I had a wonderful morning at Highnam Woods this morning. The mist cleared to expose beautiful blue sky, which is just lovely to see at this time of year. Although the spectrum of colours in the coppiced woodland isn't quite as striking as that at Nagshead, but the sense of space and open air is just incredible.
As I walked around I was delighted as I listened to nuthatches calling all around me, raven a little further away. A couple of jays kept flitting out in front of me which was wonderful and there was the usual array of tits, chaffinches, and the occassional ticks of robins and wrens. There was a small flock of redwings over the central area of woods, seen shortly before I saw a red admiral skip past me - never thought I'd be putting those in the same post! I was also pleased that it is still easy to walk round it, the tracks are still firm, and not too muddy / slippy.
I managed to steal a few moments of quiet in the hide with another visitor too, and I'm so glad I did. I was greeted with the sight of nuthatch at seed on the table, and it wasn't long before I'd ticked off blue, great, marsh and coal tit. After a little while a familiar call took my eyes higher into the surrounding trees where a pair of long-tailed tits were picking through lichen and bark to see what they could get. Out of the corner of my eye I saw another movement, it took a while to see what it was, and I almost made a classic error and thought greater spotted woodpecker, but there was something not quite right about it, was it just too small? Was there more white on it's back than there should be for a greater spotted woodpecker? Yes, absolutely, I was looking at my first lesser spotted woodpecker - what an amazing sight! I watched it for quite a while, it was oblivious to our eyes on it as it moved around a bare tree searching for it's lunch. I'm only sorry I don't have an amazing picture of it to post here, but perhaps you'll be as lucky as me if you pop in there.
Today was one of those special autumn days, starting with a weak veil of mist which the sun quickly burned through to reveal the stunning scene below. Everywhere you looked the Beech and Oak trees were glowing gold, we couldn't have asked for a better backdrop to the opening day of our refurbished visitor centre at Nagshead.
Autumn colours (Photo: Lewis Thomson)
The installation of solar panels, a living sedum roof and a highly efficient wood burner at the visitor centre was made possible through European funding distributed by the Forest of Dean Local Action Group. It was fantastic to be able to celebrate the green benefits that this is bringing to the local community with representatives of the organisations that made it all possible.
Forest of Dean Local Action Group Chairman Colin Evers cuts the ribbon (Photo: Lewis Thomson)
Representatives from the Local Action Group, the Forestry Commission, the RSPB and the contractors who worked on the project (Photo: Lewis Thomson)
The visitor centre is regularly used for the RSPBs Wildlife Explorers club and school groups. The green benefits of the centre can be used not only to bring sustainable energy and comfort to the groups, but also act as a teaching tool to explain climate change and how green energy can benefit us and wildlife. Today's Wildlife Explorers group had a brilliant time making mud faces on trees, check out those smiles, quite artistic don't you think?!
The wise men of the woods! Mud faces made by children from the Gloucestershire Wildlife Explorers group (Photos: Lewis Thomson)
For more information on schools and youth activities contact our Lead Field Teacher, Jean James on 0845 6031607 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many of our winter birds have already arrived, with two Bramblings, eight Fieldfares and 30 Redwings seen at Nagshead today! The Bramblings were feeding on Beech mast with three Hawfinches and a small flock of Chaffinches along the main forestry track between Campbell Hide and the heath area. Redwings were feeding frantically on Holly berries around the long trail and a small flock of Crossbills were around the heath. Birds migrating over the reserve have included Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, Linnets, Redpolls and Fieldfares all heading southwest. We are currently in the middle of the Fallow Deer rut; a roaring buck can be heard most mornings from the short trail / lower hide area.
RSPB Nagshead Visitor Centre, October 2011 (Photo: Lewis Thomson)
Our programme of winter work parties are well underway, including coppicing at Highnam Woods for Nightingale habitat and giving the visitor centre at Nagshead a much needed lick of paint. The visitor centre is now looking fantastic with a new sedum roof and all power coming solely from the solar panels.
As ever, the winter practical tasks are made so much more achievable and enjoyable by our team of dedicated volunteers and we are very keen for new volunteers to join us. If you fancy giving us a hand then please do come along - all are welcome, whether experienced or new to practical work, we will always find something for you to do! Being in a beautiful woodland, making friends, getting fit and learning about nature conservation - is there any better way to spend your free Wednesdays?! Please see the full winter schedule below and contact us on 01594 562852 or email us at email@example.com for further details.
Work party dates:
Highnam Woods 10am-3pm