Forest of Dean - We`ve covered a fair bit of ground these past few days, up hill and down dale, amongst the forest and watercourses and visited the RSPB reserve at Nagshead, Symonds Yat, Tintern and Highmeadow, plus various other viewpoints along the way, some affording commanding views across the woodland canopy and river Wye.
In places the forest has retained an atmosphere of the old wild wood with some fine stands of oak, beech and yew, many on the steeper slopes seemingly untouched by human hands, despite evidence of coal mine shafts and charcoal pits locally. At this time of year the deciduous trees are on the turn with maple, chestnut and beech providing great splashes of colour amongst the leaf fall, and with the weather being kind the light has only added to the spectacle.
However, while its not the best time of year for birds there has still been plenty to see (and mostly hear) with all the expected woodland species on offer. Roving flocks of tits and Goldcrests are everywhere, including Marsh Tit and at one location Willow Tit, a species now finished in Kent. On the finch front, Chaffinches are abundant followed by Goldfinches, plus scatterings of Siskins, Redpolls and Crossbills and one flock of 5 Hawfinches at the Nagshead reserve feeding on beech mast, while Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Jay and the two woodpeckers are commonplace.
As for raptors, we`ve had two more sightings of Goshawks, of which I suspect there is a very healthy population hereabouts and Peregrines at Symonds Yat, where there was also a flock of 12 White-fronts on the river Wye below.
We`ve not encountered wild boar as yet, but their presence is notable throughout the forest where they`ve turned over the grassy rides searching for food, while roe deer have been glimpsed twice now.
In places the forest setting is like something out of a Tolkien novel - at any moment you quite expect to see a hobbit pop out of a grassy bank, or an elf up in the canopy, or maybe some black riders cantering down a green lane on great slavering steeds...
Actually, I think I`m suffering from Tree Fever, as while a change of scene is good for the soul, and the Forest of Dean is undeniably beautiful, and I`m loving it, and I`m getting some work done, I am missing the wide open spaces and big skies of Romney Marsh, the shingle and sea. It just too claustrophobic here, too many trees, I need more light... more wind... back home soon...