Dawn Marsh Harrier

Dawn Marsh Harrier

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Gloucestershire serves up the birds.

Finally a Saturday where the weather wasn't horrendous, so a 6.00am meet with Sharpy and we set off on a pleasant drive through the Chilterns and then the even more pleasant Cotswolds. We arrived in Brockworth around 8.00am and within 10 minutes we were watching two fantastic male Penduline Tits foraging through the reed mace on the Horsebere flood pool.

We gleaned over an hours enjoyment from these little stonkers before they took to the sky and departed. A quick wander round the pool revealed a few Common Snipe tucked away in the rushes before we moved on.

A few miles up the road was the Forest of Dean and in the Forest of Dean there are Goshawks. A no brainer where to go next. New Fancy was our viewpoint of choice and albeit through murky light we were soon rewarded with a distant 'Gos'. But a biting North-Easterly was howling through the valley. Probably not the most conducive conditions for raptor watching so we opted to have a look for the Great Grey Shrike at Crabtree Hill.

Following some other birders we'd just befriended, we were on site in a matter of minutes. It didn't take long to find the shrike either, although it was rather distant on the top of a large Larch. Over the course of the next hour, apart from occasionally flying from one Larch top to another, it showed no sign of coming down to perform for us so we decided to leave it be. A Treecreeper was far more confiding as we returned to the car.

Another short drive soon had us at Parkend where we were immediately treated 4 Hawfinch in a treetop by the Cricket field. We hoped they might drop down to feed around the Yew trees we were close to, which apparently they do if your lucky. But alas they flew off towards the church, another of their known favoured haunts.

A short jaunt to the church brought no further sightings of Hawfinch but the sun had now broken through and was illuminating a cracking pair of Crossbills in a hedgerow. Not only had the sun broken through but the arctic blast had eased significantly.Thoughts of Goshawks displaying on thermals were too powerful to ignore.

The panoramic view from the top of New Fancy looked altogether more promising on our return. Buzzards were soaring and Ravens were cronking over the forest. These were surely good signs.

A small dot over a distant village turned into a Goshawk when viewed through the scope. Soon after a second bird appeared above the ridge to our right. This one was a bit closer and proceeded to delight the small assembly of birders by swooping and tumbling and rising again sharply, only to plunge headlong towards the trees again. A displaying male!!! Fantastic!!! But things were set to get better when another male Gos appeared to our left and this one was much closer. It initially drifted away from us slightly but then looped round and came closer... and closer... and closer. Gasps of awe interspersed with some joyous profanities were reverberating around the viewpoint as it just kept coming. These are the moments I get out of bed at silly o'clock and go out in the cold for.

Bearing in mind my modest camera equipment and blissful ignorance of how to use it properly, the views through the bins were as we say... 'crippling'!!!

What a bloody good day it had been in Gloucestershire. We'd seen everything we'd hoped for and more. We'd enjoyed the company of some familiar and some unfamiliar faces and the sun even came out in the end. There was even time to get home and catch most of the rugby.

But not to be as the day still had another little twist in store. News broke of a Glaucous Gull at Little Marlow. This was half hour from home and near enough on the way. The merest of detours and our luck was holding as the misfortunately ugly brute of a gull was still there.

Glaucous Gull- pic courtesy of Sharpy.

On the way home I grabbed a Chinese takeaway and a bottle of wine. I still made it for the last 20 mins of the rugby, which England won. Even QPR had managed a victory which is rarer than a Penduline Tits teeth lately. Every now and then you get a day where everything just falls into place and this had been one of them.