Wednesday 1 February 2023

Steart Marshes and Sandy Point, Somerset

Tuesday 31 January

Last day of January and it's started dull and damp with some light drizzle and the threat of increasing wind as the day progresses.  Nevertheless I was away by 9 for the drive down the M5 to Bridgwater and then on to the coast to reach the Steart Marshes Reserve, just on an hour later.  At least the rain had stopped and a break in the cloud was most promising as, indeed, the sun came out for an unexpected pleasant morning.  Very much a case of more quality than quantity with a total of only 29 species but what species did I see! 

Steart Marshes with the the construction of the new Hinckley Nuclear Power Station in the background

Magpie, Woodpigeon and Blackbird recorded on the lane immediately outside the reserve's car park and then off to the Quantock Hide.  No sooner had I set off along the track than a pair of Grey Partridge crossed immediately on front of me. In the distance I could see hundreds of waders, Lapwings and Golden Plover, up in the sky having, no doubt been flushed by a passing raptor.  Once in the hide, and in the company of two local birders, the Lapwings and Golden Plover must have totalled at least 500 each, hence a reference to quantity.  

Resting Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria

Strange to look at these massed resting waders with the construction work of the new Hinkley Point nuclear power station being constructed on the background and, out of interest, one of my companions took it upon himself to count the number of cranes on the building site; 42!

Mainly Lapwing Vanellus vanellus

Apart from the above waders the next job was trying to accurately count the 90+ Shelduck.  Duly completed then on with identifying the remaining birds.  Surprisingly few Redshanks but good numbers of both Teal and Shoveler until I found a large flock of Wigeon way off to the back of the lagoon.  Near at hand a lone Heron.  It was whilst all this was going on that all the waders took to the air once more and ere long the culprit was found as a passing Merlin came into sight.

Now where's the Merlin that put up the Lapwing and Golden Plover?

Time to move to the adjacent hide and check a different view of this water.  More Shelduck but at the very back a large resting flock of mixed gulls.  Mainly Herring but also a number of Black-headed and at least two Common Gulls.  And then more excitement as a Peregrine Falcon flew past the hide.

Time to move on and I took my self off to the Mendip Hide overlooking a grassy meadow.  As I moved  towards the hide looking at the Hinkley building site I noticed the quartet of Mute Swans flying low over the site.  Here a quartet of Carrion Crow and then the first Marsh Harrier.  Hardly had the bird moved on than we watched a male Hen Harrier come drifting across the back from left to right.  Meanwhile a single Little Egret was moving across the vegetation to our left. 

Moving on down towards the river to visit the Parrett Hide I recorded a Kestrel in front of me and then was able to see a second Marsh Harrier from within the hide before one of the local birders found an unexpected visitor on the banks of the river; a Bar-headed Goose which, no doubt, had probably escaped from not too distant Slimbridge Wildlife Reserve. Just before departing I watched a couple of Meadow Pipits drop in below the hide.  Then, making my way back to the car park, both Blue Tit and Chaffinch were observed.

Bar-headed Goose Anser indicus (From the Internet)

As if not content with already recording five raptors I stopped about a mile on from the reserve to change from boots to trainers for driving back to Sand Bay and was rewarded by the visit of a Buzzard.

Arriving back at Sand Bay I continued up the narrow lane to visit Sandy Point.  Making my way up the steep path to the summit I had close views of Robin, Dunnock, Magpie and Carrion Crow.  Once on the summit lovely view looking back across the bay to Sand Bay and by using the the spotting scope I could make out the bird life on the shore below as the receding tide edged further away.  In addition to a number of Curlew and Black-tailed Godwit there was in excess of 100 Shelduck.

Sand Bay and the beach with scores of feeding Shelduck as seen from the summit of Sandy Point

A lone Herring Gull passed overhead as I started my descent and once at the bottom added Great Tit, Wood Pigeon and Blackbird before setting off to Sand Bay and a small number of House Sparrows as I reached the not too distant first house.

Birds seen:

Bar-headed Goose, Mute Swan, Shelduck, Wigeon, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Grey Partridge, Little Egret, Heron, Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, Woodpigeon, Meadow Pipit, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch.

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