Open University Exploring Nature Walk

Somerset Levels, April 1st 2013

Burrow Bridge to Stathe Bridge

Getting out of our warm cars at Burrow Mump was a bit of a shock as we realised how cold it was. Then having to walk right past the pub that we were going to have lunch in was almost too much to bear. But we carried on resolutely, heads into the wind, and walked along the Parrett Trail towards Aller Moor.

In spite of the arctic conditions, or in some cases because of them, there were plenty of birds to see. Flocks of fieldfares and redwings were still here, waiting for the weather to warm up before flying north. Lapwings were feeding in the marshy areas and a few curlew were seen flying over and heard calling in the distance. The river itself held a few duck, mostly mallard and teal with a single drake wigeon. A number of buzzards were sat around in the cold wind, one of which was feeding on worms in a muddy field. One of them, or more likely a fox, had left a pile of duck feathers on the bank. We think they were teal, but I have uploaded this photo onto iSpot for confirmation.

Reaching Stathe Bridge the sky brightened a little and the wind didn't feel so cold. From here we could see across the levels towards Aller Moor, a site that we knew had produced frequent crane sightings all year. I was still setting my telescope up when one of our party started jumping up and down making excited little noises. We had found our cranes.

Shortly after finding them the flock flew off a short distance towards the river. We could now approach a little closer and as we did so we started to hear their trumpeting calls. Through the telescope we could see them dancing around each other in their courtship ritual.

After a while they calmed down and started feeding in earnest. In the video above you can see the automated feeder and also one crane that never moves - the wooden decoy!


Little Egret
Grey Heron
Common Crane
Mute Swan
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Song Thrush
Meadow Pipit
Pied Wagtail
Yellow Wagtail


Roe Deer

Ham Wall

After a splendid lunch at the King Alfred, Burrow Bridge we drove north to the famous RSPB reserve at Ham Wall, near Glastonbury. At the first viewing platform an RSPB volunteer told us that there had been plenty of bittern sightings that day, just as one flew up from the reeds in front of us!

Several of these large shells were found on the grassy paths, all had been broken open by some sort of predator, a heron perhaps. They could be swan mussels, but I'm not sure so I've loaded the photo onto iSpot to make sure.

The second viewing platform had no helpful RSPB volunteer but the host of telescopes pointing in one direction made me feel that we wouldn't need to ask where to look. Swimming through the reeds just in front of us was the rarest bird of the day - an adult pied-billed grebe all the way from the USA!

After this we decided we had just as well go home - we had seen everything there was to see anyway! So we did, but on the way back we found this adult male marsh harrier.


Great Crested Grebe
Little Grebe
Pied-billed Grebe
Grey Heron
Mute Swan
Tufted Duck
Marsh Harrier
Great Black-backed Gull
Sand Martin
Long-tailed Tit
Great Tit
Blue Tit
Cetti's Warbler (heard)

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