Thornbury

Somerset Levels Shapwick

Report for the visit to Shapwick Heath for the starling murmuration 28.1.19

A select band of 6 members made their way to Shapwick Heath in hope of seeing the winter spectacle of the starling murmuration. On previous evenings the birds had swapped their roosting areas from Shapwick Heath, Ham Walls and way out over the Avalon marshes, well away from the public walkways, including splitting into 2 flocks on many evenings. So it was with a certain lack of confidence that we walked from the bridge over the river Brue at Westhay along the old railway line.
The breeze that we had all day had died away and now the river surface was like glass in the setting sun, reflecting the changing cloud patterns. A kingfisher flew along the river while a few carrion crows flapped lazily overhead. A buzzard was seen close by and a sparrowhawk passed over but, so far, only a small flock of starlings had been seen. A sharp eyed member then pointed out large flocks streaming in a good distance from us, ironically over Ham Walls (where we had decided not to go as Shapwick seemed the most likely place!). For a few minutes we were able to watch the starlings perform their customary display above the trees on the far side of the river, well away from the walkway and then it was all quiet. Not the viewing we had hoped for but certainly better than the last two years.
We strolled on a little way enjoying the stillness and the gathering dimpsy while the brightness of the sunset in the far west was reflected off the water. As we returned to the cars a water rail was screaming close by and a large ‘plump’ bird flew with slow wing beats over the reeds, probably a bittern. Three mute swans formed gentle ripples in the glassy river, disturbing the reflections, the only movement in the stillness.

Bird seen and heard
Great Tit Cormorant
Blackbird Buzzard
Wood Pigeon Sparrowhawk
Kingfisher Water Rail (heard)
Mute Swan Bittern?
Carrion Crow
Charles Hiscock