Sunday 07 February –West Sedgemoor

Dewlands Farm was our gathering point for this visit to RSPB West Sedgemoor and as the cars arrived our numbers gradually swelled to 14. Local volunteer, Nigel Smith, led us out in cold, damp conditions and gave us a brief summary of the background to the reserve. By the time we approached the viewing barn the weather was beginning to improve and we had seen and heard a good variety of passerines in the hedgerows. The flooded fields in front of the barn were packed with wildfowl and telescopes were soon picking out Wigeon, Pintail, Shoveler,Gadwall and Teal. Nigel’s more experienced eyes located two distant Cranes which everyone was able to see in his scope, and later an equally distant Peregrine. Large flocks of birds were also criss-crossing in the sky at regular intervals and we were ableto pick out Golden Plover as well as Lapwing and Starlings, stirred up by a passing Marsh Harrier. One small group of Pintails gave particularly frequent fly-bys, giving good views of their distinctive angular silhouette. Sharp eyes in the group also picked out a Stonechat, which proved difficult to spot as it flicked from one perch to another, but a Kingfisher was much more obliging, remaining for an extended time on the railings by a sluice. By this time the light was excellent and its colours showed well in the sunshine. Both Whooper and Bewick’s Swans had been reported that week near Burrow Mump, so we moved on to the car-park there to see if we could find them. Plenty of Mute Swans were visible and very distantly near Pathe were some swans with definite yellow rather than orange bills. They were too far away to be sure of identification, so we moved to Aller Drove in the hope of closer views, but unfortunately they were hidden by hedges from this angle. A lone Kestrel took our total species list for theday over the 40 mark and the group then split, with some moving on to Greylake and the rest returning to Bristol. All in all this was a splendid morning’s birding, with an impressive panorama of wildfowl on display. Many thanks to Nigel for hosting us at West Sedgemoor. Giles Morris