What a cracker!

Still in Gloucestershire and another day out with Ian and my brother Alan, we decided to head into the forest of Dean. Lots of happy memories of days spent their with my parents and children when they were little, I wonder if they remember that my Mum always had ’emergency rations’ with her!

Our first stop was at Cannop Ponds where we saw a lovely Little grebe, he caught a little fish and spent some while shaking it and trying to position it suitably ready to swallow whole. I am pleased to report he did succeed, I got a nice video clip of the fish finally losing the fight, I am looking forward to learning how to sort the clips out one day but not yet!

We also saw our first Grey wagtail of the year, ( later we saw two more) it was very flighty and distant but very good to get. First tick of our time away. The weather was getting better as the day went on, not just dry but by now sunny too.

I connect this area with Mandarin ducks and I was not let down, we saw one but it quickly decided to swim away. After thinking if I could get a shot of it or if it had gone to far I decided to go in pursuit of it. By the time I fought my way through the mud and got to the other end of the pond it had joined a group of Mandarins, I saw five male and two females.

 

What beautiful ducks they are, the males so striking and the females more subtle but I think none the less attractive.

We had a couple of choices of where to head to next, what were we most keen to try to see? Well we have visited Lynford Arboretum many times this year hoping to see Hawfinches but each visit has been fruitless. I had heard that they often show well at Parkend in the Forrest of Dean so we went in search of them there, would Gloucestershire provide what we had failed to find in Norfolk? YES! We waited for some time and one of our party said that “we only need one to come for a minute” that is exactly what we got, this cracker came down to feed.IMG_9298 Hawfinch_edited-1

He did only stay for a very short time when something made him and the other birds feeding fly up. We did see another two fly into the back of a tree but saw no more of them. Not only were we all pleased to get Hawfinch on our 2016 year list but it is by far the best sight any of us had ever had of one, excellent it made my day! It will be good to be able to walk at the arboretum not feeling frustrated by the lack of hawfinches, mind you we will probably see them regularly now but not as well as this!

 

Next we visited the church at Parkend looking for Crossbills. No luck but we did have a nice Treecreeper on the building itself. Where we live in Norfolk this notice would not be needed but I have been amazed at the amount of damage done by wild boar I have seen all around here. I gather they are now widespread although sadly we didn’t see any, just the results of where they had been.

 

Next stop a well deserved lunch at the Dean heritage centre and time to think where to go next. Amazing who you meet on the way to lunch!IMG_9319 Gruffalo_edited-1

I was still really keen to try to get a picture of a Penduline tit so we headed back for them but sadly they had not been seen.

We have had not just a lovely day but an excellent visit to Gloucestershire, thanks to Alan and Judy, come and see us in Norfolk soon and see what birds we can find there.

Our year continues so well and although I have talked mainly about birds it has been about far more. Spending time together, getting out walking, seeing family and anticipation of what is yet to come! Thank you for sharing in our I hope you will keep going with us.

 

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Slimbridge in the sun!

Thursday was a beautiful day in all ways. It began with getting a much appreciated life tick, the Penduline tit and continued with a trip to Slimbridge a WWT reserve. We live not too far from Welney another WWT site and visit there fairly regularly but rarely go to Slimbridge. A

It is a mixed reserve as it holds captive, non native birds as well as providing space for wild birds to thrive. We were only really interested in the wild birds and were soon out enjoying the Bewick swans and numerous other wildfowl which were showing beautifully in the sunshine. We had heard that there were two female Scaup and eventually found them. Of course they were as far across the pool as they could be and were hidden amongst lots of tufted ducks but that just adds to the challenge!

I love Pintails and was thrilled to see this pair so well, we later discovered there are over 1,000 there at the moment so I guess I hadn’t made much of a find!

Shell ducks and Shovelers were also plentiful and in the brightness of the day everything looked splendid. We met a couple that had earlier been at the Penduline tit site, they were arriving as we were leaving but they had not been as fortunate as us.

Like Welney, Slimbridge is know for the swans that visit during the winter. Seeing them flying was a regular occurrence and a beautiful sight, they are so graceful. Unlike Welney there were no Whoopers but a good number of Bewicks although we were told there were fare fewer than expected.

We were pleased to see a group of Barnacle geese grazing alongside Canada geese and Greenland White-fronts. As you may imagine we saw numerous waders including Lapwing, Golden plovers, Redshank, Dunlin but we didn’t see a Little Stint that had been seen a bit earlier.

We had visited every hide and nearly walked past a blind without noticing it. We thought we would peep through, not expecting much and knowing it would be hard to see as the sun was shining directly at it. We were rewarded with a super male Mandarin duck, they really are stunning. I reckon if you asked an imaginative child to create a duck they might come up with such a design but it is fantastic that they really exist! Then of course there was the usual smattering of more humble birds.

After a well earned cuppa we decided to stay and watch the swan feed. Although when the feed began there were only two Bewicks on the pool, the ducks took full advantage and they were gradually joined by more swans. We had a nice rainbow behind the pool just before the feed began, but unfortunately the sun chose this time to disappear.

Slimbridge got our seal of approval and we were pleased that Peter Scott’s father, Scott of the Antarctic, encouraged his wife to “Make him interested in natural history” in his last letter home and she obviously did a good job!

We had a really good day, beginning with a life tick and adding six year ticks too. I suspect we will be returning to Gloucestershire soon.

Birds 125

Moths 3

Mammals 7