The Gloster Birder Diary & News

Jul 15th 2016

I received this from Lawrence Skipp’s father, Dave this afternoon:

Hi Mike,

Just to let you know that we sorted the arrangements today for Lawrence’s service of farewell. It will be a non-religious affair at Gloucester Crematorium on Monday 1st August at 3:00pm, and then afterwards in The Mulberry Room for refreshments.

There will also be a formal announcement placed in “The Citizen”…….. casual and camouflage attire most welcome.

Dave

Jul 6th 2016

Here is a short obituary written by Mike Smart.

“Lawrence Skipp, who died in a road accident in the Forest of Dean on 2 July at the age of only 38, was a very special birder, and indeed more than a birder, a general naturalist of exceptionally broad interests.  I have know him for fifteen years or more, and usually met him in the hides and lanes round the reserves at Ashleworth and Coombe Hill.  His base was in the Hartpury/ Tibberton area, and the Severn Vale was one of his favoured areas , along with the Forest of Dean.

He would sit for hours in the hides, usually wearing his green and brown camouflage gear, often very late in the day, or even into the night, since he knew that birds often become more active at that time and do interesting things that can’t be seen by day.  He found quite a number of rare birds in the county: he was one of the few who saw the Scarlet Rosefinch at Ashleworth; he was the one who actually identified the Stilt Sandpiper at Coombe Hill (after Les Brown had seen it without identifying it); he was the one who found the singing Spotted Crake at Coombe Hill (late at night of course ) last year.  Indeed, some of his friends thought that he not merely had an eye for a rarity, but never saw a common species when a rare one was on the cards: he persuaded half a dozen of us to join him at Coombe Hill once at midnight in early June,  when an unusually loud and voluble warbler song had convinced him a Marsh Warbler had turned up: it proved to be ‘just’ a Sedge Warbler, one that had probably failed elsewhere, and had moved in for a fresh breeding attempt, which would explain the sudden bursts of song.  There was also a recent putative Osprey, on the grounds that ‘everything flew up in huge anxiety, so it must have been an Osprey high overhead’. But his real strength was his attention to detail, of which there are many testimonies in the hide log books at Ashleworth and Coombe Hill, in his characteristic neat and elegant handwriting, done with a fine nibbed pen: he had real artistic flair, and was unfortunately unable because of illness to contribute drawings to “The Birds of Gloucestershire”. He was with us on 10 May this year when Coombe Hill had such a succession of unusual migrants brought in by a south east wind – Grey Plover, Turnstone and Sanderling, plus overflying Black and Arctic Terns, and he was the one who first picked out the terns.  The log books reveal him writing down details of things as they happened in front of him: he would record individual variations in the plumages of Curlews as they arrived (he was the one who most frequently recorded the colour ringed bird at Ashleworth, and he showed me Curlew chicks in a hayfield near Haw Bridge);  he recorded not only birds, but invertebrates too, especially dragonflies.  One of the last text messages I received from him (in his usual textspeak) on 19 June just before his death ran as follows: “Would you mind asking Ingrid Twissell if teneral Lestes sponsa ever show pale pterostigma pls?  If not, i saw Lestes viridis at coombe the day I last saw you”.  Sadly he died before I could pass on Ingrid’s reply, so let me pass it on here: “Chalcolestes viridis (Willow Emerald Damselfly) is larger than Lestes sponsa (Emerald Damselfly), and has pale wing-spots outlined in black, but at present is only found in south-east England. Other immature/teneral species of Lestes have pale wing-spots which darken on maturity, so this is likely to be what Lawrence saw. L.sponsa is the only species that breeds at present in Gloucestershire. The only other sighting of another Emerald (Southern Emerald – Lestes barbarus) occurred on the R. Avon, east of Keynsham in August 2006.”

So sad that such an observant naturalist should be snatched away so soon, and that many of his observations die with him.  Our sincerest sympathies to his father Dave Skipp who accompanied him on many of his forays.  Dave says that there will be a non-religious ceremony at Gloucester Crematorium on a date to be announced once the formalities are complete, at which all will be welcome.2009 8 28 Lawrence Skipp Witcombe crop20%

Jul 4th 2016    I received this very sad email from Lawrence Skipp’s father, Dave this afternoon:

Hello there,
I am Lawrence Skipp’s dad, and I just wanted to notify you of the sad news that Lawrence has passed away following a severe car crash in the FOD on 2nd July.
He was cut free and air lifted to Southmead Hospital, but his head injuries were too severe to survive.
He was out doing the thing he loved most in life, birding.
I don’t know all his birding contacts to let them know, so I hope this message can find wings to those who shared his passion.
May his spirit fly high.

Dave Skipp.

There isn’t much to add really, a tragic loss of life at just 38. Those of you that didn’t know Lawrence personally will certainly remember Gloucestershire’s first Stilt Sandpiper he found at Coombe Hill in August 2008.

