Feb 052017
 

The level of the Severn rose considerably on 1-2 February, though it is dropping again now; as a result, smaller local streams could not flow out into the Severn and have backed up on the meadows, bringing a light flood with perfect conditions for the birds – after a very short flood in the second half of November, this is the first real flood of this winter.

At Coombe Hill Meadows on 4 February, the circular walk was under water; some water on the boardwalk to the Grundon Hide, but the hide is perfectly accessible, scrapes on 1.05m. and shallow flooding everywhere. The first Curlew of the year (unringed) was sitting quietly on its own, feeding and preening, not calling at all, behaving just like a bird that had only just arrived from its winter quarters on an estuary or coast somewhere.  Also a Black-tailed Godwit and 340 Lapwings.  Sharp increase in duck numbers: 3 Mute Swans, 20 Canada Geese, 1 Shelduck, 1040 Wigeon, 1000 + Teal, 40 Mallard, 48 Pintails (29 males, 19 females, many paired but some courtship parties with more males), 20 Shoveler.  Flock of 16 Pied Wagtails, probably migrants.

At Boddington, where there have been several hundred Lapwings for the last week, none at all today.

At Severn Ham, Tewkesbury, no sign of any Curlews; 10 Mute Swans flew over to the south, 3 Cormorants were fishing on the Severn.

Near Corse, where there have been good numbers of Lapwings in the last few weeks, only about 30 left; also a large flock of at least 1,500  mixed Fieldfares and Redwings (mainly Fieldfares, probably at least 1,200) on a freshly planted field.

At Ashleworth Ham, where water levels were also higher: no Culrews yet, but 2 Mute Swans, 175 Canada Geese, 4 Greylag Geese, 1 Shelduck, 130 Wigeon, 800 Teal, 45 Mallard, 1 Pintail, 2 Shoveler, 3 Tufted Ducks, only 1 Lapwing, 2 Nuthatches, 1 Goldcrest.

 

 Posted by on 5th February 2017 at 20:36
Jan 242017
 

For some weeks now, water levels at both Coombe Hill and Ashleworth have been unusually low for the winter months, and water bird numbers have been low: we really need a small flood!

No change in conditions today: light frost, mist early on, much of the water surfaces iced over, rather more birds at Ashleworth than at Coombe Hill.

At Coombe Hill, practically all birds were round a hole in the ice on the Long Pool: 2 Mute Swans; 2 Canada Geese; 1 Shelduck; 40 Wigeon; 60 Teal; 15 Mallard; 10 Shoveler; 2 Grey Herons; 1 Coot on the Long Pool, five on the canal;  NIL Lapwings or Snipe; finally succeeded in finding two Stonechats alongside the footpath.

At Ashleworth, good numbers of birds right in front of the hide: 2 Mute Swans; 61 Greylags flew in (so they haven’t all departed to the breeding grounds); 200 Wigeon; 700 Teal; 20 Mallard; 2 Pintail; 15 Shoveler; 25 Snipe.  While we were pouring over our telescopes, carefully counting ducks and Snipe, we missed a Marsh Harrier flying past at some height, which was photographed by one of the keen cameramen: the picture looked altogether convincing.

Why do people buy takeaway meals then leave the debris on the roadside at nature reserves?

Boddington: about 200 Lapwing, shared between sheep grazed and cereal fields just south of the Gloucester Old Spot Inn.  So that’s why there are none at Coombe Hill or Ashleworth.

 

 Posted by on 24th January 2017 at 16:12
Jan 242017
 

A Live Animal Event for February half-term week

John Moore Museum
Saturday 11th February 2017
10am to 1pm & 2pm to 5pm
John Moore Museum, 41 Church Street, Tewkesbury, GL20 5SN
For the start of Half Term week in Gloucestershire, the museum welcomes back J.R.C.S Falconry who will be bringing along a selection of birds of prey from their extensive collection.

Visit us to meet a Golden Eagle, a Hooded Vulture, an Eagle Owl, a Little Owl, an American Kestrel and a Barn Owl.  An opportunity to see birds of prey, from some of the largest to the smallest.

A falconer will be on hand to answer all your questions about these amazing birds as well as on the ancient art of falconry.

