We left Whitminster at 0900 and arrived in the Forest at 0940. We were a small group of which two were rather keen on seeing Crossbill and Hawfinch as they were lifers. I was joined by Neil Smart who helped me with locating the birds and we headed for Brierley first. Soon after leaving the car we were watching 5 Crossbill atop the trees and scoped them in the sun. We spent about two hours quietly exploring the plantations and trackways and had some great birding. Crossbills were flying over in small parties of 4-20 regularly during the whole time we were here, our final flock numbered c50 and 10 allowed scope studying views as they stripped layers of bud from the tips of the trees. A Goldcrest fed close by proving that some survived the cold. Also in the area were 30 Siskin which we scoped and a Redpoll that Neil saw only in the same flock. At least 3 Redpoll flew over as silouhettes. After following the stream back toward the car we found a mega flock of tits. About 50-60 Coal Tit, 20 Blue Tit, 6 Great Tit, 10 Long-tailed Tit with 2 Great spotted Woodpecker (we saw 5 in this area), 2 Nuthatch, 3 Goldcrest, c40 Siskin, 3 Redpoll, 4 Treecreeper and 1-2 Willow Tit (only MJM saw the latter) fed in a roaming flock that we kept up with until they veered off into dense woodland. Mistle Thrush, Chaffinch and Greenfinch were all heard singing. A Fieldfare and Marsh Tit were seen back near the car.
A short transfer to the Speech House area and I located a Hawfinch immediately, soon after 3 were seen feeding on the ground and then 5 nearby. Finally 3 showed well on the ground to all of us and then perched in the trees undisturbed. We all got scope views of these handsome birds.
Next stop was the Cannop Valley, it was good to see 4 Mandarin as I thought they were all frozen out, I had heard that 60 were in Worcs on a reservoir near the Severn and wondered if the Forest of Dean birds had moved out in the worst of the cold weather. 4 Little Grebe and 4 Tufted Duck joined a Greylag. The stream levels were very high so we did not find Dipper or Grey Wagtail here or at another site in Parkend.
A visit to New Fancy View was well worth it, it was still and quiet with few birds but we did manage to see a Goshawk that Neil located and a party of 4 Hawfinch that sat atop the pines in full view for 20 minutes, they were not as close as the birds earlier in the day but made up for it with their prolonged appearance. We popped in to Woorgreens Lake but it was still frozen over still so we finished for the day arriving back at 1600.
A decent set of birds with quality views being most important today.
Martin J McGill
Crossbills at Brierley
Some distant Hawfinches at New Fancy View