Trip reports

Mini-bus trip to Somerset

Ditch at RSPB Greylake nature reserve

Sunday, 11 November 2007

The greyness of the morning was turning to rain as the minibus arrived, (this was no mean feat by all accounts as our transport had taken a bit of finding by Pete!). However undeterred we set off for Somerset via the northern route, through the steadily increasing rain.

But fortune does favour the brave and as we reached our first stop at Portbury Wharf the rain stopped and whilst the sun didn't exactly shine, we had a dry walk to the relevant ponds. A quick scan soon revealed both the promised female scaup and a very fine male ring-necked duck who, although feeding with his tufted cousins, stood out well and eventually gave everyone excellent views. A short walk to the sea wall gave views across the estuary, with a small flock of linnets, a reasonable array of gulls and the odd curlew. The only pipit however was a meadow pipit.

The rain front could be seen crossing the Severn as we stood there, so it was back to the bus and off to Greylake. This is a new, if small RSPB reserve on the Somerset levels, with a circular walk and a rather fine hide (which was a welcome relief from the cold wind - which was quite strong by this time). The glossy ibis was ridiculously easy to find, feeding all alone on a patch of flooded meadow almost alongside the car park. We spent a little time here studying the ducks and a couple of nice little egret, as well as a distant roe deer and several buzzards. A chiffchaff entertained one or two of the party as coats and waterproofs were put on.

Kennard Moor was our next stop in the hope that one of the wandering released Great Bustards was on a return visit, but this was not to be, and we ate lunch whilst watching a kestrel patrol his territory, some winter thrushes and a very pale buzzard.

A kingfisher flew along the ditch as we left, and the gods smiled as we backed up the minibus and it perched on a small stick on the side of the ditch, enabling everyone to have a good view. A female stonechat also showed well to add to the list during this stop.

Our day ended at Shapwick Heath, the walk along to the relevant reed bed enabled us to catch up on one or two of the days more obvious omissions like dunnock and robin. Whilst waiting for the starlings to arrive, we added marsh harrier, several more kestrels and an extremely late hobby (seen only by those on the bank). For those of us in the hide another kingfisher showed well, dive bombing a mute swan that got a bit too close to its favourite perch.

The finale of the day was the starlings streaming into their roost. It started with just the odd few perched in trees and small parties wheeling a little before settling at the back of the reeds. As the light began to fail against a cool winter sky tinged pink and blue in the setting sun, the numbers streaming in became more numerous. The flocks grew in size from 50 to 500 birds flying in over the hide.
The birds didn't put on the aerial display for which they are often noted, but when you looked closely there were rivers of birds flying over the tops of the reeds, growing from thin trickles to wide fast-flowing courses. The noise level as they called to one another growing from the odd cheep to the murmuration that gives them their collective name.

The walk back to the bus in the decreasing light gave calling tawny owls, the rear party seeing one fly across the path in front of them. A day that didn't start that well ended with a group of satisfied birders returning to Coventry.

Thanks go to Pete Worthy for some excellent planning and driving, and of course to the birds for showing so well.

Liz Taylor