According to this blog, it has been four years since I visited the Somerset Levels and that, for someone who loves the area, is quite frankly embarrassing. With a solitary day of decent weather nestled in a week of vile wet offerings, I was up before 5am and was parking up at the new (for me) RSPB car park at Ham Wall just before 8am.
Since my last visit, the RSPB have not only built a new car park, but added a visitor centre, toilets and landscaped an area nearby, with ponds and sculptures too. It's all rather lovely, and this all leads to a new path to the main reserve. Also new to the site is a large hide (Avalon) and that was where I wandered over to first. With a few photographers already peering from the windows, I chose a free space, and opened the large window.
The wind that had plagued the country for the last week hadn't died down alas, and was gusting right in my face. A cross-wind, an early start, driving for a couple of hours and a touch of hayfever meant my eyes were immediately tortured, and were so red later on, I was asked what condition I suffered from by another photographer! Perhaps I need to wear protective goggles next time...
I had barely had chance to get the seat in position when the cattle egrets I had hoped to see (a "tick" for me) popped out of the vegetation and perched at some distance on a gate. True to form, they were hanging around an area being grazed by some cattle.
I could hear it though, but that doesn't really count. It was tricky to work out whether the "barking" sound was being made close to us or not, as the wind was carrying the call, and swirling round with it. Then, as I peered through a gap in the trees, I caught sight of it, as it flew between patches of reeds. No time for a shot, but I'd seen it at least.
The rain looked set in, and any hopes of seeing one of the resident barn owls out hunting were washed away. I did catch a good sighting of a marsh harrier in the gloom, and also one of the great white egrets dropped into the pool in front of the hide, but annoyingly remained in the reeds, making it impossible for a shot.