Jun 1st 2016     NIGHTJARS – In previous years I have only released one site on GB for Nightjar watching in the Forest, with the agreement of Rich Baatsen, County Recorder and Lewis Thomson, RSPB Warden. For years it was always Boy’s Grave but now it is very much overgrown and not guaranteed. This year we are recommending Crabtree Hill heath as the chosen site. Please keep to paths and do not walk onto the heath, for your own safety it is probably best to walk in up the Gloucestershire Way from the car parks. Nightjars can be found throughout the Forest and if you are lucky enough to see them elsewhere please send your records to the County Recorder, Rich Baatsen here.

Jan 9th 2016    I’ve heard from Mike Smart that sadly Joan Garnett, who was the Secretary of the Gloucestershire Naturalists Society for a long period in the 1980s, has recently died, aged 89. She had not been well for some time, and had been living in a home in Cheltenham. The funeral is to be at Cheltenham Crematorium on Thursday 14 January at 11.15 a.m. Joan’s late husband, Robbie, who died some time ago, was also very active as Treasurer, and in his memory, the Society gave some money to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, to set up the Robbie Garnett Hide at Slimbridge, overlooking the Tack Piece on the way to the Holden Tower.

Jun 3rd 2015     The RSPB is studying the dispersal and survival of young Starlings in Gloucestershire, Avon & Somerset. They have blue 3-digit colour rings, as seen in the picture below. If you see any please report to dawn-anderson@outlook.com. Thank you.

Feb 6th 2015     Please note I will not be reporting any more Short-eared Owl sightings from Hawling this winter, so please don’t send any more photos to me. The situation is bad with one photography site now running £195 photo workshops there. More photographers have been caught in the fields this week. It’s becoming like a photography festival every weekend so I cannot consciously give information to prolong this and I would urge other Glos birders do likewise and don’t share on Twitter, or if you do do not give site information. I feel sorry for the local photographers who may feel aggrieved over this but it’s getting silly every time a scarce bird shows up. Try getting in a WWT hide when this happens for example. However I would urge all birders to continue to send their records in either to Rich Baatsen baatsen@surfbirder.com or to me. Thank you.

Feb 1st 2015    So that was January and I’ve had a real good go at Glos listing, to the point the only available wintering bird I haven’t seen is the WWT Bittern, which is very hit and miss. I managed to clean up in the Forest in two visits. On my second visit last weekend it was good to meet and chat to Tim and Rose Smith and Hugh Manistre and Dawn Hebron. It’s always good to talk to visitors to the site and I was pleased that Dawn said it’s what got her out birding again.

Yesterday I finally nailed the Barrington Hen Harrier with Paul T and also saw the elusive Great Grey Shrike there. I’m still missing Blackcap, I’ve only had one all winter, and that was in December. Inevitably I’ve dipped Dipper three times already but I expect to catch up with both these species by year end. I know there are a lot more Glos listing than have sent their scores in so let me know, you’re only really competing with yourself.

Here’s to some more ticks in February and hopefully some Waxwings!

Additionally many of you report other wildlife to me, which is fine but I’ve left reports of Brown Hares out because I’ve been asked to due to problems with hare coursers, although Hares are not exactly difficult to find. I’m sure no-one wants to help these people in any way. I will try and publish some email addresses for the other species recorders in due course.

Jan 13th 2015    A belated Happy New Year to you all.

I have already talked to Richard regarding the future of The Gloster Birder recently. It has become phenomenally successful, usually at about 20th in the Top 1000 bird websites and is responsible for a major upturn in the numbers of records going towards the County record. Probably because of this it has attracted a lot of photographers as well as birders.

There have been several recent incidents at various well-publicised birds – Dartford Warbler, Short-eared Owls, Crossbills and Great Grey Shrike – with reports of trespass, habitat damage, parking problems and plain ignorance. I have been quite disturbed by this and as you know have always done my best to publish access details, advisory notes regarding behaviour, parking etc. Birders largely abide by these requests but sadly this latest collective of photographers don’t. If you are at well-known bird sites and photographers or birders are going outside the respected levels of behaviour, are troubling the bird, the habitat or the locals please speak out and let them know.

It would be easy to pull the plug on GB (and relax) but I don’t really want to do that. A watered down version of people’s garden bird records wouldn’t really appeal to me or many others. I hope to keep going for the foreseeable future.

In other news my Guestbook company is stopping providing a Guestbook service from January 15th.

If you fancy a go at year listing this year and trying to join the 200 Club just send me your scores and I will publish them.

Dec 31st 2014    I finally found two Dippers on the last day of the year in Stroud.

Nov 25th 2014        I’ve just returned from a winter sun break on Boa Vista, Cape Verde, our second visit there. There were no new birds for me but a Great Egret I discovered was a good bird for CV, whether it was European or American I don’t know. It was also great to see some of the scarcer species again especially Red-billed Tropicbirds and Cream-coloured Coursers again. The absolute highlight was helping to release baby Loggerhead Turtles back to the sea. I’ll write a trip report soon.

