Ten of us started walking the windswept track westward. Our first delights were Warblers: Reed, Sedge, Cetti’s, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, and Chiffchaff and only 100 yards covered. The next 100 yards were fantastic; a group of four Hobbies turning, darting, sprinting as they chased Swallows and House Martins. Rising above all this madness 20+ Bar-tailed Godwits fled east. A Buzzard floated serenely above them and to our left there was an Osprey with a tasty meal, slung fore and aft beneath, clenched in its awesome talons. A further few yards and we were rewarded with a Great White Egret, initially floundering in too deep water, then landing and starting to fish. With scopes all set to admire this beauty (three Darvic leg rings Red White Black) our interest was further tweaked by a loose group of 17 Black-tailed Godwits, some preening, some sleeping, but none feeding. A small group of Gadwall, some Coot and a lone Moorhen completed this ensemble. A male Reed Bunting sang from the top of a bush as we turned to continue our walk. We all trouped into the Meare Heath Hide for elevenses; the normally teeming waters held a solitary Pochard. Maybe our luck had changed – but it hadn’t ! Two Bitterns flopped down into the reeds on our right and as we left, a Marsh Harrier also shot off to the right. The woods were full of Blackcap and Wren, and then, on the stiffish breeze we heard “Cuckoo, Cuckoo.” Heading to the other hide came the unmistakable call of Goldcrest, which then showed itself. No pine type trees for miles, so there are exceptions. Double-decker Cormorants’ nests were perched on the dead branches above the very full lake and the ever present Lesser Black-backed Gulls were cruising over the reeds, watchful for a lax parent surrendering a tasty offspring. On our way back to the car park for lunch another Marsh Harrier was sighted and a couple of Kingfisher, one sitting, desperate to be admired, which it was. Would we be so lucky after lunch? Yes! An Osprey was sitting on top of a T bar in the reeds, giving ample time to register the markings and make a stab at its gender. Another Kingfisher showed well, and there was an actual sighting of a Willow Warbler. The day finished with our 48th and 49th species – a pair of Little Grebe and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Great birding, convivial company, kind weather – who could ask for more? Well done ‘The Levels’.
Nick and Annie Hawkridge.