Worcestershire Record No. 28. April 2010

Notes on birds in the Severn and Avon Vales (the “Severn Hams”), Gloucestershire and south Worcestershire, October – December 2009

(Edited version concentrating mainly of wetland birds and other especially interesting records collated from many observers and web sites.)

Mike Smart

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, does not have flood-banks in some places and so floods easily above Tewkesbury. The River Chelt holds running water, and is small enough to have muddy edges and mud banks.

Weather and flooding: general

September’s drought continued only into the first few days of October, and the first few spots of rain for a month fell on 3 October, with more rain (18 mm) on 6 & 7 October, as high pressure occasionally relented to allow westerly winds to bring rain from the Atlantic. Nationally, periods of cyclonic and anticyclonic weather alternated for the first three weeks of the month but the last ten days were mainly warm. In the Severn Vale, high pressure reasserted itself on 8 & 9 October, with easterly winds dominant until the end of the month; top temperatures were 20°C on 14 October and 19.2°C on 27 October and lowest temperatures (on 13 and 18 October) were just above one degree, but there was no frost in Gloucester. Total rainfall in Gloucester in October was only 37mm, and the total for southwest England and Wales was only 69% of the average; thus, overall, it was a very dry autumn.

In November, winds went back to the west and south-west for almost the entire month, as deep depressions became slow-moving to the northwest of the British Isles. This brought a little drizzle on many occasions in the first ten days, with heavier rain in Gloucester on 12 &13 November (13 mm on both days); winds were stronger from 12-19 November, but rainfall locally was still limited, though much heavier in north Wales and North West England; still no frost. Rain became more persistent from 21-28 November (17 mm on 21 November), with strong south-westerly winds especially on 23-24 November; temperatures dropped slightly on 27/28 November and in the last couple of days of the month winds went north-easterly bringing the first frost of the winter on the night of 30 November (temperature -3.5°C in Gloucester). Nationally, November was the wettest since 1970 and the fourth wettest on record. Rainfall in southwest England and south Wales was 173% of the thirty year average. November was the wettest month of the year so far in Gloucester with a total rainfall of 130mm (the only other months topping 50 mm being June with 54 mm and July with 108 mm). Nationally too, it was mild, the second warmest since 1994 with little frost anywhere in the country.

Nationally the first fortnight of December was mild; however, an influx of freezing north-east and easterly winds in the second half of the month made it the coldest December countrywide for 13 years; the third week was particularly cold with heavy snow in the south and the east of England. In the vales, westerly winds set in again on 1 December, lasting for the first week of the month, bringing more fronts with higher temperatures and a little light drizzle (12 mm in Gloucester on 6 December), though there was a slight frost on 4 December. From 9 to 18 December, winds were generally north-easterly and temperatures dropped, with a light frost on 9 December, and sharper frosts from 17-22 December (-7°C in Gloucester on 18, -6°C on 22 December, colder outside the town); there were light snowfalls in the vales on 18 December and a dusting of snow on Bredon Hill, the Cotswolds and the Forest of Dean on 20 December. From 18-23 December winds were very faint and north-westerly, still cold because of the mass of motionless cold air over the county. From 23-26 December, winds (still light) went southerly, bringing some light rain and milder, frost-free conditions, but from 27-31 December winds went back to the east and cold conditions returned, though 27 December was the only frosty morning and there was fairly heavy rain (10 mm in Gloucester) on 29 December, with a dusting of snow on the Malverns, May Hill and the Forest of Dean on 29 & 30 December. Over southwest England and South Wales as a whole, the December rainfall was 93% of the thirty year average. Total December rainfall in Gloucester was 55 mms, bringing the total for the year to 591 mm (average rainfall 1971-2000 at Ross-on-Wye weather station 706 mm, for southern England as a whole 781.7 mm), indicating a year with below average rainfall.

In early October, water levels in ditches and scrapes were generally very low following the dry conditions in August and September. Levels began to rise a little about 10 November, after the light rainfall at the beginning of the month, and then rose considerably from 14 November onwards, under the joint effect of rainfall and high tides (top of the tide cycle on 17 November, level at Haw Bridge 9.06m on 19 November, the highest since mid-February); this caused inflow streams to back up, notably the Chelt which was almost overtopping its banks below Wainlodes on 17 November. The Severn dropped briefly for the next two days, then rose again, reaching 10.52m at Haw Bridge on 28 November and 10.75m on 1 December, but never quite overtopping its banks in late November or early December. In the first few days of December, the Severn continued to drop (9.95m at Haw Bridge on 3 December, 8.95m. on 5 December), but then rose again following rain on 6 December (9.90m on 8 December, dropping back to 8.85m on 12 December, 7.64m on 19 December). With these high Severn levels, local streams could not discharge into the Severn and provoked deep flooding in riverside meadows and hams; in particular the Chelt overtopped its banks from 28 November up to 12 December, causing increased flooding at Coombe Hill and the Leigh Meadows, and at Ashleworth and Walmore too the water could not get away. Floods in the meadows dropped, fairly slowly given the amounts that had built up, from 13 December until just after Christmas; but from 29 December, the level of the Severn rose again quite sharply, presumably because of melting snow higher up the catchment in North Wales, provoking a rise in floodwater in the meadows.

