Over the last weekend, since school had finally finished, I embarked on my Duke of Edinburgh Silver practice expedition. The expedition was taking place in the Wye Valley and the Forest of Dean, so I was hoping to see a good line up of birds. Unfortunately, due to wanting to carry as little as possible, and due to the risk of getting wet, I was not able to take my DSLR with me. Therefore, this means that this post will have no photos in it.
Early on during the first day, I came across what was perhaps the highlight of the expedition. As I was just walking by a hedge full of House Sparrows, around 2-3m away from me, I suddenly noticed some oddly shaped ‘object’ hurtling from out of the sky towards me at immense speed. The ‘object’ was a male Sparrowhawk, there in his full beauty with that glorious orange chest. The Sparrowhawk swooped low over the hedge before rapidly turning around 180 degrees and diving straight into the hedge. Fortunately for the House Sparrows, the Sparrowhawk had failed to make a catch. In fact, some of the Sparrows seemed somewhat unstirred at all, as if this was routine and attacks were relentless. However the true beauty of the male Sparrowhawk was yet to be admired, as the bird then wheeled around before taking up a momentary perch on top of the hedge, staring me down with his bright eyes. The Sparrowhawk was soon off, taking to a bit of soaring instead. This was perhaps the best moment that I have had with a Sparrowhawk, being able to see it hunt with such an element of surprise and admiring its beauty, all from a very close distance.
Trekking on throughout the rest of the day brought the occasional Great-Spotted Woodpecker and large flocks of Lapwings. Not to mention, the two most frequent sightings of the whole trip: Common Buzzards and Pheasants, or as members of my group liked to call them – “peasants”. Then again, seeing these birds most often was not exactly unexpected.
That evening, after pitching tents and eating a warm dinner, a well earned rest was gained. Throughout the night, calls of both multiple Tawny Owls and Barn Owls were heard – a wonderful sound to listen to, but after not too long, it does become quite annoying, especially when you really do need to settle down and get some sleep. I am not sure, but, I think I may have the occasional call of a Short-Eared Owl every now and again.
Unfortunately, the next day was comparatively quiet, with only the usual birds that you might expect to see around and about. Even then, there weren’t exactly many around.
However, the next morning, I woke up at 6am to the sound of perhaps one of the most beautiful and diverse dawn choruses that I have ever heard. There were so many birds to be heard.
My last day was fairly successful birds wise compared to the previous day, with highlights of the day including, a close encounter with a pair of Red-Legged Partridges, a sighting of a pair of Mandarin Ducks being swept down the river – a bird that I was not expecting to see on the River Wye. A Green Woodpecker and a Cormorant also proved fairly exciting.
Overall, I greatly enjoyed my expedition, both generally and birds wise, and I greatly look forward to embarking on the assessment itself.