Places to see birds

Wye Gorge and Lower Wye Valley

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Male lapwing in breeding habitat
RSPB Images

The Wye Gorge and Lower Wye Valley

The Lower Wye Valley between Ross-on-Wye and Chepstow is an outstanding river landscape. Bordering the northern and western edges of the Forest of Dean in west Gloucestershire, the valley has woodlands, farmland and carboniferous limestone cliffs before it runs into the Severn estuary at Beachley Point. Bird species possible along the north to south route are; Peregrine, Goshawk, Buzzard, Kestrel, occasional Hobby wandering Red Kites (mostly in spring), Ospreys on passage in spring and autumn, Raven, Lesser and Greater Spotted woodpeckers, Nuthatch, Dipper, Shelduck, Mandarin, Sand Martin, Kingfisher, Skylark, Lapwing, Curlew, Redstart, Pied Flycatcher, Wood Warbler, Grey Wagtail, Reed Warbler, Nightjar, Woodcock, Tawny Owl......

Symond's Yat Rock (SO 566159) is an excellent raptor viewing point and regular breeding site for Peregrine Falcons. The site, three miles north of Coleford, is owned by the Forestry Commission. Staff and volunteers from RSPB are on site daily from April to the end of August providing telescopes and information to help visitors find and see the birds, especially the Peregrines, which are resident throughout the year. Goshawks are also seen regularly and less frequent visitors include Red Kite, Hobby and Osprey. (See also the separate article on Symonds Yat elsewhere in this section). Early morning mist in the valley often makes viewing difficult.
South of Coleford the area from Clearwell village which runs down to the River Wye at Bigsweir is excellent for farmland and woodland birds. North of Clearwell (SO 572080) is a rolling landscape of fields, hedges and small woods. This is great country for Buzzards, thought to be extinct locally in the 1880s until two nests were discovered at nearby Newland in 1888. Ravens are also resident. There are numerous viewpoints overlooking the area when walking the field footpaths. South of the Clearwell farmlands, the elevated limestone plateau still has Lapwings and Curlews. Skylarks are abundant and other farmland species such as Yellowhammers, Linnets, Stock Doves and Kestrels are easily found. Wheatears and other species of chats occur on migration and winter mixed finch flocks usually include Bramblings.
Bigsweir Woods (car park at SO 542054 on the road down to Bigsweir Bridge) are owned by the Woodland Trust. All three species of woodpeckers breed and spring is the best time to find Lesser Spotted when they are most vocal and visible, especially in the tops of Oaks, before bud burst. Small numbers of Pied Flycatchers, Wood Warblers and Redstarts also breed here.
Three miles downstream the superb valley landscape at Tintern provides more birdwatching opportunities. Tintern Station (SO 536006) which is now a railway museum, is a good base to walk from. A camera in one of the site's nestboxes provides intimate scenes of breeding activity on a screen in the café. The Angidy River, which tumbles into the Wye at Tintern, is best explored from Tintern village (SO 529001) and has breeding Dippers and Grey Wagtails.
The Wye Valley ends at Beachley Point where the River Wye joins the Severn Estuary. Follow the unclassified road through Sedbury to the end at Beachley. There is a small car park under the Severn Bridge (ST 552906) from which it is a short walk to the point where there is grassland, rocky shore, mudflats and a small reedbed. Avoid high tide when most of the intertidal habitats are covered. Breeding birds include Meadow Pipits, Reed Buntings, Reed Warblers and, possibly, Oystercatchers. In winter Shelduck and small numbers of Dunlin, Curlew, Redshank, Lapwing and Wigeon are regular. Other winter species include Stonechats, Rock Pipits and occasional Black Redstarts.

Sites and access
All the sites except for Tintern are on the eastern side of the river. The nearest railway stations are at Lydney and Chepstow. Details of local bus services may be found at www.gloucestershire.gov.uk/bustimetables but sites away from main roads are not well served.

Map
The Ordnance Survey Explorer Map Wye Valley and the Forest of Dean (1:25 000) covers the whole area.

Web resources
The Gloster Birder (see our Links page) and Gwent Birds (see below) websites have recent sightings for their regions.