Thursday 2 February 2023

Avalon Marshes, Somerset Levels

 Wednesday 1 February

Glastonbury Tor seen from Ham Wall

A lovely, sunny start to the day as I departed Sand Bay for the Avalon Marshes on the Somerset Levels.  First stop, arriving before 10 o'clock, was the RSPB reserve at Ham Wall. Suitably dressed with boots to cater for the potential muddy tracks was the feeding station which produced both Great and Blue Tits along with Robin, Dunnock, Reed Bunting, Chaffinch and Blackbird. Then off to follow an anti-clockwise circuit of he reserve including all adjacent pools and tracks leading to hides. Starlings and Magpies as I started and at the first watch point immediately recorded Mute Swan and an assorted of ducks including Mallard, Teal, Wigeon plus a couple of Cormorant and a flypast of a small flock of Lapwing.

Blue Tit Parus caerulus

A little further on I stopped at the first hide and screens overlooking the pools on my right.  Most obvious of sightings was the lovely Great White Egret and a visiting Glossy Ibis.  Also present more of the already seen ducks plus both Moorhen and Little Grebe.

Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus
Great White Egret Ardea alba

Continuing on down to Viewing Point 2 I had a view of many resting Teal and Lapwing whilst in the distance at least four quartering Marsh Harriers including a magnificent distant male. Walking these paths it was obvious that the smaller birds were used to being fed by visitors to the site as every time you stopped within seconds at least one Robin would be as near to you as possible.. Even the Great Tits were visitor friendly and I suspect given the appropriate food the Robins would feed from your hand.  In the nearby trees both a small number of Goldfinch and a handful of Long-tailed Tits. The occasional Dunnock along with Reed Bunting would regularly put in an appearance.

Record shot of distant male Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus

In addition to the many Wigeon and Shoveler the final pool also held a number of Pochard. And walking back to the car park I recorded Blackbird and Heron along with a couple of Carrion Crows.

Leaving the site I crossed the road to enter the Shapwick Heath Nature Reserve. A Mute Swan on the canal and reaching the Tower Hide I was bale to get an aerial view of the large pool on my right.  Very many Wigeon, Gadwall, Shoveler, Tufted Duck and Teal plus a number of Mallard. But at this time, no matter how I looked at every Wigeon in sight, I could not find the reported American Wigeon that arrived last week. In the distance more Marsh Harriers and a couple of Carrion Crows. Nearer to me, the charm of 40 Goldfinches had settled into the tree on the other side of the canal.

            Mainly Wigeon Anas penelope with Gadwall A.strepera and Shoveler A.clypeata

Continuing on down to the bridge over the canal I took the track to my left to visit the next two hides.  On the way to the first a Great White Egret was resting in the stream to my right and a number of Mute Swans could be seen further off in the same direction.  By now the sun had gone and the wind grew stronger by the hour but, at least, it remained dry. Nothing extra to be seen so made my way across to the neighbouring hide and was rewarded by a visiting Great Spotted Woodpecker.  Nothing else from that hide so back to the can and across to the small spinney on the other side,  A Blackbird seen as I entered the trees and at least a little temporary shelter from the now strong, cold breeze.

Great White Egret Ardea alba

Time to head back to the car park and seek ventures new coming across a Heron on the way.  Stopping to check the original pool once again, a passing couple of local birders asked if I'd seen the American Wigeon to which I replied in the negative.  They had seen the bird, with scope, from the Tower Hide and directed me towards the dam bank in front.  Evidently this had been where they had first seen the bird last week and were able to point me in the right direction.  The bird was close to the shore and not so far away but well concealed by both vegetation and boulders.  Finally, the green head of the bird was seen and, as I watched, the bird slightly raised its head and turned so presenting the white stripe across the crown to view.  Sadly, very difficult to get a clear photograph of the bird but if you screw your eyes up you can just about make out the head of the American Wigeon in the photograph.  Leaving the site to cross back into the Ham Wall car park I noticed the Jackdaw sitting atop a nearby pole.

American Wigeon Anas americana.   Look immediately right of the male Wigeon Anas penelope and you can just make out the green head almost next to the upright post.

My final, short, visit of the day was to the relatively nearby Catcutt Reserve. Collared Dove, Herring Gull and Kestrel as I approached the site and once parked up a couple of Great White Egrets in the company of a single Little Egret. A walk to the nearest hide produced a Blackbird on the way and outside the building a handful of feeding Long-tailed Tits. Frome the hide a view across the flooded meadow to the single Mute Swan and a flock of 58 Canada Geese.  Further away to my extreme right a trio of Greylag Geese and a Robin as I walked back to the car.

Robin Erithacus rubecula

Leaving the site to start my homeward journey a Heron, Buzzard and a large flock of Starlings. Not just a couple of Woodpigeon but in the first farmed field a very large flock of Rooks. A very rewarding day with over 40 species recorded and the weather improving as I journeyed back.

Male Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula

Birds seen:

Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Mute Swan, American Wigeon, European Wigeon, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Glossy Ibis, Little Egret, Great White Egret, Heron, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Lapwing, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Woodpigeon, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Starling, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Reed Bunting.

Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus

Goldfinches Carduelis carduelis

Great Tit Parus major

Great White Egret Ardea alba

Great White Egret Ardea alba

Little Egret Egretta garzetta

Common Pochard Aythya ferina

Jackdaw Corvus monedula

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