Notes on birds in the Severn and Avon Vales (the “Severn Hams”), Gloucestershire and south Worcestershire, January March 2014
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, on the opposite bank from Longdon Marsh. (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), where 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 closed basin on the west bank of the Severn, north of the M50; the Longdon or Bushley Brook flows into to the Severn; Worcestershire Wildlife Trust has a major reserve at Hill Court Farm, south of Marsh Lane, while north of this lane the land is subject to extensive flooding when the Severn is high; a little further downriver on the opposite bank, 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) 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; and Strensham Pits (Worcs), sludge pools below the waterworks. Upstream of Nafford, a series of new riverside wetlands have been created in the last few years along the Worcestershire Avon by excavation of scrapes and shallow lakes: the Gwen Finch Worcestershire Wildlife Trust Reserve; the new John Bennett Reserve; the Avon Meadows Community wetland and Local Nature Reserve, established in 2008, covering 24 hectares near Pershore Town Centre (where censuses are carried out at least once a week); and land at Lower Moor owned by the Vale Heritage Landscape Trust. North of Lower Moor, between Pershore and Fladbury, is the Throckmorton Landfill Site, which attracts large numbers of feeding gulls, (like Gloucester LS) and where the lagoons also 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 were 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 ponds at the Orchard Centre 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 like that which 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.
There has been much discussion of the reason for the long periods of constant wet weather in winter 2013/14 (December – February). Among the causes the “jet stream” is often mentioned. This is the high altitude, fast moving air current which carries depressions across the Atlantic. It appears that a body of very cold air, extending unusually far south over Canada and the USA in this period interacted with masses of warmer air over the Caribbean and western Atlantic; as a result the jet stream is said to have become stronger, to have carried larger amounts of precipitation, and moved further south than usual over Europe.
Nationally, December’s mild and wet weather continued into January, which was unceasingly disturbed and exceptionally wet, with heavy rain on most days, making it one of the wettest Januaries ever. In England and Wales, only January 1948 was wetter in 248 years of records. The Midlands had 206% of the average January rainfall from 1981-2010, while southwest England and south Wales had 191%. For the period from 12 December to 31 January some stations in the south of England recorded over five months’ worth of rainfall. It was a very stormy month, especially in the first and last weeks. Because of the dominance of unsettled westerly weather, it was the mildest January since 2008 with relatively few air frosts and snowfalls confined to Scottish mountains. In the Severn Vale, the year began wet and windy, with an Atlantic front brought in by strong southwesterly winds on 1 January; for the next three weeks there was a succession of fronts from the Atlantic on strong southwest winds, with the occasional ridge of higher pressure (on 2, 9, 10, 14, 19, 20 January) briefly providing fine sunlit conditions between the fronts. In Gloucester it was mild, with no frost and some rain every day for the first nine days of January (18mm on 1 January, 11mm on 4 January). From 10-12 January the weather turned drier and colder (slight ground frosts) with a ridge of high pressure as winds went south-easterly. Another Atlantic front arrived on the evening of 12 January; there was frost on the morning of 14 January, but more Atlantic fronts from that evening; rain again every day from 12 to 19 January. These fronts were confronted by an area of high pressure over Scandinavia, forcing them to turn northwards; as a result the winds on occasion went south-easterly, temperatures dropped, bringing mist and frost between the showers on 20, 21 January; rain again late on 21 January, dry 22 January, more rain on southwesterly winds until 26 January, heavy rain (15 mm) on 28 January. Winds went easterly from 28 to 30 January, as - for once! - a high pressure zone from the continent edged westwards towards the British Isles; but it still rained – a little – then gave way to further Atlantic fronts and quite heavy rain on 31 January. Total rainfall in Gloucester in January was 162mm, the highest monthly total in any month since the beginning of 2009 (only five months exceeded 100mm in the last five years, none exceeding 130mm).
Nationally, February was mild, wet and windy, dominated by a procession of Atlantic low-pressure systems that made it the most cyclonic February in 142 years of records. In the past 100 years only nine Februarys have been warmer, it was the wettest February since 1990 and there were severe gales, particularly on 12 and 14 February. The winter quarter (December to February) was the wettest in a record stretching back to 1766; rainfall in southwest England and south Wales was 226% of the average, and in the Midlands 167%. Despite being wet, England and Wales had above average sunshine. The winds on 2 February brought much damage along the south coast and increasing flooding in the already beleaguered Somerset Levels, and interrupted train travel to the southwest beyond Bristol. In the Severn Vale, there were strong southwesterly winds behind a high tide on 1 February, with showery rain. Winds went southerly, still strong, from 2 February, The period of strong winds and rain storms, alternating with occasional short periods of brighter weather, continued every day until 15 February, with some rain (though not exceeding 15 mm in a day in Gloucester) every day; gales with very strong winds occurred on 10, 12 (the strongest) and on 14 February. A ridge of high pressure brought slight frost in the countryside, light westerly winds, sun and blue skies and no rain (for the first day since 23 January!) on 16 February, but the weather turned grey and wet again on 17 February; brighter but still some rain each day from 18-21 February; another fine day without rain on 22 February; no rain on 23 February either but strong southwest wind all day; southwest winds and more rain on 25 February; no rain in Gloucester on 26 February, only the fourth rainless day in the month, but more rain on 27 and 28 February. Total rain in Gloucester in February in Gloucester was 121 mm, bringing the total for the year so far to 288 mm and the winter total to 375mm. Frost was not recorded on a single February day in Gloucester.
Nationally, March was milder, drier and sunnier than the average, providing a contrast to the previous three wet and windy winter months: after southwesterly winds and damp weather from 1 to 7 March, high pressure dominated from 8 to 17 March with dry bright conditions for all areas and some fog; from 18 to 25 March showers spread in from the west; from 26 to 31 March easterly winds set in again. Rainfall was 61% of average in southwest England, and only 51% in the Midlands. In the Severn Vale, winds were mainly southwesterly from 1 to 8 March, with quite heavy rain on 2 March, but very little rain for the next two weeks; there were very light frosts in Gloucester on 1 and 5 March, but it was otherwise mild. High pressure moved in from the continent from 9 to 14 March as winds went easterly with early morning fog; the temperature in Gloucester reached 19° C on 9 March. On 15 March winds went westerly again, clearing the fog and bringing bright sunny weather as the Azores anticyclone moved north: 17.9° C in Gloucester on 16 March. A week of westerlies to 23 March, cooler but with frost in Gloucester only on 23 March; rain in Gloucester every day from 21 to 30 March. Winds went easterly again from 24 March, and remained mainly in that quarter until the end of the month, with temperatures in Gloucester again nearly reaching 20°C. Total March rainfall in Gloucester was only 32 mm.
Water levels and flooding: general
Flood conditions prevailed throughout January and February, only beginning to decrease in the first few days of March. For the first two days of the year, river levels (exacerbated by high spring tides) were falling after the late December flood, but then rose again until the middle of the month (peak of 11.17m AOD at Haw Bridge on 7 January), receded slightly (without the meadows becoming clear of floodwater) for a week or ten days, before beginning to rise again in the last week and reaching new highs in February, which also opened with very high spring tides. Many roads in Worcester city centre, including Worcester Bridge, were closed for a week by flooding in mid-February. A Severe Flood Warning was issued for Alney Island in Gloucester on 12-14 February, because of the risk of danger to life in houses on the west bank of the river at Gloucester; happily the flood defences held. Main roads like the A417 between Maisemore and Gloucester, the B4211 out of Upton, the B4213 at Haw Bridge and the B4080 at Eckington were closed on several occasions by flooding. Within the Coombe Hill/Ashleworth complex, the Ham Road from Ashleworth to Tirley and the Red Lion Road at Wainlodes, both of which run parallel to the Severn, remained impassable because of flooding from just after Christmas, throughout January and February, and were only fully reopened to traffic in early March. For comparison, the highest level previously recorded at Worcester was 15.64m in July 2007; this level was equalled on 13 February 2014. The highest level ever recorded at Haw Bridge was 12.23m in July 2007, when the Severn level was inflated by large volumes of water coming down the Avon and discharging into the Severn at Tewkesbury. In early 2014 the Avon, while very high, was not quite as high as in July 2007, so the Severn levels below Tewkesbury remained just below the July 2007 peaks. For comparison, the Severn had reached levels of 11.32m at Haw Bridge in December 2012 (the Boat Inn at Ashleworth Quay was flooded three times in November and December 2012); this was higher than the January 2014 peak of 11.17m (when the water only came into the pub car park), but not as high as the February 2014 peak of 11.53m (when there were two feet of water in the bar). In addition to the flooding, there were severe problems with gales which demolished the brand new Grundon Hide at Coombe Hill; on the night of 13/14 February, only a little over a year since its predecessor had been destroyed, the gale proved too much for the new hide, only opened in December 2013, which was carried about half a mile away on the southwesterly wind, leaving only portions of the boardwalk emerging from the water.
