Springtime on the marshes

A beautiful, sunny February day presented the opportunity for a visit to the Somerset Levels, seeking out wildlife at several of the nature reserves that make up Avalon Marshes. The main aim of the day was to watch the starling murmuration at dusk, an event that can involve close to a million birds.

RSPB Greylake

First up was a quick stop RSPB Greylake, a smallish reserve featuring plenty of open water, reedbeds and fields. Despite only spending about an hour here, I was able to see many different species, including reed bunting, snipe, little egret and various ducks including wigeon, teal and shoveler. With the sun shining in a clear blue sky, the reflections on the water were stunning.

View from the Lookout Hide
View from the Lookout Hide
Reed bunting
Reed bunting
Little egret
Little egret

All my photos from Greylake can be found in this Flickr album.

RSPB Ham Wall

Ham Wall is a few minutes’ drive from Greylake, and after arriving I decided to go for a good stroll round the reserve. There were plenty of coot, gadwall, lapwings and a few snipe about, but most impressive was a marsh harrier (or maybe two?) that I spotted hovering over the marshes.

Sitting on a bench soaking up the sunshine, I was joined by some relatively tame blue tits, great tits and chaffinches who were perhaps hoping to share my lunch.

Glastonbury Tor
View of Glastonbury Tor
Marsh Harrier
Marsh Harrier
Blue tit

All my photos from Ham Wall can be found in this Flickr album.

Shapwick Heath Nature Reserve

With sunset approaching, I made my way towards the far end of Shapwick Heath nature reserve where approximately 500,000 starlings had roosted the previous evening. This was a good half an hour walk from Ham Wall, meaning I could take in the sights and sounds of my third reserve of the day before watching the murmuration.

Shapwick Heath was overflowing with activity as wildlife prepared for nightfall. As I made this walk I spotted several little egret, a heron, marsh harriers, cormorants and various ducks and swans. With the sun sinking low, everything was aglow with a warm golden hue, and this great white egret was peacefully preening amongst the reeds.

Then it was time for the starlings. I joined a small group of people who had gathered beside the pathway, and just before sunset the birds began to flow in. First, just a few small scattered flocks were visible, but it didn’t take long for this to turn into a huge swarm.

Starling murmuration
Starling murmuration
Sky filled with starlings

The murmuration was short but sweet, and once the starlings had settled for the night, I made my way back to Ham Wall car park. As I walked, the reserve turned a gorgeous pink in the twilight.

Great crested grebe
Great crested grebe
Twilight
Twilight

All my photos from Shapwick Heath can be found in this Flickr album.