Conditions at the main sites

Severn Ham, Tewkesbury: Lightly flooded in early December.

Ashleworth/Hasfield Hams: Water levels were low early in October, with just a little water left in the pools on the GWT reserve, and not beginning to rise until 10 November, when the first two boards were put into the sluice, with another board inserted on 12 November, though flooding from mid November onwards prevented the remaining boards from being inserted. Good numbers of sheep grazed the reserve and surrounding fields for the first three weeks of November. Water levels began to rise more rapidly as streams and ditches backed up and flowed into the reserve from 14-19 November, by which time normal winter water levels had been reached: 7.90m at the sluice on 17 November, 8.01m on 19 November. For the next ten days, water levels on the meadows rose gradually, reaching 8.50m on 28 November, higher still until 6 December, with extensive flooding on the meadows; but the Ham Road remained open and the hides easily accessible. Floods dropped slowly from 12-27 December, much more slowly than at Walmore, but becoming iced over from 19-23 December, only thawing slowly over the next four days; however, levels rose rapidly again from 29 December as local streams could not discharge into the Severn and backed up.

Coombe Hill: In early October the scrapes were practically dry and grass was topped on the islands in an attempt to improve conditions for next spring’s breeding waders; water levels in the Long Pool were also very low, and cattle and sheep were still grazing the meadows in early November. Access along the canal bank was made much easier, with less mud, following scrub clearance in September. Water levels only began to rise from about 10 November; by 17 November there was light flooding around the scrapes and on the Southern Meadows. By 22 November, the hides were inaccessible, though the canal towpath remained open despite a covering of shallow water. Floodwaters continued to rise: on 1 December parts of the towpath were not passable and the road from the Red Lion to Wainlodes was closed; the waters rose further until 6 December because water, especially from the Chelt, could not get be discharged into the Severn; from about 9 December, floodwater began to recede, but more slowly than at Walmore and Ashleworth as levels had risen higher, and hides remained inaccessible until the end of the year; most of remaining floodwater iced over from 19 December onwards, only clearing slowly with the thaw after 23 December.

Leigh Meadows: The meadows were dry in October and early November, but on 17 November the River Chelt was very high, almost breaking its banks; it was a little lower on 19 November, no doubt because of lower tides, but rose again after rain in the following week, and was overtopping, causing much more extensive flooding from 28 November until about 14 December; the flooding had mostly disappeared by 19 December, when most of fields were iced over, though less severely than at Coombe Hill, so some birds remained round holes in the ice. The Chelt began to rise again from about 29 December and was very high, almost breaking its banks, on 31 December.

Minsterworth Ham: Flooded, like all other riverside hams, from late November into December.

Walmore Common: Water levels were very low in early October, with hay cut, surface pools dry and ditches being cleaned out. Light flooding, present on 22 November, was more extensive on 23 November and fairly high by 29 November and early December; this floodwater remained high until 6 December, but dropped rapidly from 9 December and most surface flooding had disappeared by 14 December. By 21 December all floodwater had gone, but most surface water and ditches were frozen; on 31 December the ditches were full but there was no flooding despite a rise in Severn level.

