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Wildlife Watch – Session Nine – Stonehouse & Eastington

Four Cootlets with their parents were our first sight on the Canal at St Cyr’s Stonehouse, and these were the first of four full families of Coots we were to see on the last of this year’s sessions with Martin Wright. Two families (also Moorhens, Mallards and a Swan) were on The Ocean itself, now grown beautiful again after being cut back severely a couple of years ago as part of a vegetation management plan.

The weather was perfect – mild with just a little breeze. Birds in the air and birds on the water were easy enough to spot, but it has become difficult to see birds on trees and bushes with so much leaf now – May 1st. “Yes, I see it – No, I don’t” was the common cry. So we heard some birds that we didn’t see but with no loss of enjoyment. Trees on the railway bank provide cover for lots of mammals, birds and butterflies. They are at risk from possible felling to reduce ‘leaves on the line’ – hopefully if this is done it will be done intelligently.

We learned about how to tell apart different birds from the same family with details of their behaviour: Swifts, Swallows & Martins, Rooks, Crows & Jackdaws, Coots & Moorhens and three Wagtails. We saw most of these and heard Buzzards ‘mewing’ as they circled above us. We always come away from these sessions knowing more than before we came.

At the Bonds Mill Cafe we were met by Anna Tarbet, Canal Environment Manager with Cotswold Canals Connected (working on new habitats to be created as part of the next phase of canal restoration) who explained some of the plans, particularly for land between River and Canal. How to minimise ongoing management and importantly who takes responsibility will be important in the future. We also discussed other issues including how to balance public access, particularly with dogs, against protection of the wildlife. This Canal Project is about much more than just a channel for getting boats from A to B.

And so the End of this year’s Canal Wildlife Watching Sessions. We all look forward to Martin’s plans for next year. Watch this space!