Thursday, 26 March 2015

Somerset Hares 25/3/15 Shapwick and Ham Wall

An early arrival to Ham Wall to the greeting of bird song, frost and sunny blue skies.  It seemed every bird was singing even the booming Bittern!
No sign of any Sand Martins but we did see and hear the lovely song of a Willow Warbler at Ham Wall.   The Great Crested Grebes are still displaying but mostly the head flick game not the dance.  Cettis Warbler and Chiffchaffs are singing from their perches everywhere.  There are still some fine looking Redwings feeding up on the ivy berries I guess before their journey north.
2 Bitterns were seen both from Ham Wall and Shapwick but as usual it was a quick fly past but brilliant to see them. Male and female Marsh Harriers were seen on both sides of the reserves the males in stunning colours now. There a still a few Wigeon on Noah's lake but numbers are dwindling.  Other birds of note are Great White Egret, Little Egret, Shoveler, Teal, Little Grebe, Water Rail, Kingfisher, Treecreeper and Great Spotted Woodpecker.
Only a couple of Small Tortoiseshells out in the sun but a few more flowers out now Dandelion, Daisies, Lesser Celandines and the lovely Coltsfoot.
From Shapwick we travelled to the Canada Farm reserve parking up at the Hawk And Owl Trust car park.  The walk to the 2 hides is a wonderful mixture of open field and woodland the fields being a great source of wild flowers later in the season.
Not a lot going on from the Canada Farm hide but good to see some Cormorants nesting.  From the Barbara Hanley hide the feeders were being put to good use by Chaffinch, Blue and Great Tit, and Reed Buntings. An occasional Brown Rat made an appearance. 
Whilst viewing from the hide, in the next field we spotted a beautiful Hare which we watched for some time.  What a great end to a brilliant day.

Song Thrush in the frosty grass

                   A lot of head flicking going on with the Grebes

  Great White Egret overhead!

                   Coltsfoot- one of the first Spring flowers and great for insects

   Blurry Bittern! You have to be sharp to get one in flight! 

                   An escapee Crocus growing at Shapwick 

   Great Tit 

                Lovely Brown Hare - beautiful animals

   Can you see me?

                   You can see how the Hare can blend in!

Reed Bunting looking very rotund 

                   The wonderful rural Levels

Monday, 23 March 2015

Somerset Levels 2 day safari 17th & 18th March

We spent 2 very different days at Ham Wall and Shapwick the first started sunny and then cloudy and the second after a frosty start some lovely Spring sunshine. Covering both days we recorded a total of 55 bird species, Adders and a single Small Tortoishell. 
Most birds were in good song including Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps, Cettis, booming Bitterns, Dunnocks etc. Kingfishers both chasing and fishing were a common sight as were displaying Great Creasted Grebes. We even got a glimpse of the dance a couple of times. Most surprising of all was a fly over of 5 Cranes high up in the hazy blue sky right over the scrape at Shapwick. We were notified of their presence by their wonderful haunting call - We will never forget it.
The woodland areas of Shapwick revealed Coal Tits, Treecreeper and Goldcrest plus plenty of flitting of Great, Long Tailed and Blue Tits.
We also had a great view of a pair of Marsh Harriers 'seeing' off a pair of Buzzards - tallons at dawn!
Sand Martins were seen in good numbers mainly over the Ham Wall reserve again we were alerted to these by their calls in the sky. Other birds of note were Great White Egret, Little Egret, Goldeneye, Redwing, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Reedbuntings, Shoveller, Wigeon, Pochard and Teal.
Only one butterfly species seen a Small Tortoishell.
Fantastic to see the Adders in their usual spot this time we counted 3 basking in the sun.  Another surprise of the day was spotting a tiny young Adder only about 3 inches long basking in its own bit of sun.  It was perfectly marked 'mini me' just beautiful!
All in all a fantastic couple of days on the levels, can't wait to return!

Cettis Warbler - fantastic song. Seen a little easier at the moment as they sing out their territory 

                   Wigeon  - still good numbers on the levels

   Kingfisher perched to fish seen from Noah's hide

A little video ....
                   Celandine - a great nectar host for insects including bees and butterflies plus they look stunning     
                   In the Spring sunshine

   Scarlet Elfcup - seeing these all over the Somerset Levels now

                    Willow in the dew

   Some Willow more advanced than others

                  Blackcap as well as heard singing seen feeding on the ivy berries

   Redwing - feeding up before flying East?

                 Cranes - wow! Very high up in the hazy blue sky but so good to see and hear


                 Treecreeper- often seen along the woodland path to Mere Hide

    Young Adder - only 3 inches long but perfectly formed and marked


    So small but still has that red eye

                   Male adult Adder

   Basking together - 3 heads are better than one! 

