Worcestershire Record No. 27 November 2009 pp. 37-42

BREEDING WADERS IN THE SEVERN AND AVON VALES (GLOUCESTERSHIRE & WORCESTERSHIRE) SUMMER 2009

Mike Smart

Introduction

For some years now, surveys of breeding waders have been carried out in the Severn and Avon Vales in Gloucestershire and Worcestershire. The original motivation came from the BTOís survey of Breeding Waders of Wet Meadows in 2002 (Wilson and Smart, 2003), itself a follow-up to an earlier BTO survey in 1982 and to a study for RSPB (Quinn, 1995). Further, less systematic, studies for the Severn and Avon Wetland Management Partnership were carried out in each year from 2005 to 2007 and a summary published in the 2007 Gloucestershire Bird Report (Smart, 2009).

In spring and summer 2009, most of the sites identified in previous surveys as being of importance (and generally figuring in the 1999 Ecoscope Report) were checked again, generally by the same group of volunteer observers. The present report summarizes the main 2009 findings.

This report is probably incomplete. If anyone has further records or information for 2009 I will be very pleased to hear from them.

Weather and ground conditions

Conditions in 2007 had been spectacularly bad for breeding waders. Although in 2007 the early April floods of 2005 and 2006 had not recurred, there had been a moderate flood in mid-May (as in 2006), just at the worst period for ground nesting waders, which must have destroyed many nests and young birds. Then came two midsummer Severn floods (the first since 1968 and 1969), with the river overtopping its banks, one in late June, another even more severe after exceptionally heavy rain on 20 July. The period from May to July 2007 had the heaviest rainfall since records began in 1766, a total of 396.5mm. As a result little or no hay was cut, and standing hay rotted in the fields; the unseasonal flooding also drowned large numbers of worms, affecting drainage in winter 2007/08 and presumably limiting availability of food for breeding waders in summer 2008.

In 2008, there had been no spring or summer flooding, but the meadows remained very wet on the surface; July and August 2008 were dull, grey and damp, and once again, little hay was cut; conditions should theoretically have been good for breeding waders, with no flooding and late hay cutting; but perhaps the wet conditions and lack of worms represented an obstacle. Then in the first ten days of September 2008, cyclonic weather with heavy rain again brought a river flood, with the Severn again overtopping its banks in summer; once again, the result was drowned worms in autumn and poor drainage through the following winter.

In 2009, conditions for breeding waders appeared excellent: after winter flooding in January, the spring was dry, and there was no flooding from February onwards; in the last ten days of May and early June there was a near heat wave (temperatures reaching 30į C), allowing some grass to be cut for silage. But this was followed by damp conditions for most of June, with another brief heat wave in late June and early July; damp conditions, with frequent rainy days and little sun, then set in again for the rest of July. Many of the hay meadows are now in some form of Stewardship agreement with DEFRA which means that hay cutting is delayed to encourage breeding by ground-nesting birds; partly because of these arrangements, partly because of the morose weather, little hay was cut in July, and the main cutting period was in mid-August when there was a fortnight of settled weather with no rain.

A study carried out in June 2009 at Coombe Hill (Acquaviva, 2009) showed that densities of invertebrates and earthworms were lower there than would be expected for a lowland wet grassland, and suggested that the reason was either naturally low densities or the continuing effects of summer flooding in June/July 2007 and September 2008.

Site accounts

The sites are listed by river basin, north to south, Severn first, Avon second. The names and reference numbers are those used in the report to SAVWP covering 2005-2007, themselves derived from the 1999 Ecoscope report.

SITES ALONG THE SEVERN

Grimley Gravel Pits, Worcs (4.3.1)

Oystercatcher: Two pairs nested. The first pair fledged two young; the second pair fledged one (BS).

Lapwing: At least three pairs nested, three pairs each fledging two young (BS).

Little Ringed Plover: Three pairs nested: the first pair fledged two; the second pair hatched two but the final outcome is unknown; the third pair was still raising three young in early August (BS).

Curlew: A pair was present in Grimley/Holt area, but as usual there was no evidence of any nesting attempt (BS).

