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 bird....an amazing coincidence, both having orange leg rings like that!