Monday, 16 April 2012

On the Levels

Yesterday there was a DBWPS trip to the Somerset Levels. About 20 of us met up at the car park at Swell Wood RSPB & started with a quick visit to the hide for a look at the Heronry. There were a few small furry beasts scuttling about in the vegetation in front of the hide which the RSPB helper told us were Bank Voles. Unfortunately they were a bit too fast to allow a good look.

When I visited Swell Wood with Mary a couple of weeks ago we admired the view across the Levels not realising that the area we were looking at below the wood is actually West Sedgemoor RSPB. I certainly didn't see any signs & the Swell Wood map doesn't show it either.

We walked down the lane onto the Levels and watched from there for a while. However, there didn't appear to be any trails or viewing platforms. Apparently there used to be a hide but that's been removed. It all seems a little odd. We had a couple of very distant views of a Marsh Harrier & a possible Hen Harrier, (it was too for off for a definite ID), but nothing else too exciting.

Walking down to West Sedgemoor

& looking out over the reserve

Then off towards Othery, stopping on the way when another possible Hen Harrier apparently flew out in front of the leading car (we didn't see it). We stopped for lunch & a few hardy birders ate along the river bank in the sunshine, despite the cold wind. We ate in the car & almost got left behind when the convoy moved off without telling us, we couldn't see them as they were hidden behind a camper van.

When David (the day's leader) & Wally recced the route last week, they found the 33 released Cranes in a field near Othery. We went back there, but there was no sign of them. We stopped again at a bridge which gave a good view across the Levels. There were some very very distant grey blobs which most of us agreed were a few of the Cranes. Some of the group were adamant that they were in fact sheep, however they must have been a very rare breed as we saw them flapping their wings a few times!

A bridge provides a handy viewpoint 

On to Greylake RSPB. A Red Kite had left just before we arrived, but at least we had good views of a female Hen Harrier. There were also a few Redshanks, Lapwings, Wigeon, Teal & Tufties, but nothing of note.

Greylake from the hide

The last stop was Shapwick Heath. We quickly found the 2 Long-billed Dowitchers in their usual spot in the drained lagoon, along with 2 rather nice looking Spotted Redshanks. There was also a black billed white Egret on the far side of the pool with an orange ring on each leg. There was a bit of a disagreement as to whether it was a Great White or a Little......

We moved on towards Noah's hide. A huge flock of Martins flew over, I think they were mainly Sand but there were at least a few House in there too. A few of the group went to the hide but came back to say it was packed solid, so we spent a bit of time in the track down to it instead. We were treated to some lovely views of a Goldcrest preening & a Bittern flying directly overhead. David thought he heard a Whitethroat singing, but we couldn't find it. At last we started to hear some Bitterns booming and a Cetti's singing.

Back at the lagoon, the light was fantastic for admiring the Dowitchers. A Buzzard flew over quite low putting them & the Black-tailed Godwits up. When they landed, the 2 Dowitchers had become separated. They're always side by side, so there was a bit of a mad dash to get back together. You could see their relief on being reunited!

The mystery Egret was now on the move & showing us its black feet as it waded in the shallow water. That clinched it, it was definitely a Great White. One of the Little Egret camp maintained it must be a different amazing coincidence, both having orange leg rings like that!

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