Redshank: At least one pair was present early in the nesting season, but as is often the case at Grimley with this species, they vanished in mid-season. Breeding was therefore not proven (BS).

Clifton Gravel Pits, Worcs (4.3.2)

No data yet.

Upton Ham, Worcs (site 4.1.6)

Redshank: Reported to have nested (per Peter Holmes).

No information yet on other species, but Curlew normally breeds here.

Ryall Pits, Worcs (site 4.3.3)

A very poor breeding season recorded at Ryall, even though the pits have been only marginally affected by the summer flooding (rise in water table).

Little Ringed Plover: four pairs attempted to nest, one was successful in raising three young (AW).

Lapwing: four to five pairs present; one pair produced one young (AW).

Redshank: two pairs present in spring, but failed to breed (AW).

Longdon Marsh, Worcs (site 4.1.8)

Little Ringed Plover: Pair on Worcs WT reserve on 16 April, not clear if they attempted to breed (RP).

Lapwing: Seven pairs on WWT reserve in April, three pairs with juveniles on 21 May (RP).

Snipe: 59 on WWT reserve on 4 March, no sign of breeding (RP).

Curlew: Male seen north of Marsh Lane in late April, pair on territory in late May; two adults with one fully fledged and flying juvenile seen on 7 July (RP).

Redshank: Two pairs on 16 April, one staying until at least 9 June, but no breeding activity seen (RP).

Uckinghall Meadow, Worcs (part site 4.1.7)

Curlew: Pair in early May in rough grassland north of Ferry Lane (AW).

Queensberry Rough/Beachley Brook, Worcs (part site 4.1.7)

Curlew: Pair in early May (probably the same bird heard across the river over Ripple Pits); probably attempted to breed but believed to have failed (AW, MS).

Ripple Pits, Worcs (part site 4.17)

A very poor breeding season at Ripple Pits (which are alongside the Severn and will have been inundated by the 2007 and 2008 summer floods).

Little Ringed Plover: Display was noted in late April and early May; two pairs attempted to nest, one was successful in raising three young (AW, MS).

Lapwing: Five to six pairs present, display continuing in early May; no young seen (AW, MS).

Redshank: Display in late April and early May; one pair present, no young seen (AW, MS).

Mythe Hook/Shuthonger Common, Glos (part site 4.17)

Lapwing: Pair on grassland apparently with young, 2 May (MS)

Curlew: Territorial pair, 2 May (MS)

Severn Ham, Tewkesbury, Glos (site 4.2.1.1)

Curlew: One, perhaps two pairs present on 28 May (Andy Jayne, AJ); none left on 28 July (MS).

Lower Lode to Chaceley Stock, Glos (part site 4.1.9a)

Curlew: Coverage limited, but none found, despite late hay cutting; none cut in mid June (MS).

Chaceley Stock to Haw Bridge, Glos (part site 4.1.9a)

Curlew: Coverage limited; one displaying in early June, none early July (MS).

Haw Bridge, Glos (site 4.4.4)

Curlew: Pair, holding territory with display flight and song and apparently breeding; seen regularly from 11 April until 26 May (MS); the hay was cut on the suspected breeding field (where they are known to have nested in previous years) in early June, when the birds became extremely agitated, and are presumed to have lost their young (TC); a solitary adult still on nearby river beach on 3 June (MS); not seen after this date.

Staunton, Glos (site 4.4.3)

Lapwing: Two, perhaps three, pairs on arable (just across the road from last yearís site) from 19 April to 9 May; apparently at least two birds incubating in late April, and perhaps one pair with young on 6 May, but may have failed to bring young off (MS).

Curlew: None seen on traditional field, March to May (MS).

Ashleworth/Hasfield Hams, Glos (part site 4.1.9a)

Lapwing: No sign of display or nesting on grassland on Hasfield Ham where they have bred in previous years, despite careful searches from mid March onwards. In late April and early May, up to four birds were displaying over the main reserve field on Ashleworth Ham; these are thought to have been birds attempting to nest on arable land above Colways Farm and coming to rest on the reserve; no indication that they produced young. In late May two pairs were incubating on arable fields below Colways (replacement clutches?), but the eggs were destroyed when the land was ploughed for maize on about 22 May (LAB, LS, MS).

