all pictures © robin williams
wildlife sites in Somerset
The 'old' County of Somerset holds some of the most diverse habitats in the south of England. The Moors and Levels form a great wetland inlet running from the Bristol Channel as far as Langport. These days, the waters are kept from flooding by an elaborate system of drains, rhynes and ditches connected to sluices at the seaward end. The area has its own special wildlife and flora. North and east of the Levels, Mendip, although only 1000' high, rises straight up from near sea-level in a huge limestone lump - which has a sandstone cap, giving some acid conditions.
We are fortunate that Somerset is greatly varied in its habitats, from the near-neutral Levels to the acidic Quantock hills and largely alkaline Mendip. Within close reach of the moors are numbers of wildlife reserves. Here are some of my favourites.
Catcott Lows, ST400 413. The car-park is right by the main hide, which overlooks a great area of shallowly-flooded rough pasture in winter. It holds large numbers of duck including Teal Anas crecca, Shoveler Anas clypeata and Pintail Anas acuta, while Spoonbills Platalea leucorodia, Whooper swans Cygnus cygnus, Garganey Anas querquedula, Glossy ibis Plegadis falcinellus, Peregines Falco peregrinus and Marsh harriers Circus aeruginosus are also found. It is known for its particularly large numbers of Cattle egrets Bubulcus ibis in summer and Wigeon Anas penelope in winter.
Great Breach Wood, ST508 325. Public entry is through private woodlands. Light woodland leads to flowery slopes on the edge of the scarp; notable for its butterflies Lepidoptera, bumblebees Bombus spp., ants Formicidae and wild flowers.
Greylake, ST400 347: Entry to the hide is along a boardwalk through reed-beds. There are large numbers of ducks throughout the winter, with attendant predators – harriers Circus spp., Peregrines, Merlins Falco columbarius and buzzards Buteo buteo.
Ham Wall NNR, ST45 39. A large reserve based around open water and large reed-beds, with Otters Lutra lutra, wildfowl, Hobbys Falco subbuteo and many others. Bitterns Botaurus stellaris and Great white egrets Egretta alba breed here, as well as Marsh harriers and other rarities.
Shapwick Heath NNR, ST44 39. Many pairs of Bitterns breed here and sightings are frequent. Anything might turn, up from Bearded tits Panurus biarmicus to Night herons Nycticorax nycticorax and Otters.
Westhay Moor NNR, ST457 437. It holds large numbers of wildfowl, otters, egrets, Bearded tits and predators such as harriers and Hobbies, as well as dragonflies Odonata.
Waldegrave pool & Stockhill, ST548 515. The pool is famous for its dragonflies, sometimes in numbers; Stockhill, opposite, has fine walks through mature conifer woods, with many wild flower species, fungi and a wide span of insects, as well as unusual birds, such as Long-eared owls Asio otus, Common crossbills Loxia curvirostra, Dartford warblers Sylvia undata and Nightjars Caprimulgus europaeus.
Attribution: Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right
Original Map taken online from 'Wikipedia', with thanks