Sunday, 29 January 2012

The unpredictable nature of nature

YOU never can predict just what you are going to see when you don the boots and trek out into the countryside.  We (Steve and I) had a few targets, but somehow the show that nature puts on is always unpredictable, often surprising, and usually wonderful.

The Somerset Levels were clear and cold yesterday.  We visited a number of reserves, including Greylake, Ham Wall and Shapwick Heath.  At the first of these we were lucky enough to watch a very confiding water-rail.  These birds are normally utterly elusive, with only their spine-chilling call giving them away or a snatched view of lurking shadow.  However at Greylake this individual was very confiding.

The first image below shows you what a GOOD view of a water-rail is normally like.

 But we were luckier than that... exhibitionist!

A few snipe were showing...but generally these birds were resting. Four Roe deer crossed the reserve, quieting grazing.

The reeds of Greylake

Out next stop was CatCott Lows, but before we had even reached there we were given a full fly past by a large flock of lapwings and starlings.  At Greylake there had also been a huge flock of lapwings which surpassed anything I have ever seen - its stretched right across the horizon.

The Lows supported the usual ducks.  Here a Shoveller and a Wigeon show off their beautiful plumage:

Finally onto Ham Wall for the "starlings show".

The hoards of people that now go to see this event is quite astonishing.  The carnage afterwards was hilarious, as three tractors all with trailers, decided to try to drive down the narrow road with two coming one way and one the other way, and with the road full of cars parked on one side.

There was a stalemate for ages, until some careful and complex manoeuvres that even Garry Kasparov would have been proud of, let everyone move.

Anyway...the starlings did not quite show up as predicted and so 150 or so onlookers were seen marching down a the track to where the birds were.  As it was a calm night they tended to drift in in large flocks.  The buzzard wheeling amongst them did not seem to make much of an impression on them either.  Even so, the sight was as impressive and wonderful as ever.

First we waited for the sunset.

Then the birds arrived and just kept on coming, streaming over our heads.  Its always wise to keep your mouth closed when looking up at so many birds!

Buzzard with starlings
They poured into the reeds

 As the light faded a few stragglers rushed to join their friends.

Ironically we did not see the huge, wielding flock that we hoped from this vantage point, but later as we were waiting at the car the starlings could be seen on another part of the reserve near us in a huge wave passing over the reed in the darkness.

All together a wonderful day.

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