Monday, 17 February 2014

Slightly further afield...

A slightly busy week last week - my PhD viva, two days of a bumblebee meeting in Southampton, and some filthy weather meant I didn't get out into my local patch, other than running to and from the car in the pouring rain.
My local patch, currently.  Not pictured: dry land
Come Sunday though, I'd arranged to brave the floods and meet up with some friends down in Somerset. Despite the non-stop news pictures, most of Somerset is well above the current high-water mark and we all made it to Shapwick in time for for the sun to come out.  After a quick sit-down for coffee and cake, watching small birds on the feeders - Coal tits and Reed buntings new for the year, Collared doves clumsy as ever - we headed down the road to the Hawk and Owl Trust's new reserve at Shapwick Moor
Glastonbury Tor from Shapwick Moor, looking across the grazing pasture and rhynes.
Not many birds about, but some nice snails in the rhyne dredgings, notably the Viviparous snail (Viviparous viviparous) and the Greater ramshorn (Planorbarius corneus), and, in the sandbanks, marine bivalves dating back to the last ice age. A quick lunch stop later, and we were off again, walking down past the route of the Sweet Track, a 2 km wooden walkway built in 3806 BCE and abandoned after less than a decade due to rising water levels, a fate it was suffering all over again with the last month's rain.  It wasn't the only casualty we saw - once ensconced in the hide at the far end of the track, we could see three or four fresh scars in the peat where trees had been blown over that week.

We weren't the only ones to have noticed: a flash of orange and electric blue announced a kingfisher, eagerly prospecting the new earth banks for a nest site.  Overhead a marsh harrier drifted slowly, wheeling effortlessly in the blue sky. As dusk fell, four lapwings flapped lazily by; one of Britain's handful of great white egrets swooped low over the reedbeds; swans slid smoothly across the reflection of the setting sun; several thousand starlings buzzed us, hurtling low overhead with a susurration of wings, as if the reedbed had taken to the skies. Summer's great, but winter has plenty to recommend it if you know what to look for!

Casualties of the storm.  Somewhere in this picture is a kingfisher, but it was a long way away...
Glastonbury Tor, from Shapwick heath
Reedbeds at Shapwick heath
It's important to have all your ducks in a row
Reedmace, Phragmites and ducks
Settling down for the night

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