Nov 2nd 2014        I’ve not long returned from my 9th autumn on Scilly. Although not a classic year there were a lot of the usual scarcities to seen including two Short-toed Larks, two Red-breasted Flycatchers, a Barred Warbler, a Wryneck, Snow Buntings, 8+ Yellow-browed Warblers, Firecrests, Ring Ouzels, four Whooper Swans, Jack Snipes, a Pied Flycatcher, a Spoonbill, Mediterranean Gulls, a Black Redstart, Balearic, Sooty and Manx Shearwaters, Pomarine and Great Skuas and Great Northern Diver. Also a Monarch butterfly and Red Underwing moths. I love Scilly but the clamour is for Shetland now, because that’s where the ticks are. However ticks aren’t everything and I do enjoy a bit of civilisation at the end of the day.

Martin McGill’s been at it again finding the first BARRED WARBLER for 35 years (2nd Glos record) on my patch at Frampton. Well Done Martin, and get off of my land 😉 We’ve also had a few showy BEARDED TITS at Shorncote Reedbed beautifully photographed by Dave Soons. Pics in the Sightings. Both species were available for a few days allowing most people who made the effort to connect, although neither were easy.

Sep 30th 2014        I’ve had a busy couple of weekends lately. Last Saturday Paul T, Rich B and I rushed to Kilnsea in East Yorkshire for Britain’s 3rd MASKED SHRIKE, when I say rushed I mean over 4 hours thanks to motorway speed restrictions. We needn’t have rushed it’s still present as I write. We also saw Great Grey Shrike, Merlin and Pied Flycatcher but yet again missed Olive-backed Pipit, a British bogey bird for me. Pic below by Andy Jordan.Masked Shrike 0914

This weekend just gone I’ve been staying with the family for a long weekend in the Howgill area of Lake District. I didn’t see many birds and despite several fast running rivers still haven’t seen a Dipper this year, quite unbelievable. I did however have my closest ever encounter with a RED SQUIRREL, which posed very obligingly.Red Squirrel 0914

I also been please to receive a review copy of The Passenger Pigeon by Errol Fuller from Princeton University Press. A very good read but very disturbing reading about the extinction of a species. You can read my review here.

Sep 3rd 2014        I really am bad at writing in the Diary these days, the most exciting thing that’s happened, which many of you will already know, is that MARSH SANDPIPER has been added to the County list after a juvenile was found at Frampton shore by Martin McGill last week. I’ll even forgive him for trespassing on my patch when I’m at work. If you are on Twitter and want to follow Martin you can do so here https://twitter.com/MJMcGill_Anser. Nice article by Martin here http://www.rarebirdalert.co.uk/v2/Content/Finders_in_the_Field_Marsh_Sandpiper_Gloucestershire.aspx?s_id=840098174

Also three CATTLE EGRETS were around the Frampton area earlier in the month, which were also appreciated by many.

I haven’t had much time off in the first half of the year, but Scilly is just 38 days away and we’re going back to Boa Vista in Cape Verde in November, can’t wait!

Aug 10th 2014         John Phillips has the following journals free to a good home, contact me in the first instance if you are interested and I will pass on your details:

Birding World Vol 4 (1991) to Vol 15 (2002) – complete, bound.

British Birds Vol 96 no 6 (June 2003) and then Vols 97 (2004) to 103 (2010) and the first 3 issues of Vol 104 (2011), a few missing.

Ibis Vol 122 (1980) to Vol 138 (1996) a few missing.

Bulletin of the British Ornithological Society Vol 67 (April 1947) to Vol 103 no. 3 (Sept 1983) (Some missing)

Jun 29th 2014        I’ve been asked by Mark McCormick the Senior Communications Officer for the League Against Cruel Sports. In April a team from the League Against Cruel Sports accompanied Wildlife Expert Bill Oddie to Malta and made a short film exposing the shooting of migratory birds in spring. You can view this film here >> http://youtu.be/qehDBpOPsi4 Please spread the word and share the link.

Jun 7th 2014        Last weekend I managed to get in some great out of County birding. Firstly on the Saturday across the river at Newport Wetlands reserve with Paul T and Rich for the incredibly showy Savi’s Warbler. We also had Bearded Tits which were a great bonus. The reserve is fabulous with great birds and brilliant access, a real jewel and a credit to all that maintain it. We could really do with something similar in Glos.

On the Saturday night at 11pm Rich offered me a lift to a nailed-on Short-toed Eagle that had roosted at Morden Bog in Dorset. I cashed in every last Brownie point I had earned and at 2am we were on our way with Pete Churton. We arrived as dawn was breaking, around 50 cars were already there, and Nightjars were churring and a Cuckoo was calling. It was a great daybreak! We walked up to the viewpoint and the eagle was in the tree it was meant to be. In fact 6 hours later it was still there, seemingly actually nailed on, it flew at 10:15am just after we left. Nevertheless we had great views along with a couple of hundred others. We managed some other good birds whilst we were there including Dartford Warblers, Mediterranean Gulls and a Spotted Flycatcher. It must be time for the birding authorities to revisit Booted Eagle now!

