Steart Marshes

 Steart Marshes

Steart Marshes

Last week I went over to check out the new Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust reserve at Steart Marshes and very nice it was too.

https://www.wwt.org.uk/wetland-centres/steart-marshes/

Stephen and I often look over to Steart Point from our coastal Patch opposite on the Brue estuary. For somewhere which seems so close, it is a bit of a shlep of about 45-50 minutes  to drive round through Bridgewater and Cannington to get to this new wetland site.

First impressions?  Easy to fine, good car park, nice loos…

It was a windy, mild and greyish day. Being mid-June, I thought nature had already shot its bolt and I wasn’t expecting much, however I was to be pleasantly surprised.

I was met first with a flock of linnets perched on a barbed-wire fence with the males showing lovely crimson colouring. A grey wagtail flicked by showing a different hue, and several reed buntings were calling as were two skylarks invisible overhead. From the first hide (The Mendip Hide) which overlooked a dried-out muddy tidal inlet there wasn’t much happening – a couple of little egrets probing, a few corvids hopping around and a distant curlew. I did not stay long as chatting to a couple of lads in the hide they said there was much more to see over at the Quantock Hide, which overlooks the Otterhampton Marsh and lagoons.

Good call – it was heaving with birds.

There were hundreds of shelducks, mostly in moult, or looking after their ducklings. Egrets and herons were fishing and oystercatchers were sitting on nests and also some were preening their youngsters.

I saw several beautiful avocets including two which were sitting on nests, presumably still with eggs or very small hidden chicks. The highlight however for me was a rare sighting of a little ringed plover sitting dead-still on its nest just a few meters from the hide on some shingle at the edge of a little island on the lagoon.

 little ringed plover

little ringed plover

 

To think that just a couple of years ago this place was effectively a building site, it is remarkable that so many birds have made it their home so soon.

I drove as far as I could to the top end of the reserve and a cuckoo flew over the car before I parked at the Steart Gate car park which offered further coastal walks and a large swath of reed-beds.

A chattering sedge warbler was jumping up and down as only sedge warblers can, as if it was celebrating yet another goal by Harry Kane.

One last stop to have a look at the north-facing pebbly-beach overlooking the somewhat ominous Hinkley Point nuclear power station. It is hard to ignore this monster, but I tried to, as I watched about a dozen little egrets and a dozen grey herons follow the tide's edge as it slowly receded.

Sadly I ran out of time just as the sea-fret was coming in, so I will need to return to Steart another time for further exploration. It is an excellent addition to the top-class birdwatching sites we have in Somerset.

Top marks to WWT – great birds, great hides, and great loos.

Graeme Mitchell