Viewing entries tagged
Gwent Levels

Before the Rain

Spring might have been a wet one, but it’s been great so far this summer for bugs. I usually turn my attention to bugs this time of year as some species have a small window of opportunity before they all disappear again till next year. If you like Grasshoppers and Crickets, it’s worth visiting the north side of Llandegfedd as the meadows are alive with Roesel’s, Dark, Oak & Speckled Bush-crickets, Green, Meadow, Field and Mottled Grasshoppers, Long & Short-winged Coneheads and even Ground Hoppers with more to discover I’m sure.
As you know I like to record the sounds of nature, but as many people cannot hear some species of Grasshopper as they’re too high pitched, I’ve started a project that aims to record as many different species of Grasshopper / Cricket as possible and to slow those recordings down so that you can listen to the finer detail of each and every stroke of the wing cases. It’s not for everyone, but i find stuff like this fascinating as it reveals frequencies that you wouldn’t otherwise hear. Listen back to these insects in slow-motion helps you enter their world for a moment and also highlights how important it is for us to start consider the environmental impact our noise pollution has on species that are dependant on sound in order to reproduce.


I tend not to go anywhere simply for the walk these days, partly because I can’t walk far at the moment as I have gall-stones that are playing havoc, but also because I only walk 2 minutes before spotting something interesting to photograph, record or just appreciate. It doesn’t do anything for my fitness levels this way but I’ve made so much luck this way, slowly walking through the landscape, trying to appreciate everything that I see. If you do this, you’ll be rewarded more and more, and this was evident when I was accompanied by a Stoat that was quite shy, but I would have easily missed it if I was walking with the intent to walk. If you want to see things, you need to slow right down.

Mimicking Continues

Last week I introduced a Firecrest mimicking a Goldcrest song and this week I wanted to show you another example of a classic mimicking species, the Sedge Warbler! Now the recording isn’t very good with high winds and noisy planes that have been filtered out, that and the fact that the bird was only singing at quarter volume which is often called ‘sub-song’ but you can still make out the pitch perfect attempt at a Blue Tit song, eventually weaving back into it’s typical chattery mixture of notes. It also attempted to fit in a few phrases of Blackcap and Wren but the Blue Tit was by far the best I’ve heard for a while.

This Sedge Warbler was spotted at a new location along the Gwent Levels.

Sedge Warbler

Sedge Warbler

I also spotted a Water Vole in a rhyne. Testament to the hard work of the Wildlife Trust at Magor Marsh and NRW. It’s great that they’ve spread this far across the levels. Unfortunately this spot is directly threatened by the proposed M4 ‘Black Route’ so all this hard work could be lost. If you haven’t already, check out ‘CALM’ https://savethelevels.org.uk/ to learn more about what you can do to help protect the Gwent Levels from development.

Water Vole

Water Vole

#No New M4!

As distracting (and devastating) as the imminent disaster of Brexit is, there are some other really important things happening right now that need our attention. To save the Gwent Levels and the Wildlife within, we need to fight for it, otherwise the bulldozers WILL move in. Please contact your local AM’s and let them know that tearing up the Gwent Levels for this ridiculous plan to choose the most environmentally damaging route they could have possibly picked, IS NOT ACCEPTABLE!


Enter your details using one of the links below and if you’re on Twitter, use the hashtag #NONEWM4 to share your thoughts.

https://action.wildlifetrusts.org/page/30798/action/1?fbclid=IwAR09CdJf0JizzKlDCQKVkEhgsX7F0QohNeVPG3CP59Sw9MYKH_Qf2jENd5A

https://act.friendsoftheearth.uk/act/no-new-m4-dim-m4-newydd?fbclid=IwAR2TEovtY4HbQmNssdFI9x29swazTc7Fwl9-wdbP-yMP5cI4oaUsQFDwbXQ

Water Vole have only been re-introduced in the last couple of years and upon making their comeback to the levels, already their habitat is set to be destroyed. These and many more species that benefit from the Levels, like our first breeding pair of Cranes for our 400 years! Read all about it HERE. It’s not acceptable. Please use one of the links, learn more about it and see how you can help, time is running out.

