Notes on birds in the Severn and Avon Vales (the “Severn Hams”), Gloucestershire and south Worcestershire, January 2011–March 2011
Mike Smart [This is an edited version of Mike’s original report and deals only with birds usually associated with wetlands. Ed]
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); the new Ripple Pits (east bank) just south of the M50. Upton Warren Nature reserve, north of Droitwich, is outside the area covered by the present report, but is occasionally mentioned as it attracts many significant birds.
Powick Ham, just south of Worcester, the flood meadows where the Teme flows into the Severn.
Upton Ham (Worcs), the Upper Ham, a hay meadow south of the town, is an SSSI and is the best conserved of the riverside hams in botanical terms; south of the old railway embankment is the Lower Ham.
Longdon Marsh (where the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust has a major reserve south of Marsh Lane), a nearly enclosed basin north of the M50 motorway, flowing via the Longdon Brook to the Severn, just north of The Mythe and Mythe Hook, above Tewkesbury and just in Gloucestershire.
The Avon Meadows (on either side of the Avon, going north from Tewkesbury), along the border between Gloucestershire and Worcestershire, and including: the restored gravel pits at Bredon’s Hardwick (Worcs); Upham Meadow (sometimes called the “Great Hay Meadow”) and Summer Leasow at Twyning (Glos) which form an SSSI on ornithological grounds; Rectory Farm Meadows (Worcs), across the Avon from Upham Meadow and an SSSI on botanical grounds; Strensham Pits (Worcs), sludge pools below the waterworks at Strensham; further north along the Worcestershire Avon is the Gwen Finch Worcestershire Wildlife Trust Reserve near Nafford, an area of shallow lakes by the Avon; between Pershore and Fladbury is Lower Moor, and just to the north Throckmorton Landfill Site, which attracts large numbers of feeding gulls, (like Gloucester LS) and where the lagoons sometimes attract water birds. Just to the east of Bredon is Kemerton Lake (Worcs), a restored gravel pit in the valley of the Carrant Brook, which flows through Cowfield Marsh into the Avon just above Tewkesbury.
The “Severn Hams” between Tewkesbury and Gloucester, in which the main wetland areas are: Ashleworth and Hasfield Hams; Coombe Hill Canal and Meadows; , including Cobney Meadows at the western end (Coombe Hill Canal is a long disused and overgrown canal, which runs through the centre of Coombe Hill Meadows); and Cobney Meadows to the south of the canal, which adjoin the Leigh Meadows alongside the River Chelt and Leigh Brook above Wainlodes. Barrow Ponds are created by the artificial damming of a small tributary of the Chelt, east of the A 38. 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 Wainlodes, past Ashleworth Quay and Sandhurst, to Gloucester. The River Leadon flows into the Severn just above Gloucester, and its valley extends north past Newent; the newly created ponds at Blackwells End near Collier’s Brook, a tributary of the Leadon, have great potential. At Sandhurst, Maisemore and at Walham Pools near Gloucester there are a number of abandoned overgrown riverside brick-pits, artificial excavations in the floodplain.
Maisemore Ham is now largely converted to arable farming.
Sites on the edge of urban Gloucester, once 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 attracts large numbers of gulls, and has a pond attractive to passage and some resident waterbirds; a little further south, near the Gloucester-Sharpness Canal, is the small Quedgeley Local Nature Reserve.
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, 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
The north of England and Scotland experienced cold wintry weather in the first ten days of January, followed in the middle of the month by a mild wet spell across the whole of UK; high pressure built again through the second half of the month, with the last week drier and colder. Southwest England reverted to a more normal Atlantic pattern at the beginning of the month, escaping the very cold weather. The Severn Vale was overcast and dull, with mainly south-westerly winds and high cloud for the first two weeks of the year; there were slight frosts in Gloucester at the beginning of the month and on 9 & 10 January. Some rain fell in the second week of January, when maximum temperatures were above 10°C on most days and Pershore recorded 14.5°C on 13 January, the highest temperature anywhere in UK in the month. Winds became much stronger on 15 January; the large anticyclone then produced sharp overnight frosts (-4° or -5°C in Gloucester) from 17-22 January; milder westerly air dominated from 23-25 January, with light rain on 25 January; anticyclonic conditions prevailed again with a cold easterly wind from 26 January, with frosts from 28 January, coldest on the night of 30/31 when the temperature dropped to -7°C in Gloucester. Nationally, precipitation was low, 88% of the thirty year average across England and Wales; total January rainfall in Gloucester was only 46 mm (against 48mm in both 2009 and 2010, the average being between 60 and 70mm).
