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Forest of Dean day trip, 23 January 2010

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

Crossbills, Forest of Dean 23 January 2010 MJMcGill 111

Some distant Hawfinches at New Fancy View

Hawfinches, Forest of Dean 23 January 2010 MJMcGill 008

Hawfinches, Forest of Dean 23 January 2010 MJMcGill 015

Filed under: Trip Reports


at 8:24 pm

1-31 January 2010 blog and sightings

Ring-necked Duck, WWT Slimbridge, South Lake, MJMcGill

31 January 2010 At WWT South Lake the birding was very good today. I checked ut a report of a strange duck that was seen by John Budd and it turned out to be a female/immature Ring-necked Duck. It was 5.00pm and getting dark. A Smew, Ruddy Duck and Goldeneye were also present as was a White-fronted Goose and earlier in the day a Pink-footed Goose.



26 January 2010 A nice surpise to see a Pink-footed Goose in with 356 E. White-fronted Geese at WWT today. The Goldeneye was still showing very well at times in front of the Peng obs.

Pink-footed Goose bottom left bird in the Bottom New Piece

Pink-footed Goose 26 January 2010 WWT MJMcGill 010

24-25 January 2010 Back at WWT with some quality birding with the winter flocks and the Canada Goose showing characters of Todd’s remains among the Canada flock. A redhead Smew and the Bittern were both seen at WWT today.

Crossbills at Brierley

Crossbills, Forest of Dean 23 January 2010 MJMcGill 002

23 January 2010 A day out to the Forest of Dean guiding an Anser Birding group. We had good views of Hawfinches, Crossbills, Goshawk and lots of other birds, I will post a short trip report on the relevant page (trip reports).

A ‘White-headed’ Dunlin, WWT Tack Piece.

White-headed Dunlin 17 January 2010 MJMcGill 011

22nd January 2010 My local Skylarks have returned, numbering c50, last Sunday and Monday saw a passage of Skylark over WWT all heading N or NE. I have heard that a similar movement was noted at Aylburton, Lydney and Walmore Common on the same days and involving hundreds of birds. Also added Reed Bunting to my local patch list, one was with 5 Yellowhammers near my home.

18-21 January 2010 As 17-18th.

17-18 January 2010 At WWT the thaw has let many birds back into the area, the Canada Goose showing characteristics of Todd’s was still showing well on the Rushy today and yesterday at the feed. It flies onto the Dumbles with the flock of 410 Canada’s. The female Goldeneye was still here also. Two Bitterns remain on the reserve, I managed some decent pics today in the sun. I will upload them when I can.

16 January 2010 No birding today.

15 January 2010 No birding today.

14 January 2010 Again the  goose that shows features of Branta candensis interior  or Todd’s Canada was on the Rushy this morning. The female Goldeneye was also present. I was delighted to see two Woodcock at the South Finger reedbed this morning.  Andy Jayne saw three Red-crested Pochard on the canal at Splatt and also had 5 Whooper Swans near Lydney the day before so it proves there are plenty of birds moving about.

13 January 2010
Watch BBC2 at 8.00pm tonight for Snow Watch featuring WWT Slimbridge.

Bird of the day at WWT was a Canada Goose as found by JSL which shows features of Branta candensis interior  or Todd’s Canada.

12 January 2010 Mike Youdale and I saw a female Merlin on the Dumbles, lots of wildfowl around the ‘water holes’ of South Lake and the Rushy.

11 January 2010 A female Goldeneye has been on the Rushy the last couple of days but a male Red-crested Pochard was a bonus, the regular female Red-crested Pochard x Mallard hybrid was also still present.

10 January 2010 I spent the day with the BBC at WWT Slimbridge trying to get footage of birds in the snow. We did manage to get some results and the programme goes out on Wednesday night at 8.00pm (I think). As a result I did not get a chance to have a good look around.

At least 116 Red-crested Pochard were reported around the country today as far East as the Ouse in Cambs (29 seen) and Cliffe in Kent (7 seen) but 2 had reached Helston/Marazion in Cornwall.

