Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Forest of Dean Trip

As mentioned in the last post the RSPB group had another day out last Sunday.
We were heading down to the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire.
I had an idea that we might stop off at a site in Oxfordshire on the way down to look for a Great Grey Shrike that had been present for a few days, but travelling through Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire the fog was so thick I feared this would be pointless.
 However by the time we reached Oxford the sun was out and we had a clear day, so pulling  a couple of hundred yards off of the A40 at South Leigh we began the search for the Shrike.
 After a while the bird was eventually located in the top of an Oak Tree where it sat for some time giving good views to all. Suddenly though it took off and chased after 3 passing Meadow Pipits, twisting in mid air trying and failing to catch one of them.
 Other birds seen at this location included a couple of Red Kites a few Buzzards, Yellowhammers and a couple of Red-legged Partridges.

 It was then on to the New Forest, where our first port of call was the Raptor Watch point at New Fancy.
 Small birds flying around the conifers included Siskins, a few Bramblings and a single Crossbill. But it was raptors we had come to see. Several Sparrowhawks soared over the vast woodlands as did a good few Buzzards and 3 or 4 Ravens.
 Eventually a reasonable sized bird emerged from the woodland canopy, circling and gradually gaining height. This was no Sparrowhawk but a splendid male Goshawk that soared around for some time - magic ! But then even better, from the area where the male originally appeared another bird was spotted sitting in one of the trees. This time a huge female that allowed detailed scrutiny through the scope for probably fifteen minutes or more.
 It was by now a very warm day so we popped in to nearby Cannop Ponds for our usual ice-cream and a look at the resident Mandarins.
 This time there were 3 males and 2 females on view.
drake Mandarin
duck Mandarin
 A stop of at Brierley to see if we find any Hawfinches was unproductive, but a newly arrived singing male Blackcap was nice to see.

 Symonds Yat was the final destination, where the resident pair of Peregrines put in an appearance around their cliff nest site.
 Yet more Buzzards were present including a pair that were seen mating in trees on the other side of the river. More Sparrowhawks were observed and the icing on the cake was another male Goshawk thermalling above the cliff-face.

 An excellent day out in which I had seen no less than 8 Bird of Prey species. Remarkably though Kestrel was not among them !

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