Dr Duncan James > Nature Travel Guide > Where > Planet Earth > Europe > Britain > Somerset Levels

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Nature Travel Guide

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

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.

Larger-scale information relating to this page include the Planet Earth, Europe and Britain articles.

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