Admission: Adult: £3.50, Seniors & Students £3.00, Children £1.50

Contact: Simon Lawton (Curator)
E-Mail: curator@johnmooremuseum.org
Website: www.johnmooremuseum.org
Telephone: 01684 297174
 Posted by on 24th January 2017 at 14:31
Jan 232017
 

Fourteen members gathered for a walk, following public footpaths through a variety of habitats in the Lower Lode and Forthampton Court area, on a bright, frosty, late January morning. Starting by the Severn, the first point of interest was the brick pits just behind the flood-bank, originally excavated in the nineteenth century to provide clay for bricks to build houses in Tewkesbury; though the pits were frozen over, at least 40 Cormorants were resting in the tops of tall trees surrounding the pits; this is a regular loafing spot for these birds which must be finding a lot of fish in the Severn. Walking inland we then went through meadows now converted to maize cultivation, and slightly uphill to the first river terrace, where gravel brought down in distant geological times was evident; en route two members were fortunate to hear the breeding call of a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, a species rapidly declining all over the country, and something of a speciality in the area; worth looking and listening again here as the season progresses! We flushed a Snipe from some maize left uncut as game cover in the maize field, and a Green Sandpiper flew over, clearly wintering along the stream, though not frequently recorded here.

On the higher ground is the Key Wildlife Site of Forthampton Oaks: (Key Wildlife Sites are areas not actually registered as Sites of Special Scientific Interest, but of interest for their wildlife, and recognised in the planning system). Forthampton Oaks is an impressive stand of oak trees on higher ground overlooking the Severn and looking across to the Severn Ham at Tewkesbury, some dying, some in rude health; their special interest is a series of unusual beetles, recorded by GNS member Keith Alexander. In the parkland around Forthampton Court there are a variety of large trees, including a Wellingtonia in which we found a Tree Creeper roost, with good numbers of wintering thrushes, Fieldfares and Redwings, feeding (on invertebrates) on grassy fields.

Then back down to the river, through ancient hay meadows, in their original state and not ploughed up for maize, where Curlews nest in summer, and with a summer Sand Martin colony in the mud banks of the river. From the river bank there are fine views back upstream of Tewkesbury Abbey, dominating that reach of the river. The historic Lower Lode Inn, just by the former ferry across the river to Tewkesbury, provided a good spot to reflect on the morning’s observations.

 Posted by on 23rd January 2017 at 12:19
Jan 202017
 

The old Gloster Aircraft Company airfield between Abbeymead and Brockworth has a number of areas of old and undisturbed grassland between the housing and the retail / commercial sites on either side of the site; there are several small ponds and a network of drainage ditches and the area still holds some wildlife including Dragonflies, Skylarks and other gems in the habitats that remain.

Over the past few weeks I have seen the two Roe Deer in the photographs below grazing unconcernedly whilst the daily lives of the humans that surround them go on unabated. They seem not to be worried by the traffic and only show signs of wariness when dog walkers appear.

Jan 182017
 

The next two scheduled GNS Field Meetings are –

GNS Outdoor Meeting Sunday 22nd January – A visit to Forthampton & Lower Lode, General Interest to be led by Mike Smart (01452 421131) – meet at 10.00 am until 12.30. Meet in front of the Lower Lode Inn (SO 878 317) on the west bank of the Severn (opposite side from Tewkesbury), access past Forthampton Court on the unclassified road off the A438 west of Tewkesbury. Please dress appropriately for the weather, good boots or wellingtons will be necessary.

GNS Outdoor Meeting Saturday 4th FebruaryWinter Wildfowl at Cotswold Water Park to be led by Ken Cservenka (01285 656480). Meet at Neigh Bridge Car Park, SU 017 946, 10.00am to 12.00 mid-day. Come along for a wander in the CWP in search of winter wildfowl, other winter birds and whatever else we can find – Please dress appropriately for the weather, good boots or wellingtons will be necessary.

Jan 182017
 

In spite of rather dismal grey overcast and drizzly weather first thing, 10 members and guests joined Andy Jayne for a foray onto Walmore Common on Sunday 15th January; the rain had ceased by the start of the meeting, it remained rather grey, though brightened up as the morning went on.

Walking down the lane from the main road the first few birds began to appear, various tits and winter thrushes in the form of Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) and Redwings (Turdus iliacus) in the tops of the Poplar trees and overhead.

From the gate onto the common the party walked along parallel to the bottom of the slope at the eastern edge of the common; more winter thrushes appeared as did a Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorous) and a solitary male Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus). Andy explained the layout and makeup of the common, the seasonal changes and the means by which water levels can be controlled at the drainage outfall close to the Severn Bore pub on the A48. He also commented on the breeding birds of the common which are, as might be expected, very different from the wintering birds.