Nationally, February was very mild, mainly because of the south-westerly winds which prevailed during the first half of the month, bringing quite heavy rain to western Britain; the second half of the month was however chillier. In the vales, winds remained steadily south-westerly from 1-7 February, quite strong with slight rain on 4 and 5 February, much milder than late January with no frost. On 8 February high pressure edged in from the continent, light easterly winds bringing a sharp frost with fog. From 9-14 February winds returned to the southwest, and the weather became damp and mild, sometimes sunny, sometimes showery, with temperatures reaching 13°C and 14 mm of rain on 13 February. From 15-22 February, winds were mainly light and south-easterly, but there was no frost and occasional showers. Milder as wind went southwest from 23-25 February, but cooler, with easterly winds and the occasional shower from 26-28 February; despite heavy rain elsewhere in Britain, rainfall in southwest England and south Wales was only 62% of the 30 year average. Total rainfall in Gloucester in February was only 35mm.
At UK level, Scotland had near-normal rainfall in March but the rest of the country was remarkably dry: England and Wales had the driest March since 1990, while rainfall in southwest England and south Wales was only 30% of the 30 year average. The south was generally mild in the second half of the month, though unsettled at the end. March in the Vales began as February had ended, with an anticyclone extending from continental Europe for the first week, bringing high grey cloud, with a cold north-easterly wind; no frost most days but quite sharp frost on 4 March, lighter frost on 5, 8 March. Winds went south-westerly on 7 March, remaining in that quarter until 13 March, with warmer temperatures and little or no rain. From 15-22 March, high pressure edged in from the continent, bringing high cloud and sunny periods by day, with frost on 18 & 19 March; bright, sunny and warm from 20-25 March, temperatures touching 15°. Wind went westerly from 25 March until the end of the month. March was unusually dry, with only a monthly total of only 5 mm in Gloucester, bringing the annual rainfall so far to only 86 mm.
In the first few days of the year, most wetlands in the vale remained very dry, with ditch levels very low, after the very dry conditions experienced in summer and autumn 2010. However, the Severn began to rise a little with the thaw of mid-December’s snow from upstream and local rainfall in the second week of January: it reached 8.23m at Haw Bridge on 2 January, still low for the season, but the highest since last spring; over the next two weeks the Severn continued to rise (to 9.25 m. on 13 January and 10.10m. on 15 January), which meant that local streams could not discharge; so they backed up, flooding meadows along the Chelt, at Coombe Hill and at Ashleworth for the first time this winter, a late date for a first flood. From about 18 January however, the Severn dropped again at Haw Bridge (from 9.38m. on 18 January, to 8.58m. on 22 January and 7.35 on 25 January, down to 7.05 by 5 February), so that water levels on the meadows dropped gradually. In the second week of February, the level of the Severn began to rise again (8.85 at Haw Bridge on 8 February, 9.62 on 10 February but down to 8.16 on 12 February) causing the winter’s second flood, as local streams backed up; but the flooding remained very light, and river and ditch levels dropped back to normal by the end of February. Severn levels remained low throughout March, with no flooding and water levels dropping gradually everywhere.
Conditions at the main sites
Ashleworth/Hasfield Hams: Little or no open water on the main pool on 1 January, but the meadows gradually became flooded, the main field of GWT reserve flooded for the first time this winter from 10 January; extensive flooding from the middle of the month, dropping from 22 January, when there was extensive ice cover; most surface water had gone by 29 January when the last two half boards were inserted (exceptionally late) in the sluice, so as to maintain open water on the reserve; levels on the reserve continued to drop but had stabilised by 5 February. They rose again from 8 February, with water pouring in over the sluice on 10 - 12 February, but dropped gradually by natural means through the second half of February and March; further drop by 23 March, when the top boards were removed.
Coombe Hill: Little water in scrapes and Long Pool early in the year, but water gradually rose after the first week of January, producing the unusual conditions of fresh, still unflooded grass in January, highly attractive to Wigeon; extensive shallow flooding from the middle of the month created excellent conditions for ducks, largely iced over round 22 January; water levels lower and no ice on 25 January, lower still but largely iced over on 29 January; the ice melted in the milder conditions in the first week of February. A second light flood, with the boardwalk to the Grundon Hide under water from 11-13 February and the scrapes disappearing under shallow flooding, but the water had all cleared by 19 February, levels continuing to drop throughout late February and March, with no surface flooding and water only in the scrapes and Long Pool.
