posted in: Gloucestershire, Wild animals | 0

I went on a day trip to the Forest of Dean today with Naturetrek. This was the first outing I’ve done with this company, but I’m sure it won’t be the last, because even though the weather was hateful for quite large parts of the day the guide, Oliver Smart, remained upbeat and engaging throughout, and found us some excellent wildlife. As well as seeing what you might call the usual forest suspects, my bird list for the year expanded by eight species: Pied Flycatcher, Redstart, Firecrest, Greenfinch, Mandarin Duck, Dipper, Crossbill and Willow Warbler, several of which I’d never seen before, and though we failed to find either the Hawfinches or Goshawks which were also on Oliver’s target list for the day, at least I now have a good idea where in Gloucestershire to look for them.

We began the day at RSPB Nagshead, a site I’ve only visited once before and have been trying to erase from my memory ever since, but which today provided good birds despite the almost constant rain, including (eventually) a confident and confiding Firecrest. I managed a few photos of the Firecrest, but they’re so bad that no-one other than my long-suffering life partner will ever have to see them. Then we went to Parkhead and stood under some dripping yew trees for a couple of days, failing to see any Hawfinches, before swinging up to Cannop Ponds, where Oliver’s desperate screech had me looking up from the Mandarin Ducks just in time to see a Dipper zooming away along the water.

Lunch was a picnic stop at New Fancy, which only the truly hardy spent outside while the rest of us skulked in our cars, after which we climbed to the viewpoint and spent a while gazing out over the top of the forest. Even in grim weather this was a surprisingly meditative experience, and on a nice day I expect it would be charming. The final stop of the day was at Woorgreens Lake and Crabtree Hill, and it was while we were walking around the Crabtree heathland that I was treated to my first ever sighting (quickly followed by a second, third and fourth) of Wild Boar.

I make absolutely no claims for either of these photos beyond the fact that they memorialise this event, but even though I was so intent on the sow and her humbug boarlet that I totally failed to notice the sapling in the foreground, there was no way I could take these shots and then post the Mandarin Duck I’d been expecting to use for today’s journal. Another day I’ll try very hard to get better images, but for today – that’ll do, pig. That’ll do.

Moving swiftly on, this evening I’ve been watching Britain’s Biggest Dig (three episodes, on BBC2 and iPlayer), which I strongly recommend. It’s about the excavation of two massive Georgian and Victorian burial grounds to make way for the London and Birmingham termini of HS2, with a lot of personal and social history thrown in, and it’s absolutely fascinating.