Rail pick-up is from Gloucester station, and drop-off at Bridgewater station. Please contact our office for full details. Drivers can leave vehicles safely parked at our first hotel, and you will be returned here at the end of the holiday.
before transferring the group to our first hotel, The Speech House Hotel.
If travelling by car - Please meet at our first nights accommodation at 3pm, The Speech House Hotel - details of which will be sent out in your Final Information Pack. You can leave your vehicle parked here for the duration of your holiday (please note all vehicles are left at the owners own risk).
DAY 1 - Saturday
After settling in, we have a briefing, and may take a short walk nearby to familiarize ourselves. Our excellent hotel is perfectly situated in the heart of the Forest, with walks directly into the woods and the possibility of Hawfinch nearby. Our excursions from here are within a short drive, giving us more time for birdwatching. The hotel dates back to the 17th century when it was used as a hunting lodge, and is full of character with an excellent and varied menu. Four nights at Speech House Hotel, Forest of Dean.
DAY 2 - Sunday
A day exploring the Forest of Dean. Our main targets will be Hawfinch and displaying Goshawk, but we'll also be looking for other woodland birds. We take walks at various locations around the Forest. On a sunny day the Goshawks could be displaying, hopefully we can see them performing their magnificent ‘butterfly’ and even their ‘sky-dancing’ display flights. Resident Hawfinch numbers can be boosted in winter by European birds and rove the forest in small elusive flocks, sometimes in mixed feeding flocks of Common Crossbill, Redpoll, Siskin and Brambling. Marsh Tit, Nuthatch, and Treecreeper should be encountered, and if we’re very lucky Lesser-spotted Woodpecker and Firecrest. Over recent years the Forest has held wintering Great Grey Shrike, plus Fieldfare and Redwing, so we shall be searching for these too if present. For those who wish to, we can take twilight walks looking for Wild Boar.
DAY 3 - Monday
Today we drive down from the forest escarpment into the Severn Vale, where we spend the day exploring the Severn Estuary, an excellent place for wintering wildfowl and waders, and should see White-fronted Goose, Bewick's Swan, a variety of waders, raptors and more wildfowl. We visit WWT Slimbridge, founded by Peter Scott, and although this will form the centre of our activities, we may visit other sites such as Frampton Marsh and other Severn-side locations. Wildfowl and waders will certainly feature with Pintail, Lapwings mixed with Golden Plover, Ruff, and these places often turn up Peregrine, Merlin, the occasional harrier, and Short-eared Owl. Other wintering birds may include Bittern, Water Rail, Iceland, Glaucous and Mediterranean Gulls.
DAY 4 - Tuesday
Another day in the Forest to find species we may have not yet seen, including a visit to Symond’s Yat Rock viewpoint which not only gives stunning views over the River Wye but also has a resident pair of Peregrine and Raven. It’s also a good location for other interesting birds, with Goshawk, Red Kite, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, a Cormorant roost and perhaps a chance of a passing Goosander. Additionally, we’ll explore the various water bodies around the Forest looking for Mandarin Ducks, Goosander, Dipper, Grey Wagtail and Kingfisher, and of course we may encounter any of the other Forest specialities at any time! In the evening we can again try to see Wild Boar, and perhaps encounter a Woodcock or hear a Tawny Owl.
DAY 5 - Wednesday
After a little more time in the Forest and Wye Valley areas, we transfer to the Somerset Levels, where we stay for three nights. After arrival and settling-in, we should have time to begin exploring this excellent area for wildlife, including the awesome Starling murmuration.
Our accommodation is at the comfortable and friendly Meare Manor, a historic manor house rebuilt in 1802, and now a 4-star guest house, perfect for our needs and only a short drive to all birdwatching locations, with RSPB’s Ham Wall and Shapwick Heath a stone’s throw. Three nights at Meare Manor Guest House.
DAY 6 - Thursday
A full day exploring the levels, where the birding may include Great-white Egret, Bittern, Marsh and Hen Harriers, Water Rail, and huge flocks of wintering duck. Great-crested and Little Grebes fish the open water while Kingfisher zip up the ditches giving their piping calls. Loud bursts of song from Cetti’s Warbler come from the reeds, and, if we’re lucky, the subtle ‘pings’ of Bearded Tits can be heard as small flocks fly low over the reedbeds. Barn Owl hunt the levels at dusk, and Otter are resident and are sometimes seen. We’ll explore the reserves at Ham Wall and Shapwick Heath, which combined with many others, are a part of the nationally important Avalon Marshes, comprising of fenland and also created from old peat workings. We’ll perhaps end our day with another session watching the Starling roost, with up to a million birds performing their aerial murmuration.
DAY 7 - Friday
Another day of wetland exploration seeking species we may have not yet seen. A visit to the south of the Somerset Wetlands to the RSPB reserves at Swell Wood to see the Heronry and Greylake should mean we encounter some Common Cranes, and now firmly established as a breeding population. Other reserves we may visit include Catcott (an area of grazing marsh which floods in the winter providing an excellent area for foraging wildfowl), and Westhay Moor, all part of the mystical Avalon Marshes, a mosaic of marsh, reed beds and lakes.
DAY 8 - Saturday
Breakfast and departure. We will drop off at Bridgwater Train station for trains departing from 10am onwards. Alternatively, if you wish to travel back from Gloucester Train Station we recommend looking at trains departing here from 2pm onwards. If travelling by car, your guides will transfer you back to The Speech House Hotel in order to collect your vehicle.