(CLICK ON A PIC AND IT WILL GO BIG)
Ten o'clock we agreed. Actually it was James who suggested 10 o'clock but guess who was ready at 10 o'clock. Not James that's who. A few texts later I was heading out on my own to meet up with him at VP2 Hamwall as he was running a bit late. Really! Half past 10 was his aim. In the mean time while waiting for him to turn up at 11 o'clock I started to get some snaps under my belt.
Last week the sight of even one solitary Swift would have sent the local birding fraternity into a frenzy as they start to arrive. Now there are dozens swarming above our heads and hardly anyone bats an eye. I do love this time of year along with lots of others as its the arrival of the fast and the furious. Those darts of the skies. We had the Sand Martins a couple of weeks ago then it was the Swallows and House Martins finally the real masters of the skies my favourite bird of all the Swifts. Perfection in flight.
Swifts on mass
With the strong winds they often stayed relatively still above so I managed a few 'good' shots considering the light
But we haven't finished. There's another master of the skies that arrives just a little after the Swifts and they're right at that 'I've seen one' stage. There were two hunting above VP2
Dragonflies be afraid, be very afraid
Another of my favorites, James' as well. As they hunt and catch and eat on the wing they appear like angels with their wings out stretched and claws like arms.
Had a good chat with a few visitors who often come from afar to see our local celebs. The Glossy Ibis was far off behind some reeds for a while and offered a good 'Ooh! thank you' when pointed out. James? Oh James yes well his chain had fallen off and would be late. When he did turn up he was soon on the game and bagged a few interesting things as I had my head in the skies.
Black Cap givin' it some
A Buzzard and two Crows having a spat far off
With a bit of an aching neck from looking up I changed tack and lens and looked down for a bit at the weird word of macro.
WARNING SPIDERS AND SCARY SH*T COMING UP
St Marks Fly
There is a Spider at the back but I was aiming for the furn
The beauty of DEATH!!
The bringer of DEATH 'avin a nap
Waiting their turn! Gulp!
While I was showing plenty of builders crack to the nice visitors above at the viewing point James wandered off and did some more big stuff.
Great White Egret
We'd spent long enough at VP2 and cycled on to VP1 where a parent Grey Heron was bringing sticks for her young. Or rather doing running repairs to the nest. Most Herons nest in trees and form Heronries such a Swell Wood but others choose reeds such as here at Hamwall.
Young having a bit of a flap
Looking a bit lost
Very poor shot of a Bittern
One more of the Hobbies this time catching a prey
Where else next but Shapwick as the old line takes you in a straight line through the beautiful flatness of the Levels. I always think of the trains which sped from Glastonbury to Highbridge on the old S&D line. You can still see, if you look closely, various posts and bridges and lines and paths which are the scares left. Once the line was shiny and new with it's champions and admirers along with it's decryers and haters. Once built even it's demise would change the landscape for ever. The landscape which met us at the scrape has also been changed for ever in the last few weeks. The new hide is finished. It's shiny and new and will have it's lovers and haters. We stopped and admired then clambered inside. Very nice door. It's cosey and I do like the shapes it forms inside. Attention to detail is nice with each bench mirroring the arc of the walls. We're not too sure about the covering on the outside but I'm sure nature will soften the effect. The window opening system is a nice idea but perhaps a little over complicated and the loops the rope runs through will wear the rope in no time. Couple of extra pennys on some pully wheels would have been worth it.
As for it's purpose the initial thoughts where 'why?' then it really comes to the for in it's use as you pull on the rope. You can see everything there is to see on the Scrape. There has often been the time when something interesting would be tucked down at the front edge of the water hindering views but now it's all there and at a slight height which makes for good IDing not to mention photography.
James providing scale
View from the back windows. Will be good for Marsh Harriers
Oooh you don't want to do it like that!
It has character.
And the results with good up high views of the Black Tailed Godwits
We popped into the little bit of scrub where we saw the Grass Snake last week but with cloud and drizzle it was unlikely we would see anything. We didn't. Things looked up with a small gathering of Slow Worms in the concrete slab just at the Shapwick entrance. We also came across something just as interesting lying on the slab as well. Our imagination started to run with such exotic things as an early Hobby kill. The pic was whisked off to our tame Raptorman @TheFalconBirder Nick who knows these sort of things being an expert and all that. He deduced that it's not impossible however more likely to be one of the many Sparrow Hawks that live in these 'ere parts. Oh well it was hard to swallow that this Swallow wasn't swallowed by a Hobby but swallowed by a Sparrow Hawk but disappointment never stopped us and we fortified our souls with a cuppa and swallowing slices of cake at Eco-friendly Bites.
Bee being buzzy / busy
James does a bit of lazy birding while having his hot chocolate
There are a number of ways to go from Shapwick but the rain was threatening and the wind was blowing so we chanced an early arrival of hundreds of Hobbies at Westhey. Besides it has a nice sheltered raised hide with a roof. We were off scanning for Little Owls along the way.
Westhay was, erm, quiet to say the least. It often is. A bit of a feast or famine sort of place. Give it a week or so and it will be alive with Hobbies as they hunt above the reeds. A must visit place. We'll be back mark my words. A pair of Marsh harriers entertained us for a bit. Otherwise we dreamed of non existent things like Bearded Reedlings and Red Footed Falcons and such like.
Oh there were a few House martins about
We waited, unbeknownst to James, until the end of the Leicester v Man United game where another point was gathered and if Spurs don't cock it up on Monday we will do the biz next Saturday with a whooping of Everton but I digress. A debrief was in order so the Sheppy was visited. On the way as two cars came hurtling in opposite directions towards him James stopped in the middle of the road to save a large caterpillar from being squigged. He had actually risked his life and the inconvenience of the two drivers and valuable drinking seconds on rescuing a large catkin! I digress again and whisk you to the Sheppy. A jewel in the crown of pubs in Somerset. It has a drain / rhyne / river / stream running along the back yard / patio / veranda / beer garden where you can often see an Otter fishing up and down. Now we were delayed by the barman trying to sort out James' card for payment which seemed to take an age. Mostly because of a well to-do gent using a dodgy empty card. Financially embarrassed and all that. Eventually I waved a tenner at him and all was sorted. Cheers James! We went out back to admire the view when James instantly went into quiet stalker mode. He waved his arm back at me and crouched. I froze and saw the arse end of an Otter dip into the water. The next 5 mins was spent snapping and videoing the beast by James as I had my camera but no lens!
Nice one James. Only the second Otter I've seen up close, the previous time was erm, at the Sheppy while having a pint after an EFRS patrol.
So a pint later and we parted by the Pillbox. This is one of my favourite parts of an EFRS outing. The bit between Godney and Glasto. Very few cars, in the summer the sun and still air and shadows make for a sublime journey home. At one stage a Buzzard flew up and was truly within touching distance as we glided along together. Quit a moment not one for cameras but just to enjoy. We had no empathy we had no connection we were not as one with each other. I was cycling and he was going in the same direction. He couldn't give a hoot. Oh that's Owls isn't it. Ok I mean squawk or cry or how ever you call the noise a Buzzard makes. Try it it's amazing and will sort your soul out. (The cycle route not the squawk)
Another day out and quit a haul. There was a lot to get our teeth into and plenty to chew over but at the end of the day we managed to swallow the lot........