Today I visited Avalon Marshes in North Somerset, more specifically the Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserve. Upon entry there was a great variety of birdsong, from the Booming of the Bittern to the unusual song of the Cuckoo. The reserve used to be an industrious wasteland for peat harvesting. After the peat was gone, the dug out holes were filled with water and turned in a wetland. Above are the highlights on my day.
Bitterns thrive in the reserve, as I previously mentioned, as soon as you enter it is hard to miss the low pitched booming from the males. The Bitterns on the reserve are Eurasian Bitterns and are part of the Heron family. Despite being easy to hear, spotting a Bittern is very difficult, they rarely take to the air, preferring to skulk amongst the reed beds where their brown plumage becomes camouflage.
Although I would describe Bitterns as my highlight of the day there were plenty more rare or unusual species to see. The Marsh Harrier is a bird of prey often found flying over reed beds, it often hunts small waterfowl. There was also a Great Crested Grebe, which although isn’t rare here, is a spectacular sight.
The reserve is home to large numbers of Little Egrets, which were once extinct in the UK, but now have returned and are becoming quite abundant. Greylag geese are not especially interesting, but given the fact it was a whole family, it was a highlight. Last but not least I spotted a cormorant diving in one of the lakes which is a first for me.