An early Steart

As the nights draw in it has been decided that the EFRS need to wake up and get cracking just that little bit earlier.  So it was 5:30 when my annoying alarm went off, blurting out its monotonous tune whilst vibrating madly on the bedside cabinet.  I am well practiced in fumbling in the dark (oh er!) and soon I was dressed, fed and ready to go.

As I swung into Glastonbury to meet Andrew I noted all the lights were off at his place.  Was he still in bed?

Nope, he was waiting eagerly by his car.  Not overly happy about me being 20 minutes late.  After another 10 minutes getting the bike out of my little Peugeot (its a snug fit) we were finally on our way.

Sun rise on the Parrett

Visions of Owls in the mist filled our minds as the sun slowly crept above the horizon.  Filled with anticipation we hopped onto our bikes and were away.  After 5 minutes I realised it was bloody chilly.  My hands were practically stuck to the handle bars!
We stopped at various points and scanned around... it was a bit quiet.  Egrets, Lapwings, a few Shelduck.  Not that I have anything against these animals.  i was just hoping for something a bit more unusual.
A Kestrel was hovering about which raised the mood slightly.  Then my chain fell off and I couldn't get the thing back on again.  Resulting in me walking along the River Parrett with a bike with a back wheel which wouldnt turn and feet which were getting rather chilly.

This fellow looked very elegant wading and flying along the river.

And my version (Andrew)

When I reached the breech Andrew managed to fix the problem and I located what looked very much like an Avocet.  The sun was glaring down now making it difficult to identify (yes I know they are distinctive but not in silhouette!).
Anyway a moment later Andrew busted out the scope and located about 100 more 10 meters to the right of it...
Buoyed up by this we ate some breakfast and I put my feet in the sun, which stopped the pins and needles a bit :-) Andrew also located a Kingfisher giving nice scope views. We headed back along the perimeter to the other side of the breech (by which point I was knackered) We did see some bits and bobs on the way.  Including another Kingfisher and a Song Thrush.

Song Thrush

At the other side of the breach we settled in for some lunch.  Whilst scoffing my sandwich I spotted a female marsh harrier and Andrew spotted another Kingfisher!

Marsh Harrier

Andrews flash equipment set up attracted some attention (he loves it). Still no sign of any Short Eared owls though... We were a bit disappointed. Uncertain of what to do next we headed back the way we came.  The adrenaline did rise a bit as we cycled through a herd of cows who had decided to populate the road. We ended up back where we had started and dug in.

Heres some pics from around the area.

Kestrel - perched and doing some signature hovering

And my versions of the same thing (Andrew)

Andrew got distracted by fieldfare...




Fieldfare and Kestrel ignoring each other

I certainly did. The bushes close by seemed to be the local meeting point. A few berries left and a bit of protection. Both for the little ones and those likely to eat them. I do like Fieldfare they are quite attractive and often overlooked, assumed to be something else, by the general public. Then again thats quit easy since they seem to be made up of leftover parts. The body different to the tail different to the wings different to the head. Such a stern disapproving face worthy of Mr Riley. But it wasn't only Fieldfare that caught my eye. Skylarks, such a summer inducing sight and sound, flew like sparrows around us along with the ever present Reed Buntings

Reed bunting

Reed bunting

Reed bunting

Stonechats were in abundance

Not to mention a few of these looking a little out of place by the water

Another Kestrel in the lovely light

The Parrett estuary with the tide out was looking amazing. Its a beautiful place to see the mud flats. The rivulets creasing the flatness is a work of natural art. Such a peaceful place. Estuaries always seem calm. All the waders going about their business way off in the distance. Just occasionally do they take flight and flutter down stream to a fresh crustacean filled soup. Not a place usually frequented by man. The only disturbance the little trails of webbed prints left by waders


Curlew in the fields. Obviously fancied a change of diet

Views across the Reserve close to the Breach

Really enjoying these early rising days. The light is beautiful, ever changing. You go through the day with the rest of the creatures. No alarm clocks here. The sun tells you when to do whatever you have to do and woe betide you if you fail. Your life depends on it. That serenity on the flats is no concern for the waders, its what they have to do. They eat crustaceans because they are there and they are there because they are safe.

We spotted this chat hopping about looking for some cute furry things to eat. He/she immediately saw us and was soon running off as fast as he/she could.

hes/shes off

Meanwhile I spotted something...

What a great bird(s) (the Owl more than the Crow)

After shouting for Andrew he unleashed his cannon (Canon) on the Owl.

A second owl was in the distance and handed out some hurt to a pair of Kestrels, bombing and attacking them quite vigorously.  Then it went quiet again.  Just before home we bumped into Rob Morrison (check out his pics, they are super duper).  Nice to see a friendly face! As we cycled back I noticed an owl like shape flying in front of us... Noooooo.  The owl flew over where we were stood not 1 minute ago.  To add further insult to injury a second one also flew over.

The way to look at it is, we could have cycled all the way round to the other side, set up camp and waited for them to come flying past within an inch of our noses only to look back at the spot we had just left to see them fly directly over the vacant location.
As soon as we heard about the development of the Steart area and the plan to create a flooded area my mind thought 'So no voles for the SEO's then'. I may be wrong but there are a lot more people walking around particularly with dogs, a larger flooded area and a whole new structure to the place. Not very conducive to nature and in particular large birds which tend to be more elusive. They may get used to it, they may not. Up to now they seem ok, well the 2 or 3 that are there. Ive no hard evidence it's just a thought.

On its way to fly directly over the spot we had been standing at for the last 2 hours!

It was frustrating but thats what gets us up in the morning.  That mystique.  Not quite getting what you want.  It means we will be rising early again for another early Steart.

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