Monday, March 18, 2013

Forest of Dean

Mandarin Ducks at Cannop Pond
I'd Managed to secure the use of the Trust's minibus on Monday and so myself and fifteen of the Brandon team headed off to the Forest of Dean for the day. Target birds: Goshawk, Manadarin Duck and Peregrine.

Another Gorgeous Manadarin
The Forest of Dean has been recognised as one of the best places in the UK to see Mandarin Ducks and a count by the RSPB in 2010 found there to be almost 250 Mandarins, mostly living around Cannop Ponds, so this was our first stop.

Mandarin ducks are not native to this country, they are native to the far East and first appeared in this particular area in the late 1980's, having escaped into the wild. The Forest is actually the most important place in Britain for them and despite being an invasive species to the UK these beautiful birds don't seem to be causing problems for any of our native species.

We enjoyed around 45 minutes with the Mandarins in cracking conditions, a Mistle Thrush constantly in song throughout our stay and during the visit I also recorded of note: Grey Wagtail, Little Grebe, Nuthatch, Jay and Raven.

New Fancy Viewpoint!
Our next stop was New Fancy Viewpoint, formerly the site of the New Fancy coal mine and the old spoil heap now provides spectacular views across the Forest. It is an ideal place to watch birds of prey soaring above the woodland and in particular at this time of year Goshawk.

During our stay the conditions were ideal, with plenty of fair weather cloud and light winds. It wasn't long before the first Common Buzzard were spotted taking advantage of the odd thermal and not to be outdone, several Raven were also noted. Albeit brief, a Mistle Thrush gave some great views atop a conifer, but of course the main event was the Goshawks and today they did not disappoint. Three birds recorded during our stay, sadly too high and distant for any spectacular photographs but an absolute delight to watch soaring in the breeze.

Wild Peregrines have long been associated with Symonds Yat Rock and so we decided to have lunch here. Peregrines bred well here until the early 1950's when the effects of pesticides drastically reduced the national population. In 1982 the re-occupation of this site started when three young were reared but the following year the nest was robbed. After this event in 1984 the RSPB, in co-operation with the Forestry Commission made a protection scheme and for the first time Peregrine Falcons in the wild were shown to tourists. Since then the Rock has had many visitors to see the Falcons and volunteers have helped to safeguard these impressive birds.

Although too early for breeding a couple of these stunning Falcons were seen throughout our stay and although the cloud cover had increased the rain held off. Unusually for the daytime a Tawny Owl was clearly heard calling but unfortunately we were unable to locate the bird. A Nuthatch also kept us entertained with several visits to the strategically placed nuts and several sorties to a nearby nest box. Also seen during our stay: At least 6 Fallow Deer, more Mandarin Duck on the river Wye below and the totally unexpected sight of two more Goshawks in display flight!!

Avocet in the Rain
After lunch a visit to Parkend Church, a good spot on occasions for Hawfinch. With none reported recently it was a shot in the dark but although we drew a blank on the these elusive finches the visit paid off with at least (4) Brambling.

Finally, a stop off at Upton Warren NR on route home. Despite the rain beginning to fall it was still an enjoyable end to the day recording of note: (16) Avocet, (11) Curlew, (2) Oystercatcher and a cacophony of noise from the many Black-headed Gulls on site.