After last years bonanza of lifers, this year has been pretty poor, with only the frustration of Lesser Kestrel dip. We were planning on a major Butterfly and Orchid trip for the weekend as the birding was getting a bit quiet. Plans change suddenly.
The news on Thursday of a Marmora's Warbler on territory in south Wales was exciting, but would it remain until the weekend, and suffering from some sort of virus would I make it. Yes to both, though I was not exactly awake for most of the journey.
We arrived just north of Blaenavon just after nine, to find a completely full car park, but we were able to park on the road. A steady stream of happy birders was a good sign, but by the time we got down to the lower car park, it was a different story. Apparently the warbler does a circuit and can go missing for quite a while. The sight of many so many Whinchat was good to see, as was a number of Tree Pipits and Ravens. Eventually, some movement at Colin's end of the crowd suggested the bird was showing. Apparently it had been singing behind an old wall, and when I arrived was in a stunted Hawthorn. Suddenly it dropped into a small patch of Gorse right in front of me.
While all this was happening, Colin had moved the car down to the lower car park saving a long unsteady walk back up the hill, and we departed just after eleven.
I had decided to call in at RSPB Nags Head in the forest of Dean as it was in an almost direct line home.
A Spotted Flycatcher was the first decent bird, but it took a while to find a Pied Flycatcher, a male bird feeding on the path and perching on the fence. Towards the northern end of the reserve, a number of Wood Warblers were heard singing, and I managed to locate one high in a tree. Alarm calls did not register for a moment, and then a huge female Goshawk drifted over just above the tree.
The heath area was full of Green Tiger Beetles, but not much else was found until we encountered a small crowd watching a pair of Pied Flycatchers feeding young in a nest box.
Our final call was at Whitecross Green Wood where we hoped to see Black Hairstreaks. Unfortunately, though it was very warm and humid, it was very overcast. The only butterflies found were large numbers of Common Blues, and the Common Spotted Orchids were only just starting to flower.
The one stunning sight was a fresh Eyed Hawkmoth.