Somerset Levels

The Somerset 'Levels' is the largest area of lowland wet grassland and wetland habitats in Britain covering 35,000 hectares. The ‘Levels’ comprise of a vast area of lowlands sandwiched between the Mendip and Quantock Hills and are what is left of a once wider area of flooded fenland.

The ‘Levels’ have eight rivers and drains running through it: The land here is only a few metres above sea level and is criss-crossed with ditches, rhynes (pronounced reens) and rivers that take the huge amounts of water through the landscape.

Glastonbury Tor is the most prominent landmark in the Levels rising up 521 feet. In days gone by this was actually an island surrounded by sea and later inaccessible marsh hence it becoming known as the Isle of Avalon. The marshes that lie all around Glastonbury and as far west as the coast are collectively called The Avalon Marshes. Shapwick Heath, Ham Wall, Westhay Moor, Catcott Lows wildlife reserves all fall within The Avalon Marshes. Today these wetlands are renowned for internationally important numbers of waterfowl who come here to feed and roost in winter and the ever increasing number of Eurasian Bittern that stay to breed there. Ham Wall has be one of the best places in Britain to see this superb bird and to hear its strange 'booming' call especially during May. Good numbers of Hobby also breed on the 'Levels' and together with possibility of seeing the regular breeding Great White Egret and recent regular visitors Little Bittern, Glossy Ibis and Cattle Egret makes this trip an exciting prospect.

In recent recent years

For these tours we are based just outside of Glastonbury and will visit Ham Wall, Shapwick Heath NNR, (Grey Lake RSPB & Meare Heath), Catcott Lows, Cheddar Reservoir, Chew Valley Lake and a couple of coastal sites near Bridgewater including Steart Point. You will see a great variety of species and may include some rare and unusual species such as Great White Egret, Cattle Egret, Glossy Ibis, Great Bittern, Woodcock, Marsh Harrier, Whooper Swan, Merlin, Water Rail, Red-necked Grebe, Water Rail, Great Northern Diver, Jack Snipe, Water Pipit and Goosander. This part of the levels is also very good for finding Otter! We may even get a glimpse of the recently introduced Common Cranes. Other unusual sightings may include wintering Great Bustards, these birds are part of the releases scheme from Salisbury Plain, 3 or 4 of them have been sighted on the Levels during the past couple of winters.

Siskin, Redpoll and sometimes Firecrest may be found in the alder hedgerows and with the recent invasion of Waxwings there may be some in Somerset by January/February time!

Thrushes abound, thousand of Fieldfare and Redwings, join Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush and Blackbirds and there is a chance of finding our very own Dark Throated Thrush. We may see Owls too, Barn, Little, Tawny and a good possibility of Short-eared Owl.

The itinerary for the last remaining short-break is as follows:

  • Day 1. lunch Time arrival. (Please note you can be collected from the main London to Plymouth railway station with prior arrangement, the nearest station is Castle Cary. You can also be collected from Yeovil Junction on the London (waterloo line ) to Exeter). After checking into the hotel we set off for a late afternoon trip to Ham Wall nature reserve where the Starling roost may be found. We may also see many of the species.
  • Day 2. An all day visit to Shapwick Heath, Catcott Low, Cheddar Reservoir and back to Ham Wall for the Starling roost.
  • Day 3. Morning visit to Steart point along the coast and then the afternoon will be spent at Chew Valley Lake.
  • Day 4. Our last morning will spent locally where we will look for any species we have missed. Departure lunch time.

The price of £350 includes: 3 nights half board accommodation sharing a twin/double room, all land transport from lunch time day 1 to lunch time day 4. guiding services, a checklist, evening bird-log and lots of great sightings.

Not included: Travel insurance, drinks, lunches, telephone calls and any items of a personal nature. Single supplement £40.

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