Tour At A Glance





Single Room Supplement:


Tour Code:

Intermediate with flexible finish times. Average 4 miles walking per day

Group Size:

Five plus Leader

Wood Warbler Garganey Mandarin Great Bittern Pied Flycatcher

The Forest of Dean and Somerset Levels in early Summer

Date: 8th to 12th June 2022 - (SPACES)
Leaders: Paul Roberts



The tour begins at our accommodation in the Forest of Dean at 14:00 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 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 place to see birds of prey, with Northern Goshawk, Eurasian Sparrowhawk and Common Buzzard all likely. We have a good chance of seeing Common Crossbills here, while Hawfinches can sometimes be seen perched in the treetops, and singing Firecrest often occur. Most of the sites in the forest are close together and next we’ll stop at Cannop Ponds. Mandarin should be present here, with Grey Wagtail, Dipper, Common Kingfisher and Marsh Tit often present too. 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. After dinner, we may wish to make a late evening visit to a nearby area of forestry clearings, where European Nightjar, Eurasian Woodcock, Tree Pipit and other heathland species are likely.
Overnight Speech House Hotel
Our first stop today will be the lovely RSPB reserve of Nagshead. This is a great place to see the three summer oak wood specialities – Pied Flycatcher, Wood Warbler and Common Redstart. It can also be good for Hawfinch, with an outside chance of a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. Moving on to nearby Parkend, we concentrate on the area around the church where Hawfinch is regularly noted. Following this we visit Woorgreens, where a range of woodland species are likely, while the lake can be scanned for waterfowl. A short distance up the road is Yew Tree Brake, an area of conifers and clear fell, where we will search for Firecrest, Common Crossbill, Tree Pipit and Common Cuckoo. Time permitting we shall visit the impressive woodland around Brierley. Hawfinches are the main target, although patience and luck will be required at this time of year to see this elusive species. Finally, a visit to the watch point at Symonds Yat Rock should allow us to catch up with Peregrine Falcons, nesting annually at this beautifully scenic location.
Overnight Speech House Hotel
This morning we leave the forest behind, heading south to visit RSPB Goldcliff, on the Gwent Levels. Here we should encounter a variety of waders including Pied Avocet, Common Redshank, Little Ringed Plover and maybe a scarce passage migrant such as Curlew Sandpiper or Little Stint. Wildfowl will be present on the scrapes and the bushy edges of the reens (drainage channels) should host Cetti's Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat, among others. We may wish to call in briefly at the nearby reserve centre at Newport Wetlands, where Bearded Tits occur. Alternatively, and depending on recent news, we could visit the new reserve at Steart Point, near Bridgwater. Here the WWT and the Environment Agency have created a large expanse of salt marsh and freshwater wetland, instigated in order to both protect the local villages from flooding by the River Parrett and to compensate against projected land loss along the Severn Estuary. The area is still something of an unknown quantity, but the extensive scrapes have the potential to be productive for wading birds. After lunch, we aim to arrive at our hotel for check in early afternoon. After a quick break we’ll head back out onto the superb Avalon Marshes, first visiting the fantastic RSPB Ham Wall, a landscape-scale reserve of increasing national importance. Great White Egrets are guaranteed and we will be unlucky not to see Great Bitterns, while rare herons such as Little Bitterns and Cattle Egrets have recently bred. The supporting cast should include Eurasian Hobbies, Marsh Harriers, grebes, wildfowl and a variety of warblers, most notably Cetti’s, Reed and Garden. With good fortune perhaps a scarcity or even a rarity could occur - what chance Black-necked Grebe, Eurasian Spoonbill, Garganey, Temminck’s Stint, Savi’s Warbler or even a Red-footed Falcon? Odonata can be present in both numbers and variety, including Scarce Chaser, Hairy Dragonfly, Red-eyed Damselfly and Variable Damselfly. Following dinner we may choose to make an excursion to Shapwick and Meare Heath, immediately neighbouring Ham Wall. The atmospheric late evening period will hopefully bring more booming Great Bitterns, Marsh Harriers and Common Cuckoos, while the scrape can hold Garganey and a variety of passage waders. 
Overnight Meare Manor Guest House
Firstly to Westhay Moor, an excellent reserve with several well placed hides overlooking a series of pools amid extensive reeds, where fantastic views of Eurasian Hobby, Great Bittern and Water Rail are possible. Open areas should hold Great Crested and Little Grebe, with Bearded Tits also present. In the past we have had close views of Otters at this location. A couple of miles to the west is Catcott Lows, an area of grazing land overlooked by hides where, depending on water levels, migrants could include Ruff and Whimbrel, while Northern Lapwings and Common Redshanks usually breed. Cattle Egrets can favour this area. Another impressive site a few miles to the south is Greylake RSPB, where extensive wet grazing meadows hold a variety of breeding waders, including Common Snipe and Eurasian Curlew. Yellow Wagtail and Garganey are possible, along with various reed bed specialists, including another opportunity to connect with Great Bitterns. Common Cranes have been reintroduced on this part of the levels, and might be seen in the area. Dependent on the weather and their emergence time, we may wish to make a diversion during the day to search for the rare Large Blue butterfly, present again on the Polden Hills, following their successful recent reintroduction.
Overnight Meare Manor Guest House
Our final morning we are likely to revisit the fabulously productive Meare Heath/Shapwick Heath/Ham Wall complex, in order to cover any parts not previously visited, mop up any species which have thus far eluded us, or perhaps just to enjoy further great views of the wealth of bird life there. 
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. Visit their website for more details and photos 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 and great home cooked meals. See for more information. Please note that anyone wishing to drive to The Speech House at the start of the tour, can either use their vehicle to transfer between the two bases, or leave it at The Speech House while we are in Somerset, to be collected at the end of the tour (transport will be provided).



Four nights en suite accommodation, meals from dinner on day one to packed 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.



Binoculars, telescope, camera and film/memory card, spare batteries, clothing for all weathers, small rucksack, field guide, alarm clock and walking boots.



Collection & drop off at Newport.


NB Please note that anyone wishing to use their own vehicle on this tour can either use it to transfer between the two hotels, or leave it at The Speech House while we are in Somerset. We will revisit the Forest of Dean to collect any vehicles at the end of the tour, if necessary. In addition, there are excellent public transport links to Newport, where you can be collected and dropped by prior arrangement with your tour leader.




Tour Reports


2015    2016   2018   2019    2021a    2021b




" Paul was a superb guide who tried very hard to find us as many species as possible. His knowledge and enthusiasm as well as the thoughtfulness given to courtesy breaks for the ladies was very much appreciated. We were fortunate to see so many Hobbies and BItterns, but the general variety of birds and habitats was particularly enjoyable. The accommodation and meals were also very good " J & K H The Wirral.


" A brilliant holiday! Paul taught us a lot and created a great atmosphere within the group. Both areas were hidden gems and two excellent accommodations made for a fabulous trip" L & R T Worcester


" Paul was very knowledgeable, the accommodations and food very good and I really enjoyed visiting places I hadn't been too before. The holiday was also excellent value for money" AMK London