Bird records

In general, following a very dry August and September and below average rainfall in October, most wetlands in the Severn and Avon Vales remained fairly dry until significant rainfall in the first week of November. The main interest in October and early November therefore revolved around departing summer migrants, and the arrival of the first winter visitors; a Great White Egret at Nafford in early October was notable. The most unusual record of a skua at Coombe Hill in late November mirrored other seabird records further south on the estuary. From mid-November, water levels began to rise at Coombe Hill and Ashleworth, attracting an unusual immature Pink-footed Goose (several small family groups of which had - unusually - been recorded at Clifton and Grimley in Worcestershire in October, no doubt birds which had overshot in their southward movement from Iceland and Greenland). There was extensive flooding from late November until mid December; as these floods dropped, the shallow receding floodwater attracted large numbers of wetland birds (swans, geese and ducks, but also Lapwings and some other waders, not forgetting gulls and crows); over 1000 Canada and Greylag Geese were at Coombe Hill, while an immature Brent occurred at Minsterworth. As is often the case on a dropping flood, duck numbers were high at Coombe Hill and Ashleworth, exceeding 3000 in mid-December, with over 2500 Wigeon, 1300 Teal and almost 300 Pintail and even some diving ducks, while a flock of up to 1000 Lapwings was present, a rare sight in recent years when most Lapwings and Golden Plover have moved to the estuary. At Walmore too, good numbers of water birds occurred on the falling flood in early December, when the first Bewick’s appeared at Walmore, as usual birds that had been observed there in previous winters. The cold snap in the week before Christmas caused a further influx of Bewick’s Swans to Slimbridge, with more afterwards, a few of them moving up to the Severn Vale. After occasional records of one and two Whooper Swans on the estuary and in the Severn Vale in November, one finally arrived at Coombe Hill in mid-December, only to return to Worcestershire when the flood water iced over. The star bird in Worcestershire in December was a Glossy Ibis, seen through most of the month on floodwater near Grimley.

Glossy Ibis: At Holt / Grimley, one on Severn floodwater from 3 until at least 19 December (but absent some days, and seen flying over central Worcester on 18 December).
Great White Egret: One at Gwen Finch reserve from 1 to 4 October.
Little Egret: Worcestershire: One or two at Grimley from 1 to 26 October. Four at Bredon’s Hardwick on 20 December. Few recorded in Gloucestershire, where this species remains essentially a summer visitor to the Severn Hams: one on 26 December at Castlemeads.
Grey Heron: The usual small numbers in the Gloucestershire section of the Severn Vale throughout the period: at Ashleworth up to three in October and up to 21 November. At Coombe Hill and Cobney Meadows up to three throughout the period. At Walmore up to three in November and December.
Mute Swan: In Gloucestershire, some pairs remained close to their breeding sites, while at Coombe Hill a wintering flock including many immatures, built up. At Ashleworth, present throughout the period, maxima six on 21 November, twelve on 22 December. At Leigh Meadows, six were on floodwater on 22 November, five on 19 December. At Coombe Hill, 3AY and mate (which had nested in situ in spring) remained on the canal with five cygnets on 2 October, then two or three on many dates in October and November, five again on 21 November, gradually chasing away the cygnets in late November and three on 15 December. The wintering flock numbered 14 on floodwater on 28 November, 34 on 16 December, 39 on 19 December, 20 round a hole in the ice on 22 December. There was a pair at Sandhurst Brawn Pits on 19 November. At Walmore, numbers were small: three adults grazing on 11 October, three on floodwater on 22 November; nine (four cygnets) on floodwater on 4 December, six (five cygnets) had roosted on 13 December; none left in icy conditions in the last ten days of December.
Whooper Swan: One was briefly at Slimbridge on 2 November with the first Bewick’s Swans, but was not seen later on the estuary. None were found at any of the usual Severn Hams sites in early November despite favourable conditions with floods rising from 10 November, but one was discovered near the Herefordshire border on 13 November (perhaps the bird seen earlier at Slimbridge?). A single bird, perhaps the same one again, was on floodwater at Coombe Hill from 15-19 December, and what must have been the same bird was recorded at Pirton Pool, south of Worcester, on 20 December. On 19 November, two were reported near the usual feeding area on the Leigh Meadows, probably the two birds seen at Grimley on 9 December.
Bewick’s Swan: The first 14 birds arrived at Slimbridge on the night of 31 October/1 November, equalling the latest ever arrival date; only 19 had arrived by 18 November, 21 on 23 November, with more arrivals in the colder weather at the end of the month, with 73 (seven cygnets) by 6 December and 81 on 8 December Another 70 arrived by 18 December, when 150 were present (with 182 different individuals recorded so far this season) and there was a massive arrival in the next four days with 229 present on 27 December, already higher than last winter’s maximum of 192
None were present at Walmore on 29 November in flooded conditions, but the first five on 2 December, were all adults (at least two ringed); what were undoubtedly the same five birds were present from 4-6 December, when three rings were read. They proved to be a pair (TUV “Widemouth” and BCH Winny”) with one of their unringed offspring from previous years (“Kayak”), all three of which have frequently been recorded at Walmore in previous winters; this year they were seen at Welney on the Ouse Washes on 28 November, and were briefly recorded at Slimbridge on 5 December, then not again until 13 December; the other two were another regular Walmore pair (TPZ “Risa” and her unringed mate “Rizo”), which had been sighted at Slimbridge on 30 November and then from the morning of 6 December onwards. It seems likely that they stayed to roost at Walmore while the flood water was high. None were present after 13 December when water levels had dropped and the birds were recorded back at Slimbridge; eight flew over to northwest at midday on 21 December but did not land.
Ashleworth saw its first records of Bewick’s Swans coming from Slimbridge since February 2008, winter 2008/09 having been barren for Bewick’s: a flock of 25 on 28 December (two cygnets) flew towards Coombe Hill where they perhaps roosted on the floods; seven were present on 31 December (including a family party of two adults and three cygnets which flew in mid-morning).