Four Red-crested Pochard were at Frampton today, I did see a couple here last winter but they are uncommon in our area and fairly common in the Cotwold Water Park. Studying the movements of these birds today shows reports of 14 at Cheddar Reservoir, Somerset, one in Devon, four in Hampshire at coastal sites. In the Midlands 25 were in Northants, 2 Berks and 5 in Beds with one as far west as Pembrokeshire. Are these the Wilts/Glos CWP population dispersing or genuine immigrants? Any counts from CWP should reveal what is happening. Ex Gloucestershire county recorder Andy Jayne brought up a very good point last night, where are the Red-necked Grebes? we normally see an influx in such a winter.

Red-crested Pochard, Frampton Pools 9 January 2010 MJMcGill

9 January 2010 A walk around Frampton Court Lakes footpaths revealed c50 Redwing feeding in snow free patches and 2 Siskin, on the Court Lake c800 birds held a Ruddy Duck and 4 Red-crested Pochard plus c8 Little Grebe and 4 Great Crested Grebe.

Sleeping Ruddy Duck

Ruddy Duck, Frampton Pools 9 January 2010 MJMcGill

8 January 2010 Still lots of birds visiting the garden, perhaps 150 or more. Great spotted Woodpecker and male Blackcap and c5 Fieldfare among them.

A phantom view of Bittern

Bittern, WWT 7 January 2010 MJMcGill 001

7 January 2010 A very very cold night and day for the birds. On South Lake I saw a female and first winter male Smew and also on the reserve at WWT at least two Bitterns. A selection of images from the stunningly beautiful day at the trust.

Blue Tit and bullrushLumix 7 January 2010 MJMcGill

Frozen saltmarsh Lumix 7 January 2010 MJMcGill

Cetti’s Warbler, a sad casualty of the big freeze…

Cetti's Warbler (died due to cold and starvation) 7 January 2010 MJMcGill

Meadow Pipit in the snow 7 January 2010 MJMcGill

Bewick's Swans return from Severn 7 January 2010 MJMcGill

6 January 2010 The heavy snow has brought many more birds into my garden, I have placed halved apples everywhere to create an orchard and this has brought in up to 20 Fieldfare and a new female Blackcap. I have 30 Chaffinch as other feeding sites may be covered with snow. The water has also been popular but needs changing regularly. Common and Black-headed Gull and Magpie are also on the ground in the garden which is unusual. At WWT 300+ Bewick’s Swans are on the Rushy, a good count.

5 January 2010 At WWT Slimbridge the freezing conditions and eventually today, snow has concentrated the birds. A female Smew, probably an adult, female Goldeneye and a male Ruddy Duck could be see with 32 Ruff (probably a winter record), 60 Gadwall and 237 Shelduck, a count of Tufted Duck revealed 666 on site! The Bittern showed at the Zeiss Hide again today.

Smew, female, probably adult MJM
It lacks the black mask that always seems to be apparent on first winter males and any white in the plumage other than what shows on adult females. The white cheek area is not extensive as I have seen in first winter males.

Smew, WWT South Lake, 5 January 2010 MJM

Smew WWT South Lake, 5 January 2010 001

4 January 2010 After ringing 49 duck in the morning (13 in the evening) I re-checked out reports of a swan stuck in ice to find it had freed itself despite leaving many feathers behind. I did see a Bittern, 3 Water Rail, 900 Teal, 4 Snipe, 2 Jack Snipe, a Rock and Water Pipit whilst around the North end of the reserve.

1-3 January 2010 No birding during the first couple of days of the year but back at WWT on 3rd a few birds were on show.

Blue Tit at the end of 2009 MJM

Blue Tit and Bullrush 2009 MJMcGill

Filed under: Birdwatching Diary


at 1:46 pm

North-west Slovenia 17-20 December 2009 (with notes from November 2002)

North-west Slovenia 17-20 December 2009 Martin J McGill
A trip report with some birding  and notes based on two visits.