In the pub last night talk turned to the need for The Gloster Birder website in the future given the immediacy of Twitter and other social sites. Sometimes it feels like I’ve created a monster, which takes all my free time. I asked the question on Twitter today and I’ve been overwhelmed with the kind words and pleas to keep it going, so I guess I can’t end it just yet.

May 28th 2014        I’m back from a recent holiday on the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico staying at Akumal Beach Resort, which we can thoroughly recommend. It’s a nice quiet away from the hustle and bustle of Playa Del Carmen. I didn’t do a lot of birding but still managed half a dozen lifers. I also managed to miss Great Reed Warbler at WWT, which was a bit of a shame but not surprising. I’ll put on a trip report in due course.

A new addition to the links page is Birdwatch in Alentejo Jorge Safara’s small company based in southern Portugal that promotes personalised bird watching tours. Take a look and see if it’s for you.

Also I’ve heard from Juliet Bailey that the GNS have had to reduce their library, and most of the nationally available journals have to go. If you would you be interested in any of the following publications, details are available on request or if you are not personally interested you may know of someone in the wider birding community that might be:

London Naturalist

Bird Notes

Wildfowl Trust

British Ornithologist’s Club

Ibis

Birds

Bird Study

British Birds

Birding World

Drop me a line and I’ll pass it on to Juliet.

Apr 22nd 2014    April has almost passed by and I haven’t written anything so here goes. As usual a few early migrants came in and everyone got excited for the big push but it hasn’t really come yet. I think the fine weather has caused everything to shoot straight through. There seem to be few migrant warblers on territory in the Vale although there are plenty at CWP. Terns at Frampton have been particularly disappointing so far with just one Common Tern and one Arctic Tern. Just one Black Tern very early in the Water Park and one Little Gull at Frampton. I’ve managed to miss all the Ospreys as usual, but a good rare that hangs around would cheer everyone up, after nearly 30 years surely we’re due another Black Kite. I’m sure the best is yet to come. See you out there!

Mar 30th 2014    A top weekend – yesterday morning I found a pair of RING OUZELS on Cleeve Hill at the first attempt, which is always good, and also my first Wheatears. Today I happened to be visiting in Dursley when a HOODED CROW was found at WWT so it was easy to catch up with it on the way home. A surprising record, the first Glos record since 5th May 1991 and before that 1982, so incredibly rare and unexpected. It will most likely linger for a while with any luck. On the sporting front Wolves and Glaws won so that’s all good and I caught up with all my grandchildren and children over the weekend so that was very nice too.

Dr Geoff Hilton of WWT is asking for records of Great Crane Release Project Common Cranes away from Slimbridge. Geoff is asking for where the birds were and a reading of leg-rings. In case of partial leg ring reading, then: All of the birds have black-blue-black on the left leg. (it’s the country code). The right-leg code is unique to the individual. The bottom ring on the right leg is birth-year-specific: red = 2010, white = 2011, blue = 2012, yellow = 2013. Please send your records either to me at the usual address or direct to Geoff at geoff.hilton@wwt.org.uk.

Mar 26th 2014    The Gloster Birder passed 1.5 million visitors today. Many thanks as always for all your support and input.

Mar 3rd 2014    I’ve heard from John Sanders that misfortune has struck Coombe Hill again. In the latest floods the new hide has floated off its foundations. It has split into three, and these have drifted towards Deerhurst Walton. The boardwalk is still under water, and impassable, but obviously, when the floods go down, caution will be needed when approaching the hide site.

This weekend I had some fabulous views of the TWO-BARRED CROSSBILL flock near Drybrook Road Station. They are showing very well at the moment although sometimes they take a bit of locating either here, Serridge Ridge or back at the original Crabtree Hill site, where they were in the week. Listen for their distinctive trumpet-like call, some of the males have been heard singing. Fingers crossed that they decide to breed, that would be brilliant.

Feb 23rd 2014    Please read the following notice, if you require more info please contact the sites listed:

THREATS TO FOREST OF DEAN WILDLIFE

The inaugural meeting of a new organisation, Dean Natural Alliance, will take place on Monday 24th February at Soudley Village Hall, Soudley, 7:30 p.m., to discuss protecting FoD wildlife, the Cinderford Northern Quarter planning developments and the selling of many acres of publicly owned forest.

More info from info@DeanNaturalAlliance.org and at www.DeanNaturalAlliance.org.

