SHAPWITH HEATH (MEARE HEATH POOLS) - HAM WALL STARLING ROOST
WEATHER; clear blue sky, a bit chilly at dusk. Temp below 10C all day.
Our first day of this 8-day tour got off to a great start on the Somerset Levels with superb weather and some exciting sightings. The tour started from our Farm Guest House in Westhay at 12 noon, before we boarded the bus we watched several species from the driveway of the Farm.
There was a huge number of Starlings in and around the farm buildings probably getting on for a thousand birds, they were dashing about the farmyards trying to steal any animal food they could. We also saw Pied Wagtails, Robin, Jackdaw, Chaffinch and House Sparrows. In one of the nearby meadows we saw a Great Egret, Grey Heron, Little Egret (2) and about four Mute Swans.
from the Farm Gateway: - Starlings and can you spot the Mute Swan and two Little Egrets?
The short drive to Ham Wall took 10 minutes and after parking the bus we walked across to Shapwick Heath to view the Meare Pools looking for one duck in particular. An AMERICAN WIGEON has been favouring the Meare Pools for over a month and it had been seen earlier today so our hopes were high.
However, despite being reassured that the bird was still present by birders who were leaving, all we found was a dubious looking hybrid!! Many other birders were watching and the 'real' bird was not showing at all. Nevertheless, we still enjoyed watching Gadwall, Teal, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Shoveler, Eurasian Wigeon, a single Common Pochard, Little Grebe, Coot and a few Marsh Harriers.
my group searching for the American Wigeon over on Mere Pools
After half-an-hour I was convinced that the bird had flown (or was mis-identified) and just as we were preparing to move on one of the other birders spotted it. The cheeky little beggar had been hiding behind a tree stump (the Wigeon not the birder) on the bank of the pool. Bless, all was well, the bird eventually showed for us all.
American Wigeon witha female Eurasian Wigeon and a Coot
Other birds of note were several Marsh Harriers, Raven, Common Buzzard, Stonechat and some common garden birds. We walked back to the car park to eat lunch and watch the feeders at the visitor's centre before walking onto Ham Wall Reserve.
We spent the next two hours walking the main track and the track to the Avalon Hide, we never added many species but we were impressed by the number of birds on the reserve. Even before we reached Viewing Point 1 we had seen dozens of Lapwings (an estimated 1200 Lapwings were on the reserve) in the sky and a nice flock of Black-tailed Godwits. From the Viewing Point we added Common Snipe, Moorhen, Coot, Great and Little Egrets, Cormorant and more Marsh Harriers.
Great EWgret with Lapwing and Teal
Very few passerines we showing we did see 2-3 Common Chiffchaffs, also Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits, we heard Cetti's Warbler and Water Rail several times and a Kestrel flew over us whilst we were nestled in the Avalon Hide. The hopes of a Bittern sighting began to fade as we made our way back to VP 1, the sun was dropping and the light fading.
Glastonbury Tor in the distance and below seen through the telesope
We were in position overlooking Waldon's Marsh, ready and waiting for the Starling Roost Spectacular, Ha!! The weather was perfect not a whiff of wind, a clear sky with an incrediably colourful sunset, what more could you ask for?
Well, some Starlings would have been nice! Eventually they started pouring in, clouds of them filled the sky, however, they did not perform aerial acrobatics and shape-forming aerobics they simply flew over us and set off for Loxten's Marsh some 1/2 mile further along the track. Eventually some did drop down into Waldon's Marsh but not too many, out of the 600,000 birds I estimated that 50,000 dropped down near us and rest just over-flew our position.
Starling Watchers and a lovely sunset
It would have been nice to have photographed a line of Geese flying across this picture, but there's not any!!
We trudged back to the car in near darkness with 2-300 other disillusioned starling-watchers, hey-ho you can't have it all, we shall return. Later we completed our check-list just before a delicous dinner was served by Ann our host!