The wintering flock that roosts at Coombe Hill (mainly Canadas and Greylags) built up as usual in early autumn with nearly 300 present and grazing on the meadows on 10 November, and over 800 on floodwater on 28 November; on the falling flood from 15-19 December, a total of about 1000 geese was present, but most disappeared when it iced over from 19 December. Pink-footed Goose: Worcestershire: At Grimley, a first winter bird was present with Canada Geese from 6-16 October; then two first year birds were seen on nearby floodwater, roosting with Canada Geese from 3 to 13 December. At Clifton, four (two adults and two first winter birds, probably a family party), previously seen in late September, were still present from 3-26 October; then five (two adults and three first winter birds) on 30 & 31 October; two with Canadas on 11 & 12 December. A single first winter bird was at Upton Warren from 23-31 October. One at Kemerton Lake on 19 December.
In Gloucestershire, an immature was seen on 10 November with the Greylags and Canadas at Coombe Hill and was still present from 14-22 November; it was not seen during high flooding late November or early December but was discovered again from 15-19 December.
It seems likely that many of the above observations referred to the same birds, moving about the area. All were considered to be wild birds, since there are no know feral breeding birds locally; they had presumably overshot while moving from northern England.
Greylag Goose: Gloucestershire: At Barrow Ponds, two or three were present on 2 October. At Coombe Hill, an injured bird was present in early October; numbers increased to 45 from 10 November; after the floodwaters rose in late November, the Greylags that had roosted at Coombe Hill (like the Canada Geese) often flew the short distance to Ashleworth and spent the day there; eleven on 21 November, 20 on 28 November; numbers were higher, with 190 on floodwater on 15-17 December and 163 on 19 December.
Bar-headed Goose: At Coombe Hill, one with Greylags from 15-19 December.
Canada Goose: About 50 which had roosted at Tirley Court Lake flew south early on 10 October, as they had been doing in September. At Coombe Hill, where conditions were very dry in early October, about 50 flew out to the southwest at first light on 2 & 10 October, perhaps going to Barrow Ponds, where there were 95 on 2 October; at Coombe Hill they were coming in to roost when it was nearly dark on 8 October. At Ashleworth, the two with broken wings that had summered were present in October, still present on 12 November.
Numbers increased in late October: 182 were at Coombe Hill on 31 October; 245 had roosted on 10 November and grazed round the scrapes; about 50 were still flying off downriver to the southwest on 12 November. Numbers reached 380 on 18 November, 385 had roosted on 21 November; 250+ were on the floodwater on 22 November, 660 (including a hybrid perhaps Canada x Barnacle?) had roosted on 28 November, many flying during the morning to Ashleworth. After the floods rose in mid-November, many of the birds that had roosted at Coombe Hill moved to Ashleworth during the day; 130 there on 21 November, 550 on 22 November, 400+ on 28 November (birds from Coombe Hill). When the floods decreased there were 570 at Coombe Hill from 15-17 December; 750 which had roosted at Coombe Hill on 19 December all flew early to Ashleworth to join the 176 already there; sharp decrease to only 15 at Coombe Hill and 51 at Ashleworth in icy conditions on 22 December.
At Walmore, about 40, only during the period of high floodwater from 22 November to 4 December.
Barnacle Goose: At Coombe Hill, one with Canada Geese from 27 November to 19 December.
Brent Goose: A juvenile of the dark-bellied form at Minsterworth Ham on 6 December.

