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Tuesday, 3 March 2015

3 Days in East Somerset. Cranes and Peregrines, Great White egrets and People.

Sunday 1st to Wednesday 4th March

The route for the three days :-   

Sunday 1st

Being away from technology for few days might lead to restful long sleep periods but the catching up required has meant an early morning start.
From the delight of a huge breakfast at the Corner House Hotel in Taunton on Sunday it was a 11 miles cycle to the next RSPB reserve, Swell Wood. A dead mink beside the road on the way was interesting and I am glad that this unwelcome predator of birds had met his end. Whoever thought that releasing mink into the wild was a good idea should see what havoc they reap on breeding birds on so many reserves.
Swell Wood has a heronry and from the two level hide one can watch the nesting birds. This is what I did for a couple of hours before walking around the woodland path and bumping into Michael Wilson and his girlfriend, Kathryn and her two children Zac and Emma. Michael had been in touch recently as he works for the RSPB on the Crane reintroduction project. Zac and Emma were superb kids.
Out of the reserve I was going to go to Greylake. An interesting looking church at Curry Revel had me going into it. I think the history of such places is fascinating and this one contained a brilliant Tudor style tomb with instead of the usual couple, man and wife, on top there were two men lying side by side.
The tomb had a canopy with nubiles and roses whilst the longer sides had kneeling figures.
Well whilst I relaxed from the cycling and birding within the church, outside rain started to chuck itself down and so I decided to wait a bit for it to stop. It was 4.30pm when it did so.

Monday 2nd
Back to Swell Wood for more views of the herons started the day with the sun illuminating them from a different direction. It was then off to explore West Sedgemoor RSPB reserve and area with a planned meeting of RSPB staff at their office there timed for 1 O'clock in the afternoon.
The wind was quite brutal at times, especially when going over a high walled wind tunnel like railway bridge. It reminded me of when I couldn't even push the bike into the wind when on Arran back in 2010. Exploring a long dirt road that bisects the huge West Sedgemoor ara I watched as starlings fed in fields and found 4 stonechats. The amphitheatre quality of the area was beautiful and, other than the wind, the weather was kind to me as dark showers missed me to the south.
I arrived at the RSPB office and farm a bit early but Michael was available early too and after a chat, a coffee and a photo of everyone, we went out towards a barn which has a viewing platform that looks over a flooded section of the the reserve. One of the released cranes circled overhead almost as soon as we set off. Not countable on the year list due to it not being a wild bred bird, it was nevertheless great to watch.
Masses of duck, mostly wigeon, teal and shovelor were seen and a couple of little egrets. Michael told me of the success of the Crane Project as we walked.

Then it was off a little way to a feeding area for the cranes and indeed that's what 20 of them were doing. Michael used a radio transmitter to see which birds were there, different frequencies show different birds. In front of the feeding cranes were 5 roe deer, the combination a sight that is fabulous. To think that this is the first time for 400 years that they've been together on the Somerset Levels.
Back at the office, more coffee and chat and pieces of birds including a crane's skull and voicebox found at a cranes' graveyard in Germany.
It was then off to Greylake RSPB reserve for the late afternoon's birding. On settling into the hide I was given a Mars bar by an OAP couple for showing them the three peregrines sitting together on a gate at the back of the duck strewn pools.
Masses of wigeon, teal, pintail with a lone gadwall, some snipe and a lone water rail, 2 great white egrets, 5 buzzards and a green wing-tagged marsh harrier were the birds seen. Masses of starlings kept going over on their way to Ham Wall to murmur away the evening sun.
Tuesday 2nd

Greylake again started the day with more views of the same birds as yesterday but this time with the sun behind me. Cetti's warblers added their voice to the scene. Speaking of voice, I started to do a video diary entry when a pair of peregrines decided to hot it up a bit. Have a look at this youtube video of the action.

Off to Ham Wall and more RSPB people to meet. Steve, a brilliant Assistant warden, gave a donation that I am yet to take out of the robin for the RSPB. Now it may show how RSPB staff love their employers because so many of them do put some cash into the robin. It's all very much appreciated. Whilst chatting with them 3 great white egrets flew around the back of the extensive reedbed with views of The Mendip Hills behind them.
Now here I must be honest and say that despite the fact I would have liked to have stayed for the great starling murmuration, ¾ of a million birds biut provide a somewhat awesome spectacle, I instead after birding some more heading into the strong westerly towards Bridgewater. For the last two days I hadn't had good food and had camped out so a bed and dinner were priorities. Both I had later when fortuitously I came across the Admiral Guest House. A superb B and B and great value at £30 a night. Thanks Pauline.

The evening was capped by my football team, Aston Villa winning in the very last minute against our local rivals West Bromwich Albion. They could've heard my shouting in Birmingham let alone through the rest of the B and B! UTV!

Tomorrow it's off to Steart WWT reserve, the brand new recently opened and huge reserve north of Bridgewater.

Now please have a look at the photographs on my facebook page -

Also if you could please make a small donation to any of the charities that I am supporting then please click on the links to the right. I know I put this onto the end of every blog posting but I really get a boost from every donation. The RSPB, The WWT, Asthma UK and Chaskawasi-Manu. I would be so grateful if you could make a donation however small. Thanks.

Thanks to 'anonymous' for the donation to the WWT.

All the very best everyone. Love to you all xx

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