Ziggy Zaggy, Snorty Pig and the Grey Ghost of the Borderlands…

In a couple of weeks myself and a group are traveling to the Forest of Dean, for another crack at one of Britain’s most controversial mammal species – a re-introduction with a propensity for damage and a bad attitude – the Wild Boar.

The weasel has had a couple of attempts at this species and come close a few times, both here and in the forest habitat in Normandy,but the quarry is proving to be very elusive…

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Last August myself, Shellster (Mrs Weasel) and Ian and Andrea made the pilgrimage and dipped again, but the place was bulldozed and most areas showed the unmistakeable signs of the big pig and kin:Image

Boar are large, unpredictable beasts with a fearsome reputation and a varied diet, big males can weigh up to 120 kg,have a length of a metre and a half and carry a set of formidable tusks,extinct in the wild since the 17th Century, this is one species you do not want to startle.Escapes have populated feral individuals into mini herds, but considering their size, and probably owing to their persecution by hunters, they are notoriously difficult to see.

We spent a week in and around the area,taking time out at night and early morning – to no avail.

It was my first visit to the area, despite hearing good reports from people who had visited before, and its close proximity to Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetlands Reserve.

Its a great place for Predators too, from Adders on a few reserves, to one of Britains only designated Raptor Watchpoints for the Grey Ghost – the mighty Goshawk, which despite looking for at New Fancy, I was the only one to see as a female bird broke cover in front of me, as the other members of the party came up the long route,(after I had gone hunting for Mr Ziggy Zaggy – a basking Adder on the way to the point) but later on this month they should be easier with hopefully spectacular early morning undulating flight displays to find a mate, and I defy anyone who wouldn’t be impressed by that.

Goshawks are one of my favourite Raptors,extremely difficult to call and seperate from the Sparrowhawk (especially males) but anyone who has seen footage of the bird hunting rabbits ON FOOT through a forest that was broadcast by the BBC a few years back, like a mini T.Rex cannot fail to be enraptured by the beast.Look for a Buzzard sized Sprog with a set of big white hips that looks like its on ‘the Big One’ at Blackpool Pleasure Beach with a big white supercillium above the eye that gives it a Batman like scowl and thats your beast!

I’ve got a hot date with one in a few weeks time!

New fancy supplied us with our only Reptile sp. a couple of Common Lizards, including the ‘Starless and Bible Black’ youngster and his mum, below:

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It was nice to put a family with a young lad onto them as they basked in the sun, with the unmistakeable call of passing Common Crossbills overhead. A brief appearance in the morning of a passing Hobby was a bonus too, probably enroute to Africa, the red trousered little killing machine tazzed through the local Ravens like an Exocet!

Middle of the week saw us at the wrong place at the right time – we parked on the wrong side of Symonds Yat (who’s Archaeological remains contained a family of Hyenas and a Sabre Tooth) and after a 2 hour traverse of a muddy stretch of river bank and a light lunch with a boat across the Wye we approached the rock and watchpoint and soon got onto the resident Peregrines and their near full grown chicks, and a spectacular food pass,another site for Goshawk and a great point to view mammals from afar, but alas no Boars in sight and we even dipped the deer.

A brief morning where rain stopped play (well actually the car needed attention!) was probably for the best after staying up drinking whisky and watching the Perseid Meteor shower (superb!) after a trip with a bat detector to a farm pond (Daubs/Noctules/2 Pips/Long Eareds and an unfamiliar Myotis sp.) and a half hour of Owl teasing (to be explained in a later post!) and a butchers in Hereford Cathedral of the Mappa Mundi (and it was only a Thursday!) meant that the last day was a trip to Slimbridge.

Bird of the Day went to a badly Digiscoped Wood Sandpiper (with a standard Common Sand:)

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Expensive but full of quality birds (Buzzards/more Peregrines and a very close up male Kestrel), when Shelly, who is just embarking on her birding journey says to all and sundry in the hide, and me especially “erm, do Badgers come out in the daytime?”

“no”

“Well, why is there one running along the fence here where the cows are?”

Blimey Charlie, she’s right too! as a very harassed looking Brock exits stage left, after a good staring at from a couple of British Longhorns, into a ditch and swims off scattering wildfowl as he goes!

An unexpected end to another great day.

Anyway Round Two happens on the 22nd of this month – keep watching the skies and checking the Weasel – a full and frank report on my return…

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7 Responses to “Ziggy Zaggy, Snorty Pig and the Grey Ghost of the Borderlands…”

  1. No need to go now Anno. You’ve described it all for us.

    • abrandreth Says:

      get youself along there – lots to see…

      I never even mentioned the Silver-washed Fritilliary at Nags Head, or the Fallow and the…

      (besides which you’re drivin’)

  2. Very interresting articles , best regard from Belgium

  3. Good luck with the mega-snufflers – shame we haven’t got any a bit nearer

    Have fun!

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