Saturday, 29 March 2008

Forest of Dean - Hawfinch trio

With an alpine plant show beckoning in Exeter on the Saturday,I had planned an overnight stop, so there was the chance of a bird or two as I travelled down on the Friday?

As ever, the route planned to take in birds rather than direct travel and I found myself heading for the Forest of Dean; Brierley to be precise and a long awaited bird encounter - Hawfinch! OK, some might regard this in lifetime terms a bit of a 'tarts tick' but as the chance of finding one within Shropshire is pretty remote and I'd only ever gone looking for them once before (at dusk!!) - that's my excuse! They are normally not birds you 'chance upon' - whatever, this tick was long overdue and certainly not one to be guaranteed.

The omens weren't good either, horizontal torrential rain for most of the journey and then would you believe as I parked the car - the rain stopped and the sun came out!! (Lucky Jim indeed). I'd done my homework - take the track opposite the garage in the village and park near the turning circle, the birds can be anywhere off the track near here.....

For Hawfinch - take the track opposite this garage.....

I'd walked the track, quietly watched/listened in some of the leaf strewn glades, all to no avail for about 30 minutes. Then, a loud series of 'tics' caught my attention - not having encountered Hawfinch before, I wasn't tuned in to their call - I am now!! Looking high in the canopy, there was the unmistakable silhouette (wow - that bill!) of three birds. They flew off but I could see where they landed - again high up but I found a sort of clear view through the branches to at least grab a record shot. OK, no close ups of magazine quality but there were three of them and at this precise moment - they were mine!

For anyone thinking of going, Hawfinch aren't absolutely guaranteed but they are seen with regularity at this site. I found them approx 60 metres walking up the track from the garage on the right hand side but they are obviously flighty and could be found anywhere in this general area!

After a couple of impromptu stops elsewhere in the forest, picking up a few other woodland species, my attention turned back to the journey South. I was after a 'Great White', no not of the 'Jaws' variety although it's bill is pretty impressive, this was hopefully the Meare Heath Great White Egret..........

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