Sunday 30 November – Steart

 The WWT reserve at Steart has been created as a result of the work by DEFRA to realign the sea wall and provide flood prevention measures in the area. The old sea wall was breached on the 6September 2014 allowing water to flow into the reserve to start the process to create an inter-tidal salt marsh. So the reserve is at an early stage of development and it will be interesting to see it mature over the next few years. The fog on the motorway gave way to brilliant sunshine by the time 28 members gathered in the WWT car park. The calm conditions and the sun made for a very pleasant day in this exposed landscape. The mature hedge by the entrance held Redwing and Fieldfare, a first sighting this winter for many of the group. The views from the Mendip hide over the lagoons required telescopes as the birds were mostly distant. Most notable were the flocks of Lapwing, Golden Plover and Shoveler. A sleeping Pintail was an ID challenge. Continuing to the river, the flocks of waders on the mud were distant but it is a long walk to the breach to get a closer view. Alas there were no Avocets in sight. We took the northerly path past the Polden hide to give views over an area of bog and rough grass. Meadow Pipits, Skylarks, Pied Wagtails and Goldfinches added to the variety.After a lunch break we drove round to the Natural England car park to walk out to Fenning Island. A search around the car park failed to find Little Owl which are resident here. We also missed out on Short-eared Owl this time. The flocks of waders were the main attraction. Persistence by one persondid find a Common Gull amongst the Herring Gulls and close scrutiny found a Spotted Redshank on one of the pools where there were a couple of Little Grebe. Stonechats and a Reed Bunting flitted around. Finally a couple of Avocets were seen heading up river.  By the time we gathered in the car park to depart, the group total was about 53 species seen. More impressive was the number of waders. We saw about 6-7,000 Dunlin, over 1,000 Lapwing, 200plusGolden Plover, about 120 Grey Plover and lower numbers of other waders. This new WWT reserve shows great promise and is well worth repeated visits. (Many thanks to Richard for leading.)   Richard Belson