The year opened with the Severn level high and flooding deep and extensive in all riverside meadows in the wake of the late December floods, which had begun to abate on 29/30 December. But, following more heavy rain, the Severn level began to rise again from 2 January (10.86 AOD at Haw Bridge, a level at which it would once more overtop its banks), coinciding with very high tides and strong following southwest winds (actual height at Sharpness on 2 January 9.92). At the height of the tide cycle on 3 January, the Environment Agency issued Severe Flood Warnings (not just ordinary warnings) for much of the Severn from Newnham to Minsterworth; the tide came up to within a foot of the top of the seawall on the Dumbles at Slimbridge, and the morning bore came over the Severn bank at Minsterworth; the A 417 between Gloucester and Maisemore was briefly closed by high water; the level at Haw Bridge was 10.98, and the level in the meadows nearby 10.38. Although tidal peaks began to decrease from 4 January, river and flood levels above Gloucester continued to rise, because of the arrival of rainwater from higher up the catchment. The A417 at Maisemore was closed by floods from 4 to 12 January and the B4213 at Haw Bridge from 4 to 14 January; in Worcestershire, Severn floods closed the B4211 from Upton to Hanley until 12 January, while the B4080 from Bredon to Pershore was closed by Avon floods at Eckington Bridge until 11 January. The Severn level at Haw Bridge reached 11.09 on 4 January, 11.15 on 5 January and 11.17 on 7 January, steadying and dropping to 11.16 on 8 January, 11.14 on 9 January, followed by another slight rise, peaking at 11.16 on 10 January. Floodwaters began dropping very gradually (at Haw Bridge 11.05 on 12 January, 10.66 on 14 January, 10.46 on 15 January) in conjunction with the low point of the tide cycle, and were visibly decreasing on the meadows on 14 January; continuing rainfall however, both locally and upstream, and another cycle of rising tides kept Severn levels high (10.66 at Haw Bridge on 17 January; on 18 January river 10.62 at Haw Bridge, meadow level 10.08; then at Haw Bridge 10.56 on 20 January, 10.33 on 21 January, 9.97 on 23 January, 9.50 on 24 January).
However, with continuing rainfall, river levels at Haw Bridge began to rise again to 10.25 on 25 January, 10.56 on 28 January, 10.79 on 29 January, 10.92 on 30 January, 10.94 on 31 January, 11.04 on 1 February, 11.15 on 3 February, 11.07 on 4 February, 11.02 on 5 February, rising again from 6 February when it reached 11.05, 11.12 on 7 February, 11.20 on 8 February, 11.29 on 9 February, 11.39 on 10 February, dropping back briefly to 11.30 on 11 February, but then rising again to 11.36 on 12 February, peaking at 11.53 on 13 February, 11.51 on 14 February, 11.36 on 15 February, 11.32 on 16 February, 11.24 on 17 February, 11.13 on 18 February, 11.12 on 19 February, 11.06 on 20 February, 10.96 on 21 February, 10.61 on 22 February, 10.39 on 23 February, 9.30 on 25 February, 9.15 on 26 February, 8.66 on 27 February). Severe Flood Warnings were again issued on the estuary from Newnham to Quedgeley from 31 January to 2 February, in conjunction with some of biggest tides of the year and strong southwesterly gales on 1 and 2 February (10.5 at Sharpness, five star bore); the Severn again broke its banks as the bore rose at Minsterworth. The A417 at Maisemore was closed from 1 to 5 February, open briefly again on 6/7 February closed again from 7 to 21 February, and the B4213 at Haw Bridge (Gloucestershire) were closed from 1 to 21 February. Many roads in Worcester city centre, including Worcester Bridge, were closed by flooding for a week from 9 February, and restrictions on traffic over the bridge remained in force after 16 February. The A38 between Gloucester and Coombe Hill was partly flooded on 11 February, and closed from 13 to 15 February. In Worcestershire the B4080 at Eckington Bridge was closed from 1 to 5 February, closed again from 7 to 16 February, and on 13 February also closed between Tewkesbury and Bredon’s Hardwick; and the B4211 Upton to Hanley Castle from 1 to 22 February.
Severn levels began to fall in late February; the Ham Road from Tirley to Ashleworth was open for most of its length on 1 March and completely open by 8 March, and the Red Lion road at Wainlodes was passable for the first time since Christmas on 5 March. With little rain in the first ten days of March, the level of the Severn dropped and flood water on the meadows began to flow out. By the end of the first week of March, the Severn at Haw Bridge was out of the zone where flooding is possible, and by 12 March it was down to a mere 7.63m. In the second half of the month water levels dropped rapidly on all the flooded meadows; by the end of the month there was no more surface water, but fields remained very muddy and bedraggled.
Conditions at the main sites
Upton Ham: Very deep flooding on 8 January. Even deeper flooding in mid-February prompted a visit from the Prime Minister.
Longdon Marsh: Extensive flooding at the northern end by the Worcestershire Way, not too deep and with many grassy islands on 4 January; deeper with fewer islands on 8 and 11 January; flood levels dropping on 14 January; lower on 19 and 21 January when the water was limited and shallow, flooding almost gone on 25 January. Flooding extensive again on 1 February, higher on 8 February; water below peak on 22 February but still extensive; shallow flooding still present on 25 February, but a good deal lower; most floodwater gone in northern sector on 1 March. Disturbance from pheasant shoot along Marsh Lane on Saturday 18 January and 1 February (and no doubt most Saturdays).
Ripple Lake: Severn almost overtopping its banks on 8 January, level on lake also higher; lane under water, and lake higher too on 11 January; lake inaccessible from Uckinghall on 25 January because local stream had backed up, blocking access lane; reached from south on 4 February. By early March, floodwaters had dropped sufficiently to allow access again.
Upham Meadow, Twyning: Free of floodwater by 25 January, flooded again in February.
Bredon’s Hardwick Pits: The site was wholly submerged by Avon flooding in early January, but the flooding had gone by 25 January; under water again on 4 February. It was formerly a private nature reserve, but the farmer now allows it to be used by fishermen, who probably disturb the birds which used to occur there (notably the wintering Wigeon flock which may have moved to Ripple); another reason for the decrease may be the increasing numbers of large gulls, which may predate on some species.
Ashleworth/Hasfield Hams: Inaccessible throughout January and February, since the Ham Road remained closed by floodwater; slight drop in flood levels on 14 January, but waters rose again at the end of the month; observations in January and February were possible only from high ground overlooking the site at Colways and Great House Farms; coverage was therefore much less complete than usual, but most birds in any case seemed to move out of the area while the deep water persisted. Coverage of whole area possible from second week of March; some surface water still on reserve and on Hasfield side on 14 March, boards removed from sluice around 20 March, water levels much lower by 25 March. Disturbance from Pheasant shoot at Meerend Thicket on 1 February.
Coombe Hill: As at Ashleworth, flooding made the area difficult to reach for the whole of January and February. The area could be reached from higher ground on the Apperley side, but coverage was less intensive than usual; but many ducks and geese moved out of the area while the floods were at their highest. Floods extended to the Wharf in early January, reaching the top of the car park and still rising from 3 to 10 January, when waters round the Grundon Hide reached to one and a half planks below the lowest window; slight decrease by 18 January, but car park still partly flooded and canal towpath totally inaccessible; on 25 January the car park was free of flooding, but the towpath was still under water only 100 yards beyond the Wharf, and rose gradually again in the last days of the month, continuing to rise until mid-February; on 25 February the water still covered the towpath right up to the Wharf. The series of gales in the first half of February caused the destruction of the new Grundon Hide, which was still emerging through the flood waters on 12 February (the day before the worst windstorm) but appears to have succumbed to the storm on the night of 13/14 February and had disintegrated by 16 February. The towpath was very wet and muddy from early March but passable (with caution) along its whole length by 7 March; the meadows alongside were still under deepish water until 11 March; the Long Pool Hide was accessible by 15 March, by which time most surface water had flowed away, though fields remained extremely wet and muddy for the next two weeks.
