Monday, March 23, 2015

Forest of Dean

The second Away-Day of the year for the Brandon team and this our annual visit to the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire. Target birds for the day, Goshawk, Hawfinch, Mandarin Duck and Crossbill.

Another Away-Day for the Brandon Team - Canop Ponds
However, before the forest a detour into Worcestershire in search of a Yellow-browed Warbler, reported recently at Sedgeberrow, Red Kite on route. The bird is at a small sewage treatment works SP023389 and so we thought it worth a go. On arrival we spread out and it wasn't long before a few of guys picked the bird up to the back of the plant. Although quite elusive after about 45 minutes most of the team had at least a brief view and so we moved off pretty content.

View from New Fancy Viewpoint
With the weather set to deteriorate as the day wore on we decided to head for New Fancy Viewpoint. For those who don't know the history this is 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. We were quite lucky today as almost immediately upon arrival a Goshawk was located overhead and by the time we moved on to our next destination two were recorded along with Buzzard, Raven and also of note: Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, Greenfinch and plenty of Coal Tit. Sadly, unlike other years a distinct lack of Crossbill.

Hawfinch - One of a pair at Park End Church
Park End next in search of Hawfinch and here we stopped first at the cricket pitch and then on to Park End church for a spot of lunch. At the pitch someone has actually placed feed under one of the many yew trees and it wasn't long before both male and female birds were located. We spent a good while watching these stunning finches ground feeding and a few of us managed several record shots. After lunch at the church, with Nuthatch, Peregrine over and a couple of Mistle Thrush a walk down to the woods and back. Another pair of Hawfinch located high in the canopy along with Great Spotted Woodpecker and Treecreeper.

Several Song Thrush in song today! This one taking a breather
Onward to our next destination of Canop ponds, recognised as one of the best places in the UK to see Mandarin Ducks. On route here a first for the whole team with good views of a feeding Wild Boar, even worth turning the bus around for a second view, although no chance of parking meant zero pictures. The Mandarins were a delight and time spent around the pools produced two Grey Wagtail, two Marsh Tit, Chiffchaff, Little Grebe, Raven, Mistle Thrush, Green Woodpecker and Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Gorgeous Mandarin Ducks at Canop Ponds
Wild Peregrines have long been associated with Symonds Yat Rock and so no visit to Gloucestershire is complete without dropping in. Peregrines bred well here until the early 1950's when the effects of pesticides drastically reduced the national population. From then on it goes from strength to strength and we weren't disappointed. A nice distraction from the birding was a couple of Bank Voles, which were chasing each other around the floor debris near our parking spot. A pair of Peregrines were in residence along the cliff with some good occasional flight views. Fairly quiet though with the exception of two Mandarin Duck on the River Wye below.

Finally on route home we decided to stop off at Ashleworth Ham, which lies in the floodplains of the Severn Vale and is part of a much larger SSSI. It floods easily, particularly over the winter, which makes it the perfect wetland for overwintering wildfowl. A reported Garganey was only seen by a couple of the team immediately on arrival, before heading up the bank and out of view for the remainder of our stay. A recent Green-winged Teal seems to have moved on but good numbers of Eurasian Teal, Wigeon and a few Gadwall and Shoveler were on site. Along with seven Little Egret and two Snipe. A little diversion up the road yielded a trio of Red-legged Partridge and another trio, this time Fallow Deer ended another great day out just as the heavens opened!