Another long staying rarity enticed Dave and I on a trip away from the London area, this time a New World Warbler, which should have been spending the winter in central America or the West Indies.
A 1st winter male Common Yellowthroat had been found near Rhiwderin, Gwent in mid February, presumably after crossing the Atlantic last autumn and successfully surviving the winter in south Wales.
Having seen photographs of the bird we were both interested in trying to see it, but had held off because it seemed to be elusive, and often very difficult to see (some birders reported having to visit the site several times, and/or only getting a few seconds worth of viewing).
In the end we decided that we would give it a try, and on arrival at the site at about 08.30 am, we found that a small group were already watching the bird creeping about in low brambles. We spent the next two hour or so with it in view for the majority of the time, usually creeping about on the ground under the brambles like a bright yellow-green Wren, and sometimes coming to about five metres of where we were standing. When it was lost from view it generally wasn't long before it advertised its presence with a quite distinctive, almost 'buzzing', metallic "tjip" call. The only downside was that it was an overcast morning, and its chosen patch was brambles underneath a stand of trees - so lighting was not great for photography.
We did manage to get some shots though!
The reason why it sometimes approached us so closely (too closely for me to focus on a couple of occasions) was that someone had put down a few mealworms. These seemed quite popular with the Yellowthroat, as well as with numerous Robins, Dunnocks, and Wrens.
Eventually we tore ourselves away from this stunning, and showy, vagrant, and headed for some sites in the Forest of Dean.
The birding highlight in the Forest of Dean was watching Goshawks from a well known viewpoint. Views were good and there was rarely long without at least one Goshawk in the air, but they were a bit distant. Most of the time there were also several Common Buzzards in the air as well, and there were Lesser Redpolls, Common Crossbills, Siskins, and other finches flying around, or in nearby trees. Elsewhere, in other parts of the forest, we found Nuthatches and Goldcrests to be numerous, and despite not having a great deal of time also managed to glimpse a Firecrest, and had a Hawfinch fly overhead.
In addition to birds we also found quite a lot of other wildlife. Not surprisingly, Grey Squirrels were common and widespread - and also seemed happy to pose for photos!
Other mammals seen included Fallow Deer, and of more interest to us, a couple of Wild Boar - not the best of views, but not something that either of us can say that we see regularly either!
The sun came out during the afternoon and this brought out two Red Admiral Butterflies, as well as a Common Lizard and a couple of Adders, the later basking on a south facing slope next to the path.
In the summer the Forest of Dean is a great place to see birds like Pied Flycatchers, Common Redstarts, and Wood Warblers- plus some of the wildlife that we saw on this visit.
Check out the tour calendar on the Buteo Wildlife website.