Leigh Meadows: Extremely deep flooding on 3 January, the course of the Chelt no longer visible in the wall to wall flooding from the top of Wainlodes Hill, continuing to rise from 4 to 10 January, steady on 11 January, beginning to drop on 14 January, getting lower (but still very extensive) from 18 to 25 January, but rising again at the end of the month, and into February; massive flooding on 16 February, but one small area of grassland remained free of flooding and attracted swans, geese and grazing ducks. Surface water had all gone by mid March.
Minsterworth Ham: Deep flooding in early January, and again in early February, also extending to arable land between railway and river towards Over, where the Severn was breaking its banks on 10 February; levels peaking about 15 February, still high but declining from 20 February, dropping rather more quickly from 22 February. Considerably lower by 9 March. Coverage of this site, often overlooked, was better this year.
Walmore Common: Extensive flooding from early January; the peak level on 9 January was 6.93m AOD, the highest so far recorded. Flooding lower but still extensive on 21 January, dropping to 6.32 on 26 January, beginning to rise again at the end of the month and in the first half of February; level of 6.54 with extremely extensive flooding on 2 February, even higher on 8 February, higher still on 15 February, with a new record peak of 6.95 on 18 February, still very extensive on 22 February when level was 6.73 and falling more rapidly. Little floodwater left on Wilmer Common on 23 February.
With very high flooding in the meadows of the Coombe Hill/Ashleworth complex in early January, the water seemed too deep for most surface-feeding ducks; a few stayed at Coombe Hill and Ashleworth, but many remained in areas of shallower flooding in south Worcestershire, notably Longdon Marsh and Ripple Lake (only a couple of miles apart as the Wigeon flies), where they had already sought refuge in late December; others no doubt moved towards the estuary, since there were good numbers of surface feeding ducks at Minsterworth, and Slimbridge had its highest ever count of Shoveler. But on WeBS count day on 19 January, there were surprisingly high numbers of Wigeon and Teal at Coombe Hill and Ashleworth, despite deep flooding, perhaps because birds from Longdon had been disturbed by shooting on the previous day.
In the late January/February flood, large numbers of ducks and geese again occurred in south Worcestershire, and at Walmore and Minsterworth. On 8 February a concentration of 1,500 Pintail was at Longdon Marsh, with no other ducks at all; such numbers have not been seen anywhere in the Severn Hams since 2002, and Pintail numbers remained around the thousand mark at Longdon until at least 25 February, and vanished as water levels dropped in early March. A variety of gulls, including some less common species, occurred on floodwaters. Two separate groups of three Whoopers occurred at various Gloucestershire sites, one of them staying until 23 March.
With the mild weather, spring passage began early. Black-tailed Godwits and Ruff appeared in the first half of March, and good numbers of godwits (flocks of up to 50, undoubtedly of the Icelandic subspecies) occurred in the third week of March, perhaps three weeks before last year’s peak. Chiffchaffs (which may well have wintered) were singing well by mid-March. Meadow birds returned early to their breeding sites – the first Lapwings were displaying by 10 March, and Oystercatchers, Avocets and Curlews were back at their breeding sites by this time, perhaps a month earlier than last year’s late spring. Spring passage of other waders and passerines was however slow to get under way.
Mute Swan: Some flocks of wintering birds (small in comparison to the concentration at Slimbridge and Worcester) occurred at Ryall Pits and between Ripple and The Mythe (two flocks of about 20), and between Ashleworth and Coombe Hill (25 or more) as the floods dropped in March. Breeding beginning by the end of March.
Worcestershire: At Ryall Pits two on 8 January, 26 on 8 March. At Longdon Marsh, four on floodwater on 4 January, two on 8 and 11 January, six (three pairs) on 14 January, two on 19 and 21 January; as floods rose again two on 1 February, still there on 18 and 25 February. At Ripple Lake six on 8 January, eight on 11 January, six on 4 February. At Avon Meadows Pershore two on many dates throughout the period, but seven on 7 February. At Bredon’s Hardwick two on 25 January. At Gwen Finch three adults, all colour-ringed, on 25 January.
On the Avon at Bredon by Upham Meadow, one on 25 January. At Mythe Brickpits the resident pair on 8 March. At Mythe Hook 13 on floodwater on 8 March. At Severn Ham, Tewkesbury, three on floodwater on 8 January. At Lower Lode brickpits a pair, mating, on 29 March. At Ashleworth one on 14 January, six (three first winter) on 19 January; seven on 1 March, nine on 5 March, 11 on 8 March, 23 on 11 March, 10 on 15 March, six on 17 March, three on 22 March, four on 29 March. At Coombe Hill one flew over on 10 January, two pairs on 19 and 21 January, one pair on 28 January, 16 February; four adults on 5 March, 14 on floodwater on 11 March, five on 15 March, four on 18 March, on 25 March, two males fighting over a female, by 29 March they had morphed into a pair and a lone single. At Handkerchief Pool, Wainlodes, a pair on 29 March. At Leigh Meadows an unringed pair at A38 end on 6, 10 January; three (two immatures) on floodwater on 18 January, nine (a pair, another pair with two cygnets and three cygnets) on floodwater on 29 January, six with Whoopers on 16 February, ten on 17 February; 15 on 7 March, 13 on 8 March; after floods had dropped, one on 15 March. At Minsterworth Ham six on 19 January, seven on 8 February, nine on 10 February, seven on 23 February; nine on 3 March. At Stone End Farm pool a pair on 20 February. At Walmore two on 6 January, six on 19 January, eight on 26 January, three on 8 February, two on 15 February.
Whooper Swan: In Worcestershire: An adult on Fish Meadow by the Severn north of Upton on several dates from 24 January to 8 February.
A family of two adults and one cygnet had been seen regularly at Walmore in mid-December, and re-appeared there occasionally until 7 February, when they were seen again briefly, before being recorded again on a fishing pool at Stone End Farm between Churcham and Minsterworth, where they had probably spent much of the last six weeks; at Stone end again on 9 February; on 15 February they were seen briefly at Walmore before they flew off towards Minsterworth; at Stone End again on several days until 23 February; what must have been the same family group of two adults and one cygnet was on the Leigh Meadows on 1 March, as floodwater began to recede; they reappeared at Walmore from 12 to 23 March. A quite different group of three adults, apparently unringed, was on floodwater on the Leigh Meadows on 16 and 17 February, alongside one of the only remaining unflooded areas of grassland still emerging; not there on 22 February, but three adults, surely the same ones, were at Ashleworth on 8 March. At Ashleworth a single adult (the Upton bird??) on 1 March.
Bewick’s Swan: Another international wild swan census was held throughout the west European wintering area on 21 January; all major Severn Hams sites were checked but no Bewick’s were found; counts elsewhere suggest a moderately successful breeding season with a proportion of about 13% of cygnets.
Very few records from Walmore, once a favourite site: the grass here has not been re-seeded annually since 2001, and may be less attractive to the smaller numbers visiting Slimbridge. Six played a flying visit at 8 a.m. on 3 January. At Over, near Minsterworth Ham, ten, including a family of four cygnets, were feeding on flooded autumn sown cereals on 8 and 10 February; the adults in the family were “Phoenix” and Phoenician” and they and their family were seen at Slimbridge on 9 February, so they were not roosting on site; the ten were at Minsterworth again from 15 to 21 February, when they were still present at dusk, and were roosting on site, since they were still there on the early morning of 22 February; not found on 23 February, when they had probably moved to Minsterworth Ham where ten (four cygnets) were seen on 3 March.
With mild southwesterly weather it was no surprise that numbers at Slimbridge scarcely increased from the low total registered in December. Indeed it seems that numbers in UK as a whole were much lower than normal (4,800 in mid-January instead of the usual figure of 13,000 individuals) and many seemed to have stayed back in Germany or even Poland rather than continuing their journey to the southwest. A few new birds arrived very late, following snowy weather in Germany, and the highest count of the winter at Slimbridge was of only 138 (26 cygnets) on 31 January. The first departures from Slimbridge took place from mid-February; after departures on the night of 20/21 February, only 68 were left at Slimbridge, only 44 remaining on 24 February, ten present on 27 February, nine remaining on 3 March, seven on 4 March, two on 10 March.
