Notes on birds in the Severn and Avon Vales (the “Severn Hams”) (Gloucestershire and south Worcestershire) October – December 2013
The main sites are (from the north):
Along the Severn in Worcestershire, a series of well-watched gravel workings attract many water birds, notably waders; these are (from the north): Holt and Grimley (on the west bank just north of Worcester), Clifton (on the east bank just south of Kempsey); Ryall (on the east bank opposite Upton Ham); Ripple Lake (east bank) just south of the M50. Upton Warren Nature reserve, north of Droitwich, is outside the area covered by the present report, but is occasionally mentioned as it attracts many significant birds. Powick Ham, just south of Worcester, the flood meadows where the Teme flows into the Severn. Upton Ham (Worcs), the Upper Ham, a hay meadow south of the town, is an SSSI and is the best conserved of the riverside hams in botanical terms; south of the old railway embankment is the Lower Ham. Longdon Marsh (Worcs), a nearly enclosed basin north of the M50 motorway, flowing via the Longdon/Bushley Brook to the Severn; Worcestershire Wildlife Trust has a major reserve at Hill Court Farm, south of Marsh Lane, while north of the lane the land is subject to extensive flooding when the Severn is high; a little further downriver, upstream of Tewkesbury and just in Gloucestershire is The Mythe and Mythe Hook.
The Avon Meadows (on either side of the Avon, going north from Tewkesbury), along the border between Gloucestershire and Worcestershire, and including: the restored gravel pits at Bredon’s Hardwick (Worcs); Upham Meadow (sometimes called the “Great Hay Meadow”) and Summer Leasow at Twyning (Glos) which form an SSSI on ornithological grounds; Rectory Farm Meadows (Worcs), across the Avon from Upham Meadow and an SSSI on botanical grounds; Strensham Pits (Worcs), sludge pools below the waterworks at Strensham; further upstream of Nafford, along the Worcestershire Avon are the Gwen Finch Worcestershire Wildlife Trust Reserve, and the new John Bennett Reserve, both of them areas of shallow lakes by the Avon; the Avon Meadows Community Wetland and Local Nature Reserve, established in 2008, covers 24 hectares along the Avon near Pershore Town Centre; between Pershore and Fladbury is Lower Moor, and just to the north Throckmorton Landfill Site, which attracts large numbers of feeding gulls, (like Gloucester LS) and where the lagoons sometimes attract water birds. Just to the east of Bredon is Kemerton Lake (Worcs), a restored gravel pit in the valley of the Carrant Brook, which flows through Cowfield Marsh into the Avon just above Tewkesbury.
The “Severn Hams” proper, between Tewkesbury and Gloucester, in which the main wetland areas are: Ashleworth and Hasfield Hams; Coombe Hill Canal and Meadows (Coombe Hill Canal is a long disused and overgrown canal running from Coombe Hill to Wainlodes); and Cobney and Leigh Meadows alongside the River Chelt and Leigh Brook above Wainlodes. Barrow Ponds are created by the artificial damming of a small tributary of the Chelt, east of the A38. Ashleworth Ham and Coombe Hill are Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust reserves, and are particularly well-watched. This area also includes: the Severn Ham at Tewkesbury; the Severn between Lower Lode and Haw Bridge; and the Severn from Haw Bridge, past Wainlodes, Ashleworth Quay and Sandhurst, to Gloucester. At Sandhurst, Maisemore and at Walham Pools near Gloucester there are a number of abandoned overgrown riverside brick-pits, artificial excavations in the floodplain.
The River Leadon flows into the Severn just above Gloucester, and its valley extends north eastwards past Highleadon and Upleadon. The four most important sites along the Leadon Valley are: the meadows northeast of Highnam; Dark Barn; Tibberton Meadows (former Lammas meadows along a tributary); and the newly created ponds at Blackwells End near Collier’s Brook, a tributary of the Leadon, which have great potential. Maisemore Ham is now largely converted to arable farming.
Sites on the edge of urban Gloucester, once Severn flood meadows: Port Ham, Castlemeads and Over Ponds on Alney Island, Sudmeadow, and the Gloucester Landfill Site (GLS). Port Ham has recently been restored and some shallow scrapes dug; at the southern end of Port Ham is Lower Parting where the two arms of the Severn meet again; Sudmeadow is immediately south of Lower Parting; GLS used to attract large numbers of gulls, but numbers have decreased dramatically since a falconer was employed to disturb then; it has a pond attractive to passage and some resident waterbirds. A little further south, near the Gloucester-Sharpness Canal, are Netheridge Farm and the small Quedgeley Local Nature Reserve. Near the northern bypass, at the foot of Churchdown Hill, is the Horsebere Brook Flood Alleviation Area, opened in about 2010 to prevent flooding in Longlevens, as happened in summer 2007.
Minsterworth Ham, on the west bank of the Severn below Gloucester.
Walmore Common, on the west bank of the Severn below Gloucester; also the little marsh at Rodley (Wilmer Common), west of Walmore, along the stream west of Boxbush Farm.
Elmore Back, on the east bank of the Severn below Gloucester, opposite Walmore.
Most of these sites are marshes which flood when the level of the Severn is high (either because of water coming down from North Wales, or because of high tides downstream; or more often a combination of both), thus preventing local streams from reaching the Severn, so that they back flood. When there is a major Severn flood, with water coming over the flood-banks along the river (a “river flood”), there may be extensive floods over the whole floodplain area. The major Severn tributary, the Avon, has only very low flood-banks in some places and so floods easily above Tewkesbury. The River Chelt holds running water, and when levels are low has muddy edges and mud banks.
October’s weather across the UK was unsettled: the warmest October since 2006, the dullest since 2005 and the wettest since 2000. Rain was frequent and was often accompanied by strong winds, as a series of vigorous low pressure systems travelled eastwards across the British Isles. The first nine days were warm, then a colder period followed until 16 October; in the second half of the month, temperatures rose above normal again. Across England and Wales, rainfall was 142% of the average, and the figure for southwest England and Wales was 139%. Sunshine totals for the month were well below average. On 27/28 October an explosively developing depression (“St Jude’s Storm”) caused very strong winds across southern England and East Anglia with damaging gusts. In the Severn Vale, there were no frosts in October, though there was a good deal of rain in the second half of the month; the monthly total for Gloucester was 111 mm, the highest monthly total since November 2012 when the figure was 118mm (no other month in 2013 has reached 60 mm). St Jude’s Storm passed south of Gloucestershire so, while strong winds were experienced, there was nothing comparable to the effects along the south coast.
November 2013 was quite sunny and dry, but a little colder than average. It opened across the UK with westerly weather, generally unsettled and wet; this meant there were relatively few dry days, but also few frosts; from mid-month high pressure systems dominated, bringing more settled but colder weather, especially in Scotland and northern England. An area of high pressure extended from the Azores over the whole of the UK in the last week, blocking the arrival of Atlantic fronts, which therefore had to go round the north of Scotland and down the North Sea. The month’s rainfall in southwest England and South Wales was only 74% of the 30 year average. In the Severn Vale there were slight frosts from 13-16 November, much colder weather with sharp frosts on 19 and 21 November; it became colder still from 23-26 (26 November being the coldest day with temperatures of -4°C in Gloucester, colder still out in the countryside). Winds in the Severn Vale in the second half of the month were mainly from north or northwest. Total rainfall in Gloucester was only 43mm.
