November 2013 sightings and blog

29 November 2013 Spent from 1100-2.00pm cycling or walking around the Forest of Dean exploring areas I have not covered of late. I settled down at a clearing to listen for crossbills and a Great Grey Shrike popped up. It circled the area trying it’s luck from various vantage points, at one point mobbing a Raven and pausing to hover over me. I just love watching these beautifully marked birds. It coughed up a pellet to rid itself of the useless parts of what it had eaten during the day. I eventually found some Crossbills with parties of 5, 19, 2, and 9 mostly around New Fancy View. Some may well have been the same birds as they were very mobile. In addition, also saw c30 Siskin, I believe I am seeing a pattern where by they arrive among feeding Crossbills perhaps to glean seeds from cones there larger relatives have conveniently opened. Likely to be a safety in mumbers issue also as it is easy to for Sparrowhawks to sneak up on them. A few Brambling were also vocal as they flew by but I saw none settled in this area.

Great Grey Shrike– Forest of Dean

Great Grey Shrike, FoD, MJMcGill 29 Nov 13 Great Grey Shrike, Staple Edge Wood, FoD, MJMcGill, 29 Nov 13

28 November 2013 A day out exploring the Forest of Dean with great results, I hardly noticed the overcast conditions as it was so still. At Edgehills I enjoyed the search and had success logging 4 Hawfinch, 50+ Brambling, 450 Chafffinch, 30 Siskin, 8 Crossbill (2,1 and 5). West of New Fancy View were 40+ Brambling, 200 Chaffinch and 3 Hawfinch. At Crabtree Hill the ever smart Great Grey Shrike was putting on a show. It was skipping from perch to perch and hovering over prey until it was disturbed by people walking across the middle of the heath. Quite a bird when you see it tail spread flapping in a hover.  To add to the experience a male Hawfinch showed very well as I chatted to Keith Vinicombe. I saw a single Crossbill but Keith had seen 7 plus at least 3 Two-barred Crossbill, they are getting much harder to locate. News came through of a possible Parrot Crossbill seen here yesterday which was what I was out looking for. More Forest forays are needed to relocate these birds or cross fingers that the forest birders manage to find them again.

Brambling and Chaffinch, Edgehills, FoD.

Brambling and Chaffinch, Edgehills, FoD, MJMcGill, 28 Nov 13 Brambling, Edgehills, FoD, 28 Nov 2013, MJMcGill

Hawfinch, Crabtree Hill, FoD

Hawfinch, Crabtree Hill, FoD Hawfinch, Crabtree Hill

27 November 2013 I attend the appointment at Southmead Hospital, Bristol for an operation on my toe and met with the consultant for a third time. Things had improved with regard to infection thus swinging the balance against proceeding with it right now. Opening up a new area is does add a risk of infection so the decision was made by me to leave it for now. I hope there is no return of any problem with my toe as I am keen to keep operations to a minimum. Overall this is good news, I still have at least one more operation in the  future but this allows a few months respite and to continue with a fitness programme which includes getting out and about walking as much as possible.

25 November 2013 Having got increasing counts of Wigeon on a date or two during the month it was a treat to log 2620 on 25th November. The cold weather and ice appeared to have moved all the Coombe Hill GWT birds down to WWT Slimbridge. Over 2000 were feeding on the Dumbles scrape Wigeon lawns. Although these are way off a record count (7000+) it is impressive to see them in large flocks. A male Teal looked a little bemused to be surrounded by the wrong species. It was a dark, overcast morning but here is an image of this little duck.

Teal among the Wigeon
“What am I doing among this lot”

Teal among Wigeon, Dumbles, 25 Nov 2013, MJMcGill

23 November 2013 A day out to the Hampshire/Dorset coast and heaths. See trip report page for details.

Spoonbills, Holes Bay
27 of them on a dusk high tide!

Spoonbill flock, Holes Bay, Dorset

Surf Scoter, Brand’s Bay, Poole Harbour

Surf Scoter, Brand's Bay,

16 November 2013 What can I say, after a few visits to look for them this autumn, I failed. I was however delighted when eventually two were located by one FoD resident birder (G. Black) and headed over to the forest on to try my luck. I had some intimate views of Common Crossbills but not the target bird. What were we all looking for? It is an invasion year and the species is the Two-barred (White-winged) Crossbill. Saturday morning I had a message that Lewis Thomson had located five of these smashing birds so off I went with Neil to join many county birders who were delighted to connect with what turned out to be 17+ Two-barred Crossbills! Thanks to the forest birders for sharing these top birds, apparently the third largest flock ever noted in the UK. We continued birding and saw 2 Hawfinches, 2 Brambling, Willow Tit, 200 Siskin, 20 Lesser Redpoll and a lovely Great Grey Shrike, the latter at the same time as 12 Two-bars were perched on spruce on the heath, 14 flew off and returning to the original spot we saw 11 feeding together in the Western Hemlocks. A damn good morning out.

Two-barred Crossbill, Kensley Lodge, Forest of Dean

Two barred Crossbill, male, Kensley Lodge, MJMcGill Two barred Crossbill, female, Kensley Lodge

Great Grey Shrike, Crabtree Hill, Forest of Dean

Great Grey Shrike

Recent highlights for the month below.

12 November 2013 Migrant Hawker and Common Darter still on the wing today.

11 November 2013 Adult Little Gull flew downriver

10 November 2013 Connected with the two Glossy Ibis on the South Lake, WWT Slimbridge.

Purple Sandpiper on the Rushy
8, 10, 11 November 2013

Purple Sandpiper, Rushy, MJMcGill Purple Sandpiper, Rushy, 12 Nov 13 MJMcGill

Purple Sandpiper, MJMcGill

Green-winged Teal Top New Piece
I eventually caught up with this little duck that Gord Youdale discovered. I saw it among the thousands of Teal on a couple of dates.

