Trip Report 31st July - 1st August
SOMERSET BIRDWATCHING HOLIDAYS TRIP REPORT
31st July – 1st August 2018
Tour Leaders: Stephen Moss & Graeme Mitchell
Guests: Peter and Pam Jordan
Tuesday 31st July
We started our trip at Shapwick and Meare Heath reserves, on a fine, sunny morning with a light, cool breeze; definitely cooler than the recent heatwave! En route we saw Linnets, Swallows and House Martins; and in the car park we glimpsed a female Blackcap, while along the path, a bedraggled Chiffchaff, Blackbird and Dunnock were all feeding on berries.
On the first reedbed pool there were a few Teal, Gadwall and a Little Grebe. Then a Kingfisher flew so closen it almost hit us! Birdsong is almost over by now, but we heard a few snatches of Reed and Cetti’s Warblers from time to time. The Meare Heath pool was a bit too full for waders, but there were lots of Coots and Gadwall feeding, then Graeme glimpsed a second Kingfisher. On the Shapwick heath side, we saw a Jay and heard Bearded Tits (Graeme later saw one briefly). Our first Great White Egret flew across the path – the first of many – while flocks of House Martins and swifts flew low for insects.
From Noah’s Hide we heard Water Rail calling, and saw over 120 Mute Swans, along with Little and Great White Egrets, Canada and Greylag Geese, and Great Crested Grebes. As the weather warmed up we started to glimpse raptors: Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk and 3 Hobbies, but all were very distant. From 70 Acres Hide we got better views of a female Sparrowhawk and a Great White Egret.
We then headed into the RSPB’s Ham Wall reserve across the road, where from Tor View Hide we saw a Marsh Harrier attacking a Buzzard, and several Little and Great White Egrets. Little Grebes and Water Rails were calling, then two Kingfishers shot over the hide, chasing one another!
Before lunch we popped into Greylake, where amongst the usual waterbirds there was a Yellow Wagtail flying overhead, calling. From the hide we saw a Kestrel, and then the fifth Kingfisher of the day perched obligingly on a post for us to get scope views, before dashing off! Then off th King Alfred’s Inn, Burrowbridge, for a splendid pub lunch (in Stephen’s case, washed down with a pint of local cider – others were more abstemious!)
After lunch we set off on a quest for Europe’s tallest bird – the Common Crane, 100+ of which have been reintroduced onto West Sedgemoor, on the southern part of the Levels. They may be tall, but they can be surprisingly elusive. Yet to our delight, at our first ‘stop-and-scan’ point near Oath, as we gazed over Aller Moor, Graeme spotted a flock of about a dozen cranes feeding in a distant field. High-fives and scope views all round! As Pam volunteers at Slimbridge, it was lovely for her to be able to show the birds to Peter! We also watched a Kestrel successfully catching what was probably a vole.
Then we headed down to the River Yeo near Langport, where we watched dozens of Banded Demoiselles dancing on the water; and to Stephen’s delight, several mating pairs of Small Red-eyed Damselflies (a recent, very successful colonist from the continent) on the algal bloom on the adjacent stream. The increasing heat brought an early end to the day, and we returned to Walls Farm.
Wednesday 1st August
An early start brought us to the new WWT reserve at Stert Marshes, where the tide was coming in. Still no birds from the Mendip Hide, but lots of action from the Quantock Hide, with pairs of Avocets with small and large chicks, four Yellow Wagtails overhead, Linnets, Shelduck with chicks and Oystercatchers. About 12 Little Egrets and a Marsh Harrier, too.
We then headed across to nearby Wall Common, to catch the high tide roost. Sadly, it was a bit disappointing: just a few Dunlin, Ringed Plover, 1 Whimbrel and some Curlews, though a nice male Whitethroat by the car park was a bonus. Also, lots of Swifts, and some Swallows on the fence. So, we decided to cut our losses and head over to the ‘other side’, to Graeme and Stephen’s coastal patch at the ‘Three Rivers’. Starting at Huntspill Sluice, where there were c60 Canada Geese, c200 Black-headed gulls on the water, Redshank, Common Sandpiper, 1 Whimbrel, and 3-4 Little Egrets on the far side. As we walked down the east bank of the River Parrett we saw a flock of 11 godwits, which conveniently flew to reveal that they were Black-tailed. As at Steart, Swifts and Swallows passed over; and we found a female or juvenile Wheatear (the first of the ‘autumn’) on a post at the start of the river wall, and four distant Roe Deer on the opposite bank.
Further along, we saw a large flock of Shelducks on far side, with a dodgy and untickable ‘Ruddy Shelduck’ (there were 2700 on Steart Point earlier, according to someone monitoring the birds). There were also plenty of Great Black-backed Gulls and 12 Curlews, c200 Oystercatchers on Stert Island; 1 Little Egret on the Brue; lots of Pied Wagtails hover-gleaning, and one Common Sandpiper on the pool at end of Brue. The final highlight was up to a thousand Dunlins (mostly in full breeding plumage) with several Turnstones and Redshanks feeding along the Brue on the rapidly falling tide. A great end to a packed two days!