Monday 21 April 2014

The Royal Forest of Dean

Robin (Erithachus rubella)
Britain's most familiar bird, the Robin can be seen year round in the UK.
April 18 2014 The Royal Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire UK Sunny
I emigrated to Canada on 1978, actually I went over for "a visit" and never returned except to visit my family who still live near St Briavels and Brockweir.
Most of my early trips back would find me fishing at Lydbrook for chub or searching out tench and carp but over the years I found bird watching a far more enjoyable way to enjoy nature. I can't remember seeing any birds while I sat and waited for a bite, I just wasn't aware of them.
My first years in Canada were spent establishing myself and after loosing my $5 Instamatic camera I received a Pentax K1000 and a 50 mm lens for Christmas. I photographed a few birds here and there and became a newspaper photographer. I covered all sorts of events in my thirty year career and after retiring from the press in April 2011 I began photographing birds. When I come over to the UK I try to take advantage of all the wonderful birding here. A couple of years ago I visited the Farne Islands and last year the Highlands of Scotland.
After Slimbridge, my sights were set on the Forest of Dean and will be going to the Newport Wetlands when I have a chance. Other locations I hope to visit are Frampton and Nagshead.
Before I left Vancouver I put out a few "feelers" to see whether any birders would like to go out together. I received a reply from Ruardean and Cheltenham club birder Tim Fletcher who led me on a trail through the recently cleared area around Woorgreens near the Speech House. We had been on the trail only a few minutes when he spotted a pair of Siskins. I "phissed" them in and one posed for me in the brilliant morning sun.
Siskin (Carduelis spinus)
Found across Europe and winters toward the Mediterranean.

Tim and I then left the wooded trail and entered the open heath where the gorse with its yellow flowers and heather make the perfect open habitat for a plethora of bird species, dragonflies, amphibians and reptiles including the adder.
We were surrounded by birds, many were in pairs. The first was a Tree Pipit which came out to see what we were up to. Thank goodness Tim knows his British birds and birdsong.
A very distant record shot of Willow Warbler (Phyllosopus Trochhilus)
The Willow Warbler can be found near open heath or near new plantations. It breeds across Europe and winters in Africa.Next up were a pair of Jays, Tree Creeper, Wren, Robin, Greylag Goose flying overhead, Buzzard, a distant Common Redstart,  a Blackcap, then a Willow Warbler and Song Thrush. The Cuckoo was calling and three Fallow Deer wandered by but took off before I could get my camera on them. It was too early for the dragonflies but a series of shallow ponds have been created on the heath and soon they should be emerging.
Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos)
This bird was one of a pair that were thrashing around in the undergrowth doing what birds do when it obliged me by popping up onto a branch about twenty feet away.
Widespread across Britain and Europe the Song Thrush migrates south during the winter.

Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis)
This species likes open heath and migrates to Africa for the winter.

Then it was to Woorgrens Lake where we watched Little Grebe feeding and other common waterfowl. The next stop was Cannop Ponds but it was teeming by Easter holidaymakers enjoying the sun.
However the bird feeder was producing, A Marsh, Long-tailed, Blue, Great and Coal Tit, Chaffinch, Dunnock and Nuthatch came for seed. The Mandarin Ducks were nowhere to be seen but a Cormorant stood guard near the pathway. Tim told me there have been some "good birds" seen at Cannop over the years.

Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)
Found across Europe and migrates south toward North Africa.

Blue Tit (Parus caeruleus)

The Forest of Dean is somewhere I plan to return to after my trip to Lincolnshire where I am told the birding can be quite good at this time of year, funny coincidence that!

Good Birding 

John Gordon


  1. Thank you so much for this lovely post. I miss seeing the bluetit's in norway. We always had them nesting in our yard there.