Feb 15th 2014    Speak it quietly but I’ve already ventured outside of the County twice this year. The first time for the highly tempting and easily accessible RED-FLANKED BLUETAIL, reported by the pagers in GLOS. Of course it isn’t and I’ve done this conversation to death in the past but the information services don’t care that putting RFB on the pagers for Glos causes everyone an instant coronary until they realise the truth. The bird is actually in South Gloucestershire (formerly Avon) stolen from us by the evil Tories in 1974. However if you saw the RFB north of the river as I did it’s actually in Wiltshire. Boundaries aside it a cracking bird, probably an unprecedented wintering bird and worth a visit.

Today with John Overfield I travelled to Durham where we saw MYRTLE WARBLER without too much trouble. My first ‘Butterbut’ for Britain, formerly Yellow-rumped Warbler and now split by IOC into Myrtle Warbler and Audubon’s Warbler. I’ve probably seen both, I think it’s a geographic thing again, but who cares, it was great to see one in Britain, flashing its bright yellow Sparrowhawk target as it fed on strategically placed coconuts. On the way home we stopped at Coleshill in Warwickshire where I saw only my second HUME’S WARBLER.

I’ve also put in a couple of shifts on the river this week but have managed to be be at work for both Puffin and Razorbill! I did see a Guillemot and a few Kittiwakes but I was hoping for better.

Feb 1st    I’ve been out and about in the County during January, when weather and work permitted, and managed to catch up with most of the wintering rares and scarcities, including Water Pipit, Green-winged Teal, Jack Snipe, Black Redstart, Avocet, Willow Tit, Siberian Chiffchaff, Great Grey Shrike and Two-barred Crossbill. I finished January on 100 species, with White-fronted Goose bringing up the ton. I also managed to connect with Hen Harrier today. There are still quite a few common species I haven’t seen yet including, unbelievably, Grey Heron. If you are year-listing in the County this year send me your scores.

Whilst looking for Tree Sparrows (twice) near Aldsworth I talked to the owner of the feeders they come to. This year he has just three birds, a sad state of affairs, after having 25 there last spring. These birds are sadly now right on the brink in Glos. Time for one of the local conservation organisations to get involved with a nest box scheme perhaps?

Jan 13th 2014    Happy New Year to you all, another new year’s birding is underway. I have started quietly this year with a very slow 81 species in the first 12 days. Far too busy at work and then almost constant rain since the turn of the year and dark mornings and nights certainly haven’t helped.

I will post both the quiz results soon but there is still time to send me your guesses this week if you want.

If you fancy a go at year listing this year and trying to join the 200 Club just send me your scores and I will publish them.

It’s become a struggle to keep GB going of late to be honest, it’s a real victim of it’s own success. Whilst Richard Baatsen Baatsen@surfbirder.com, our exhibitionist County Recorder, loves to receive all records of all species, I don’t always publish all of your records, which I hope you will understand. You can always contact me at Mike@surfbirder.com I reply to every mail but if you need a longer reply it may not be instant.

Have a great birding year everyone, here’s hoping for a mega for Glos, hopefully when I’m in the country too.

Here’s the first notice of the year:

Appeal for photographs for the 2012 Gloucestershire Bird Report.  Work on the 2012 county report (yes 2012) is well advanced, so we are appealing for photographs to include – obviously these must have been taken in the county in 2012. Generally we are looking for good quality photos of county rarities.  Please send to Richard Baatsen, the county recorder, at Baatsen@surfbirder.com – separately if by e-mail, or (better) via Dropbox or similar. All photos used are credited, and if one of yours is used, you qualify for a free copy of the report.  Many thanks – Richard Baatsen, John Phillips and Gordon Kirk.

November 17   Well last weekend was pretty good with Purple Sandpiper, Siberian Chiffchaff and Green-winged Teal at WWT, Great Grey Shrike in the Forest and Great Northern Diver at Sharpness. There was no sign however of the two Two-barred Crossbills that Gavin Black and friends had seen.

However all that was to change this week following daily perseverance by Lewis Thomson who finally found the flock yesterday. And what a flock! 17+ birds, the 3rd highest count for Britain. The 2nd being 18 on Shetland in 2008 (we shouldn’t count that, it’s part of Iceland or Faeroes or something) and a dodgy 1890 Bedfordshire record of c20, probably Chaffinches, so technically the Glos flock ought to be first. The prize is there for the taking for anyone who can get 21 together. (PS the internet’s so crazy these days, I must point out that was humour people). I was pleased to see many old friends as the 1998 New Fancy View blocker went swiftly down the drain. The Shrike even showed well for the crowds. I understand the Two-bars have been giving people the run-around today but patience and lots of standing by the Hemlocks should be rewarded.

Today I nipped to Mordor with Tay and Pete Churton to see the WESTERN ORPHEAN WARBLER at Orlandon Kilns in Pembrokeshire. The bird was easily seen thanks to the accommodating residents of the house who initially thought they had a wintering Lesser Whitethroat, a reasonable mistake to make. We also managed to see a few Choughs and demolished a Fully Monty in celebration. A great weekend!

Our December pub meet will be on Friday November 29th so if you want a meal and haven’t let me know yet do it soon please.

