Gloucestershire’s birding sites are generally well known, and with the information network with Mike King’s Gloster Birder web-site at the heart of it, not much gets missed. Consequently, there isn’t much room for “new” sites. However, the Horsbere Brook Flood Containment area, completed some time ago, is not yet well known and not figuring much in the birding reports thus far, but has the potential to become one of the most interesting “new” sites of recent years.
The area is in effect a reservoir, designed to collect and hold surface water and in the process “buffer” water outflow, thus preventing flooding by the Horsbere Brook. It is located in the area to the East of the A417 between the Sainsbury’s/C&G Roundabout and the A40 western end of the Golden Valley by-pass, south of the railway line; Access is quite easy with a “works access” turn off and a large lay-by on the southbound side of the dual carriageway, or from the car park between the Premier Inn and Ten Pin Bowling via the footbridge over the dual carriageway from the northbound side. Once on the edge of the site it is possible to walk around the whole basin with uninterrupted views across the area.
The basin contains water of varying depths, deeper at the northern end, shallower overall at the southern end and rather like “flash” pools, scrubby dry patches, sand bars and channels but of course is subject to seasonal and perhaps very quick changes in water levels and therefore it’s potential as a wildlife site will vary according to the prevailing conditions. The Horsebere brook runs along the western edge of the area before turning westwards under the dual carriageway and disappearing underground into the Elmbridge area on its way to the Severn beyond Longford.
I visited the site on the afternoon of April 7th 2013 with water at pretty low levels under a bright but hazily overcast sky and after a while walking around the perimeter, watching and listening began to discover a lengthening list of birds. The most obvious were the Gulls, Common, Black Headed, Lesser Black Backed and Herring, a couple of pairs of Crows, similarly a couple of pairs of Magpie, a dozen pairs of Mallard, three Herons, more than a dozen Pied wagtail, three Meadow Pipit and the highlight – four Little Ringed Plover. In the shrub and tree growth alongside the brook a Chiff Chaff searched for food whilst another sang from sowhere just down the road.
Whilst the changing water levels might be something of a problem to wildlife, I suspect invertebrates will flourish here including a range of Dragonflies and Damsels and the area has the potential, provided there is sufficient water through the summer period and at other times of year, to become a very interesting bird migration drop-in site. The resident corvids and visiting gulls are likely to be problematic for any waders and some water birds attempting to breed, but passerines could be more succesful.
Flood storage area from North
Flood storage area from South
Bird photos here – Horsebere Flood Cont Pictures