Saturday 9 March 2024

Forest of Dean & Somerset Levels with Oriole Birding - Day 2 - 9th March 2024

It was a grim, grey morning and very chilly too but a hearty breakfast got the crew ready for FoD action. By 9am we were down at the Yew circle in Parkend and within about two minutes a male Hawfinch called and flew in to the top of the tallest Limes. Thankfully he stayed long enough to get everyone onto it.  It always amazes me how loud the call is.  We stood and watched the Yews but only noticed that two more were down with Greenfinches and Chaffinches a second before they flew up.  The Chaffs reappeared by the Haws did not.

Mistle Thrushes sang and rattled and Nuthatches were especially noisy with both songs and calls heard.  We walked down the road to the sound of fizzing Siskin song and followed the stream behind the Fountain Inn in search of Dippers. Grey Wagtails followed us down the stream and there were rocks clearly used by our bobbing friends but there was no sign.

Mistle Thrushes were here too and defending the Ivy berries from the Wood Pigeons while at our feet the first Celandines and Wood Anemones were starting to show. 


Wood Anemones

Lesser Celandine

A random wander an extra fifty yards down stream suddenly saw us with a Dipper whizzing back the way we had come low to the water and ‘chinking’ madly. Retracing our steps I was pleased to discover it up by the pub in almost the same spot as last year and even more pleased to discover that it was the same colour ringed bird although no one knew who had rung it when I asked last time round.


We watched it for ages before moving back towards the van but no before some walls attracted out attention with spreads of impressive Peltigara Iichens in between the mosses, Maidenhair Spleenwort and Wall-Rue along with a Psycoides moth larva in the sporangium under the leaf of a Hard Fern.


Peltigara - the all important underside


Maidenhair Spleenwort 

Psycoides sp larval case

It felt like Goshawk time so we headed back up to New Fancy View and were treated to a party of at least five quietly calling Bullfinches feeding on Hawthorn buds as we walked up.  Two Crossbills flew over as we reached the top and a single female later posed briefly for us before seven more on the way back down.

It was quite calm and had warmed up a bit and by 11am the first Buzzards were up and engaging in some soaring and a little display.  Suddenly Wood Pigeons erupted from the trees below and as I had hoped a male Goshawk powered up above us before plunging back out of view.  Close but still not a prolonged view.  A while later a big female Goshawk appeared in the distance and although she did not come any closer she was on view for some time and the scopes were deployed to good effect as she cruised the tree line.  A male briefly popped up to say hello and two Sparrowhawks were also seen along with the expected Ravens while a pair of Peregrines was a bonus.  The male was quite close and shone silver.

Steve Young had met us at the top and offered to give us a shot at seeing Wild Boar so we followed him not too far down the road and quietly climbed into the woods to where he had been seeing them.  Amazingly they were still there and with a bit of patience we good very good views of two sows and some scurrying stripy ginger piglets although the mums were keeping them in amongst the Bracken and Blackthorn for the most part. 

Wild Boar 

They knew we were there but we content that we were far enough away and posed no threat.  The fact that nine of us managed to sneak up on them in the first place was amazing and I commended every one for their stealth. A third sow appeared behind us and then melted away and Bullfinches called and even plaintively sung from the scrub.  

On to lunch at the Dean Heritage Centre where a Dipper zipped through and Mandarins frolicked while Moorhen was a trip list addition before looping back to Nags Head for a peaceful walk in the woods.  

Evidence of the moth larva Limnaecia phragmitella

Ivy-leaved Toadflax

The Gruffalo...

They were quieter than hoped and I could not find Firecrest but Redwings and Song Thrushes showed well and there were a lot of Blackbirds on the Ivy too while we added more Treecreepers to the heaps were had seen during the day along with Nuthatch and quite probably the same pair of Peregrines that we saw from NFV.  A vigorously calling Goshawk was in exactly the same spot as the one this time last year.

The Lichens were as wondrous as ever and I must endeavour to learn more but it was too cool for most insects bar a few midges and a single Orange Underwing moth that came out of the Birches.  

Cladonia sp I think

I think both these are Ramalina sp?  Bob and Enid please help me out!

Phytomyza ilicis

Wood Sorrel pushing through a Male Fern

Honey Fungus I think

Dog's Mercury

Hard Fern - Blechnum spicant


With a few spots in the air we opted for a final look at the top end of Cannop Ponds where there were heaps more Mandarins, a psychotic pair of Mutes Swans, two Tufted Duck, two fluffy bummed Little Grebes and fine male Gadwall.  The clouds were rolling in and getting lower so we called it a day and headed back for some down time before another sumptuous dinner at Speech House.

Tufted Duck


I love the water too

Back at the hotel the Pied Wagtails were scurrying around on clockwork legs and there were nine torpid Buff-tailed Bumblebees stuck on and in the Daffodils in one of the flower beds exactly where we had seen them after breakfast.  The prospect does not look good for them over the next few days. 


Mrs Pied Wagtail

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