October 27th 2013

News from Gordon Kirk, unless you’ve been living in a cave “The Birds of Gloucestershire” is published:

“The Birds of Gloucestershire” – now on general sale!

It has arrived! – the most comprehensive account of Gloucestershire’s birdlife is now published…”The Birds of Gloucestershire” includes all the species that have ever been recorded in the county, with details of all rarities, and sites and dates of occurrence of passage migrants. The book features detailed maps for over 130 regular species, based on four years of atlas fieldwork carried out by hundreds of volunteers (including you?), and also describes the bird habitats and the history of bird watching and conservation in the county; graphs, tables and statistics illustrate the patterns of occurrence of many species. Some of Britain’s most prominent bird artists, past and present, including Jackie Garner, Robert Gillmor, Terence Lambert, Peter Partington, Peter Scott and Keith Shackleton, have provided almost 200 beautiful illustrations, which sit alongside sumptuous photographs of many of the birds and the county’s landscapes.

This magnificent book is now available through the usual channels, including Amazon – it’s a ‘must-have’ for county birders, and a great Christmas present for anyone. Not only is it an important work of reference, but it will grace any coffee table! Gordon Kirk.

October 23    I’ve got very lazy with the Diary this year, however I’ll make a bit more effort now I’m back from Scilly. It was a quiet year with Sora Rail being the best bird.

Hot off the press Bill Church has long-awaited news about the 100-Acre access :

Access to Green Lane and the 100 Acre Viewing Platform at Frampton-on-Severn

Many of you will have been frustrated by the closure last year of the gate by the canal, south of Splatt Bridge, that led to 100 Acre viewing platform. This is a great spot for birds; you may remember highlights like the Glossy Ibis, Cattle Egret, Whiskered Tern, Short-eared Owls, Bitterns etc. I have been negotiating with Cullimore Organics who farm the fields. They closed the access because gates were left open, cattle escaped and there were many problems with dogs. I’ve agreed to arrange for two kissing gates to be installed by the Stroud Valleys Project. The cost is likely to be around £1000 which I said I would find. The WWT have promised a substantial contribution and I am contacting other wildlife groups and the Parish Council etc for contributions. It is likely there will still be a significant shortfall so I am asking from contributions from birders who enjoying watching from this area. Gordon Kirk has agreed we can use the Gloucestershire Ornithological Co-ordinating Committee to hold these funds for us. If you can contribute please send cheques, made payable to GOCC, to Bill Church, Hollyport, Vicarage Lane, Frampton-on-Severn, GL2 7EE. All being well with weather and the fund raising the platform should be accessible again from early December. I will keep Mike King informed of progress on monies and installation and The Gloster Birder can keep you up to date.

Bill Church.

September 4th 2013    Please note that the next monthly meeting on Friday 6th September will be held at The Fromebridge Mill for this month at least. I look forward to seeing you there.

July 1st 2013    If you read this Diary or have visited Coombe Hill Meadows nature reserve lately you will know that in February this year the Grundon hide and boardwalk suffered extensive flood damage and Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust would desperately like to replace the structures as soon as possible. Also whilst replacing them, to make some changes to ensure that flood damage is minimised in the future, and that the everything is increased in height so that the hide is accessible even when in flood. The insurance company has finally confirmed that they will contribute £45,348, Grundon Waste Management have donated £5,000 which means they have a shortfall of £17,544. Therefore GWT urgently need to raise £17,544 so that they can undertake the rebuild by September to minimise impact on the reserve and be ready to use in order to witness the thousands of birds that visit in the winter. All donations of any size would be gratefully accepted. To make a donation you can send a cheque to Lynn Toon, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, Robinswood Hill Country Park, Reservoir Road, Gloucester, GL4 6SX and make the cheque payable to GWT stating its for the hide and boardwalk replacement or make a credit card donation by emailing lynn.toon@gloucestershirewildlifetrust.co.uk or call 01453 383333. Further information is on the website at http://www.gloucestershirewildlifetrust.co.uk/hideappeal.

June 18th 2013     This weekend another rarity lured me out of the County, a PACIFIC SWIFT, at Trimley in Suffolk. Together with Rich, Tay and Mark Coller we set off at 6am on Sunday morning. Being a Swift and not really expecting it to stay we decided to head for Reading Services, have breakfast and wait for news, then if we had to come back we hadn’t gone too far. However no sooner had we finished our Full Monty’s, the bird came on the pager, so we were straight in the car and away to Suffolk. We made good time and after parking a stiff 2½ mile yomp to the reserve ensued. However it was worth every painful step as when we arrived the PACIFIC SWIFT was criss-crossing the scrape in front of us and showing very well. We enjoyed the bird for an hour or so and then sauntered rather more leisurely back to the car and went home, arriving back at 3:40pm. Mission accomplished!