December was, at national level, a mild, wet and stormy month; it opened as November had ended, with the Azores anticyclone covering much of the UK, and bringing dull, hazy fairly mild weather. This anticyclone drifted south on 3 December, allowing Atlantic fronts to move in from the northwest; winds strengthened and were particularly strong in eastern UK, causing the biggest storm surge in the North Sea since 1953 on 5 December, as northwest winds followed high tides. Quieter weather resumed until mid-month but high pressure gave way and the weather became increasingly unsettled and stormy; in the second half of the month, a series of Atlantic low pressure systems brought heavy rain and strong winds for most areas (pressure on 23 December dropped to 936 millibars in western Scotland, the lowest record at a land-based weather station for many years). Nationally, this was the windiest December since 1969, and the windiest calendar month since January 1993. Western England and the Severn Vale escaped the storm surge of 5 December, and anticyclonic conditions persisted, with dry, mild, frost-free weather and high cloud, light winds mainly from the west and northwest; this anticyclone drifted very slowly eastwards, finally allowing southwesterly, rain-bringing winds into the area from 13 December. The first rain in Gloucester for three weeks fell on 15 December, but then it rained almost every day until the end of the month, mainly in small amounts (though 14 mm fell on 18 December and 26 mm on 23 December); a ridge of high pressure brought fine sunny conditions on 17 December, but successive Atlantic fronts brought strong winds on 18, 23 and 27 December. Monthly rainfall in southwest England and south Wales was 128% of the 30 year average, while total December rainfall in Gloucester was 87mm, a monthly total exceeded in 2013 only by October (111mm). There were no frosts in Gloucester in December, though there were occasional light grass frosts in rural areas.
The weather in 2013 can be summarised as follows: cold with heavy snow in mid-January and mid-February, cold intensifying in March and the first half of April; by contrast, the summer was the warmest and sunniest for seven years with a heat wave from 4 July to 2 August. October ended with a severe gale in southern England and the storm surge in early December was the greatest since January 1953; in the second half of December a series of deep Atlantic depressions brought further gales and considerable rainfall, especially in western UK.
Water levels and flooding: general
After a spring and summer with no flooding at all, a welcome change from 2012, there were two autumn flood episodes: the first, smaller and caused by backing up of local streams, lasted from the last few days of October until about 20 November; the second, from 18 December until the end of the year, was a river flood, generating much deeper flooding, with the Severn breaking its banks, as well as local streams back-flooding. The Severn level had remained low through the summer, and water levels in general in the meadows were low at the beginning of October. Levels in the meadows began to rise a little by 26 October, then from 28 October there were sharp rises throughout the area, as local streams backed up and began to flood the fields. The Severn at Haw Bridge was at 10.02 metres on 29 October, its highest level by far since February, dropping from 31 October (8.57m. on 1 November), then rising again in the first week of November, with a new moon and the top of a cycle of high tides (9.40m. on 9 November), but dropping again from 10 November (7.55m. on 19 November, 7.20m. on 30 November). However, the drop in the level of the Severn was not enough to allow water to begin flowing out from the meadows until 12 November; a slight drop was noticeable from 16 November, floodwater was still present but everywhere much lower on 19 November, continuing to drop until the end of the month. Much of the remaining open water was briefly iced over on 26 November. In the first two weeks of December, Severn levels were low despite high tides (7.02m. at Haw Bridge on 6 December, 6.90m. on 14 December), but the Severn rose rapidly from 19 December, reaching 10.93m. at Haw Bridge on 28 December, and breaking its banks both north and south of Haw Bridge, provoking even deeper flooding in riverside meadows, and briefly closing the B4213 road at Haw Bridge on 29 December; by 30 December the Severn level was beginning to decrease (10.29m. at Haw Bridge), though water was not yet able to flow off the riverside meadows.
Conditions at the main sites
Longdon Marsh: Heavy flooding at the northern end in late December, with disturbance from shooting on 26 December. Heavy flooding at the confluence of Longdon /Bushley Brook and the Severn on 31 December.
Upham Meadow, Twyning: Normal mowing and grazing had been carried out in late summer (unlike 2012) thanks to the dry summer and autumn. Light flooding was experienced in November, but by December, the grass was short, unlike the situation in winter 2012/13, when there had been extensive patches of uncut hay, and stands of sedges and Canary Grass. Heavy flooding in late December.
Ashleworth/Hasfield Hams: In early October, the only open water was in the three pools on the GWT Reserve, and many ditches were bone dry. Flooding began in the last week of October and was fairly extensive by 29 October; a good deal higher by 1 November, continuing to rise until 12 November, despite a fall in the Severn level; flood levels were dropping on the meadows on 19 November; some ice on 26 November; waters continuing to drop gradually in late November and the first half of December, but rising sharply again in the week before Christmas; the Ham Road was closed and the whole area inaccessible on 28 December. Saturday Pheasant shoots on land adjoining the Reserve caused disturbance to birds in November and December.
Coombe Hill: The new Grundon Hide was installed in the late summer, and was fully operational from the beginning of the period. The scrapes were practically dry and there was still some water in the Long Pool in early October, with cattle still grazing on the GWT Reserve on 19 October. Water began to back up through the ditch system by 26 October, and flooding was extending beyond the scrapes by 29 October; still rising from 31 October to 12 November; very slight drop on 16 November, notable drop by 19 November; on 26 November most of the remaining water was iced over. Water levels continuing to drop very gradually in late November and early December, but then began to rise again from about 18 December, and there was extensive flooding by 24 December, when the Grundon Hide was only just accessible; whole area under deep flooding from 28 December, with flooding right up to Wharf, hides inaccessible.
Leigh/Cobney Meadows: Still very dry until 19 October, when ditches were empty, there was very little water in the flight pond on Cobney Meadows and cattle were still out. Flooding spreading on Cobney Meadows on 29 October, quite extensive on Leigh and Cobney Meadows from 31 October, flowing off on 16 November, practically gone by 19 November. Deep flooding again in late December.
Minsterworth Ham: Extensive flooding in late December.
Walmore Common: Light flooding after overnight rain on 28 October, but flooding gone from the first flood episode by 12 November. No flooding in early December; light flooding on 22 December, extensive flooding by 28 December, still rising on 30 December.
Coverage was good in Gloucestershire, except for the Leadon Valley. The present revision gives a better account of birds in the South Worcestershire sector of the Severn Hams, thanks to records from the Avon Wetlands LNR at Pershore and the Worcester Birding website.
There were two peaks in surface-feeding duck numbers in the Coombe Hill / Ashleworth area, coinciding with the two flood episodes from late October to mid November, and in the last ten days of December. Simply listing monthly maxima would give a false impression; in fact water birds moved in and out of the area in line with flood conditions.
Most natural wetland sites remained very dry until the end of October, but flooding of the riverside meadows by local streams from the end of October until about 20 November as usual attracted surface feeding ducks to the Coombe Hill/Ashleworth complex (up to 5,000 in all, mainly Wigeon and Teal, though not the large concentrations of Pintail sometimes found at this time of year). Many of these ducks appear to have moved to the estuary as floods dropped in the last ten days of November, when the remaining water was briefly iced over.
The earlier flood attracted other species to Gloucestershire: the odd diving duck (including a Goldeneye), a few grebes and even a Great Black-backed Gull; diving ducks (notably Goldeneye and Goosander) were as always more often recorded in Worcestershire. Some waders also occurred, with up to 750 Lapwings around Coombe Hill, the occasional Golden Plover and some Dunlin, Ruff and Black-tailed Godwit, in addition to the usual Snipe and Jack Snipe, with the odd Green Sandpiper where there was flowing water.