As a consequence of the relatively dry winter there had been no appreciable flooding during the autumn and winter so that there were no obvious waterfowl apart from the resident pair of Mute Swans (Cygnus olor). The flash pool was flat clam with no birds present. At the top of the slope close to the A48 Meadow Pipits (Anthus trivialis) were first heard, then seen, a small flock of 19 birds which were unusual for this time of year.

Moving out onto the central area of the common the remains of feathers from an immature Mute Swan were found alongside the Rhyne; venturing further produced sightings of three Brown Hares (Lepus lepus), approx. 10 Teal (Anas crecca) and in the rougher ground at the far edge of the common, three Stonechat (Saxicola torquata) and a single Jack Snipe (Lymnocryptes minimus).

The party them met up with a group of RSPB members on a similar walk led by Gavin Black before heading back to the east side of the common and returning to the cars parked by Walmore Hill School.

Other birds seen were Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula), a single Moorhen (Galinula chloropus), a few corvids, Wrens (Troglodytes troglodytes) and Dunnock (Prunella modularis) with a small group of Long Tailed Tits (Aegithalus caudatus) as the party returned to the access gate.

The meeting had not produced the hoped-for waterfowl due entirely to the lack of wet weather and accumulations of water on the common, but it was never the less interesting to visit and take a close look at an area that is not exactly over-run with visiting naturalists and is occasionally inaccessible as a result of too much water!

Many thanks to Andy for leading the walk and to all those who took part.

Jan 052017
 

There are several GNS meetings in the coming few weeks –

GNS Indoor Meeting Friday 13th January

The next GNS Indoor Meeting is due to take place on Friday 13th January 2017 at Watermoor Church Hall, Cirencester, GL7 1JR; 7.00 for 7.30 pm – the subject of the meeting being Gloucestershire Raptor Monitoring Group to be presented by Andrew Bluett. Come and see a presentation detailing the voluntary work of GRMG and have a chance to learn more about birds of prey and owls in Gloucestershire and beyond.

GNS Outdoor Meeting Sunday 15th January

A visit to Walmore Common, of General interest but also in search of wetland and winter birds to be led by Andrew Jayne (01452 506502 / 07919 278806) – meet at 9.30 am in the lay-by at Walmore Hill School, SO 747 145, the meeting will last until 12.00 mid-day. A rare chance to visit this area of wetland and meadows with a very knowledgeable guide. Please dress appropriately for the weather, wellingtons will be necessary.

GNS Outdoor Meeting Sunday 22nd January

A visit to Forthampton & Lower Lode, General Interest to be led by Mike Smart (01452 421131) – meet at 10.00 am until 12.30. Meet in front of the Lower Lode Inn (SO 878 317) on the west bank of the Severn (opposite side from Tewkesbury), access past Forthampton Court on the unclassified road off the A438 west of Tewkesbury. Please dress appropriately for the weather, good boots or wellingtons will be necessary.

Indoor Meeting – Wednesday 25th January

Gloucestershire Raptor Monitoring Group are holding an indoor meeting on Wednesday 25th January at Ribston Hall High School off Stroud Road, Gloucester, GL1 5LE, 7.00 for 7.30pm.

Barn Owls, with Colin Shawyer – Colin is a raptor biologist and professional ecologist specialising in birds, mainly birds of prey and has published widely on this subject. He was Director of the Hawk and Owl Trust between 1988 and 1998. He undertook work for the BTO between 2000 and 2010 developing and implementing its Barn Owl Monitoring Programme and in 1988 founded the Barn Owl Conservation Network (BOCN); he is BOCN Coordinator for UK and Ireland. He oversees and undertakes extensive Barn Owl nest monitoring every season.

Tickets are still available via the GRMG web-site at https://glosraptors.co.uk/shop/

Details of all forthcoming meetings are available on the GNS Web-Site together with a map & directions for Watermoor Church Hallwww.glosnats.org/diary/

 

Jan 052017
 

Further to the post on the subject of Avian Influenza a few days ago, inevitably there have been more cases / outbreaks in the UK already, notably in Carmarthenshire and elsewhere. There are exclusion zones in place and specific rules relating to domestic birds.

For the best and most up-to-date information – please refer to the DEFRA web-site at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/avian-influenza-bird-flu

If you find a dead bird be very careful about handling it, H5N8 is not normally a risk to humans but do not take any chances… and do not risk transmitting it to any other birds, please see the guidance and notes at the same DEFRA web site and on the BTO web-site.