May 27th 2013     If you send in garden bird records, and many of you do, please note I will only publish the highlights on the site, but please copy in Richard Baatsen, the County Recorder baatsen@surfbirder.com who will be pleased to receive all of your records. I will often cut species when some of you send complete lists from various sites around the County, but again Richard would like these if you are not already copying him. Similarly with photos I will not use every one you send in because I am fighting for webspace all the time and it’s nearly maxed out again. This is not because I’m not interested but I’ve got to find a way of reducing the workload of the site, as I have a full-time job and a family equally calling on my attentions. I never thought Gloster Birder would get as big as it has when I started out and it took about 10 minutes tops to update, now it takes a good hour and more at peak times.

May 21st 2013     So Sunday morning I was awoken by Rich at 6:30am still slightly hung-over from the previous night’s wedding party. He said “There’s a DUSKY THRUSH in Kent and we’re leaving in half an hour, do you want to come?” Forty minutes later I was in Rich’s car on the way to pick up Tay and we were Kent-bound.

Fortunately we had a problem-free run and found a parking space right by the gates of Margate Cemetery and within minutes we were all watching our first DUSKY THRUSH. This was the first twitchable individual in the UK since the one in Hartlepool in December 1959. Here’s rubbish video grab, the video is here, other pics are available, just Google it.

This week I have updated the Friends & Links page on the site. I have removed all dead links, so if yours has been removed let me know the new link and if you want to be included drop my a mail. I am also making additions to the Birders Holidays page, take a look you may see something you like.

Also as you may have seen and heard a pair of The Great Crane Project Common Cranes have laid eggs at WWT Slimbridge – see here.

May 14th 2013    ‘The Birds of Gloucestershire’ is coming!! The most comprehensive book about the county’s birds ever produced will be published in the autumn at a retail price of £45. But the publishers are offering a great pre-publication offer, so you can order one now for just £20 plus p&p – you need to order by September 2nd. The book will be published by Liverpool University Press, a not-for-profit organisation, and all royalties will come back into the county for bird conservation. Download a pre-order form here

Apr 22nd 2013     I am sure most of you are now aware of Martin McGill’s nasty accident, and many of you have asked how he is. Well here is a note from the man himself:

“Dear Mike and all Gloster birders,

Most of you will be aware of my serious accident at work. Although the working day had ended, I thought …just one more load of stone to haul to finish before the rain came. I was preparing a track for the Landrover Safari route. It is fair to say I thought it was the end for me…very frightening. Spring is the time of year I see all Gloster birders at WWT Slimbridge or Frampton-on-Severn (apart from a good rare). I will probably miss everyone this season. It sounds very good out and about this spring with some great birds. I want to thank everyone who has sent a text, tweeted me, phoned or sent a card. We are most grateful for the offers of help for Harriet. Nick Goatman has filled my bird feeders, Jubs for ferrying my kids about, my mother-in-law retired two weeks ago and has been a full time child carer. I have been through Hell, the pain has been horrendous but I have been well supported by my immediate family…Mum and dad, wife and lots of friends visited even when I am doped up! Looking forward, I want to get home, get a recovery plan going and be back amongst the birds and you lot again.

Thank you Gloster birders. Love Martin.”

I’m back from a successful and relaxing week on Boa Vista in the Cape Verde islands. I had nine lifers on Boa Vista, Iago Sparrow, Brown-necked Raven, Hoopoe Lark, Bar-tailed Desert Lark, Cape Verde Shearwater, Cape Verde Swift, Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark, Red-billed Tropicbird and Helmeted Guineafowl plus Alexander’s Kestrel, which is an island race of Common Kestrel. I also had Magnificent Frigatebird, Brown Boobies and two Lesser Yellowlegs. I got just about all I could hope for on the one island, trip report coming soon.

Apr 6th 2013     After a little flurry of early migrants the cold front has resolutely held up any attempts at a full-scale influx of expected migrants. Seven GARGANEYS in the Forest of Dean however is probably unprecedented.

Mar 11th 2013     I seem to just be reporting on places you can’t go this year, what with the closure at Highnam and the shenanigans at Frampton, which remains unresolved. Well here’s another habitat disaster received from Mike Smart. When Mike said the Grundon hide and boardwalk had been damaged by the floods I envisaged a bit of silt in it and a few planks loose but these pictures speak for themselves. Pictures by Jackie Birch.

As you can see it is completely wrecked and beyond repair. Mike says, “Jackie is organising a meeting on Wednesday for regular Coombe Hill birders, so that they can provide input on the design of the replacement hide. It will of course be a matter of design, durability and cost, but we hope to make the replacement a little bit higher than the original, so that better views are available when it’s replaced, hopefully in the not too distant future”. Well they do say bad things come in threes so hopefully that is the end of habitat disasters for one year.

