Thursday, 6 March 2014

Not Another Twitch!

Look where James M and I went yesterday...

The first time I've ever been here!

Before we had arrived at out first destination, Mandarin was on the trip list. A fine male was sat on a log in an area of wet woodland right besides the above pictured road shortly after passing this sign.

Just after 8am we arrived at our first port of call, Parkend. And to be precise, here...

At the end of Church Drive

And the grave yard on the opposite side of the road

The grave yard side is where you want to look, and within seconds we had four Hawfinch perched up with Goldfinches. And they were doing what all Hawfinches ever seem to do, sit around on top of the barest trees...

James watching the Hawfinches

A fine finch selection

Whilst watching these we could hear others calling, and couldn't believe how many we eventually saw. In about 15 minutes we saw at least 19, with birds flying in from the right, others appearing from behind and some popping up in the trees above the road we had driven in on. 19 was probably an under estimate as I'm sure we didn't see all of the birds we could hear.  What an incredible experience!

 
They really are fab birds

What a great place for finches this was, with single Brambling and Lesser Redpoll, two fly over Crossbills and several Siskins. From the larger trees below the cemetery, a selection of drumming Woodpeckers included what must have been a Lesser Spot. One driller was consistently and notable higher pitched, with longer drills than the surrounding Great Spots. It moved at least once too so it wasn't just the tree it was drilling on.  We later found out from a local birders that Lesser Spots do indeed occur here.

Next stop, our main stop. Up to Brierley and pull in and park opposite this garage...

We parked a short way in, but I know some have been driving further into the forest before parking

Something we did wrong was take the left track here, don't...

Take the right one!

The right hand track takes you up to the top of Serridge Ridge, walk east...

Larches on the right

Then, at the T-junction take a right, and you will soon get to this much reported sign...

Drybrook Road Station

This is where we joined the twitch. Well I say twitch, I mean the only other birder present...

James 'grilling' for info

This birder had seen some Two-barred Crossbills earlier, and informed us they were somewhere in the Serridge Ridge plantation.  After a while of having no luck by just standing, waiting and hoping, we started to wander around and give ourselves neck ache...

My least favoured birding habitat!

After about half an hour James called me over as he could hear Two-barreds calling, and we soon picked out at least five adult males feeding, calling, and even singing, in the larches above us.  From the moment we clapped eyes on them we knew we had done the right thing by coming to see them, stunning stunning STUNNING birds. The red is not like a male Common Crossbill, it's proper scarlet red, with those broad brilliant-white wing-bars.  The call really is important in tracking these down, it is Crossbill-like, but with an almost Bullfinch whistle tone to it, not the sharp 'glip' of Commons. The song is pretty nondescript, but never-the-less important to learn as two of them were singing as much as they were calling!

No cracking pics of them from me I'm afraid. Although they did show very well, there was always a branch or two in the way that messed up the focus...

Spot the Two-barred! They are bloody hard to find, and easy to lose even though we knew exactly where they were!

We found it a bit odd that we didn't see any females, and that the males appeared to be so tied to the area we saw them..... when do Two-barred Crossbills breed?

Other than a couple of fly-over Common Crossbills, we didn't see much else here to be honest.

It was getting on for 10:30, so time to get to our next stop, New Fancy...

Complete with Gos-watchers

To be honest, there was less Goshawk action than we were expecting (it was quite cloudy and never got that warm mind). Saying that, we did see probably three different displaying males and another (that must have been a female due to its size) sat out in the open for ten minutes...

What do you mean you can't see it?

We also had a Peregrine here along with another couple of Crossbills.  The drive home showed another couple of Peregrines and  a surprise Red Kite just on the English side of the Old Severn Bridge.

Sadly we didn't bump into any Wild Boar, although talking to the locals I'm not sure this would have been safe to do!  It is instantly clear as you enter the Forest of Dean the damage they do, as all the verges of pretty much all the roads, and most open ground, looks like this...

And people complain about Badgers!!

So another very successful twitch - I think I need a horrendous dip to get me back on the straight and narrow! Many thanks to James for the company, and Dave Dawe (@Exmoorbirder) for the gen, really helped a lot Dave.

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