Green winged Teal, MJMcGill

5 November 2013 A Barn Owl near to home in Whitminster, always nice.



Siberian Chiffchaff at WWT Slimbridge, 4 November 2013

I was pleased to be able to start the day in calm and sunny conditions, a Reed Bunting flew over heading SE when I got out of the car. After feeding the Rushy wildfowl I set off to unlock the rest of the reserve’s hides. I  passed Blackbird, Song Thrush and Redwing that were all out in the open enjoying the settled weather in the Rushy lane. At the Martin Smith Hide I looked out across the Tack Piece noting an increase in the Wigeon and Teal numbers at this site today.

I heard a warbler singing outside and was puzzled, so went out to look for it. No further sound. Steve Owen arrived and joined me. I have not seen Steve for a while so while we were catching up only a Goldcrest called.  I unlocked the gate to access the Holden Tower and walk down to the Holden Tower with Steve. Not far past the tunnel I heard the warbler again in the Elders and Field Maple so we retraced our steps, it sounded like a speeded up Chiffchaff with a different sound, hard to describe but more tutswee or tutsouee notes.

It took a few minutes to show and sang regularly for Steve and I. When it showed it was in the company of another Chiffchaff, this bird was clearly different. We had excellent views from below and I got a few shots, Steve was certain he had heard a Siberian Chiffchaff on Scilly singing the same song in recent years, I have to admit it was new to me. I have heard them call many times before but not heard the song. It was a distinctive as Iberian Chiffchaff, I recorded the call on my phone and then moved to get a clear shot from the bridge and succeded in taking some of use. It eventually moved off to the Decoy. About 50 minutes later I located again by song at the Rushy/In Focus end of the Decoy. I left Steve Owen and Geoff Moyser with it and carried on with my chores for the day.

It was seen near Robbie Garnett Hide at around 1040am by James Lees and in the afternoon near the Rain Garden, Big Pen by Bruce and Jean Pendlebury. I searched and listened at lunchtime 1340-1400 along the Holden Tower path but did not locate it there.

Without checking I reckon I have found/seen over ten Siberian Chiffchaff at WWT Slimbridge, almost annually in recent years.  I had one overwinter in my Bristol garden when I was c 15 years old and have seen/heard likely birds in many SW counties and a few others in Glos such as Frampton Pools and CWP.

All images M.J.McGill

Siberian Chiffchaff, WWT Slimbridge, 4 November 2013, MJMcGill (7) copy

Siberian Chiffchaff, WWT Slimbridge, 4 November 2013, MJMcGill (16)_edited-1 Siberian Chiffchaff, WWT Slimbridge, 4 November 2013, MJMcGill (13) copy Siberian Chiffchaff, WWT Slimbridge, 4 November 2013, MJMcGill (10) copy

August, September and October 2013 sightings and blog

Red-veined Darter, Forest of Dean 3 August 2013

Red veined Darter, Forest of Dean, 3 August 13, MJMcGill

I took this image whilst out looking for a Keeled Skimmer, I was pleased to have reach the same spot as I did in June but this time without crutches. This is a rather one dimensional blog involving much talk of my injuries but it has totally dominated my life since April and wildlife experiences were often snatched but very much cherished. Some of the images during the period follow.

I became more mobile during the summer as wounds repaired and built my working days to five days a week on light duties. I was still suffering pain and restriction from part of the metalwork in my foot, after a consultation with the surgeons who re-built my foot I was booked in for another operation on 20 August. I was not looking forward to this as I knew it would be a step back and this time it was not emergency surgery. The summer weather was incredible and juvenile birds were still fledging well into the season. I had the operation on 20th August and it went to plan, excellent day case operation procedure and brilliant staff at Frenchay. I was really sore and bleeding but rested for a up week. The anaesthetic and subsequent medication really took it out of me again. I had to look after the stitches and the wound but also start using my foot to ensure it did not seize up. It took a long time to heal as it was the second time it was opened up and did not close over until late October. I had a few other problems with an infection in the toe and was back on antibiotics again in October. I did return fully to work but on lighter duties and will be using annual leave to have regular longer rest periods. I had a family holiday 24-30 October to Portugal and Spain which has done us all a lot of good. Blog of that trip is already posted. I still have a lot of recuperating to do and possibly more surgery to remove the support metalwork in my foot in future, weekly physiotherapy has been going well. Thanks to all of you who ask how I am doing.

Back to the birds….

Juvenile Robin at Hidcote NT and juvenile Green Woodpecker, Eastington.

Robin, juvenile, 7 Aug 13, MJMcGill Green Woodpecker, juvenile, 7 Aug 13, MJMcGill

WWT Slimbridge was full of passage waders and that makes me smile.
Snipe at the South Lake

Common Snipe, South Lake, 18 Aug 13, MJMcGill  Snipe, South Lake, MJMcGill

Little ringed Plover juvenile

Little ringed Plover, juvenile, 18 Aug 13, MJMcGill

Unseasonal Dark bellied Brent Goose remained at WWT Slimbridge

Dark bellied Brent

Painswick Beacon Blue

Blue butterfly, Painswick Beacon, 26 Aug 13, MJMcGill

Yellow Wagtails on the Dumbles, Severn Estuary.