The build-up of numbers in October and early November was slow, no doubt because of low water levels, with only Teal appearing in any numbers at Coombe Hill. But when floodwater appeared on the meadows from mid-November onwards, numbers increased rapidly, and at Coombe Hill on 28 November numbers of Wigeon had reached 800 and of Pintail 105. When the flooding was at its height at Ashleworth and Coombe Hill in early December, most ducks seemed to abandon the deep water and moved to Longdon Marsh where there were 1750 surface-feeding ducks on 2 December, but nearly all had left by 5 December. However, as floodwater dropped from 15 to 19 December, large numbers of ducks (over 3000 birds including 2500 Wigeon, at least 1300 Teal and over 250 Pintail, plus some diving ducks) appeared on the shallow waters at Coombe Hill, no doubt feeding on material made available by the flood; only another 300 at Ashleworth; however numbers crashed in the next few days, as the remaining floodwater iced over, leaving only about 1000 huddled round a hole in the ice on 22 December.
Shelduck: As usual, small numbers began to appear on floodwater at the end of the year. At Ashleworth, one on 31 December. At Coombe Hill a single through October until 14 November; six on 15 December, 12 on 17 December, one on 27 December. At Minsterworth Ham, six on floodwater on 6 December. At Walmore one on 22 November, six on floods in early December, three on 31 December.
Surface-feeding ducks:
Wigeon: Only small numbers in October and November before the floodwaters rose. At Ashleworth, the first one on 13 October, monthly maximum of eleven on 31 October, then 33 on 7 November; at Coombe Hill two on 27 October, four on 31 October, 22 on 10 November. Numbers increased from mid-November as floodwaters rose: at Ashleworth 173 on 14 November and 215 on 21 November, at Coombe Hill 178 on 14 November, 300 on 17 & 22 November, 800 on 28 November. As the floods dropped in December, up to 2500 between Coombe Hill and Ashleworth: at Ashleworth there were 430 on 5 December, 1060 on 19 December, 500 left in icy conditions on 22 December, 350 on 27 December; and at Coombe Hill 2500 on shallow floodwater (with more at Cobney Meadows) on 15-17 December, 1450 on 19 December, only five round a hole in the ice on 22 December. At Walmore Wigeon were observed only as long as the floods lasted: 120 on 2 December, 100 on 4 December, 205 on 5 December; 60 had roosted on 13 December but flew out very early.
Gadwall: Up to 30 were seen regularly at Ashleworth and Coombe Hill: at Ashleworth, the first one was on 4 November, with a monthly maxima of eleven on 21 November and eight on 27 December; at Coombe Hill there were four on 18 November, 11 on 21 November, 30 on 15 December and 14 on 27 December. Seen at Walmore only during the period of higher waters: 29 on 2 December, 32 on 5 December, last two on 13 December.
Teal: Up to70 had been recorded around the scrapes at Coombe Hill in August and September, and numbers there increased gradually: 140 on 7 October, 160 on 13 & 17 October, 190 on 26 October, 260 on 31 October, 280 on 4 November. At Ashleworth, with rising water levels, there were 140 on 12 November, 105 on 21 November. Numbers continued at these levels through the flood period in late November and Early December when access was difficult, but much higher totals appeared as the floodwater dropped: at Coombe Hill 200+ (probable underestimate) from 15-17 December, 600 (more easily visible on ice) on 19 December; only 20, some on canal, in sheet ice on 22 December, back to 250 on 27 December; at Ashleworth 700 on ice on 19 December, still 290 on ice on 22 December, 280 on 27 December.
At Castlemeads 20 on 26 December. At Minsterworth Ham 34 on the floods on 6 December. At Walmore, where fair numbers winter on the ditches even when there is no floodwater, there were five on 11 October, 150 on floodwater on 22 November, 300 on 4 December, 400 on 13 December, but only 30 on 20 December and 50 on 21 December in frozen conditions, 70 after the thaw on 31 December.
Mallard: The mild autumn conditions induced very late breeding: on the River Chelt on 2 October a group of about 30 included a female with two tiny ducklings less than a week old. Some quite considerable late autumn and winter concentrations were recorded, for a species whose numbers have decreased in recent years: at Ashleworth there were 60 on 12 November, 163 on 14 November, 200 on 21 November, then 195 on 19 December and 117 on 22 December; at Coombe Hill 60 were seen on 10 November, 185 on 14 November, 265 on 18 November, 122 on 21 November, then about 40 in late November and early to mid-December, but 140 on 27 December. On Leigh Meadows there were 15 on 19 December. At Walmore too, good numbers were noted during the flood: 230 on 22 November, 200 on 2 December, 310 on 5 December, only 15 left on 13 December and four in frozen conditions on 21 December.
Pintail: Rather small numbers on the Worcestershire gravel diggings: at Grimley two on 3 December and six on 6 December; at Clifton one to two from 3 October to the end of the month, but nine on 26 October; up to three on various dates in December. At Ripple a single on 18 October.
Larger numbers were recorded on floodplain sites in Gloucestershire, though the concentrations of up to 300 found in some autumns did not occur. At Ashleworth there was a single on 14 November, then 13 on 18 November; on the dropping flood 130 on 19 December and 20 on 27 December. At Coombe Hill 10 were noted on 18 November, 105 on 28 November; as the floods dropped, there were 94 on 15 & 16 December, 140 on 19 December, with 40 left on the ice on 22 December. At Walmore too, Pintail were found only during the flood period: two on 22 November, 35 on 2 December, 52 on 5 December.
Shoveler: As for Teal small numbers had been recorded at Coombe Hill from August onwards with up to 18 in September; numbers recorded there were three on 10 October, two on 4 November, 20 on 17 November, 35 on 28 November; at Ashleworth there were four on 4 November, 27 on 18 November, 26 on 5 December. As floods dropped there were about 50 on floodwater at Coombe Hill from 15-19 December; and at Ashleworth 120 on 19 December, 101 round a hole in the ice on 22 December, 34 on 27 December and 52 on 29 December. At Walmore good numbers appeared during the period of flooding: one on 22 November, 70 on 2 December, 150 on 4 December, 82 on 5 December.

