10/05/2012

Bird on a Wyre

The following post was written after my first few visits to Wyre forest. The aim of the original article was to provide the reader with information about Wyre and its diverse range of bird life.
My imminent move back to the north west of England means that this area will no longer be on my doorstep. I shall miss my frequent visits to the forest, especially during spring and summer, when it became my second home. I hope my fondness for this area is communicated through my images and also that they inspire some of you to visit this truly stunning location.


Tree canopy, Wyre Forest


One of the most outstanding areas of natural beauty in the West Midlands, if not the country, is The Wyre Forest. Situated one mile west of Bewdley, Worcestershire, the forest encompasses 6,000 acres of well established mixed woodland. Like so many of Britain's woodlands, Wyre was cultivated by the English gentry at the turn of the century for hunting purposes. The land is now managed as a nature reserve by a number of organisations including Forest Enterprise (FE), National Nature Reserve (NNR) and the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust (WWT).

For the naturalist the site is an Aladdin's cave, brimming with a diverse treasure of native species. On my first visit I chose to bypass the visitor centre and accessed the reserve via Dry Mill Lane, just off the B4190. At the end of the lane is a small car park, to guarantee a space, it is advisable to arrive early as overcrowding can be a problem.


From the moment you get out of your vehicle you are greeted with bird song. Robin, wren, chaffinch and the distinctive laugh of the green woodpecker can all be heard. Visit in early spring (late April - early May) and the native bird species are joined by the illustrious summer migrants, most notably the warblers. Whitethroats, chiff chaffs, blackcaps, wood and willow warblers all add beautiful song that reverberates around the forest.


Green woodpecker

It would be impossible for any 'twitcher' to cover all 2,400 hectares of the reserve in one day. A leisurely walk along Dowles Brook is a far better option and an excellent starting place if visiting for the first time.

From the car park you will see a stone railway bridge. Follow the old rail track, now a tarmac lane, to the bridge then make your way up the embankment. At the top, turn left and head north. After a few minutes you will see an old stone cottage and hear the trickle of Dowles Brook, which runs parallel to the house. Having made your way down to the waters edge, follow the path alongside the brook in a north-westerly direction for about a mile and three quarters.

Dowles brook

The calming trickle of Dowles brook is regularly broken by the piercing whistle of the magnificent kingfisher. Its scintillating hues of electric blue, turquoise and salmon-red, flash past at incredible speeds. Find a place at the waters edge, near overhanging branches, and sit quietly. If patient you will be rewarded with views of this exotic looking bird as it perches motionless, before diving for minnow.

Kingfisher

The tactic of sitting quietly in the same location can be very satisfying, especially on the banks of Dowles brook. I have regularly observed a pair of Mandarin ducks at close quarters. The male in particular is a delight to watch as it stands on the sandy bank preening its multi-coloured plumage.
Dippers are also widespread in this area, as are grey wagtails, the latter displaying great artistry as they deftly flit across the waters surface catching cranefly.

Mandarin duck (male)

For those visitors wishing to add to their species list, continue walking for approximately one mile. Immediately after you pass a white derelict house you will be able to cross the brook using a small iron footbridge. Head south up the plateau of mixed woodland. Once at the top, the assault on your senses continues. Take time to look back and admire the view. Lilac bluebells mixed with white wood anemones carpet the forest floor, yellow daubs of buttercup pepper the meadowland and the various hues of green that make up the woodland canopy all contribute to what looks like an impressionistic artwork.

Woodland floor, Wyre Forest

As you follow the woodland trail up the steep ascent goldcrest, greenfinch, blue, great, coal and long-tailed tits can all be seen and heard. It would be unusual if you didn't hear the drumming of the great-spotted woodpecker in this area too. Stop again for a period of time and the bird will inevitably move in to view.

Great-spotted woodpecker

At the top of the trail the path will again meet the old railway track. Turn left and follow the lane east, it will eventually lead you all the way back to the car park, approximately one and a quarter miles.
The bird species along the track is just as impressive. Many of the small passerines are present, highlights could include nuthatch, redstart and the elusive pied flycatcher.

Nuthatch

There is also a very good chance of seeing raptors along this track. Sparrowhawks are ever present and can be seen regularly, skimming the hedgerows in pursuit of small song birds. Look up to the sky and you will more than likely see buzzards gliding on the thermals, almost motionless, whilst mewing their distinctive cries.

Common buzzard

Returning to the car park you'll wish you had time to explore many more of Wyre's extensive woodland trails. It's a vast reserve, of stunning beauty, with a diverse collection of avifauna. A must for all ornithologists and naturalists.