by Ashley Beolens
A spring of Eurasian Teal leaps into the air. The soft piping sound of their alarmed calls filling the air where it accompanies the excited whistling of red headed Eurasian Wigeon, suddenly alert to threat from above as the scimitar shaped wings of a Peregrine, silhouetted against the bright winter sky, flashes through. This is just a regular wintry scene on the Floodplain Forest Nature reserve, on the edge of Milton Keynes.
Through summer, fast growing willow sway in the light breeze nibbled back by the attractive Konik ponies housed here to control these voracious plants, running free across the muddy plains. Common Tern screech overhead as they search for minnows to feed their growing offspring, while Northern Lapwings alight to chase the approaching corvids, their computer game sound effects filling the air with electronic sounds. Green Woodpeckers laugh at the scene from off in the distance, while Common Chiffchaff sing from every bush shouting their name at anyone who will listen.
Despite the close proximity of nearby Milton Keynes, whose approaching industrial units and growing housing estates sit firmly on the edges of the newly formed reserve, The Floodplain Forest Nature reserve is blossoming as it matures.
A potted History
At the turn of the century, and for centuries before, the area was part of a sheep farm, a few grassy fields edged by the Great Ouse on one side and a few smaller brooks on the other. In 2007 the local parks trust leased the land for gravel extraction with the proviso that once complete a long lost type of habitat would be created. Sitting in the Ouse floodplain, the area is slowly being transformed into habitat that would have greeted people thousands of years ago, a floodplain Forest, rich with trees, shrubs and muddy islands.
The actual reserve, with its rubberised paths and three hides, was officially opened to the public in August 2016, perfectly timed as it was hosting a Great Egret at the time, and has since become one of the most popular nature spots in Milton Keynes.
You may be wondering why I talk of it with such vigour, well it has been my local patch for the past three years, I have personally recorded well over 100 species of bird, numerous dragonflies, butterflies and other insects (included nationally scarce White Letter Hairstreak), and know that Water Vole, Grass Snake and Otter have all been recorded in recent times.
As an oasis on the edge of a sea of concreate and glass The Floodplain Forest Nature Reserve is a special place locally for naturalists and outdoor lovers alike. In many ways the habitat is improving with each passing season as it matures into a new habitat for many in the UK to visit and explore.