Yellow Wagtail, Dumbles, MJMcGill 10 Sep 13 (4)_edited-1 Yellow Wagtail, Dumbles, MJMcGill 10 Sep 13 (5)_edited-1 Yellow Wagtail, Dumbles, MJMcGill 10 Sep 13_edited-1

Curlew Sandpiper on the Severn. Although not a record I did see 19 one day on the mudflats.

P1030129_edited-1 Curlew Sandpiper, Severn, 23 Sep 13, MJMcGill

23 September 2013
Whilst I was looking for the Buff breasted Sandpiper (did see it briefly the day before) with visiting birders a new, previously unrecorded Spoonbill arrived on the Dumbles edge, it was intially roosting among the Shelduck and gulls before heading north.

Spoonbill, Severn, 23 Sep 13, MJMcGill

6 October 2013
at Severn House Farm
I just had to go and have a look at Paul Taylor’s nice find especially as it was so obliging. I could have got some great images if it was not so busy along the footpath.

Wryneck, Severn House Farm, 13 Oct 13, MJMcGill (3) copy Wryneck, Severn House Farm, 13 Oct 13, MJMcGill (5) copy Wryneck, Severn House Farm, 13 Oct 13, MJMcGill (7) copy

7 October 2013
Although I was off I thought about going down to work to check the tide but decided on investigating the northern fields. I got a call from James to say he had seen a Baird’s Sandpiper on the estuary and joined him in a search for it. The tide was very high and it was with the small waders in the Top New Piece, views were distant and into the light, a couple of poor images follow.

Baird’s Sandpiper, Top New Piece, WWT

Baird's Sandpiper, WWT (21) copy Baird's Sandpiper, WWT (15) copy

In the afternoon I sadly attended the funeral service of the father of one of my closest friends in the Forest of Dean. I took a short walk at Woorgreens prior and I saw 14 Crossbill, 3 Wigeon on the lake, 40 Siskin, 2 Raven and 18 Meadow Pipit. Whilst the service was in progress a few Crossbills were calling in the trees above, a bird guard of honour, very apt as Bob was very much into his birds and we always talked about Forest of Dean avifauna or football when he and his wife Sue ‘put me up’ for the night after a few pints with Tom. A thoroughly nice bloke who was into wildlife and will be missed.

11 October 2013
Thousands of Redwing over today, very impressive.

14 October 2013
A Brambling flying around calling over my garden was a nice start to the day, 2 Swallows were over at the same time. I picked up a Great Skua in my scope out on the estuary off Saul Warth during this gale/storm, it was creating mass panic among the gulls and waders. No pics sadly.

Common Gull ahead of the Severn squall.

Common Gull and rainbow, Severn, MJMcGill

15 October 2013

A sunny morning produced this Marsh Harrier on the Dumbles.It flew in persued by corvids and hid in the hedge before flying off toward the 100 Acre and then returning to rest on the pasture.

Marsh Harrier, Dumbles, 15 Oct 13, MJMcGill copy

17 October 2013
A confiding Stonechat in the 5 Acre, good to see them as this species has taken a hammering in recent cold winters and is not a regular wintering bird currently.

Stonechat, WWT 5 Acre,17 Oct 13,  MJMcGill (14) copy Stonechat, WWT 5 Acre,17 Oct 13,  MJMcGill (8) copy Stonechat, WWT 5 Acre,17 Oct 13,  MJMcGill (2) copy

19 October 2013
A walk with family and friends to Haresfield trig point produced 14 Crossbill over with a Merlin stooping at them and 2 Raven.

20 October 2013
A rather orangey and well marked Hen Harrier was over the spartina island on the Severn.

Hen Harrier, Severn Estuary, 20 Oct 13, MJMcGill copy Hen Harrier, Severn Estuary, 20 Oct 13, MJMcGill (2) copy

Autumnal Robin

Robin, WWT, MJMcGill copy




July 2013 blog and sightings

26-28 July 2013 Back in Dorset for the weekend on another hot but also showery few days. A boat trip to Harry’s Rocks off Ballard Down was quiet for birds other than flyover Mediterranean Gulls and terns.  Passing the Brownsea lagoon it was clear that a large flock of Dunlin had arrived, I saw non the week before. A stroll on the local heath turned out to be productive. A singing Dartford Warbler, a pair of Hobbies mobbing a Buzzard, Green Woodpecker and Yellowhammer were all seen well. Hundreds of Grayling butterflies were along the paths. My sister in laws garden had vocal, Nuthatch, Siskin and Green and Great spotted Woodpeckers with juveniles as well as calling nocturnal Tawny Owl feet from the bedroom windows.


Dartford Warbler, Dorset Heath, MJMcGill


Grayling, Holt Heath, 27 July 13, MJMcGill

25 July 2013 Highlights of the day at WWT Slimbridge were the two juvenile Wood Sandpipers and locating a reserve first Essex Skipper.


Essex Skipper, BNP, 25 07 13, 001, MJMcGill Essex Skipper, BNP, 25 07 13, MJMcGill

WOOD SANDPIPER one of two juveniles present, Tack Piece.

Wood Sandpiper, juvenile TP, 25 07 13, MJMcGill

20-21 July 2013 A trip to East Dorset with a trip around Poole Harbour and to Brownsea Island NT. I was so pleased to get to the hides and among the terns depsite it being very painful walking. The Dorset Wildlife Trust lagoon was as ever an interesting place to be, full of action with the tern colonies but also variety. I did not locate any Roseate Terns but have seen them here before. A breeding plumaged Sanderling, a few Greenshank and 7 Spotted Redshank including breeding plumaged birds were present among the egrets, Cormorants and other commoner waders.