Some small parties of Bewick’s Swans, arriving from the northeast, dropped in on floodwater in late October and early November before continuing towards Slimbridge. No Whooper Swans were recorded in Gloucestershire in October or November – as has often happened in recent dry autumns; but two were noted briefly at Grimley on 11/12 October. The customary large flocks of up to a thousand Greylag and Canada Geese with their various hybrids, remained in the Coombe Hill area while the floods lasted, providing a dramatic spectacle, but most moved to the Tewkesbury area when floodwater receded. An unusual hybrid, probably Pochard x Scaup, appeared on floodwater at Ashleworth on 3 November.
Flooding occurred again around throughout the Severn Hams from about 20 December, and the surface-feeding ducks reappeared in numbers almost immediately. A family party of three Whooper Swans was at Walmore for a few days in mid-December. Golden Plover were much more numerous along the Worcestershire Avon. But this flood was deeper, and in the week after Christmas the extensive flooding made it difficult to survey the main areas; as in previous years, ducks and geese appeared to shun the deep flooding, and move to places like Longdon Marsh or Ripple Lake, where floodwater was shallower; they were joined by two juvenile White-fronted Geese at Ripple Lake in the last week of December.
Rarities included two Ruddy Shelducks at Coombe Hill on 15 November. Two Glossy Ibises roosted at Slimbridge on 5 November (though their regular feeding area was not identified); one or two, seen at a variety of sites along the Severn and Avon, were no doubt the same individuals. An adult Red-throated Diver at Ripple in mid-October was a surprise, as was a Gannet at Grimley. Records of a Firecrest near Grimley in mid-October, a Marsh Harrier along the Worcestershire Avon and two Worcestershire records of Common Scoter all no doubt related to passing migrants. A Grey Plover appeared over floods at Lower Moor in the last week of the year. Some rarer gulls (Iceland, Caspian and Yellow-legged) were noted in November and December in loafing flocks around the Throckmorton Landfill site. Ringing operations at Grimley revealed regular winter presence of Siberian Chiffchaff and Mealy Redpoll. Rock Pipits were noted on several occasions at Grimley and Ripple (once a bird of the Scandinavian subspecies), though none were found in Gloucestershire.
Mute Swan: As usual, pairs with this year’s young remained in the general area of their breeding sites; at times of high water, larger numbers collected on floodwater. Many colour-ringed birds were noted, presumably ringed in Worcester, but there is sadly still no effective coordination of rings read.
In Worcestershire: at Longdon Marsh two on floodwater on 28 December; at Ripple Lake four on 31 December. At Avon Wetlands, Pershore, up to five recorded most weeks in weekly surveys throughout the period.
At Mythe Hook seven on 3 December. At Chaceley Stock a pair with a first winter immature on 17 December. At Ashleworth numbers increased from two on 19 October to 16 on 1 November, eleven on 12 November; seven on 26 November included colour-ringed birds previously seen at Coombe Hill; ten roosting on 10 December flew out early to the south; only two on 17 December in low flood. At Coombe Hill only single figures recorded in October, 24 on 5 November, 29 on 16 November, 24+ including family parties on 19 November; decrease as floods dropped: seven (no first winter birds) on 23 November, only one pair on 26 November, only one or two in the first half of December, two pairs as waters rose on 20 December. At Barrow Ponds a family party of two adults and four fully grown first winter birds, presumably local breeders, on 8 October, not present on 5 November (probably gone to floodwater at Coombe Hill, where a similar party was observed). At Horsbere three (one immature) on 15 October; two immatures on 8 December. At Walmore three on 12 November and three (a family party of two adults and an immature) on 10 December, six on 28 December, three on 30 December.
Whooper Swan: In Worcestershire: At Grimley Camp Lane Pits, two adults appeared on the morning of 11 October and after flying off northwards at midday, were back at dusk; both present in early morning of 12 October, flying off northwards at 07h35, not seen again.
None seen in the Gloucestershire sector of the Severn Hams in October or November, but an adult was seen flying upriver on the estuary at Severn Beach at 09.50 on 3 November, presumably the bird seen later in the day at Lydney New Grounds. At Walmore a family party of two adults and a first winter bird, all unringed, were seen from 8 to at least 15 December, apparently grazing all day on the Common side, where grassland is “unimproved”; but this group was not found at Walmore or anywhere else in the second half of December.
Bewick’s Swan: There were international Bewick’s Swan censuses on 12 November and 9 December, aimed at observing numbers of cygnets and hence productivity in the 2013 breeding season, but none were found in the Severn Hams. At Ashleworth, a group of seven Bewick’s flew in from the east at 07h30 on 22 October, calling, and flew on downriver without landing. These were undoubtedly the same seven which arrived at Slimbridge, the first of the season, in mid-morning. At Coombe Hill three were reported on floodwater on 14 November; a family party of four (two adults and two cygnets) landed on the floodwater on 16 November and stayed for only an hour before flying on downriver; however, this particular group was never definitely identified at Slimbridge. At Walmore none were noted during the first flood episode; but from about 11 December some 20 Bewick’s were regularly seen flying upriver from Slimbridge in the early morning, and 19 unringed adults at Walmore seen in light flooding on 22 December (but on no other dates), were presumably these birds; none found at this time at other previously favoured sites such as Wilmer Common or Upper Dumball near Rodley.
At Slimbridge, the first seven arrived on 22 October. Up to eight Bewick’s were noted at Blagdon Reservoir in Somerset in late October/early November and there was some interchange between the two sites. Numbers at Slimbridge increased to 12 on 1 November, 23 on 18 November; with colder easterly weather, 17 more arrived overnight on 20/21 November, and at least 50 more on the night of 21/22 November, bringing the total to at least 109. But mild conditions in December, with winds from the Atlantic, meant that only limited numbers moved from the Continent to UK, and by the end of December only 176 different individuals had been recorded (by observation of bill patterns), against a five yearly average of 238 - the lowest December total since way back in 1965.
Black Swan: One on the river bank at Ashleworth Quay on 16 November was the first in the area for a long time.
Of the many species of geese recorded below, only the Whitefronts were genuinely wild, but even feral geese make a fine spectacle when present in such numbers. In the dry conditions of September and early October, smallish numbers of Greylag and Canada Geese had been roosting on the Long Pool at Coombe Hill, and moving off early towards Barrow Ponds. Large numbers, up to a thousand geese (Greylag, Canada and hybrids combined) were present in the Coombe Hill / Ashleworth area during the height of the October/November flood; observations of hybrids and feral birds associating with the flock made it easier to trace movements. The flock melted away in late November: some Canada Geese occurred at Ashleworth, from where they moved out early in the morning to the north, apparently going to graze on maize stubble around Deerhurst; some may have moved to the Tewkesbury area, perhaps moving between grazing areas at Upham Meadow on the Avon, and roosting and loafing areas at Ripple Lake by the Severn. Most of the Greylags clearly went to Ripple Lake. At least one family of hybrids seen at Coombe Hill in November were at Ripple in early January.
Greylag Goose: Numbers reached unusually high peaks at Coombe Hill and Ashleworth in the November flood episode; when the November flood receded, the majority moved off to Ripple. Unfortunately it proved impossible to read any colour rings, as had been done in previous autumns.
