Thursday, 29 May 2014

Late May

A combination of work and weather have reduced my birding effort on the Avalon Marshes somewhat in the last fortnight. A visit earlier this week was unfortunately 1 day too late for the Black-winged Stilt on Meare Heath, though having found 2 at Ham Wall last year I wasn't too disappointed.  The usual suspects more than made up for that 'dip' though. The vegetation is shooting up at quite a rate now and most birds are best seen in flight, this Great White Egret being one of the few species tall enough to be visible while on the deck.

This very co-operative Kestrel has obviously used this post before.....

And it was a pleasure to see this Spotted Flycatcher back in my garden this week, with another pair nesting in the Wisteria on the pub walls.

This weekend I move down to Weymouth to spend 2 months working for the RSPB wardening the Little Tern colony at Chesil Beach, this will be my 3rd season with Little Terns and I can't wait to get back to these awesome little critters.  I'll mostly be working night shifts so hopefully will be able to get back up to Somerset for diurnal birding, look out for a yawning bloke with bags under his eyes and white splashes on his shoulders!

Little Terns at Blakeney Point 2012

Avalon Marshes Festival

Taken from the new Avalon Marshes Website:

The Avalon Marshes Festival will be returning bigger and better in 2014, running from Saturday 12th July to Saturday 26th July. Following a very successful first year in 2013, the Avalon Marshes Festival is a celebration of the rich diversity of wildlife and the 10,000 years of cultural heritage of the Avalon Marshes in Somerset.

The event comprises a wide range of activities and events which reflect the wonderful and varied wildlife, history, archaeology, produce and landscape of this area. The festival provides a brilliant taster for the area, which has a huge amount to offer people of all ages. Being largely flat, it is a fantastic area to explore on foot or by bike and there are lots of attractions and places to eat and drink where you will receive a warm welcome.

The festival kicks off with the Avalon Marshes Day on Saturday 12 July. This is a day of activities, tours, talks, exhibitions and more based at the Red Brick Building in Glastonbury. Following this there will be over a week of events in the wider Avalon Marshes; a great chance to explore, have fun and find out more. The Festival will be rounded off with a Wildlife Extravaganza and Family Picnic at Westhay Moor.

Among the many highlights will be a Roman themed family day, guided walks and cycle tours of the area, an art exhibition, Levels’ Best farmers market and a variety of open days.

To see a full list of the events and to find out how to get involved open this link.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

11th May: Steart etc.

With strong winds forecast I ventured over to the Somerset Coast today, hoping to combine a bit of seawatching with a look around the new WWT reserve at Steart Marshes, which, while still very much a work in progress, has been attracting a variety of interesting birds.

The beach at Steart is far from an ideal place for a Seawatch, being in the deepest (as in most inland) part of the bay, and with nowhere to gain any height, but I was hoping that maybe some Skuas or Terns would be forced inland and decide to take a rest on the beach. Predictably, that didn't happen, but 7 Arctic Terns had clearly had enough of being buffeted out at sea and flew over my head towards the River Parrett.

Not a very inspiring view for a Seawatcher

Arctic Terns heading up the River Parrett
 With little visible on the sea and the tide dropping, taking the waterline further and further away, I too was fed up of being buffeted and moved on to take a look at the lagoons created as part of the ambitious new project to create a huge new wetland reserve. The Black Tern that had been present for a few days was still feeding over the main lagoon, as were 4 Little Terns.
Black Tern

Little Tern
 I followed the new path past another lagoon and some smaller freshwater ponds and new hedging plants to the River Parrett. Here the tide was dropping to reveal plenty of fresh mud and associated waders, the best of which being 5 Whimbrel close to the path. Another 25 Arctic Terns flew up the rive towards Combwich, with a lone Black Tern tagging along.
Moving on to the Avalon Marshes, the strong winds made birding difficult and Bitterns, Great White Egret, Garganey and Marsh Harrier only gave fleeting views. 35 Black-tailed Godwit were on the Mere  Heath scrape with 3 Dunlin, it's been a poor Spring for waders on the scrape, and time is running out for anything unusual, maybe these Westerlies will bring in something American....
Black-tailed Godwits

And finally, this hideous beast was in front of the 2nd viewing platform at Ham Wall RSPB, an Egyptian Goose, of some domestic (at best, feral) origin. Hopefully it won't find a partner and breed, I had quite enough of these hissing brutes terrorising wetland wildlife when I was in Norfolk!
Egyptian Goose

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Return of the Nightingale?

After a few weeks away in Asia i'm back in the Wsetcountry for the summer, and spent most of this Bank Holiday weekend out and about on the Avalon Marshes. It's one of the best times of year to visit, with the lush vegetation filled with a constant cacophony of warbler song and frog orchestras,  resident Bitterns, Egrets, Marsh Harriers etc. flying left, right and centre and the first Dragon and Damselflies emerging into the talons of swooping Hobbies. Having ben away I was happy to just soak up the atmosphere, so the photographic selection is a bit weak, mostly coming from early morning visits lacking rather in light.

The highlight of the weekend was undoubtedly a Nightingale singing at Ham Wall RSPB, apparently it has been present a little while. I remember hearing these birds at the Ashcott Corner car park one evening after school in the late '90s, but haven't had one on the Avalon Marshes since then, so it was a delight to see a return of the species. Hopefully they can re-establish and their wonderful rich, fluid song will once again be part of our Spring soundscape.

Nightingale, singing from a typically dense bush
One of the grassland managers on Shapwick Moor

Great White Egret
Roe Deer buck in the reeds
Singing Whitethroat