Snipe: Records of up to 50 in late March were clearly birds that had wintered or were passing through. Much smaller numbers in April, up to five, more active in the evening, but no drumming; last record 29 April (in the last few years records have usually extended into May). Absolutely no sign of drumming, and almost certainly did not breed (LAB, LS, MS).

Curlew: First recorded on 22 February; regular display and song throughout March, April and May and up to mid June (last record on 23 June), concentrated in three areas: north of Stank Lane, on Hasfield Ham and round the reserve by the Ham Road. It is considered that two, perhaps three, pairs tried to nest; not known whether they succeeded in raising young (23 June would be an early date for completion of fledging, but no hay had been cut in the preferred areas by 20 July), or whether the young were taken by predators, leading the adults to abandon the area (LAB, LS, MS).

Coombe Hill North, Glos (part of site 4.1.10)

Oystercatcher: A pair, present from 2 to 30 April, often indulged in display, but gave no sign of breeding.

Little Ringed Plover: The first adult was seen on the very early date of 10 March; then ones and twos were noted from late March, through April and into May; they generally dropped in, stayed for a short while, then departed northwards, showing no sign of display flight, song or territorial behaviour; the only exception was on 30 May, when the male of a pair repeatedly and persistently did song flights over the scrapes; but this behaviour was not seen again and the last spring record was of a single on 2 June. It is considered that this species did not breed this year, and that the birds seen were on passage, moving up the Severn towards nesting sites in the Midlands; the birds on 30 May were perhaps birds that had lost eggs or young elsewhere. The first return migrants were a group of four (two adults and two young) on 18 July (LAB, LS, JW, MS).

Lapwing: A desperately bad season, despite apparently favourable conditions; the species did not even seem to attempt to nest at a site where up to ten pairs normally breed round the scrapes. Parties of 30 or 40 occurred in late February and early March, but there was no regular display round the scrapes in March or April; slight suggestion of display on grass fields in late March at the west end of the reserve; the occasional ones and twos seen round the scrapes or flying over were perhaps off duty birds which had tried to nest somewhere else in the vicinity. From the last few days of May, parties of a dozen or more were recorded round the scrapes, but these were clearly passing migrants which had nested elsewhere (LAB, LS, JW, MS).

Snipe: Small numbers in March, none in April despite visits in the evening; no drumming and almost certainly did not nest this year. The first returning migrant was noted on 8 July (LAB, LS, JW, MS), as many as 70 were present in mid-August.

Curlew: The first record was of a flock of 17, clearly passing migrants, on 17 February. Flocks of up to 25, no doubt migrants, were seen on several occasions during March, when breeding birds were present, displaying and giving song flights. As in previous years, considerable numbers of birds collected round the scrapes at dusk to roost: nine in 19 March, 28 on 1 April (which must have included some passing migrants), eight on 22 April; these numbers are higher than those suspected to be breeding in the immediate area Ė where do they come from? One pair appeared to be nesting on the GWT reserve, with perhaps a second further to the north. The pair on the reserve behaved as though they had young in early June (AJ), and a fully fledged young bird was seen on several occasions round the scrape from 3 July, still present (in the company of an adult in wing moult, probably one of the parents, since it responded to a fight call from the adult) on 25 and 27 July (LAB, LS, MS). A single full-grown bird remained though August into early September, coming to roost on the scrapes in the evening.

Redshank: Two birds seen in mid-March, with three roosting round the scrapes on 1 April, but remarkably few records in April (a little display once on 25 April), but it seems certain this species did not nest this year at Coombe Hill either. A pair of adults on 16 June was considered to be a pair of failed breeders from outside the area or post-breeding migrants (LAB, LS, MS).

Coombe Hill South, Glos (part of site 4.1.10)

Lapwing: As at Coombe Hill North there was little or no sign of breeding Lapwings. On the Southern Meadows of the GWT reserve, there was no sign of nesting, apart from two anxious birds chasing crows on a single occasion in mid June, which may possibly have had chicks. At Cobney Meadows, two pairs were displaying actively on 4 April, but were not seen later (MS).

Snipe: Small numbers on the Southern Meadows in March were no doubt wintering or passage birds. None found there or on Cobney Meadows in April or afterwards, and no drumming (MS).