In Worcestershire: at Ripple Lake only a few on 9 November, but 227 on 30 November, 215 on 3 December and stable numbers of two to three hundred from mid to late December. Also on 30 November 185 at Kemerton.
At Upham Meadows only one in the Canada flock on 3 December. At Ashleworth few in the first flood episode: 23 on 14 November, 32 on 19 November; rather more as flood levels dropped: 64 on 26 November, 88 on 7 December, 80 which had roosted on 10 December flew on to Coombe Hill, 51 came in from north at mid-morning on 14 December, only one on 24 December. At Coombe Hill 45 had roosted on 8 October and flew out early towards Barrow Ponds; not roosting on 12 October, when there was just one, nor on 19 October when there were only four, but roosting again on 26 October when there were 39; sharp increase with more extensive flooding, to totals rarely reached in previous years (only five years ago numbers were very much smaller here): 162 by 29 October, 368 at dusk on 3 November, good count of 315 on 5 November moving out to southwest from roost early on; 320 on 12 November, 408 on 13 November, 340 on 16 November; decrease as floods dropped: 59 on 23 November, none on the ice on 26 November, nor when it melted on 29/30 November, nor with lower water levels on 7 December, but 82 came in from Ashleworth on 10 December, only two on 14 December, 53 on 24 December. At Cobney Meadows 40 on 9 November. At Barrow Ponds at least 32, no doubt birds from Coombe Hill, in mid-morning on 8 October; none on 5 November at a time of flood at Coombe Hill, 36 on 12 November.
Snow Goose: Along the Avon, one of the blue form at Upham Meadow in Gloucestershire on 3 December, no doubt the same bird at Throckmorton on 15 December.
Ross’s Goose: Several records of a single along the Avon in both Worcestershire and Gloucestershire, no doubt the same individual each time: one at Bredon’s Hardwick on 9 November, one grazing with Canada Geese at Upham Meadow on 3 December, one at Throckmorton in the second half of December.
White-fronted Goose: No indication of birds moving upriver from Slimbridge, as they used to do – no doubt because of the decrease in Whitefronts wintering at Slimbridge (only 140 by late December). But two individuals of the Eurasian race (both, perhaps significantly, juveniles, hence perhaps lost birds) were seen among the Greylags at Ripple from 22 to 29 December.
Canada Goose: As has been usual in recent years, numbers began to build up in early autumn, especially in the Coombe Hill / Ashleworth complex, to nearly 800 birds at the height of the first flood episode; little information on where they all come from! When these floods dropped, some (perhaps 50% of the total) stayed in the Ashleworth area, while the other moved upriver to the Tewkesbury area, occurring between Ripple Lake and Upham Meadow.
In Worcestershire 77 at Ripple Lake on 3 December, 200 on 31 December.
At Upham Meadows 343 grazing on 3 December. At Deerhurst 80 grazing mid-morning on maize on 17 December, no doubt birds from Ashleworth. At Ashleworth (where there had throughout the summer been two or three non-flying birds) increase to 24 with flooding on 29 October; about 100 on 1 November; 78 on 5 November (simultaneous count with Coombe Hill where there were 530); 690 on 19 November (undoubtedly birds from Coombe Hill), but only two on 26 November, 77 on 30 November; 312 on 7 December; 275 had roosted on 10 December and flew out early, returning in mid-morning; same behaviour by 290 on 14 December. At Coombe Hill 20 had roosted and flew out early on 8 October, just six in flight on 12 October when they had not been roosting, 14 on 15 October; roosting again on 26 October when there were 35. Sharp increase with onset of flooding: 294 on 29 October, 405 on 31 October; 420 on 2 November, 640 at dusk on 3 November, about 500 on 8 November (moving out to southwest early on), 640 on 12 November, 770 on 16 November; decrease as floods dropped: 300 on 23 November, 80 on 26 November, practically none on 29/30 November, only one on 7 December. 49 flew in from north on 17 December, only ten on 21 December, 54 on 24 December. At Barrow Ponds only five on 8 October, none on 5 November when floods at Coombe Hill were extensive. At Walmore seven on 28 December, 30 on 30 December.
Barnacle Goose: Along the Avon five at Throckmorton in Worcestershire during December and at Upham Meadow in Gloucestershire one with Canada Geese on 3 December.
Egyptian Goose: In Worcestershire: At Clifton Pits one on 30 November, still present on 1 December.
Hybrid Geese: A pair made up of a Greylag and a Canada with four hybrid goslings had been seen in the Coombe Hill area in September; they were seen at Witcombe Reservoir east of Gloucester on 15 October, but were back at Coombe Hill during the first flood episode from 29 October until at least 10 November; they were back at Witcombe on 8 and 16 December, but were again at Coombe Hill as waters began to rise on 24 December (this family was at Ripple on 11 January 2014, illustrating the movement from Coombe Hill to Ripple). Another mixed pair made up of a white Greylag of normal size and a Canada with two pale hybrid goslings were noted on the Coombe Hill floodwater from 5 until at least 19 November; however, this family stayed in the Coombe Hill/Ashleworth area: one of the goslings was noted at Ashleworth on 14 November; the white adult was at Ashleworth on 7 December and the whole family on 10 December. The outsize white farmyard goose that formed a trio with a pair of Canada Geese and produced young at Coombe Hill earlier in the year was present without goslings at Coombe Hill from 29 October until 19 November; it then disappeared until 17 December when it was resighted at Ashleworth with the Canada flock.
Shelduck: As usual, small numbers began to appear in the last months of the year. At Ashleworth two on 21 December, perhaps the individuals from Coombe Hill. At Coombe Hill three on 31 October, soon after the floodwater began to rise, were the first of the autumn; no more till 26 November, when there were two on the ice, two again from 30 November until 10 December; four from 14 to 22 December. At Minsterworth Ham four on 29 December. At Walmore one on 22 December.
Ruddy Shelduck: At Coombe Hill two (provenance unknown) were photographed during a stay of a couple of hours on 15 November.
In the dry conditions at Coombe Hill in the first half of October, there appeared to be much movement of the few ducks present between Coombe Hill and Barrow Ponds, where there was more water. There was a sharp increase, at least in numbers of Wigeon and Teal, as soon as flooding appeared in late October. When floodwaters dropped after 19 November, there was a dramatic decrease in Wigeon and Teal, and a corresponding increase, at least in Wigeon, on the estuary at Slimbridge. Numbers of Wigeon increased again at Coombe Hill immediately water levels began to rise in mid-December. There was no large influx of Pintail, as has happened some previous years in flood conditions: not above 50 around Coombe Hill, though more appeared in south Worcestershire in the last week of the year; Minsterworth Ham, much closer to the estuary, no doubt attracted birds from the estuary at time of flood.
Wigeon: In Worcestershire: at Longdon Marsh 1300 grazing on floodwater’s edge on 28 December. At Ripple Lake at least 1255 grazing on 3 December, about 700 on 31 December; these are presumed to be birds which had shunned deep flooding in the Coombe Hill / Ashleworth area.
