Tour At A Glance





Single Room Supplement:


Tour Code:

Intermediate with flexible finish times. Up to 5 miles walking per day

Group Size:

Eight plus Leader

Common Crossbill Great White Egret Northern Goshawk

Somerset Levels & The Forest of Dean

Date: 18th - 22nd March 2019 [FIVE PLACES - Note date change from 2019 brochure]
Leaders: Paul Roberts



The tour begins at our accommodation in the Forest of Dean at 13.00 for check in at the Speech House Hotel. Please note a packed lunch is not included on the first day, so participants wishing to have lunch at the hotel should arrive with plenty of time. We’ll aim to get back out in the field as soon as we can, and if the weather is good we will head straight for New Fancy View, just a five minute drive away. Here, a raised viewpoint affords unrivalled views over the forest, and this is the best way to see displaying Northern Goshawks. March is the peak month for their activity, though favourable weather is essential for success. Eurasian Sparrowhawk and Common Buzzard are also present, and we have a good chance of seeing Common Crossbills here, while Eurasian Siskins are everywhere. Hawfinches can sometimes be seen perched in the treetops. Returning to Speech House we’ll round off the day birding around the Arboretum and checking the Holly bushes near the paddock for Hawfinch. Other common woodland species can be expected.
Overnight Speech House Hotel
Our first stop today will be the superb woodland area near Brierley. Hawfinches are the main target, with sizeable flocks often feeding under the trees here and hopefully we can get excellent views with a bit of patience and field craft. Common Nuthatch, Common Treecreeper, Goldcrest and Great Spotted Woodpecker should be seen, with flocks of Redwing moving through on their way north. This is a very good spot for the rare and localised Willow Tit, and we will spend time searching the thickets for them. Common Crossbills favour the stands of Larch and are also likely to be seen. Most of the sites in the forest are close together and next we’ll stop at Cannop Ponds. Mandarin is the main quarry here, but Grey Wagtail and Common Kingfisher are often present too. Moving on to Parkend, we concentrate on the area around the church where again Hawfinch are often seen. Lesser Spotted Woodpecker is also occasionally reported from this area, though of course we’d need to be lucky to connect with one. Finally, we round off the day at nearby Nagshead RSPB reserve where a further selection of woodland birds can be expected. Again Lesser Spotted Woodpecker is possible here, and Mandarin Ducks frequent the woodland ponds. Brambling, Common Crossbill and Hawfinch can sometimes be seen. A Great Grey Shrike is sometimes present in the forest, and with up to date information we will look for any individuals present.
Overnight Speech House Hotel
This morning we leave the forest behind and head into the excellent Goldcliff Lagoons just across the welsh border. Here we can expect to add Pied Avocet, Dunlin, Ringed Plover and hopefully Common Greenshank, Ruff, Red Knot and Spotted Redshank, while there is a chance of the first Little Ringed Plover of the spring arriving and we have also recorded Glossy Ibis here on this tour. After a quick break we’ll head back out onto the Somerset Levels, probably visiting the RSPB reserve at Ham Wall. Our itinerary on the levels will be flexible, but this is often a good place to see the spectacle of roosting Common Starlings, which move around between three main sites. We will have up to date information about their presence, and hope to end the day in style despite numbers being lower now than in mid-winter. Towards dusk, we should hear our first Great Bitterns booming, and have a chance to look out for Otters. Cetti’s Warbler, Bearded Tit and a variety of wildfowl should also be found. Displaying Great Crested and whinnying Little Grebes are present in good numbers and we have recorded Ring-necked and Ferruginous Duck and Pied-billed Grebe here.
Overnight Meare Manor Guest House
We will visit more sites in the levels today, though again flexibility is the key. Westhay Moor is a large site with several well placed hides overlooking a series of pools amid extensive reeds. Along the main drain across the levels, Shapwick Heath offers further excellent habitat, with panoramic vistas over the reed beds, interesting pockets of damp woodland and some open pools, scrapes and lakes that hold wildfowl and waders. Catcott Lows is an area of grazing land that is flooded in winter and should still be wet in mid-March, again overlooked by hides, and like the Forest of Dean, all these places are close together. Great White Egrets are a regular feature in winter, but perhaps the heron highlight will be the backdrop of booming Great Bitterns, with a very healthy population present here. We have a really good chance of getting good views of these but also Bearded Tit, Reed Bunting, Water Rail, Marsh Harrier, and Cetti’s Warbler. Otters are frequent, and shelter belts hold Redwing flocks and maybe even Eurasian Woodcock. Common Kingfisher, Black-tailed Godwit and passage hirundines are also possible, while Common Chiffchaff will be singing everywhere and the first Blackcaps are starting to appear.
Wildfowl numbers should still include good numbers of Common Teal, Northern Shoveler, Eurasian Wigeon and Northern Pintail with occasional sightings of Goosander, Common Goldeneye and even Whooper Swan.
Overnight Meare Manor Guest House
Our final morning will be used to mop up on any missed species, or possibly to revisit any particularly productive areas. It is likely that we will head to the new reserve of Steart Point on Bridgwater Bay. Peregrine, Merlin, Hen Harrier and Short-eared Owl are all possible here, while Common Raven is also present. Common Snipe, European Golden Plover, Common Redshank and Dunlin are regularly seen and as the reserve develops we should start to build a good picture of what the regular species are. The tour concludes late morning for the onward journey home.


