Thursday 11th February 2010
West Sedgemoor RSPB Reserve
18 people arrived at Dewland Farm in sub-zero temperatures for a conducted visit to the RSPB reserve. After a short walk from the RSPB offices, during which we had an excellent view of a buzzard, we mounted the steps of the viewing platform, which overlooks the marshes where the wintering birds live. There we were able to view flocks of several thousand mallards, teal, wigeon, shovellers, pintail, gadwalls, lapwings, herons, black-tailed godwits and other waders and ducks. But most spectacularly we were treated to a merciless display of hunting by a pair of marsh harriers and a pair of peregrine falcons that were working together with one trying to disturb the water birds while the others swooped to catch any weaker stragglers who became separated from the group. It was a fascinating display of nature at its most awesome.Please use link below for more information.
Additional Report by Margaret Batten
The morning was fresh and sunny and there was a good turnout for our visit to the RSPB reserve at West Sedgemoor. RSPB volunteer Nigel led us a short distance up the hill from Dewlands farm. We saw a couple of buzzards and had a good view over the moor and the surrounding hills. Even from there we could see a marsh harrier disturbing the ducks. We walked across fields to the hide which has been created in the upper part of a barn. Most of us had binoculars and there were 4 telescopes we could use to see the details of the ducks.
It was an exciting morning with 2 marsh harriers and a young peregrine continually putting up the hundreds of ducks so that we were treated to wonderful flight displays. Many of the ducks are white-bellied so they showed white or dark as they turned in flight.
What the birds of prey were trying to do was to isolate a weaker bird so that they could hunt it down. For the ducks there is safety in numbers.
The fields flood naturally in winter and attract thousands of dabbling ducks and waders that can feed in the shallow water, not the diving ducks that prefer deeper water.
We saw wigeon with their round chestnut heads and broad yellow skipes down their foreheads, and the elegant, grey and white pintails with brown heads, long necks and long tails. We can all recognise mallard drakes with their green heads, and the other green headed drakes were the colourful shovelers with chestnut bellies and distinctive broad bills.
Harder to pick out were the small teal, attractive drakes with chestnut and green heads and noticeable cream and black patches near their tails. We also saw a few gadwall which look basically grey but the black and white patches near their tails showed up well.
Nigel told us that these ducks are already paired up and will be flying North before long to breed elsewhere. The marsh harriers flew slowly to and fro on their broad brown wings, completely different from the smaller, fast flying peregrine with more angular grey wings and pale underneath. Some blacktailed godwits, large waders, were flying with the ducks but we saw very few lapwing except in the fields on the way home. A heron obligingly flew across in front of us and landed in the field. There is a large heronry nearby in Swell Wood.
Thanks to Raymond for organising this interesting visit.