Why has it taken until this year to start birding this south-west corner of Gloucestershire? Perhaps it’s the westbound £5.50 toll on the Severn Bridge. I spent too long in Scotland where the tolls used to be pence and are now zilch.
And zilch is what I can engineer for the Severn if I come back from the Midlands through the Forest. Yes, eastbound the Bridge is free. So, recently I have explored round Parkend: its church, New Fancy View and Cannop Ponds with its little colony of mandarin ducks.
Yesterday I could have stopped briefly for them on my way down the A4234. Just south of the A4226 junction I zipped past a lay-by, from which I may possibly have scoped the ducks. No matter. When I got to Nagshead and its Lower Hide, the view took in a pool holding three mandarins.
Indeed, this RSPB reserve at the edge of Parkend was my goal. The entrance track climbs from the Coleford road, just by the 30mph speed limit signs. From there a wee drive leads to the car park in the heart of quintessential English woodland – hard to find these days.
Charming is the word for the whole experience. Charming and peaceful. Not even any dogs to contend with. This time. Again, the RSPB seems to have wimped out on banning the pests completely, instead relying on the “goodwill” of dog-owners to keep them under control. Fat chance.
The stars of the site are pied flycatchers and I did manage one male, hawking insects and visiting a nest box. Heard-only wood warbler and garden warbler, two treecreepers, a nuthatch and two jays completed the highlights. All seen on the path down to the hide and the short loop. That’s efficient birding!