Day 1: Arrival and local birding
After collecting train travellers from the train station, we gather at our comfortable accommodation early afternoon. Once briefed we can head out to look for local birds and visit nearby Coed Gwent, the largest ancient woodland in Wales. Summer breeders including Pied and Spotted Flycatcher, Redstart and Wood Warbler will be high on our target list, with Dipper, Grey Wagtail, Siskin, Lesser Redpoll and a range of common warblers also likely.
Later, or on any of our three evenings based in Monmouthshire we can offer an optional evening excursion to look for Nightjar. We should hear their mechanical ‘churring’ calls and if lucky, enjoy a sighting of a bird or two feeding or displaying in the twilight, perhaps with Woodcock ‘roding’ overhead too. Roe and Fallow Deer may be encountered as they will be stirring at this time, with several bat species also possible.
Day 2: Newport Wetlands
Today we explore the Caldicot Levels, a unique area of willowy flatlands bordering the Severn Estuary at the mouth of the River Usk. Our birding will be centred around the varied habitats of Newport Wetlands with its hides, good network of flat trails and a visitor centre. This large Site of Special Scientific interest hosts many rare breeding birds and there may be some late migrating birds passing through too. Breeding waders include Avocet, Little Ringed Plover and Lapwing, while searching the extensive reedbeds may reveal Bittern (more easily heard than seen), Marsh Harrier, Bearded Tit, Cetti’s and Reed Warbler. Otter are occasionally seen here too, and later at other nearby reserves we might get lucky with Water Vole, a species just hanging on by a thread in Wales.
Day 3: The Black Mountains
Heading inland to the nearby Black Mountains, new habitats from moorland to mixed woodland offer varying, and different species to these seen on the tour so far. Among those we specifically seek are Red Grouse, Cuckoo, Whinchat and Wheatear while we may also encounter Red Kite, Hobby, Stonechat, Tree and Meadow Pipit and many others. The now very local Willow Tit is just surviving in one forestry plantations, and we will dedicate time looking for these. With the possibility of also seeing Hawfinch, Common Crossbill, Siskin and Firecrest (the latter a fairly recent colonist, but now a locally common breeding species), we will be sure of a great day.
Day 4: Grassholm and Ramsey Islands
Today we have an early start and transfer west to Pembrokeshire. An exciting two-island day awaits us , and departing from St Justinians we visit the RSPB reserve at Grassholm first. Though not landing, we take the boat close to the cliffs, experiencing the noise and throng of thousands of Gannets plus a smell you will never forget! We stand a good chance of seeing other seabirds from the boat including Manx Shearwater, auks, and perhaps dolphins and Harbour Porpoise too. Afterwards we head for Ramsey, with time to explore on foot. Many believe this lesser-known place (compared to others in the area) to actually be the most beautiful of all the Pembrokeshire islands. A location which compliments Skomer with its subtle differences and large populations of Chough, Atlantic Grey Seal and resident Red Deer.
Day 5: Gower Peninsula
Gower is a peninsula of remarkable beauty, that in character is quite separate from the rest of Wales, and notable for being designated as Britain’s first ever ‘Area of Outstanding National Beauty’. The coastal marshes, dunes and rocky shores provide unique and beautiful surroundings with a profusion of wildflowers being a particular highlight at this time. The Gower is a large area and by selecting one or two places to explore we have the chance of seeing Dartford Warbler, Chough, Raven and Peregrine before returning to our hotel in Pembrokeshire.
Day 6: Skomer Island
Just twenty minutes by boat from the Mainland, Skomer the perfect size for a day’s exploration and to enjoy its wildlife from its spectacular cliff-tops. The largest colony of Puffins in the south of Britain can be found here, and there will be a chance to get close to these comical birds. Around half of the world’s Manx Shearwater also breed on Skomer but we are only likely to see them at sea by day, the birds only visiting their nest holes under the cover darkness. Other species we may see encounter include Little and Short-eared Owl – both of which breed, plus Fulmar, Cormorant, Oystercatcher and perhaps even a late rarity such as a Rosy Starling if found by the local wardens.
Day 7: Mainland Pembrokeshire/Caernarvonshire
On our ‘spare’ day we explore the Mainland, visiting lakes, beautiful coastal bays and beaches, estuaries and favoured nature reserves. We have many options, gaps in our checklist likely dictating where we go with the Gann Estuary, Marloes Mere, Teifi Marshes or nearby Poppit Sands among the possibilities. Waders are likely to feature, the area can be good for calling Quail and coastal headlands have been known to attract a wayward Common Crossbill or Rosy Starling in June. Venturing further afield to the Llanelli Wetland Centre is another option, a site with a strong track record for 'summer' rarities including Caspian Tern, Collared Pratincole, Wood Sandpiper, Red-necked Phalarope and Spoonbill in recent years. There are many good botanical sites in the area too, while or a historical visit to St David’s Cathedral may also be possible. Though with two boat trips planned our schedule on this particular day may vary depending on the weather conditions.
Day 8: Departure
Our tour ends just after breakfast and we return east to Newport expecting to arrive around noon for drop off at the train station and other points as required.