Tuesday 31 March – Forest of Dean

 There were more Ravens than any other corvid during our walk today, with five seen at close range from our start point at New Fancy View. All the common tits called and displayed around us and our pulses quickened with distant views of raptors but most resolved into Buzzard. A Goshawk did appear after half an hour which was above my expectation given the brisk cold wind. A short drive to Speech House fields, parking beneath a fine stand of Oaks and finding that cameramen had laid bait on a fallen tree trunk to lure in birds – and thus offered us excellent views of Nuthatch, Blue, Great and Coal Tit. The fields – recently used as a marathon start point – were bare until a pair of Mistle Thrushes flew in; they stood immobile for many moments – that strong upright posture, the bold spotted breast, so characteristic of the species. A short walk down the woods looking for Hawfinch only gave us a further view of a dashing Goshawk and a single singing Chiffchaff. The roof of the Beechenhurst café supported two Pied Wagtails and we had our first sighting of Carrion Crow – patrolling the grounds looking for titbits. Back to the cars and on to Cannop Ponds for lunch, during which a pair of the local population of Mandarin Ducks paddled fairly close looking for handouts, the Coot displayed – their wings arched like the Sydney Opera house – and Mute Swan cleared up the leavings at the top of the spillway. As we walked around the ponds we added Grey Wagtail, Great Spotted Woodpecker, and Greylag Goose to the list and increased our count of Mandarin Duck to 12 (all in pairs). A modest bird list of 34 was seen by most of the 13 people who’d trusted the forecast, and included in that number two new walkers who were most warmly welcomed. (Thank you Nick for leading).  Nick Hawkridge