Curlew: A pair regularly displaying and giving the bubbling song over the Southern Meadows from 8 March, through April, May and up to 16 June, and occasionally flying across the canal to drink, rest or roost on the scrapes on the Northern Meadows. No young seen but it seems likely that this pair was successful. Perhaps a second pair attempted to breed on Cobney Meadows, where display and song was noted from 10 March until well into May, but cattle were put out to graze here quite early in the preferred nesting fields, and they may not have succeeded in raising young (MS).

Redshank: Seen only once in Cobney Meadows (on 4 April), with no display, between March and June, so they do not seem to have nested at this former breeding site (MS).

Leigh Meadows, Glos (part of site 4.1.10)

Lapwing: Does not appear to have bred here this year. Two adults, behaving like breeding birds, were present on 23 April, but none seen on later visits (MS).

Curlew: One pair south of Chelt on 23 April, not found on later visit. One pair north of the Chelt in late May and until 15 June, behaving in agitated fashion in a partly cut field, as though it had young in the uncut area on 8 and 15 June, not found on 29 June, was probably successful (MS).

Redshank: None recorded this year (they have definitely bred in previous years) (MS).

Long Reach, Sandhurst, Glos (part of site 4.1.9b)

Lapwing: One, perhaps two, pairs were in a bean crop on high ground on the west bank of the Severn, overlooking the river valley, in late April and early May; very agitated on 6 May, must have had young (JAB, MS). Another pair on a cereal field near Brawn Farm on east bank of river was extremely agitated, as though they had young, on 5 May (MS). On the east bank between Gardinerís and Bengrove Farms, about ten birds with some display but no sign of nesting on 7 May (NJP).

Curlew: Display calls heard from Hornís Ditch area on east bank from 27 April to 7 May (NJP, MS). Probably attempted to nest, outcome unknown, but grass was cut here very early so probably unsuccessful (NJP, MS).

Wallsworth/Twigworth, Glos (site 4.4.1)

Curlew: Pair seen and bubbling heard between 21 and 28 April (JN, AJ, NJP), one still present on 23 June (JN). Probably tried to nest, may have succeeded.

Lapwing: Two on 23 June, a late date, were probably migrants (JN).

Minsterworth Ham, Glos (site 4.1.11)

Curlew: Pair heard bubbling on 5 May and 6 June (AJ). Not known to have nested here before, but may have tried to nest this year; outcome unknown.

Walmore Common, Glos (site 4.1.13)

Lapwing: A little display noted in early March, but not later (AJ, MS). Does not seem to have nested this year at this site, where they have been very successful over the last two or three years

Snipe: Good numbers of wintering birds (up to 60) in late February and into early March, but none afterwards; certainly did not breed (AJ, MS).

Curlew: A flock of three, seen flying northwards in late February, were thought to be passing migrants, as were five on 9 April. No more seen until early June, when up to six were seen on a cut hayfield, occasionally giving the bubbling song, from 2 to 7 June and staying on well into June (BH, AJ, MS). They were thought to be failed breeders returning to the estuary, since the species has not nested here for many a long year.

Redshank: No records at all this year, even though the species has nested successfully in the last couple of years.

Awre Peninsula, Glos (site 4.1.14)

Oystercatcher: The usual pair was present early in the season, with no real indication of breeding (NJP).

Aylburton Warth/Guscar Rocks, Glos (4.2.4.1)

Oystercatcher: Two pairs bred, one on the warth at Aylburton and another in a ploughed/planted field behind Guscar, always there, often alarming and attacking crows (LT).

Lapwing: Around 20 pairs (14 at Aylburton and 6 at Guscar). They were definitely more productive at the Aylburton Warth end, probably because disturbance by farming activities was lower there. A few chicks were seen on each visit through May/June (LT).

Redshank: More tricky to pin down, although there were always around 10 pairs at Aylburton and a couple of pairs further past Guscar Rocks, so presumably they bred, always lots of alarming and attacking crows etc. (LT)

New Grounds, Slimbridge, Glos (4.2.4.2)

Oystercatcher: No data available yet.