Cobney/Leigh Meadows: Dry in the first few days of January, but the Chelt gradually rose, beginning to overtop its banks by 15 January; Cobney Meadows were extensively flooded on 18 January, Leigh Meadows less so; water, largely iced over, dropping on 22 January, lower with no ice on 25 January, gone by 29 January. The Chelt was high on 10 February but not breaking its banks; water pouring under the canal into Cobney Meadows from the Deerhurst Parish Drain, flooding still quite extensive on 13 February, but dropped again after a couple of days; no flooding in March.
Walmore Common: No flooding on 2 January, only a little water on the Common Pool, but some surface water by 7 January. Lightly flooded but mostly iced over on 19 January, flooding largely gone by 24 January, none left 27 January or 2 February; no increase in flooding 11-13 February despite higher river levels, and no more flooding in February or early March.
The Whoopers which generally winter in the Coombe Hill/Ashleworth area had not appeared in autumn 2010, no doubt because of the unusually dry conditions; but a family party of three which had appeared in late 2010 were in the Minsterworth area, feeding on a highly fertilised field (treated with chicken waste before seeding last autumn), for the first two weeks of this year; they appeared briefly at Walmore and were seen again at Minsterworth in February; a single Whooper was in the Ashleworth/ Coombe Hill area round 30 January. A group of 13 Bewick’s from 18 January were the first to appear in the Coombe Hill/Ashleworth area this winter; rather few were recorded at Walmore, where flooding only occurred for a short period in mid-January. From late January until early March a flock, including all four Whoopers, up to 48 Bewick’s and a few Mutes, took up residence by day on an oilseed rape field by the Severn at Upper Dumball, just south of Walmore, the Bewick’s returning at nightfall to roost at Slimbridge, while the Whoopers and Mutes flew the couple of hundred yards to roost on the river. The cold northeast winds in late February and early March appeared to delay the departure of the Bewick’s to Russia.
Mute Swan: At Mythe Hook, two pairs on 24 March. At Ashleworth, three on 8 January, five on 15 January, three on 29 January, two on 5 February, three on 10 February, a cygnet on 8 March; two territorial pairs on 13 March, one apparently preparing to nest on 22 March. At Coombe Hill, five on 8, 13 January, 12 on 15 January, seven on 18, 22, 25 (including 3JI) January, six on 5, 8 February, four on 12, 19 February, three on 2 March, two on 8 March, three on 15, 19 March, two pairs on 22 March. At Cobney/Leigh Meadows five on 15 January, 14 on 22 January, two on 25, 29 January. At Minsterworth, two with Whoopers on 1 January, three on 3 January, nine on 7 January, three on 8 January, four on 10 January, 22 on 11 January. At Walmore one on 2, 7 January, two on 16 January, nine (three cygnets) with other swans on 21 January, none 24 January, 2 February; two (a pair) on 10, 20 March; two on 27 March. At Upper Dumball, on the same field as the Bewick’s and Whoopers, three on 13 February, four on 25 February, two on 2 March, when both birds flew onto the nearby Severn to roost, not following the Bewick’s to Slimbridge; on 10 March, three.
Whooper Swan: At Minsterworth Ham, a family of two adults and a cygnet, feeding on a very bright green, fertilised field seen from 1 to 14 January had probably arrived about Christmas; what must have been the same family were feeding with Bewick’s and Mutes on a newly reseeded area of grass at Walmore on 21 January; back briefly at Minsterworth on 2 February. A single adult at Waterend near Longney (just across the river from Walmore and Minsterworth) with Bewick’s and Mutes on 3 & 8 January was apparently a separate bird; what was perhaps the same single bird was at Ashleworth on 30 January, roosting at Ashleworth on the evening of 3 February, also roosting at Coombe Hill on the morning of 5 February. The roosting area of these birds was unknown, but certainly not Slimbridge, and only the single occasionally appeared at Coombe Hill or Ashleworth. None in January or early February on the usual favourite fields on the Leigh Meadows.
On 11 February four birds (three adults and a cygnet), which must have been the family party of three and the singleton seen separately earlier in the winter, were found with Bewick’s in an oil-seed rape field at Upper Dumball near Rodley on the west bank of the Severn, about four miles as the swan flies from Slimbridge, in an area where such numbers of wild swans do not seem to have been recorded before; according to the farmer they had been present since about the beginning of the month. Still there on 13, 25 February, 2, 4, 6 March; on 25 February they appeared to go to roost on the nearby Severn at nightfall, on 2 March they definitely did so, departing before the Bewick’s and landing on the Severn, then being carried gradually downstream. On 8 March what must have been the same group of four were at Walmore (Colin Butters); they may well have been roosting on the Common Pool, since they were at Walmore on the evening of 9 March and the morning of 10 March, when they moved back to the rape field at Upper Dumball during the day; not recorded after 10 March (probably because no one looked) but four (three adults and a cygnet again) were at Walmore on the very late date of 27 March..
