20th April 2021 – Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire

What a splendid day! I had subscribed to my second ever guided bird watching trip (my first was in the Western Cape in South Africa – oh what memories) with the nature travel company Naturetrek. Not as exotic as the trip in South Africa but I was not at all disappointed.

Our guide, Oliver Smart, was superb. His audio skills were outstanding which led to lots of sightings. He was particularly adept at setting up his scope quickly and gave each of us a good opportunity to see a wide range of birds. This was particularly rewarding as many of the birds were quite distant and my 100-400 mm lens wasn’t always capable of getting a shot. At times I wish I had had my 200-600 lens but by the end of the day after 8 hours in the field I was glad I had not lugged that around with me.

We met up in the Forest at RSPB Nagshead at 9 a.m. The first section of our walk was down to the Lower Pond. En route we saw sparrowhawk, greylag goose, blackcaps, robins, blue tits, great tits, long-tailed tit, chiffchaff, willow warbler and heard a great spotted woodpecker. At the pond we had frequent sightings of pied flycatcher, treecreepers and a mandarin duck on the pond.

Long-tailed tit
Pied flycatcher
Pied flycatcher
Mandarin duck looking very exotic in the middle of the forest

We then followed the short circuit around the reserve where we added to the list nuthatch, chaffinch, buzzard, song thrush and mistle thrush. We had a glimpse of a pair of stock dove too. The great spotted woodpecker were all around but I didn’t manage to see one here.

At the end of the the circuit we stealthily made our way up to the Campbell hide. The hide was closed due to Covid-19 restrictions but we were able to stand beneath the hide and, because we had approached so quietly, we saw fallow deer, both male and female blackcaps, wren, chaffinch and treecreepers.

Male blackcap
Female blackcap
Female chaffinch

After Nagshead we made our way down the track and back to the village of Parkend. In the middle of an enclosure of yew trees we were looking for hawfinch. We did manage one sighting and could see it really well through Oliver’s scope. However I couldn’t manage a decent photograph as it was in deep shade.

Embarrassed to publish this photo of a hawfinch but hey ho at least I saw one

We wandered down to a nearby stream in search of dippers. Overhead there was a buzzard and a sparrowhawk and we regularly saw jackdaws and house sparrows. At the stream we instantly saw a grey wagtail and could hear dippers beneath the bridge. Very soon the dippers emerged in search of food for (I presume) their young.

Dipper in flight

From Parkend we made our way to New Fancy View where we had our picnic lunch. During lunch we saw bullfinch.

There is a good gallery view at New Fancy View looking across the forest towards Cinderford. It’s a good place to look for goshawk and I did manage to see a speck in Oliver’s scope although it would have been more rewarding if it had come as close as the siskins which regularly flew overhead. We spent some time watching a common lizard basking in the sun.

From here we drove on a little to Woorgreens Nature Reserve. On our way to the lake we saw a great spotted woodpecker. At the lake there were Canada geese, Greylag geese and mute swans. I gather that here in winter it is a good place to see goosander.

Mute swan
Canada goose
Mute swan

Around the lake we saw linnet and coal tits.

Coal tit

The light was getting gloomy by this stage as we made our way up to Crabtree Hill (not much of an incline really). It is here that a great grey shrike has been through the winter but has now moved on. We had plenty to see though, with a solitary swallow, stonechat, linnet, a tree pipit, blackbird, song thrush, mistlethrush and a green woodpecker. At the very end we came across a wheatear which I saw very clearly in Oliver’s scope and regularly flitting about showing its white rump. However, my one photograph of it was so poor it has been condemned to the recycle bin.

Tree pipit
Willow warbler
Song thrush
Mistle thrush

We ended at 5 p.m. It was quite an exhausting day but extremely rewarding.

Not only would I like to thank Naturetrek and their outstanding guide Oliver Smart but my four fellow birders whose company was most congenial. I’m sure they will have seen many more birds than I did, but without them all I would have seen fewer.

Slideshow of some of the birds I saw

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