Standing only just away from the road where we parked we could hear 6 or 8 different bird calls from the one spot – usually we walk a little and hear one or two at a time. The area was fairly open but with lots of cover – brambles, bushes and grown trees. It got this way through a mixture of luck and a sort of ‘benign neglect’. Twenty years ago it was an industrial gravel-working site and could have been either built around or developed for leisure use. Instead it has been left to Nature and some anglers, and Nature in this case has been kind.
Moving on we heard and then saw a Cuckoo atop a distant tree calling insistently. A passing hard-core birdwatcher claimed that he could call it over, and he did! He imitated the call of a male Cuckoo and the bird left his perch to fly a circuit around us looking for his rival. Magic! He went first to a different tree but was mobbed by a Carrion Crow and had to go back where he started. Their shape and flight pattern makes the Cuckoo look like a bird of prey, hence the mobbing.
Moving on we disturbed a Snipe from its pool and soon came to a place where we could apparently hear another 6 or 8 birds singing loudly. This was magical again as the variety of songs all came from just two Nightingales competing against each other from bushes ten yards apart, often one copying the other’s tune and trying to improve it. We got a good view of one of them and several people have good recordings on their phones. ‘Our’ bird of course had the stronger and more musical voice.
Past a lake with a good variety of water birds we followed the footpath along a causeway through woods to the Thames Path. This path was previously important and is still the boundary between Gloucestershire and Wiltshire. On the way we had seen signs of Rabbits, Meadow Ant ‘hills’ and tree bark stripped by Deer. The infant Thames here runs over gravel – very different from the Severn. Then it rained. We returned to our cars and the Gateway Centre after a very interesting morning. 35 different bird species, but for a sizeable group what was great was the quality of what we saw. The area where we started is currently a wonderful habitat and as good as any official Nature Reserve but without management it could deteriorate, which would be a shame.
The Dawn Chorus from 5:00am – Further details to follow.