Friday, 13 March 2015

RSPB Arne Dorset - 10/3/15 Spoonbills & Dartford Warblers etc

We turned up at Arne at 8:30 am when the car park opened on what promised to be a lovely blue sky sunny and warm day. Even the drive along the road to Arne is a beautiful mix of heathland and trees, who knows what could be found out there!
It was our first visit to this part of Dorset and wow what an area. It is stunning with its pine trees and heathland leading down to the coast quite simply breathtaking.
We decided to take the Coombe Heath path first in the hope of seeing Dartford Warblers. This is an amazing path with a hide and screen and also great views towards Corfe Castle. After this path we returned to the car park and took the large loop red trail. This path was stunning both for wildlife and views across Poole Harbour etc and again there was a hide. 
We saw a total of 43 species of birds on our visit including a group of 25 Spoonbills and a Dartford Warbler and a huge flock of 200+ Brent Geese.  Other birds of note were Nuthatch, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Redshank, Shelduck, Curlew, Wigeon, Black Tailed Godwit, Red Breasted Mergansers, Goldcrest, Siskin, Meadow Pipit etc.
Also seen was one single Brimstone, a rat, squirrels, rabbits and plenty of Sika Deer around the reserve. 
To complete our day we walked the Coombe Heath path again. We are so impressed with this reserve that we will return hopefully to look for lizards, snakes, butterflies and Woodlarks! It is also worth noting that the RSPB staff in the info hut are most helpful and the feeders next to the hut worth checking out.

    Heavily flowered Gorse bringing the Bees out in the sun

                   Mistle Thrush 

   Corfe Castle in the distance 

                   Stunning views across Coombe Heath. Gorse flowering everywhere and now and again you could 
                   catch it's 'coconut' scent in the air

    Coombe Heath views

                  Meadow Pipits - claiming and displaying for their territory 

    Another view from Coombe Heath

                 Brent Geese - still quite a few on the reserve

   Brent Goose 

                   Dartford Warbler - a beautiful warbler that just wouldn't keep still

    Dartford Warbler- just so pleased we got to see one. This one seen from the viewpoint on the red      
     trail while we were looking at a large group of Red Breased Mergansers.

                 25 Spoonbills! A record shot in the heat haze from the hide on the red trail

   A single Spoonbill viewed from Coombe Heath


   Part of a huge 200 plus flock of Brent Geese which took off from a field opposite Coombe  Heath.
   This is the largest amount I have ever seen - not even this amount on the River Exe! 

   Sika Deer Stag - gave us this looked as he appeared out of the gorse!

                  Sika Deer 

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Early Spring on the Somerset Levels 7/3/15 Birds, Butterflies, Flowers and Snakes

What a stunning blue sky sunny Spring day and it was warm! We arrived at Ham Wall at around 9am to a chorus of bird song and plenty of flitting around.  Surely today we would see our first butterfly? We explored Ham Wall side first and birds of note were Great White Egret, Little Egret,  Shoveler, Teal, Wigeon, Pintail, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Snipe, Reed Bunting, Goldcrest and plenty of the more common species. A booming Bittern was heard but not seen. There are at least 4 Great Creasted Grebe pairs and a pair of Kingfishers were seen whizzing and chasing at one point they flew straight over our heads! Cettis Warblers are busy singing from their perches but are still hard to get a decent photo of!
Primroses, Violets, Snowdrops, Celandines and Daisies all bursting open in the sun and warmth and in turn attracting bees.  So good to see and hear the bees hum past.
It was on the Shapwick side that we saw our first butterflies of the year. Some great views of Brimstones including one female and a single Small Tortoiseshell and Red Admiral. It was so good to see the return of the Brimstones.
Not too much to see on the scrape but a few Pochards and Tufted Ducks. In the woods leading to Mere hide we saw a Treecreeper and Coal Tit.  Once again booming Bitterns could be heard all over the reserve.
It was on the Shapwick side that we saw our first Adders of the year a truly fantastic view of this beautiful snake. We always feel so honoured to catch a glimpse of this wonderful reptile. 
All in all every part of nature we saw and experienced today left us on a high! A real welcome return of spring and so good for the soul! The Somerset Levels, so much more than just the birds

   Dunnock - singing its heart out!

                    Dunnock - great colours if you stop to look!

   Primrose - herald of Spring

                   Bumble Bees back on the scene, warming up in the sun.

    The humble Celandine 

                   Elf Cup fungi - finding this lovely fungi all over the woods at Shapwick

    A big Elf Cup! 

                  Brimstone flat out on the bracken seeing the warmth of the sun

   The beautiful Adder - stunning reptiles