The above is a link to the gallery

I visited North west and Southern Slovenia in early November 2002 with three friends, Phil Tovey, Jeremy Squire and Nige Warren, flying into Trieste, Italy where we visited a wetland reserve and then crossing the border and staying in Bled for a few nights and then Ljubjlana for one night. We were on a birding trip but also tasting local beers and enjoying the country. I was intrigued by the travel tales of Phil Tovey in Slovenia and just had to go, the birds were a bonus. Phil guided us around a variety of scenic sites as he had been shown some good birding areas on previous visits by DOPPS staff (Birdlife Slovenia partner).

I was so impressed by this visit I wanted to return again hence me bringing my family to see the area around Bled especially. On the visit with the lads we did well for birds and the weather was fine, we enjoyed fairly warm and settled conditions. I cannot publish where we saw many birds showing discretion as was promised to DOPPS and I have since forgotten where some things were, this was a trip I did not organise this trip for a change and it was a luxury to sit back and enjoy.

We did see the following highlights in November 2002…..

Grey headed (flew past the car) and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker just outside Bled, on the road to Vintgar Gorge/Pokljuka.
Black Woodpecker-one was seen by JS and NW.
Nutcrackers-a distant view of one initially in the deep forest on a clearing edge and lots of close views of them still collecting nuts etc around the Pokljuka villages. This was only the second time I had seen this species after a very distant view of one many years ago in the Alps, found by Richard Hearn.
Hazlehen-a rufous toned bird showed outrageously well in a Rowan for a long period, amazing I spotted it after waking up from a nap as we were driving along, the beer tasting the night before had taken it out of me. It was along a forest track in Pokljuka and was a lifer for all.
Wallcreeper-at least four on a rock wall in the Karst region near Koper, we also noted Rock Bunting here.
Black-throated Diver and a first winter Little Gull (found by Jubsy) on Lake Bled, Hawfinches in the park by the town.

For a birding family trip or for some extra notes the following report may be of interest but this was not a birding trip!.

16 December 2009

We set off from Gloucestershire after the Christingle that my son was singing in for his school had finished (at Standish Church). A very wet drive made it hard going and a coffee/fuel stop and three hours later we found ourselves spending the night in the Travelodge near Stansted Airport (£19.00 for a family room pre booked deal but note £3.00 parking charge).

17 December 2009
 I found it hard to sleep after a large coffee but managed a few hours until we rose at 0500 to get to the airport. We flew with easyjet (45 minute delay-no pilot!), our new pilot got us there 40 minutes late but it was a 1.50hr journey, the cabin crew were very helpful and cheery. Everything at Brink (Ljubljana) airport was well organised and ran smoothly, all our bags present and correct and quick through customs. Hired a car with Holiday Autos/Budget Slovenia and was met by a very helpful and polite chap who set us up very quickly, we were on the road and arriving in Bled by 1330.

The Alps

The Alps from Easyjet  17 December 2009 MJMcGill

As we left the airport, it had snowed recently and we began seeing Hooded Crows and Buzzards along the roadside. At Bled we found our accommodation and was once again helped by the staff to settle in-no worries. I chose to stay at the Penzion/Hostel Bledec  again where we chose a room with a view, unpacked and had a great cheese omelette and fries for lunch. The menu here is good for vegetarians (three evening meals with different and interesting veggie options, three courses, it is possible to eat here as a non-resident). Looking at menus around the town of Bled it was clear that a varied selection of international food was on offer all with veggie options but the Slovene food is very good with many interesting things to try as long as you can find a menu in your chosen language. We had no problem with this. Even Llubjana (Brnik) Airport had a great selection of veggie grub!

After our first meal of the day we went for a walk around the village and lake, Nuthatches were calling from the trees along the parkland/lakeside walk with one very showy bird near the Roast Chestnut seller! Robin, Blackbird and Wren was noted along with 4 Cormorant, a male Pochard, c20 Shoveler, 2 Little Grebe, Mute Swans and flocks of Coot on Lake Bled. Coal and Marsh Tits were found in a few spots with Goldcrest, more Nuthatch and 2 Raven over the castle. Some of the garden feeders in the village held Great and Marsh Tits.