Ripple Lake was the preferred loafing area in time of high flood in early January, and many Greylag and Canada Geese that had abandoned the deep flooding at Coombe Hill and Ashleworth occurred there, as was proved by the presence of an easily recognised family of hybrids; Longdon Marsh did not seem to attract geese. One unusual record was the appearance in late March in Worcestershire of two wild Taiga Bean Geese. It seems likely that most of the Pinkfeet, Whitefronts and Barnacles were not wild.
Greylag Goose: Worcestershire: At Ripple Lake 273 on 8 January, at least 350 on 11 January, about 400 on 19 January, at least 200 on 4 February; no darvic rings read on any of these visits; only one left on island on 8 March. At Longdon Marsh two on 18 February, six on 25 February. At Avon Meadows Pershore two on 13 March, five on 27 March. At Bredon’s Hardwick 50 on 4 February. At Throckmorton Lagoons 90 on 13 January.
Numbers were low in Gloucestershire in time of high flood, when the flocks noted earlier in the winter seemed to move to Worcestershire. As usual, most had departed to nesting grounds by March when the floods dropped. At Upham Meadow one grazing with Canada Geese on 25 January. At Ashleworth 23 on 19 January, two on 14 March, six on 15 March. At Coombe Hill 20 on 16 February; nine on 8 March, 12 on 13 March, four on 22 March, one on 25 March, three on 29 March. At Leigh Meadows 37 on floodwater on 16 February, 20 on 17 February, seven on 7 March. At Stone End Farm pool a pair on 20 February.
Bean Goose: Worcestershire: At Little Comberton two (subspecies unknown) in flight on 23 March. At Kemerton two Taiga Bean Geese from 27 to 31 March, commuting between lake and nearby field; what were presumably the same two located at Slimbridge on the afternoon of 31 March.
Pink-footed Goose: Worcestershire: At Throckmorton Lagoons one with the flock of Greylags from 12 to 20 January. One at Clifton Pits with Greylags on 7 February, there again on 1 March. One at Upton Warren on 20 February. One at Throckmorton on 23, 25 February. Same bird throughout? At Lower Moor two from 14 to 28 March.
White-fronted Goose: Worcestershire: At Clifton Pits one with Greylags on many dates from 21 January to 7 February. Just in the Gloucestershire sector of the Avon Meadows above Tewkesbury, two with Canada Geese on 18 March. These and the Worcestershire birds seem likely to have been feral birds, whereas 15 flying north over Alney Island on 2 March are likely to have been departing migrants.
Canada Goose: Worcestershire: At Longdon Marsh none in the early January flood episode, but 180 on 1 February, 17 on 18 February. At Ripple Lake 250 on 11 January, 200 on 4 February, half of them departing towards Twyning; only four on 8 March. At Avon Meadows Pershore two on 16 March. At Gwen Finch 70 on 25 January.
At Upham Meadow 179 grazing on 25 January. At Mythe Hook two on 8 March. At Ashleworth 17 in flight on 19 January, plus the two usual non-flying birds; 38 on 1 March, 88 on 8 March, 60 on 14 March, still 23 on the evening of 17 March, six (two pairs) on 25 March, nine on 29 March. At Coombe Hill 25 on floodwater on the Apperley side on 10 January, 58 flew in from direction of Tewkesbury on 19 January, 40 round floodwater on 21 January; only three on 16 February, six on 5 March, but 29 on 8 March, 23 on 13 March, 12 on 15 March, six on 29 March. At Leigh Meadows 29 on 16 February (one with an orange neckband inscribed CA, probably from the Cotswold Water Park (there is little previous indication of movement of this species between the Water Park and the Severn Vale), 20 including CA on 17 February; only four as floodwaters dropped on 5 March, pair round flight pond on 15 March. At Barrow Ponds 26 on 31 January. At Minsterworth Ham two on 3 March. At Walmore 14 on 6 January, 24 on 19 January, 50 on 3 February, 30 on 5 February, 20 on 8 February.
Barnacle Goose: At Walmore Common one (no doubt feral) from 7 to 9 February may well have been the first record here.
Egyptian Goose: At Forthampton a pair on grassland beside the Severn on 30 March.
Hybrid Geese: The family of one Canada and one Greylag with their four hybrid goslings that had been seen regularly in time of flood in November at Coombe Hill was in the loafing goose flock at Ripple on 11 January. A pure white Greylag (perhaps the one seen here in November and December 2013?) was present on 17 March, making friends with Canada Geese.
Ruddy Shelduck: At Grimley one on 14 March.
Shelduck: Few in January and February, but sizeable flocks on shallow, dropping floods in early March. Several established pairs in March appeared to be looking for nesting sites.
Worcestershire: At Longdon Marsh two on 8 January; 21 on 18 February, 12 on 25 February; one from Marsh Lane on 1 March.
At Forthampton three on arable on 29 March, one on 30 March. At Ashleworth eight on 11 March, two from 14 to 18 March, four on 22 March, two from 23 to 29 March. At Coombe Hill one on 19 January, 16 on 7 March, 26 on 8 March, 58 on 11 March (probably birds commuting from Leigh Meadows), 38 on 13 March, 36 on 18 March, 21 on 22 March, 20 on 23 March, 18 (mainly adults) on 25 March, only five on 29 March. At Leigh Meadows one on floodwater on 18 and 29 January; as floodwaters dropped, 11 on 1 March, 57 on 7 March, 26 on 8 March, 28 on 11 March, 40 on 15 March (near Haw Bridge), 41 on 18 March, only three on 25 March. At Minsterworth Ham eight on 10 January, at least 32 on 19 January, ten on floodwater on 8 February, 29 on 23 February, as many as 71 on 9 March. At Walmore one on 8 January, four on 19 January, 52 on 26 January, 16 on 5 February, 11 on 8 February, 18 on 22 February, 70 on 3 March. At Wilmer 16 on 23 February, 20 on 22 March.
Mandarin: Spate of records in March. Worcestershire: Along Severn north of Bevere, six on 14 March. At Powick two on 16 March. At Severn Stoke a drake along Severn on 31 March. At Ripple two on 21 and 29 March (one drake on latter date). The only Gloucestershire record was at Lower Rea, a male on 28 March.
Wigeon: When floodwaters were deepest during the early January flood, around 10 January, many ducks appeared to have abandoned the Coombe Hill/ Ashleworth complex in favour of shallower waters at Longdon Marsh. But shooting at Longdon on Saturdays may well have disturbed ducks and led them to return to the Coombe Hill complex, where over 2,000 were noted in monthly WeBS count on 19 January. They may well have spent the day resting there on deeper water, feeding by night in shallowly flooded or unflooded fields. In the even deeper February flood, some birds remained on open floodwater at Coombe Hill, but not more than a few hundred, or so it appeared from the edges; a boat trip across the deeper water in mid February confirmed that there were no larger numbers about. Numbers at sites in the Coombe Hill/Ashleworth complex however increased as soon as flood levels dropped in early March.
Worcestershire: At Longdon Marsh, counts of at least 1395 on 4 January, 910 on 8 January, 1600 on 11 January, 700 on 14 January, 400 on 18 January, but only 125 on 19 January following shooting the previous day; 145 on 21 January when water levels were lower, and only two left on 25 January when the floods had gone. With floods again rising, 360 on 1 February; 510 on 11 February, 1000+ on 18 February, 1400 on 22 February, 2100 on 25 February. At Ripple Lake there was a decrease from late December’s numbers, as the preferred grazing area was submerged: 42 on 8 January, 300 on 11 January; there must presumably be exchanges between Longdon and Ripple when Longdon is flooded, only a couple of mile apart on opposite sides of the Severn: 1,100 on 4 February; numbers down to 450 on 8 March. At Bredon’s Hardwick eight on 25 January, surprisingly high number of 520 on 4 February at a time of high flood, when most were concentrated along the largely submerged Avon bank. At Gwen Finch eight on 25 January.
