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Birding on a battlefield



When Emma rang from Aden TV Production Company and asked would I help them find some birds to film in southern Wales the answer was of course, yes! It was only when I met Emma that it really sank in just where the filming was to take place, on a military firing range and what is more they were conducting live fire exercises while we would be on the ranges!

Senny 1
The views on the range are impressive

We reported to the guard house and were given a very stern health and safety briefing and it was drilled in to us not to touch or pick up anything as live munitions could be out on the moor lands. We were also given a detailed and complex map of the ranges and were told where we could and could not go. It looked rather confusing and we hoped we would not get lost and wander in front of a general purpose machine gun that was being fired.

Rather nervously we left the barracks and climbed the steep road up on to the huge rolling moor of the vast firing range. It all looked very peaceful as Skylarks sang above us and Meadow Pipits sat on every rock.

Senny 2
Safety signs are all over the range lest you forget just dangerous a place it is!

We began to explore the net work of minor roads looking out for any possible film stars and began to relax as we had seen a single soldier. Just as we were watching a beautiful singing male Redstart the still air was ripped apart by heavy machine-gun fire! We had the fright of our lives, we still could not see a sole but the gun fire was loud and echoed around the hills, the Redstart just kept singing.

This was just the sort of thing the film crew would want to film the next day, nature thriving in this military zone. We enjoyed wonderful views of Red Kites, Buzzards, more Redstarts, three Green Woodpeckers and a pair of Marsh Tits. Plenty for the guys to film the next day so with gun fire still ringing in our ears we high tailed it out of there!

Senny 3
Huge skies and hills as far as the eye can see, spectacular place!

The next morning the weather was kind, calm, mild and even some lovely sunshine. Heading back out on to the ranges we visited a spot with a wrecked tank with some trees around it. Here our singing Redstart was on show as hoped and the Army did their bit with background machine-gun fire and some huge explosions and the bird kept singing. Then we heard the calls of Crossbills and were amazed to see a family party, male, female and three juveniles in the trees right above the tank! Luckily they stayed around and some wonderful shots were taken.

Senny 4
Wildlife really thrives in this war zone!

Iolo Williams, the presenter did several pieces to camera, talking about the wildlife and how it survives here while the gunfire crackled all around. In the distance a whole mock village had been built so the soldiers can practice street fighting and judging by all the noise it was very realistic training indeed!

Red Kites soared overhead and we found singing Tree Pipits and Whinchat that had arrived overnight, what an amazing place! Sadly our time was up and we had to leave the moors to the Army and the wildlife it had been a very different birding experience!

Senny 5
Redstarts sang any where patches of woodland were found, singing to gun fire!

Many thanks to all the team at Aden for this giving me this opportunity to bird a battlefield.

For more information about Aden check out www.aden.co.uk



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