods but a cool feel. Of note was an October dragonfly on the wing. There were 2 Canada Geese, the injured ones, 1 Sparrowhawk, 3 Mallard, 2 Teal, 1 Wigeon, 14 Lapwing and a Snipe. One wader which required a close look turn out to be a Knot, an unusual species for this site.

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