Monday, February 01, 2016

Brandon Away-day!

My first 'Away-Day' of the year with the Brandon Marsh Volunteers and my thanks to the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust one again for the use of their minibus, much appreciated. For our first outing I decided to take the guys for a 'twitch' before moving on to the Forest of Dean, where despite some challenging conditions #StormHenry we managed to have a reasonably fruitful outing.

Penduline Tit - Ably photographed by John Osbourne
After the traditional McDonalds breakfast, we are indeed a resourceful bunch, we arrived at our first stop at Horsbere Brook for the long staying Penduline Tits. Having personally visited a few weeks earlier it was a great chance to see these stunning birds for a second time. We had the whole place to ourselves and thankfully it wasn't long before the team enjoyed some excellent views, a lifer for several and getting the day off to a great start. While here several small flocks of Redwing/Fieldfare over and a Chiffchaff also recorded.

Mandarin Duck - Skulking among the debris away from the main pond - Photo by John Osbourne
Next stop the Forest of Dean starting at Cannop Ponds. These are actually a series of manmade ponds and lie, as the names suggests, along the Cannop Valley. Those who know it are aware that's its a great place to see Mandarin Ducks. Despite the apparent lack of these elegant birds on the main pond, which was a little disconcerting, several were soon located in among the debris and fallen trees in the adjacent flooded areas. The site also has an open grass area with benches where birds can be found ground feeding. Here a single Crossbill flew up into the canopy as we approached, unfortunately not relocated and after spending a good hour in the area I personally managed of note: (4) Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Marsh Tit, Song Thrush, Green Woodpecker, (2) Raven over and a distant Mistle Thrush in song.

Nuthatch by John Osborne at Cannop Ponds
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 Goshawk. Sadly we abandoned this shortly after arrival, with #StormHenry now beginning to bite. It wasn't only pointless, it was becoming pretty dangerous too, Fred almost lost his hat for goodness sake!!

Grey Wagtail while visiting Wenchford Picnic Area - photo by John Osbourne
On for lunch at Parkend cricket pitch, where on other visits Hawfinch have been seen feeding at the base of the Yew trees. Unfortunately not today in the conditions and despite high spirits from the team and Sparrowhawk and Buzzard a somewhat despondent birding mood was beginning to descend. However, this was soon swept away, when after moving on to Parkend Church at least three Hawfinch, including a stunning male were briefly viewed before getting blown from the treetops. More Nuthatch here too, along with a stonking ♂Siskin.

A poor but welcome record shot of Dipper at Wenchford, Forest of Dean - by ME!
We abandoned a visit to Symonds Yat, pointless in the high winds and opted to move on through to Ashleworth Ham, but not before stopping off at Wenchford Picnic Site, where Dippers have been a feature. With spirits restored it wasn't long before a single bird was located and thankfully all the team managed excellent views, Fred's first this millennium! A gorgeous Grey Wagtail was also on view and photographed by John Osbourne, my official (unpaid) photographer during the visit!!

Ashleworth Ham, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust for those who are unfamiliar lies west of the River Severn, on the Ham Road between the villages of Ashleworth and Tirley. This is part of the floodplain and attracts, as you would imagine, lots of wildfowl in the winter. We spent an hour or so here recording of note (3) Egyptian Geese, (5) Pintail, (5) Snipe and various numbers of Gadwall, Wigeon, Shoveler, Teal and Greylags.

A final stop at Kempsey on route home for Short-eared Owls was uninspiring thanks to #StormHenry and the fish and chips at Alcester were equally so. However, despite the challenging weather conditions a very enjoyable and entertaining day out!