April 2013 blog, sightings plus a personal disaster.

April began and remained cold, winter did not want to loosen it’s grip. Many winter wildfowl remained including lots of Pintail whilst at the same time….Mallards were hatching young.

Mallard family, MJMcGill

2 April 2013 After a late March visit to my doctor, on advice I managed to organise some days off as I was feeling run down and tired. The bitter wind from the North was affecting migration and the birds. It was tough going in the field too if you did not wear the right clothes. Despite this the sun shone and any sheltered spot held birds. As with my March blog at Abbotsbury I was finding Chiffchaff feeding on the ground and struggling, it was possible to see over 100 on a morning out locally, all fearless and focussed on whatever insects they could find. I have never witnessed this in Gloucestershire before, certainly not at this level. Here are a few images of these delightful, tiny warblers.

Chiffchaffs MJMcGill

Chiffchaff, 2 April 2012, MJMcGill Chiffchaff, 2 April 2013, 001 MJMcGill Chiffchaff, 2 April 2013, 002, MJMcGill Chiffchaff, 2 April 2013, 003 MJMcGill

Also out on the Severn I watched this Red Knot fly in. It hung around for a bit and allowed a few shots. Britain is vital for this species, it occurs in vast numbers but is uncommon on the Upper Severn, a passage migrant in varying numbers.

Red Knot (non-breeding plumage)

Red Knot, non breeding plumaged in flight, Severn Estuary, MJMcGill

Red Knot, non-breeding plumage, 2 April 13, Severn Estuary, MJMcGill

3 May 2013  A visit to the Forest of Dean, Cannop Ponds to look for the Garganey intially failed. I had brought a selection bird feed as I know people regularly put food out for the passerines here. Here is a selection of shots.

Robin…full of character and posturing.

Robin, FOD, MJMcGill Robin, FOD, 002, MJMcGill Robin, FOD, 001, MJMcGill

Blackbird…tailess and using albanisitic markings to do a Ring Ouzel impersonation. You got it the wrong way around mate…the white should be on the breast.

Blackbird with albanism

Blue Tit

Blue Tit, FOD, MJMcGill


Nuthatch, FOD, MJMcGill

Coal Tit

Coal Tit, FOD, MJMcGill

Garganey time…

It was my intention to focus on Garganey. Maybe my favourite dabbling duck. They breed at WWT Slimbridge, often not rearing many young and are secretive. The FOD birds had been around for a few days and  I gathered that they could show well, they are a rare bird in the Forest of Dean. I had a male many years ago at Woorgreens at 0400 in the morning, I was on a bird race. Today seven were present but split into two groups. Two males and a female at Woorgreens, I watched them here but it was so cold and windy I left early. At Cannop Ponds there were three males and a female. The females were so hungry they fed continously, the usual insects to be found on the surface of the water were not present due to the cold weather. These little summer migrant ducks must have had a rough time of it after migrating from Africa to the UK. Flying against such strong winds is hard for any bird. The female was so pre-occupied with feeding she ignored humans, the males were so desperate to pair with her they also ignored humans. I think the presence of so many tame wildfowl such as Mallard and Mandarin and it always being so busy with people helped calm these migrant birds down. At  It provided a unique opportunity to get close to a stunning bird without disturbing them.

Garganey at Cannop Ponds, Forest of Dean MJMcGill

Garganey female, Cannop Ponds, 3 April 2013, MJMcGill Garganey male, 003, Cannop Ponds, FOD, 3 April 13, MJMcGill Garganey male, 004, Cannop Ponds, FOD, 3 April 13, MJMcGill Garganey male, Cannop Ponds, 3 April 2013, MJMcGill Garganey male, head study, Cannop Ponds, MJMcGill Garganey males 001, FOD, 3 April 13, MJMcGill Garganey males, Cannop Ponds, FOD, 3 April 2013, MJMcGill Garganey, male, Cannop Ponds, 3 April 2013 MJMcGill

5 April 2013 A wander out at Frampton on Severn produced a pair of sunbathing Little Owls that my daughter and I enjoyed watching. Note the right eye more dilated than the left.

