During a morning walk through The Mythe Railway Reserve on 20 April I was surprised to find at least six of these beetles (Platyrhinus resinosus: Coleoptera, Anthribidae) resting on a log at the side of the track. The weather was sunny but cool and it appeared likely that the beetles, scattered along the top of the log, were warming themselves there.
Scarce Fungus Weevils at The Mythe 20.4.16
On previous occasions when I have encountered this beetle I have only seen single individuals, and it was strange to find so many in one place. David Atty (Coleoptera of Gloucestershire: 1968) particularly associated them with the fungus Daldinia concentrica (King Alfred’s Cakes) and seems to have regarded the species is as a relatively uncommon one in our area.
Scarce Fungus Weevil at The Mythe 20 April 2016
As the adult beetles spend a lot of their time keeping quite still, their resemblance to bird droppings probably provides both protection from potential predators and effective concealment from wandering naturalists; perhaps they are more widespread than we realise. When I passed the same log again a little later most of the beetles had disappeared, and after an hour they had all vanished, presumably to explore the nearby vegetation.
A Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) was sighted this morning (18 April) at 10:00hrs in the garden of Gloucestershire Archives in Kingsholm. It was positively ID’d (via the 2014 Crossley ID Guide) and exhibited classic Redstart behavior.
Update (at 12:30 on 18 April) I should have said that the above sighting was a male bird. However a female Redstart has now also appeared in the garden and the two are in fairly close proximity so may be a breeding pair?
Water levels at Coombe Hill are currently quite high, because of recent rain and the high level of the Severn, made even higher by high tides between 6 and 12 April. On the morning of 9 April, Andy Lodge was lucky enough to see and photograph three otters very close to the Grundon Hide. There have been more and more records of otters along the Severn in recent years, indicating that this once scarce species is returning, and that water quality must be improving, but not many people get such good views; the Lapwing was clearly interested too!
Horrid weather with snow showers early in the morning, leaving probably the heaviest snowfall of the year on the Cotswolds and a little snow on the southern end of the Malverns, and bringing large numbers of hirundines down over Coombe Hill; once the snow passed, fair numbers of singing summer migrants; no sign of the cranes seen yesterday by Andy Jayne. Water levels continuing to rise (over the top of the stage boards again, water on the boardwalk) , making life very difficult for any ground nesting birds but nice variety pof breeding and passage waders.
4 Mute Swans (one with nest by board walk); 6 Greylags; 2 Canada Geese; 6 Shelducks; 3 Wigeon; 6 Gadwall; 150 Teal (still lots of them about, are they going to nest??); 20 Mallard; 20 Shoveler; 3 Tufted Ducks; 3 Little Egrets; 2 Grey Herons; 1 Cormorant landed; 15 Coot (family still with four growing chicks on canal); 2 Oystercatchers (mating seen); 20 Lapwings (lots of aerial display, and some display on the ground with raised tail, but no sign of any sitting birds, either on the reserve which was under water, or on the barley field which has recently been ploughed and sown); 1 Little Ringed Plover; 2 Snipe; 1 Curlew (only a bit of bubbling); 1 Whimbrel; 1 Black-tailed Godwit (in bright summer plumage); 2 Redshanks (very lively, lots of trilling and display, looks as though they would like to nest if the water levels ever drop); 1 Green Sandpiper, 10 Black-headed Gulls moving through; hundreds of Swallows and dozens of Sand Martins, plus a single House Martin, flying low early on and landing on willows to get out of the wind and snow; 2 Yellow Wagtails; 3 Pied Wagtails; one male Wheatear; at least one singing Cetti’s Warbler; about four singing Sedge Warblers; one singing Whitethroat; 1 singing Lesser Whitethroat; 3 singing Blackcaps; 2 singing Willow Warblers; at least three singing Chiffchaffs; 2 singing Reed Buntings.
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This is a short video with Mike Smart about Curlew monitoring.
I work in local conservation in the Severn and Avon Vales, through the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, the Gloucestershire Naturalists’ Society, and various other bodies. We have, with BTO, carried out a colour-ringing project on Curlews that winter in the Severn estuary. Thanks to the colour rings we can now recognise individuals, and have confirmed that they are incredibly faithful to both breeding and wintering sites, returning year after year to the same mudflat and high tide roost in winter, and to the same breeding field in summer. Our ringed wintering Curlews breed across a broad swath of land from the Severn estuary to Yorkshire, Suffolk, The Netherlands, Germany and as far as Sweden and eastern Finland.
Though Curlew is generally considered to be a breeding bird of high moorland, a reasonable population continues to breed in the lowlands of south west England; one of the main centres is the Somerset Levels, and there are almost as many in the Severn and Avon Vales upstream of Gloucester. Curlew is very much one of the iconic summer species of the Vales in summer and its lovely bubbling call is a feature of the area, much loved by local people. We are going to do a survey this year, to try to find out exactly how many pairs breed; my “off the top of the head” estimate is 50-100 pairs. The nests are terribly difficult to find as the birds nest in very large flat hayfields in the broad river valleys, where it is difficult to get on an eminence from which you can watch them. We think that one reason for the decline is early cutting of these hay meadows, though predation is clearly a problem too. We have a team of local observers, who are making regular visits to the main sites, and hope to produce a document at the end showing where the main sites are, in the hope that bodies like Natural England will help persuade farmers and land-owners to cut their grass a bit later, when any chicks have fledged.
On a bright but slightly chilly morning some 25 members and guests joined Andrew Bluett for a walk around Crabtree Hill and to Woorgreens Lake.
Wood Anemones and the Gorse were out in flower, the Great Grey Shrike put on a show, a solitary Tree Pipit appeared, the first few Willow Warblers of the season were singing as were the earlier Chiff Chaffs, a cock Stonechat appeared briefly and Ravens flew overhead a couple of Times. Nick Christian spotted and pointed out a swift flying Sparrowhawk.
At Woorgreens Lake there were numbers of Greylag & Canada Geese, a Merganser, Dabchicks, Mallard, Coot, Moorhen and a pair of Mute Swans. The Raven flew over twice, both times being chased off by the male Carrion Crow of a pair that appeared to be nesting on the island. Again, Nick Christian spotted a Long Tailed Tit’s nest under construction for all to see and a solitary Buzzard cut lazy circles in the distance.
Thanks to all who took part, a good meeting with signs of the Spring to come.
‘GNS News’ is the quarterly magazine published by the Gloucestershire Naturalists’ Society, containing articles on wildlife matters as well as news about the Society. Members of the Society receive a printed copy of this magazine each quarter. Back issues of the magazine are now available to download or read online. If you’d like to enrol as a member to receive the latest editions in the mail, along with the other benefits of membership, such as an annual copy of ‘The Gloucestershire Bird Report’ and ‘The Gloucestershire Naturalist’, which contains more scientific articles on the county’s wildlife, click here.