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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 13:38 UK time, Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Hides really show you Welsh wildlife at its best: close-up and in great variety.

Last weekend I biked up to Forest Farm nature reserve in Cardiff and spent a good couple of hours in their two hides. Tucked right under the M4, Forest Farm is a strange place for wildlife but it runs close to the River Taff and has a good spread of birds and other species in its woodland and pond habitats.

greenwoodpecker_jmcl.jpg

The hides are situated next to a couple of sun-drenched, reed-bordered ponds. Virtually the first thing I saw was a reed bunting, flitting between the reeds and the trees which overhang the hide. I'd never knowingly seen one before, so that was a great start. Woodland birds like greenfinches and tree sparrows were in abundance, but the most striking species was definitely the heron. A couple were skulking around the reeds and it was fantastic to see their skills in spearing the water and coming up with fish.

A flash of vibrant green on a spit of dry land between the two ponds proved to be a green woodpecker (pictured above). Through the binoculars I could see it delving and dipping into an ant mound for some tasty protein. As it went about its business, the herons towered over it and a couple of rabbits shot across too. Just feet from the hide, wildlife simply isn't aware of your presence as you peer out of the darkness.

Tracking back down the river there was no sign of the dippers which are present in the area, but the vivid blue iridiscent sheen of a kingfisher was a very nice end to an urban nature trip.

What have you seen from hides in Wales? And what photos have you been able to take from these great vantage points?

James McLaren, BBC Wales Nature

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