Bewick’s Swan: At Slimbridge the highest count of the year was of 319 on 2 January; numbers remained high there through January and well into February; with mainly adverse north-easterly winds, departures were late with 247 still present on 25 February; numbers decreased to 144 on 1 March and 89 departed on the night of 7 March in still conditions, leaving on 41 on 8 March; only five birds left on 10 March, all gone by 15 March. Studies of over seven thousand birds across north-west Europe suggest that the proportion of cygnets produced in summer 2010 was only 10.5%, higher than the five year average of 8.5%, but not enough to maintain population numbers.
The first of the winter at Coombe Hill were 13 (eight adults and five cygnets) on floodwater on 18 January, what must have been the same 13 birds were at Hasfield Ham on 22 January, and had apparently roosted on the spot; they were at Hasfield again on 23 January and flew off to the northeast. At Coombe Hill a party of two adults and one cygnet had roosted on 25, 29 January but flew off early on, apparently to graze north of Haw Bridge, but were not found later. At Ashleworth a family of five (two adults and three cygnets) on 30 January. A family of six (two adults and four cygnets) was at Minsterworth with the Whoopers on 1 January. At Waterend, four adults and three cygnets were with the Whooper on 3, 8 January. At Walmore none on 2, 7 January; six (five adults, no rings) on 21 January, none on 24, 27 January; a family of five (two adults and three cygnets – the birds from Ashleworth?) feeding on the reseeded patch at Walmore on 2 February departed towards Slimbridge; none on 11, 13 February. On 11 February, a group of 48 (37 adults and 11 cygnets) were seen with Whoopers and Mutes at Upper Dumball on the west bank of the Severn; still present on 13, 20, 24 and 25 February, when they were seen to depart just before nightfall (at 17h55) flying in the direction of Slimbridge, but not accompanied by the Whoopers or Mutes; 40 (11 cygnets) were still there on 2 March, staying after the Whoopers had left, and departing towards Slimbridge when it was almost dark at 18h14; still 40 there on 4 March, 38 on 6 March, only 14 left on 8 March, none on 10 March.
The wintering flock, mainly of Canada and Greylag Geese, reached only moderate proportions in the dry conditions of late 2010, but numbers increased to about 800 when the floods rose in mid January, and a few wild Whitefronts, plus a Pinkfoot which had perhaps summered, joined them. As usual, they departed to their breeding grounds (Midlands for the Canadas, Forest of Dean and South Wales for the Greylags?) by early February. From mid February, only a few pairs were left, no doubt birds preparing to breed locally.
Greylag Goose: The wintering flock in the Coombe Hill area (which no doubt roved between Coombe Hill, Ashleworth and Tewkesbury) increased to about 200 birds late in January, with at least three different darvic ringed birds (all ringed as juveniles at Llanwern, Gwent in June 2007 or 2008) repeatedly seen, plus at least seven with metal rings; 35 on 1 January as the thaw advanced, 115 on 7 January; 140 on 8 January; 180 on 15 January, 170 on 18 January, 200 on 22 January, 180+ on 25 January, 119 on 29 January; sharp decrease in early February, only 30 on 12 February, a single pair on 2, 19, 22 March, two pairs on 26 March. At Ashleworth two on 5 February, only eight came in to roost (in pairs) on 8 February, only four on 12 February; a pair on 13 March. At Leigh/Cobney Meadows 22 on 12 February.
Bar-headed Goose: At Coombe Hill, one with Greylags on 7, 13, 14, 15, 25 January; no doubt the same bird at Ashleworth on 19 January.
Pink-footed Goose: At Coombe Hill, an adult with Greylags on 15, 18, 25 January (maybe the one that was seen last summer with them?).
White-fronted Goose: At Coombe Hill, an immature with the Greylags on 8 January seemed to be a wild individual, as it was clearly uneasy and was chased off by the Greylags; two adults flew in to join the Greylags on 18 January.
