On 13 May I drove west in search of birds. I started at RSPB Highnam Woods on a grey morning soon after 10am. There was a lot of noise from the ‘Singing with Nightingales’ children’s camp and I wondered, ironically, if it would be possible to hear the real nightingales which I was hoping for. Surprisingly, soon after I left the car park, and against a background of cheerful whoops from the camp, I heard one sing briefly.
I followed the main track to the top of the wood, enjoying the birdsong. At the top there was a carpet of bluebells. As it was misty I didn’t go on to the viewpoint but instead turned back and took a side path into the wood.
I came to a clearing with a beautifully carved seat with a swift, dedicated to Peter Jones, ‘birdman of Highnam’. It’s weathering a bit, but I sat on it listening to the birdsong. I recorded it here.
I walked back down past part of the camp and heard another nightingale, and then when I rejoined the main track I heard yet another, probably the one I heard in the beginning. I was able to get close to the bush from which it sang, deeply hidden. You can listen here.
It was still grey as I drove on to RSPB Nagshead, near Park End, in the Forest of Dean. I visited this reserve two years ago when I saw wood warblers, and was hoping to see them again. I arrived at 1pm, just as the weather was beginning to lift, and learnt that there were firecrests, pied and spotted flycatchers, redstart, crossbill, and tree pipit around.
Shortly after I walked out of the car park I heard firecrest sing, the first time I have identified them by song. I didn’t see any.
I went up to the top of the wood, and heard more firecrest there.
Then I walked alongside the heathland area where I hoped to see tree pipit but didn’t. However, as the sun came out, I saw a crossbill. It perched briefly on the isolated, tall birch-tree, taking the place recently vacated by a willow warbler, and then I heard crossbill calls as they flew from the tops of the conifers on the edge of the heathland. I conferred about it with a group from Derby RSPB.
I returned to the car park, listening and searching in vain for wood warblers, flycatchers, and redstarts, and then went to the pond. Here a garden warbler sang inexorably in a willow tree, and I briefly caught a glimpse (and recorded a short snatch here).
I walked through oakwoods to the lower hide, the leaves were just coming out and coal tits were singing.
From the hide is a view of a small lake. All was quiet except for a great tit busy going in and out of the nestbox on the tree in front of the lake.
It was a memorable day for the birds I saw and heard.