18 January, 2010

Duuh-dum duuh-dum duuh-dum duuh-duh

It's a nice warm [well, for January] sunny day with not too much wind, what to do? See if I can dip that drake Smew again? Go on a Wild Harrier Chase in cornwall? I know, lets go to zummerzet!

Yes, a nice day on the Levels was had yesterday - spoilt for choice as to where to go! Decided that getting to Ashcott Corner early was probably a good idea [oh how right that one turned out to be!] so started there and yomped over to Decoy. Cunning plan behind this being that as, while Noah's is definitely the best hide for seeing stuff, its also the smallest and the busiest. Its the only hide I've ever been to where you sometimes have to queue to get in [not counting twitching situations]. This meant that the Whoopers were missed [I knew I should've scoped the swans more thoroughly from the track...], but you can't see 'em all.
Also, a 3.5km walk before lunch was a good thing after all the festive excesses [and ice-related slacking of the last couple of weeks!]. Decoy's an interesting hide - arguably the most scenic view going, but rarely much in the way of birds hanging around. The walk out had provided a good start; 4 Little Grebes in a row and a surprise drake Goosander on Noah's, an adult female Marsh Harrier hunting the east end of Decoy [seen from the track], and several Cetti's still going - including a couple that actually showed themselves. Hordes of squealing Mipit-murderers lurked unseen in the reeds, a very showy [and vocal] pair of G-S Woodies, and a couple of Goldcrest with LTT near the Sweet Track. Decoy itself seemed fairly quiet, a brief Harrier popped over the trees, the present Mutes, Coot, Mallard, Cormorants and a score or so of both Tufties and Gadwall were joined by a dozen Canadas, but everything mostly stayed up the back.
Now comes the bit where you start humming the Jaws music.. Big white bird comes up and flies head-on from the SE corner "Looks like a swan* flying towards us, low from the back right" says I, not wanting to say more until I scoped a bird with not much of a swan jizz at all [having had great embarrassment at calling a Mute as a GWE a few years back on the strength of an end-on flight view]. This time, however, I was able to paraphrase Kenobi... "That's no Mute, that's a Great White Egret!!"**
The resident Levels bird [showing winter-coloured bill and legs] treated us to a majestic low level flypast at it moved to Canada Farm - brilliant!

*[[Yes, I know I should say 'Mute Swan', but I can't be bothered - winter swans get specified, and as I've never confused anyone by doing it, I'm unrepentant!]]
**[[I'd like to apologise to all StarWars fans for that one]]

Heading back, a nice and still very freshly-plumaged Reed Bunting was overshadowed by a very messy 1w drake Goldeneye on Tank 2 - looked very mottled and generally strange.. Seeing the horde that was assembling for the Starling Spectacle, a relocation to Catcott seemed a good idea. Not a moment too soon! They were already parked along the roadside for several hundred metres in both directions; it was worse than the Little Bittern Twitch, worse than the December when the Starlings were roosting right by the track and they'd been on Autumnwatch. It was hard enough getting out at 3:40, I hate to think of the chaos when they all left...

Catcott was busy too! Contrast to Decoy [and most of Shapwick - only Noah's had plenty of birds] it was hotching with wildfowl. Hide was pretty much full too, though it mysteriously emptied within 10 minutes of sitting down... [I'm not sure what to make of that - maybe they were all rushing off to Ham Wall? I don't think I smell....? ;) ] There's not quite as pretty a backdrop as Decoy, but far more birds, and far closer! Many hundreds of duck - Wigeon, Teal, Shovelor, Pintail, and Tufty all in good numbers. The Ibis decided not to show, but there was a comfortable grandstand view of the Starlings instead! Optics were needed, but I think there wasn't much in it in terms of views compared to staying at Ham Wall, with the benefits of sitting down and not being in a crowd [or under a hundred thousand birds in need of the loo....]! 3 Marsh Harriers, a Peregrine [with kill], a Kestrel, and a couple of Buzzards were the raptors on show. No Bitterns, but you can't have everything. The duck came right up to the hide - gorgeous on a mirror-smooth surface in the golden light.....

Trip back was marked by a distinct lack of owls and Woodcock, alas, but it had been a very pleasant day indeed.

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