Monday, 25 February 2013

Saturday 23rd February 2013 - The Clayheads visit Somerset

Following last Saturday's successful trip to North Wales, we fancied another trip out this weekend, as Staffordshire was still struggling to wake from its winter slumber and spring hadn't quite decided whether to appear or not. (Basically there wasn't much in Staffs to see). 

A Pied-billed Grebe had been found in Somerset last weekend, and with other bits and bobs on offer it was an obvious choice. We picked CJW up and set off at 04:30hrs, arriving at Ham Wall RSPB just over three hours later. We'd only briefly visited this reserve before when we had been trying to find Shapwick Heath NNR. We were very impressed by the quality of birds on the reserve, and it reminded me of some of the lakes we visited in Hungary.

The first pool we walked past, there were three Great White Egrets - two adults and a probable immature bird, plus many Gadwall, Shoveler and Teal. Several Cetti's Warblers were singing as we walked along the path and a Marsh Harrier flew over the reedbed.

Great White Egret at Ham Wall RSPB

 I was lucky to see a Bittern fly out from another pool and fly a short distance. We finally reached the second viewing area and soon were watching the Pied-billed Grebe - asleep in a clump of floating vegetation. It did eventually wake up and swam across the pool, giving good but distant views.

Pied-billed Grebe at Ham Wall RSPB

It's always good to get a day off to a flying start, and our visit to Ham Wall certainly was. Next stop was at Steart Point where the wintering Temminck's Stint had reappeared in recent days.

Steart Point was a strange area (my first visit). It looked just like one of those newly reclaimed former industrial sites. There wasn't much there just a few farms, but all the flat open area was either being drained or flood prevention measures being put in. There were huge dykes and most fields were full of pipes and ditches. But to protect what? It was just open fields. As we drove to the end car park, we passed several marshy areas, seeing a few Little Egrets and then a Barn Owl perched on a fence post. There was a car right behind me, but I pulled in at the next lay by and started to walk back. Incredibly, the Barn Owl carried on perching on the posts, slowly getting closer and closer to us. Twice it flopped down onto the bank and appeared to be digging out its prey. Incredible prolonged views.

Barn Owl on Steart Point

We eventually found the right path towards Stockland Reach, and we knew that the bird frequented the area in front of the two red pumps. Surely these would be easy enough to find. We walked out towards the estuary; a large grey muddy estuary with only a few waders on it. There were mainly Redshank plus a single Grey Plover. We decided to check the diggings on the inland side, and found the two red "small portable" pumps. Here, again a few Redshank, plus another solitary wader. As it came closer, we realised we had found the Temminck's Stint. It fed actively for a bit, then flew off, flying several over several fields before appearing to land. It wasn't a case of sifting through 1000's of waders to find the Temmincks; more a case of locating the single bird in a huge desolate area. (Sorry if I've caused any offence to Steart Point lovers, but the area was one of the most unpicturesque places I've been to).

The unusual overwintering Temminck's Stint

The beautiful scrape on Steart Point, Somerset