Trip reports

Field Trip to WWT Steart Marshes

Field Trip to WWT Steart Marshes
Angharad Jones

Sunday, 10 April 2016

It was the first time that our group had visited this relatively new nature reserve in North Somerset near Bridgwater. This amazing wild intertidal reserve was created to help protect the Steart peninsula from erosion as, elsewhere on the Severn Estuary, other important wetland habitats are being lost to the strong tidal forces.

A breach was made in the former defences on the banks of the River Parrett to help create large areas of saltmarsh and thus create an intertidal wetland habitat for birds and other wildlife.

Nine of us arrived at the reserve at high tide on a very windy but dry day. In the car park we heard the tantalising song of a cettis warbler, however as is usual with this rather shy hedgerow bird we didn't see it. On the way to the Mendip Hide we saw pied wagtail and a mute swan cowering down against the wind on its nest and my first swallows of the year. At the superbly built hide which protected us from the wind, we had excellent views of the lagoon in full flood.

There we saw shelduck by the hundreds, as they migrate to Bridgwater Bay to moult, some were in flight but almost at a standstill due to the prevailing wind!

A marsh harrier was spotted as well as oystercatcher on the banks, little egret, lesser-black backed gull, herring gull, cormorant, mallard, widgeon and seven sand martins flew past as we enjoyed the views over the lagoon.

We then made our way to the Quantock View Hides which gave us views inland of the Otterhampton Marshes. On the way, reed bunting, skylark, chaffinch and long-tailed tit were noted. At the Hides we saw teal, lapwing, coot, meadow pipit, eight little egrets, a kestrel flying low in the wind and two avocets near the hide. We also had splendid views of two little ringed plovers in amongst the shingle on the shingle bank next to the Hide with their prominent yellow orbital ring. This helped us to distinguish the birds from the ringed plover which has no orbital ring.

After lunch we drove towards the Bridgwater Bay Nature Reserve. As we drove down the lane a kestrel flew alongside my car and landed on the village church roof next to another kestrel. It was good to see three kestrels on the day as this species is becoming scarcer to see.

We stopped at Steart Gate car park where we had completely different views of Steart Marshes as the tide had retreated. On the undulating mud flats we saw black-tailed godwit, heron and curlew. A large white bird flew up from one of the many gullies, a great white egret perhaps?

At the Bridgwater Bay Nature Reserve car park we walked towards the coastline and Stert Flats in Bridgwater Bay where we had panoramic views of the Severn estuary. On the way, in the shelter of the hedgerows, we spotted at least four chiffchaffs, magpie, dunnock, great tit and a male and female chaffinch.

We all agreed that we must make a return visit to this spectacular nature reserve.

Viv Jenkins