Little Owl

Little Owl, Frampton on Severn, MJMcGill

6 April 2013 First Brimstone butterfly in my garden and for the year.

Brimstone, 1st of 2013, Whitminster, MJMcGill

7 April 2013 I was back to work at WWT Slimbridge after my five day break, a few images from around the hides.

Black tailed Godwit

Black tailed Godwit, South Lake, MJMcGill

Jackdaws always look like they are up to something
this pair used false beards to disguise themselves.

Jackdaws with nest material, MJMcGill

Fishing Little Egret

Little Egret with fish, Tack Piece, MJMcGill

Redwing are always more approachable in late March and early April. Why do they lose their fear, is it because they become accustomed to seeing people due to remaining on a winter territory.

Redwing, Spinney, 7 April 13, MJMcGill Redwing, Spinney, 7 April 2013, MJMcGill 001

8 April 2013 The influx of Mediterranean Gulls was welcolme, here the plainest of plumages and what is probably most overlooked by the casual observer, a first winter. The black primaries (wing tips) match the attendant Black-headed Gulls.

Mediterranean Gull, 1st summer, Rushy, MJMcGill

Life changes…..

This was my last picture for much of April, at the end of the day, tired and mentally fatigued whilst working alone I had a horrible accident involving the tractor I use almost daily. In a second I ended up with a dislocated left leg at the hip and crushed all bones in my foot and ankle in the right leg. I also suffered knee, back and other injuries. I do not know what happened in the time between feeling my bones crunching, feeling the agony and being left on the floor in a dusty hollow. Looking at the times on my phone I think I was out for five minutes. I desperately tried ringing people at work as I needed to get my location out, Phil Tovey rang back after two minutes and got the ball rolling with ambulances and first aid. The next few hours were horredous for me, agonising pain and I had it in my head I was going to die as I could not understand the paralysis and pain that was going on. I rang my wife at 4.27pm to say goodbye etc just in case. I had one last glance of the reserve, one last desperate scan for any birds even in this state.

My colleagues and friends were a great help and comfort, especially Phil, Nige, Mo and Micheal plus many others, I was out of it on pain, shock and eventually drugs. The ambulance crews were amazing and saved me from going too far into shock, the air ambulance crew got me stable and delivered me ‘home’ to Frenchay Hospital…the next 24 hours in hosptial was painful and scary. I then never slept for a few days as I was on the confused ward. So many sorry fellas who do not know what is going on. They slept most of the day then become alive at night with strangled shouts, screams and wild ramblings. They continued all night, staff had to spend all night with them on a watch to prevent them getting up. There confused minds not computing that they will cause themselves harm if they move. I was going downhill in this ward, lack of sleep was a real probelm. I was moved to a side room, it had a window and a view of the sky and part of the roof. I could have the window open and enjoy a breeze, one night I could feel the damp creeping into my lungs and felt cold. I opted to have it shut overnight from then on.

A repeat of excrutiating pain occured after my third operation to rebuild my foot, I spent all night, every five minutes injecting myself with a pain killer, I kept up all night doing this, I was in such a bad way I nearly called an ambulance from the hospital, cannot describe the agony, the cast was cut off, providing some relief, it happened again later, after losing it and swearing uncontrollably I eventually had my medication increased and finally after all night and all morning relieved me of this burden. I never want to go through that again.

I have to credit NHS staff with doing a great job, the majority of nurses are excellent, caring and compassionate and very professional under huge pressure. A few may have lost the passion for nursing, maybe due to having famlies of their own and working night shifts and balancing life, maybe just because they are just not into it any more. I have to say after fifteen days in hopsital that I was fortunate to have a team which held some caring and helpful male and female nurses, from those starting out to those well experienced plus pain team, nutristionists, the volunteers who bring tea around to you. I even had a visit from the spiritual and religous chap who must bring comfort to those that follow their respectives gods, we talked about football which was a small moment of mental escape.