Additional Information


The Speech House Hotel is located in the heart of the Forest of Dean, offering great woodland birding opportunities right on the doorstep. Our base for the two nights in Somerset will be the Meare Manor Guest House, again chosen for its perfect location just minutes from the main birding areas. Please note that anyone driving to the accomodations will have to use their vehicle to transfer between the two sites as we do not return to Speech House after departure on day three.
Four nights en suite accommodation, meals from dinner on day one to lunch on final day, transport, services of leaders and reserve entrance fees.
Travel to/ from the West Country, travel insurance, drinks and items of a purely personal nature.
NB Please note that anyone using their own vehicle on this tour will have to transfer bewteen the two hotels as we do not revisit the Forest of Dean to be able to collect any vehicles at the end of the tour. We therefore recommend using the excellent public transport links to Newport where you can be collected and dropped by prior arrangement with your tour leader.


Tour Reports


2013    2014    2016    2017




" I really enjoyed visiting these areas. The leaders were extremely knowledgeable and the hotels excellent" R H Leicester


" Dear Neil & Ashley, Just a short note to thank you for another wonderful birding holiday, it was great. Keep up the good work."  A T Liverpool


" Just a quick word to thank both you and Ashley for a great trip at Forest of Dean (so cold!) and Somerset Levels. When I booked this tour I had no real expectation of any 'lifers', so to secure three (Pied billed Grebe, Ferruginous Duck and Ring
Necked Duck) in little more than one hour was quite amazing - I have not had three new birds in a day since Isles of Scilly in 1997, and they were certainly not seen in such quick succession " J S Worcester


" I felt the trip to be most successful with an excellent atmosphere throughout " J D Kent


" Our holiday was great value for money, the leaders were excellent in every aspect - highly efficient in findng birds and ensurng that good views were enjoyed by all. Good company and food added to the craic" B C Northern Ireland


" Ashley & Neil, thanks for another really good trip and not least for your patience. Wth good wishes for your future success"  J & CB Wovehampton


" We enjoyed our holiday very much - particuarly the expert guidance" D & A E Lincolnshire.


" The tour was an absolue pleasure to be part of" S M Oxford


" Dear Neil - thank you for an excellent week - even down to arranging dry weather and most ceongenial and entertaining company. We appreciate how hard you work to ensure that we all see the 'target' birds even when they are proving elusive and we have learned much about fieldcraft as well as the flora and fauna. Two Glossy Ibis and the Bearded Tits left Lawrence overjoyed, while Goshawk, Marsh harrier and Merlin added glamour to the raptor list. We also had a good illustration of the elegant Spotted Redshank. All that remains is to look forward to our next trip with Oriole Birding in May!!" L & R T Worcester


" We had a really good time and particularly enjoyed the camaraderie, the great atmosphere and the excellent accommodations and meals. Our guide was very knowledgeable and helpful too!! K & D H Manchester


" I really enjoyed it. We had a good laugh, a good group and some good birds too. Thank you for working so hard Neil to make it as enjoyable as possible" C S London