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October 2019  wildlife, from the Somerset Levels

October 30th 2019. Still blustery, raining at times, at others with a touch of blue, but bitterly cold where it blew into the Catcott Lows hide. One source of particular enjoyment was a Great white egret that flew into the background, lifted and landed nearer, then walked its way across the front, fishing. As usual, the prey was so small as to be all but invisible. It is wonderful to have the opportunity of flight shots, as well as those where it is fishing.

Great white egret Egretta alba

Great white egret Egretta alba

Great white egret Egretta alba

Another attraction was a flock of Wigeon, my first serious sighting of these splendid and beautiful duck arriving on migration, though they have been present at Greylake for a while. It was difficult to see how many where present until something spooked them into the air, such a wonderful sight. There were two Peregrine falcons at the extreme back, on what we call the 'stockade'. The minor panic was probably caused when they lifted off briefly.

Wigeon Anas penelope

Wigeon Anas penelope

 

Wigeon Anas penelope

October 27th 2019. Although the weather was far from perfect, I felt I needed to get out of the house, settling on Ham Wall, with its splendid walk along the site of the old railway line. The Tor View hide was cold and blustery, but in the distance a Marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus was wobbling across the top of the reeds, caught by the gusty wind, never coming close enough for any detail.Every so often soaring up above, giving an unusual view.

Marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus

I nearly missed the main visitor, just catching it as it flew off. Others had actually caught it emerging from the reeds nearby. It is always good to see a Bittern, even if only for a quick glimpse.

Bittern Botaurus stellaris

Another unusual picture was of Ruddy darters mating, the participants resting on the side of the hide. What was so unusual is that this species is usually flying far earler than the Common darters Sympetrum striolatum found at this time of year.

Ruddy darters Sympetrum sanguineus

October 22nd 2019. The afternoon promised a remission from the recent constant rain and wind. I decided on another visit to Ham Wall and the Torview hide. It turned out a lovely, soft afternoon with only a little wind. I was well esconced on the east side when Colin, Chris and Nigel joined me. I met Colin previously when he had set up a wildlife photography exhibition in south Somerset earlier in the year. It was good to have others alongside when the harrier arrived, it definitely added to the enjoyment, as well as chance to hear about techniques. The light caught the feathers of the harrier perfectly, glowing against a rather oddly dark sky, setting them off perfectly. The bird was extraordinarily co-operative, every so often moving towards us, before flowing back towards the reeds in front of the trees, an area he clearly enjoyed. We had some wonderful views, with ideal light.

Marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus m

 Marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus m

Marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus m

Marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus m

Marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus m

Marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus m

Marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus m

There were plenty of ducks flying around, with a few on the wqter in front but no sign of the migratory hordes yet. The were resident Tufted ducks Aythya fuligula and Pochard A. ferina. I managed a few shots of Mallard as they flashed past - such colourful birds.

Mallard Anas platyrhynchos

October 15th 2019. We went for an afternoon walk down at Ham Wall, expecting little at this time of year but were pleasantly surprised. The Torview Hide was busy with people watching a male Marsh harrier floating over nearby reedbeds.

Marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus m

Marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus m

 Marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus m

Marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus m

Later a female appeared high in the sky before sinking down to quarter a different part of those reeds. We stayed quite a while until the quiet, near windless period, changed to times of overcast and increasing wind, making the quite open nature an uncomfortable place - winter on its way at last?

Marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus f

October 13th 2019. The little deer family are back in the garden. In the early morning, Romey spotted the three of them from the kitchen window and I was able to watch them quite near. As usual, their first concern was the rose bed. They started in bad light coming down from the orchard. The first thirty or so pictures were quite useless, but the light improved gradually and I was able to salvage a few. They seemed quite unconcerned even though the kitchen light was on and they quite obviously stared in occasionally. They must have stayed for at least half an hour, vanishing periodically but then reappearing. They all seemed a little tatty, not the usual dapper creatures, but they were in the middle of the moult, the change from the red of summer to the beige winter coat. We do hope they continue these morning visits. It is such a privilege to see them - and so close.

Roe deer Capreolus capreolus

Roe deer Capreolus capreolus

Roe deer Capreolus capreolus

Roe deer Capreolus capreolus

Roe deer Capreolus capreolus

Roe deer Capreolus capreolus

October 4th 2019. I met Chris H. at Swell Wood again this morning.It was a pleasant sunny morning outside but once again less so inside the wood. There was a definite need for keeping the lens wide open and at ISO 3200. We settlled in at the hide, still feeling strange to look out through a completely open front, in full sight of the wildlife. At first there was nothing, even when we primed the area with a few scatterings of bird seed, but gradually the usual suspects gathered. We had lovely views of Nuthatches; Great, Blue and Marsh tits; as well as others.

Nuthatch Sitta europaea

Nuthatch Sitta europaea

Marsh tit Parus palustris

Marsh tit Parus palustris

Great tit Parus major

Blue tit Parus caeruleus

Coal tit Parus ater

Coal tit Parus ater

Wren Troglodytes troglodytes, with rat-tailed maggot

Wren Troglodytes troglodytes

Robin Erithacus rubecula

As usual, there were several Grey squirrels in attendance, searching all the nooks and crannies, pushing off the little birds - though they were back as soon as the squirrels had finished. It was all most enjoyable. Now we are wondering what it will be like when the leaves are all dispersed?

 

Grey squirrel Sciurus carolinensis

October 3rd 2019. As I walked out of the front door a flash of dark caught my eye, a tiny shrew running in front of me. It stopped by a collection of leaves and debris, burying itself among the, It did not appear to worry about my presence, so I whipped indoors, collected a camera and the results are seen below. The little creature worked at a pace, dashing in and out and under continually. They are said to have very short life, this was well illustrated by the speed of movement. As far as it is concerned it must live a normal full life (if it does not get eaten, though they are said to be unattrative to predators), but in our eyes confined to a matter of weeks.They really are minute. According to my reference book, between 4 and 6.4mm without the tail.

Pygmy shrew Sorex minutus

Pygmy shrew Sorex minutus

Pygmy shrew Sorex minutus

Pygmy shrew Sorex minutus

Pygmy shrew Sorex minutus

Pygmy shrew Sorex minutus

October 1st 2019. After looking at a couple of Somerset Arts Week locations, and buying a couple of beautiful garden sculptures made from scrap metal, Ro and I dropped in at Catcott Lows to see what was going on. The cattle egrets Bubulcus ibis were all clustered round a small herd of bullocks way over to the left. We stayed on, hoping they would wander over our way but if anything they strayed further away. But instead, a fine Great white egret flew in and landed fairly close-by, then wended its way across the front and even lifted off and flew a few wingbeats to one of the little islands on the pond.

Great white egret Egretta alba

Great white egret Egretta alba

 Great white egret Egretta alba

Great white egret Egretta alba

Great white egret Egretta alba

Great white egret Egretta alba



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