The Wye Valley is home to a variety of birds including species such as the Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), Mute Swan (Cygnus olor), Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) and a variety of ducks.
Birds of Prey - Peregrine Falcons (Falco peregrinus) have nested in the limestone cliffs of Coldwell Rocks in the Forest of Dean for the past 20 years. The crevices in the rock face are also ideal nesting sites for other birds such as ravens and jackdaws. From the viewing point on Symonds Yat Rock you can enjoy watching the peregrines while they hunt and raise their young from April to August each year. Other birds of prey such as the Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) and Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) can also be seen here and throughout the wooded slopes of the River Wye.
Woodpeckers -The large areas of woodland and orchards help to sustain healthy populations of woodpeckers. The commonest of these are the Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis ) and the Greater Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major ), both of which have increased in numbers in recent years. By contrast the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos minor ) has suffered an alarming population decline in the UK over recent years. It is listed as a UK biodiversity priority species and also an RSPB Red list species. The lesser spotted woodpecker is the smallest of the three British species of woodpecker and is barely larger than the house sparrow. It prefers smaller diameter deadwood that that of its larger relatives and was once commonly asscoaited with orchards (a habitat that has now largely declined). . .
Nightjar - A summer visitor to the Wye Valley is the Nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus). Commonly assciated with moorland heath and open woodland it has benefitted in the AONB from recent heathland restoration initiatives at Beacon Hill, Broadmeend and Tiddenham Chase. It is best looked for at dusk between April and mid-May when their kestrel like silouette can be seen against the setting sun and the males give an unusual 'churring' call.
Woodland Species -The woodland offers opportunities to spot a range of other woodland species such as Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla), Nuthatch (Sitta europea), Long Tailed Tits (Aegithalos caudatus), Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca ) and Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus).
River Species - The tributaries of the Wye in Monmouthshire and Gloucestershire are habitat for the Dipper (Cinclus cinclus) and the Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea ), the Angiddy Valley has supported a good breeding population of dipper for many years. It is also home to the brilliant Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)
Decline of Species - Conversely many species have either been lost form the Wye Valley or are likely to soon disappear. An example of the latter is the Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur ) which was once relatively common but has decreased in nubers at its range constricts across the UK and Europe. The Wye Valley was host to the last breeding population of turtle dove in Wales and despite survey effort and conservation measures it does not breed there now but still persists in the Forest of Dean. The decline in turtle dove is possibly a result of habitat loss (although there is still ample habitat within the AONB) or persecution in the core area of its range in mainland Europe. Species that have been lost from the area are the Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos ) and Cirl Bunting (Emberiza cirlus ), both of which have suffered a massive national decline.
A partnership between the AONB Unit, Ross-on-Wye Town Council and Natural England have started tree management work on the banks of the Wye where it passes through Ross, to benefit biodiversity and create river views.
If you are 14-18 years old and love exploring the countryside of the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean, then the Wye Valley AONB Youth Ranger programme is looking for you! Come along to our Taster Day on September 30th.