Little Ringed Plover: No data available yet.

Lapwing: 34 pairs attempted to breed on Top and Bottom New Pieces (inside the sea wall), but only one produced young, others destroyed by predator (probably a fox). On South Lake, 4-5 nests hatched but no young produced. On The Dumbles (saltmarsh outside the sea wall), two to three nests hatched. On the 100-Acre (inside the sea wall at Frampton) lots of chicks were produced but very few fledged (Martin McGill, MMcG).

Redshank: 14-15 pairs (including one, for the first time, on Top New Piece) produced 8-12 young (MMcG).

Snipe: Drumming was heard in June. (Had also drummed there last year) (MMcG)

Saul Warth, Glos, (4.2.4.3)

Lapwing: Two pairs, an early brood of 3 were reared, the later one with adults defending young (MMcG).

Redshank: Those present were probably 100 Acre birds that had walked in (MMcG).

SITES ALONG THE AVON

Throckmorton Lagoons (site 4.4.7)

Oystercatcher: A single was first seen on 16 February, joined by a second bird on 16 March; this pair was resident until June when two large juveniles were seen (RP).

Little Ringed Plover: Recorded from 30 March to 19 May, but no evidence of breeding (RP).

Lapwing: Two pairs bred, one of them successfully raising two young (RP).

Redshank: Pair present from 3 to 16 April, but no sign of breeding (RP).

Wood Norton/Craycombe, Worcs (part of site 4.1.18)

Snipe: 42 on 20 March, no sign of breeding (RP).

Curlew: Pair present, male displaying on west side of river, from 24 February to 3 May; not seen after this date, so presumably failed to raise any young (RP).

Lower Moor, Worcs (part of site 4.1.18)

Oystercatcher: A casual visitor, ones and two on many dates between 28 February and 18 June, but did not nest (RP).

Little Ringed Plover: Pair present from 19 March to 3 June; nested at nearby gravel pits but the four young were predated soon after hatching (RP).

Snipe: 45 in January, 78 in February, no sign of breeding (RP).

Curlew: Single bird present from 28 February until 13 April, when it was joined by a mate, the pair staying until 19 June and the male regularly displaying south of the river near Wick; clearly attempted to breed. Grass cut in early June, which may have affected nesting success (RP).

Redshank: Pair was present from 16 March to 17 May; much display and mating; clearly attempted to breed, but almost certainly failed (RP).

Gwen Finch Reserve, Birlingham, Worcs (part of site 4.1.18)

Lapwing: A pair on 23 June with three non-flying chicks, which fledged and joined the migrant flock in early July (RP).

Redshank: The first pair was present from 23 March, with a second pair from 12 April, both staying until at least 21 June; the first pair showed breeding activity but no proof of success; no indication of breeding from second pair. Two juveniles present from 9 to 14 July may have come from Manor Farm, Eckington, where they had nested (RP).

Gooseham and Aysham, Worcs (part of site 4.1.17)

Curlew: Two pairs in late May and June, occasionally going to bathe at Gwen Finch, clearly attempted to nest (RP).

Eckington Marshes, Worcs (part of site 4.1.17)

Redshank: one pair nested at Manor Farm (JA per RP).

Rectory Farm Meadows, Worcs (part of site 4.1.17)

No data yet.

Upham Meadow and Summer Leasow, Glos (part of site 4.1.17)

Lapwing: No sign of breeding, either on the meadows or on arable land across the Worcestershire county boundary to the north, but three birds flew over high to the south on 2 May (MS).

Curlew: Probably five breeding pairs north of the motorway and one to the south; on 20 June, all adults were agitated with barking calls as though they had young in the largely uncut hay. On 30 June, with a few strips of hay cut, eight fledged and flying juveniles were seen north of the motorway in cut strips, apparently from at least four different broods, with only four adults left. On 7 July two more juveniles were seen south of the motorway, again in cut strips, with only one adult left. At least three juveniles, two to the north and one to the south of the motorway, were still present on 9 July; no Curlews were found on 28 July, even though no additional hay had been cut (MS).

Redshank: Only one bird with display call seen on 2 May. It may already have raised chicks and departed by the next visit on 20 June (MS).

