Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Somerset: Shapwick Heath

The last entry for my south west trip. On the way back from Devon I thought it would be worthwhile stopping off at a location recommended to me by a birder I spoke to in Yarner Wood. He said it was the place for seeing hobbies.

The reserve is actually a large area comprising of 2 reserves. The one I went to was Shapwick Heath, but across the road is Ham Wall, the RSPB one, both within sight of the Glastonbury Tor. The area is a mixture of woodland, reedbeds and waterways, and is rich with all sorts of wildlife.

Walking along the path towards the hides, my day started well when I spotted a marsh harrier, quartering the reeds. This is only the second one I have seen (and recognised what it was), so I stopped and viewed it for a few moments, before it dropped out of sight into the reeds.

I had hoped for hobbies here, but the weather was against me, with very strong winds, keeping a lot of the flying insects perched on the ground. There were a few around, but not the 40 or so mentioned earlier that week. Still, I got a couple of close views as they hurtled past the hide I was in.

Better than this was spotting an otter though. Typically the camera wouldn't lock on, as it dived and surfaced amongst some reeds, and just when I thought I would get a shot, it dived never to appear again! It's the first wild otter I have seen since the one in the sea off Mallaig harbour, in Scotland in 2005. Beautiful creatures.

With limited time, I headed to the hide closest to where I'd seen the marsh harrier, and hoped. The showers were becoming more frequent and heavier, so I considered staying in the hide for that bit longer, to allow one to pass over. Wise move, as a harrier strayed into view, flying towards us and off over the hide roof into the wooded area beyond.

Definitely a place to come to again, especially as Ham Wall has breeding bitterns to view. Just need to time it for a day when the weather is a bit calmer!

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