Wednesday 11 May 2016

Somerset Levels in late April

For this visit we started on Shapwick Heath NNR so the sun was behind us. We were soon watching and listening to blackcap, willow warbler, song thrush and bullfinch in the first few metres. A great start!

As we worked our way out into the reedbed we saw a pair of gadwall quietly feeding in a pool by the track-side. Next on our warbler list were reed warbler singing from the reed beds, with cetti’s warbler and whitethroat singing in the scrub reed-side habitat. One male whitethroat in particular was particularly showy.

A check on the muddy area produced a large flock of black-tailed godwit as well as teal, more gadwall, mute swan, lapwing, tufted duck and mallard.

Onto the hide looking over Noah’s lake where we saw a mix of swift, swallow, house martin and sand martin. On the water we watched two pairs of great crested grebe displaying in the same view and added pochard to our list of duck species.
Male pochard

Next was a look from the viewing screen by Noah’s hide where we had fantastic views of marsh harrier and the splendid male in particular. We also watched a couple of male reed bunting chasing around the area.

Male marsh harrier
While walking to the next hide we picked up treecreeper, long-tailed tit, blue tit and great tit in the bushes. Not to mention three species of butterfly: orange tip, brimstone and small tortoiseshell.

At Heath Meare we were lucky enough to see a male kingfisher heading into his nesthole. There were further marsh harrier as well as great white and little egret flying around. As we made our way back to the car park for lunch we stopped to listen to a booming bittern, he was so close you could feel the booms resonate in your chest – amazing!

Having failed to see a bittern before lunch, two decided to fly over the car park while we were eating! It was obviously the time to be there as a great white egret and marsh harrier also flew low over us.

After lunch we headed onto Ham Wall RSPB reserves where we were soon listening to garden warbler and more whitethroats. A swiftish trip down to a hide to avoid what can only be described a slush storm with spectacular lightning produced great views of pochard and little grebe, as well as further views of marsh harrier.

We quickly carried onto the next viewpoint where we had an all too brief encounter with bearded tit, but this was compensated for by a flyby of four bittern! From the viewing platform we managed to see some new species, amongst the ducks there were shoveler, wigeon and a fine pair of pintail. There were also some waders with more black-tailed godwit, snipe, dunlin and more lapwing.

We worked our way along the drainage ditch and were rewarded with brilliant views of the glossy ibis that had been tucked away.
We then headed to the new hide, hearing more cetti’s, reed and our first sedge warbler. From the new hide we had more great views of marsh harrier as well as a flyby bittern and a confiding great white egret.
Great white egret in breeding plumage

We then headed back to the carpark – all in all a great day on the Somerset Levels! (NA)

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