Bredonís Hardwick East, Worcs (part of site 4.1.17)

Curlew: First noted in February, with 16 (probably passing migrants) on 27 February. Two to three pairs throughout April and early May when bubbling song was heard (RP, MS). Clearly attempted to breed; a fully fledged juvenile was seen on 18 July (AW), not clear whether this was a Bredonís Hardwick bird or one which had moved down from nearby Upham Meadow. No sign of failed birds sitting on cut hayfields (as had occurred in previous years) here in June or July.

Bredonís Hardwick Pits, Worcs (part of site 4.1.17)

A very poor breeding season recorded at Bredon's Hardwick Pits which were completely submerged by the Avon floods in summer 2007 and 2008.

Oystercatcher: First bird arrived on 23 February, joined by a second bird on 2 March; this pair made two nesting attempts on nearby arable fields, both unsuccessful; at least one bird present in late June and July at this site where the species has regularly bred in recent years (RP, MS).

Redshank: Up to four birds seen regularly from 10 March to 12 May, but no sign of breeding at this site, regarded by Quinn in 1995 as one of the key breeding sites for this species (AW, RP, MS).

Carrant Catchment, Worcs (part of site 4.2.2.2)

Lapwing: About ten pairs in mainly arable fields between Aston Cross and Oxenton, eight pairs elsewhere (JC).

Curlew: One pair present, not known whether it nested successfully (JC).

Kemerton Lake, Worcs (part of site 4.2.2.2)

Oystercatcher: A pair was resident from 26 February until at least 21 June; two breeding attempts and three juveniles seen in mid-June (RP).

Lapwing: Four pairs attempted to breed, but all were predated at the egg or chick stage (RP).

SPECIES ACCOUNTS

Oystercatcher: Two pairs nested, probably successfully, (one on arable) on the west bank of the estuary in the Aylburton/Guscar area, and the usual pair appeared on arable at Awre (opposite Slimbridge) but there was no sign of breeding. On the east bank of the estuary, no confirmation of breeding attempts as yet in the Slimbridge area. Inland breeding records mainly come from gravel pits or artificial lakes, though there have been a few records in recent years on arable. Bred successfully at Grimley (two pairs), Throckmorton Lagoon and Kemerton Lake, unsuccessfully on arable land near Bredonís Hardwick. A pair spent April at Coombe Hill, but the long-awaited breeding did not materialize; similarly at Lower Moor there were casual records but no attempt at breeding.

Total number of pairs attempting to nest: 5 (Worcs); 2+ (Glos)

Number of successful pairs: 4 (Worcs); 2+ (Glos)

 

Little Ringed Plover: The stronghold is in Worcestershire in riverside gravel pits, and 2009 was considered to be a poor breeding season: along the Severn, three pairs nested successfully at Grimley, four pairs attempted to breed at Ryall Pits, one of them being successful; two pairs bred at Ripple Pits, where one successfully fledged three young; no data yet from Clifton. Along the Avon, one pair attempted to nest in gravel pits near Lower Moor, but the young were predated. No breeding pairs were noted in the Gloucestershire section of the Severn and Avon Vales. No data yet from Slimbridge, where the species sometimes attempts to nest.

Total number of pairs attempting to nest: 10+ (all Worcs)

Number of successful pairs: 4 (Worcs)

Lapwing: In Worcestershire, good numbers normally nest on arable, and some pairs nesting on arable were undoubtedly overlooked, though as usual good numbers (18 pairs) were recorded in the Carrant catchment; seven pairs nested at the grassland site of Longdon, and at least three were successful. At gravel pits along the Severn, three pairs nested successfully at Grimley, four to five pairs bred at Ryall, only one producing young; five to six pairs bred at Ripple, all apparently being unsuccessful. Along the Avon, at least one pair was successful at Gwen Finch and at Throckmorton Lagoons, two pairs bred, one successfully; at Kemerton all four pairs attempting to nest were unsuccessful.

In inland sites in Gloucestershire, the 2009 nesting season seems to have been an unmitigated disaster for Lapwing: just one pair was on grass at Mythe Hook, but none were found nesting at any of the usual grassland sites at Ashleworth, Coombe Hill North and South, Leigh Meadows or Walmore Common. Only a very few pairs were noted on arable sites (generally on higher land) such as Long Reach (one pair, probably successful), Sandhurst Brawn (one pair, probably successful) and Staunton (two pairs, one perhaps successful).

