Saturday 30th May and another dawn start. This time we were heading west to the Forest Of Dean for RSPB Nagshead. Tales of Wild Boar, Goshawks and Flycatchers tempted us on another adventure beyond the patch. We arrived just before ten, after a lovely ten minute drive through the shivelit lanes of the forest. We set off on the first of the Nagshead trails, the short trail, and within a few minutes had a Sparrowhawk quietly glide over our heads. As we made our way on the path to the Lower Hide Song Thrushes were the overwhelming song we could hear as at least two birds ran through their full routine of calls, chirrups, whirrs and whees.
Breaking the Song Thrush symphony though was a single Garden Warbler. Cunningly placed between twigs, branches and leaves it proved a difficult photo to get and this really only stands as a record shot.
It was however our first confirmed Garden Warbler of the year and a good way to start our Nagshead exploration. Also making the most of some mid-morning warmth were a number of Common Lizards.
We met a few local visitors on the short trail, and they were friendly, informative and enthusiastic about the area. An off-duty volunteer pointed out this sign of Wild Boar activity and explained to us that although not impossible, we would be unlikely to see the porcine protagonists. They are largely crepuscular and therefore best chances would be at first and last light.
We also noted that many of the trees in the forest had nest boxes attached. As a result, our walk to the Lower Hide was criss-crossed with Blue and Great Tits aplenty. The pond at the Lower Hide was home to a single female Mandarin Duck and her lone chick.
Local birders told us that Mandarins had been breeding at Nagshead for some time now and had become a regular feature. The single chick the female was marshalling around the pond would suggest that the remainder of the clutch had been predated at some stage.
From the hide, a leisurely stroll through the immediate forest brought us Treecreeper and Nuthatch both making the most of the long exposed trunks of the trees. All too fast and mobile for my hamfisted camera handling though! We also just missed a male Pied Flycatcher too according to a fellow birder. Luck was cursed but we had plenty of time to change that. We passed by the pond in the Nursery Meadow and I did manage a quick snap of this passing dragonfly. I believe this is a Four-Spotted Chaser.
We then returned back to the visitor centre to take the Long Trail. Stopping off at the Campbell Hide where we were told we had yet again just missed a Pied Flycatcher. This was becoming something of a habit now! We finally broke our Pied Flycatcher duck just outside the Campbell Hide as we watched a male and female making regular sorties to and from a nest box.
Mrs Pied Flycatcher
Mr Pied Flycatcher
I will admit to having a very soft spot for Pied Flycatchers. We were lucky enough to briefly have one on our own patch at Cranford Park back in 2013. Our Nagshead male even posed briefly on a branch, watching us as much as we watched him it seems. Super birds in every way.
With the sun on our backs and mild, cool breeze, conditions were perfect for us to continue along the Long Trail. At times it felt like we were the only people around. Only occasionally did anyone else appear as we made our way around. Sightings continued – Chiffchaff, more Song Thrush, Great Spotted Woodpeckers and one Marsh / Willow Tit. Non-bird life was also seen, a small party of Fallow Deer briefly broke cover near us and we were constantly on the look out for a glimpse of Wild Boar. No luck on the that front however but we did find these Green Tiger Beetles sharing a tender moment.
A few steps on from leaving the emerald Green Tiger Beetles, we found something altogether more puzzling. Nestled at the side of the path on the Long Trail was this skull. We assume it is a skull anyway.
So far we have been unable to identify the species though. The RPSB volunteer at the visitor centre was un-sure and it didn’t match any of the other mammal skulls on show. If any animal pathologists out there are able to help us identify these remains please leave a comment.
Having missed out on Pied Flycatchers earlier in the day, we were now festooned with the black and white beauties. It seemed as if there was one zipping between the trees every five or ten minutes. Pictures were at a bit of a premium though as they rarely stayed motionless for too long.
Towards the end of the Long Trail we were also lucky enough to “spot” the UK’s other flycatcher, the Spotted Flycatcher. This one was quite still but remained in the shadow of the trees it was perched in. Another record shot though and another new bird for our year.
Also added to our year list was a gronking Raven, which made a fleeting fly-past over our heads as we neared the end of the Long Trail. We returned back to the Short Trail and the Lower Hide as two random sightings of Redstarts had been logged on the sightings board. Hoping that our Pied Flycatcher luck would transfer to Redstarts was probably a little too optimistic though. The trees on the Short Trail were very busy with the Blue and Great Tits still and Mrs Sausage spotted four Nuthatches at the upper levels. A last pause in the Nursery Meadow brought us a family of ducks. The female is apparently a Mallard / Farmyard hybrid which explains how we had some difficulty identifying her at the time.
With that, our six and bit hours were up. The weather forecast was for a heavy downpour late afternoon / early evening, otherwise we would have signed up for the night walk the reserve was running. By all accounts, it was a successful excursion and we hope to make another one later this month. From the wildlife to everyone we met and spoke to, Nagshead was a genuinely rewarding and enjoyable reserve, one we definitely want be returning to sooner rather than later.