If you head to the Gwent Levels over winter, you’ll find the patchwork of reed beds swaying in bronze against a grey sky, maybe a blue one if you’re lucky! Home to countless numbers of wildlife species who depend on this unique habitat, from humble but rare bumblebees to majestic birds of prey, it’s a treat to visit any time of year.
I visited the RSPB Newport Wetlands on a dry and sunny day to start the year off the way I meant to go on, with a good walk with my girlfriend along the welsh coast and some fresh sea air. You just can’t go wrong!
There was plenty to see, in particular some rather vocal stonechats which were dashing between branches along the rugged coastline. A female stonechat hopped from branch to branch scoping out the surroundings, and further along in some scrubland, a pair of pheasants were carefully moving through the undergrowth, invisible to most passers by.
The real star of the walk was a little owl, perched on a wizened old tree, my first owl sighting! Little owls are defined by being, well, little. They have a spotted chest and have a strong white brow with piercing yellow eyes, useful for hunting small creatures during the day and night.
A little research shows that little owls never used to call the UK their home, but were introduced in the late 1800s by wealthy landowners as a means of pest control. A very extravagant mouse trap! This one wasn’t doing much hunting when I saw it during the day, just enjoying the winter sunshine up there in it’s tree. But I imagine it kept all of the little critters in the surrounding area on edge!
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