Canada Goose: On Upham Meadow (where local farmers report up to 200), 150 on 8 January; very possibly the Coombe Hill birds which are regularly seen flying off to the north towards Tewkesbury. At Mythe Hook, a pair mating on 24 March. At Deerhurst Walton a pair looking ready to breed on 26 February. At Ashleworth only five on 15 January, but 500 (no doubt including birds from Coombe Hill) had come to roost at dusk on 19 January; 25 on 5 February; 50 came in to roost on 8 February, only 14 on 12 February, ten on 8 March, 24 including a pair mating on 13 March. At Coombe Hill, 175 on 1 January after the thaw, highest number for some time; 230 on 8 January, 300 on 14 January, 390 on 15 January, 425 on 18 January, 400 on 22 January, 300+ on 25 January, decrease to only 25 on 5 February, 115 on 12 February, only 40 on 19 February, only ten, mainly paired, on 2 March; only two pairs on 8 March, but 65 on 13 March, ten on 15 March, including a pair accompanied by the white farmyard goose which was trying to break up the happy couple, still there on 19, 22 March; on 23 March a battle royal was observed between the white farmyard goose and the male Canada, which the Canada won conclusively, leaving the farmyard bird alone and forlorn on 26 March; two or three pairs on 26 March. At Leigh/Cobney Meadows three on 12 February. At Walmore 19 on 16 January.
Barnacle Goose: At Tirley Sandpits five on 5 March. At Ashleworth two on 19 March
Hybrid geese: A Barnacle x Greylag hybrid with the Canadas at Coombe Hill on 5, 12, 19 February, at Ashleworth at dusk on 8 February; at Ashleworth, then Leigh Meadows on 13 March.
Egyptian Goose: A pair displaying on the Southern Meadows at Coombe Hill on 16 February, pair still present on 19 February. Two (the same birds?) at Ashleworth on 13 March. A pair, undoubtedly the same birds, in moderate display at Coombe Hill on 22 March, present on 26 March.
Duck numbers at Ashleworth and Coombe Hill had been poor in late 2010 because of the low water levels. As soon as the meadows became flooded, numbers of ducks increased rapidly; 1300 Wigeon were at Coombe Hill by 8 January and numbers reached 2500 by 18 January, 3000 on 25 January; numbers of Teal reached the unusual high of 2000 by 22 January, when 200 Pintail were present, but decreased soon afterwards. The second light flood around 10 February did not attract numbers on this scale, and indeed by the end of February numbers had gone down quite spectacularly, so there was clearly an early departure.
Shelduck: At Ashleworth, two on 13 March. At Coombe Hill, two males on 8 January; two on 15 January; a pair and a singleton on 5 February, eight on 12 February, one on 19 February; nine on 2 March, lekking hard, some paired already, on 2 March, numbers large, with 16 paired and lekking on 8 March; nine with two established pairs on 15, 19 March, six on 22 March, two pairs on 26 March. At Walmore five on 16 January, three on 13 February, one on 10 March, four on 20 March. An escaped Paradise Shelduck hybrid at Coombe Hill on 27 January.
Wigeon: At Mythe Hook 45 on 24 March. At Ashleworth 40+ on 2, 7 January, 80 on 8 January, much larger number of 690 on more extensive flood on 15 January, 300 on 22 January, 210 on 27 January, 450 on 29 January, 1800+ on 30 January, 450 on 5 February, only about 200 on 10 February, decrease to 75 on 12 February, 110 on 2 March, 151 on 6 March, 200 on 8 March, 260 on 13 March, 130 on 22 March. At Coombe Hill, as the thaw progressed, 420 on 1 January, 600 on 7 January; on 8 January a group of 1300, walking out of the water to feed on the fresh grass surrounding the scrapes, 1226 on 15 January; sharp increase to 2500 on floodwater on 18, 22 January, 3000 on 25 January, down to 590 on 5 February, 372 on 12 February, 420 on 19 February; only 100 on 2 March, 40 on 8 March, four on 13 March, five on 15, 19 March, two on 22 March. At Leigh/Cobney Meadows 147 on shallow flood on 12 February. At Walmore 62 on 16 January.
Gadwall: At Ashleworth 10 on 7 January, 18 on 8 January, 12 on 15 January, two on 27 January, 17 on 29 January, 28 on 30 January, 20 on 5 February, 10 on 10 February, eight on 14 February, five on 8, 13 March. At Coombe Hill, seven on 8 January, four on 15 January, one on 18 January, 15 on 22 January, 10 on 25 January, seven on 29 January, one on 5 February, four on 12 February, five on 19 February, two on 8 March, seven on 13 March. At Walmore 11 on 16 January.
