The end of our customary summer break was celebrated by nine people who joined me on the Somerset Levels on a cloudy but dry morning. This was supposed to be an early autumn discovery of lots of wading birds, but an earlier recce had indicated that there were virtually no waders around.
Nevertheless because the recce was not without interest, we first went to Shapwick Heath, where the first three birds we saw were Great White Egrets. Ten years ago that would have set all our hearts a'flutter, but we live in Somerset, so we took this in our stride!
The first piece of open water had not been drained into a scrape, so resulted in nothing more exciting than trying to identify uniformly brown ducks in eclipse plumage. We finally decided that there were Mallard, Gadwall and a few Teal present, plus Coot of course. So on we went to Noah's Hide, which was full of Mute Swans, brown ducks, Black-headed Gulls, Cormorants and - about half a mile away - the silhouette of a bird of prey which we assumed was an Osprey. We were proved right, because about five minutes later it took off, made an unsuccessful bid at catching a fish, and a minute later was successful with a similar attempt. It then proceeded to fly towards us with the fish (which was quite large) in its talons, and settled down to consume it in a dead tree about 150 yards from the hide! Wow!
Flushed with this success we returned to the car park and set out for the Catcott Lows reserve, which we all reached after a somewhat adventurous journey. The first thing we saw was no fewer than 13 Cattle Egret. This was both expected (they had been there several weeks) and also a surprise (because they had until recently been very elusive). For the next 30 minute we admired these birds which have only recently begun to colonise UK, and which have nested in UK (in Somerset of course) for only the second time ever in 2018.
As a bonus we saw two Wheatear and a mixed flock of Lapwing and assumed Golden Plover (which last magically turned into Starlings when they got close to us!). Shame, but a nice try!