It has been a good few months since I visited Shapwick Nature Reserve, I find it to be very quiet in the winter. Yesterday, however, I felt moved to check it out. The first surprise was this young Grey Heron just resting on the far side of the canal, just across the water from the main footpath. It seemed entirely unconcerned at the passage of the human visitors, so I stopped and took a few shots. It is not often that you have the privilege of getting so close to a wild bird.
I followed the newly surfaced track through the woods to Noah's Hide. Some pleasant company in the form of Alan Ashman, and a lake full of ducks, kept me happy for a while, but I had a desire to go back across the bridge to Meare Heath Hide to see if the Marsh Harriers were flying over the reed beds. I made it to the hide and settled myself down and waited. There were a few distant glimpses, but in the back of my mind was the growing conviction that I should be waiting somewhere else - Westhay, where I have had some recent success with these birds. So off I shortly went! You really never know what it the best thing to do, wait or move.
My chosen spot at Westhay was even more empty of bird life than the hide I had just left at Shapwick, but soon a Mute Swan floated into view, shortly followed by a Cygnet. For some reason they both adopted the same amusing posture.
A commotion in the reed bed had me on the alert for a Moorhen. I love to try to catch these birds as they run across the water surface. It is a bit early in the year for too much of that sort of thing, but this one eventually came clattering out and made a low pass. Here are two shots of it (two because I cannot decide which I like best!)
Anyway, as always, it was the Marsh Harriers I was hoping for. Sadly, even though I kept a look out for two hours, there were only the most fleeting glimpses. I had all but given up, when I saw a female perch in a distant tree top. It stayed there for about ten minutes, but then glided purposefully towards a patch in the reed bed where, unbeknown to me, the male had been resting. He must have dropped off to sleep because, when disturbed by the arriving female, he sprang into the air in alarm and they both circled around for a while. I took a few very distant shots and it was not until I looked at them closely that I saw that the female had some prey in her talons. On even closer inspection it proved to be a Snipe. Can you make it out in these rather fuzzy shots?
Food passing is a courtship behaviour in Marsh Harriers, so I guess I must have been witnessing the start of the spring blood rush! Same goes for these mating Mallards.
So I hope that you are enjoying these regular news items from the Somerset Levels. Please do follow me, share with your friends and on your circles, and visit my website www.johncrabb.co.uk for loads more photos.