birdwatching magazine READER HOLIDAY
3 NIGHT PACKAGE
UPCOMING DATes: 10-13 May, 3-6 June, 2019
£565 per person (sharing a twin room) Single room supplement £75pp
Somerset is now the best place in Britain to see – and get great views of – some of the country’s most sought-after bird species. The Avalon Marshes are the heron capital of Britain, with up to seven species breeding there.
Great White, Little and Cattle Egrets float over the reedbeds, or fish in the watery ditches known as rhynes. Bitterns, too, are often glimpsed as they fly low over the reeds – they are easiest to see in late spring when they are feeding their young. In May and June, you can watch Hobbies chasing dragonflies, Marsh Harriers performing their sky-dance and Cuckoos calling over the reeds.
In the nearby Quantock and Mendip Hills, we’ll enjoy a chorus of birdsong, while on the coast almost anything can – and does – turn up. At a time when much of Britain’s birdlife is in decline, Somerset offers a truly awesome birding experience.
We at Somerset Birdwatching Holidays pride ourselves on our attention to detail: we take a maximum of seven clients in our special vehicle (christened Thunderbird One), and offer luxury accommodation, splendid food and convivial company. With naturalist and author Stephen Moss and keen birder Graeme Mitchell as your guides, this holiday is ideal for birdwatchers at any level, from complete beginner onwards.
Our unrivalled knowledge of some of Somerset’s best-kept secret sites, and their birds, means you’ll get unforgettable views of some of Britain’s most charismatic species. We love showing people not just the birds and other wildlife of Somerset, but also the history and culture of this unique county and its myriad landscapes: from hills, to coast, to those magical wetlands. So please join us on a relaxing, enjoyable and above all memorable tour.
STEPHEN MOSS’S TOP 5 SOMERSET SPRING SPECIALS
GREAT WHITE EGRET Our star species – and the proud logo of Somerset Birdwatching Holidays – is one of Britain’s greatest conservation success stories. Having arrived on the Avalon Marshes less than a decade ago, these stately white herons now breed in large numbers, and sightings are absolutely guaranteed.
BITTERN Or ‘toasted heron’, as one local schoolboy named it. One of Britain’s most elusive species, the Bittern has made an extraordinary comeback, from just 11 booming males in the 1990s to more than 50 now on the Avalon Marshes alone! We’ll keep a sharp eye out for these charismatic birds as they appear momentarily on the edge of a reedbed, or fly overhead.
CRANE Europe’s tallest bird – and one of its most spectacular – can be surprisingly hard to track down in this huge wetland, but we’ll check out the latest reports and hope to connect with flocks of these stately waterbirds in the fields around West Sedgemoor.
HOBBY This elegant falcon returns from Africa in late April, when flocks gather over the marshes on fine spring days. We’ll keep a constant eye out for these speed merchants as they hawk acrobatically for insects in the skies above.
CATTLE EGRET Europe’s smallest egret first bred in the UK on 2009 – guess where? Yes, Somerset! Since then flocks of more than 50 birds have been seen, lending a touch of Africa to the West Country. We’ll visit a local heronry where the birds breed, and hope to see them as they fly in and out
DAY 1: Arrive mid-afternoon at Walls Farm, near Wedmore. After settling in, you can use the heated swimming pool or spot the birds in the garden, orchard and around the pond, before enjoying a Welcome Dinner and looking ahead to our planned excursions.
DAY 2: Optional pre-breakfast walk, in a mixed woodland on the nearby Mendip Hills. After breakfast we’ll head down to the Avalon Marshes, and spend the morning exploring this wetland wonderland. In May or June this will be heaving with birds: we’ll look for Hobbies hawking for insects, Bitterns flying over the vast reedbeds, Marsh Harriers displaying and hunting, and up to three species of egret.
Great White Egrets now outnumber their smaller cousin the Little Egret, and we also hope to see the latest colonist, the Cattle Egret. RSPB Ham Wall is also alive with songbirds – up to nine species of warbler can be seen in a single visit – while the marshes are also excellent for insects, notably a wide range of dragonflies and damselflies. After lunch at a local hostelry, we’ll explore some of the hidden corners of the Somerset Levels, including Stephen and Graeme’s local patch, before returning to Walls Farm for a convivial supper.
DAY 3: Today we’ll head for the ‘wild west’ – the Quantock Hills and the Somerset coast. The beautiful oakwoods of the Quantocks are home to a trio of summer songsters – Redstart, Wood Warbler and Pied Flycatcher – while we’ll also look for Dipper and Grey Wagtail on the rivers and streams. We’ll time the tides to get the best of the exciting new WWT reserve at Steart Marshes, home to breeding Avocets and a wide range of waders and wildfowl. We’ll return to Walls Farm for our final dinner.
DAY 4: After breakfast in the cottage, we’ll spend our last morning visiting any sites we haven’t managed to get to already, or searching for target species we may have missed. Options include heading to the southern half of the levels to look for Cranes, visiting Stephen and Graeme’s coastal patch for migrants and waders, or simply returning to the wetland wonderland that is the Avalon Marshes. Return to Walls Farm for 12.30pm when the tour ends.
Please note: itineraries are given only as a guide. The locations visited may vary, according to the weather and tide times, and the species we are hoping to see.
To book: Call 01934 712831 or use the ‘Enquire’ button below.
Upcoming dates for the Birdwatching Magazine Reader Holiday
10-13 May 2019
3-6 June 2019
£565 per person (sharing a twin room) Single room supplement £75pp
Things to remember
While most of our bird walks will be on good paths, sometimes we will go ‘off-piste’ or go through wet grass, so please bring suitable footwear (hiking boots or wellies). Wet weather gear is recommended – a waterproof jacket and over-trousers. It is unlikely that any one single walk would be more than a couple of miles.
Please bring your own binoculars (8x32 are ideal) we have some spare pairs however please advise if you require use of these. It is not essential to have a telescope. Both Stephen and Graeme have top of the range Swarovski telescopes and where appropriate we will set one or both up if we want to zoom into a particular bird or flock. In many ways it can be more of a hindrance if our whole party is fiddling with telescopes and not enjoying the moment.
Cameras and telephoto lenses again can be cumbersome however this is very much up to the individual to carry and look after themselves, but please note this is not a photographic holiday.
Walls Farm has a lovely heated indoor swimming pool, if you would like to use it please ask if it is convenient and understand that the pool is never supervised and is used at the individuals own risk.
Expert ornithological guiding throughout
Dinner each evening
Lunch on Day 2&3
Teas/coffees and additional refreshments as stated on your confirmed itineraries
Entrance to all birdwatching sites
On all tours it is expected that Stephen Moss will be the expert Ornithological guide ably assisted by Graeme Mitchell a keen and experienced birdwatcher.
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