Sunday, 23 June 2013


Last week I decided to have a few days away birding and I decided rather than go to Norfolk my usual haunt I'd  go to the Somerset levels again.

This was a brave decision as a photographer because both the reserves at Ham Wall and Shapwick Heath are more suited to birders with powerful scopes as the birds can be too distant for decent shots unless you are  very lucky.On the plus side though you have a very good chance of seeing Marsh Harriers,Great White Egrets,Bitterns and Hobbies there.

Left Knowle pretty early on Wednesday and got to the car park just before 9.00 AM.It was a very nice day and it was already very warm as I headed down the track to the Ham Wall reserve.Quite soon I came across the Little Bittern viewing station and joined a few birders there but since the pathways near the nest had been closed the viewing station was a long way off from where the birds show.

I soon moved on and for the next few hours I had very good views of Marsh Harriers,Bitterns and Hobbies but all too far off for my lens.In fact the only pics I'd got all morning was of a Dragonfly which were all over the place.

Just as I finished lunch by the furthest viewing platform a warder told me a Night Heron had just been seen further down the track.It turned out to be a further mile down the track so when I got there I was very hot and knackered.Worse of all it could no longer be found.I was now 3 miles from the car park and a life saving drink.I might need the Air Ambulance.

After making it back to the car park alive I headed down the Shapwick Heath track.I was still struggling to get any decent shots as the Garganey and the Black-tailed Godwits etc on the first scrape were a long way off.Did get a shot of one of the Little Egrets as it flew by.

From the hide on Noah's Lake I was very pleased to get a shot of a Great White Egret although yet again it was distant.

After an early tea I went back in the evening to the Ham Wall reserve where it was sunny and  still very warm.Managed some shots of a Marsh Harrier drifting over the marsh.It looked stunning in the evening sun.Oh for a big lens. 

At 7.00 PM I went and joined a couple of birders at the Little Bittern viewing station.One of them  10 minutes before had seen the male flying left from the nest area at reed top level.Half an hour later one of the birders shouted "There's the female". I had a 2 second view of a brownish bird flying fast just at reed top level before it dropped down.I am not sure whether to tick it or not as it was a very short and a very distant view.

On Thursday morning I was in the car park at 8.30 AM.It was very gloomy and there was a damp mist but I was very pleased because the forecast the night before was for "Heavy rain all day with thunder and strong winds"At least I could do some birding.

I hadn't gone too far along the Shapwick Heath track when I heard several Cuckoos calling.There were four of them flying around together.Never seen so many in one place before.Only got one shot which shows how gloomy it was.

I then had a good walk round and visited the nearby hides and screens.Saw loads of Warblers,Harriers etc but far too gloomy for any shots.On the walk back to the car park to have some lunch I was delighted to see a Great White Egret on the scrape.That was the good news because it was a long way off and it was still very gloomy but I don't want to moan too much as they are great birds and I got some shots of it with a decent sized fish.

I missed it with the fish it's mouth but got some shots of it going down it's neck. 

Whilst the Egret was performing a Bittern flew past.

Got a shot of the two Egrets together which shows very nicely the size difference.

In the afternoon with rain threatening I jumped in the car and went to Westhay Moor another reserve about 3 miles away.It was a very nice reserve well looked after with several good hides and lakes,marshes woodlands etc. I didn't see much when I walked round but it was very gloomy.Worth another visit.

The weather was a little  better on Friday with it being much brighter.As I approached the scrape along the Shapwick Heath track a Peregrine flew over and scared everything off.This is a shot of some of the Godwits just as they flew off. 

Spent a long two hours in the Meare Heath hide trying to get some closer shots of a Marsh Harrier but failed.There were several about on the heath but none would come close.This is the best I could do which is pretty disappointing.To make matters worse a Bittern flew past twice and I missed out on both occasions.

Later on that day the Great White Egret was on the scrape again and although the weather was brighter than yesterday the bird was even further away.

It was pouring with rain on Saturday morning and it was very windy and pretty chilly so I decided to head home.A very enjoyable break with some great birding but not so good on the pics front.

1 comment:

Pete Walkden said...

A good account Max, amusing as usual. Even with my big lens, I find subjects can be rather distant at the 2 reserves, unless they fly over you.

Was there with my Dad recently and like you, I kept missing out on the bitterns flying over - they seemed to fly across the path where I'd just moved from. B*ggers!