Teal: At Mythe Hook two on 24 March. At Ashleworth 40+ on 2 January, 150 on 3 January, 88 on 8 January, 300 on 15 January, 250 on 22 January, 178 on 27 January, 650 on 29 January (refugees from Coombe Hill?), 300+ on 30 January, 250 on 5 February, 100 on 10 February, 256 on 14 February, 150 on 8, 13 March, 80 on 22 March. At Coombe Hill 200 back after the thaw on 1, 7 January, 310 on 8 January, 139 on 15 January, 400 on 18 January; the unusual (indeed unprecedented) total of 2000 on 22 January, down to 500 on 25 January, only 100 in icy conditions on 29 January, most apparently moved to Ashleworth; only 95 on 5 February, 233 on 12 February, 150 on 19 February, 120 on 2 March, 40 on 8 March, 73 on 13 March, 35 on 15 March, 110 on 19 March, 115 on 22 March. At Leigh/Cobney Meadows eight on 12 February. At Castlemeads 20 flushed by cattle on 21 February. At Walmore 305 on 16 January, at least 25 on 19 January, 150 on 24 January, 100 on 2 February, only 27 on 13 February, 20 on 10 March, 28 on 13 March, 14 on 27 March.
Mallard: Many paired in ditches and streams round Tewkesbury and Staverton 22-24 February. At Ashleworth, 110 on 15 January, 60 on 22 January, 130 on 29 January, 50 on 5 February, 20 on 10 February, 31 on 14 February, 40 on 8 March, 25 on 13 March, 47 on 13 March. At Coombe Hill 50 on 8 January, 123 on 15 January, 100 on 22 January, 50 on 5, 79 on 12 February, ten on 19 February, 30 on 2 March, 40 on 8 March, 12 on 15 March, 20 on 19 March, 22 on 15 March. At Cobney/Leigh Meadows, 17 on 15 January, five on 22 January, 40 on 25 January, 60 on 29 January, nine on 12 February. At Walmore 125 on 16 January.
Pintail: First good showing on 15 January with higher floodwater. At Ashleworth six on 8 January, 80 on 15 January, 50 on 22 January, 80 on 23 January, 82 on 27 January, 68 on 29 January, 120+ on 30 January, 32 on 5 February, 10 on 10 February, seven on 13 February, 10 on 19 February, 14 on 2 March, 10 on 8 March, 15 on 13 March, eight on 19 March. At Coombe Hill five on 8 January, one on 13 January, 88 on 15 January, 76 on 18 January, 200 on 22 January, 250 on 25 January, only 30 left on 29 January, only three on 5 February, seven on 12 February, a single on 2 March, 12 on 6 March, two on 19 March. At Leigh/Cobney Meadows three on 12 February. At Walmore eight on 16 January.
Shoveler: At Ashleworth, seven on 15 January, ten on 22 January, six on 27 January, 11 on 29 January, seven on 30 January, three on 5 February, six on 10 February, 18 on 13 February, 30 on 2 March, 31 on 6 March, 20 on 8 March, 35 on 13 March, 25 on 19 March, eight on 22 March. At Coombe Hill five on 8 January, 18 on 15 January, 14 on 18 January, 10 on 22 January, none on 25, 29 January, 5 February, ten on 12 February, two on 19 February, eight on 8 March, 14 on 13 March, 17 on 15 March, ten on 19 March, eight on 22 March, two on 26 March. At Leigh/Cobney Meadows seven on 12 February. At Port Ham two on 3 January. At Walmore one on 16 January.
Pochard: At Coombe Hill one on 8 January.
Tufted Duck: At Mythe Hook, three on brook and three on brickpits on 24 March. On the Mill Avon at Tewkesbury, four on 28 January. At Tirley Court Lake, two males on 27 February. At Ashleworth, three on 15 January, 15 on 18 January, eight on 19 January, ten on 27 January, four on 29 January, two on 30 January, seven on 5 February, four on 10 February, eight on 13 February, four on 6, 8 March, two on 13 March, six on 17 March. At Coombe Hill four on 15 January, ten on 2 March, two on 4, 13 March, two on 15 March actually mating on Long Pool.
Goosander: Three (drake and two redheads) on Severn at Wainlodes on 22 January, a redhead on 5 February.
Red-breasted Merganser: A male of this infrequently recorded species appeared briefly on the scrapes at Coombe Hill on 15 February.
Little Grebe: At Ashleworth, one on 15, 23 January, 12 February, 2, 8 March, three (with some whinnying) on 13 March, four on 17, 19 March. At Coombe Hill one on 15 January.
Great Crested Grebe: At Mythe Hook brickpits a pair on 24 March.
Cormorant: Along the Severn at Mythe Brook brickpits, one in full summer plumage on 24 March. Up to seven over the Severn, moving to and from Lower Lode pits on 28 January. At Coombe Hill, two landed by scrapes on 8 January, three in flight on 29 January, two on 5 February, five on 12 February. By the Severn Bore near Minsterworth, two perched on a dead tree on 10 March.
