Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Somerset Levels 17/2/15 - Sunrise, Water Pipit and a taste of Spring

It was dark when we left home to arrive to a frosty sunrise at Ham Wall on the Somerset Levels. Wow! What a beautiful start to the day and I am sure that there was the beginning of a dawn chorus.  Our path took us to towards the 1st platform where we had good views of a Great White Egret, Cormorant, Coot, Shoveller and Tufted Duck. Walking on towards the second platform many small birds were busy flitting from tree to tree and hedge to hedge. These included Dunnock, Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long Tailed Tit, Cettis Warbler, Chiffchaff, Goldfinch Goldcrest and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. From the second platform we saw a female Marsh Harrier, another Great White Egret, Lapwing, and more duck species.  On to the New hide and from here were numerous Reed Buntings on the reed tops, Coots and Great Crested Grebes.  Also from his hide along with another birder we found a Water Pipit - a great find. Both Canada and Greylag Geese often flew overhead plus Cormorants. However we did hear a booming Bittern from within the reeds from both the Shapwick and Ham Wall side.
Shapwick side was very quiet except for the great number of Wigeon and a few Pintail on Noah's lake and a Tree Creeper in the woods the only new additions to the days list.
Onto RSPB Greylake where once again there were a good amount of Reed Buntings plus other birds feeding from the bird tables in the car park. Great to get such close up views.  Water Rails were heard all over the reserve but not seen this time.
The hide was full of photographers all with massive lenses clicking away at the Snipe, Wigeon, Teal, Shovellers and Lapwing all fairly close. It's at this time I feel sorry for the humble birdwatchers who enter the hide and just want to look at and spot the birds but no seats available owing to the space taken up by these 'mega' cameras!  I think perhaps a little compromise and empathy could be called upon for all to get a turn! (rant over).  Further out in the field there were a couple of Curlew and also a Peregrine perched in a dead tree.
Our walk then took us on to the screen, the fields were full of Lapwings and also a couple of Little Egrets. The walk down to the screen was in full sun and it was here that we saw a Peacock butterfly. Spring is on the way?

Sunrise at Ham Wall - a beautiful frosty start to singing birds!

                 Mists of Avalon!

   Water Pipit - a record shot from the new hide at Ham Wall. 

              The Great Crested Grebes in their prime almost dancing today. Lots of head flicking going on! 

   Great White Egret  and breeding plumes? - we never tire of seeing this beautiful bird on the levels. Spent time observing its foot dance as it searched for food in the water.

                    Reed Bunting - great views from the bird tables in the car park at Greylak

   Snipe - fantastic colours and markings when the sun shines on them

                A group of six snipe - masters of camouflage 

   Shoveller pair - clearly signs of courtship display now

                 Wigeon - a favourite. Still plenty at Greylake and Shapwick today

    Lapwing - a stunning little bird of field, moor and upland

                 Teal - still plenty to be seen at Greylake

Monday, 9 February 2015

Darts Farm & Exe Estuary - Pendulines etc 4/2/15

We arrived early at Darts Farm near Topsham to a beautiful cool crisp sunny morning full of anticipation and hope! We strolled down to the hide and ponds and there before us were the Penduline Tits, 3 of them, what a stroke of luck.  We watched these stunning little birds for a good half hour flitting and feeding on the bull rushes before we headed back to Darts Farm shop for a nice hot cup of coffee.
From Darts Farm we used the new cycle/walkway to walk to the Hide at Bowling Green Marsh. (By the way this info was given to us by the very friendly, helpful and enthusiastic chap in the RSPB shop.) Along this walkway and through the well placed viewing slots in the fence we had some great views of Redshank, Teal and Reed Bunting.
From Bowling Green Marsh itself there were some good numbers of Wigeon, Teal, Shelduck, Shoveler, a couple of Snipe, Tufted Duck, Canada, Greylag and a single Brent Goose. Also seen were a few Bar Tailed Godwits and a good glimpse of a Water Rail.
Onto the wall at Goat Walk and the tide was well out. We did however see a huge flock of Brent Geese at the waters edge as well as a group of 20 or so Avocets with some Curlews and Redshanks. In the distance in the channel there were also a few Red Breasted Mergansers.
The trees and shrubs along the way revealed all the usual 'little' birds inc B.Tit, G.Tit, Dunnock, S.Thrush etc and whilst walking back to Darts Farm a huge flock of about 100 Brent Geese flew overhead. Wow! What a grand finale to a top class day!

Penduline Tit - did not realise how small they are

                   Penduline shredding the Bullrush - seed heads going everywhere


                    Like a masked bandit!      

    One little bird demolished this Bullrush


    A good sized flock of Wigeon on the grass viewed from the hide

                    Spooked Wigeon

   Snipe - great colours in the sun

                  Bar tailed Godwit - only a few seen in the fields

    Water Rail - speedily feeding and probing in the grass

                   Avocets - busily feeding far out on the mudflats

    Brent Geese - part of a huge flock that sailed past overhead!