On the west bank of the estuary, 20 pairs attempted to breed in the Aylburton/Guscar area, with some success, and other probably bred on arable inland of the sea wall on the Lydney New Grounds area. On the east bank, 34 pairs attempted to nest at Slimbridge and two at Saul, with minimal success because of predators.

It seems likely that the reason for the poor breeding season on inland green-field sites (in terms of both nesting attempts and breeding success) was a shortage of earthworms and other invertebrates, caused by the summer floods of 2007 and 2008.

Total number of pairs attempting to nest:

45 - 47 (Worcs)
5         (Glos inland)
56        (Glos estuary)

Number of successful pairs: 

9+  (Worcs)
3    (Glos inland)
12+ (Glos estuary)

Snipe: As over the last five years, no drumming birds were found inland and there was no suspicion of breeding. Indeed, the usual flush of spring migrants, on their way back to continental breeding sites, was less noticeable this year, with few April records and none at all in May; returning migrants were recorded, as usual, by early July. On the other hand, for the second year running, drumming was recorded near the estuary, giving hope of a return of breeding birds.

Total number of pairs attempting to nest:

 1 (?) (Glos estuary)

Number of successful pairs: 

?

Curlew: In previous years, breeding Curlews have only been recorded north of Gloucester. This year, there was a suggestion of possible breeding at Minsterworth Ham.

Along the Worcestershire Severn, a pair was present round Grimley, but no indications of nesting were obtained. No data are available as yet from Upton Ham. However a pair nested successfully at Longdon Marsh (fledged young seen with adults in early July). Queensberry Rough and Uckinghall Meadows each probably held a pair, but their fate is unknown. On the Gloucestershire section of the Severn, at least one pair attempted to nest at Mythe Hook, one or two on the Severn Ham at Tewkesbury and one at Chaceley (outcomes unknown). At Haw Bridge, the nesting pair almost certainly lost their young to hay-cutting in early June. At Ashleworth/ Hasfield two or three pairs attempted to nest and may have been successful. At Coombe Hill (north and south combined), two perhaps three pairs nested, one of them certainly with success (a fledged young bird was seen in early July). In the Leigh Meadows, one perhaps two pairs (less than usual) attempted to nest, and one pair appears to have been successful. Just north of Gloucester, Curlews appear to have attempted to breed in Severnside meadows near Sandhurst and Wallsworth, probably unsuccessfully.

Along the Worcestershire Avon, one pair nested (probably unsuccessfully, since they disappeared in May) at Craycombe. The pair at Lower Moor nested again, possibly with success, possibly losing their young during haymaking in early June. Two pairs probably attempted to nest at Gooseham/ Aysham, near Eckington Bridge. No data yet from Rectory Farm Meadows which often hold a pair. Two to three pairs nested at Bredonís Hardwick East; a fledged juvenile was seen here but may have come from Upham Meadow. On the Gloucestershire Avon, Upham Meadow (normally the site with the largest number of breeding Curlews) held at least six nesting pairs, and fledged young of five pairs were seen in late June and early July; most adults had departed by late June.

It is normally very difficult to find young Curlews, which hide in long grass in hayfields, though if strips of hay are cut, both adults and young seem to find feeding easier in these cut strips. The number of fledged young seen this year was unusually high (at Coombe Hill, Upham Meadow/ Bredonís Hardwick and Longdon Marsh), and they were unusually early, with fledging completed by the end of June (Upham), or the first few days of July (Coombe Hill and Longdon). In past years, the few young Curlews found have been later, well into July, and were still unfledged and unable to fly. This suggests that in 2009, many Curlews must have succeeded with their first clutch, relatively early. Perhaps the young birds seen in July in previous years were replacement clutches for lost first clutches?

It is also surprising that Curlews seem to have done well, when Lapwing and Redshank has such a poor year inland. All three nest in fields affected by the 2007 and 2008 summer floods, even if Curlews generally use slightly higher, drier hay fields. All three feed on worms and invertebrates.