At Ashleworth 150 on 14 January, grazing on about the only area of grass emerging from the waters, the top of the Severn flood bank; 130 seen on floodwaters from Colways on 18 January, 184 on 19 January; 160 on 1 March, 650 on 8 March, 600 on 11 March, 300 on 14 March; numbers dropping rapidly in the second half of March: 60 on 15 March, 55 on 18 March, 24 on 22 March, 20 on 23 March, 16 on 25 March, 27 on 29 March. At Coombe Hill still as many as 510 on floodwater on the Apperley side on 10 January, and 1800 on 19 January, but only 400 on 21 January, 700 on 28 January, 400 on 16 February, about 200 during a boat trip across floodwater on 17 February; as floods dropped 650 on 5 March, 560 on 7 March, 1250 on 8 March, 600 on 11 March, 56 on 15 March, seven on 22 March, five on 29 March. At Leigh Meadows 170 loafing on floodwater on 18 January, 60 on 29 January, 12 on 16 February, 110 on 17 February, only 30 on 22 February; as floodwater began to drop 1100 on 1 March, 600 on 7 March; only two after floods had dropped on 14 March. At Minsterworth Ham 400 on 10 January; these included a partly leucistic female, very similar to the one noted at Coombe Hill in November 2013, and probably the same individual; at least 270 on 19 January; in eastern part of the site 190 on 10 February, 210 on 20 February; 400 on 3 March, 61 on 9 March. At Walmore 570 on 6 January, 700 on 8 January, 630 on 19 January, 300 on 21 January, 700 on 26 January, 1015 on 5 February, 1400 on 8 February, 880 on 22 February, 800 on 27 February. At Wilmer Common 76 on 23 February.
Gadwall: Worcestershire: At Longdon Marsh six on 21 January, 40 on 25 February. At Ripple Lake 27 on 8 March.
Few records at Ashleworth/Coombe Hill during the January and February floods but more downriver at Minsterworth and Walmore. At Ashleworth two on 8 March, nine on 11 March, six on 14 March. At Coombe Hill ten on 7 March, 29 on 8 March, 30 on 11 March, three on 13 and 18 March, one on 29 March. At Leigh Meadows two on 19 January, 17 February, seven on 22 February, 44 on 7 March. At Minsterworth Ham 22 on 10 January, 35 on 19 January, 30 on 23 February, ten on 3 March, five on 22 March. At Walmore four on 8 January, nine on 19 and 26 January, six on 5 February, 27 on 22 February, six on 27 February. At Wilmer 30 on 23 February.
Teal: Likely to be underestimated at time of flood, when they sit at the bases of flooded hedges, or even perch on low branches; the sound of their calls often suggests that numbers present are higher than those visible. But during a boat trip in mid February, very few were found in these hedges, suggesting that most move out at times of vey deep flood. Large numbers were however back at Coombe Hill and Ashleworth as soon as floodwaters began to drop in early March, and Teal remained the most numerous duck in late March.
Worcestershire: At Ryall Pits 15 on 8 January. At Longdon Marsh, at least 1430 on 4 January, 600 on 11 January, 900 on 14 January, 300 on 18 January, 230 on 21 January; higher numbers in February: 280 on 11 February, 650 on 22 February, 700 on 25 February. At Ripple Lake 43 on 8 January, 150 on 4 February, 600 on 8 March. At Avon Meadows Pershore two on 2 January, three on 30 January. At Bredon’s Hardwick 35 on 25 January, 20 on 4 February. At Gwen Finch 30 on 25 January.
At Ashleworth some heard calling from behind flooded hedges on 14 January, two from Colways on 18 January, eleven on 19 January; 30 on 1 March, 40 on 5 March, 80 on 8 March, 900 on 11 March (in addition to the 1500 at Coombe Hill!), 1500 on 14 March, sharp decrease to 600 with change of weather on 15 March, 60+ on 17 March, 200 on 18 March, 96 on 22 March, 60 on 25 March, 120 on 29 March. At Coombe Hill 60 visible on floodwater on 10 January with many more calling from behind vegetation, minimum of 200 on 19 January, minimum of 100 on 21 January, minimum of 50 on 28 January and 16 February; 250 on 5 March, 500 on 8 March, 1465 on 7 March, 1500 on 11 March, 715 on 15 March, only 150 on 18 March, 90 on 22 March, 60 on 25 and 29 March. At Leigh Meadows 35 loafing on floodwater on 18 January, 40 on 19 January, three on 16 February, five on 17 February; as floodwaters receded 250 on 1 March, 40 on 5 March, 50+ on 7 March, 282 on 15 March. At Minsterworth Ham six on 10 January, 190 on 19 January; 30 in eastern part of the site on 10 February; 14 on 3 March. At Walmore 240 on 6 January, 500 on 19 January, 600 on 21 January, 700 on 26 January, 500 on 5 February, 415 on 8 February, 400 on 27 February, still 250 on 8 March.
Mallard: At Longdon Marsh, at least 30 on 4 January, 20 on 11 January, 30 on 22 February, ten on 25 February. At Ripple Lake ten on 4 February. At Avon Meadows Pershore 20 to 30 throughout the period, maximum of 62 on 30 January. At Gwen Finch 42 on 25 January.
At Ashleworth ten on 18 January; 22 on 8 March, 40 on 15 March, 28 on 22 March, 38 on 25 March. At Coombe Hill ten on 10 January, 20 on 19 January, 12 on 16 February; 35 on 5 March, 40 on 14 March, 30 on 25 March. At Leigh Meadows 23 on 19 January, five on 16 February, 20 on 15 March. At the Orchard Centre, Blackwells End 17, including a female with nine ducklings, on 30 March. At Minsterworth 54 on 19 January; 16 on 3 March. At Walmore 112 on 8 January, 194 on 19 January, 326 on 26 January, 130 on 5 February.
Pintail: Until ten years ago, there were fairly frequent records of large numbers of Pintail in the Severn Vale (up to 2,000 individuals, especially at Ashleworth Ham, which would qualify as being of international importance), particularly on a dropping flood. Such concentrations have not been recorded recently, but this year, with most of the Gloucestershire sites under deep flooding, unusually large concentrations appeared at the height of the February flood at Longdon Marsh, where flooding is generally later and shallower. (Fortunately, data for Pintail are complete than for other relatively common ducks in Worcestershire, as this species features among those highlighted on the “Worcester Birding” website). Such numbers must be unprecedented in Worcestershire, and it is difficult to tell where they originated; many of their former preferred sites on Welsh and west coast estuaries have, according to WeBS reports, experienced declines in recent years; might they have come from the Severn estuary, or the heavily flooded Somerset Levels?
Worcestershire: At Grimley Camp Lane Pits two (one drake) on 29 January. At Clifton Pits four drakes on 5 January, 32 on 19 January (avoiding shooting at Longdon?), 47 on 21 January, 32 on 24 January, 34 on 25 January, 38+ on 28 January, 51 on 29 January, 1 February, six on 26 February, nine on 2 March. At Longdon Marsh at least 138 on 4 January, down to 17 on 8 January, 60 on 9 January, 86 on 14 January, 25 on 18 January, 13 on 19 January, just one on 25 January when the floods had dropped; as the floods rose again seven on 1 February, 91 on 2 February, then a massive concentration of 1500 with no other ducks present, sheltering from the wind on 8 February; 950 on 11 February, with other duck species, 1000+ on 13 February, 1000 on 14 February, 1000+ on 16 February, 850+ on 18 February, 1500 again on 22 February, 1300 on 25 February; these numbers however vanished as soon as water levels began to drop and were not found again in early March. Little sign of these birds moving out in numbers to other sites nearby - at Ripple Lake, only small numbers: eleven (six drakes) on 6 January, six on 8 January, 50 on 4 February, 12 on 27 February, ten on 8 March, 37 on 16 March, a drake on 21 March. At Lower Moor 14 on 10 February, 16 on 16 February. At Bredon’s Hardwick six on 17 January, five on 22 February, three on 23 February.
At Ashleworth nine on 19 January; two on 5 March, 15 on 8 March, 72 on 11 March, 20 on 15 March, ten on 17 March, six on 22 March, one on 29 March. At Coombe Hill 32 on 10 January, 30 on 19 January, 20 on 28 January; 50 on 5 March, 81 on 7 March, 55 on 8 March, 40 on 13 March, two on 22 March, six on 29 March. At Leigh Meadows, as floodwaters dropped, 22 on 1 March, 60 on 5 March, only two on 7 March. At Minsterworth Ham (where birds are more likely to have come up from the estuary) 46 on 10 January, 83 on 19 January; 40 on 3 March. At Walmore (also near the estuary) seven on 6 January, 33 on 19 January, 35 on 26 January, as many as 127 on 5 February, 95 on 8 February, 75 on 22 February, 20 on 27 February.
Garganey: Worcestershire: At Grimley two (one drake) on 28 and 29 March.
At Coombe Hill a pair on the Long Pool from 25 to 27 March.
Shoveler: It was suspected that Shoveler from inland sites had moved to the estuary in the January high flood, since the highest ever count of Shoveler at Slimbridge, 323 birds, was made on 9 January.
