Field Trip Report – West Sedgemoor Reserve -20th January 2024

The first visit of 2024 was to the RSPB West Sedgemoor reserve which can only be accessed by prior arrangement. Our group of 15 assembled at the RSPB offices at the farm at the bottom of Red Hill near Langport where our guides for the morning, Nigel and Elaine met us.

The weather was dull and chilly after an overnight frost but at least the persistent rain of the past few weeks had stopped and the hard frozen ground was beginning to thaw.

Nigel led the group towards the bottom of the hill where he pointed out two Common Cranes, the first of seven or so we were to see during the morning. A Kestrel, Robin, Wren and Starlings were also seen. Retracing our steps back up the steep road to a gate we entered a field which gave good open views over the reserve. Nigel gave a short talk explaining that the RSPB owned 18,000 acres of the land but due to the recent flooding and freezing cold weather only a few  of the 45,000 species normally present were on site as they had moved to other areas of open water where they could find better feeding conditions. We could see Mute Swans and Lapwings from our vantage point.

We walked on through the fields adding sightings of Carrion Crow, Wood Pigeon, Blue Tit and Stock Dove. Some members of the group were even lucky enough to catch sight of a Green Woodpecker in a nearby tree.

The main feature of the site is a redundant carrot washing barn within which a second floor has been added and acts as a large bird hide with opening windows. From here with the help of telescopes we were able to watch out over the flooded fields and spend time looking at the birds feeding in the fields. A Great White Egret, Snipe and Grey Heron along with more common birds and Redwings, Fieldfares, Blackbirds gave good views. A male Reed Bunting and Snipe was also seen along with several more Common Cranes. A large bird of prey emerged from our right which was identified as a Marsh Harrier, giving everyone good clear views. The barn is a roost for a Barn Owl and Nigel explained about its diet by examining some of its pellets and identifying the contents.

Our visit was due to end at 12.30 so we slowly wandered back along some lanes to the car park adding Little Egret and Great Spotted Woodpecker to our list on the way. After thanking our guides and making a donation to assist with the running of the reserve we decided to move to RSPB Greylake, another reserve located a few miles away where we could eat our packed lunches.

In the Greylake car park some bird feeders had been provided and these gave views of finches, sparrows etc while we ate. Moving on to the large hide at the reserve we had views of open water and what at first looked like a line of reeds turned out to be a long line of hundreds of ducks at rest comprising, Teal, Wigeon and a few Shoveler. A photographer already present in the hide said a Hen Harrier had been seen earlier in the day but it did not show while we were there. However, a stunning male Marsh Harrier soon appeared and gave very close views while it hunted for a meal. A female Marsh Harrier was also present. A Water Rail squealed from behind the hide while a Cetti’s Warbler sang but unfortunately they were not able to be seen before we all left for home.

It was a pity that the cold weather spoilt the spectacle of thousands of wildfowl in action but perhaps sometime on a future trip we can rectify this. All in all a good day out with several members seeing birds and sights they had never seen before, which is what makes the trips so worthwhile.

Seen in transit. Kestrel, Red Kite, Song Thrush, Sparrowhawk, and  Pheasant.

West Sedgemoor. Crane, Robin, Wren, Starling, Kestrel, Lapwing, Mute Swan, Lapwing, Mute Swan, Carrion Crow, Woodpigeon, Blue  and Great Tit, Stock Dove, Redwing, GW Egret, BH Gull, Green Woodpecker, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Dunnock, Grey Heron, Reed Bunting,  Mallard, Marsh Harrier, Pied Wagtail, Snipe, Little Egret, GS Woodpecker.

Greylake. Rook, Teal, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Wigeon, Shoveler, Magpie, Collared Dove, Buzzard, Herring Gull, Jackdaw, Marsh Harrier.

Report by Dave Newman