With The Big Garden Birdwatch back again for 2024, wildlife lovers all over the UK are grabbing their note books and heading outdoors to record their findings and logging them with the RSPB between 26 and 28 January. The annual campaign enables a deeper understanding of how our birdlife is thriving in the UK and whether any species are at risk or changing their habits.
Right across the Wye Valley, the Welsh borders and down to the Forest of Dean, the countryside is teaming with wildlife and Ross-on-Wye is no exception. Nestled in the picturesque Herefordshire countryside, Ross’ stunning landscapes and diverse wildlife is the perfect destination for birdwatching enthusiasts who will find themselves in a haven of avian wonders, with several exceptional spots to explore the region’s rich birdlife.
1. Wye Valley’s AONB
One of the prime locations for birdwatching around Ross-on-Wye is the renowned Wye Valley, stretching across this unique Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Wye River, meandering through the valley, attracts a variety of waterfowl. Kingfishers dart along the riverbanks, their vibrant plumage adding a splash of colour to the winter landscape. Keep an eye out for elusive dippers bobbing on rocks and the occasional heron patiently stalking its prey.
2. Symonds Yat Rock
Just a short drive from Ross-on-Wye lies Symonds Yat Rock, a prominent viewpoint overlooking the Wye Valley. This elevated vantage point provides an excellent opportunity for birdwatchers to observe raptors soaring across the sky. Peregrine falcons, buzzards and red kites are often spotted here, putting on a spectacular aerial display. During the breeding season, the cliffs around Symonds Yat become home to nesting peregrines, offering a rare chance to witness these majestic birds up close.
3. Goodrich Castle
For those interested in a more immersive birdwatching experience, the Goodrich Castle and Coppett Hill area is a must-visit. The ancient ruins of Goodrich Castle stand as a backdrop to a landscape teeming with birdlife.
The mix of woodland, meadows and the nearby river provides a diverse habitat for various species. Songbirds like warblers and finches can be heard singing in the trees and in the quiet woodlands, you will no doubt hear the gentle drumming of woodpeckers on the old oaks. The open fields attract skylarks and lapwings, creating a symphony of birdcalls that resonate through the air.
4. Forest of Dean
The nearby Forest of Dean adds another layer to the birdwatching tapestry of Ross-on-Wye. This expansive forest, with its diverse ecosystems, shelters an array of bird species. Walk along the forest trails, and you may encounter the elusive hawfinch, known for its powerful beak and vibrant plumage. The forest is also home to the tawny owl, whose haunting calls may be heard during the quieter hours of dawn and dusk.
5. Wilton Castle
Venturing towards the riverside meadows, Wilton Castle, half a mile from Ross-on-Wye town centre, offers a tranquil setting for birdwatching enthusiasts. The riverbanks attract a variety of waders and waterfowl, including sandpipers, oystercatchers and mallards. The castle grounds provide an ideal spot for setting up a telescope or simply enjoying a leisurely day of birdwatching amidst historical surroundings.
Whether you prefer the riverside tranquility of the Wye Valley, the dramatic cliffs of Symonds Yat Rock, the historic charm of Goodrich Castle, the diverse ecosystems of the Forest of Dean, or the serene meadows around Wilton Castle, you are sure to be captivated by the rich avian diversity that graces this enchanting region. So, pack your binoculars, lace up your walking boots and embark on a birdwatching adventure in the heart of Herefordshire’s natural beauty.