Adult Curlews which lose their young abandon the breeding area quite quickly (as at Haw Bridge). It also appears that adults leave their young to fend for themselves very early on, presumably departing to the estuary and leaving young birds to make their own way, as at Upham Meadow; this could explain the early departure from Leigh Meadows (last sighting on 15 June) and Ashleworth/ Hasfield (last sighting 23 June). The makes the presence of singles like the one at Coombe Hill North throughout August is hence surprising. Observations of individuals or small groups of Curlews flying high downriver, often giving the normal flight call and often in the evening (e.g. one over Blackwells End along the River Leadon on 28 July, one over Ashleworth on 30 August), may be migrants en route for the estuary. Similarly, the birds observed on cut hayfields at Walmore Common from early June into July may have been failed breeders that were stopping over on the way to the estuary.

 

Total number of pairs attempting to nest:

11-12 (Worcs: 4 Severn, 7-8 Avon)
17-21 (Glos inland: 11-15 Severn, 6 Avon)
0 (Glos estuary)

Number of successful pairs:

1+ (Worcs)
7+ (Glos)

Redshank: In Worcestershire, Redshank attempted to nest at several sites, but there were few cases of confirmed success. One pair appears to have nested at Upton Ham (success unknown), while at Longdon Marsh at least one pair was present through the breeding season (success unknown). In Severnside gravel pits one pair was present at Grimley, two pairs at Ryall and one at Ripple, but no young were seen anywhere; no data as yet from Clifton. Along the Avon, one pair probably attempted to nest at Gwen Finch, one pair bred successfully at Eckington, but there was no sign of breeding at the former stronghold of Bredonís Hardwick, and no data from Rectory Farm Meadows, where a pair often nests.

In Gloucestershire, a disastrous breeding season: one pair may have nested at Upham Meadow. But there were nil returns from sites where the species has been successful in recent years: Coombe Hill north and South, Leigh Meadows and Walmore Common.

Could lack of earthworms or other invertebrates again be the reason for the poor breeding season inland?

On the estuary, where numbers of breeding birds are always larger, about 12 pairs were noted on the west bank around Aylburton/Guscar, while on the east bank 14-15 pairs around Slimbridge produced 8-12 young.

Total number of pairs attempting to nest:

8       (Worcs)
1       (Glos inland)
26-31 (Glos estuary)

Number of successful pairs:

1+ (Worcs)
?   (Glos inland)
?   (Glos estuary)

Acknowledgements:
Warmest thanks are due to the many volunteer observers, whose individual records are credited under each site: Jurjen Annen (JA), Juliet Bailey (JAB), Les Brown (LAB), John Clarke (JC), Tim Clutterbuck (TC), Bridget Hyslop (BH), Andy Jayne (AJ), Martin McGill (MMcG), Jim Northcott (JN), Dave Paynter (DJP), John Phillips (NJP), Rob Prudden (RP), Lawrence Skipp (LS), Brian Stretch (BS), Lewis Thomson (LT), Andy Warr (AW), John Wiltshire (JW).

Thanks are also due of course to the many landowners who have allowed observers to visit their land.

Bibliography

ACQUAVIVA C 2009: The density of soil macroinvertebrates and distribution of earthworms at Coombe Hill Nature Reserve, a lowland wet grassland in Gloucestershire: possible repercussions of management techniques after summer flooding. M. Sc. dissertation submitted to the School of Biological Sciences of the University of East Anglia, Norwich
ECOSCOPE 1999: Re-creation Options for the River Severn/Avon Floodplain Wetlands. Ecoscope Applied Ecologists. Cambridge
SMART M 2009: Breeding Waders of the Severn and Avon Vales 2005-2007. In Evans D (Ed) 2009: Gloucestershire Bird Report 2007. The Gloucestershire Ornithological Co-ordinating Committee. 196 pp.
QUINN J L (1995): Severn Vale Breeding Wader Survey 1995; Parts I & II. Report in three volumes. Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Sandy.
WILSON A & M SMART (2003): Breeding Waders Populations in the Severn & Avon Vales Natural Area in 2002. BTO Research Report No. 329. 59pp.
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