At Mythe Hook 75 grazing along Mythe Brook on 3 December. A big influx occurred in the Coombe Hill / Ashleworth area when water levels rose in late October, lasting until about 20 November, when most appeared to depart for the estuary. At Ashleworth one (the injured bird that had summered) from 5 to 19 October; then 32 on 26 October, 110 with flooding on 29 October, 120 on 9 November, 250 on 12 November, 700 on 19 November, 600 on 26 November, down to 210 on 30 November, 480 on 10 December, 300 on 17 December, 280 on 24 December. At Coombe Hill two on 5 October, one on Long Pool on 19 October; increase to 50 on 26 October, noisy birds, calling a lot as though they were new arrivals; by 29 October numbers were up to 640 and included a leucistic female, perhaps the one seen at Slimbridge in winter 2012/13; on 31 October 1010 (including the leucistic female); on 2 November 1660 including the leucistic female; 600 at dusk on 3 November (including the leucistic female, last date); 1700 on 5 November, 2205 on 8 November, 2595 on 9 November (meanwhile at Slimbridge there were only about 500 on 11 November); back at Coombe Hill 2400 on 13 November, biggest count of the month on 19 November when there were 4200 present. Sharp decrease as floods dropped; only 150 on 23 November, 80 on 26 November, 60 on 29 November; (at Slimbridge Wigeon numbers increased sharply, with 2620 on 25 November, the highest count of the winter so far, suggesting that birds from the Severn Hams moved back to the estuary as floods receded). Only 18 on 7 December, 19 on 14 December; numbers increased again as floodwater rose: 340 on 17 December, 550 on 21 December, 1600 on 24 December. On floodwater on Cobney Meadows 200 on 12 November, 120 on flight pond on 14 December. At Barrow Ponds 70 on open water on 26 November when many other sites were iced over, only 12 on 7 December. At Horsbere four on 8 and 9 December appear to be the first recorded at this site. At Minsterworth 600 on 29 December. At Walmore four on 13 November, 250 on 28 December, 390 on 30 December.
Gadwall: Occurs mostly in single figures, though rather higher numbers were recorded at Coombe Hill during the first flood period. In Worcestershire two at Ripple Lake on 3 December, one on 31 December.
At Ashleworth eight on 26 October, 17 on 26 November, four from 30 November to 10 December, five on 14 December, two on 24 December. At Coombe Hill two on 8 October, eight on 26 October, ten on 2 November, 12 on 5 November, 22 on 9 and 13 November, 17 on 16 November, 12 on 19 November; then smaller numbers as floods receded: five on 23 November, six on 7 December, nine on 10 December, seven on 24 December. At Barrow Ponds three on open water on 26 November when many other sites were iced over. At Minsterworth Ham two on 29 December. At Walmore Common two on 28 December. At Wilmer Common nine on 28 December.
Teal: After Wigeon, the most numerous surface-feeding duck, numbers often under-estimated because of its habit of loafing invisible under overhanging vegetation. Much courtship activity at this time of year, and seemingly a considerable preponderance of males.
In Worcestershire: At Longdon Marsh, regularly recorded at Hill Farm (30 on 28 October, 90 on 9 November, 120 on 25 November, 150 on 9 December, 400 on 30 December) and no doubt moving back and forth between the WWT reserve and the floodwater, when it rose - 300 on floods on 28 December; at Ripple Lake five on 3 December, 40 on 31 December. At Avon Wetlands, Pershore, up to six recorded from 10 October in weekly surveys throughout the period.
At Mythe Hook eight on 3 December. At Ashleworth 18 on 5 October, 46 on 12 October, 38 on 26 October, 60 with onset of flooding on 29 October; 200+ on 1 November, 280 on 26 November; as floods dropped 60 on 30 November, 48 on 7 December, then 205 on 10 December, 300 on 17 December, 60 on 21 December, 45 on 24 December. At Coombe Hill 44 on 5 October, 110 on 8 October, 90 on 15 October, 136 + on 19 October, numbers up to 200 with the increasing floods on 29 October; 410+ on 5 November, at least 685 on 8 November, 538 on 9 November (but nothing to compare with the large numbers on the estuary: 4,500 at Slimbridge on 11 November); 465 on 13 November, 500 on 16 November, biggest local count of 800 on 19 November; only 240 on 23 November, 125 on 26 November, 25 on 29 November, 120 on 7 December, 75 on 14 December, 70 on 17 December, 230 on 21 December, 485 again by 24 December. At Cobney Meadows two on 29 October, 31 on flight pond on 14 December. At Barrow Ponds 15 on open water on 26 November when many other sites were iced over. At Minsterworth 18 on 29 December. At Walmore 200 on 13 November during first flood episode, 345 on 28 December, 200 on 30 December during second.
Mallard: In Worcestershire: at Longdon Marsh, 60 at Hill Court on 30 December, 40 on floodwater on 28 December; at Ripple Lake 20 on 3 December, 50 on 31 December. At Avon Wetlands, Pershore, up to 50 recorded in weekly surveys throughout the period.
At Upham Meadow 20 on Avon on 3 December. At Mythe Hook 20 on 3 December. At Ashleworth 16 on 5 October, nine on 19 October, but in floodwater 95 on 26 October, 105 on 29 October, 270 on 5 November, 145 on 9 November, then only 25 on 12 November, 65 on 26 November, 46 on 7 December, 55 on 14 December, 75 on 21 December. At Coombe Hill 120 on 5 October, 30 on 19 October, 75 on 26 October and 200 on 29 October; as many as 250 on 2 November, 150+ on 5 November, 240 on 16 November, 120 on 19 November; only 25 on 23 November, 52 on 7 December, 48 on 17 December, surprisingly high number of 230 on 21 December, 30 on 24 December. At Cobney Meadows 50 on 29 October, 16 on 14 December. At Barrow Ponds 30 on 8 October, 20 on 5 November, 50 on open water on 26 November when many other sites were iced over; 12 on 7 December. At Horsbere two on 15 October, six on 6 November, 17 on 8 December. At Walmore 158 on 13 November during first flood episode, 225 on 28 December, 50 on 30 December during second.
Pintail: No sign of any considerable influx (as has happened in some previous years) when water levels rose in late October/early November and in late December.
In Worcestershire: At Grimley Camp Lane Pits six on 1 October, one on 14 October. At Longdon Marsh 100+ on 26 December, 20 on 28 December. At Ripple Lake a female on 15 October, two on 16 October, six on 3 November, two on 22 December. At Lower Moor four on 27 December, two on 29 December. At Kemerton Lake one on 16 October. At Bredon’s Hardwick six on 27 December, ten on 28 December.
At Ashleworth a drake on 26 October, seven on 29 October; one on 1 November, five on 2 November, ten on 10 November, nine on 14 November, five on 19 November; nine on 10 December, eleven (all males) on 14 December, nine on 21 December, 13 on 24 December. At Coombe Hill seven on 29 October, 16 on 5 November, 19 on 9 November, 34 on 13 November, 37 on 16 November (highest count in first flooding cycle), 30 on 18 November, 23 on 19 November; numbers down to two on 23 November, four on 26 November, singles in early December, 13 on 20 December, then 52 on 24 December, the best highest of the period. At Minsterworth 64 on 29 December, best figure anywhere. At Walmore eight on 28 December, 20 on 30 December.
Shoveler: Numbers about average, totals of up to 80 in the Coombe Hill / Ashleworth area. In Worcestershire: at Hill Court Longdon two on reservoir on 11 November, ten on 30 December; on Longdon flood ten on 28 December; at Ripple Lake three on 3 December, one on 31 December.
