The car park at Lydney Harbour is surrounded by woods, so we were treated to birdsong as soon as we got out of our cars on the latest Watching Wildlife meeting. Martin’s first nugget of information was that the Blackcaps seen today have recently flown in from wintering in Africa, while the ones seen a fortnight ago have now moved on to breeding sites in mainland Europe – both sets flocking and migrating at night as they do not need to feed on the way. It was a warm sunny day with hardly any wind – quite a contrast with last time at Sharpness, and even though we were so far from our normal haunts there were quite as many of us as usual. These wide-flung visits are proving very popular. Of course the weather may have helped.
Setting off across fields we were struck by the gorgeous Naas House which dominates the area. It is a Grade II* listed 17th-century mansion with a prominent lead-covered cupola. Someone likes birds as we saw an owl-box and another biggish box on trees nearby. Plus of course plenty of birds, including Red-legged Partridges and Jackdaws which were unusually blue-eyed. Turning alongside hedges past 2nd World War huts we went up the slope towards woods which border the Severn. Up not down because here, opposite Sharpness, there is a cliff down to the river rather than flat meadows.
The ‘saltings’ below the cliffs, which do so much to protect from erosion, looked in good heart with plenty of vegetation. But the real excitement was the ancient woodland running right up to the cliff edges. The age of at least 400 years undisturbed growth is indicated by the plants to be seen: Pignut, Wood Anemone, Bluebell, Violet, Celandine, Primrose, Spurge Laurel. Nettles and Ground Ivy would indicate disturbed ground, but they were absent. And all around were Elm trees, although small, hanging on despite Dutch Elm Disease. Hopefully they will one day recolonise the countryside. Some children obviously also found this to be a magical place as they had built a rather good ‘Den’ in the woods.
Back to the Harbour and after light refreshments we decided we were enjoying it so much we should walk some more. So off along the old coal-sidings, now attractively grassed-over, which have gorse bushes on the Estuary side. These were home to rabbits, also Linnets. We saw several Butterflies: Peacock, Small Tortoishell & Brimstone – and this is only March, so quite early. Down-river from the Harbour the land below us was flood-meadow, apparently similar to the Eastern side.
We had seen 32 Bird species, 3 Butterfly species and plenty else of interest on a fine day. Back to the cars (some shared) and lunch at the excellent Lydney Brew Cafe to round it off.
We all enjoy the countryside and the company, but to remember what we are about:
“It is hoped that the Waterside Wildlife Watch Groups findings might identify techniques and practices to assist in establishing and maintaining a wildlife-rich habitat along the Stroudwater Navigation.”
The story so far:
Fromebridge Mill on April 10th – hoping to see Swallows.
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