COMMON TERN, Brownsea Island and Poole Harbour

Common Tern, Brownsean Island, July 2013, MJMcGill (2) copy Common Tern, Brownsean Island, July 2013, MJMcGill copy Common Tern, Poole Harbour, July 2013, MJMcGill


Sandwich Tern, Brownsea Island, 001, 21 Jul 13, MJMcGill Sandwich Tern, Brownsea Island, 002, 21 07 13, MJMcGill Sandwich Tern, Brownsea Island, 003, July 2013, MJMcGill Sandwich Tern, Brownsea Island, July 2013, 004, McGill

Sandwich Tern, Brownsea Island, July 2013, MJMcGill (3) copy

I had two evening strolls on a local heath and was rewarded with some close up and personal Nightjar experiences. The hot, still night was ideal for searching for this species.


Nightjar, MJMcGill (2)

MEDITERRANEAN GULL second summer with Black-headed Gull on Studland South Beach, Dorset. Dozens of them could be found in this area. This bird is ringed.

Mediterranean Gull second summer with Black headed Gull, Studland S beach, 21 Jul 13, MJMcGill

12-19 July 2013


Skylark, 100 Acre, July 13, MJMcGill (2) copy

SPOONBILL on South Lake, taking a rest in the heatwave.

Spoonbill, South Lake, MJMGill Spoonbill, head shot sleeping, South Lake, MJMcGill (5) copy

An afternoon in the Cannop Valley, Forest of Dean produced over five Silver washed Fritillary. Plenty of Siskin were about and other woodland birds.


Silver washed Fritillary, Cannop Valley, July 2013, MJMcGill (8) copy

RUFF on the Rushy, one of two present around the scrapes.

Ruff, male 15 July 2013, Rushy, MJMcGill copy

LARGE WHITES on Severn estuary mud.

Large White butterflies on Severn estuary mud, MJMcGill

11 July 2013 A session out on the reserve at WWT Slimbridge doing a few dragonfly transects in the Bull Ground and some spotting in the 100 Acre. We noted a high number of species of odonata including 3 Ruddy and 3 Common Darter, 7 Emperor, 16 Black-tailed Skimmer, 3 Scarce Chaser, 4 Four spotted Chaser, 5 Hairy Dragonfly, 1 Brown Hawker, 40 Azure, 340 Common Blue and 1400 Blue-tailed Damselfly and 3 Banded Demoiselle. Best of all was my first and the reserve’s second Golden-ringed Dragonfly (found by Dave Paynter).

Golden-ringed Dragonfly, WWT Slimbridge, 100 Acre, 11 July 13, MJMcGill (9) copy Golden-ringed Dragonfly, 100 Acre,11 Jul 13,  MJMcGill Golden-ringed Dragonfly, WWT Slimbridge, 100 Acre, 11 July 13, MJMcGill (27) copy

10 July 2013

PERCH and ROACH in the grounds at WWT Slimbridge. I was rather pleased with how showy this shoal of fish were, not something I see too often.

Perch and Roach, WWT Slimbridge Grounds, 10 Jul 13, MJMcGill copy

EURASIAN SPOONBILL at WWT Slimbridge. This individual has been present for a couple of weeks, perhaps the bird that has summered before. Below a series of images I collected whilst it was active. I was particularly impressed with it’s threat display, a new piece of behaviour in the field for me.

Eurasian Spoonbill, WWT Slimbridge, South Lake, 8 July 13, MJMcGill (2) copy Eurasian Spoonbill, WWT Slimbridge, South Lake, 8 July 13, MJMcGill (12) copy Eurasian Spoonbill, WWT Slimbridge, South Lake, 8 July 13, MJMcGill (13) copy Eurasian Spoonbill, WWT Slimbridge, South Lake, 8 July 13, MJMcGill (44) copy Eurasian Spoonbill, WWT Slimbridge, South Lake, 8 July 13, MJMcGill (46) copy Eurasian Spoonbill, WWT Slimbridge, South Lake, 8 July 13, MJMcGill (48) copy

June 2013 blog and sightings

A couple of visits later in the month to Daneway Banks NR was very rewarding for insects. Highlight has to be views of the Large Blue but we also saw a late Green Hairstreak, 10 Marbled Whites, Large Skipper, Small Blues and much more.

A nice evening out on the Cotswolds thanks to Rich Taylor. We logged Yellowhammer, four singing Corn Bunting, 5 Yellow Wagtail and more around Tresham and Leighterton. The strips of wildflowers are looking great and will hopefully feed insects and birds over the summer and winter.

Floral Cotswolds

Wildflowers near Tresham, MJMcGill

12 June 2013 After daily song for last four days I believe I have a pair of Greenfinch looking to breed in or near the garden.

11 June 2013 Green Woodpecker in next doors garden per JJS.

9 June 2013 First Speckled Wood in the garden.

7 June 2013 I have a very productive garden for breeding birds thanks to a good planting plan, food and lots of nesting places. The garden has so far this year reared Collared Dove, Woodpigeon, Blackbird, House Sparrow and has Dunnock on eggs. Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Raven are regular over flyers and I have seen Kestrel a few times lately. Starlings, Great Tits and Blue Tits have also brought young to the garden. I have seen at least four Large Red Damselfly so far, these remain the only odonata I have noted in my ‘yard’.

BLACKBIRD hunting worms and missing this time.

Blackbird, female hunting worms, 7 June 13, MJMcGill (5) copy Blackbird, female hunting worms, 7 June 13, MJMcGill (3) copy Blackbird, female hunting worms, 7 June 13, MJMcGill (4) copy Blackbird, female hunting worms, 7 June 13, MJMcGill (2) copy

GREAT TIT fledgling- at least three young being fed by a scruffy female and bright neat male, one having a tougher time of it of late.

