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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

Filed under: Birdwatching Diary


at 1:41 pm

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


Filed under: Birdwatching Diary


at 12:41 pm