Monday 20 March 2023

Oriole Birding - Forest of Dean & Somerset Tour - Day 2 - 14th March 2023

It rained heavily throughout the night but thankfully dawned calm and dry so after watching crowd of eager Redwings and three Mistle Thrushes feeding on the playing field next door, we headed straight back down to Parkend where I hoped the Hawfinches would reveal their presence.


It did not take me long to hear two calling from the trees but it took about ten patient minutes to locate a female in the Limes and not in the lower Yews as suspected.  A male disappeared off in a flash of colour at the same time thankfully she stayed put and gave the group fine scope views.  Even from the front aspect you could see the wavy edges of the tertials poking out of the side.


Mistle Thrushes were singing once again and Nuthatches and Greenfinches were also seen well along with a Pied Wagtail on the short grass.  The male Yews were a slightly paler shade than the females and their tiny flowers were sending forth a drift of microscopic yellow pollen at the slightly touch.

The nearby Dippers were the next stop but some blue sky appeared and so did the Buzzards so I decided that we should go straight to New Fancy View once again.  It was far more pleasant this time and before too long I found a male Goshawk over the distant ridge again but with far better light and a circling bird it afforded everyone good views. A second male came up and they jousted for a while before the first bird drifted towards us and showed even more detail.  



Buzzards were to be seen in every direction with the odd Raven joining the mix. Both species were displaying in their own way.  Siskins and Bullfinches were noted once again and a Marsh Tit sang below us.  The Cullums and Steve Young appeared and we stayed a while longer as the sun had decided to appear.  A few minutes later I found a huge female Gos way off towards Cinderford but she too ended up coming much closer and circled up into the sky where she eventually passed through the lowest cloud and was lost to view.

How often do you just enjoy the simply beauty of a Blackbird?

With a two key targets now seen well we retraced our route to Parkend to look for the Dippers behind the Fountain pub to be greeted by a Red Kite overhead as we pulled up. It was a fast flowing braided stream and looked ideal but it took us until we were nearly back to the pub to pick one up discretely sitting just below the road bridge with its gleaming white breast being the only giveaway until you raised your bins.

Dipper - lurking

It was colour ringed with pale yellow over pale green on the right leg.  I suspect it is part of a local project but I will submit it anyway and see what comes back.  I had not seen Dipper for some time so was very pleased to locate this one.


A Grey Wagtail sang from the pub roof and the woods held singing Goldcrest, Nuthatch, Treecreeper and calling Great Spotted Woodpecker while a doe Fallow Deer was grazing with some sheep in the adjacent paddock.

Fallow Deer - Andy Buck

Back to Speech House for a comfort stop and then on to Nags Head for a pre-walk lunch in the sunshine of the car park. Stigmella aurella was once again present on the Bramble but despite all the Beech, Oak and Sweet Chestnut leaves I did not find another moth leaf mine all afternoon!

We opted for the 2.5mile big circuit and it was just pleasant being in amongst the quiet of the trees with at long last a temporary feeling that spring was actually happening. We saw our first Butterfly of the trip with a smart Red Admiral but it was just not quite warm enough to lure out any Brimstones. The Larches were flowering and little crimson pineapples were scattered across the path where there was ample evidence once again of the Wild Boar that live there. 

Red Admiral 

Larch flower

A large plastic container was randomly on the path but had clearly been played with by the pigs and you could see where they had chewed large holes in it!

Snuffle trail

An ex-Beech tree literally pulverised to dust by woodpeckers,
beetles, fungi and the elements

Nuthatches, Goldcrests, Coal Tits and Treecreepers were very evident and by the end of the walk I had found five singing Firecrests two of which were paired up.  Having the males close to each other resulted in some superb views as they flared their crests at each other from either side of the path.



Nuthatch - Andy Buck

I heard Hawfinch calling on a couple of occasions and had two fly over before a singing male quite close to the car park briefly gave himself up as he sat unobtrusively in the canopy.  His bill gleamed steely silver. Buzzards and ravens drifted over and a male Sparrowhawk zipped through at knee height.

Buzzard - Andy Buck

A small quarried cave alongside the path warranted exploration and I was hoping that it may actually hold Cave Spider (I suspect Meta menardi on distribution) so I was delighted to discover several dangling silken teardrop egg sacs and a single female.  Curious fungi grew from the dripping roof but I could not find any hibernating moths.

Cave Spider - Meta menardi 

With the weather holding we opted to explore the lower trail down to the two ponds which took us through a towering stand of ruler straight Spruces.  There was nothing from the hide but back in those trees a Goshawk was noisily proclaiming his territory.  I had not heard the species before and we had to check to make sure but it was spot on. 

Whilst standing their listening, Claire suddenly said ‘Pig!’ with a remarkable degree of calmness and there was a big sow trotting through the trees about 200m away with a string of pint sized humbug boarlets trotting behind her.  I may have been quite ecstatic at that point but we all remained quiet and crept up the path towards the edge of the wood hoping that they would emerge.

Wild Boar

As it happened a bellowing snort and grunt just a few metres off the path stopped us in our tracks and we saw her turn curly tail and crash off calling her offspring to follow her.  We counted 15 before they all disappeared from view after just a few magical seconds. We were all beaming.

Our last stop was back at Cannop Pond but we entered from half way up by the causeway this time.  The Wigeon were gleaming and now numbered six and a pair of Tufted Duck were new to the list.  The Mandarins were dotted around the edges but some kids came to feed the ducks and there may have been just a bit a of gratuitous Mandarin papping.

Tufted Duck - Andy Buck


Mandarins in all their ridiculous glory

We found the bird feeding station this time and with it a single Marsh Tit amongst the Blue, Great, Coal and Long-tails in attendance.  Chaffinches and Nuthatches also dropped in before the king of the passerines, a Raven came in for a look and perched up above our heads before being seen off by the Carrion Crows.

Marsh Tit

Marsh Tit - Andy Buck


The cloud bank had returned and the temperature had dropped once again so having had very successful day we retreated for our dinner and a warm up.


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