Saturday, September 08, 2012

Carmargue? Donana? No it's the world famous Gwent wetlands!

We live near an area that floods in the winter.  In the summer the fields reappear, then disappear again under a sea of amphibious bistort, tall enough to turn into a maze for our collie. 

2012 has been different.  At first glance the horse looks like it is walking through the plants, but the white blob in the background gives the game away.

This year, our wettest in 100 years, the fields never reappeared.  They nearly did a few times but then down came the rain again.  The bistort though came back - I guess the clue is in the name, but more than that it came back differently.  Not so tall, just tall enough to peek above the water.  It turns out that this is a plant with two forms; the one that grows in the water and the one on the drier areas.  What is intriguing though is that a single plant can actually grow in both forms at the same time, depending on where individual shoots are growing. 

OK botany over - I just thought it was interesting!

My interest really lay in the fact that the flooded fields attracted 2 types of heron and even more extraordinarily for flooded fields cormorants.

I couldn't get it until I realised the fields were nursing fish - just like those south east asian rice fields I saw on travels long ago!  They'd obviously come in from the adjacent reens - certainly sticklebacks, but I'm sure I also saw small perch.

The targets for me though were the herons, and I wasn't sure if my hide (camouflage tent, woolworths £5) would put them off, but popping it up in a corner where I'd seen a few fishing soon revealed that it didn't.  So far I have managed 2 sessions - the first productive, the second with water levels perhaps 2" higher completely barren.  That's wildlife photography for you.

The grey heron stalked in velociraptor-like and nearly ended up too close for even the 300mm lens.

The real prize though were the little egrets.  I know for people living in London or Poole seeing herons and egrets close up isn't a big deal, but in Wales these are shy birds, taking to the air when you are still 50 yards away, so it is for us!  Here the views were great - even down to the fish in mid-air shot (you'll have to click for bigger views - 3rd pic down)

Finally a bonus. 

I'm pretty sure this is a wood sandpiper, but click on the pic for a bigger view and if I'm wrong please let me know.

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