So, a visit to Cheddar for a dormouse ecology course gave me an excellent excuse to bird the Somerset Levels and visit Slimbridge WWT. Despite this being probably the quietest month of the year for birders, what happened was one of those "this will only happen once" type moments, and it was fabulous.
We started out the day at Ham Wall RSPB reserve, and spent the morning walking around the reserve, where we picked up Great Crested and Little Grebe with young, some scruffy looking tufted duck, a few cormorants and some vocal Reed and Cetti's warblers.
|Great Crested Grebe, Podiceps cristatus with young|
After this very quiet round, we thought our luck was out, and returned to the main viewing platform overlooking the reedbeds for a chat with an RSPB volunteer, hoping to find sites where our fortunes may improve (where we had just missed a Bittern!!) After about 5 minutes, a call from another birder alerted us to a juvenile Great Egret flying over the reedbed. This gave fabulous views for a minute or so, and as it was flying off over the trees, it was joined by a Bittern! This flew right in front of us, and not 10 seconds later was followed by a Hobby which swooped low over the reedbeds before both disappeared out of sight! A truly magical moment.
Buoyed by this we headed over to Shapwick Heath, where more Hobbys and another Great Egret were seen. No luck with any otters though. Attached is a rather poor record shot of the Great Egret on its nest with its summer plumage all-black bill just showing. Great to see that these graceful birds have managed to breed in England successfully!
|Great Egret, Ardea alba|
A visit to Slimbridge the following day was quiet but none-the-less enjoyable, with some sunshine probably the rarest thing seen. Wader numbers were good out on the mudflats, with Black-tailed Godwit, Lapwing, Redshank, Common and Green Sandpiper and a nice group of Dunlin seen. There was also a Peregrine and a pair of Buzzards keeping the waders on their toes!
|Common Sandpiper, Actitis hypoleucos|