A local diary

A journal from the Somerset moors & West Country

by Robin Williams

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Somerset

The county holds some of the most diverse habitats in the south of England. The flat Moors and Levels form a great wetland inlet running from the Bristol Channel as far as Langport. These days, the waters are kept from inundating the land by an elaborate system of drains, rhynes and ditches all connected to great sluices at the seaward end. This area has its own special wildlife and flora. Further west the beautiful Quantock hills and Brendons have an entirely different set of upland species and lead on to the great open spaces of Exmoor with its bilberries, purple heather and red deer. North and east of the Levels, Mendip, although only 1000' high, rises straight up from the sea-level surrounds in a huge limestone lump - though it also has a sandstone cap giving some acid conditions. Then there are the mysterious and wild Blackdown Hills to the south and west of Taunton, where completely different wildlife and flora exist. This all makes for a wonderful area to explore and enjoy. This diary represents the unfolding of events, as they strike me in my everyday life.

Local wildlife reserves

some favourite places

We are fortunate, in that Somerset is greatly varied in its habitats, from the near-neutral Levels to the acidic Quantock hills and largely alkaline Mendip; leading to great variety in its wildlife. Within close reach of our part of the moors are numbers of wildlife reserves, ranging from small local ones to National Nature Reserves (NNR).  Some of those I particularly enjoy visiting, and which feature in the diary, include:

Catcott Lows, ST400 413. The car-park is right by the main hide, which overlooks a great area of shallowly-flooded rough pasture in the winter. It holds large numbers of duck including Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler and Pintail, while Spoonbills, Whooper swans, Garganey and Glossy ibis are sometimes seen in the spring.

Great Breach Wood, ST508 325. Entry is through private woodlands, which also gives access to neighbouring reserves on the Polden ridge. Light woodland leads to flowery slopes on the edge of the scarp; notable for its butterflies and wild flowers.

Greylake, ST400 347: Entry to the hide is along a boardwalk through reed-beds and water. There are large numbers of ducks throughout the winter, with attendant predators – harriers, peregrines and buzzards.

Ham Wall NNR, ST45 39. A very large reserve based around open water and large reed-beds with Otters, wildfowl, Hobbys and many others. Bitterns and Great white egrets breed there, as well as harriers and other rarities.

Shapwick Heath NNR,  ST44 39. Many pairs of Bitterns breed here and summer sightings are frequent. Anything might turn, up from Bearded tits to Pied-billed grebes and Otters.

Westhay Moor NNR, ST457 437. It holds large numbers of wildfowl, otters, egrets and many predators such as harriers and Hobbys, as well as dragonflies.

Waldegrave pool & Stockhill, ST548 515. The pool is famous for its dragonflies, sometimes in huge numbers; Stockhill has fine walks through predominantly conifer woods, with many wild flower species,  fungi and a wide span of insects, as well as some unusual birds at times, such as Long-eared owls, Crossbills and Nightjars.

 

Map showing approximate locations of these reserves

+ marks the entrances

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Attribution: Contains Ordnance Survey data                                                                     © Crown copyright and database right

Original Map taken online from 'Wikipedia', with thanks

 

 

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Peregrines, Wild geese & Avocets bird-watching & natural history in the 1940s & 50s


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Local wildlife reserves
Some favourites
We are very fortunate that Somerset is greatly varied in its habitats, from near-neutral Levels to the acid Quantock hills and mainly alkaline Mendip; leading to great variety in its wildlife. Within close reach of our part of the moors are numbers of wildlife reserves, ranging from small local ones to National Nature Reserves (NNR).  Some of those I particularly enjoy visiting, and which feature in the diary, include:
Catcott Lows ST400 413. The car-park is right by the main hide, which overlooks a great area of shallowly-flooded rough pasture in the winter. It holds large numbers of duck including Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler and Pintail, while Spoonbills, Whooper swans, Garganey and Glossy ibis are sometimes seen in the spring.
Greylake ST400 347: Entry to the hide is along a boardwalk through reed-beds and water. There are large numbers of ducks throughout the winter, with attendant predators – harriers, peregrines and buzzards.
Westhay Moor National Nature Reserve ST457 437. It holds large numbers of wildfowl, otters, egrets and many predators such as harriers and Hobbys, as well as dragonflies.
Ham Wall NNR ST45 39. A very large reserve based around open water and large reed-beds with Otters, wildfowl, Hobbys and many others. Bitterns and Great white egrets breed there, as well as harriers and other rarities.
Shapwick Heath NNR ST44 39. Many pairs of Bitterns breed here and summer sightings are frequent. Anything might turn, up from Bearded tits to Pied-billed grebes and Otters.
Waldegrave Pool and Stockhill ST548 515. The pool is famous for its dragonflies, sometimes in huge numbers; Stockhill has fine walks through predominantly conifer woods, with many wild flower species,  fungi and a wide span of insects, as well as some unusual birds at times, such as Long-eared owls, Crossbills and Nightjars.       
Great Breach Wood ST508 325. Entry is through private woodlands, which also gives access to neighbouring reserves on the Polden ridge. Light woodland leads to flowery slopes on the edge of the scarp; notable for its butterflies and wild flowers.


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