At Ashleworth eight on 26 October, eleven on 29 October; 25+ on 1 November, 24 on 9 November, 32 in 30 November, 80 on 10 December, 60 on 14 December, 40 on 17 December, two on 24 December. Numbers generally rather lower at Coombe Hill: six on 12 October, ten on 19 October, seven on 29 October, eight on 5 November, five on 10 November, 13 on 19 November, eight on 26 November, but 32 on 26 November, 25 on 29 November, 35 on 7 December, 39 on 10 December, 26 on 14 December, then 58 on 17 December, 35 on 24 December. At Barrow Ponds three on 8 October. At Minsterworth 12 on 29 December. At Walmore three on 13 November in first flood episode, four on 15 December; three on 28 December, 12 on 30 December in second flood.
Garganey: In Worcestershire, several late records: At Kemerton Lake one on 1 October. At Ripple Lake a juvenile on 2 October, one (age not known) on many dates between 12 and 23 October.
Generally much less numerous than surface feeding ducks in the Gloucestershire sector of the Severn Hams, for the obvious reason that water there is rarely deep enough for diving; some arrive in conditions of high flood, possibly from deeper water up the Severn in Worcestershire, where species like Goldeneye and Goosander are always more numerous.
Red-crested Pochard: In Worcestershire. At Grimley Camp Lane Pits a drake on 30 October. At Ripple Lake two on 30 October.
Pochard: In Worcestershire: At Hill Court, Longdon, two on 25 November. Four at Ripple Lake on 3 December but 60 on 31 December. At Ashleworth one on 9 November. At Coombe Hill two appeared on floodwater on 12 November, four on 13 November.
Tufted Duck: In Worcestershire: At Hill Court, Longdon, two on 25 November; at least 20 in deeper water at Ripple Lake on 3 December, 70 on 31 December. At Ashleworth a female on 12 November, two on 19 November, one on 14 December. At Coombe Hill seen only during flooding: a female on 29 and 31 October, three drakes on 4 November, a drake on 5 November, three on 16 November, two on 19 November, one on 23 November; as waters rose in late December, five on 24 December. At deeper Barrow Ponds singles on 8 October and 26 November.
Hybrid: What was probably a hybrid between a Pochard and a Scaup was seen and photographed on the floodwater at Ashleworth on 3 November; the same bird, or one very similar, appeared at Slimbridge in early January, - another indication of exchanges between the Severn Hams and the estuary.
Common Scoter: In Worcestershire: At Clifton Pits seven, including one adult male, on 13 October. At Kemerton Lake five (two drakes) on 18 November.
Goldeneye: In Worcestershire: At Grimley Camp Lane Pits a female on 27 October, two females on several dates from 29 November to 6 December, then one on many dates from 9 to 21 December. At Clifton Pits two on 19 October, four (including an adult male) on 22 December, three adult drakes on 27 December. The only Gloucestershire record was at Ashleworth of a female or immature on floodwater on 12 and 14 November.
Goosander: All records from Worcestershire: At Grimley nine along the Severn on 14 October, while at the Old Workings one flew over on 8 December. At Diglis, Worcester, two drakes on the Severn on 10 December. At Clifton Pits a drake on 22 December and a female on 27 December. Along the Avon: at Lower Moor eight flew downstream on 14 November; at John Bennett and Gwen Finch Reserves one on 4 November; at Bredon’s Hardwick a female or immature on 3 December.
Divers and Grebes
Like diving ducks, grebes occur in the Severn Hams mainly at times of deep flood.
Red-throated Diver: At Ripple Lake an adult in summer plumage on 13 and 14 October.
Little Grebe: In Worcestershire three in deeper water at Ripple Lake on 3 December, two on 31 December. One or two recorded on three occasions from 14 November during weekly surveys at Avon Wetlands, Pershore.
In Gloucestershire: at Ashleworth one on 26 October, the first for a long time; another (or the same one again?), on 14 November and 24 December. At Coombe Hill one on 14 December. At Port Ham pool one on 9 December.
Great Crested Grebe: In Worcestershire as many as 22 on deeper water at Ripple Lake on 3 December, six on 31 December. At Coombe Hill a single observation of three, all birds of the year, which appeared on floodwater on 12 November.
Gannets and Cormorants
Gannet: In Worcestershire: At Grimley Camp Lane Pits, a juvenile flew over on 11 October; a juvenile at Upton Warren over 13 October may well have been the same bird.
Cormorant: In recent years, the previously favoured loafing and fishing site for this species at Bredon’s Hardwick appears to have been less and less used. It seems to have been replaced in Worcestershire by Ripple Lake and in Gloucestershire by trees round Lower Lode Brickpits and Barrow Ponds.
In Worcestershire as many as 112 on 30 November, and 64 fishing and loafing at Ripple Lake on 3 December, but only six on 31 December. At Avon Wetlands, Pershore, up to three recorded most weeks in weekly surveys throughout the period.
In Gloucestershire: Over the Severn above Haw Bridge 25 in flight on 14 December. At Ashleworth one on 26 October, two perching in trees over the main ditch on 10 December, one perching on 14 December. At Coombe Hill a single loafing on mud-banks beside the Long Pool on 8 October, one on 12 October, two on 15 October, 15 flew in from the north and landed on the water on 26 October, before flying off in the direction of Barrow Ponds; two on 29 October; one on floodwater on 9 November, two on 16 November, 15 flew over to north on 30 November (perhaps heading for Lower Lode?). At Barrow Ponds 25 perching in trees on 8 October, nine on 5 November, just two on 7 December.
Herons, Egrets and Ibises
Little Egret: Numbers much lower than in summer, when the species nested for the first time near Coombe Hill. Many perhaps retire to the estuary in winter.
In Worcestershire: At Grimley Camp Lane Pits up to nine practically every day in October, and in early November, up to three most days from 10 to 30 November, two on 2 December, singles on 5 and 12 December. At Ripple Lake one on 4 November. At Kemerton Lake one on 2 and 16 October; at Bredon’s Hardwick two on 8 December.
At Coombe Hill, ones and twos on many dates from 31 October, but three on 10 December, last date one on 14 December; at Leigh Meadows one on 12 November; at Barrow Ponds two in trees on 8 October; at Horsbere singles on 18 October, 17 November and 9 December; at Netheridge Farm one on 28 November; at Rea Bridge, Quedgeley, one on 22 November.
Grey Heron: In Worcestershire: at Avon Wetlands, Pershore, one or two recorded most weeks in weekly surveys throughout the period.
In Gloucestershire only small numbers, rarely more than three or four together. At Upham Meadow one on 3 December. At Ashleworth singles on 5 and 15 October, three on 19 October, then ones and twos from 26 October to 5 November. At Coombe Hill ones and twos on many dates, three on 12 October, four on 15 October, three on 26 October, four on 12 November, three on several dates in December. At Leigh Meadows two on 12 November, three on 19 November, one on 14 December. At Barrow Ponds one on 5 and 26 November, three on 7 December. At Horsbere one on 15 October.
Glossy Ibis: In Worcestershire: along the Avon at Lower Moor two from 2 to 4 November; along the Severn, a single bird circled over Upton Warren and (presumably the same bird) Captains Pool, Bewdley, on 14 December. In Gloucestershire, two were seen and photographed at Coombe Hill on 23 November stayed only ten minutes. These must have been the birds which had roosted at Slimbridge on many nights since 5 November, but whose local feeding grounds were not found; they were seen in and around Slimbridge until the end of the year.
