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For my latest birding adventure, I joined 21 other members of the Glamorgan Bird Club and ventured across the border to England, to explore birding sites in the beautiful Forest of Dean, where the glorious tree-clad countryside was made even more lovely by the covering of snow that still lingered from the previous weekend’s weather bomb.

180310 snowy landscape (2)

The snow also meant two of the car parks we tried were closed and necessitated a long stomp along the forest trails to the viewpoint where we could search the skies for Goshawk – unfortunately, the birds weren’t seen, but what a wonderful walk it was! There’s just something about that snow-white coating that makes a landscape look magical.

180310 Cannop Ponds (1)180310 Cannop Ponds (2)

But I’m getting ahead of myself. We started off at Cannop Ponds, where I got my first sight of Mandarin ducks in the wild. These stunning birds are native to Asia – and I had first seen them in a bird park in Kuala Lumpur – but escapees from parklands and zoos have established breeding populations in Britain and, in 1971, the bird was added to the official British bird list, under category C1 (although introduced, the birds now derive from the resulting self-sustaining populations).

180310 Mandarin & other ducks (1)180310 Mandarin & other ducks (3)

At the ponds we also enjoyed good views of a resident Marsh tit before heading off along the forest trails. In a large clearing, one of our eagle-eyed younger members spotted another of our target birds for this trip, the Great grey shrike. Using bins and ’scopes we were able to watch the bird catch a tiny lizard and, its trademark action, impale its prey on a sharp twig.

180310 snowy landscape (1)180310 Great grey shrike

After our Goshawk-less stomp to New Fancy viewpoint, we returned to the cars and drove on to Parkend, where the local Hawfinches proved more cooperative, obliging with distant but dark views under the conifers by the cricket ground. They were the icing on the cake of another thoroughly enjoyable outing with my bird club buddies.

180310 Hawfinch

My list of species sighted is as follows: Mute Swan, Greylag Goose, Mandarin Duck, Gadwall, Teal, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Buzzard, Moorhen, Coot, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Woodpigeon, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Great Grey Shrike, Magpie, Jay, Carrion Crow, Raven, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Marsh Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Goldcrest, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Blackbird, Robin, Dunnock, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Siskin, and Hawfinch. And I was obviously not paying attention when others in the group saw (or heard) the Grey Heron, Stock Dove, Jackdaw, Mistle Thrush, Grey Wagtail, Greenfinch, and Bullfinch.

180310 Mandarin & other ducks (2)180310 Mandarin & other ducks (4)