18 December 2009

We rose early, had a good continental breakfast and popped into Bled Town. I spent half an hour watching the ‘Black’ Red Squirrels under the trees next to Lake Bled before heading for Kranska Gora via Vintgar Gorge. A walk into the gorge was again very nice, I did the whole route even crossing the sections of boardwalk with missing boards when visiting with the lads but just went to the first bridge this time to see the crystal clear water, rapids and cauldrons of water. Not a good place to listen to birds as the waterfalls and crashing water are so loud but worth it for the scenery. I must point out that it was closed for the winter both times I visited. Near the weir and bridge back on the road we did see a Grey Heron and watched a Black-bellied Dipper feeding and swimming under the crystal clear water for a long time before flying off down the river.

Red Squirrel, Bled Park

'Black' Red Squirrel, Slovenia, Bled  17-20 December 2009 MJMcGill

Dipper, Vintgar Gorge

Dipper, Vintgar Gorge, Slovenia 002

Dipper, Vintgar Gorge, Slovenia 001

We saw Buzzards and Hooded Crows in many places and saw that the Kranskja Gora municipality sign features a Black Grouse. On arriving at Kranskja I immediately found c60 Alpine Chough scavenging around the bins next to the main road. We drove about the town a bit and then headed for Planica where the world record ski jump is held and they were busy working on the jumps for March when the next competition is held. A Slovene had held the record (226m) but it is currently a Norwegian that holds it at 239m in 2005. A few Crossbills and Nuthatches were seen but mainly Coal Tits. The ridge between here and Kranskja has Three-toed Woodpecker but I had not time to try besides the ski lift was not operational today so a long climb would be needed. We had a coffee/hot choc in the cafe and then went back to the main road where we decided to drive into Italy for lunch. In the town of Cave at least 30 Alpine Chough were on the rooftops. We headed back into Slovenia via the Predil Pass and wanted to drive up to Mt Mangart. I was disappointed to find the road snowed up and impassable by the VW Polo I had on hire and did not have the time or inclination to fit the snow chains, the road was closed anyway. This is where Snowfinch can be seen and I hoped to get some images of them. We carried on a route through the spectacular Triglav National Park and returned to Kranskja Gora via the Vrsic pass. This was snowed up but the road was still clear. I stopped a couple of times to listen and look for birds but apart from 100 Siskin it was deadly quiet, Slovenia is very quiet in the mountains and forests and to prove this point I could hear the wingbeats of a pair of circling Raven. At the pass I stopped at the spot I had been with the lads before but apart from stupendous scenery only 6 Fieldfare migrating through the pass. We passed through Fusine, s of Tarvisio, Cave, Lake Robaljska in Italy then Strmec, Log Pod Mangartom, Kluze Fortress, Kal, Soca, Trenta, Alinium Julijana and the Vrsic pass in Slovenia on this route.

Alpine Chough, Cave, Italy

Alpine Chough, Cave, Italy 18 December 2009 MJMcGill 082

Triglav is the only national park in Slovenia and covers 4% of Slovenia. It is 48% forest, has high mountain peaks and deep glacial valleys, 23% alpine meadows and 19% of it is above the tree line (per Important Bird Areas of Slovenia, DOPPS, Birdlife International, 2000). It holds important populations of Alpine Accentor, Wallcreeper, Alpine Chough, Snowfinch and has Black Grouse, Ptarmigan, Golden Eagle, Rock Thrush and for me the mythical Rock Partridge (more effort needed after failing in Slovenia, Greece and France but only small attempts to find one).

We headed back home after eating a Kremna Rezina cake in KG and found out Sledge hire prices etc (5 euros a day).  A good meal at Penzion Bledec and a wander around Bled including a visit to one of the great pubs ended the day with pint of Union.

