Wednesday 4th March
Arrived at Steart WWT reserve to be greeted by Alys, a bubbly friendly project leader. Into a portacabin to meet Tim Mcgrath and to have a lesson on how fantastic projects, such as what is happening here, come about. Maps everywhere showed the extent of the work carried out and the future plans. This is going to be one hell of a bird reserve and a change of emphasis for the WWT. And on such a massive scale too, 430 hectares of future saltmarsh with lagoons and breeding areas for many birds.
Two hours shot by before I got out birding. It had been fascinating and thrilling to listen to all the details and reasons. Alys and Tim have a wonderful job working there and the proof will be as the site matures over the coming years and its worth as a developing habitat is noted. One can see the potential and wonder at what it will bring. Thanks so much to Alys and Tim, not just for the coffee. Great to meet you both and see the enthusiasm and love of the project in your eyes and talk. This is a fabulous project and one well worth visiting even in these early days because the changes will be fascinating to see.
Outside, after viewing the two whooper swans outside the portacabin window, I cycled over to the embankment that surrounds the main area of the reserve.
Into the first hide to the North east I met another WWT staff member there to assess future planting of aquatic plants. Only shelduck were present on the wet mud, sliding about and a lone redshank some way off. It's early days there though and the immensity of the area that will be inundated more frequently by the incoming tide is impressive. As the plant communities change over the coming years and the accretion of silts build up the area will change and so will the birdlife. Alys and Tim told me of how so many universities students are studying the changes. Fascinating habitat creation on a massive scale here, I know I'll be coming back here again and again to see the changes.
There are quite a few of these sea wall breech areas around the country where new reserves, habitats and birding opportunities are being created; Medmerry near Pagham that I visited in late January was equally magnificent. I still have Hesketh bank to visit and unlike Steart and Medmerry, the breech had already occurred when I cycled there in 2010 so it will be a couple of years down the road towards maturity and interesting to compare to what I saw back then.
Out into the gale that had tried to prevent me getting to Steart by hitting me square in the face, I cycled around the top until after a couple of gates I came back to the road. Next stop a search for birds that had been there but apparently were no longer. I tried to find the lapland bunting. 5 male reed bunting, a couple each of skylark and meadow pipits were all I found. No sign in the area searched of snipe or short-eared owls either. Still, despite the westerly gale, it was a lovely sunny day and I decided to go to the end of Steart Head and see the famous tower hide there.
Now can there be a more ascetically pleasing tower hide than the one here anywhere in Britain? I can't think of one. The Holden Tower at Slimbridge doesn't hold a candle to this one. I remember going to two very high tower hides abroad; one in Switzerland and the other at Kus Cennetti in Anatolia, Turkey. Both of them are superb but the tower hide at Steart Head is quirky from any angle.
With the tide well out only a few birds were on view from it; distant avocets and closer redshank and shelduck but the scenic quality of the views across to Burnham on Sea and beyond more than made up for the lack of birds.
Back down again I cycled back to try yet again for any of the three special birds seen on previous days. A little egret was present there and a water pipit flew over calling. Large groups of golden plover circled the owl field and I could see shimmering flocks of dunlin making their way over the other side of the new reserve, wending their way along the Parrett river.
Whilst watching these avian treats I was talking to a local man named Paul. He was originally from Wolverhampton and although he said he loved living so near such a wonderful birding area, he said he missed the great sense of humour Black Country folk have.
Now please have a look at the photographs on my facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/bikingbirder2015
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. to PC Julie and PC Michelle for their donation to the WWT and to Michael for his donation to the RSPB.
All the very best everyone. Love to you all xx