Saturday 21 February 2015

The Dartford Warbler and Other Birds

Feb 18/15 Forest of Dean and Pittville Park Cheltenham, Gloucestershire UK.

Today was the day to go after the Dartford Warbler. On the way I stopped off at the Speech House in the heart of the Forest of Dean. The following three shots were taken from the car window at a place where park visitors leave seed for the wild birds. By choosing a good vantage point I was able to photograph with dark shadows in the background. I had to underexpose a little in manual mode.

Speech House/ Forest of Dean
Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)

Nuthatch (Sitta europaea)

Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos)
New Fancy View/ Forest of Dean
Common Buzzard (Buteo Buteo)

As a child growing up in the Wye Valley I never once saw a Common Buzzard. There was a decline of food as the rabbit population had been decimated by Myxomatosis
There was so little food the buzzards were even forced to turn over cow dung in search of insects. Their numbers crashed until the rabbit population finally recovered.

The Common Buzzard has now rebounded and can be seen in many parts of the UK. I also was lucky enough to see a pair of Goshawk at New Fancy View, one of the best viewpoints in the Forest of Dean,

Pittville Park Cheltenham 
As I have mentioned this was not a birding holiday but the temptation to try for the Dartford Warbler was too strong. Pittville Park Cheltenham is a passive park with much activity but in one corner a wildflower patch of about an acre has been seeded. It has been there a few years and has matured and has reseeded itself. There were three Stonechat and a dozen Linnets present and one very lost Dartford Warbler. Fortunately the winter has been mild and the sunniest ever recorded, all good news for the diminutive warbler normally found in the southernmost parts of the UK.

Dartford Warbler (Sylvia undata)

Stonechat (Saxicola torquatus)


Well this is the last post from the UK but not the last bird I saw. I took a quick walk around Parkend before leaving and finally had a good views of a Hawfinch. It was the perfect way to end the trip.

I would like to thank Gary Thoburn and Vic Savery for their helpful contributions and suggestions and without their encouragement my trip would not have been so enjoyable.
Also the Gloster Birder website which is an invaluable guide to visitors like myself

Technical details
I brought a Nikon D7100 with battery pack. It never ran out as either the camera battery or the battery pack kicked in when one was exhausted. I bought a Tamron 150mm-600mm lens in the summer for trips like these when photography would be secondary consideration.
I brought a flash, remote controller and monopod but never used them. I dressed as I would for Vancouver and was never cold or wet. I found UK birders and photographers very helpful and willing to help the hapless visitor like myself. Overall I am very happy with my visit and look forward to returning soon.

"It's never too late to start birding"

John Gordon

British Columbia


  1. wow these birds are all gorgeous especially the chaffinch and stonechat! Congratulations on the amazing Dartford Warbler!

  2. So special atmosphere! Great work.

    Greetings - Monika