12 SPECIES OF DUCK IN ONE DAY - FANTASTIC!
SHAPWICK HEATH - TEALHAM MOOR - CHEW VALLEY LAKE - BARROW GURNEY 'TANKS'
Boy what a windy day that was! very strong winds all day with patches or squalls of rain, but it wasn't too cold and we all remained in a positive mood.
This was our first full day of this mini-break, we set off at 8am after a superb breakfast at the guest house, yummy! A short drive found us at Ham Wall car park where we left the bus and walk eastward along the main 'drain' along to Shapwick heath and Noah's Lake. A party of Bullfinches were picking up gravel off the track and we started listing our ducks on the Meare Pool. Shoeveler, Wigeon, Mallard, Teal, Tufted Duck and Gadwall were our first 5 duck species.
Bullfinches on the track
From the hide at Noah's lake we sheltered from the wind a little and added Pintail (No. 6) and Common Pochard (No. 7) to the duck count but not Goldeneye and our search for Whooper Swan went unrewarded. Thousands of duck were out there, mainly Teal and Wigeon also Greylag and Canada Geese, lots of Mute Swans and we watched Buzzards and Marsh Harrier battle the windy conditions.
Returning to the main track we contiued to the far eastern corner of Noah's Lake and that is where we found our first major bird of the day, a male Ringed-necked Duck (No. 8), it was a cracking find and a very obliging bird, stunning.
The Ringed-necked Duck
We added Coal Tit, Raven and few other species back at the car park before we set off for Chew Valley, taking the long route across Tadham and Tealham Moors. A small group of four Great White Egrets was our best find on the Moors. We picked up picnic supplies at Wedmore before driving down to Cheddar and up through the famous Gorge (not its not made of cheese) and on to Chew Valley.
We did make a short stop in the Gorge to look for Peregrine Falcon but rain drove us away. At Chew we spent a few hours walking from hide to hide, watching also from both Herriot's Bridge and Heron's Green. The windy conditions keep everything huddled up in sheltered spots so that is what we concentrated on. From Stratford Hide we added Goldeneye (No. 9) and not much else except we ate our picnic lunch. Then at Moreton we saw our first Greater Scaup (No. 10), a female, before we walked towards heron's Green.
The view from the Stratford Hide, it looks tranquil but believe me the wind was blowing strong
It was at this point that I left to the group to continue to heron's green whilst I walked back to drive the bus round. Unfortunately for the group as I passed Moreton Hide a guy called me and said that the LESSER SCAUP was showing, so I had to go and check, sure enough it was a fine male LESSER SCAUP (No. 11). I tried to call the group on my mobile but there wasn't a signal, the bird drifted out of sight!
Once I caught up with the group we decided to look for more ducks at Heron's Green and our walk out to a 'point' proved worthy of the effort as we found three more GREATER SCAUP, This time we saw two males. A male Goosander was a bonus.
a very distant record shot of the LESSER SCAUP, you can just about make out the pale bill and the head shape
It was now after 3pm and the dull light was fading so we decided to try for the Long-tailed Duck (No. 12) that was at the three large 'tanks' at Barrow Gurney, this was a fiftenn minute drive. We were told to search 'Tank 3' but that proved fruitless, so we tried 'Tank 2' still no luck. Finally, as the light was getting bad we found the bird on 'Tank 1' it was another fine male bird in great plumage and a long-tail (they don't always have this tail during the winter months).
Yes we saw 12 species of duck, how many times have you done that in one day?