Great Tit, fledgling, 7 June 13, MJMcGill Great Tit, fledgling, 7 June 13, MJMcGill, 001

STARLING adult and juvenile

Starling, adult, Whitminster, 8 June 2013, MJMcGill Starling juvenile, Whitminster, 8 June 13, MJMcGill

6 June 2013

WREN singing in the garden.

Wren, Whitminster, 6 June 13 (2)_edited-1

4 June 2013 An hour out with Graham along the canal was very pleasant. We  were delighted to see young Redshank and Lapwing plus a hunting Marsh Harrier.


Marsh Harrier, Splatt Bridge, MJMcGill (11)_edited-1 Marsh Harrier, Splatt Bridge, MJMcGill (14)_edited-1

Thanks to Catherine I had an hour spent sitting on the lower slopes of Selsley Common. It was enjoyable for the views, weather and butterflies.  A few Dingy Skippers and Small Blues were on the wing as well as a teneral Common Blue Damselfly.


Small (Little) Blue, Selsley Common, _edited-1 Small (Little) Blue, Selsley Common,  (2)_edited-1


May 2013 blog and sightings

The month of May has been one of trying to recover from injuries and full of hospital visits. I have learned a lot from my garden wildlife and taken comfort from how it seems to be thriving. My blog focusses on the days when I could forget about problems to a certain extent and connect with wildlife. Without great friends and family this period would have been much more difficult.


Early Purple Orchid (3) Selsley Common_edited-1

27 May 2013 Another car birding trip out with my mega helpful mate Graham Clarkson. This time on the Cotswolds where we enjoyed a drink and Morris Dancing at Sherborne Tea rooms, a flock of 35+ and 9 Corn Buntings (min counts), Yellowhammers, Red Kites, Hobby and more.


Brown Hare, Windrush Airfield, MJMcGill (3)_edited-1


Corn Bunting, Windrush Airfield, MJMcGill, 27 May 13 (8)_edited-1 Corn Bunting, Windrush Airfield, MJMcGill, 27 May 13 (10)_edited-1


Red Kite, Cotswolds 27 May 13 (4)_edited-1

26 May 2013 Another butterfly hunt within easy reach of the car with my family, this time Rudge Hill, Edge. At least five Duke of Burgundy, 10+ Small Heath, Green veined White, 10 Dingy Skipper and more all noted.


Duke of Burgundy, Rudge Hill, 26 May 13, MJMcGill copy


Small Heath, Rudge Hill, MJMcGill copy

In the evening Graham Clarkson turned up and offered a trip out. We plumped for a look for Turtle Dove and headed for Ruardean Hill in the Forest fo Dean. We have both seen a steep decline in this species in his home county of Lancashire and in Gloucestershire. At one time I could see them very near where I live and also at work easily as an annual breeder. It is sobering that we have to almost twitch a bird locally to hear it’s soporific sound of summer. How long will we be able to do this? The link below is well worth a look and sharing.

TURTLE DOVE singing out…any repsonse or is it the last.

Turtle Dove, Ruardean Hill, 26 May 13, MJMcGill (14) copy

BROAD BODIED CHASER my first of 2013

Broad bodied Chaser, Brierley, MJMcGill (3)_edited-1

We also noted three calling Wood Warbler in the Cannop Valley and of note..the scent from the amazing display of Bluebells at dusk was incredible.

25 May 2013 A visit to Breakheart Quarry, Dursley to look for butterflies.


Dingy Skipper, Breakheart Quarry, Dursley, MJMcGill copy Grizzled Skipper, Breakheart Quarry, Dursley, MJMcGill (3) copy

A Cotswold view

View fom Breakheart Quarry copy

WILLOW WARBLER foraging in Ash.

Willow Warbler, Breakheart Quarry, Dursley, MJMcGill (5) copy

23 May 2013 A windy day with emerging insects was a huge draw for feeding birds over Frampton Townfield Lake.




flycatching gull, terns, swifts and hirundines

22 May 2013 Another kind offer if a lift to somewhere where I could sit and enjoy the wildlife. This time it was Uncle John and an afternoon in the Forest of Dean, we headed for the Cannop Valley and tried our luck with the Turtle Dove at Ruardean Hill. It was far too windy at this site.

GREY WAGTAIL female and a fledged juvenile.
At least two juveniles were being fed by the parents and were joined by a Pied Wagtail. Nearby Siskins were much in evidence.

Grey Wagtail, female, Cannop Ponds, fledging family (3) Grey Wagtail, juvenile, Cannop Ponds, MJMcGill

A snatched shot as it is rather hard to get pictures in my state. Digi scoping is out the question as I cannot carry the scope and tripod easily. There were two of these smashing birds singing at each other.

Wood Warbler, Cannop Valley

18 May 1013 The Garden of England- Kent, Margate Cemetery to be precise, produced this Dusky Thrush.

Dusky Thrush, female, Margate Cemetery Dusky Thrush, female, Margate Cemetery 01

17 May 2013 Went out car birding with JJS and GB. At Leighterton we watched a pair of Yellow Wagtail feeding among the cattle. The female was very grey headed and grey backed. We also noted a Wheatear, Red Kite and a few Yellowhammers.

YELLOW WAGTAIL a grey headed and grey backed bird, Leighterton, Glos, 17 May 2013.

Yellow Wagtail, grey headed female, Leighterton, 17 May 13, MJMcGill Yellow Wagtail, grey headed female, Leighterton, 17 May 2013 MJMcGill Yellow Wagtail, grey headed female, Leighterton, 17 May 13 MJMcGill

Red Kite over…

Red Kite, nr Ozleworth

12 May 2013 A female Great spotted Woodpecker on the peanuts was the first for a while. This species usually appears when all is quiet.

