The first three weeks of 2015 were very quiet on the birding front, mainly thanks to university exams. I managed a few evening visits to Blackpill, but they failed to produce anything of note.
This meant that I was all the more pleased to hop over the border and do some good quality birding. My dad and I headed out early, arriving at the Forest of Dean shortly after dawn. Parkend Church was the first stop, and it only took a few short minutes for our first target species to put in an appearance. I got onto a pair of Hawfinch, which were perched in the top of a Hornbeam a short distance away. We enjoyed decent scope views of the pair for a short time, before the birds flew away into the forest and out of sight. This was a species I’ve been looking forward to seeing for a long time and it was great to begin the day with a tick!
There was little else of note in the area, so we moved on to our next stop – New Fancy View. Notable species seen here were; two Stock Dove, 2 Raven, 3 Buzzard, 1 Redwing, a few Brambling, good numbers of Bullfinch and a Redpoll.
We finished the morning at Cannop Ponds. The forest was fairly quiet here, with mainly common tits and finches. Some more Redpoll and a few Siskin were heard flying over, and a Dipper was on the stream between the two ponds. On the ponds themselves were a total of 21 Mandarin Duck (13 drake and 8 duck). Little Grebe and Tufted Duck were also present here amongst others.
The afternoon was spent at Slimbridge WWT. The Tack Piece held very good numbers of winter wetland birds. A flock of several hundred Lapwing also held good numbers of Dunlin, Curlew, Black-Tailed Godwit and Golden Plover. There were many Teal and Wigeon, with good numbers of Pintail and a few Shoveler also. Bewick’s Swans were also present, though in lower numbers.
The Holden Tower was packed, but we still managed distant views of a winter Little Stint and a distant Peregrine, along with many more of the species mentioned previously. There were also the feral Barnacle Geese, Canada Geese and Greylag Geese, but unfortunately there was no sign of the White-Fronted Geese.
There were no particularly notable species added to the tally as we birded the south-western areas of the reserve, but large numbers of winter ducks were seen from each hide.
To round things off, we watched the evening wild swan feed. Many of the reserves waterfowl congregated at the Rushy, and we were able to enjoy more than 150 Bewick’s Swans – a great way to end a great day’s birding!