The magical movements and acrobatics of a million roosting Starlings. Bitterns. Huge congregations of wintering wildfowl, Lapwings and Golden Plovers. Birds of prey; amongst them the possibility of Barn Owls, Marsh and Hen Harriers, Peregrine and for the very fortunate Merlin. These are just some of the possible highlights on offer at this special expanse of seasonally inundated lowlands that spans 650 square kilometres between the Quantock and Mendip Hills. This ancient habitat, that until recently had fallen victim to drainage and other modern farming demands, has now been restored to much of its former glory by the RSPB and other conservation bodies. It is a heartening modern-day conservation 'success story'!
- Enjoy the aerial artistry of a million-strong Starlings as they gather at dusk prior to roosting
- Bitterns, a heronry, & Great White Egret now regular.
- Birds of prey ... & large concentrations of wintering wildfowl & waders
- A 3-star hotel, with award-winning restaurant, beside the cathedral in the historic market town of Wells
- Led by expert naturalist guides
Breakfasts and 3-course evening meals included in the price.
A comfortable 3-star hotel, with an award-winning restaurant, in the historic market town of Wells; all rooms have private facilities.
Great Bittern (Paul Marshall)
Day 2/3 Somerset Levels; Avalon Marshes; King's Sedgemoor; West Sedgemoor.
The Somerset Levels, a magical expanse of seasonally inundated lowlands that spans 650 square kilometres between the Quantock and Mendip Hills, is a conservation ‘success story’! An ancient habitat that, until recently, had fallen victim to drainage and other modern farming demands, has now been restored to much of its former glory by the RSPB and other conservation bodies. Indeed the area supports such a rich variety of plant and birdlife that it is under consideration for status as a World Heritage Site.
Our visit is timed to coincide with the massive flocks of wildfowl that gather here during the winter, when internationally important numbers of Wigeon, Gadwall, Teal, Pintail and Shoveler are present. Another species found here in vast flocks is the Starling, made famous in recent years by BBC coverage. A dusk outing to watch hundreds of thousands of birds swirling over their roost sites makes for breathtaking viewing. The other star attraction of the area is the Bittern. Habitat creation has, in recent years, attracted several breeding pairs, and in winter these are joined by migrants, giving us a good chance of seeing one standing among the reeds or flying across the vast reedbeds.
There are small numbers of wintering raptors such as Short-eared Owl, Merlin, Peregrine, Marsh Harrier and Hen Harrier, and in recent winters it has been possible to watch Great White Egret alongside Little Egret with regularity. This superb bird bred in the UK for the first time in 2012 and chose the Somerset levels in which to do so, such is the extent and quality of the habitat. Another bird which we will hope to encounter is the Common Crane which has been re-introduced here as part of the Great Crane Project. It can be unpredictable as to their whereabouts but many have been lucky.
Otters do occur on the Somerset Levels, though few are lucky enough to see them on such a short visit.
There is a very special quality to the landscape and wildlife of the Somerset Levels, and there are wonderful views across Glastonbury Tor, Deer Leap and Wookey. Indeed a visit here in winter can offer a host of rewards, so please do join us on this ever-popular Naturetrek short break!
The number of reserves covered was good and the selection of habitats - also the knowledge of the two leaders - Dave and David, was excellent - they encouraged us to ask questions freely. They were very organised and everything ran smoothly. I enjoyed the massive numbers of starlings we saw - an incredible sight and sound, and the hunting peregrine. The hotel and food were also excellent.
Miss G. L
I enjoyed the great variety with the combination of cultural and wildlife interest. As a walking holiday this was ideal for me, with regular stops to observe our surroundings. One of the highlights was the hospitality shown by the mountain people. The food produced under such primitive conditions was fantastic.
Both guides - Ed and Charles - were excellent and, as well as having excellent knowledge of the area and its wildlife, had a real passion for the area and the birds. Their hard work in ensuring the success of the trip is much appreciated.
Mr & Mrs W.
This short holiday was made particularly enjoyable - and satisfying from the point of view of seeing wildlife - by the 2 leaders, Dave and Mike. As not particularly experienced birdwatchers, we were never intimidated by them, but their levels of local knowledge were such that we came away from the holiday feeling we had learnt a great deal from them.
Both leaders were very good, helpful and willing to help you identify birds. The accommodation was also excellent.
Thank you to whoever thought of this holiday and then put it together! We have driven past or through it for 20 years and never explored it!