Saturday 06 April – Forest of Dean – Leader: Mike Jackson

The Forest of Dean was always going to be tricky in early April. Winter flocks now diminished and summer migrants not quite ready. On top of everybody’s hit list were those forest gems – Hawfinch, Crossbill, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and Goshawk. All we had to do was find them. From the Speech House Woodland car park, 25 of us set off towards Woorgreens Lake taking in common bird song including Goldcrest and Nuthatch. A Blackcap song was a welcome reminder of impending summer, while a Siskin called from the treetops but remained unseen. We debated the calls of Great and Coal Tit before reaching the lake where noisy Canada Geese and Greylags were most obvious, with a few Mallard and a Coot making up an economic tally of water birds. It was muddy around the lake and some chose drier routes, but when the group reassembled we were treated to the song of Willow Warbler under a soaring Buzzard, and our only gull species of the day, a Lesser Black-backed flyover. The lake had been quiet, but as we walked away towards a firmer path two Siskin alighted in the Birch scrub for all to see. We circled the dense conifer stand anti-clockwise in order to ascend Crabtree Hill, and saw a Treecreeper poking about on the ground, and then among tree roots and buttresses before eventually creeping up a tree trunk or two. There had been no Great Grey Shrike on the hill this winter but Mistle Thrush, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet and Stonechat were all present. Back at the foot of the heath we had more Siskin and deciphered the identity of Goldcrest and a couple of leaf warblers, which were probably Chiffchaff with the confusion fuelled by a singing Willow Warbler just beyond. Lunch was enjoyed in
partial sun at Cannop Ponds where the Mandarin were very obliging – the males that is. Females numbered only one, as if they may have been sitting on eggs at this time? Little Grebe, Tufted Duck and Raven increased the tally, but in the fast-flowing water between the lakes Dipper and Grey Wagtail were also seen. At RSPB Nagshead, our search for Hawfinch yielded none but three members caught site of a Goshawk soaring with a Buzzard, and a pair of Mandarin were on the Lower Pond. We trekked to the top of the reserve off the back of a Crossbill tip-off from the reserve warden, and indeed, upon arrival at the heath two Crossbill flew over our heads, calling as they went. It was over in a second and we were denied the chance of a good binocular view, but that’s birding!
We ended with a count of 44 species, three being summer visitors, and we bagged two out of four of our forest
gem targets (Goshawk and Crossbill). As well as the birds and the location it takes great people to make a field trip work, so thanks go to all 25 for turning up and sharing the day. (Thanks to Mike for leading the walk). Mike Jackson