Red Kite: All records from Worcestershire: At Grimley one in flight on 16 November. Over Hill Court, Longdon, one on 27 November. At Ripple Lake one on 12 October. At Avon Wetlands, Pershore, one on 13 October was the only one recorded in weekly surveys throughout the period.
Marsh Harrier: A juvenile was seen hunting and roosting either at John Bennett Reserve or the nearby Gwen Finch Reserve on many dates from 28 October until on 9 November.
Sparrowhawk: In Worcestershire: At Hill Court, Longdon, one on 9 December. At Avon Wetlands, Pershore, one on 31 October, two on 12 December, in weekly surveys throughout the period.
At Tirley a male on 4 and 5 October, a female on 13 October, one on 20 October, a male on 23 October; a female on 14 November and 18 December. At Coombe Hill singles regularly noted from 12 October to 15 December. At Port Ham one on 9 December. At Minsterworth Ham one on 29 December.
Buzzard: Frequently observed, usually singles; several observations of birds apparently searching for slugs and worms on autumn sown cereal fields.
In Worcestershire: At Hill Court, Longdon, one on 9 December. At Avon Wetlands, Pershore, one or two recorded most weeks in weekly surveys throughout the period.
At Upham Meadow one feeding on the ground (on slugs?) on 3 December. At Ashleworth singles on many dates from 12 October to 7 December. At Coombe Hill singles on 30 November and 21 December. One on a cereal field at Hoo Lane (probably looking for slugs) on many dates from 28 November to 7 December. At Cobney Meadows one on 19 October. At Port Ham one on 9 December. At Minsterworth Ham four together on 28 December on a cereal field.
Kestrel: In Worcestershire: At Hill Court, Longdon, one on 30 December; at Avon Wetlands, Pershore, singles recorded only on 7 November and 12 December in weekly surveys throughout the period.
In Gloucestershire: at Mythe Hook one on 3 December. At Tirley a female hunting on 3 October. At Ashleworth one on 30 November, 24 December. At Wainlodes one hunting on 14 December. At GLS two on 26 November despite the presence of the falconer. At Minsterworth Ham one on 12 November
Merlin: All records from Worcestershire: At Grimley Camp Lane Pits an immature male on 11 October, a male on 24 October, a juvenile on 30 October. At Hill Court, Longdon, one on 2 December, at Longdon Marsh one on 29 December.
Hobby: At Ashleworth one late bird in flight on 1 October.
Peregrine: Singles frequently seen in Gloucestershire - more often than Kestrel! - resting (often on electric pylons) or hunting at many sites in the Vale. At Upham Meadow an adult male was perched on a post on 3 December. At Tirley a male was chasing Linnets on 3 October, and a male was seen on 27 October and 16 November. At Ashleworth singles on 5, 12, and 29 October, an adult male on the pylons on 1 November, one on 2 November, a female on 5 and 9 November, and adult male on 12 November and 10 December when it flew low over ducks on the water, but failed to catch one. At Coombe Hill an immature female chasing ducks unsuccessfully over fresh floodwater on 29 October, one on 16 November, one in flight on 19 November; an adult female caught and consumed a Lapwing on 10 December. At Horsbere Brook an adult male on 8 December. At Sudmeadow one on 28 November. At Port Ham two on 9 December. At Walmore a juvenile on 28 October, one on 22 December.
Rails and Crakes
Water Rail: In Worcestershire singles at Avon Wetlands, Pershore, on 7 November and 24 December.
In Gloucestershire, rather more records than in recent times, usually of unseen squealing birds; do they call more in autumn? At Ashleworth one squealing on 1 and 9 November. At Coombe Hill at least one, perhaps two, was squealing on 5 November, at least one on 8 November, three on 9 November, one on 10 November, two on 12 November, one on 30 November.
Moorhen: Undoubtedly under-recorded. In Worcestershire: at Avon Wetlands, Pershore, up to eleven recorded every week in weekly surveys throughout the period.
In Gloucestershire: at Ashleworth three on 9 and 26 November and 14 December. At Coombe Hill three on 19 October, at least two on 9 November.
Coot: As for diving ducks and grebes, seen mainly on deeper waters. In Worcestershire as many as 77 at Ripple Lake on 3 December, then at least 100 on 31 December, mainly grazing round the edges. At Avon Wetlands, Pershore, recorded every week in surveys throughout the period, up to five in October, seven or eight in November and December.
In Gloucestershire: at Mythe Brickpits two on 3 December. At Ashleworth a few when floods developed: two on 1 November, four on 2 November, eight on 12 November, four on 26 November, eight on 10 December, six on 14 December, two on 21 December. At Coombe Hill two on newly flooded meadows, the first for a very long time, on 29 October; six on 31 October, numbers up to 21 on 5 November, 26 on 8 November, 24 on 9 November, 15+ on 12 November, 14 on 16 November, 13 on 19 November, then decreasing as floods receded: eight on 23 November, eleven on 26 November, five on 21 December. At Barrow Ponds one on 26 November. At Walmore one on 28 and 30 December.
Smallish numbers of wader occurred, since the biggest concentrations occur on the estuary. A single Oystercatcher in Worcestershire and a Curlew in Gloucestershire appeared at an unaccustomed time of year. Odd Black-tailed Godwits and Ruff were recorded in Worcestershire, while there was a concentration of wintering Golden Plover along the Avon. A few hundred Lapwings seemed to be present in the Coombe Hill area during the first flood episode; they were joined round the edge of the flood by the occasional Golden Plover and some Dunlin and Black-tailed Godwit. Snipe and Jack Snipe were noted at their usual haunts, with the odd Green Sandpiper where there was flowing water.
Oystercatcher: In Worcestershire: At Throckmorton, one on 8 December. Winter dates are most unusual.
Golden Plover: In Worcestershire there were many more records from the Avon than the Severn. The only Severn record was at Grimley Camp Lane Pits, where one (no doubt a passing migrant) flew over, calling, on 7 October. In the Avon area birds presumably on passage occurred in early October, with larger groups of wintering birds later in the period: at Bredon Hill (overlooking the Avon) 20 on 6 October, 35 on 7 October, eight near the summit at dusk on 11 October, 48 on 12 October; at Lower Moor 105 on 18 October. Wintering records came from the area between Stoulton (just southeast of Worcester) and Lower Moor: at Stoulton ten on 1 December, 150 on 9 December, eight on 23 December; near Stoulton at Wyre Piddle 71 with 160 Lapwings on 27 November, 70 on 28 November, 92 on 1 December; 70 at Pinvin on 24 December; at Lower Moor 62 on 27 December, 66 on 29 December. At Wick, just across the Avon from Lower Moor, 13 just before Christmas.
None at Upham Meadow, where they once wintered in numbers, on 3 December. At Tirley one in flight on 13 October, another on 24 October, one calling in flight on 26 October (all presumably passing migrants). At Coombe Hill one on the ground with Lapwings on 5 November; 96 on a cereal field at Hoo Lane near Coombe Hill on 28 November, six there on 30 November, four on 3 December, two on 7 December but none afterwards; at Coombe Hill 30 on 18 November and a flock of 25 which flew over but did not land on 19 November were probably from the Hoo Lane group.
Grey Plover: In Worcestershire, where this species is unusual, one circled low over Lower Moor on 27 December.
Lapwing: In Worcestershire: at Longdon Marsh 70 on 28 December; at Ripple Lake 50 on 3 December, six on 31 December. At Wick near Lower Moor 150 just before Christmas.