Dec 292016
 

As we exit the year 2016 and enter 2017, cold weather in the east has provoked a rise in the number of migrants from Europe; waterfowl in particular have started to arrive in greater numbers in search of less frost affected wetland areas.

We have been aware for a number of years of the potential for Avian Influenza in various strains to be carried by long distance migrants and of the potential consequences both for the wild bird populations and domestic (farmed) birds which are concentrated in large numbers in various facilities across the UK where the demand for meat and eggs is high, and especially so in the autumn as Christmas approaches with the spike in demand for Chicken, Turkeys, Geese and Ducks as festive fare.

Outbreaks of the H5N8 strain of Avian Influenza (AI) have been widely reported across the old world with news of slaughter programmes being put in place in for example Iran & Japan where hundreds of thousands of birds are affected. H5N8 is not a threat to human beings but the potential loss of much of the supply to the human consumed meat trade would have other consequences.

By mid-November, eight countries in Europe had reported detections of H5N8 in such species as Tufted Duck, Coot, Pochard, gulls, geese and swans. None of the outbreaks were in the UK but the risk level was increased to medium from low.

Inevitably, the threat was realized in a short timescale; by the first week of December 2016, infections of H5N8 HPAI in wild, captive or domestic birds had been reported in 14 countries across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.

By mid-December as a result of an outbreak in Turkeys at a Lincolnshire poultry farm, the BTO issued an advisory note that an exclusion zone had been declared and that all trapping & ringing operations of wild birds in the zone were suspended. On 22nd December WWT Llanelli Wetland Centre was obliged to close as a precautionary measure, following the finding of a dead wild Wigeon on the Loughor estuary. WWT, together with other organizations is vigilant and takes a cautious approach to such outbreaks since there is much at stake, particularly in their collections of captive wildfowl.

From the BTO web-site comes the following information:

General government guidance on avian influenza can be found at:

The latest information from Defra and the Animal and Plant Health Agency on the current outbreaks in poultry, captive and wild birds in Europe can be found at:

What to do

Birdwatchers /naturalists can be of great assistance in staying alert for unusual cases of mortality or sickness in wild birds. If you notice unusual mortality in Great Britain, i.e. five or more wild birds dead in the same location, you should report them by calling the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77 (Mon-Fri 8am to 6pm) and selecting option 1, or by emailing defra.helpline@defra.gsi.gov.uk.In Northern Ireland such wild bird mortality incidents should be reported to the DAERA Helpline: 0300 200 7840.

Reports are also encouraged when a single dead wild duck, wild goose, swan or gull is found. Not all birds may be picked up for testing, but collating this information may reveal patterns of mortality.

It should be stressed that HPAI is a disease of birds. It is of great concern for the poultry industry but does not appear to be a major issue for human health in the UK. Whilst deaths have occurred in other countries, the numbers of cases have been very low and have been confined to people in very close contact to infected poultry. The advice is that there is no danger from eating well-cooked poultry and there is certainly no danger from normal birdwatching activities. Sensible basic hygiene should be used if you do come into closer contact with birds.

Feeding birds:

It is extremely unlikely that bird flu could be transmitted to people by feeding birds in the garden. Birds carry a variety of diseases, such as salmonella. The single most important action we can take, to protect both the birds that feed in our gardens and ourselves, is to follow hygiene guidelines.

In all circumstances, after handling bird feeders, cleaning bird baths or feeding birds, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Bird feeders should be washed and cleaned regularly to prevent spread of diseases such as salmonella. This should be done outside in your garden with dilute disinfectant (normal household bleach diluted 1:20).

What do I do if I find a dead bird?

Many thousands of birds die every week of natural causes and so it is not unusual to occasionally find dead birds. If, however, you find five or more dead wild or garden birds together in the same place and you are suspicious of the cause of death, do not touch the birds and contact Defra using the details above. This is particularly important for species like waterfowl.

Where possible, avoid directly touching any dead birds. If you move a dead bird (e.g. if a cat brings one into your house or you need to check if it is ringed), invert a plastic bag over your hand and pick the bird up in the plastic. If the bird is ringed, report the ring details to the BTO (www.ring.ac), then draw the bag over your hand and tie it up and dispose of it in your usual household waste, then wash your hands with soap and water.

Ringers have been issued with more detailed guidance at

Ringing should be suspended within any 10km Surveillance Zones where these are put in place around infected premises.

more information . view post . http://ameliaflt.org