10 May 2013 The strengthening gales, a chance of being dropped off to watch the tide from the canal and the need to focus on other things rather than injuries made me pleased to get going. I later heard from other birders that a Pomarine and Arctic Skua passed through as I was bumbling along to get in position. I did catch a Bonxie passing through at 0910, it circled inland over Saul and dissapeared.



Bonxie 2 10 May 2013 Bonxie 10 May 13

I also noted a really good candidate for a male Red-breasted Merganser but it turned out be a small Mallard x domestic duck type.The green head and wide white neck collar made me zoom up to study it. Other birds noted included two lingering and feeding Arctic Terns, a single and a pair of Common Terns which by behaviour seemed to be local breeders. A couple of military helicopters went over very low and flushed 5 Greenshank among the other birds present. The only migrant waders were 5 and 2 Dunlin flying over. Local resident and territorial birds included Lapwing, Redshank and Yellow Wagtail (pair).

Chopper over Splatt Lapwing, Saul, 10 May 13

I met my lift (mother in law) and was dropped at Quedgeley to do a talk for the children if Beech Green School. The topic was the Spoon-billed Sandpiper expedition of 2011. All went well and the children were great, really interested with lots of questions, the best of which was..’If you could choose a bird which best descibes you, what would it be’. What a great question. On the way home at midday I heard the blast of a Nightingale song from the open window of the car. It was singing in a very built up part of the town next to busy dual carriageway and a busy road. I glimpsed it from the bus stop as it broadcast the fine song.

8 May 2013 A morning on the canal towpath with a Lesser Redpoll over N and a good selection of birds including Greenshank. In the evening I was picked up by Nick Goatman and dropped on the canal with Shane Long who carried my scope. Well done chaps. Shane and I shared duties with him picking up a Gannet flying over the river and Yellow Wagtail, I helped out chipping in with Garganey, 4 Greenshank and 20 Whimbrel.

Jackdaws collecting winter coat for nest material

Jackdaws harvesting Cow winter coat for nests, MJMcGill

The Blackbird sneaks in to feed her young. I have had the chance to study these birds of late. The front garden pair have reared a youngster to fledging and I have seen the female collecting grasses for a second nesting attempt. This (back garden) female seems to be doing the feeding, shading young to keep cool and brooding (keeping them warm) all by herself. The male alarm calls at cats etc but I have not seen him near the nest. Maybe the late burst of beech leaf and the possibility of him giving the nest away as he is not camougflaged, maybe this is normal for the female to do everyhting earlier, maybe he has a couple of females to attend to. I have noted three males squaring up on the lawn so maybe I have three pairs. A lot of maybes…

Blackbird nest, garden

7 May 2013 Out on the canal this morning I noted two Ravens, Cuckoo, two male Garganey, 3 Greenshank, 10 Dunlin and a few Yellow Wagtails. Also a Common Tern was over the WWT Slimbridge reserve. I noted a further 7 feeding at Frampton Townfield Lake.



I was delighted to have an evening out to watch a breezy Severn sunset, have a look at the breeding waders and do a bit of birding with Neil Smart. We expected terns as 400+ were off Severnside but none appeared for us, too clear. We logged a Little Stint, 190 Dunlin, 140 Ringed Plover, 12 Sanderling, 5 Whimbrel, 9 Curlew and 6 Oystercather on the estuary. The stint and a small band of waders visited the Top New Piece but were flushed. A Cuckoo flew over.

Severn shelduck

Severn Sunset, Middle Point Shelducks, MJMcGill 8 May 13

Stormy Severn Shelduck.

Stormy Shelduck over Severn, MJMcGill 8 May 2013

6 May 2013 An afternoon sat on Frampton Village green and a flock of 21 Whimbrel flew low over toward the court lake. In the morning some of the local Cranes flew to the West of my house and were calling.

5 May 2013 I was taken to Ozleworth to a National Trust property and pushed around the grounds in the wheelchair by Harriet, we had a picnic looking over the valley.The only birds of note were Peacocks which my children just could not help feeding.

4 May 2013 Graham Clarkson drove down fron Lancashire via a night stop in Hereford to meet up with Neil Smart and Rich Hearn at my house. My friends had rallied to take me out to the Forest of Dean for a day out. They carried my gear, pushed me up hills in the wheelchair and remained very patient all day. We had a smashing morning out with Firecrest, five Tree Pipits, Lesser Redpolls Siskins, Pied Flycatcher, Redstart, Garden Warbler, Willow Warbler and more. I missed out on the Dippers through being too tired so waited in the car.


Garden Warbler


Pied Fly 02 Pied Fly, Nagshead 01

Punture…glad these blokes were able to sort it while I watched on.

Puncture in FOD

Down at the 100 Acre GC and I had 10 Yellow Wagtails and 7 Cranes and a pair of Shelduck were a Whitminster tick.

2 May 2013 Orange Tip, Holly Blue, Small and Large White Butterflies in the garden.

Robin sunning itself

Robin sunning itself, Whitminster garden, 2 May 13, MJMcGill

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


March 2013 blog and sightings

31 March 2013

Wheatear, possibly the latest..first of the year for me on the Severn.

Wheatear, 30 March 2013 MJMcGill

27-28 March 2013 An overnight visit to Dorset to cut reeds at Abbotsbury Swannery on the Fleet meant a stay at Portland Bird Observatory. Despite really only having snatched moments of birding I did see a few birds. On arriving Steve Groves pointed us in the direction of a party of nine Greater Scaup (five males, four females) among the diving duck plus the three Long-tailed Ducks. I managed to pick up the hybrid Scaup x Tufted? female but not the hybrid male. Images of this bird and all recent sightings can be found on Steves Swannery Sightings Blog.