Diving ducks
Diving ducks normally occur in limited numbers in the Gloucestershire sector of the Severn Vales, where there is little suitable deeper water, but they appear when flooding is high.
Pochard: At Coombe Hill a lone bird on the Long Pool shallows on 10 November, one on floodwater on 28 November; but 60+ on floodwater on 15 - 17 December.
Tufted Duck: At the deeper Barrow Ponds there were six on 2 October. At Coombe Hill three were on floodwater on 28 November, then about 50 on the falling flood on 15-17 December. At Walmore Common, a single bird was present on the floods on 5 December.
Scaup: At Clifton Pits, three first winter birds on 31 October.
Red-crested Pochard: At Bredon’s Hardwick, the female, first noted in September, was still present in the first half of October, then again on 12 December; there were two, including a drake, on 19 & 20 December.
Goldeneye: Much more frequent on the deeper waters in Worcestershire than in Gloucestershire floods.
In Worcestershire: at Grimley, a drake on 8 December; at Clifton Pits, a drake from 5 to 18 December; a female on 12 December; two on 19 December. At Lower Moor one on 31 October, and an immature drake on the Avon nearby on 19 December.
In Gloucestershire: a female or immature on the falling flood at Coombe Hill, on 15 December.
Goosander: Recorded only in Worcestershire: at Grimley eight on 7 December, a female on the Severn nearby on 9 December; at Clifton, four (one drake) on 20 December.

Sparrowhawk: Recorded regularly at most Gloucestershire sites: at Tirley a female on 6 & 18 November; at Ashleworth a female on 8, a single on 28 November; a male hunting along hedges in icy conditions on 22 December; singles at Coombe Hill on 22 November, at Wainlodes on 17 December, at Castlemeads on 26 December, at Minsterworth Ham on 6 December and at Walmore on 17 December.
Buzzard: In Gloucestershire, at a field of winter wheat near Deerhurst which had to be resown because of slug damage, there were unusual concentrations of Buzzards, presumably feeding on slugs (with Lapwings and Black-headed Gulls): 56 on 18 October, 34 on 3 November, 51 on 24 November, 32 on 27 November 41 on 25 December. Elsewhere the usual ones and twos throughout the period at Chaceley, Ashleworth, Ashleworth Quay, Coombe Hill, along the River Chelt and Walmore; but five at Ashleworth on 12 November.
Merlin: Records from Worcestershire were more numerous: at Grimley, a juvenile on 5 October; at Longdon Marsh, one on 6 December; by Wyre Piddle near Pershore, a female hunting on 30 October and on Bredon Hill one on 31 October.
In Gloucestershire: two at Ashleworth on 14 November, and one at Coombe Hill on 7 November.
Peregrine: Seen regularly in the Gloucestershire sector, following some records in September: over the Severn Ham, Tewkesbury, one headed towards the abbey on 4 December; at Ashleworth/Hasfield singles from early October to late December, both a female and a male being recorded; also noted at Coombe Hill from 7 October, with two on 15 December, and probably the same two on pylons at Leigh Meadows on 19 December.

