We had a new motor and I had a day off on Tuesday because of a delay at work, a reasonable excuse then to go out for the day. Slimbridge WWT always offers good and easy birding and we hadn't been there for a while so thought that would make a decent destination. There was also the added attraction of a rare Goose to go for that had been found near Gloucester a couple of days before.
We left late so got caught out a bit by the traffic and didn't arrive at Slimbridge until 10 o'clock. Before we'd even found an isolated parking spot where we felt the car would be safe and remain unblemished, you know how it is when you have something new and shiny and our last car picked up a door dent first time out at Minsmere, we'd seen a Crane in one of the fields by the entrance road. We geared up, flashed our membership card, ignored all the good advice offered by the staff as usual and headed straight out to the South Lake. I was hoping to add a Cattle Egret to the year list since one had recently been seen on several occasions resting on the spit in front of the Discovery Hide. A quick scan revealed, of course, that the Cattle Egret was elsewhere this morning, probably hiding around the corner somewhere and waiting for us to leave. I half expected to see a sign announcing that, "I've gone fishing, will be back when the Caley's have left". There were some year list additions on offer though with Shelduck, Avocet and Oystercatchers all showing well enough.
|Black-tailed Godwit flock|
|Lesser White-fronted Goose, from the captive collection|
|"Sedge" the Common Crane|
|Eider, from the captive collection|
|drake Mandarin Duck|
Last stop of the day was made at Ashleworth Ham where a Tundra Bean Goose had been hanging out with the resident flock of Greylags. But we were there so the Bean Goose wasn't. When will our luck ever change for the better?
Once a year, at least, we make our way to the Forest of Dean area for a Goshawk fix. There are Goshawks in Oxfordshire but they can be very tricky to observe and are far from guaranteed. So in order to be almost assured of seeing some, Symond's Yat on the Gloucestershire and Herefordshire border is one of the best places to go. Symond's Yat Rock is also famous as being a breeding spot for Peregrine Falcons as well as being an immensely popular tourist attraction because of the views over the Wye Valley. The rock towers above the river far below and offers an elevated viewpoint over wooded areas in every direction. Many birds of prey species display over the woodlands. At ten o'clock in the morning it's still quiet so you get the viewpoint pretty much to yourself even still on this morning we were surprised to find that we had it entirely to ourselves and there were no other birders present. Of course that meant that we'd have to spot and identify the Goshawks ourselves! The weather was fine and sunny which is perfect for soaring and displaying birds of prey so we were confident that we could change our recent run of poor luck in finding our target birds.
A quick scan of the wooded hillside to the south revealed that the male Peregrine was present, perched on almost exactly the same tree branch as the year before. Photographing the bird was a waste of time though owing to the sun that shone directly at us.
Soon some Buzzards took to the air but none morphed into Goshawks despite much study from me. At one time there were at least ten Buzzards flying in front of us, some distant and high up but others were more obliging and flew below the viewpoint and thus offered up different angles than the normal.
After the Goshawk had soared around for a few minutes it decided to travel quickly westwards with some serious intent. I legged it over to the other side of the viewpoint and watched it fly powerfully and low over the woods and past houses on the hillside. Unfortunately still distant from the viewpoint and I wondered how fantastic it would be to be looking out of one of those houses as the Goshawk flew past. But hey, we were just delighted to have seen our target bird for the day. That made a nice change!
The viewpoint was becoming busy with sightseers and they were proving to be an irritation to us. We were interrupted more than a few times, "What are you looking for?" was ok and I'm always happy to share but when we got asked more than once if we could "Take a photo of us please" then I began to get annoyed. I mean, couldn't they see we were busy? You can't afford to take your eyes off the skies when looking for Goshawks. Despite my increasing infuriation we decided to stick it out until midday in the hope of better views but there was no further sign of Goshawks although we did see a Peregrine flying like an airborne torpedo and added Ravens to the day list.
After lunch we made a quick recce to Cannop Ponds to see the local Mandarin Ducks which could definitely be counted despite their original introduced status. The drakes were very much involved into sorting the pecking order out and were busy fighting amongst themselves and chasing the females for a bit more than pecking. There isn't much in the UK birding world that is as handsome as a drake Mandarin even if he looks more than a bit gaudy.