HERONS AND EGRETS
Bittern: A very tired bird on Port Ham on 2 January; one in flight over Alney Island (probably the same bird) on 3 January.
Little Egret: At Coombe Hill two on 22 March
Grey Heron: Numbers down in January and February, following cold weather in late 2010, at Ashleworth and Coombe Hill. At Mythe Hook three on 24 March. At Ashleworth, one on 15, 25 January, 5 February. At Coombe Hill one on 15 January, three in flight on 29 January, one on 8 March, two on 15 March, four on 22 March. At Cobney/Leigh Meadows one on 22 January. At Walmore three on 13 February.
The heronry at Staverton was occupied on 23 February, with nine nests apparently occupied, and at least ten birds in breeding plumage present.
RAILS AND CRAKES
Crane: One circled over Coombe Hill without landing just after midday on 26 March, before moving off high to the northeast.
Water Rail: Surprisingly few records.
Moorhen: At Ashleworth one on 13 March. At Coombe Hill, two on 12 February
Coot: At Mythe Hook brickpits, two on 24 March. On the Mill Avon at Tewkesbury, three on 28 January. At Tirley Court Lake, 12 on 14 January, eight on 27 February. At Ashleworth three on 5, 8 February, one on 12 February, nine on 2 March, 22 on 6 March, 20 on 8, 13 March. At Coombe Hill 27 on floodwater on 18 January, 5+ on 22, 25, 29 January, two on 12 February, ten on 2 March, 30 on 8 March, 11 on 13 March, ten on 15 March, five on 19 March, two on 22 March.
Very few waders wintered in the Severn Hams, but some Lapwings appeared at the edge of the flood in late January, with the odd Dunlin and a single Black-tailed Godwit; there were no records of Ruff. Snipe were few and far between; most appeared to have moved out during the cold spell in November and December. The first of the resident Curlew returned to Coombe Hill as early as January, and there were distinct signs of northward passage from early February, with Golden Plover, Lapwing, Curlew and Dunlin moving through.
Oystercatcher: At Coombe Hill a single, the first of the year, on 26 February; two on 12, 13 March, two (clearly paired) on 15, 19, 22, 26 March.
Little Ringed Plover: At Coombe Hill a very early bird on 12 March (earliest date for Gloucestershire 10 March in 2006); one, not yet in full summer plumage, on 22 March; one flew straight over, calling, on 26 March.
Ringed Plover: At Coombe Hill one on 17 March.
Golden Plover: Five flew west over Llanthony (Gloucester) on 4 January. At Coombe Hill signs of northward passage from mid-February: five on 16 February, when 75 flew over; three in winter plumage with Lapwings on 19 February, 28 on 18 March. Near Walmore 15 flew north on 26 February. Several small parties noted in March, no doubt migrants moving north; some at Coombe Hill; party of 16 (one in summer plumage) at Mythe Hook on 24 March, being harried by displaying resident Lapwing.
Lapwing: At Mythe Hook, four pairs displaying well on 24 March. At Staunton no sign of breeding birds on 20 March. At Tirley 35 on 29 January, 55 on 31 January, 68 on 1 February, 90 on 5 February. At Ashleworth, four on 15 January, 90 on 5 February; a single on reserve on 13 March not looking very territorial; four on 17 March; three displaying between the reserve and arable at Colways on 22 March. Over Deerhurst on 29 January, 48 flying east. At Coombe Hill 190 on 8 January, 11 on 13 January, 287 on 15 January, 460 on 18 January, 300 on 22 January, 336 on 25 January, 80 on 29 January, 50 on 5 February, 100 on 12 February, 155 on 16 February; 120 on 19 February were very frisky and active like passing migrants; 28 on 2 March preening and moulting; four early in the morning of 8 March, in breeding plumage with red legs, flew off to the north early on; three on 13 March; 20 on 15 March including two displaying pairs; 12 displaying well round scrapes on 19, 22 March. On nearby arable at the Leigh two pairs displaying on 15 March. At Leigh Meadows, 32 on 15 January. At Walmore five on 13 February; six, displaying strongly, on 10 March; seems early for breeding birds; 17 (at least one territorial pair) on 13 March, 20 (but only four of them displaying) on 20 March, 12 on 27 March, four of them chasing crows.
Dunlin: At Coombe Hill seven on 15 January, three on 18 January, one on 26 January; seven on 14 February, two on 19 February, five on 23 February, one on 26 February, three on 2 March.
Little Stint: At Coombe Hill one on 16 February
Ruff: At Coombe Hill one on 24, 26 March.
Jack Snipe: As for Snipe, few records. At Clearwater Drive, Quedgeley, one on 1 January. At Netheridge Farm Hempsted one on 25 January, 4 March. At Walmore, one on 13 February, 13 March.