Water Rail: In Gloucestershire, more often heard squealing than seen: at Ashleworth, one along main ditch on 12 November, one squealing on 31 December; one or two heard frequently at Coombe Hill in cold conditions from mid December until the end of the month; at Castlemeads, two on 13 December, one on 26 December; at Walmore, one seen on 31 December.
Moorhen: Seen at the Gloucestershire sites of Ashleworth and Coombe Hill; at the latter there were up to ten throughout the period, more in evidence in icy conditions in December. Coot: Scarce in autumn, but at Coombe Hill, the unusual number of 58 on open water from 15-17 December, disappearing in icy conditions on 19 December.

Autumn wader passage tailed off rapidly in October. Numbers of wintering waders were low, as is often the case, with only the odd Green Sandpiper being noted. Snipe numbers built up slowly. Some Golden Plover appeared on passage, more in Worcestershire than Gloucestershire. The rising floodwaters in the second half of November and early December attracted a fair-sized flock of Lapwings, which stayed in the Severn hams instead of going to the estuary where numbers have been much larger in recent winters. The dropping floods in mid-December attracted a greater variety of waders, though only in small numbers.
Golden Plover: Worcestershire: at Clifton Pits there was one on 19 December. Along the Avon, there were flocks of 43 at Sheriff’s Lench on 5 October and 228 on 22 October; at nearby Lower Moor flocks numbering from 22 to 75 appeared on many dates in October; at Bredon Hill 72 flew over to the south on 21 October and 160 were seen on 31 October, with 40 on 3 December; at Bredon’s Hardwick one flew over on 20 December.
In Gloucestershire, only smaller numbers were recorded, probably passing birds avoiding cold weather: at Tirley, one on 24 December; at Coombe Hill one in flight over Cobney Meadows on 17 December, two on 19 December, a flock of seven flew south on 22 December; at Walmore, 20 flew in from the northeast on 20 December.
Lapwing: In Gloucestershire: at Hasfield 60 were round the edges of floodwater on 20 November, with 175 on 27 November and a bigger flock of 315 on 28 November; this flock stayed round the edges of the floodwater in the first week of December, and had increased to 1050 by 5 December, moving back and forth between Ashleworth and Coombe Hill; 800 on Cobney Meadows on 16 & 17 December, a total of 500 on 19 December; but nearly all had gone in icy conditions on 22 December, but 160 again on 27 December. Occasional observations of up to 100 at Coombe Hill in November and December probably came from this flock. At Leigh Meadows, 50 by floodwater on 13 December, 20 on 19 December. At Minsterworth 300 round floodwater on 6 December. At Walmore 200 around flood water on 4 December, 50 on 13 December; about 15 moving downriver in weather movement on 21 December.
Some Lapwings were noted on sprouting winter wheat fields, often with Black-headed Gulls and even Buzzards, no doubt feeding on slugs and earthworms: at Deerhurst 40 on 25 December, at Staverton 75 on 26 December.
Dunlin: In Worcestershire: two on 4 October, one on 31 October at Clifton Pits.
In Gloucestershire: one at the edge of floodwater at Coombe Hill, with Lapwings, on 16 December.
Little Stint: In Gloucestershire: one at the edge of floodwater at Coombe Hill, with Lapwings, on 16 December.
Ruff: On falling flood, two at Coombe Hill (Cobney Meadows end) on 16 December, three (two ruffs and a reeve) on 17 December, two on 18 & 19 December.
Jack Snipe: Larger numbers in Worcestershire: at Grimley, one on 3 October, five on 24 October; at Clifton Pits, one on 18 October, eight on 6 December, four on 19 December. At Gwen Finch, one on 16 October. At Kemerton Lake singles were present on 16 October and 9 December.
In Gloucestershire: at Walmore singles were recorded on 22 November and on 17 & 20 December; at Quedgeley there was one on 22 December.
Snipe: In Gloucestershire, particularly at Coombe Hill, returning Snipe had been recorded since early July, with up to 70 in August. Numbers remained low in dry conditions in October and early November: at Ashleworth, two on 10 October, three on 17 October, five on 31 October; 15 with rising water levels on 12 November; at Coombe Hill, only two at first light on 2 October, one at dusk on 8 October, two on 27 & 31 October; five on 10 November; seven on 17 November, all flushed from damp maize stubble full of gnats. Not many more as damper conditions set in from mid-November: at Ashleworth, with floods high, only four on 21 November and seven on 28 November, four in icy conditions on 19 December, 20 in fields on 21 December. At Coombe Hill there were 28 on 21 November; only one (at Cobney Meadows) on 16 December, five on 19 December, 20 in icy conditions on 22 December. On Leigh Meadows, 20 in icy conditions on 19 December. At Port Ham, eight on 13 December, nine on 26 December. At Quedgeley, two on 22 December. At Walmore, ten on 22 November, four on 13 December, 55 on 17 December, 12 on 20 December, only three in frozen conditions on 21 December, 12 after thaw on 31 December.
Redshank: At Coombe Hill (most unusually) an excited flock of five flew in on 10 November; then two appeared on dropping flood on 16 & 17 December.
Green Sandpiper: Much more frequent at Worcestershire gravel pits: at Grimley and Clifton one or two throughout October and December; at Ryall two on 11 October, and at Ripple one on 18 October. Along the Avon at Throckmorton one or two on several dates in late October; tow at Lower Moor on 12 December.
Seen regularly in dry conditions in October and early November, round the scrapes at Coombe Hill, with as many as four feeding in Long Pool on 10 November; one round edge of floodwater on 17 December; at Leigh Meadows, two along the Chelt on 19 December; at Sudmeadow, one on 9 October. At Minsterworth Ham four in flooded conditions on 6 December.
Common Sandpiper: Seen only in Worcestershire: On the Severn near Grimley, one on 8 December. A single in residence at Clifton Pits from 3-18 October, and again in December.