Water Vole

GWT Magor Marsh

The gwent levels never fails to impress me. The sheer diversity there that thrive on both manmade and natural habitats is outstanding. Todays selection of photos only scratch the surface of the things I saw on my short trip after work to magor. Finding a Glow Worm larvae at the end of the wooden pathway was a nice reminder of what happens after dark. A late night trip in the next couple weeks might be on the cards to spot any lights in the darkness. The wind was up which meant the butterflies were down and I managed to get close enough to shoot a few orange tip butterflies with the Macro lens. The Emperor Moth was taken in St Brides thanks to Mel Oxford who was lucky enough to have one sat on his lawn! What a beautiful Moth! We have a great selection of beautiful moths in the Uk and it’s on my list this year to make a trap to record the species in my area. It will be a great way to expand my knowledge, learn more species and add to the never ending list of records that I have to send off. 

Water Voles

Great to see that the Water Voles of the Gwent Levels are doing well (for now). It goes to show that with Mink control and the right introductory plans, surrounding conservation of habitat ect, we can do great things. This is a good example of conservation, an example of bad conservation comes in the form of Natural England's recent decision to create a licence for everyone to shoot Buzzards.. What are the reasons for wanting to shoot Buzzards you say? Well.. that's so more shooters can carry on killing Pheasants.. an introduced species for sport hunting. Drives me nuts if I'm honest that shooting culture should shape our future wildlife for their own selfish benefits. Anyways, back to these cute fluffy creatures. Enjoy. 

Savi's Warbler

I've been so busy this last week, buzzing here, there and everywhere! Spring is such a special time of year and this year we're lucky enough to be graced with the sound of the Savi's Warbler which was last heard on the Gwent Levels in 2014. We're lucky to get another or the same bird arrive which can be heard singing early morning.

The sound is pretty incredible, so much so that I didn't even focus on getting a photograph!. It was very windy and the forecast for this week isn't looking much better but I have high hopes for Sunday evening so I'm hoping that the bird stays for long enough. 

The picture below was taken by Matthew Scott and if you click on the picture it will take you directly to his flickr page. I don't often use other peoples photographs but in this case, I thought a recording would be more important to share! 

The sound of the Savi's is iconic and very similar to our Grasshopper Warbler. In comparison, the Savi's has a much faster trill making it sound very electric, where the Grasshopper Warbler is slower, quieter and more delicate (but equally satisfying). A Gropper is described to sound more like running your finger nail down a hair comb, spacious and high pitch. The Savi's is more like an electric churr with much greater speed and has more presence. It's much easier to miss a Grasshopper Warbler singing where Savi's will stand out. 

Gwent Levels #lovethelevels #notoblackroute

Please take the time to listen with a decent pair of headphones if you have a pair. Or better still, a surround sound system? lol. Apple iPods will do... With all the troubles that our Gwent Levels are having at the moment, I thought I'd put together a short Soundscape that was taken yesterday in just 3 hours after work. It was a glorious evening and I wanted to try and capture every aspect of what makes our levels special. You'll hear the iconic Sedge Warbler at the start of the recording with several species in the background like Cetti's Warbler, Chiffchaff, Cuckoo and also people talking in the background (which I wanted to include to show that people regularly use the levels as an escape). The middle part is hard to take in at once but believe me, all this was happening at the same time! The sound of the waves with Whimbrel in the background, a Bittern Booming and a ship about a mile out giving a drone undertone to the hole soundscape. It ends with the tranquil bubbling song of the Cuckoo and many other species singing their evening chorus as the sun went down. 

Sound is so important, and a factor that many of us overlook due to our often loud, industrial busy lives. That ship in the distance was over a mile away, yet due to the flat levels, sound carries for miles. Development in itself, especially in areas like the levels that are designated by the Government as protected for its rich biodiversity, will have massive implications both nationally and natively in a world where nature comes second behind man. We also have to think about the impacts that sound will have on our environment. The story of the Blackbird having to physically raise their volume and pitch to overcome traffic noise is a good example of the strain that industrial life can give to our wildlife. I can't imagine what it must be like for wildlife that require their ears to hunt for their prey. It's no wonder all of our species of Owl aren't doing so well anymore. 

With all this in mind, I'm strongly against the route chosen by the Welsh Government for the new M4 relief road. There were much more convenient and cheaper options to take and the outcome of this stupid decision goes to show where our Governments priorities lie. 

Below are some photographs from the day of a Whimbrel, Sedge Warbler and Common Whitethroat.