Monday, 26 May 2014
Ham Wall & Shapwick
A day of some cloud, sun and breezes on the Somerset Levels. Arrived at 8 am to a full car park!
Paid a visit to Ham Wall first and we were greeted by the usual sounds of Cettis Warbler Goldfinches a Willow Warbler and Chiffchaffs singing away. Plenty of Swifts and Martins over the reed beds as well as some great views of Hobbies. The Cuckoo was calling away in the background but unfortunately no sign of the Nightingale!
From the first platform we had a good view of a male Marsh Harrier but nothing much else around. Walking down to the screens and new hide again there were plenty of Swifts screaming in the sky and the unmistakable song of Reed Warblers (sounds like hundreds of them) and a single Pochard and Coot on the Water. The Mute Swans now have cygnets.
From the new hide it was great to see a Great Creasted Grebe with at least a couple of young hidden on its back - the young have such striking markings. The Cuckoo was quite close and the Herons as always quite restless in the reeds. We had a great view of a Bittern which unfortunately was a little too quick to duck into the reeds. Also had a fly past of a Great White Egret.
On to the Shapwick side and the scrape to our great surprise revealed a Black Winged Stilt the first one we have seen in the UK. Also on the scrape were the usual Godwits, Tufted Duck, Teal, Lapwing, Gadwall and a Little Egret. Not a lot happening from Noah's hide but we did see a male and female Marsh Harrier. Once again from the Shapwick side a least two Cuckoos could be heard.
On our way home seeing as the sun was shining a little more we spent half an hour on the lower slopes of Crook Peak. Plenty of Common Blues and Brown Argus and a few Small Heath. No sign of the Dingy Skipper but still a few Grizzled. Great to see our first Large Skipper of the year. We have since found out that this is the first for this year recorded for Somerset. All in all a great day!
Great Crested Grebe plus one
Black Winged Stilt - what a great surprise to see this graceful bird on the 'scrape'
Sunday, 18 May 2014
Our trek started at East Harptree woods and across the fields to West Harptree, Hinton Blewett, along the reservoirs near Litton and eventually back to our starting point a total of 9.5 miles.
Plenty of hills to climb with stunning views across to Chew Vally Lake as a reward. Many fields a golden yellow of Buttercups and some open land full of Bluebells just simply beautiful. The wild flowers everywhere are a delight to see from Stitchwort, Campion, Bugle, Ramsons, Vetch, Cow Parsley, etc the hedgerows are looking amazing.
A great sunny day for butterflies and those seen along the route were Peacock, Orange Tip, quite a few Brimstones, Speckled Wood, Large White, Green Veined White, Common Blue, Small Tortoiseshell and our first Small Copper of the year.
Saw our first Beautiful Demoiselle along a fast flowing stream and the lovely coloured Broad Bodied Chaser by a large pond. It was fascinating to watch the Chaser always return to its 'perch'!
On close inspection of the area around the pond the Spotted Orchids are in full leaf and have their flower stems forming. There will be loads of these orchids appearing here soon.
Passing the 2 Small reservoirs we saw Great Crested Grebes, Little Grebe, Mallards, Tufted Duck, nesting Coots and a Moorhen. A Green Woodpecker was also seen along the way.
The stars of the day had to be the wildflowers, insects, bird song and stunning views. We are going to have to return in a couple of weeks to see those orchids!
Bluebells - breathtaking with the sun on them
Broad Bodied Chaser - always came back to the same perch
Woodland - springing to life
Wednesday, 14 May 2014
A bright sunny day is forecast so it's off to the Crook Peak area of the Mendips too look for butterflies.
Starting at the lower slopes it wasn't long before we saw our first Brown Argus in fact they could be seen everywhere and were the most numerous butterfly seen today.
The slopes are now covered in a variety of wild flowers and grasses from the bright yellow Rock Rose to large clumps of Scarlet Pimpernel etc. The colourful array of plants and grasses in turn attracting a total of 11 species of butterfly seen today.
Great to see Small Heath and Common Blue on the wing and also plenty of Grizzled Skippers and a few Dingy Skippers. Also seen were a few Brimstones, Speckled Wood and Large and Green Veined White. Walking up towards the peak sunning themselves on the rocks we spotted a few Wall Browns. 3 Pearl Boardered Fritillaries were seen in a gorse / grass area but they would only settle for no more than a second!
Not too many birds around apart from Stonechats, Whitethroat, Meadow Pipit, Linnets, Swallows, Green Woodpecker and a Buzzard and Kestrel.
A great butterfly day though with stunning views as a bonus!
Small Heath - first time view of this butterfly this year. Look quite orange in flight.
Grizzled Skipper - bigger numbers this year than last but it appears that there are fewer Dingy Skippers around.
Wednesday, 7 May 2014
A mid morning walk around Charterhouse, Velvet Bottom, and Long Wood on a sunny blue sky day with high hopes of what we may see.
We had just left Charterhouse and spotted a lovely male Redstart singing away at the top of a tree. Pleased to see that they are back on the Mendips. The landscape of Velvet Bottom as always looks amazing greening up well now with thick patches of Bluebells in places and a few Early Purple Orchids here and there. Early Purple Orchids are still plentyfull along the whole route and can be seen growing strongly in groups or occasionally a random one on its own. Ravens and Buzzards can be seen and heard overhead and also Whitethroat and other smaller birds flitting to and from the scrub and Hawthorn. It is amazing how thick the flowers of the Hawthorn are this year. The Bluebells of Long Wood are stunning and the their scent intoxicating! A real carpet of blue that seems to go on forever - nature is so good for the soul!
If you look carefully then you will also find the flowers of Yellow Archangel, Ramsons, Campion, a few Cowslips and Wood Anemones.
Orange Tips and Green Veined Whites were seen in many sunny open glades as well as the occasional Peacock.
On our drive back home we stopped off at Crook Peak to look for butterflies. In our half hour here we were able to see severel Grizzled Skippers and Brown Argus as well as more Whites and a couple of Brimstone. This area is as well now coming alive with wild flowers the Rock Rose just coming out as well as carpets of Scarlet Pimpernel, Vetch etc. Can't wait to return and look for more butterflies.
Early Purple Orchids - these were a good strong tall bunch with thick spotted leaves
Velvet Bottom - a great landscape to walk through.
Orchid amongst the blue
Saturday, 3 May 2014
A bright but cool start to our walk took us along the beach at Weston Super Mare towards the village of Uphill. The tide was well out and we could only see a few Shelduck in the distance as well as Lesser Black Backed Gulls.
Our route took us around the golf course towards the boatyard. The scrub around the golf course we saw Whitethroats and Chiffchaffs as well as Goldfinches and Linnets. Skylarks could be heard everywhere as well as the call of Reed Buntings. Our route then took us through the reserve and on to the sewage treatment works and the sluice gate. The Hedgerow along the route really greening up now. Sedge Warblers were singing, Whitethroats, a few Swallows in the air but most surprising of all was a Glossy Ibis on one of the lagoons - wow! On towards the sluice gate we saw a Wheatear, Kestrel, Canada Geese, and more Shelduck. Along the return circuit along the bank 3 Whinchats one male and 2 female were seen flitting at the reed edge.
The hill is covered in Cowslips and Green Winged Orchids a stunning scene! With the sun now warming up butterflies were busy finding nectar from bluebells etc. Peacock, Green Veined White and the lovely delicate Holly Blue.
All in all an awesome day at our local patch!
Green Winged Orchid