Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Forest of Dean 2020

☁️⛅️8C ~ Wind ⇐ W@8mph Tuesday 3rd March 2020 ~ It seems an age since my last post but frankly, the weather and the birding alike have been diabolical over the past few months and I've had little to write. On other matters, thank goodness we live on the water, it's been so distressing to see the sheer misery some people have been going through around the country with homes and livelihoods destroyed. For me, the weather has provided me with the perfect opportunity to tackle some much-needed indoor boat maintenance, but I think I've now developed a phobia for varnishing!

Male Mandarin Duck at Cannop Ponds
With the weather showing a marked improvement, a big yellow orb appearing on Monday morning, I decided to hit the road and spend the Tuesday in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire. This is an annual pilgrimage and I always begin at Cannop Ponds, a great place to catch up with Mandarin Ducks. There is any number of birds out there with beautiful plumage, but many pale in comparison to the stunning males. Although an introduced species from the Far East, of course now well established in the UK I find them fascinating, how often do you see ducks perched up in trees for example?

Another Male Mandarin Duck

Although not as colourful as the male, this female Mandarin still has a lot going for her
As usual, I wasn't disappointed with fifteen birds in and around the pool. Below the ponds, as you can imagine the stream was running like a train and I spent a little time in the surrounding woodland. Treecreepers seemed to be everywhere, with one particular tree holding no less than three birds and both Goldcrest and Nuthatch were well represented.

Where there is flowing water Grey Wagtails are not far away ~ One of a half dozen seen today
Back at the ponds, where the overflow was cascading down, I paused for a coffee on the bridge and while here a Grey Wagtail obliged. Overhead two cronking Ravens and at the far end of the ponds a couple of Little Grebes.

An inquisitive Nuthatch at New Fancy viewpoint 
I spent around 90-minutes at New Fancy Viewpoint and after what seemed an age finally connected with a couple of displaying Goshawks. Although I managed some good scoped views they were a little too distant for any decent flight shots. Lots of Buzzards enjoying the brighter weather, along with displaying Ravens, Sparrowhawk and the odd Siskin fly by. On the way back down to the car, a Nuthatch offered a photographic opportunity. While at New Fancy a couple of guys had mentioned eight Hawfinch's showing well at Park End church so I decided it was a good place to have my packed lunch and I headed over. It was an interesting sighting as numbers of Hawfinch at the normal spot off the cricket green at Park End this year have been at a premium!

One of three vocal Marsh Tit's for company while having lunch at Park End
I spent a good hour at Park End church with at least three Marsh Tit's for company, one posing beautifully but no sight nor sound of Hawfinch, or for that matter Crossbill, normally a good place to find them. However, a walk around the woods and to the rear of the churchyard did spook a feeding Wild Boar, not sure who was more startled me or the Boar!

Dipper ~ From previous visits to Wenchford
Finally a stop at Wenchford Picnic Site for Dipper (note the road does currently say closed but you can get down as far as the car park). A long walk along the fast flowing riverbank downstream didn't yield any Dippers but I spent a final half-hour at the access bridge and eventually connected with two birds after spotting some movement further upstream. With that said if your visiting in the short-term it might be worth checking slightly upstream where the stream flows under the main road.