Friday, 24 May 2013

Birding the Avalon Marshes and Chew

What a way to finish April! With a trip down south into the stunning county of Somerset to visit the recently publicized birding hot-spot of the Avalon Marshes
Neil Duggan (@NeilDuggan80 on Twitter) had again offered the trip, and i gratefully accepted, knowing of a whole host of amazing birds present in the area at the time. Pied Billed Grebe, Black winged Stilt, Whiskered Tern, Woodchat Shrike, as well as all the residents. It'd be a good day!

Arriving at the parking spot as Ashcott Corner, nestled between two fabulous extensive reedbed reserves, one owned by the RSPB, Ham Wall, the other by the Natural England, Shapwick Heath NR we took the unanimous decision to head straight to the 2nd viewing platform on the RSPB side. The walk up was incredible, as only a few meters onto the reserve we had already clocked Cuckoo, Marsh Harrier, and numerous Cetti's Warblers!
Our walk along the track was constantly, and i do mean CONSTANTLY followed by Cetti's Warblers, with easily 15 counted in the time we were on site, and that was only the Ham Wall side, they were everywhere!
A Grasshopper Warbler briefly reeling near the first Platform.
At the 2nd Platform, we were informed the Pied Billed had been heard singing a little earlier, but to cut it short, we didn't see or hear it throughout our visit, which was a huge shame.
But then again, there were loads of amazing birds.
3 Marsh Harrier were hunting the reedbeds, one of which was a stunning male. But here is one of the females.

Initially, we could only pick up 1 GARGANEY, but as time went on, it became apparent that there was infact 4! All of which were drakes, and all looking absolutely stunning! Even despite the distance, i managed a couple of shots which i am happy with.

After a bit, someone called out they had two 'pale' Sandpipers, and upon getting onto them confirmed that 2 WOOD SANDPIPERS were hunting the margins. The distance was around the same to that of the Garganey's, but with a Sandpiper, it was a fair bit harder to get a picture, but i tried, and i got a few in which you can tell is a Wood Sandpiper, you just have to trust me.

Do you see it?

As can be seen with the direction the scope is facing, every decent bird was tucked up in the far right hand corner, exactly where the Stilts had been the previous day, but had now departed.

At least 4 BITTERN were around, 2 of which were seen. One of those flypasts gave stunning views for around 30 seconds as it flew the entire length of the pool. However, the true birder i am, i chose to savor the moment rather than grab the camera. So here is the distant bird:

Added to this, an amazing supporting cast was present. 5 Little Egret flew through, as did single Ringed Plover and Dunlin. A male Yellow Wagtail was on the islands and another Cuckoo was heard calling.
Conscious of the time, we headed back to the car, stopping at the 1st Platform again as a giant white bird was sitting there!
This was one of our targets, so was great to see up so close, its green lores and black bill contrasting to the plain yellow of the Grimley bird.

The bird strode around in the shallows while i took some footage. But again, we had to move on.

A very last minute decision to head onto Shapwick heath to check the first pool was rewarded almost immidiatly with another stunning flight view of a Bittern, of which again, there were at least 4 birds. The others 'booming' from within the reeds. 2 WOOD SANDPIPER were present on the mud as we arrived, much closer than the Ham Wall birds, so the scope went up immidiatly  but once up, i aimed the scope, and there was nothing. A few seconds later i was informed they had flown...
A female Garganey was picked out among the ducks. Wader wise, 62 Blackwits were stunning to see and a lone Dunlin.A Little Egret was also hunting the shoreline.

We had received news that the Woodchat Shrike was showing again near Chew Valley Lake, so we decided to drop in there before Neil had to head back to his sons Cricket match.

Pulling up, we walked to the crowd, and what i did not expect to see was a WOODCHAT SHRIKE perched up on the hedgeline just on the other side of the fence, a mere 30ft away! Initially obscured, the bird emerged in full view, and gave absolutely unbelievable views as it dropped down onto the gate to feed. Is there anything to say other than Wow!

We had literally scope filling views as the bird perched on the hedge, occasionally dropping down to the floor (which was even closer than the hedge) to feed.

With our out and out highlight of the day seen, we decided to head back, where i was dropped of at Upton Warren to have a quick look there before i headed home. The flashes was quite bar the usual, so i headed to the Moors, which had 2 Dunlin and a Green Sandpiper. Not too much longer after the Dunlins flew out north. Vismig!

All in all, a total day tally of 98 Species, so close to breaking the 100 barrier!
An awesome days birding, despite bad behavior of the 'rares' that didn't cooperate!

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