Introduction and access: The Wyre Forest is one of the finest remaining native woodlands in Britain and certainly the largest and most diverse in the West Midlands region. Straddling the Worcestershire - Shropshire border it covers around 6,000 acres with a wide variety of habitats, but undoubtedly the best feature, especially from an ornithological point of view is the Dowles Brook. There is year round interest with spring being by far the most popular time to visit. There are numerous points of entry to the Forest with car parking available at the Visitor Centre and off Dry Mill Lane (limited spaces). Please remember to park sensibly, especially at the latter location where the gates must not be blocked as access is required at all times.
Birds: The main attraction during the spring season are those three species that are more associated with the sessile oakwoods of Wales - Redstart, Pied Flycatcher and Wood Warbler. The latter species is often the most easy to locate along the Dowles Brook, particularly when the males are in song, but numbers can fluctuate markedly with as many as twenty pairs present in a good year but in other years there may only be three or four. Redstarts are also fairly conspicuous when singing but can be surprisingly elusive at times while Pied Flycatchers often require more patience as they can spend long periods high in the canopy. The provision of nest boxes in Knowles Coppice can often provide the best chance of seeing Pied Flycatchers but if you come across an occupied box then please view from a sensible distance in order to avoid any unnecessary disturbance. Other interesting species which can be encountered include Spotted Flycatcher, Garden Warbler, Cuckoo and Tree Pipit, the latter species favouring the clearings viewable from the disused railway line that runs parallel to Dowles Brook. The Dowles Brook itself holds Dipper throughout the year and is the most reliable place in the county to observe them, while Grey Wagtail, Kingfisher and Mandarin are also present. The area around Lodge Hill Farm often holds a few Hawfinch during the winter months with birds best looked for from the public footpath that crosses the railway bridge and continues through the orchard, while Lesser Spotted Woodpecker is also often encountered here. Another woodland speciality that can be present is the Crossbill, although numbers vary considerably from year to year with the Arboretum being one of the more reliable locations to observe them. Brambling also occur during the winter months but again in variable numbers, while Siskin and Redpoll are far more numerous and reliable most years. The secretive Goshawk is present throughout the year but mid-mornings on a sunny day in early spring provide the best chance of observing a displaying bird, especially from any forest clearing that provides a good vantage point.
Dipper on Dowles Brook in the Wyre Forest: Picture: Brian Stretch