Birdsong fills the Somerset Levels

The Somerset Levels are alive with birdsong once again - it is all kicking off.

Blackcaps are singing, chiffchaffs are calling, willow warblers with their melodic song seem to be at the top of every birch tree. The Cetti’s erupts from the reed beds and at last, this morning I heard my first reed warblers chuntering away from a low reed bed. Soon every reed bed will be full of them.

My first swallow was on the 9th of April and I got two more yesterday, but still there is a chill in the air and quite heavy frosts early in the mornings - so we have a bit to go before the big numbers come in. Once things warm up a tad, more and more migrants will flood in. Other local reports have included a swift over RSPB Ham Wall and a garden warbler singing nearby too.

It is strange to see the open water on the Levels a great deal quieter in one sense, now that the vast numbers of wintering ducks have gone. Just a couple of weeks ago there were still large flocks of wigeon and long-tailed ducks, but now it mostly pairs of pochard, gadwall, mallard and teal - but even they are quietly skulking in the reeds or sitting on their eggs. Graceful great crested grebes are already seen with their chicks on their backs and the many mute swans are sitting tight on nests.

I popped into RSPB Swell Wood last week to see their Heronry, and it was raucous in activity up in the treetops. There were even some little egrets nesting amongst the herons already.

My favorite bird at the moment tho’ must be the blackcap. Its wonderful liquid song that now comes from shadowy hedges and shrubs that have been all but silent all winter is really so joyful and is truly a wonderful harbinger of things to come.



Graeme Mitchell