Worcestershire: At Longdon Marsh, at least 35 on 4 January, six on 11 January, 20 on 14 January, ten on 21 January; five on 11 February, 18 on 18 February, as many as 100 on 25 February. At Ripple Lake 30 on 4 February, 12 on 8 March.
At Ashleworth two on 19 January, six on 8 March, 48 on 11 March, 30 on 14 March, 20 on 17 March, 11 on 25 March, 14 on 29 March. At Coombe Hill only two on deep floodwater on 10 and 19 January, three on 16 February; but, as floodwaters receded, five on 5 March, 40 on 7 March, 29 on 8 March, 90 on 11 March, 26 on 22 March, 35 on 29 March. At Leigh Meadows two on 19 January; as floodwaters dropped 19 on 1 March, ten on 7 March. At Minsterworth Ham 50 on 10 January, 47 on 19 January, two on 23 February; 54 on 3 March, six on 9 March. At Walmore four on 6 January, ten on 19 January, 30 on 3 February, 20 on 5 February, 15 on 27 February. At Wilmer six on 23 February.
Pochard: Worcestershire: At Longdon Marsh 25 on 18 February. At Ripple Lake 56 on 8 January, 80 on 11 January, 107 on 4 February, one on 8 March.
Remarkably few records from Gloucestershire. At Ashleworth two on 11 March. At Coombe Hill nine on 8 March, three on 11 March. At Walmore, where this species is unusual, a female on 16 February.
Tufted Duck: Worcestershire: At Ryall Pits four on 8 January. At Longdon Marsh 3 on 4 January, 68 on 18 February, eight on 22 February. At Ripple Lake 41 on 8 January, 40 on 11 January, 50 on 4 February, 34 on 8 March. At Avon Meadows Pershore two or three on several dates from late January to late March. At Gwen Finch five on 25 January. At Bredon’s Hardwick 50 on 4 February.
At Lower Lode brickpits 26 on 29 March. Ashleworth nine on 1 March, 11 on 8 March, 26 on 11 March, 12 on 15 March, none left on 17 March. At Coombe Hill unusually good numbers on dropping flood: 30 on 1 March, 79 on 7 March, 149 ( a huge number for this site!) on 8 March, 74 on 11 March, two on 13 March, four on 15 March. At Leigh Meadows 54 on 7 March. At Barrow Ponds, one on 6, 31 January. At Stone End Farm pool six on 20 February.
Hybrids: Worcestershire: At Ripple Lake a drake Ferruginous Duck x Pochard hybrid with the Pochard flock on 1 March.
A hybrid duck, probably a Pochard x Scaup cross, very similar to the one seen at Ashleworth on 3 November 2013, was at Slimbridge on 4 January; it was not certain that the same bird was involved – if it was this, would be a case of diving ducks moving between inland wetlands and the estuary.
Scaup: At Walmore a female or immature on 22, 23 February was a first record of this species for the site.
Goldeneye: Worcestershire: At Holt a female on floodwater on 3 March. At Grimley Camp Lane Pits one to two females on many dates from 8 January to 25 February. Clifton Pits seemed to be a preferred site for this specie with up to four birds, often including a drake, on many dates from 5 January to 28 March. On floodwater at Lower Moor a drake on 16 February.
Records from Gloucestershire altogether sparser: at Minsterworth Ham a male on 19 January; at Coombe Hill two females on 11 March,one female on 18 March.
Goosander: Worcestershire: at Grimley Camp Lane a female on 13 February. At Kempsey Lower Ham 13 (five drakes) on floodwater on 20 January, eight (four drakes) on 21 January, one redhead on 23 January, all gone by 26 January, but back again on 29 January when there were eleven (four drakes). At Clifton a redhead on 23 January. No records at all from Gloucestershire
Little Grebe: Worcestershire (no doubt under-recorded): at Avon Meadows Pershore singles on 2 January and 13 March; at Ripple Lake one on 8 January.
At Ashleworth one on 15 March. At Coombe Hill one on 15 March. At Leigh Meadows two on 7 March. At Staverton Court one whinnying on 27 March. At Walmore one on 19 and 26 January, still there on 9 February.
Great Crested Grebe: Worcestershire. At Ripple Lake one on 8 January, one on 4 February, three on 8 March.
At Lower Lode brickpits on 29 March. At Ashleworth Ham one on 11 March. At Leigh Meadows one on 7 March
Cormorant: In Worcestershire: At Longdon Marsh two perching on fence posts on 14 January, one on 21 January. At Ripple Lake only one in high water on 11 January, only two on 4 February; eleven (six adults in breeding plumage, five immatures) on 8 March. At Avon Meadows Pershore singles on 30 January and 27 March. At Gwen Finch one on 25 January.
At Mythe Brickpits one perching in a tree on 8 March. At the favoured loafing site of Lower Lode brickpits 21 (four in breeding plumage) on 29 March. At Ashleworth singles on 1 and 30 March. At Coombe Hill three on 15 March, one on 18 March, one landed on 25 March. At Leigh Meadows, one fishing on the swollen Chelt on 6 January, one in flight on 19 January; one in full breeding plumage on the Chelt on 16 February. At Barrow Ponds eight in trees at dusk on 23 February included one in very full breeding plumage, on 27 March only one. At Netheridge Farm two on 4 January. At Minsterworth four on 19 January. At Walmore where they have rarely been recorded on floodwater, one fishing on 16 February.
Herons and Egrets
Bittern: Worcestershire: one at Avon Meadows, Pershore, on 11 March.
At Alney Island one at the edge of floodwater on 12 January. One at Netheridge Farm on 12 February (same bird??).
Little Egret: Rather few winter records, but distinct signs of passage from mid March onwards. Birds moving from where to where??
Worcestershire: at Grimley Camp Lane Pits one on 9 January, then singles on many dates from 15 March. On floodwater at Worcester race course two on 25 February. On floodwater at Kempsey Ham two on 3 March. At Longdon Marsh one on 30 March.
At Ashleworth two on 15 March, four on 22 March, six on 23 March, nine on 25 March, six on 27 March, seven on 29 March. At Coombe Hill one on 7 March, four on 8 March, seven on 15 March, as many as 14 on 18 March, seven on 22 March, ten on 23 March, nine on 25 March, five on 27 March, three on 29 March. At Walmore one on 31 March. Leigh Meadows (east end) was the one site where they seemed to be present throughout the period: one or two on many dates from 8 January to 18 March.
Grey Heron: Worcestershire (undoubtedly under recorded); At Longdon Marsh two on 14 January, three on 19 January, four on 25 February. At Avon Meadows Pershore singles on many dates throughout the period. At Bredon’s Hardwick one on 25 January.
At Mythe Hook six on floodwater on 4 February. At Upham Meadow two on 25 January. At Ashleworth one on 8 March, seven on 17 March, four on 23 March, two on 25 March, three on 29 March. At Coombe Hill two on 10 January, two on 21 January, one on 13 March, three on 18 March, four on 22 March, eight on 23 March, three on 29 March. At Leigh Meadows two on the edge of the flood on 8 January, three on 14 January, two on 18 January (one being harried by a Peregrine), six on 19 January, perching on posts and fences emerging from the flood, two on 16 February. At Barrow Ponds, no sign of birds round the heronry on 6 January, but one perhaps incubating on 31 January, at least five nests apparently occupied on 23 February, at least six occupied nests, some with chicks, on 27 March. At Staverton Court two occupied nests on 27 March. At Netheridge Farm two on 4 January. At Minsterworth five on 19 January, 9 March. At Walmore one on 6 January
Red Kite: Distinct increase in records in late March, no doubt, migrants. Worcestershire: Over Bredon Hill one on 17 January. At Gwen Finch one on 17 March. At Throckmorton Lagoons one in flight on 28 March.
At Leigh Meadows one on 7 March. At Coombe Hill singles on 23 and 29 March.
Marsh Harrier: At Ashleworth a female or immature flying north on 29 March.
Goshawk: At Walmore an immature on 16 March.
Sparrowhawk: Worcestershire: At Avon Meadows Pershore three on 2 January, singles on several dates over the period.
At Tirley a male on 24 January, 8 March, two on 22 March. At Ashleworth one displaying over reserve on 15 March, male hunting on 27 March. At Coombe Hill a female on 5 March. Close to GLS one on 14 January, and one at Sudmeadow marsh on a kill on 4 February.
Buzzard: In Worcestershire: At Longdon Marsh singles on 14 and 19 January and on 25 February. Seen at Avon Meadows Pershore throughout the period, usually one or two but four on 6 March.
