Forest of Dean, April 2019

Four people turned up for our April all day visit to the Forest of Dean. On Tuesday 23 April. This was lower than average (possibly because several members were still away after the Easter holiday), but it had the benefit that we all fitted into one car, so no convoy driving was required on what was a lengthy and complex route to our destination.

The journey took a little over 90 minutes, so we arrived at RSPB Nags Head near the village of Parkend a little after 9.30. We decided first to go to the woodlands containing the lower hide. And that is where we stayed until nearly two hours had passed by! The reason for this was simple - the area was fantastic. The area of open land leading to the woods was alive with Blackcap and several other songbirds. The Blackcap in particular were notable for singing really loudly, really close to us and then proving invisible! But the main attractions in the woods were four species. First we found a male Pied Flycatcher near one of the many nestboxes placed on the trees. Detailed and lengthy observation confirmed that a matched pair of Pied Flycatcher were building a nest in this box. We also discovered another pair, similarly using a nestbox. Next one of our number found a Treecreeper quite close to us. This is a relatively common species but difficult to spot, so it represented a real achievement for us, and we subsequently found another Treecreeper. Then our attention was drawn to a male Redstart, singing lustily from the topmost branches of a nearby tree, and we all got good views of it before it flew off to look for a mate elsewhere. Finally in the hide we encountered a male Mandarin Duck. This is a spectacularly gorgeous bird, but by common consent it under-performed for us, remaining almost hidden the entire time we were watching it.

After all this excitement, the rest of the visit was a bit of an anti-climax. We went round the Short Trail, but saw nothing more exciting than another Pied Flycatcher, though we heard but did not see both the call of great Spotted Woodpecker and the yaffle of a Green Woodpecker. We then went by car to a famous raptor viewpoint in the hope of seeing a Goshawk. We managed to eat our sandwiches, but we saw no raptor more exciting than a distant Buzzard. We did however, spot a Jay as we entered the site, and again as we left. We then went to Cannop Ponds and at last saw plenty of Mandarin Duck, both male and female, including a dispute between two males who both fancied the same female. But this site was very crowded, particularly with noisy children, so we walked along a footpath beside the stream which links the two ponds in the hope of seeing a Grey Wagtail. Alas! In vain, though later on one of our number spotted a Pied Wagtail on a church roof.
Our total species for the day came to only 39 different types of bird - unusually low for a full day's birdwatching. But the first two hours made sure that everyone left feeling it had been a really worthwhile experience.

Our next meeting is a half day visit to the Somerset Levels on Tuesday 28 May. This walk will be led by Jean, who will be in touch with details nearer the time.