Greater Scaup, Abbotsbury


Long-tailed Ducks, Abbotsbury Swannery, 27 Mar 13 MJMcGill

Waking up at the Obs

A short seawatch from the Obs patio over breakfast produced a fine ‘conveyer belt’ of auks floating by Portland Bill before flying back west, a Fulmar, 3 Red-throated Diver plus Shag and Cormorant. Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs were about the garden plus a couple of Siskin. As we were about to leave Martin Cade announced they had trapped a Bluethroat, we hung on had a quick close up view before it was released after being ringed. I reminisced about seeing my first Bluethroat at Portland, he reminded me when…almost the same day….25 years ago!

White spotted Bluethroat, Portland Bird Obs MJMcGill

White-spotted Bluethroat, female, Portland Bird Obs, MJMcGill

Visit the Observatory website for more video and images of the three recent Bluethroats and more.

Back for a days work at the Swannery

MARSH HARRIER male over the Abbotsbury tanktraps.

Marsh Harrier over tank traps, Chesil Beach, Abbotsbury, MJMcGill

CHIFFCHAFF Lots were about the swannery and Fleet, many on the ground.

Chiffchaff, MJMcGill

In the afternoon I did a double glance at an incoming white bird…not Mute Swan or Little Egret but a Spoonbill that was dropping in, I radioed Steve to tip him off who located it immediately on the shore of the swannery. See Steve’s blog for images.

25 March 2013 A male and three female Brambling on my home bird table. I saw four males together last week so I now wonder how many are visiting. Very important to keep feeding, cleaning feeders and providing water on frozen mornings.

I saw at least four Chiffchaff in one spot today feeding out in the open and on the ground. Not a pretty sight, poor things appear to be starving. A party of four Little ringed Plover were busy on the Tack Piece and Dumbles scrape.

The Spoonbill and Garganey were together on the Top New Piece and the 4 Cranes, 24 White-fronts, Tundra Bean and 7 Bewick’s Swans remained at WWT Slimbridge.

24 March 2013 At home on the bird table was a female and two male Blackcap plus female Siskin on the sunflower seeds. Nice to catch up with Spoonbill at WWT Slimbridge whilst on my rounds at work, even better was when the Goshawk flew over and flushed it. It created a stream of white excrement as it took flight, actually sh1**ing itself on seeing this fearsome predator. I was intrigued to hear of Bob Evans’s studies of this bird, he had observed it leaving the water to poo on a few occasions which is something the Bittern also does. It pays to keep your fishing grounds clear of pollutuon…something humans could do with learning too.

Whilst scanning over the Severn with my trusty Swarovski scope I added another new bird for me in 2013. It was a pair of Common Scoter that hung about for a few locals to catch up with them. I was happy with what they were but to confirm they both did a wing flap with head down neck snap.

SPOONBILL feeding and roosting with ‘hair’ blasting in the wind.

Spoonbill, WWT Slimbridge, MJMcGill Spoonbill-windblown hair-do MJMcGill

At least four CHIFFCHAFF struggled to feed on this cold day.

Chiffchaff, Goose House Ground, struggling in cold, MJMcGill

21 March 2013 My first LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS of 2013 from the Holden Tower.


Barn Owl hunting on the WWT reserve and foreshore of the Severn on 19 March 2013

Barn Owl and pollard MJMcGill Barn Owl-Severn MJMcGill

PINTAIL have been stunning at WWT Slimbridge.

Pintail drake, MJMcGill 14 March 2013 Pintail head study, MJMcGill


BEWICK’S SWANS have been migrating back to breeding grounds.

Bewick's Swans migrating at WWT Slimbridge, MJMcGill

Seen wildfowl migrating in v-formation but these WIGEON are feeding in v-formation!

Wigeon grazing in v formation, Holden Tower, MJMcGill


15 March 2013 I had a day off wander about the Glos to Sharpness canal and WWT reserve to establish Redshank and Lapwing activity and search for migrants as they weather had changed and the tide was high. Only one Lapwing looked on territory on the Great Narls and 12 Redshank were seen among the Teal, Wigeon and Shoveler. A pair of Pintail here was notable. 10 Little Egrets were in the 100 Acre and a Bittern flew the length of the reedbeds (not flushed and viewable from towpath). Other notable birds were 2 Lesser Redpoll and 2 Water Pipits, the latter flying around calling and landing briefly near me and scopable before flying high toward WWT wetland centre. Also I thought they had all gone but no…there were 28 E White-fronted Geese, they came in from the north and headed down channel like Brents often do at this time of year. Also of note was displaying Meadow Pipit.


Lesser Redpoll, 15 March 2013, MJMcGill

14 March 2013 A very busy day at work. My mowing deck is out of action so we had a contractor in to do the job on the Top and Bottom New Piece. Basically preparing for breeding waders while we have got the levels down and it is a dry period. Whilst out there (ice and lack of birds made it easier as few birds around) I constructed some ‘Avocet or even stilt castles’. Will see what happens when they arrive back. On another note the Bittern showed very well at 4pm.


Reed Bunting male on feeder, MJMcGill

Snow storm heading for Cotswolds and Cam

Snow storm heading for Cam, 11 March 2012, MJMcGill

11 March 2013 Still one male Brambling in the garden.

5 March 2013 My first UK White Wagtail of the year dropped in next to me in the Bottom New Piece at WWT Slimbridge before skipping into the TNP, it was still moulting the black cap so was probably a 2cy bird.