At Forthampton one on 29 March. At Apperley one on ground at the edge of the flood on 10 January. At Ashleworth one on 19 January; one on 1 March, two on 27 March. At Coombe Hill singles on 19 and 21 January, 22 and 29 March. At Leigh Meadows four on 7 March, one on 15 March. At Minsterworth one on 3 March. At Netheridge Farm one on 4 January. At Minsterworth three on 19 January, one on 10 February.
Kestrel: Worcestershire: only available record is of one at Avon Meadows Pershore on 27 February.
At Leigh Meadows one on 7 March. At the Orchard Centre, Blackwells End, a male on 30 March. At Sudmeadow two hunting on 14 January.
Merlin: Worcestershire: at Holt one on 8 February. At Grimley Camp Lane Pits a female on 1 January, one on 8 January, one on 15 February. At Throckmorton a male on 1 March. At Little Comberton a female flew over on 29 March,
At Tirley a male on 20 February. At Ashleworth a female or immature chasing (unsuccessfully) a flock of thrushes and Starlings on 1 February.
Peregrine: Worcestershire: at Longdon Marsh an adult on 18 February chasing ducks and Lapwings.
At Tirley sandpits a female on 3 January. Over Apperley one in flight on 10 January. At Coombe Hill one on 15, a juvenile on 21 and 22 March. At Leigh Meadows one harrying a heron on 18 January. At Minsterworth one on 3 March. At Walmore an adult male on 6 and 8 January, an adult on 19 January, an immature on 23 February.
Rails and Crakes
Water Rail: Worcestershire: At Avon Meadows Pershore singles on 2 January, 20 February and 6 March, two on 27 February.
At Coombe Hill one on 15 March. At Port Ham one on 23 January. At Sudmeadow one squealing on 14 January and on 4 and 8 February. At Netheridge one heard on 14 January.
Crane: One at Hasfield Ham on 10 March seems likely to have been one of those raised at Slimbridge for release in the Somerset Levels, under the Great Crane Release Project (GCRP); but may possibly have been a wild bird on spring passage en route to northern European breeding sites. One bugling at Riversmead Farm, Quedgeley, on 23 March was considered to be from the GCRP. Three appeared briefly at Coombe Hill on the afternoon of 29 March, and were presumed to be GCRP birds.
Moorhen: At Ashleworth six on 15 March. At Coombe Hill one on 16 February, two on 11 March, five on 15 March, four on 25 March, five on 29 March. At Leigh Meadows one on 19 January, 16 February.
Coot: Worcestershire: At Longdon Marsh 36 on 25 February. At Ripple Lake 40 on 8 January, down to five in deep flooding on 11 January, 15 on 4 February, 47 on 8 March. At Bredon’s Hardwick four on 25 January, 20 in flood on 4 February. Recorded on every visit to Avon Meadows Pershore, with a maximum of 13 on 13 March. At Gwen Finch 23 on 25 January.
Numbers in Gloucestershire increased sharply at the height of the February flood, but declined soon afterwards. At Lower Lode brickpits four on 29 March. At Ashleworth nine on 5 March, 32 on 11 March, 21 on 15 March, ten on 17 March, seven on 29 March. At Coombe Hill two on 16 February, 32 on 5 March, 40 on 8 March, 55 on 11 March, 20 on 13 March, 18 on 18 March, eight on 22 March, eight on 29 March. At Leigh Meadows 26 on 17 February, two on 15 March. At Stone End Farm pool five on 20 February. At Walmore six on 6 January, 24 on 19 January, 10 on 21 January, 34 on 26 January, 30 on 8 February, 48 on 22 February, 30 on 27 February.
In January and February the emphasis was on wintering waders, though a few Curlews appeared in their breeding grounds on riverside meadows as early as January, and Avocets were back at Upton Warren by mid February. By early March, potentially breeding Oystercatchers, Lapwings, Curlews and Redshank were back on their breeding grounds, and the first passing migrant waders, notably Black-tailed Godwits and Ruff, appeared.
Oystercatcher: Worcestershire: At Ripple Lake a pair on 8 March.
At Ashleworth one on 23 March. At Coombe Hill a pair, apparently resident and roosting, on 11 March, a single on 13 March, two pairs on 15 March, one pair from 18 to 29 March. At Leigh Meadows two on 7 March.
Avocet: At Upton Warren the first three were back on 17 February and numbers had increased to 31 on 21 March. At Slimbridge the first four appeared on 5 March and there were eight on 14 March.
In the Severn Hams observations presumably referred to passing birds: at Ripple Pits one on 16 March, two on 21 March; at Coombe Hill two on 23 March.
Little Ringed Plover: First Gloucestershire records of the spring were singles at Netheridge Farm on 28 March and at Ashleworth on 30 March.
Golden Plover: Most January and February records in Worcestershire seemed to relate to over-wintering birds, though some increases in late February and March records may have been passing migrants. At Longdon Marsh ten with Lapwings on 25 February, 250 north of Marsh Lane on 27 February; at Lower Moor 360 on 14 January, 420 on 16 January, 650 in flight over meadows along Avon on 25 January, 850 on 28 January, 650 on 29 January, 5 February, 850 on 10 February, 350 on 16 February. At Ripple Lake ten over on 6 March.
Gloucestershire: At Hoo Lane, none at all in January. At Coombe Hill 30 briefly on 13 March.
Lapwing: In general numbers dropped sharply after mid-March, leaving only possible breeding birds about.
Worcestershire: At Longdon Marsh two on 11 January, 20 on 14 January, but 300 on 21 January, 195 on 25 January, by which date the floods had gone; 805 on 11 February, when floods were once again high; 630 on 18 February, 750 on 22 February, 600 on 25 February; from Marsh Lane side 78 on 1 March. At Ripple Lake 250 loafing on the island on 11 January, 50 on 4 February; 60 on 8 March with a few on island doing aerial display. At Avon Meadows Pershore a single record of 96 on 13 February.
In the Gloucestershire section of the Avon Meadows near Mitton 200 on 25 January. At Mythe Hook 560 at edge of flood on 4 February (probably birds from Ripple), none on breeding field on 8 March. At Forthampton six displaying over arable on 29 March, five on 30 March. At Staunton four at the usual breeding site on 8 March. At Hoo Lane none at all noted in January. At Ashleworth 80 on the Hasfield side, two on the main reserve looking like potential breeders, on 14 March; 110 on 15 March, ten on 23 March, seven on 25 March, eleven on 27 March, four on 29 March, six on 30 March. At Coombe Hill 50 in flight on 21 January, 150 in flight over floodwater on 16 February; 150 on 5 March, about 40 (with aerial display from three) on 7 March, 55 with much more display on 11 March, 35 (some display) on 13 March, 53 on 15 March, only five on 18 March with some display round scrapes, eight on 22 March; 25 on 25 March, some display over arable; only nine on 29 March, with some unenthusiastic display. At Leigh Meadows big flock of 550 round edges of flood on 29 January, only one on 15 March. Across the river from GLS and Sudmeadow (eastern part of Minsterworth Ham) 80 on 14 January, several flocks of more than a hundred on 4 February, 150 on 8 February, at least 20 on 10 February, flock of about 100 at dusk on 21 February, at least 200 on 23 February. At Minsterworth Ham 550 on 19 January. At Walmore 12 on 27 February, 12+ on 11, 15 March.
Dunlin: Worcestershire: At Longdon Marsh one on 21 January. At Ripple Lake seven in Lapwing flock on 8 March.
At Coombe Hill three on 11 March. At Walmore one on 19 January.
Ruff: At Coombe Hill five with godwits on 11 March, two on 15 March.
Jack Snipe: Worcestershire: at Grimley Church Farm Meadows three on 19 January; at Grimley Old Workings one on 19 February. At Castlemorton Common, which always seems to turn up large numbers of this species, nine on 12 January, eight on 6 February, 13 on 7 March, two on 8 March. At Gwen Finch reserve two on 1 February.
No Gloucestershire records at all, no doubt because of the flooding.
Snipe: Also vanished from its usual haunts during the deep winter flooding; wherever did they go - Ripple? Signs of strong passage in late March at several sites.
Worcestershire: At Ripple Lake 41 concentrated together on island on 4 February. Recorded throughout the period on practically all visits to the Avon Meadows Pershore, generally in ones or twos but 16 on 11 January, and 15 on 30 January and 6 February.
