TRIP REPORT AUGUST 2015
This morning's field meeting at Shapwick Heath was a strange mixture of Satisfaction and Frustration! For a start seven people turned up which represented Satisfaction considering a rather dire weather forecast. We went to Shapwick Heath and proceeded along the disused railway line towards the drained lagoon. Frustration - the massive quantities of recent rain had put more water into this lagoon than was ideal for attracting waders. Satisfaction - there were no fewer than four Great White Egrets readily visible there - and a single Little Egret.
The website had mentioned about ten species of wading bird frequenting this expanse of mud. Frustration - search as we might we could find nothing but Lapwing and Black-tailed Godwit. Eventually we managed to see two Ruff and three Common Sandpiper (and the briefest of glimpses of a Marsh Harrier), which turned our Frustration into Satisfaction, but then Frustration returned - it started raining. So we made for the Noah's Lake Hide. When we got there we once more had both emotions. Frustration because there were five photographers already there when we arrived and they were not only occupying a substantial chunk of Hide, but were also obviously going to stay there all day! So visibility was less than perfect. The Satisfaction came from the fact that an Osprey was showing well from this Hide and we all got good views of it - eventually. We also saw both Great Crested and Little Grebe, but little else of major interest. So we returned to our original site, where it started raining again, finally driving us back to the car park a little before 11.00am - which was frustrating.
TRIP REPORT - SEPTEMBER 2015
A total of eight people went out this morning. For the second month in succession I changed the venue at the last moment. The news from most of the sites on the Levels was rather similar to August, so we went to try and see the Cranes at Aller Moor
The weather was fine and we got to Staithe shortly after 9.00 am. We crossed the footbridge over the Parrett and started scanning the usual feeding place. There was a little mist so visibility was less good that we hoped. But within five minutes we saw a large flock of Cranes flying over Aller Moor in a westerly direction. This in itself was a worthwhile sighting, but the birds looked a if they were heading for West Segemoor, so we went back to the cars and drove a mile further on and parked near a railway bridge which gave views over both West Sedgemoor and Aller Moor. No sign of the Cranes in either place!. Fortunately a few minutes later we saw two Cranes in flight and followed them until they landed. Telescopes then gave us views of a flock of about 60 birds feeding on West Sedgemoor - unfortunately at a distance of about a mile and a half. Sadly they remained there feeding for at least 45 minutes, when we left. It is amazing how elusive these birds are, considering that they are 5 foot tall! Apart from the Cranes we saw several Swans, Buzzards and Goldfinch, but little else.
We then went to RSPB Greylake, mainly in the hope of seeing Bearded Tit, They never appeared, and what is more the two hides were both closed because of an infestation of aggressive wasps! So we walked around the reed bed and, in the absence of Bearded Tit saw Kestrel, Reed Bunting and many Grey Heron, including an individual with much more white on it than normal. But it definitely was not a Great White Egret, because we saw one of those in flight while we were at Greylake !
TRIP REPORT OCTOBER 2015
Nine of us were at Ash Lane by 8.00 am on this morning, all armed with a decidedly alarming weather forecast. After long discussion (well, five minutes or so) and a democratic vote, we decided to go for a half day trip to Westhay Moor Reserve, instead of the planned full day visit to Steart Marshes. At that stage only one of the nine decided to go home (on the grounds that domestic pressures could only be resisted by the promise of a full day outing), so eight of us set out on the revised itinerary.
It proved to be an inspired decision! Admittedly we only we encountered a total of 28 species, but read on and be envious (if you weren't one of the lucky ones)!
On the way to Westhay we had an excellent close-up view of a very pale Buzzard, sitting on top of a telegraph pole, also of two Little Egret near the entrance to the reserve. We started up the drove and saw Long-tailed Tit and heard the first of many Cetti's Warbler (some of us even saw one of them). Walking across the reserve towards London Drove, we saw a Jay and a distant Great White Egret. On the first piece of Open Water alongside London Drove we found a single Shoveler among many Mallard - and a second Great White Egret. Then, a few minutes later, by common consent the "bird of the day" a small flock of very confiding Bearded Tits, which entertained us for nearly ten minutes before flying off. They really are very spectacular little birds, especially the males, of which there were three.
After that everything else was a bit of an anti-climax. We managed to find a Grey Heron and several Gadwall - also rain, which began to fall just as we were near a hide. The two drivers then nobly went and fetched the cars so we could all have lunch together, sitting in the hide watching the rain.
Just to add to our joy, on the way back to Wells we saw our first winter thrushes of the autumn - a flock of a dozen or so, which certainly contained Redwing and possibly also Fieldfare (though this latter is uncertain)