Since I last wrote the best birds have been a MEALY REDPOLL at WWT and a drake GREEN-WINGED TEAL at Saul Warth, found by James Lees and Francis Steuck respectively. Sadly both were one day birds, although the Teal could still be around. I did give it a good go on Saturday but to no avail. The best news was that the Warth is full of water for the first time in nearly two years, which was much appreciated by arriving Sand Martins this weekend. It looks like the spring gatherings on the bank overlooking the flashes will be something to look forward too. Unfortunately on Saturday I saw about 1000 ducks flushed off of there by two women walking the length of the flashes along the sea wall and then back again making sure nothing was missed. Francis saw a similar thing on Friday with a dog walker with loose dogs. Time for the WWT to renew the “Keep off the sea wall” signs and preferably plant land mines at six foot intervals (Disclaimer: this is a joke, the internet doesn’t always cope with my humour).

Feb 24th 2013     Birding in the County has been fairly quiet with a few exceptions the long-staying GREAT NORTHERN DIVER, which finally departed on the 17th of February, the showiest BITTERN in the country from Zeiss hide at WWT, as well the three TUNDRA BEAN GEESE there, and the opportunity to see Hawfinches outside of the Forest at Quedgeley with up to six showing daily.

There is still no movement in the access to Green Lane at Frampton, Highnam woods car park is now closed so parking anywhere near is difficult and the Grundon hide at Coombe Hill has succumbed to the floods.

Please consider The Barn Owl Centre‘s appeal to raise funds to buy Netheridge Farm from Gloucester City Council, here is a link to the site, http://www.gofundme.com/20d788. I think this is a worthwhile cause and many of you will know Vince and his team and may have visited for the Eagle Owl there a few year’s back when BOC were very accommodating late at night. A wild Barn Owl can be seen there most days early evening like clockwork.

Jan 26th 2013     Please note the following announcement:

The RSPB has taken the difficult decision to close the car park at Highnam Woods for the foreseeable future and it will unfortunately no longer be possible to park there from 4th Feb 2013. This action has been taken as a last resort after attempts to manage persistent inappropriate behaviour by a few have failed. The reserve will still be open to the public via pedestrian access and bike racks will be installed. Full details of public transport links to Highnam Woods can be found on the reserve website, www.rspb.org.uk/HighnamWoods.

RSPB Gloucestershire will continue to help people see and enjoy the special wildlife on this reserve through running a variety of events throughout the year, please visit www.rspb.org.uk/HighnamWoods for more information. Reserve staff and volunteers would be delighted to open the site for visiting groups by prior arrangement with reserve staff. Please contact RSPB Gloucestershire on 01594 562852 or e-mail: Highnam.Woods@rspb.org.uk.

Jan 21st 2013     This weekend just gone I managed to get out to Frampton and do a bit of birding in the snow, particularly enjoying a Barn Owl south of Splatt Bridge. This seems like a good cue to advise the many people who have asked about the closure of the gate/footpath to Green Lane and in turn access to the WWT 100-Acre platforms. If you go to the gate this is what you will see. Alongside it is the landowners reason for it’s closure.

At the moment the WWT and Frampton residents are in contact with the family hoping to resolve what is clearly an unsatisfactory situation for all who enjoyed being able to quickly get out to the 100-Acre. Currently please respect the family’s wishes and stay out of the property. Hopefully a happy conclusion can be reached in the near future. I will keep you updated.

Jan 15th 2013     This weekend I set out with four targets in mind on Saturday – Water Pipit, Rock Pipit, Jack Snipe and Bittern – and got all four although the Water Pipit required some work and a little nudge in the right direction from Tay. The year list is moving on slowly. I missed the Brent at Saul Warth, but good news for all birders is the fact that for the first time in a couple of years there is water in the Warth, so roll on spring. Coombe Hill Meadows is also suffering from the relentless rain with damage to the Grundon hide, see the note in today’s sightings.

Wolves have yet another manager and are generally rubbish but at least Glaws are going well at the moment. I will endeavour to post a bit more regularly in the Diary this year as I was pretty lax last year.

Jan 9th 2013     Happy New Year to you all, another new year’s birding is underway. I have started quietly this year with a very slow 66 species in the first nine days and the only slightly difficult ones I’ve seen were Bramblings, Waxwings (usually difficult) and Cetti’s Warbler. Far too much work getting in the way and then fog defeating my owl watch and no-shows by the Bittern and others.

I will post the quiz results soon but there is still time to send me your guesses this week if you want. I think an alcohol-fuelled bird meet at The Forge last Friday proved that even the commonest bird can be difficult to i/d from a photo, but I won’t name and shame people here.

This year we are planning a first visit to Belize in the summer, as well as the regular return to Scilly in October.

If you fancy a go at year listing this year and trying to join the 200 Club just send me your scores and I will publish them.

I have a bit of a backlog with trip reports but quite frankly in recent weeks I have struggled just to keep the basics going. I will get there eventually. I think I might be able to keep GB going for another year. You can always contact me at Mike@surfbirder.com I reply to every mail but if you need a longer reply it may not be instant.

Have a great birding year everyone, here’s hoping for a mega for Glos, hopefully when I’m in the country too.

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