SOMERSET LEVELS - CATCOTT NATURE RESERVE - RSPB GREYLAKE - ALLER MOOR - SWELL WOODS - RSPB HAM WALL
WEATHER: dull and overcast for most of the day, windy but dry with short showers. Temp 12C
What difference a day makes, hardly any rain today much more enjoyable. We set off just after breakfast at 8am and drove the short distance to Catcott Reserve, it was barely light when we arrived, but there was plenty of activity on the marsh. We flushed a Woodcock from the side of the road as we approached Catcott, in fact we nearly ran it over!
drake Shoveler with a sleeping Eurasian Wigeon, taken from the hide at Catcott
About 1,000 Lapwing were very skittish especially when a Marsh Harrier appeared over the pools, we saw about 8 of them all told. We were hoping for a Hen Harrier sighting but that never happened, but Buzzard, Kestrel and the Marsh Harriers kept us happy. Great and Little Egrets occasionally flew around.
Thousands of ducks filled the air with noise, Teal and Wigeon were calling constantly, the Gallwall, Mallards and Shovelers were less noisy and the Mute Swans didn't utter a word!. We finally found our first Pintail of the trip, a single drake sat mid-way out across the marsh, we couldn't find a second bird?
record shot of the unmistakable drake Pintail
After an hour we moved on and drove to Greylake which was about a fifteen minute drive, we noted Fieldfares and Redwings along the way as well as Rooks, Crows, Jackdaws, Magpies and Collared Doves. Greylake is a much larger version of Catcott with proportionately bigger duck and lapwing populations.
a 'spring' of Teal
It was amazing sight to watch thousands and thousand of birds out in front of us with clouds of Lapwings constantly littering the sky. We also watched a huge flock of Golden Plover, approx. 600-700 birds, keeping separate form the Lapwings and flying much higher.
A Peregrine caused pandemonium and utter chaos as almost all of the birds took to the air, it was quite a spectacle, the raptor dived into the mass and came out with nothing, ha! Their chaotic flight plan worked for now. We searched the area for Common Cranes and Whooper Swans without luck.
At Burrow Mump we parked in the car park and scanned once more for the Cranes and the Swans. It was quite wet out there most of the moorland was under a meter of water!! In fact we could not drive to Haymoor because the road was under a similar depth of water.
Little and Great Egrets at the side of the River Parrett near Staith
We did managed to cross Aller Moor and work our way up to Curry Rival and Langport, we made several stops to scan the dry areas of the moor but there wasn't much of that. We could see where the River Parrett had broken its banks and flooded the fields, quite scary really.
We bought a picnic lunch in Langport and sat and ate it near the flooded river in town, I hope it doesn't rain again anytime soon because a lot of flood damage could occur. During lunch we added Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Chiffchaff, Chaffinch, Pied Wagtail and Dunnock to the day list.
After our lunch we had the most productive birding session of the day, we drove out of Langport up to the woodland RSPB Reserve at Swell Woods which is renowned for having having one of te largest Grey Heron Colonies in the southwest. It is also well known for having a good selection of birds visiting the winter feeders.
For the first 30 minutes we sat in or near the bus and watched the constant activity around the near-empty feeders, dozens of Coal, Blue and Great Tits dashed about to and fro. WAe also saw a couple of Eurasian Nuthatches and our target species the Marsh Tit.
two shots of the Marsh Tit at Swell Woods
Job done we went for a walk, first we looked from the Heronry Hide to look at more feeders and the large nests of the Herons in the tree tops, we counted 30 but there are more like 80 in the woodland. We searched further into the woods for Eurasian Treecreeperbut came back with only Great Spotted Woodpecker and at least 6 Goldcrest sightings.
At 2pm we pulled out of the woods and headed back to the Ham Wall Reserve on the 'levels' were we intended to search for Water Pipit and to watch the Starling Roost once more. We found our most wanted Pipit at Viewing Point 1 (VP1), it was distance but unmistakable. We also saw the usual couple of thousand Lapwings. all the common duck species and a good number of Black-tailed Godwits.
a view from Swell Woods of the flooded meadows near Aller
From VP2 we saw a dozen or so Marsh Harriers, at least three Sparrowhawks and a couple of Buzzards. The starling roost was again disappointing, with numbers split between Walden's Marsh at VP1 and distance reedbeds seen from VP2. A flock of 13 Long-tailed Tits was the last record of the day.
you will have to take my word for it, a Water Pipit on Ham Wall Reserve from VP1
Everything was over before dark, we got back to the bus at 4:30pm and called it day.