Skuas and Gulls
Arctic Skua: Most unusually, a pale morph skua, almost certainly of this species, appeared over Coombe Hill on 22 November – presumably blown by the strong winds at this period from the estuary, where there were many records of skuas and other seabirds at this time? Or had it come overland from the Wash?
Mediterranean Gull: At Throckmorton LS, an adult on 20 December.
Black-headed Gull: Worcestershire: At Throckmorton, 2500 on 20 December.
In Gloucestershire, a frequent visitor to shallow floodwater: At Tewkesbury, over 40 on Severn Ham floodwater on 4 December. At Ashleworth, 152 on floodwater on 21 November. At Coombe Hill, 120 on floodwater on 17 November, 300 on 21 November, 700 on 16 December, 250 on 17 December, only 15 left on 19 December as floods went down. At Leigh Meadows, 200 on floodwater on 13 December, none on 19 December. At Walmore 200+ on floodwater on 5 December, 100 on 13 December.
Common Gull: At Coombe Hill, ten on floodwater on 28 November & 16 December, 20 on 17 December.
Lesser Black-backed Gull: Worcestershire: At Throckmorton, 4000 on 20 December.
In Gloucestershire, also seen on floodwater with other water birds: at Coombe Hill, 30 on floodwater on 28 November 50 on 16 December, 10 on 17 December, only two on 19 December. At Leigh Meadows, 50 + on floodwater on 13 December, none on 19 December. At Walmore, 300+ on floodwater on 5 December, some flying over after floods dropped on 13 December.
Herring Gull: At Throckmorton Landfill Site, 2500 on 13 & 20 December.
Yellow-legged Gull: Worcestershire: up to a dozen regularly records from Throckmorton Landfill Site from 4 October to 20 December.
Iceland Gull: At Throckmorton, an immature on 20 December.
Great Black-backed Gull: At Throckmorton Landfill Site, two on 30 November, six on 13 December, at least ten on 20 December.
Kittiwake: At Kemerton Lake a first winter bird, found dead on 9 December, was no doubt blown upriver by the gales of late November.

Meadow Pipit: The usual migrants had been recorded in Gloucestershire, especially at Ashleworth, in September, when favourable conditions may have encouraged rapid passage through the area; this passage continued into October, though as usual some birds stayed to winter. At Tirley, three on 21 October and 20+ on 31 October. At Ashleworth, 18+ over to south and another flock of 20+ at Colways on 4 October; 50 (seven caught including two adults) on 10 October. Up to 50 were recorded in the Ashleworth/Hasfield area, many round farms, through November, with slightly smaller numbers in December. On Leigh Meadows, 50 on 21 November. At Coombe Hill, very light passage on 2 October with about ten migrants going southwest, 80 on 24 October; then smaller wintering numbers: six or seven in November, maximum of ten in December. Along the River Chelt, ten on 2 October. At Walmore, two on 21 December.
Rock Pipit: At Grimley, three on 5 October, one on 14 October. The first ever in the area (i.e. away from its usual haunts on the lower estuary) at GLS on 7 October.
Water Pipit: This species may perhaps be overlooked in Meadow Pipit flocks in Gloucestershire, but some are recorded: at Coombe Hill, a definite record by the scrapes on 6 November, several possible in the Ashleworth area.
Black Redstart: Worcestershire: one near Grimley on 28 October.
Cetti’s Warbler: At Coombe Hill, one on 20 December. At Castlemeads, one on 26 December.
Willow Tit: At Grimley, one on 5 December.

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