GREENSPACES SOMERSET LEVELS TOUR

6TH to 13TH May 2022

After previous postponements it was a relief to be finally returning to Somerset in the springtime, the clients were just as excited as we were. Going a day early gave the opportunity to do some reconnaissance work, first stop would be Glastonbury. Having seen Glastonbury Tor as the backdrop to the levels I thought it would be good to see the levels from the Tor, it is certainly quite a climb but worth it, as views out to the Bristol Channel were the reward. Down at ground level ‘Glasto’ as it is known by the locals is an unusual place, with differing therapies, beliefs and certainly alternative codes of dress for the locals. 

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An hour spent at RSPB Ham Wall just about produced the required species, Bittern, Garganey, Common and Wood Sandpiper, Whimbrel, Little Ringed Plover, Marsh Harrier, Great Egret – Phew!

The following day saw us head off to Catcott reserve with Garganey and Snipe right in front of the hide, a short distance away at RSPB Greylake we went in search of Grass snakes and saw a couple along with some very vocal Sedge and Reed Warblers. Then a while scanning West Sedgemoor looking for Cranes but to no avail, finishing up at Swell wood where Herons nest alongside Little Egrets. Returning to the accommodation it was time to greet our guests and set out the weeks programme. 

On the first day of the tour the previous days itinerary was completed in reverse order, getting to Swell wood early gave us the opportunity to see Nuthatch, Tree Creeper, Cuckoo and the incredibly noisy Heron colony. A walk around the short woodland trail revealed Yellow Archangel and a host of other spring plants but a scan from the lookout point over Sedgemoor gave us great views of two Cranes. Greylake gave us views of Grass Snake and the setting for our lunch in the field. Finishing at Catcott it was a Gosling Festival with young Canadas and Greylags of varying ages everywhere, fleeting views of a couple of Yellow Wagtails completed the day.

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"Other highlights of this day were large flocks of Linnets, a Raven, Marsh Harriers, an abundance of Swallows and a beautiful Vixen who allowed us a few precious minutes watching her from the confines of the vehicle. It was a great day not spoilt by the persistent wind"

were many, Bitterns in flight, a Marsh Harrier food pass, a family of Great Crested Grebes eating oversized fish, a brood of ten plus Long Tailed Tits huddling on a branch together, the first Four Spotted Chasers of the season on the wing, Hobbies hunting St Marks flies and a cacophony of song from the reeds and hedgerows. As we left a group of 46 Cattle Egrets were feeding alongside a group of cows, with most in their summer plumage, what a welcome addition to the British breeding birds list.

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Leaving reedbeds behind the WWT site at Steart marshes were visited the following day, sadly it was quite a windy day. Parking up and taking a short walk to one of the hides there were in excess of 40 Avocet chicks on the scrape with concerned parents ready to chase off Shelducks, Dunlin and any other interlopers that got too close. Other highlights of this day were large flocks of Linnets, a Raven, Marsh Harriers, an abundance of Swallows and a beautiful Vixen who allowed us a few precious minutes watching her from the confines of the vehicle. It was a great day not spoilt by the persistent wind. 

As a relaxing day, giving our guests a bit of down time, the West Somerset Steam Railway was the focus of our attention. Our guests chose Minehead, whilst we chose Dunster which is a charming and delightful place in equal measures. It was noticeable just how many Swallows and House Martins were to be seen with many sat up on the overhead wires – welcome back to you all!

No spring is complete without completing a dawn chorus walk so the following morning only tempting one guest from their slumber we headed off down to Ham Wall. The shroud of ethereal mist, the way it slithered and shapeshifted was a joy to behold. The shrubs and reedbeds were coming to life, the usual protagonists were the Bitterns on the wing, Egrets, some Glossy Ibis and the shrill call of Water Rail. What a morning topped off with smoked salmon for breakfast. After breakfast Catcott and Westhay were visited with the first signs that the dragons and damsels were awakening from their watery slumber!

The culmination of the holiday gave a total of 95 bird species again with some obvious ones being missed. Highlights for guests ranged from Grass Snakes, Cranes, Marsh Harrier food pass, Bitterns chasing in flight, Great Crested Grebe family and the early morning mists. A great trip which will be repeated in two years’ time.

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