At Ashleworth 18 on 14 March, after floods dropped, 14 on 15 March, none active on evening of 17 March, eleven on 18 March, at least 37 on 25 March, three on 29 March. At Coombe Hill just one flushed from the towpath on 7 March, none seen or heard on evening of 11 March, two on 15 March, six on 18 March, four on 22 and 25 March. At Leigh Meadows one on 7 March. Along the Leadon near Over 50 on 6 March. At Netheridge Farm one on 4 January. At the Orchard Centre Blackwells End four on 30 March. At Minsterworth one on 19 January, five on 3 March. At Walmore a high count of 63 on 16 March.
Woodcock: In Worcestershire: At Hollybed Common six on 16 January. At Castlemorton Common two on 22 January. At Grimley Old Workings two flushed on 17 February.
Black-tailed Godwit: Few winter records, but good showing of spring migrants, no doubt of the Icelandic race from early March onwards – several weeks earlier than last year’s slightly higher totals.
Worcestershire: At Longdon Marsh two in winter plumage on 21 January. At Bredon’s Hardwick one on 29 January, one on 27 March. At Church Lench ten flew south along the Avon on 8 March.
At Ashleworth one on Hasfield side on 14 March, 56 on 15 March, clearly migrants though mostly still in winter plumage, one colour ringed from the Axe estuary in Devon; 54 on 16 March, 17 on 18 March, 25 on 22 March including the colour-ringed bird, which was still present among 28 birds on 23 March; 19 on 25 March (not including the ringed bird), 12 on 30 March. At Coombe Hill three on 8 March; party of 21, looking like migrants, none ringed, on morning of 11 March, not found in evening; one on 13 March; 50+ on 15 March, no doubt the birds seen later at Ashleworth, only seven on 18 March, one on 22 March. At Minsterworth Ham six on 9 March. At Walmore 90 on 27 February (perhaps birds displaced from the estuary flock at Slimbridge?).
Curlew: This species does not winter in the vales, so most records will refer to birds returning as early as late January from estuarine wintering sites to riverside breeding areas (though larger parties may have been migrants en route to breeding areas further north, given that birds ringed on the Severn estuary have been seen from the Netherlands to Finland).
Worcestershire: At Longdon Marsh one on 1 February, one heard on 1 March.
At Mythe Hook one on 8 March. At Severn Ham, Tewkesbury, one bubbling on 29 March. At Forthampton a pair on territory on 30 March. At Tirley one calling on several dates from 16 March. At Ashleworth two on 16 March, none came to roost on evening of 17 March, one on 22 March, two on 27 and 30 March. At Coombe Hill the first of the spring on 28 January, calling and behaving like a territorial bird; three round the edge of the floodwater on 16 February; 15 in two flocks (possibly passing migrants) at the edge of the declining flood on 1 March; one heard on 7 March, three on 8 March, seven on 11 March (coming to roost in the evening), six on 15 March, then up to four by day until the end of the month. At Leigh Meadows none on 29 January, five on 7 March, two behaving like a territorial pair on 15 March. At Haw Bridge one on 15 March. High up the Leadon Valley one bubbling near Leddington on 30 March. Near Linton Farm opposite Lower Parting one calling (usual flight call, not bubbling display note) on 14 January and 4 February, not found on 8, 10 or 20 February, so may have been passing migrant(s). At Walmore two on 27 February; six on 6 March, probably two bubbling breeding birds and four passage migrants; two on 24 March.
Redshank: Desperately few records; prospects for the breeding season poor.
Worcestershire: At Ripple Lake one trilling on island on 8 March. In Gloucestershire: at Ashleworth two on 23 March. At Coombe Hill the first one on 11 March, one on 15 March. At Minsterworth one on 9 March.
Green Sandpiper: Fair number of wintering records in Gloucestershire: at the edge of floodwater on the Leigh Meadows one to three throughout January. At the Orchard Centre, Blackwells End one on 30 March. At Netheridge Farm two on 7 February, singles on 28 February and 28 March. At Minsterworth two on 19 January and 3 March, as many as six on 9 March.
In addition to the customary records on landfill sites, the flooding, especially in Worcestershire, attracted an unusual variety of unusual gulls. The records of Kittiwakes no doubt reflects the very strong gales in mid February (which also accounted for the Grundon Hide at Coombe Hill).
Mediterranean Gull: Worcestershire: at Chapter Meadow near the middle of Worcester two in partial summer plumage, and an adult in winter plumage on 21 February; an adult on flooding at Worcester race course on 24 February. At Lower Ham, Upton, one or two adults at the evening Black-headed Gull roost on many dates in from 9 to 22 January, four adults on 20 February, one on 22 February. At Bredon’s Hardwick an adult on 17 January, at least one adult on 22 February.
At Tirley a winter plumage adult with Black-headed Gulls on 2 February. At Leigh Meadows two adults on 7 March. At Lower Dumball near Rodley an adult with a red Polish ring on 29 January.
Little Gull: Worcestershire: At Kemerton an adult on 29 March, an early passage migrant.
Black-headed Gull: Seen very frequently in the January flood either on shallow floodwater, or feeding at the edges, where the water must have brought invertebrates to the surface; Black-headed Gulls much more in evidence round edges of floods than larger gull species.
Worcestershire: at Upton Ham a large roost on the floodwater from 9; at Fish Meadow, Upton, 500 on 25 February. At Longdon Marsh at least 100 on 4 January, 200 on 11 January, 150 on 14 January, 750 on 18 January, 1100 on 19 January, 500 on 21 January, 1300 on 11 February, 1000 on 18 February, 750 on 22 February, none on 25 February. Recorded on every visit to the Avon Meadows Pershore with maxima of 50. At Ripple Lake 200 on 8 March.
At Mythe Hook 50 on 4 February. At Tirley some 2000 gulls, this species commonest, on flooded fields on 27 February, 2500 on 1 March. At Ashleworth 500 on 5 March, 170 on 15 March. At Coombe Hill 50 on 16 February; 2000 on 5 March, 250 round edge of floodwater on 7 March; 75 roosting on evening of 11 March, 94 on 15 March. At Leigh Meadows 200 on 6 January, 300 on 19 January, 100 on 28 January, 350 on 29 January, 60 on 16 February; at west end 2000+ on 1 March, 600 on 5 March. At Wainlodes 75 on 18 March. At Upleadon at least 1000 on flooded riverside fields on 17 February. Across the river from GLS near Linton Farm 500 on 8 February, 200 on 10 February, at least 1000 feeding on flooded cereal fields on 20 February.
Common Gull: At Forthampton at least 300, clearly migrants on close-grazed grassland, on 29 March. At Ashleworth 20 on 15 March. At Coombe Hill 120 on 5 March. At Leigh Meadows 30 on 1 March.
Lesser Black-backed Gull: Worcestershire: at Longdon Marsh 20 loafing on freshwater on 11 January, 100 on 19 January, 200 on 18 February, 27 on 22 February, 150 on 25 February.
At Coombe Hill 80 on 5 March round floodwater’s edge, ten on 7 March, five on 29 March. At Leigh Meadows ten on floodwater on 18 January, 160 on 1 March. Across the river from GLS near Linton Farm 10 on 8 February.
Herring Gull: At Longdon Marsh six on 18 January, ten on 21 January, 12 on 22, 25 February.
At Leigh Meadows (east end), one on 29 January; at west end 50 on 1 March.
Iceland Gull: Worcestershire: At Upton Warren a juvenile on 25 February. At the floods on Worcester racecourse a second winter bird on 24 February. At Throckmorton a juvenile on 23 February, juvenile and second winter bird on Landfill Site on 24 February, also (same birds?) at Westwood Pool on same day. Same two birds throughout? At Lower Moor a juvenile from 21 to 28 March.
Kittiwake: Worcestershire: at Lower Moor one on a river flash on 17, 18 February, no doubt as a result of the gales of the previous week; at Upton one in gull roost on floodwater on 21 February; at Ripple Lake one on 28 February (same bird each time?). At Lower Moor a juvenile on 21 March.
At Wilmer Common one on floodwater on 23 February.
These are unconfirmed records, compiled by M. Smart from his own observations and those of Les Brown, with additional records from Gordon Avery, Colin Evers, Mervyn Greening, Mark Grieve, Andy Jayne, Julia Newth, John and Viv Phillips and John Wiltshire, and from the team at Avon Meadow Wetland at Pershore; this time not the Ashleworth and Coombe Hill logbooks in January and February since they were inaccessible because of flooding; 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.