Kremna Rezina cake, Slovenia, Kranskja Gora 17-20 December 2009 MJMcGill

19 December 2009
We awoke to find a deep layer of snow in Bled and it was falling heavily. I wandered out around the lake and back to the accommodation noting a few birds, I was followed by a Robin that fed on any bit of ground I scuffed up. The finches, tits and Nuthatches were all looking pretty glum in these conditions. I saw and heard a Crested Tit and Great-spotted Woodpecker on this little wander.

Robin, Bled, Slovenia 001

After clearing the snow we tentatively headed back to Kranskja Gora to go sledging, the road conditions were bad but the snow ploughs and gritters had made it passable. It was the opening day of the skiing season and was free to everyone. News crews were covering the story and it was busy with snow lovers. Around the town of Kranskja Gora there were c120 Alpine Chough, they were stripping the berries from the trees at head height but were still slightly nervous. The two tallest deciduous trees in town were a favoured lookout for them. One of these trees is next to the church and the other near the tourist office. Otherwise they sat on the rooftops of the hotels and buildings waiting for a feeding opportunity. Their distinctive calls were everywhere as they flew around the town. A few Hooded Crows were also perched up and a party of 20 worked over a pile of something between the town and the road. A did see a Jay fly over and a Fieldfare ate rowans near the slopes. The chairlift was working but I had no time to use it to explore the ridge west of Ciprnik, besides the weather was bad for birding and good for sledging.

Alpine Choughs, Kranskja Gora

Alpone Chough, Slovenia, Kranska Gora 18 December 2009 MJMcGill 114

Slovenia, Kranskja Gora Alpine Choughs, 19 December 2009 MJMcGill

After doing what we had to do I had another look at the Alpine Choughs including a flock of c40 wheeling above the slopes and headed for Austria for lunch. We drove through the 7.8 km Karawanken Tunnel (6.50 euros each way) through the mountain and stopped for a coffee and then had a look at the Faakersee lake. Great Crested and Little Grebe could be seen along with Coot, Mallards, a male Pintail, Kestrel, Tree Sparrows and a large number of Blackbird. The snow was deeper and falling heavier in Austria so we decided to go back into Slovenia where it was sunny and clear. Part of our plan for the day was to go ice skating, a first for both my children. As the Bled rink is open daily from 1630-1800 we did just that. A spell in the toy shops ended a perfect day for them and we went back for another good dinner and for me, a bottle of Lasko beer, it has a Chamois on the green label, another local beer is called Union.

Austria,  19 December 2009 MJMcGill

20 December 2009
Our last morning in Bled found us waking to a brilliant sunrise which led to a sunny day. Everywhere the scenery and snow was outstanding so I went for a drive, as soon as I left Bled four Roe Deer ran across the fields and I had to stop to allow them to run in front of me and into the woods. I carried on initially trying to get onto the Pokljuka plateau to look for Nutcracker and woodpeckers but the icy mountain road made me turn back and descend. I had snow tyres but no studs and it was no quite snow chain conditions despite having them with the hire car.  I drove to the Bled railway station and took pictures of the lake from various spots. Meeting back up with the family we packed and went up to Bled Castle (Bledski Grad) where a male Crossbill was singing and chasing a female. A pair of Raven flew around below us cronking and Mistle Thrush was defending mistletoe. The castle gave superb views. 

Chaffinch, Bled Castle

Chaffinch, Slovenia, Bled  20 December 2009

Raven, Bled Castle

Raven, Slovenia, Bled  20 December 2009 MJMcGill 273

Looking at the snow I thought it would be impossible to do the drive we did on our second day, the snow was unusual for the time of year at this lower elevation but welcome for us. It did mean I could not re-see some favoured birds but I was not here for that anyway and had a great time in this fantastic place again. I will be going back, perhaps a summer visit with dragonflies in mind. The last bird I saw was a Tree Sparrow on the bushes outside the airport terminal.

Martin J McGill

Filed under: Trip Reports


at 12:17 pm