Saturday, 3 May 2014

An afternoon with Iolo Williams (30th April 2014)

 I woke up this morning with great expectations of a day that promised much. I dropped the kids off at school, picked up my friend Ron, and headed off into the Peak District and Ladybower Wood. An ancient woodland site on a very steep slope overlooking the Ladybower reservoir and edged on 3 sides by heather moorland. A Derbyshire Wildlife Trust Reserve (DWT) it can be found at the rear of the Ladybower Inn. I visit this site 6 or 7 times a year to keep a record of the birds that visit this beautiful and stunning place.

Today we were expecting a special visitor; not a bird but a familiar face from Natur Cymru & Springwatch, Iolo Williams. He was coming along with his film crew and a wish list of 2 birds they wanted to capture footage of for his new nature programme which will feature on Welsh TV channel S4C.

Ron & I arrived at around 11 o’clock and met up with DWT reserves officer Sam Willis. Our plan was to check the woodland and establish where the best areas would be to film the birds and make life a little easier for them when they arrived at 3 o’clock.

I always have to take a moment on arrival to take in the beauty of this amazing woodland, you are never going to leave here with a huge list of species, but what is does offer is some of the more scarce British birds. We covered almost every inch of this wonderful site and soon established where we thought the best spot would be. After around half an hour of negotiating this difficult terrain, not a place for the faint hearted, we heard our first Cuckoo of the season and a Garden Warbler was singing from the top of a willow. We finally reached the top of this very steep hill and decided to stop for a coffee and something to eat. We were enjoying our lunch when I thought a heard another familiar song, I quickly stood up and ran towards the stone wall that surrounds the reserve, I saw some movement in an Oak Tree and found a Tree Pipit singing. It flew across in front of us and was joined by a second; one bird landed on the wall and gave us a very clear view through binoculars and a chance to clearly see this species unique markings including a the heavier set bill and shorter back toe. Willow Warblers were absolutely every where, seeming to be singing from every tree top including the tree at the highest point of the reserve. Just over the wall Red Grouse could be heard and we soon picked out a couple of birds wondering amongst the heather on the moors beyond the wall.

We made our way back down the hill to wait for our guests. They promptly arrived at 3 o’clock along with some heavy looking equipment packed into back packs. All crew members coped very well with the very steep incline including Iolo who was carrying a large tripod. We set up about half way up the hill looking down on the area we had selected for the shoot. We kept our distance while they got some close up and talking to camera shots, Iolo then invited us over to chat and we all tried to spot the birds they had come along to film. Iolo and all of the crew were very friendly and had no hesitation in answering all our questions about the filming process and they were all full of enthusiasm when telling us about the previous places they had been visiting in Derbyshire. They all clearly loved our county and Iolo said he was enjoying his time here and had been having some great wildlife encounters.

It didn’t take long before our first target bird appeared and after flying around and perching on both flanks the Pied Flycatcher landed on a branch no more than 30 feet in front of us, it then made several more poses before our second bird the Redstart entered the frame. The Redstart was a little more camera shy than the Pied Flycatcher but the Camera man was more than happy with the shots he’d got.

It was a great afternoon seeing how wildlife films are put together, and as someone that dabbles in film making I took away some good tips on how the professionals do it. As we sat for nearly 2 hours we also got the chance to share our experiences and views on nature and of the struggles that our wildlife have to cope with in the modern world. I will also take away yet another memorable wildlife moment, Iolo and his team were friendly, courteous and more importantly passionate. If you want to hear his passion, follow this link for Iolo's Speech at the ‘state of nature’ conference.
As I listened to his words it made me feel a great sense of pride knowing that I’m involved in some great work that is hopefully helping our wildlife. It also gives me even more incentive to carry on and push even harder to give British wildlife a fighting chance against a society that seems just to care about self and material things. 

I said I had great expectations for today, and thanks to some wonderful people and even better wildlife it certainly didn't disappoint.  


  1. You lucky thing! I still remember hearing his speech for the first time. I will always remember the way I felt and think it will be one of the key inspirations for wanting to get into the conservation sector more seriously.


    1. I did have a crack in' day Ryan. I know when I am feelinga little dismayed or frustrated at some of the attitudes of people towards the natural world I listen to his speech again. It Spurs me on.