Thursday 23 March 2023

Oriole Birding - Forest of Dean & Somerset Tour - Day 5 - 17th March 2023

Three of us agreed to get up early and try and make a pre-breakfast visit just across the road to Wells Cathedral.  We were inside just before 7am and had this imposing and immense building almost all to ourselves bar a gentleman putting out candles and another tuning up the immense Grand Piano that presumably would be part of the Kennedy performance that evening.  The Cathedral is a truly wonderous and ancient creation with incredible stonework, towering arches, a massive organ in the centre, decorated ceilings, touch-worn caskets, gleaming stain-glass windows and a fine eagle lectern.

Back outside the Ravens kronked avidly from the top of the towers and surveyed their domain and a large stately circular Yew stood in the cloisters courtyard.  


One last breakfast and then the faff of getting the van back to the front of the Swan Hotel but by just after 8.30 we were underway and off for a last few hours in Avalon. 

The SWT reserve at Catcott was our choice of stop and we were soon in the car park where Great White Egrets and the sounds of many whistling Wigeon greeted us.  The habitat from the main hide was very different to the sites further east with a huge sedge bed interspersed with a myriad of pools that were teaming with dabbling duck.  As expected Wigeon were in the majority given the volume of whistling but there were a few Pintail, Shoveler and Teal too.  I looked for Garganey but had no joy but unlike at the other sites there were Lapwings tumbling in energetic display and it was good to hear them in fine voice for the first time this spring.  There were more Greylags and Canada Geese here too and Reed Buntings were singing from several high points.




Wigeon, Gadwall and Lapwing

Great White in the landscape

From here we walked down the lane to the main access path passing a couple of singing Chiffchaffs on the way before following the muddy lane into the damp woodland. The sedge fields were still pretty dry despite all the rain but hopefully they will soon have breeding waders and duck on them.  Cetti’s Warblers could be heard from the Alder lined ditches and the verges held flowering Gorse, White and Red Dead Nettle and a few Dandelions but despite the slight climb in temperature there were no insects in attendance.


Dead Nettle


The trail to the Tower Hide was followed and it took us through to some fine wet heathland sheltered in the heart of the complex.  Clumps of Bog Myrtle were scattered around and some of the chestnut buds were opening to reveal the curious flowers hidden within. Treecreepers, Coal Tits and Great Spotted Woodpeckers were all heard and like most places around here there were Bullfinches calling out of sight. 

Bog Myrtle

Bog Myrtle

Scarlet Elf Cups were common and I looked under the leaves of the fine Hart’s Tongue Ferns to discover the mobile home made up of the plant’s sporangia of one of the two Psychoides moth larva but I was not going to probe further to discover what colour its head was!

Hart’s Tongue Fern

Psychoides sp moth larva near the midrib under sporangia

Scarlet Elf Cups

A Hedge Snail Song Thrush anvil on the hard anti slip elements of the boardwalk

A spring leaf beetle - Probably Altica lythri

Another close Barn Owl encounter

The loop took us eventually to the hide which was quite literally full of Flies!  They must have hibernated in there and emerged when it warmed up slightly and could not get out.  I did my best to release a few but they stubbornly insisted in heading back to the windows.  Many seemed to be Pollenia (Cluster Flies with their golden hairs) along with a few Musca autumnalis.  Four big fat Queen Common Wasps were a little easier to persuade that the outside world would be a better place for them. 

Common Wasp

Musca autumnalis

The pools below were only home to a few Coots and a pair of Mute Swan and two Cormorants came in for a feed.  Bearded Tits could be heard pinging from the Phragmites along the back and with a bit of patience we all go good views of both sexes as they clambered around.  This was one of our missing species so it was good to get one new bird for the last day.

 Bearded Tit - Andy Buck

Nature agreeing...

With time getting on we ambled back to the van with a stop at some old workings pools in the woods amazingly giving brief views of a Great Crested Newt lounging on the surface before plopping back down with a flick of its long tail.  The sun had even come out although the wind had got up and two male Brimstones appeared as if by magic and zoomed up and down the path.  Alder and Grey Poplar catkins blew in the breeze and a Little Ringed Plover flew over calling a couple of times but I just could not find it.  A Pond Skater appeared on a puddle in front of us and Roe Deer tracks could be seen in the mud. Amazing what you see what you look down as well as up!

Alder Catkins

Roe Deer tracks

Pond Skater - not sure of the species yet

The Gang... we had a laugh

Back at the van it was time to say farewell to Andy before I headed north to drop Claire and Jon in Bristol and Dave and Margaret back at Speech House.  With the passengers all safely dropped off I only had the cross country journey back to Great Ryburgh to go.  It was actually an ok journey that took me quite literally cross country to avoid some serious problems on the M42 and I skirted many spots I had never been near before.  Towards the end I encountered a herd of about 200 Whooper Swans alongside the A47 somewhere near Wisbech and a Little Owl up on a wire (sorry Claire) to round off an exhausting but thoroughly enjoyable five days away.

I spent the night at Dower House again and even manged to pop out before breakfast the next morning and see Cattle Egret, both Partridges, Grey Wagtails and even Avocets around the village.  I handed the van back to Nick and began the last bit of my journey back to Kent.

1 comment:

  1. The first lichen is Flavoparmelia caperata ;-) Bob