Thursday, 27 March 2008

March 26th just got better and better and better!

What a day, what a day!! Because of the weather forecast (driving rain) my planned digi-scoping day with mate was cancelled on Tuesday night. To console myself, for lunch I had a tin of Heinz Alphabetti Spaghetti (typical man, impulse purchase from Morrisons's in the morning) and managed to write the blog's name in pasta. Very worrying.

But while doing this the rain departed, I rang my mate to see if we could re-schedule. Didn't quite work as he is 50 miles away, so I left him to Oldbury Power Station and I planned to go to Cheddar Resevoir to see the 1st Winter Bonapart's Gull - but something said to me, go to the Somerset Levels instead. So I did.

Positioning myself in Catcott Hide, I had a bit of a play about with the digi-scope. Still need to practice, but getting there. Wigeon, Teal, Shovler.

Then this Carrion Crow perched itself on a post. So thought I'd post these as a selection of preening photo's, plus the one botom right shows how birds like Crows position themselves, into the wind, crouch down slightly to take off. Notice how it's almost ready to "spring into action" compared to the preening position.

And I was also thinking how does one show the "panorama" out of a hide. If one takes a photograph from the hide opening, doesn't give the impression of the panorama, so why not frame the view from inside. All a bit arty, but I'm happy. (1 Catcott hide north, 2 Catcott hide east, Glastonbury Tor in distance, 3 North hide Shapwick/Meare NNR)

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After Catcott, popped over to Shapwick/Meare Heath NNR. It was about 5pm, but still time to have a mooch about. Reports of a Great Egret here, not seen but did get my first Swallow (123) of the year and Marsh Harrier (124). There were a good number of Cetti's Warblers singing, poss 7, and another first for me, I had the briefest of glimpses of a Cetti's as it sang, flew then sang again out of view. The whole area was covered in Hirundine's too, must have been 3-4oo. 2 Little Egrets and 3 Chiffchaffs singing....no Otter, but.....


I was watching Jackdaws coming into roost, when a flock of about 2000 Starlings flew into the reeds. This area is well known for the massive Starling displays in the winter, but the end of March is usually way past anything worth seeing. Quite nice to see "winter" and "Spring" colliding, Starlings and Martins. 2 or three flocks of similar size came in as I walked back (photos 4 & 5 below). But one flock was trapped by a Sparrowhawk and a Peregrine (125).

I'd seen the female Sparrowhawk earlier flying over the reed beds, but this one seemed to be circling a small copse. Then above me a spied a female (I think, it was getting dark) Peregrine. the effect of these 2 hunters was that a flock of about 5-600 Starlings were trapped in trees by the reeds. The Sparrowhawk then flew at speed into the tree causing pandemonium (photo 6 and video below). As the mass of starlings left the tree, the Peregrine dived into the mellee from above. It was unsuccesful and I lost sight of the Sparrowhawk, until it returned again about 2 minutes later as did the Peregrine, to once again have a go at Peregrine - Sparrowhawk hunting co-operation. Was it co-incidence or opportunistic behaviour or have these two species learnt to co-operate in an area where huge numbers of Starlings overwinter? I'd welcome any suggestions as I don't know. But it was a fabulous end to the day.

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Second mass exodus from the trees. Sorry about the quality, it all happened so fast, and this was on my compact camera.... hope no one's watching from the NHU!!

And finally, just before 7pm, stopped briefly at a place where Barn Owls are quite numerous. Nothing tonight, but this colourful picture, reminded me why I absolutely love the Somerset Levels. Nowhere else like it in the UK.


  1. Writing your blog name with Alphabet Spaghetti!! Tut, Tut. Cracking up are we, lol. You're a riot. The panoramic views from the hide are great. Brilliant idea! And the starlings..wow!

  2. Hi OC. Well I'll be 44 next week, so maybe it's the beginning of my regression into childhood. Ahh well tiz just a bit of fun :-)

  3. Wow Border, what great video footage of the starlings

    Where else but a blog could you follow spaghetti with starlings!!

    Happy Birthday for next week - I wonder now what you will do with a birthday cake!! It's mine too - but hey I'm a fool :-D

  4. Hi Shirl, so we're both April Fools then, which after al is THE only day to have a birthday. Happy Birthday too, and thanks.

  5. Alphabet Spaghetti... haven't had that for years! didn't know they still made it... Have you tried crisp sandwiches or even better sugar sandwiches... now that really is regressing into childhood (for me at least). Great pics. Nice to see the Somerset levels. I've never been, but it looks great. Jane

  6. Hi Jane, Maybe we should all start a "regress to childhood and foods we ate" blog. You'd love the Levels, a bit of a drive from your end of Dorset, but good wildlife and scenery, with the Mendips to the north (and of course Cheddar for the Cheese :-). Any luck with your lost village?

  7. Spagetti letters - now that takes you back!! Love the pictures of the starlings - we saw some great sights of starlings down at Looe Bar in Cornwall - amazing formations in the sky at dusk!

  8. Hi Miranda, we get fabulous starling formations here in the winter, reminds me of childhood and the big flocks in Newcastle, as does the Spaghetti of course :-)