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Forest Bathing in the Woods of Gwent

  A beautiful Bluebell Wood. This spring I have focused my photography on new areas beyond my usual haunt of Goldcliff Lagoons and have been exploring several wonderful local woods. Life for me is busy at the moment and at times the stresses and strains of life have left me in a real need of opportunities to get outdoors with nature. I am fortunate to have some great woods on my doorstep where I can spend some time "Forest Bathing" to detox and destress from all the hustle and bustle. Spring is one of the best times of the year to visit the woods of Gwent. The woods are full of life. It's like a botanic explosion has occurred with flora and fauna of all kinds coming into life and making an appearance. Walking through the woods is a real sensory experience. The eyes are dazzled with an array of different colours, lots of fresh greens, the whole spectrum of coloured flowers, Yellow celandine, the white of the Anemones, Pinks of the Red Campions, and more yellows from Wild D

After the Storm

Storm Callum has certainly brought a huge amount of rain to Gwent. Record levels of flooding have resulted along the Usk Valley with large parts of the flood lands under water.

A good deluge of rain has been much needed at Goldcliff Lagoons. At times this year they have looked more akin to death valley than a wetland habitat.

This morning was a complete washout and for once I decided to go back to bed at 6 am and wait out the heavy rain.

By mid-day the weather forecast looked more promising and I headed down to the reserve. It was good to meet up with a few other birders as well who had also decided to brave the wet weather a little.

I was told that earlier in the day there had been quite a show of waders including Little Stints, Redshank, Dunlins and Golden Plovers. Good to hear as the lagoons have been a little quiet at times over the last few months - certainly on the wader front.

I got to see a Little Stint feeding in front of Monks Lagoon ( Hide 1) and then accompanied by another birder headed off around the hide to the seawall hide. Blue sky was on the horizon and things were brightening up.

The  tide was out and the mudflats had Oystercatchers, Curlews, Black Headed Gulls, Dunlins and Shelducks in good numbers but spread out at a distance.

In the seawall hide we met up with another birder friend and sat up waiting for some birds to make an appearance whilst having a good old natter.

Priors (Lagoon 2) was starting to fill with water at long last. The muddy banks were full of Pied Wagtails , Meadow Pipits and Linnets.

Becs (Lagoon 3) was quiet. A couple of Mute Swans, Teal,Shoveler and the odd curlew. We saw three Buzzards. Two of which were white in colour. The usual "Bosprey" was present thats really white and another Buzzard on the far side of Becs could be seen thats also got a great deal of white plumage. Perhaps they are related.

One of our company decided to leave and the remaining birders ( two of us including me) stayed on a little while just in case.

Our patience was rewarded. I noticed a bird land to the right of sea wall hide in the thick grass and then launch itself out of the grass and realised it was a female Kestrel.

She flew up directly in front of us and landed on a post. Just fabulous to watch. The Kestrel had caught something and began to eat.  From what I can make out from analysing the photographs the prey item appears to be a dragonfly.  Perhaps this bird thinks its a "Hobby".

Magpies were annoyingly following the Kestrel and disturbing its meal time. I think they were trying to pester her for the left overs.

She flew up into the sky and started hovering in the same spot. Down she went again , got mobbed by the Magpies and then finally after a few flights and chases involving the magpies landed again on a post in front of the seawall hide. The Kestrel had once again caught something - again it looked like a big insect and I would bet its a dragonfly.

We were treated to some nice close ups of a really beautiful falcon. She looked quite scruffy around the tail feathers and I wager that she may be a juvenile going through the moult. I will have to ask my falconer/birder friend and see what he can tell when he sees the pictures.

Another great time at the reserve, good company, fresh air and fabulous wildlife.

Kestrel launching into flight in response to Magpies

Eating a dragonfly

The dragonflies wings can be seen

Magpie pestering the Kestrel

Hovering close to Priors Lagoon.

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