Last Sunday after all remembering to put the clocks forward the two Martins and myself started out nice and early for our annually trip to the Forest of Dean. Driving along the M4 we were treated to a beautiful sunrise, so nice to see after such drab weather recently.
Our first port of call was Crabtree Hill for our annual dip on the Great Grey Shrike there. However the birding gods were looking down on us as we soon picked the bird up perched on top of a larch. It then flew up into a larger tree where I managed to get a distant record shot. As we were standing there looking at the Shrike we had a surprise when a female Merlin cruised past us and disappeared over the horizon, another year tick for me having missed the bird the other two had seen on our January 2nd day out.
Martin Bevan who had been wanting a coffee for awhile decided this was the place and found a suitable tree stump and plonked himself down. Rucksack off his back and quickly open and then those unforgettable words "I've left my flask on the worktop", queue lots of laughter. Luckily I had a full flask.
We decided to move on and has we got near the car park the other two heard a Crest calling which did not sound quite right for Goldcrest and sure enough when located it was a gorgeous Firecrest showing well in the early morning sunlight.
This stop had one more highlight when Mr Bevan tried to get in the wrong car !!!
Cannop Ponds was our next destination for Mr Bell to get Mandarin for the year and hopefully March Tit. Only 7 Mandarins were seen and unfortunately no food in the feeders and therefore no Marsh Tit.
Hawfinch was next on the menu so I drove to the cricket ground at Parkend and had a pleasant surprise in that there was no cars parked there. Mr Bevan got out and put some seed down in an appropriate place and we sat in the car waiting. Not long after a female Hawfinch came down briefly with a Great Tit but stayed away from the afore mentioned seed. It soon appeared again a few yards down giving longer views and was eventually joined by two others. Much to Martin's chagrin a sheep and her lamb came over and ate all of the seed. Oops.
Nag's Head was close so we decided to try for another annual dip in Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and this time we duly obliged. I did manage another year tick here in Goshawk. I must get out more locally. 3 more Mandarins out of the lower hide.
Goldcliff on the way home sounded good and this turned out quite productive for more year ticks. The Spoonbill showed well feeding, Mr Bell was suitably impressed with this has he reckons they only ever sleep. 7 Little Ringed Plover feeding out in the sunlight was another highlight. Year ticks also included more common stuff as Greenshank, Spotted Redshank and Avocet.
Another good day out with some great birds, good weather for a change and of course a few laughs.