August 18, 2017

Betty Daw’s Wood and Gwen and Vera’s Fields

Two local Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust nature reserves within the Golden Triangle are looking truly spectacular at the moment, carpeted as they are with the Wild Daffodils (Narcissus pseudonarcissus) for which this area used to be famous. This coming weekend is ‘Daffodil Weekend’ in neighbouring Oxenhall so if you’re local, or live within striking distance of the northern part of the Forest of Dean, you should definitely check these reserves out for yourself.

Firstly Gwen and Vera’s Fields, two historic small daffodil meadows:

Then the more substantial Betty Daw’s wood SSSI, an ancient Sessile Oak (Quercus petrea) woodland:

This last photo also features some Cuckoo Flowers (Cardamine Pratensis) which suddenly seems to be appearing in all the hedgerows. Along with the daffs, I consider this to be a terrific harbinger of spring as it’s a major larval foodplant for the Orange Tip butterfly (Anthocharis cardamines). Fingers crossed they’ll be on the wing soon, as the striking males bring some much needed butterfly colour to these here parts.

Collin Park Wood SSSI

Back at the beginning of December I was inspired to visit this Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve which I’d recently noticed was just off  the route I take to and from my son’s nursery. It was during a particularly cold snap which saw us having several consecutive days of freezing fog and some of the most remarkable Hoar frost I can remember.

As I got out of the car, the path into the reserve already looked like some path into Narnia and I was glad to have wrapped up so warmly. The fog and snow seemed to dampen any sound I made and it would have been eerie, had it not looked quite so beautiful. I was however beginning to have a niggling regret about not having brought some kind of magical device – the EOS 5D is a truly magnificent piece of kit, but it’s not much cop in the battling mythical creatures stakes -and I do like to be prepared.

Having walked for a few minutes and seen or heard literally no wildlife whatsoever, I put the wide angle lens on my camera and determined to capture some images which would give some idea of the sense of place, rather than it’s inhabitants, who were wisely holed up out of the -8° temperature.

After about half an hour it was becoming clear that I’d made the correct lens choice, the wide angle doing a great job of capturing both trees and the super frosty bracken and briar at ground level. This smug complacency didn’t last long. I was lining up another tasty panorama through the woods when I noticed a largish raptor shape speeding overhead and landing high up above me in the canopy. I was literally frozen. I think I’ve mentioned it was -8, plus I was kneeling down desperately trying to work out how to swap lenses whilst still keeping sight of the perched bird which by now I was pretty convinced was a Goshawk – too bulky for a Sparrowhawk – tail too long and behaviour and habitat seemingly wrong for a Buzzard. My binos, luckily having been ’round my neck, I settled for a closer look then, since it appeared to be having a bit of a preen, decided to try a lens swap. Before I’d even got my pack off my back, my clumsy mammal movements betrayed my position and said raptor was gone, leaving me with the even stronger impression of Goshawk. I know they are recorded in this general area but this was a first for me and I’m really wondering if there have been any other sightings.

As I made my way back to the car, very pleased with my pictures and the Hawk sighting, I was snapped out of my reverie by the sound of something large crashing through the undergrowth ahead of me. Dog? I thought. Wolf? Balrog? Then onto the path emerged a rather surprised looking Roe deer about 20 meters in front of me. Again I thought, “lens swap time” and again I missed the shot, but paused long enough to get a really good look, before the animal bounded away through the trees, spooked by my movements.