None at Upham Meadow on 3 December. At Mythe Hook just one on 3 December. At Tirley 45+ on 26 October. At Ashleworth generally small numbers, but the occasional larger flock, perhaps birds moving back and forth between Ashleworth and Coombe Hill: 19 on 15 October, 29 on 30 November, 220 in flight on 7 December, 16 on 10 December, four on 14 December, 21 on 21 December. At Coombe Hill eleven on 5 October, one on 15 October, eight on 26 October, just one on 29 October, but 22 on 31 October; 38 on 2 November, 60 at dusk on 3 November, 23 on 9 November, increase to 83 on 12 November, 103 on 16 November, 226 on 19 November, 360 on 23 November, 210 on 26 November, 350 on 30 November; 220 in flight on 7 December, then much smaller numbers: 16 on 10 December, 38 on 17 December, 18 on 21 December. In late November and early December, Lapwings and Golden Plover seemed to be moving between Coombe Hill and an autumn sown cereal field at Hoo Lane near the A38, only a mile or so away, which was perhaps infested with slugs, to judge from the number of waders, gulls and ground-feeding Buzzards also present; but the phenomenon was short-lived: 500 there on 28 November, 400 on 30 November (when there were 350 at Coombe Hill, suggesting the actual total in the area at that time may have been around 750); only 19 at Hoo Lane on 7 December, none from mid-December. At Leigh Meadows two by floodwater on 31 October. At Minsterworth 140 on 29 December.
Dunlin: At Coombe Hill singles from 2 to 12 November, two on 16 November, about 25 from 18 to 23 November as floods dropped; just eight on 26 and 30 November; eight on the nearby autumn cereal field at Hoo Lane on 30 November were no doubt the same birds.
Ruff: The only record was from Worcestershire: at Kemerton Lake one on 16 October
Jack Snipe: Like Common Snipe, this species appears with great regularity at specific preferred sites.
In Worcestershire: At Grimley one on 26 October, two on 27 October, one on 20 December. At Castlemorton Common one on 10 November, two on 8 and 28 December. At John Bennett Reserve five on 14 October. At Gwen Finch one on 9 November. At Kemerton Lake on one 2 October, five on 1 November.
At Mythe Brook three on 10 October. At Ashleworth two as flooding began on 29 October, one as it dropped on 26 November, one on 30 November, two on 7 December, singles on 17 and 24 December. At Netheridge Farm one on 28 November, three on 30 November.
Snipe: In Worcestershire: Regularly recorded in single figures at Hill Court, Longdon but 20 on 11 November and 25 on 30 December; at Ripple Lake one on 31 December, at Avon Wetlands, Pershore, one to three recorded most weeks from 14 November to the end of December in surveys, but eight on 25 November.
At Mythe Brook, six on 30 December. At Ashleworth Ham, Snipe have two or three favoured fields (usually sedgy, with stands of rushes or Glyceria) in the general area; if one of these fields is under water, they tend to move to one of the others: 40 with onset of flooding on 29 October, only one found in deeper flood on 1 and 2 November; while the reserve was under water, 12 noted on a field off the reserve on 9 November; 20 on 19 November; six on 26 November, 15 on 30 November, 13 on 7 December, seven on 14 December, four on 24 December. At Coombe Hill one on 5 October, four on 8 October, just one on 12 October, two on 15 October, six on 26 October; only one found on 31 October and 5 November when many of the species’ preferred fields were inaccessible; but recorded regularly (mainly on their preferred sedgy field, the westernmost on the GWT Reserve) as floods dropped: 15 on 18 November, 14 on 23 November, seven on 26 November, 15 on 29 November, 31 on 30 November; 11 on 7 December. At Port Ham two on 25 November, three on 9 December. At Netheridge Farm one on 27 November, three on 28 November, six on 30 November. At Clearwater Drive Quedgeley one on 3 November. At Walmore six on 13 November and 15 December.
Woodcock: In Worcestershire two at Castlemorton Common on 8 December.
Black-tailed Godwit: In Worcestershire: at Clifton Pits singles on 1 and 15 October. At Coombe Hill one with Lapwings on 7 and 10 November, two on 19 November, one on 23 November.
Curlew: At Coombe Hill one dropped in briefly on 31 October; most unusual at this time of year.
Greenshank: At Clifton Pits one on 2 October
Green Sandpiper: In Worcestershire: At Kemerton Lake one on 2 October.
At Coombe Hill two on 5 October were probably late passage migrants, since none were noted there subsequently. Otherwise small numbers of wintering birds were found at usual sites: at Leigh Meadows one by the Chelt on 31 October (where more frequent observation would no doubt have produced more records). At Netheridge Farm two on 27 November. At Minsterworth Ham one on 29 December.
Gulls and Terns
Rising floods often attract gulls (Black-headed in particular, but also Lesser Blackbacks) to feed round the edges on invertebrates forced to the surface, or to wash and drink on fresh water. Several rarer species were recorded in loafing flocks around the Throckmorton Landfill Site in Worcestershire.
Black-headed Gull: In Worcestershire 40 at Longdon Marsh on 28 December.
At Ashleworth 80 on 2 November, 220 round edges of flood on 9 November, 250 on 12 November; 350 on water on 14 December. At Coombe Hill at least 100 (with crows) round edges of fresh flooding on 29 October, no doubt looking for invertebrates rising to the surface; 260 round floodwater on 2 November, 200+ on 5 November, 70 on 9 November, 150 on 10 November, 250+ on 12 November. At Hoo Lane 50 on autumn cereal, looking for invertebrates with Lapwings and Golden Plover, on 30 November, 30 on 7 December. At Leigh Meadows 50+ round the edge of the floodwater on 31 October, 15 on 9 November, 50 on 19 November, only five on 14 December. At Walmore Common 200 on Common Pool on 12 November, 100 on floodwater on 28 December. At Wilmer Common 200 on 28 December.
Common Gull: At Wilmer Common 40 on floodwater on 28 December.
Lesser Black-backed Gull: In Worcestershire: at Longdon Marsh 75 on 28 December.
At Ashleworth nine on 2 November. At Walmore 75 on Common Pool on 12 November, 20 on 28 December.
Caspian Gull: In Worcestershire: at Throckmorton Lagoons an adult on 24 November; in fields north of Wyre Piddle near Throckmorton, an adult and a fourth winter bird on 1 December, an adult on 9 December.
Herring Gull: At Ashleworth two on water on 14 December. At Walmore 75 on Common Pool on 12 November.
Yellow-legged Gull: In Worcestershire: At Wyre Piddle near Throckmorton three on 9 December.
Iceland Gull: In Worcestershire: At Wyre Piddle near Throckmorton a second year bird on several dates from 8 to 18 December, with a large flock of loafing gulls on the latter date.
Great Black-backed Gull: At Coombe Hill one (the same bird each time?) on edge of floodwater from 7 to 19 November.
These are unconfirmed records, compiled by M. Smart from his own observations and those of Les Brown, with additional records from Rob Allen, Gordon Avery, Mervyn Greening, Andy Jayne, Julia Newth, Gavin Peplow, Graham Smith and Andy Warr, John Wiltshire, and the Ashleworth and Coombe Hill logbooks, with some cherries picked from the Gloster Birder, Worcester Birding and Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust websites.
Editor’s note: Passerines and other non-wetland birds have been omitted from this report.