Friday, 30 March 2012

The Magical Mystery Tour

Yesterday I collected Mary from Bristol Airport to start an 11 day birding trip. We don't actually know where we're going, we're just going to keep an eye on the Birdguides website & follow the birds. It will be a bit of a mixture of chasing the rareties & exploring new places.

Straight from the airport we headed to Blagdon Lake in Somerset. Nothing particularly interesting birdwise, but an amazing collection of dead bugs in the gutter & live ones attempting to feed on us.

Weird dead bug collection
Then to Chew Valley Lake in search of the Spotted Sandpiper that has been at Herriot's Pool for a while. I knew where it was meant to be as I'd had a failed attempt before Christmas, so we were quite hopefull. When we arrived a couple of birders were there & one chap already had a bird that he thought may be it, but it required a bit of a contortion to get the scope onto it over a fence. We  managed to get it in the scope & Mary had a reasonable look that revealed the yellow legs. I already have it on the Year list from Lyme Regis but it was a UK tick for Mary. Not a bad start to her Year List.

We were booked into Cheddar Youth Hostel & Mary had never been to Cheddar Gorge before, we headed there via the gorge. We spotted a scope set up by the road so zipped into the Car Park to find an RSPB chap watching a Peregrine nest. Had great views.

Cheddar Gorge
A good start to the trip although nothing new for me on the Year List.

This morining we headed straight to Shapwick Heath in search of the Long-billed Dowitchers. We walked down the track & immediately came across a couple of Brummy birders that had them in the scope. Easy! The 2 Dowitchers stuck close together & we had good views. There was also a Great White Egret which was a bonus for Mary, although I already have it.

Watching the Dowitchers
We had a great time wandering around the reserve & I picked up a couple more Year List birds: Marsh Harrier, Bearded Tit, Willow Warbler, Reed Warbler, Little-ringed Plover & loads of booming Bitterns, although we weren't lucky enough to see one. Mary got all of those except for the Bearded Tit that flew off before she managed to find it with my rubbish directions.

It was lunchtime by the time we got back to the van. We then headed off to Westhay Moor just up the road. It's amazing how many reserves there are in such a relatively small area. We spent quite a bit of time wandering & exploring. It was fairly quiet, but had a Water Rail fly past in front of the hide & a walk around the raised bog gave us a couple of Kestrels hovering & perching.

Then off to the last reserve of the day, Calcott Lows. We felt in need of some refreshment so stopped at the Burtle Inn. It turned into a bit of an experience. It's actually quite normal for us to have a 'tea incident' on our birding trips, but normally it's when we're abroad, so there is an excuse for the inability of the locals to make a decent cuppa. In a pub in Somerset, it came as a surprise. We should have seen it coming as the bar staff was Spanish. She admitted that she couldn't work the rather posh coffee machine, much to Mary's disapointment (she's a bit of a coffee officianado). I said I'd have a pot of tea & Mary settled for an Espresso rather than a Cappuccino, as that was the only variety of coffee on offer.

My mini pot of tea duly arrived & I left it a few minutes to brew. I had been provided with a strainer so twigged that it was leaves rather than bags. When I poured, it did look a bit strong, so I thought I must have left it to brew a bit long. I drank it, although it was stripping the enamel off of my teeth. It was only when I'd finished & actually looked in the pot that to my amazement I found that about 1/3rd of the pot was leaves. It must have been at least 2 tablespooons full. No wonder it looked like a proper Northern pot that would keep the spoon upright!

Tea leaf overdose

I was off in the loo when Mary mentioned to owner at the bar that she should maybe give the Spanish bar staff a bit of training in order to prevent the caffeine poisoning of future tea drinkers. At first she was a bit stressed about it until she realised that we found it highly amusing. She then saw the funny side. She didn't charge us for the pot, although it must have adversely effected the daily profits considering we had used a week's supply of Tetley.

Catcott Lows was a different kettle of fish to the other reserves we had visited during the day.... there were no reeds. It was a vast area of shallow water & the light was just right for some superb views of Teal, Wigeon & a few Pintail. Surprisingly & disappointingly though, there were no snipe.

Catcott Lows
Year List total now on 154 (Long-billed Dowitcher, Bittern, Beared Tit, Willow Warbler, Reed Warbler, Marsh Harrier, Little-ringed Plover)

Mary is off and running at last with a Year List of 65.

1 comment:

  1. It is so nice to have a tour there. I really love to go there soon with my family.