2 March 2013 Day trip to Devon, see trip reports.




January to February 2013 blog and sightings

The Bittern from Zeiss Hide-who hasn’t taken a picture of this showy bird.

Bittern, Top New Piece, MJMcGill

BRAMBLING– up to four in the garden.
This one not so well. I disinfect my feeders and table but this may demonstrate not everyone does?

Brambling, female, Whitminster, MJMcGill

COMMON SNIPE– always looking good in the sun

Snipe, Martin Smith Hide, 18 Feb 2013, MJMcGill

TUNDRA BEAN GOOSE– three present at WWT Slimbridge all month.
This one an adult, surely Jackdaw is not a new ‘carrier species’ for geese!

Tundra Bean Goose adult, 18 Feb 2013, The Dumbles, MJMcGill

And the juvenile or first winter

Tundra Bean Goose, juvenile, The Dumbles, 18 Feb 2013 MJMcGill 001 Tundra Bean Goose, juvenile, The Dumbles, 18 Feb 2013 MJMcGill

And with European White-fronted Geese in flight (4th from top right)

E White-fronted Geese with juv Tundra Bean Goose, The Dumbles, 17 Feb 13 MJMcGill

Mixed goose flock over the Dumbles, Slimbridge, 17 Feb 2013, MJMcGill


Bewick's Swans-The Dumbles, MJMcGill


Golden Plover and Lapwing-Tack Piece MJMcGill

KINGFISHER– my first of the year was flying down the A38 at Fromebridge, this one more typically at WWT Slimbridge.

Kingfisher, MJMcGill

9-28 February 2013 Highlights in images above…

8 February 2013 The two male and female Blackcaps are still in my garden.

7 February 2013 A calling overflying wader that headed out and N upriver on the Severn estuary gave a persistent double call , it proved to be a Ruff, rare that I hear them. The Bittern showed well from Zeiss Hide again today.

2 February 2013 A Coal Tit in the garden.

1 February 2013 Just had to go and have a look at the Great Northern Diver that John Sanders spotted whilst getting his morning paper yesterday. It has appeared on Pittville Park, Cheltenham perhaps due to the gales, maybe it is under the weather, whatever the reason this is an unusual place for it to be. This allows a great opportunity to see one up close and not in a sea swell in the UK. I have studied them on the only European grounds in Iceland but this species is effectively North American. It was interesting to see it driving small fish ahead, many leaping out of the water and apparently cornering them against the bank. Some low res studies of the bird follow.


The diver was pleasing enough but I went home to get on with something on the laptop, duing a screen break I looked out the window to see 6 Waxwings in a neighbours birch tree. I crossed my fingers that they had seen my apples….they had! Soon after they flew to my beech tree, then to the wires over the garden, then down onto the apples….result….at last. I have been putting out apples all winter for them and the thrushes and Blackcaps but these are my first Waxwing this winter. It was interesting to see the squabbling amongst them even though there was plenty to go around. They spent just over an hour with me and I even got the County Recorder around to have a look as he is a co-Whitminster resident and had not seen them in the village before. Look out for his pic on the Gloster Birder website.

28 January 2013 The four Great Crane Project Cranes were back on the WWT Slimbridge reserve, I saw them under the oaks apparently foraging acorns. They have also taken to the maize field.

27 January 2013 Two Tundra Bean Geese in flight with a E. White-fronted Goose
An adult and first winter arrived at WWT Slimbridge on 15th with a third adult on 26th January.

And a single Tundra Bean Goose with E. White-fronted Geese 28th January 2013 and a female Goldeneye flies from the Top New Piece 30 January 2013


Reed Bunting at WWT Slimbridge (a few are now on the feeders)

18 January 2013 The snow that fell drew lots of birds to my garden apples. I had 62 Fieldfare on the deck and low shrubs at one point!

Male Blackcap (at least three present)

Even the Blue Tits had a taste

14 January 2013 The Whooper Swan called in again, this time spotted by Nigel Pleass.

Whooper and Bewick’s Swan, The Rushy, WWT Slimbridge MJMcGill

13 January 2013 Despite the Lesser Redpoll flock being present all winter at WWT Slimbridge it is always nice to see them close up on a calm and sunny day.

Acrobatic Redpolls…



Rock Pipit on the Severn














1-31 December 2012 blog and sightings

Some images from a quieter month birding-wise for me. Norfolk on 1 December kicked the month off with some great birding, a brief trip report on the  relevant page. Only the one half day out to the Forest of Dean on 15th,  a few Waxwing forays and the excellent birds on offer at WWT Slimbridge to note due to short days and mostly wet weather. Despite having leave around Christmas the weather and short dark days was not really condusive to much in the way of dry or comfortable birding.

Bewick’s Swans have been showing beautifully at WWT Slimbridge with over 200 present and very mobile.

Bittern– always intersting to watch go about it business.

One freeze up proved too much for some local wintering waders forcing a move on. This perhaps the last picture of the Long-billed Dowitcher among its stable mates.

Waxwings– I had three and a single fly over me calling at work on two different dates. Only the third and fourth for me at WWT after two singes in previous invasions. A mobile flock of 15 in Slimbridge village were vocal and showy on one Saturday morning and a flock of 80 in Gloucester on 15th made it a good month for sightings. Despite getting the apples out I never scored with any in the garden…yet.

A large Teal count (3000+) at work on Christmas eve was rewarded with first winter Green-winged Teal that I picked out on the floods among 500 Teal from the Holden Tower. I think this is the first one I have seen on the Dumbles.

I hope everyone has had a restful period over the Christmas holidays and wish you all a happy new year for 2013.

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