Location 11: Somerset Levels (Britain)
"Thousands of ducks and millions of Starlings in winter."
I recommend the European Birds (premium link) activity.
Based mainly on my visit in winter 2015, my favourite area is the reedbed at Shapwick Heath (premium link) and Ham Wall (premium link). For many years there have been millions of Starlings roosting in these reeds at night in winter.
The Somerset Levels has a lot of wetland habitat, with the Avalon Marshes http://www.avalonmarshes.org at its heart. This flat area of mainly farmland and marsh/reedbeds is in southern England, south-west of Bristol. The large number of local birdwatchers http://www.somersetbirds.net means up-to-date sighting information is available.
In the summer you can look out for dragonflies and all year round the resident Kingfishers can be seen. If you are lucky you might see otter.
I have not found the public transport to be very good for visiting these sites. A good place for public transport information is the RSPB website http://www.rspb.org.uk on the pages about the local reserves.
- Steart (site 1) (premium link) on the west coast has mudflats, fields and saltmarsh. This is a good winter site for seeing waders (shorebirds in American English) and some wildfowl. (GPS coords 51.2157N 03.0286W)
- Swell Wood (site 2) (premium link) has many birds including Grey Herons nesting in the trees in spring and early summer. (GPS coords 51.0107N 02.9124W)
- Shapwick Heath (site 3) (premium link) has mainly reedbeds and lakes. (GPS coords for the eastern car park are 51.1542N 02.7891W.)
- Ham Wall (site 4) (premium link) is another site with reedbeds and lakes. It is famous for its Starling roost in the reedbeds. (GPS coords 51.1534N 02.7889W)
- Greylake (site 5) (premium link) is an RSPB reserve with some reedbeds and wet fields popular with ducks in the winter. (GPS coords 51.1077N 02.8597W)
- Catcott (site 6) (premium link) has a mixture of lakes, reedbeds, fields and woodland. (GPS coords 51.1721N 02.8589W)
- Westhay Moor (site 7) (premium link) is a large reedbed with lakes. (GPS coords 51.1900N 02.7793W)
- Many species of ducks and other wildfowl were just some of the birds that I saw in 3 days on the Somerset Levels in winter (premium link).
Wildlife of the Somerset Levels
- main habitats: fields, marsh, reedbeds
- other habitats: woodland, mudflats (at Steart)
- key birds: ducks (Catcott and Greylake), waders/shorebirds (Steart), Starlings (Ham Wall and Shapwick Heath are worth visiting for a very large roost in the evening)
- birds that are rare or difficult to see: Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail, Bittern, Bearded Tit/Bearded Reedling, Jack Snipe (head markings different to Snipe), Water Rail, Short-eared Owl (flies during the day), Peregrine Falcon, Sparrowhawk, Merlin, Cetti's Warbler (with a distinctive call), Golden Plover, Crane http://www.thegreatcraneproject.org.uk
- mammals you might see: rabbits, Roe Deer, hare, Stoat/Weasel, otter, Water Vole, Badger
- likely insects: dragonflies (summer)
- suggested itinerary: Catcott, Greylake, Shapwick Heath, Ham Wall and Steart
- birds seen on a 3 day visit: 61 species
- birds most often seen on a 3 day visit (winter): (starting with the most common) Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) 34x29574 (m1000000), Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) 28x4 (m20), Blackbird (Turdus merula) 19x2 (m12), Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) 18x7 (m30), Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) 17x3 (m14), Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) 14x2 (m3), Shoveler (Anas clypeata) 12x14 (m95), Coot (Fulica atra) 12x4 (m9), Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) 12x5 (m17), Robin (Erithacus rubecula) 11x2 (m2), Common Buzzard/Steppe Buzzard (Buteo buteo) 10x2 (m3), Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) 10x95 (m200), Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) 9x10 (m35), Gadwall (Anas strepera) 8x14 (m40), Wigeon (Anas penelope) 8x137 (m650), Magpie (Pica pica) 8x1 (m1), Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) 8x7 (m25), Great Tit (Parus major) 7x2 (m3), Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) 7x2 (m3), Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus) 7x5 (m9), Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) 6x1 (m1), Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) 6x1 (m1), Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) 6x2 (m2)
- average birds seen in 1 day (winter): 33 species
This typical view of the reeds on the Somerset Levels shows a Cormorant, Black-headed Gulls and Mallard ducks.
This article is part of the Nature Travel Guide and was published on October 19th 2018.
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