Forest of Dean, 14 December 2013

I was pleased to have a group of seven birders in my company, we set off at the arranged time of 0800. There was lots of talk of Two barred Crossbills in the car so I thought it best to begin the day on the Serridge Ridge near Brierley. They had been showing here on occasion during the week with up to 17 present. Out of the blue on nearing the destination on the last big hill my car went into limp mode (dropping speed and power). I continued to Brierley where I had to make arrangements for assistance from the RAC. The group set off up the hill to the ridge with me catching up after making the call. As with the previous week Brambling were present in numbers among the Chaffinches in the beech mast. Coalt Tit were all vocal as they harvested the same bounty. A Treecreeper played hide and seek as it moved from trunk to trunk. Looking for the target birds we heard Common Crossbills and Nuthatches calling with lots of frustrating flyover parties of the former. These birds simply disappeared into the dense plantation. I had to head back to the car to meet the RAC to get a diagnosis.

Nothing came up as faulty on the car computer and re-starting it showed that the engine light was now not lighting up. No chance of pinpointing it this time. I started the car, drove to the garage and filled it to the brim just in case it was fuel related. Parking up I set off to join the group again who were making their way back to me, sadly the Two barred Crossbills never showed whilst we were present but appeared later in the day. Meanwhile I waited and heard Hawfinches calling so investigated where it came from. Two Crossbill flew out of the wood calling along with c40 more birds. This looked good…I walked slowly along the track and located 10 Hawfinch on the treetops. These birds were enjoying the scant sunshine on offer taking the chance to preen. The group eventually caught up with me and I spent the nest half hour trying to get the birds in scope view for all, one at a time various views were gained.

It soon transpired that there was a large flock and the birds were moving about in the canopy and across the track. I counted them as they crossed back, two flocks passed low over in a short space of time which made up a total of 47. At least 4 were still calling from the larches and skipping through the branches. A minimum of 51 Hawfinches! It was brilliant to see so many, perhaps an invasion year for this species as well as the Crossbills.

A pair of Raven cronked and crossed the track giving glimpses, a Marsh Tit called deep in the wood as it and a couple of Goldcrest showed near the car. On taking the advice of the RAC chap I decided to head straight home from this point. It meant ending the morning half an hour earlier than planned but with the lure of a Desert Wheatear at Severn Beach it seemed to go down well. The journey home went without any problem and the fault has not re-surfaced, on various advice seems to be the Air flow meter. It is not a great time of year to be bothering mechanics as things are closing down for Christmas, I will get it replaced. Thanks to the group for their patience and understanding on the day, I was not going to charge but appreciated the ‘cover the fuel’ gesture from everyone. I will be repeating this outing in January to give it another go.

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