Nocturnal Nagshead

The dearth of posts lately is certainly not a reflection of our many recent adventures. In a few forthcoming mini-posts we will try to sum up these outings and sightings, so we begin way back in June. Our regular reader will know that the summer months have often brought us the lucky sight of a family of Kestrels “training” their brood on the rooftops of our development. Last year we had only a few days of action. This year has seen the Kestrels only appear with any regularity on one evening.

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All was not lost however as one Saturday afternoon we managed to spot two Kestrels displaying the familiar “training” behaviour over at the now closed Nestle factory. It could well be that the mothballed coffee factory presents a safer location for them, rather than our now noisy and busy residential area. We were just glad to know they were still around. Our other local Kestrel family at Cranford Park are also looking like they have had a successful year once again. Our friend Wendy has diligently reported on this in her blog.

The last weekend in June saw us take to the road and head once again for the captivating Forest Of Dean. Our main reason for heading west once more was to go on the RSPB’s night walk at their Nagshead reserve, which we visited earlier in the month. We booked into the excellent Dryslade Farm B&B and took a short drive to Symonds Yat to look at the recently fledged Peregrine Falcons. Other interesting bird action was somewhat absent. The occasional Buzzard and Red Kite were seen but sadly, no Goshawks. Being a superb summer’s day, there was plenty of tourist activity making the most of the Wye Valley but it was probably not conducive for too much birding. After some rather steep hilly declines and inclines which tested the limits of our (un)fitness, we spotted this Long-horn Beetle:

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We returned to Dryslade Farm late afternoon to find not only that our hosts (Daphne and Phil) are two of the nicest, warmest people you could hope to meet, but also that their estate was alive with very obliging Swallows.

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We also had a brief visit from this Pied Wagtail:

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By 9pm, we were driving through the forest lanes to the meeting point for the RSPB night walk. Organised and guided by RSPB Nagshead warden Lewis, we were taken on a large circuit of a portion of the Nagshead reserve on a superbly still and warm night. Obviously no photos were taken to document this experience but we would thoroughly recommend it to anyone interested. We had calling Tawny Owls (both adult and juvenile), flypasts and calls in the falling light from several Woodcock, and plenty of bats.

One of the major highlights of the evening was hearing the churring of Nightjars. These highly camouflaged nocturnal birds are one of our most elusive summer visitors and we were fortunate enough to not only hear the electric churring call and wing-clapping behaviour but also to see two brief flypasts in the half-light. We also had the briefest of glimpses of Wild Boar snuffling in the forest undergrowth and the spooky rustling caused by Fallow Deer. A fantastic experience in perfect conditions. With the next day threatening grey skies and no little rain we made the most of the night walk and it’s almost hidden treasures. Massive thanks are due to Lewis for his excellent walk and informative talk. You can never guarantee seeing everything you hope to but our walk pretty much delivered on all the expected species.

True to the forecast, Sunday morning saw a deluge of precipitation to such an extent I feared we may have needed an ark for our return journey. Undeterred by things like torrential rain, we paid a short visit to RSPB Nagshead, clad in our waterproofs and with a steel resolve to make the most of the day. Despite some easing off in the wet weather, there was very little to be seen at Nagshead. The Treecreepers, Nuthatches and Thrushes from earlier in the month were all hiding away and silent. The Flycatchers had all fledged and it was far too damp for much insect action too. Our single sighting of note was this Ringlet Butterfly.

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Despite not scaling the dizzy heights of our previous visit to the Forest Of Dean in terms of bird action, this was a wonderfully satisfying weekend adventure. Looking back, we had Peregrines, Nightjars, Woodcock, Swallows and Wild Boar and bats. Allied with an excellent B&B with superb hosts and a breakfast I am still salivating over, we now have far too many sound reasons to return to this part of the world again soon!

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