Monday, 23 February 2015

Gloucestershire glories

Last weekend two of us (Linda and Jen) joined Jeff Clarke and 7 other people for his Birdcraft weekend in Gloucestershire.  It was a weekend of contrasts between Day 1 which was spent in the Forest of Dean and featured cold, but clear, dry weather and Day 2 which was spent at WWT Slimbridge accompanied by pouring rain.  The latter was an effective reminder that Slimbridge is a wetland site.

Panorama of the Forest of Dean from New Fancy
The ancient Forest of Dean lies between the valleys of the Rivers Wye and Severn with Gloucester on the east.  It features 110 sq kms of mixed woodland, a haven for a variety of birds and mammals.  The day began at New Fancy viewpoint which affords excellent views across a large area of the Forest.  We were there to see Goshawks.  It was not long before we saw the silhouette of this beautiful bird in the distance and above the treeline.  If only it would come closer.  A short while later another pair of Goshawks appeared. We could not believe what we were seeing.  After one hour there we had seen 5 of these beautiful birds.  Together with the Buzzards, Carrion Crows, Wood pigeons, Robins, Ravens, Siskins, Goldfinch and Great spotted woodpeckers it was an excellent site and a brilliant start to the day.

Main pond, Cannop Ponds
Our next destination was Cannop Ponds, a pair of linear ponds divided by a small causeway.  These man-made ponds were constructed to supply water to Parkend Ironworks in the 19th century.  They are now home to various duck species with good footpaths around their perimeter.  The first pond gifted us sight of a Cormorant displaying its wings beautifully.  Also visible were several pairs of Mandarin ducks.  The site gave us good opportunities to see many species at relatively close distance.  Total species seen at Cannop Ponds were Cormorant, Mandarin duck, Little grebe, Tufted duck, Coot, Mallard, Herring gull, Lesser black-backed gull, Moorhen, Robin, Nuthatch, Long-tailed tit, Great tit, Goshawk, Blackbird, Dunnock, Chaffinch, Goldcrest, Siskin, Marsh and Coal tits. 

Day 2 dawned with a heavy frost and temperatures of -3oC, with much ice to be scraped off cars before we headed back to the cricket pitch in search of the elusive Hawfinches.  This time our persistence was rewarded.  We had excellent sightings of 9 of these glorious birds with those impressive bills.  Chaffinch and greenfinch also put in an appearance.  What a way to start the day.  From there it was off to WWT Slimbridge.  En route we noticed crowds of people and thought that perhaps it was a Sunday car boot sale.  Then, we realised that the attraction was nothing material, but the excellent Severn bore which was due to be spectacular as the tides were at an 18 year high.  Sadly, we could not delay to watch this sight.

By the time we arrived at Slimbridge the weather was very wet, but we were not to be deterred.  En route to our first stop we saw a Water rail which showed up several times during the course of the day.  One of the most spectacular sights was that of a large group of Wigeon which moved out of the water and rippled across the marsh like a slow moving carpet.  The Cranes put in an appearance, 4 of them with two showing multiple leg rings clearly.  These rather primitive looking birds are a delight to watch flying across the marsh.  Large groups of Black-tailed godwits put on good displays particularly when spooked by an incoming Peregrine which failed to capture any prey.  Closer to one of the hides we had excellent views of Pintail and Greylag geese. 

Two male and one female Pintail

 There is not enough space to speak of all that we saw.  Suffice to say that by the time we left our notebooks additionally had records of Wood pigeon, Moorhen, Lapwing,  Shelduck, Teal, Bewick’s swans, Little Stint, Dunlin, Pied wagtail, Golden plover, Coot, Mallard, Redshank, Shoveller, Tufted duck, Meadow pipit, Sanderling, and Pintail.  So our Gloucestershire sojourn had ended.  It is an area well worth visiting with Parkend proving to be a useful base.


laura bimson said...

Yes the weather has a lot to answer for! Still you ticked Hawfinch, goshawk and cranes, can't be bad. Forest of dean looks lovely.
Cheers Peaty

Ann Tomo said...

Nice one Jen, would make a great destination for 'Shedluck Tours'!