A quiet one on the Patch? There is no such thing as a quiet one on the Patch.

I was going to say I have just returned from a quiet walk around the Patch, then I thought about it for a minute, and thought - hang on a minute, that was pretty good actually…. 

Heading from home to the Patch I crossed the start of the Somerset Levels below the Isle of Wedmore and saw a nice group of around 20 cattle egrets doing what cattle egrets do in and around a herd of cattle.

At the Patch, all was still and quiet save for the grinding machinery from the wood-pulp/peat processing ‘muncher’ by the car park. It takes a few hundred yards to leave the noise behind, but in that time I had good views of shoveller, wigeon and gadwall. A grey heron squawked and few off in disgust and mute swans gracefully went about their business.

Now all was quiet, as I walked towards the wood where there are flooded willows on either side of the footpath. Groups of teal shot upwards in vertical take-off mode as I disturbed their Saturday morning.

In the wood you can only tiptoe for so long before a crack of a branch gives you away, and just in front of where I was standing a woodcock took off. Nice – and a great spotted woodpecker flew overhead to a quieter corner of the wood.

Back on the Avenue a little treecreeper moused up one of the large oaks and flitting through the high birch branches were long tailed, blue and great tits. A blackbird was startled, and the obligatory robins and wrens were less bothered as I made my way round.

Nothing was on the South Drain and nothing was in the air. Someone tho’ had recently passed this way as a fresh ‘calling card’ or ‘spraint’ from an otter was lying in the middle of the path. Nice.

The Patch

The Patch

Gosh it was quiet now….no Cetti’s had called; no water rail had squealed, then half way along the reed-bed walk I saw one. As you walk along the return reed-bed walk there are a few ‘cuttings’ in the reed-beds. And in one of these watery channels, just as I was passing I caught a quick glimpse of a scurrying water rail darting for cover. It was about the size of a small moorhen with long legs and a long bright red bill. It was over in a flash – literally.

The elusive water rail

The elusive water rail

Stephen and I often hear them squealing from deep in the reed-beds, but very rarely do we see them. Quite often when a Cetti’s warbler lets rip with its explosive song, that can sometimes trigger a response from a squealing water rail in solidarity (brother) to each other’s skulking prowess. Mind you it could be the other way around – the water rail kicking off the Cetti’s – I must pay more attention next time.

 At the end of my walk a little egret took off elegantly from the water’s edge close to the Peat Works.

Heading for home Tealham Moor was choc-a-bloc with lapwings, fieldfares and three large great white egrets were patiently waiting for some elevenses while a kestrel hovered looking for an unsuspecting vole.

 Pretty quiet morning I thought…..hang on a minute.


Graeme Mitchell