Sunday 22 March 2015

Somerset Levels Tour 20-03-2015

Today saw us at the RSPB reserve Ham Wall in Somerset for a full day tour.

An early start produced several Booming Bittern, just coming into full voice now, also several Water Rail calling around the reserve.

Another bird heard was the explosive song of the Cetti's Warbler. It seemed like one was in every small scrubby area and after a little wait we soon had some fantastic views as one sat calling out in the open.

Several flocks of Sand Martins were overhead with the biggest flock totalling 100+ birds, but they soon moved on.

Small groups of Redwing were also on the move quickly flying from tree-top to tree-top as they passed.

Goldcrest, Song Thrush and Blackbird were found in the small wooded area along the footpath.

Then followed a 45 minute break to watch the Solar Eclipse we had good views as it just about managed to shine through the clouds.

Moving on to the first large area of open water, we soon spotted a fine Male Pintail feeding in the shallows, upending several times showing off its fine pintail from where its name comes from. Also seen were a few Pochard, Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall, Mallard and Shoveler and several Grey Heron flying in and out carrying nesting material over to their nesting area.

Moving down the path to the next viewing platform, several more Bitterns could be heard booming away, some of them very close to the path. Also a Kingfisher flashed past us as we crossed a ditch.

At the next platform, two Marsh Harriers were spotted displaying to each other, almost sky dancing you could say!

By now the temperature had started to rise and the sun was shining. We heard a couple of newly arrived Chiffchaff singing and a superb Long-tailed tit's nest was found.

As we moved on a Sparrowhawk dashed by into the reedbed putting up some Snipe and Lapwing, but it did not look like it was hunting. Six Buzzards could be seen on the thermals above us being mobbed by the Sand Martins as they flew by.

Out at the back of the reedbed two Great White Egret were feeding with a couple of their smaller cousins, the Little Egret, closer in. Several Robin, Dunnock, Chaffinch, and Wrens could be heard as we made our way back along the pathway and a Great Spotted Woodpecker could be heard hammering into a tree trunk in the distance.

At our final stop before lunch we found both Great Crested and Little Grebes feeding in the shallows. Checking the edges of the reedbed, a single Snipe showed well giving great views through the telescope revealing its brilliant camouflage. Suddenly all the waterbirds lifted off the water making a tremendous noise. A quick scan across the water found the reason why as an Otter swam out of the reedbed and crossed the channel in front of us - a quick sighting, but just to see one is a real bonus. (We did find it again about ten minutes later but it had moved right down the far end of the reedbed.)

After a quick lunch break we moved over the road to the Shapwick Heath nature reserve where more Bitterns were booming along with more flocks of Sand Martins overhead.

Sitting at the edge of the reedbed for 15 minutes, we watched several Bumble Bees and Small Tortoiseshell butterflies making the most of the sunshine, a sign that spring has arrived.

At our final stop we found a fine male Marsh Harrier standing on the ground in front of the hide. It stayed around for a good time before flying off over the hide giving some wonderful views as it went by.

Back at the now famous Starling Roost sight we waited to see how many birds would show up as the big numbers had now moved away. Several groups of up to a thousand birds came in and flew around before dropping into the reeds. A few more flocks came in but dropped down in a different area - in total about 25,000 birds came in - still a good spectacle to watch.

Other things of interest seen included Marsh Frogs, a Female Toad with her mate attached to her back walking across the pathway, and several Roe Deer.

A lovely leisurely day spent at a wonderful reserve with some fantastic wildlife sightings. DT

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