Hawfinch, Forest of Dean by Chris Townend

Tour Dates 1: Monday 8th – Friday 12th March 2021 (Gloucester to Gloucester)
Tour Dates 2: Monday 15th – Friday 19th March 2021 (Gloucester to Gloucester)
Tour Price: £899pp
Deposit: £250 per person
Conservation Donation from Wise Birding: £150 to WWT Eurasian Curlew Recovery Project
Minimum Number: 4 people
Maximum Group Size: 7 people

Target Species
Birds: Greater White-fronted Goose, Common Crane, Goshawk, Merlin, Peregrine, Short-eared Owl, Tawny Owl, Great Grey Shrike, Hawfinch, Crossbill, Firecrest, Great Grey Shrike and a good selection of waders and ducks.
Mammals: Roe Deer, Wild Boar, Eurasian Beaver and a possible chance of Pine Marten

Tour Summary
The wildlife of the Forest of Dean is truly outstanding with sought-after woodland birds such as Hawfinch and Goshawk and also unique mammal fauna found nowhere else in the UK. During this early spring visit, we will experience the essence of the Forest of Dean, a geographically and culturally distinct and somewhat quirky place that forms the west side of the county of Gloucestershire. More than 42 square miles of mixed woodland, it is one of the largest areas of woodland in England. In historic times a large area was reserved for royal hunting and is the reason it is often referred to as the Royal Forest of Dean. Traditional practices such as local people exercising the Commoner’s Rights still persist, with free-roaming sheep looked after by local shepherds, known as ‘Sheep Badgers’. The Verderer’s Court (situated in the restaurant of our hotel), and Free mining are other locally distinct traditions that you can learn more about during the tour.
The Forest of Dean also supports a large population of free-living feral Wild Boar. There is now an established population, originating from an illegal release in 2004. Although unofficial, the return of this ‘keystone’ species forms part of a suite of three new mammals now resident in the Forest of Dean, with Pine Martens introduced in 2019, and European Beavers (still contained in a built enclosure) in 2018. All of these re-introductions are playing their part in the restoration of a more natural woodland ecosystem. Whilst we can try to see Wild Boar and stand a realist chance of seeing them, Pine martens are more elusive. However, we will visit the Beaver reintroduction enclosure, with a chance of seeing some animals and certainly some gnawed trees!

ACCOMMODATION: 4 nights in the Forest of Dean
4 nights in comfortable hotel
Included Meals: Full-board

DAY 1: Arrival Forest of Dean
After meeting your local guide at Gloucester train station we will take the short transfer to our comfortable hotel. It was once a hunting lodge built during the time of Charles II and is therefore perfectly situated in the heart of the Forest of Dean. During the afternoon, we will take a short walk familiarising ourselves with this part of the beautiful forest. Twilight and evening walks and drives may be taken during our stay, when will be looking for Wild Boar, Deer, Tawny Owl, Woodcock and the recently re-introduced Beaver. Overnight Forest of Dean

Goshawks by Chris Townend

DAY 2: Full day in the Forest
Hawfinch and Goshawk will be the species will be most focussed on today.
Throughout the day we will take advantage of the best weather windows, particularly when looking for Goshawks with sunny breezy days being perfect conditions to see bird perform their magnificent ‘butterfly’ and ‘sky-dancing’ display flights. In contest, Hawfinches should be relatively easy to find as birds tend to still be in small winter groups and birds are even possible within the gardens of our hotel!
Other interesting woodland birds we will be looking for include being Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Mandarin Duck, Nuthatch, Dipper, Grey Wagtail, Marsh Tit, Siskin, and Crossbill.  We also have a very good chance of finding Firecrest and Great Grey Shrike is a regular winter resident. Overnight Forest of Dean 

DAY 3: Eastern Forest of Dean and Severn Vale
Today we descend down the eastern side of the Forest escarpment and into the Severn Vale, where we will explore the Severn Estuary, an excellent place for wintering wildfowl and waders. We will visit the WWT reserve at Slimbridge, famously founded by Peter Scott, and this will form the main focus of our day. Our key target species will be White-fronted Goose as well as numerous other wildfowl species. Depending on the weather and what birds are around we will visit other sites such as Frampton Marsh and other Severn-side locations. Wildfowl and waders will certainly feature highly with Pintail, Lapwing, Golden Plover and sometimes Ruff. Raptors are also likely with Peregrine, Merlin, the occasional harrier, and Short-eared Owl. Other exciting birds we may see include Bittern, Crane, Water Rail and Kingfisher.
Overnight Forest of Dean

Common Crane by Chris Townend

DAY 4: Western Forest of Dean and Newport Wetlands
Depending on tides, we will explore some other wildlife areas towards the western side of the Forest on our way to and from the nearby Newport Wetlands. The wetlands are comprised of extensive reedbeds that are home to Bearded Tit, Reed Bunting and an impressive winter roost of Starlings. Many waders congregate on the foreshore and roost on the lagoons at Goldcliff, during high tide, including Black-tailed Godwit, Ringed Plover, Curlew, Knot and Dunlin and also opportunities to see raptors such as Hen harrier and Merlin.
Overnight Forest of Dean

Wild Boar by Chris Townend

DAY 5: Symond’s Yat Rock
Our last half day in the Forest will be spent visiting the famous Symond’s Yat Rock viewpoint. This gives dramatic views over the River Wye but also has a resident pair of Peregrine and Raven nesting on the limestone cliffs. It is also a good location for other interesting birds, with Goshawk, Red Kite, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, a Cormorant roost, and the chance of a passing Goosander and even cliff-nesting Canada Geese! We will then spend our last remaining hours looking for species that we may have missed before we return to Gloucester railway station where the tour concludes.

Please note this is a flexible itinerary which may need to be adjusted slightly dependent on arrival / departure times, weather conditions and the most recent information from our local guides

Leader: Barry Embling
Included in cost: Accommodation in twin en-suite rooms, breakfast, packed lunches and dinner, ground transport including transfers to/from Gloucester railway station, reserve entry fees and services of the leader.
Not included in cost: Drinks and travel insurance.
Accommodation: Comfortable hotel in Forest of Dean.
Single Supplement: £125
Transport: Minibus throughout the tour.
Difficulty: Easy
All birding will be done in close proximity to our vehicle with walks of around 3-4Km per day.
Climate: Variable as with most British winters/ early Spring!
Tour Start Point: Gloucester railway station.
Tour End Point: Gloucester railway station.

Symond’s Yat Rock by Forestry England