The Orthopediac surgeons appear to have done a good job in doing what they could with so many shattered and crushed bones, the Plastic Surgeons also mangaged to graft skin from my inner leg to repair and cover the horrifying wounds. The first operation the day after the incident was to get my foot into shape, I had a scary looking external fixator where they drill into the bones in eight places to hold the foot in shape. Hard to move with this framework box around your foot and ankle. The second operation cleaned up all dead tissue and the wounds. The third lasted six hours and was to rebuild the foot. After fourteen days I tried to prove I was OK, the physios came and tried me on a zimmer frame, then crutches. A walk on crutches to the end of the ward saw me ready for a test on the stairs, my head began spinning and swaying, despite my insistence they told me to get into the wheelchair and ‘there is no chance you are going near any stairs mate’.

Next morning I got up at 0600, washed, used the loo on crutches, no more bed pans and bottles for me. I sat with my feet over the bed upright and waited for the physios. At 0830 they came I passed the stairs test, they gave me the all clear to come home. I spent the rest of day trying to look with it so I could get dishcharged and go home, eventually all the boxes had been ticked and I got out with medication at around 1800hrs.

During my stay it had been hell at times, despite this I managed to see 24 species of bird from that window including what I believe was an Osprey head NE after ‘kettling’ over the hospital. After coming home I still woke bathed in sweat and fear in the middle of the night, this appears to have gone but I get flashbacks which make me wince. The medication and so much of it combined with the memories have made it something of an up and down mental situation, I get depressed and sad but also feel lucky and unlucky all at the same time, it’s known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I hope in time this will fade away. I am frustrated by the lack of mobility, the lack of freedom and independence. I enjoy seeing friends and also need the time to rest, repair and think my own thoughts to fight a few demons.

Whilst I was in hosptital I received so many messages, cards and visitors. So many thoughtful gifts. I have hundreds of wonderful friends.

My family have been so crucial, my Mum and Dad (must have been serious as he was hugging and kissing me), mother in law Catherine and my wife Harriet who was at my side every day for two weeks.

I now need to rest and recuperate and eventually learn to walk again. I am fiercely independent and determined but I still need a lot of help.

I hope, all being well to be able to take up some Anser trips again in the autumn.


27 April 2013 Whilst in hospital I was visited by Michael Smith (Defender and Player of the season) and Conor Gough (Goalkeeper) both are Bristol Rovers players. This was set up by Phil Tovey. It really lifted me to speak to them, after all I am a long standing Gashead. Michael offered me his two tickets for the last game of the season away to Torquay. I never thought it possible but I made it a target. On Friday I felt strong enough to get from a car into a stadium, next day my mate Smarty was driving us down the M5 to Plainmoor. The Torquay staff were very helpful, we were in place, front row and seated. A very entertaining game, a bit of everything, missed penalty by Rovers and in the last minute…an equalising goal from Matt Harrold who has been out injured for seven and half months. An inspiration to see him back and scoring after so long. I was delighted that the ball for this goal was delivered by Michael Smith. Torquay 3-3 Bristol Rovers.

Rovers defend.

Rovers defend against Torquay

Brown’s penalty saved

Browns penalty saved

Yet another cross from Michael Smith

Michael Smith delivers another quality cross

Celebrations at the Gashead away end, Michael Smith revs the crowd up, note: he is already getting back in position to defend whatever time is left.

Matt Harrold equalises

Players and John Ward applaud the 1553 officially present Gasheads

Team applaud the fans, John Ward too

After match Smarty and I followed the coast road to Labrador Bay RSPB. He saw a Cirl Bunting, I was happy with the views. Top mate for taking me out to Devon for the day. I was navigating on the way home and we diverted to Durleigh Res near Bridgwater, Somerset where we bagged the Whiskered Tern among 11 Arctic Terns.

Me and Smarty, Labrador Bay, Devon

29 April 2013 I have been taken down to Frampton Townfield Lake a couple of times by Nick Goatman and Neil Smart. I managed to see my first Swifts, Whimbrel, Common Sandpiper, Garden Warbler and to catch up with all these Arctic Terns.

Arctic Tern, Frampton, 29 April 13, MJMcGill

Mute Swan and masts….

Mute Swan and masts, Frampton


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: