WEATHER: the beautiful weather continues, a most glorious sunny day, no wind, no clouds, perfect. Top temp 5C.
Well I couldn't believe that we had a second fantastic day weather-wise, it was superb, so we made the most of it! We left the guest house in the dark at 7am in order to get to the Starling roost by sunrise, which we did with 10 minutes to spare. It was freezing cold but we all wrapped up well so didn't notice it much, the air was still but alive with the noise of nearly 1 million chattering starlings.
|sun rise - we arrived to this at 7:20am|
Whilst we waited we saw 13 Great White Egrets drop into the marsh with 7 Grey Herons, also Lapwings, Cormorants and several groups of various ducks dashed over us. A couple of early-bird Marsh Harriers also put in an appearance.
At 7:40am the starlings all took off like a plague of locusts bursting from the reedbeds, it was incredible, the noise from their wings sounded like rolling waves on a windy day. It took ten minutes for them all to disperse, it was a truly memorable and fascinating experience, the ultimate natural spectacle, nature at its best, awe inspiring and many more superlatives I can't think of..
|a swirling mass of starlings as they erupted from the reeds|
We were back at the guest house tucking into a delicious cooked breakfast at 8:30 but within an hour we were off again. Today we started our birding at Westhay Moor by walking along London Drove, our target species was the Goosander on '30 acre lake' and any other goodies that might pop out of the marshes.
From a slow start we gained momentum with sightings of Common Kingfisher quickly followed by Bearded Tit. The latter showed extremely well down to 3-4 meters but they kept moving so no photographs!
|Water Rail - as I didn't take any birdy pictures today the next 5 were taken by Kevin Jones during recent visits to the 'levels'|
We added our first Pintail sightings at 30 acre lake but no Goosander were present, most the lake was frozen over so all the ducks, geese and swans were crammed together in small pools of unfrozen water. It was comical to see Mute Swans landing on ice and slipping on their rear ends before crashing into other birds.
|Bittern - swimming - taken by Kevin Jones|
We spent a while in a brand new tower-hide, again we looked over frozen pools with nothing on them but we did mange to see a Eurasian Bittern in flight, well most of the group did.
|Bittern - not swimming - taken by Kevin Jones|
Walking back to the bus we stopped to watch a couple of Bullfinches and a single Lesser Redpoll before John found a Water Rail very close by. A quick search for a 'drumming' Great Spotted Woodpecker was in vain.
We drove round to Mudgley to look for Cattle Egrets but none were there, a huge number of Redwings and Fieldfares littered the fields with a single Song Thrush, a couple of Stonechats, a flock of Linnets and two Red Foxes!
|Eurasian Teal - photo by Kevin Jones|
A short drive around Tealham Moor produced sightings of many Lapwings, thrushes, Rooks, Jackdaws and Starlings, but nothing new.
After a short stop in Wedmore, where we bought lunch, we travelled to Cheddar Reservoir. Our lunch was eaten in the car park as we sat in the lovely sunshine. Birding at the Reservoir was short but sweet, we scoped the whole circular body of water from one single point, it was covered in parts with hundreds of ducks, coots and gulls. We added Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Goldeneye, Red-crested Pochard but we couldn't find any of the Goosander that were supposed to be there.
|Great Egrets fighting - phot by Kevin Jones|
We then drove through Cheddar and the famous Gorge but never stopped because it was packed with day trippers that swarmed all over the place, a nightmare.
So back to normality at Chew Valley lake where we spent the last two hours of day light watching thousands or birds from the two causeways, Heron's Green and Herriot's Bridge. Both places provides good sighting and offered opportunities to see one or two rarer birds. We added Black-necked Grebe, Bewick Swan (8), Shelduck and we put a lot of time in looking for Ring-billed and Mediterranean Gulls without reward. We also missed Scaup, Long-tailed Duck, Pink-footed Goose and Goosander because we never had time to drive all the way around this huge man-made lake, another time maybe.
We drove back to our guest house in the dark arriving in good time for another delicious dinner.