Extraordinary birds

I’ve been in Glastonbury and area recently, but haven’t had a chance to write about it. so here is something I wrote a while ago about the nearby Somerset Levels:

We had a glorious winter day on Friday, brilliant blue skies, a slight breeze, perfect for a walk with friends. we went somewhere we hadn’t been before, to a nature reserve which was only started in 2009. It has featured on the news recently for two things, booming bitterns, and flocks of starlings coming in for their evening roost.

Bitterns are extraordinary birds, they are called booming bitterns because of the noise the male birds make. There are only about eighty breeding males in Britain, but apparently there have been twenty-three male birds spotted at Ham Wall, the nature reserve we visited for our winter walk. They are a type of chunky pale brown heron with darker bands of colour They are extremely shy and secretive, and creep round the reed beds looking for dinner in the form of fish.

I remember starlings being the common birds in our garden as children, but apparently their numbers are under threat too. My dad talked about great flocks of millions of birds settling in copses in Cambridgeshire in the 1920’s and killing the young trees by the acidity and weight of their droppings. When we moved to the west country I remember seeing huge flocks darkening the skies as they flew over to find their roosts. I think they are adorable, so funny and perky and comical, they are so noisy and great mimics, but sadly there numbers are declining too,, only 15% of young birds making it past their first year, as opposed to nearly 35% a few years ago, so it is great to know that they are so successful in Somerset now, roosting in the reed beds of the Somerset Levels.

Have a look at some amazing starling pictures taken at sunset in November:


Ham Wall is not far from Glastonbury and its situated in the River Brue valley and in fact is part of the Brue Valley Living Landscape conservation project. It is constructed round old peat diggings and there are masses of open reed beds, waters and some low growing trees. The interesting and vital project hopes to to restore, recreate and reconnect a sustainable habitat for wildlife in these changing times and conditions, and yet also  allow farmers to work their land and make a living from it. I mentioned starlings and bitterns but there are loads of other birds as residents and visitors, such as the bearded tit,  Cetti’s warbler, the hobby and sparrow hawks, pergerines, buzzards, and marsh harriers. With there being so much water there are a large number of water fowl, including mallards, gadwalls, tufted ducks, pochards, wigeonw, teal and  shovelers. I wouldn’t know what many of these look like, but we did see some tits, white egrets, swans, oyster catchers, geese and a biggish bird with a very red chest – no, not a big robin!

DSCF7844Looking across the marshes to Glastonburry Tor

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