Snipe: Very few records in January in places where they are usually numerous; it would appear that most moved out of the area in the cold spell in December. On the Severn Ham, Tewkesbury, seven flushed on 28 January. At Ashleworth none on 13 January on a setaside field which most winters is a favoured site, none on 15 January; two in flight on 16 January; 15 at dusk on 3 February and 13 (a modest total) by day on 5 February in conditions which looked ideal, suggesting that some had returned; 15 at dusk on 8 February, but none found by day on 10 February, only one on 12 February; however 33 flushed from preferred area on 8 March, 28 on 13 March. At Coombe Hill a single on 8 January, none on 13, 15 January, nine on 22 January, none 25 January, 5 February, three on 13, 15 March, six on 22 March, 70 at dusk on 27 March. At Leigh Meadows, one on 24 January. At Netheridge Farm one on 11 February, seven on 4 March. At Walmore five on 16 January, seven on 24 January, six on 27 January, only one on 2 February, seven on 13 February, nine on 10 March, 14 on 13 March, four on 27 March.
Woodcock: At Maisemore Ham, two flushed on 24 February.
Black-tailed Godwit: At Coombe Hill one with Lapwings on floodwater on 25 January.
Curlew: At Mythe Hook, one bubbling on 24 March. At Ashleworth, two bubbling, one at north end of reserve, one behind field 23, on 13 March, three on 17 March. At Coombe Hill a very early bird on 15 January, two on 18, 25, 29 January, one of them bubbling on latter dates; from 12 February, small flocks, no doubt of northward migrants: eight (apparently a territorial pair and six migrants) on 12 February, 16 on 14 February, 17 on 16 February, 11 (pair plus nine migrants) on 19 February, seven on 23 February, five on 26 February; five in early morning of 2 March appeared to be partly migrants, partly residents. More migrants in early March: 31 on 5 March took off to north early in the morning; 26 in evening of 7 March, 29 on morning of 8 March had obviously roosted, but left early on to the north, calling and with excited whiffling flight; 33 on 12 March; nine on 13 March eleven on 15 March, about three flying off to north, others apparently local breeders; six on 19 March were local birds; on 22 March eight local birds early in the morning were joined at midday by ten more, one of which had colour-rings and had been ringed on the Severn estuary on 26 September last, first thought to be an indication of passage from the estuary upstream, but since the bird was seen again on 23 March at Coombe Hill and on 25 March at Ashleworth, it appears more likely to be a local breeder; by the evening of 22 March 28 were present, only four on 26 March. At Cobney Meadows, one calling on 22 January. At Maisemore Ham one flew north on 24 February. At Walmore three, apparently migrants, circling on 10 March; one perhaps two on 13 March, five on field D on 20 March but none on 27 March. At Upper Dumball ten on riverside fields on 10 March
Redshank: At Ashleworth one on 19 March. At Coombe Hill, one on 28 February, one beginning to show signs of summer plumage, on 2 March, one on 19, 22 March, two on 26 March with breeding trill.
Green Sandpiper: At Clearwater Drive (Quedgeley) one on 23 January. At Netheridge Farm Hempsted one on 24 January, 11, 16 February, 4 March.
Common Sandpiper: At Ashleworth one on 27 March.
GULLS AND TERNS
Mediterranean Gull: At Hartpury an adult with other gulls in fields on 28 February.
Black-headed Gull: At Ashleworth ten on ice on 22 January, 60 on floodwater on 12 February. At Coombe Hill 120 on floodwater on 25 January, 73 on floodwater on 12 February. At Cobney/Leigh Meadows two on ice on 22 January. At Walmore 150 on 10 March.
Common Gull: At Ashleworth 15 on floodwater on 12 February. At Walmore 20 on 10 March.
Lesser Black-backed Gull: At Cobney/Leigh Meadows 40 on ice on 22 January.
Herring Gull: At Cobney/Leigh Meadows 20 on ice on 22 January.
Glaucous Gull: At Coombe Hill a first winter bird appeared on the floodwater for a short time on the afternoon of 11 February, with other large gulls returning to roost on the estuary.
Lapland Bunting: A single of this species, very scarce in Gloucestershire was heard flying north over Ashleworth on the evening of 31 March.
These are unconfirmed records, compiled by M. Smart from his own observations and those of David Anderson, Gordon Avery, Les Brown, Colin Butters, Mervyn Greening, Andy Jayne, Julia Newth and Lawrence Skipp, with some cherries picked from the Gloster Birder and Worcester Birding websites.