Off early in good weather, but with it still carrying a noticeable chill. A necessary, short detour into a suburb of Taunton finally produced the species which had eluded both of us all winter. Yes, we finally caught up with Waxwing (2013,174) !!! This group of around fifty was still sitting in a large shrub within an enclosed and sheltered garden. The sunlight gleamed and shone through their crests, making them almost iridescent. A great sight! As we had much to complete in the day, and locals departing for work clearly wondered what we were staring at over their fences, we set off on the next leg of our return journey.
This time we managed to find the RSPB Ham Wall Reserve and Shapwick Heath NNR Reserve without too much difficulty. It was both cloudier and colder now, but fine. As we walked into the RSPB Ham Wall Reserve, with a Bittern booming in the background and a Kingfisher shooting off down one of the drainage channels, Cetti's Warblers sang, Water Rails called, but otherwise spring seemed suddenly to have lost its warmth again as we moved along the main path, in fact some thin ice still persisted over one of the nearby lagoons. A look through a good selection of duck was suddenly supplemented by a view of a flying Bittern emerging from the reeds and, then, just as quickly, disappearing. Moving further along the track we joined a small group of people and waited patiently until, suddenly, a fast moving shape moved along a channel amidst the reeds, called, but then managed to become obscured again. Again, just as quickly, it emerged and remained in open water for a few minutes. Pied-billed grebe ( 2013,175).....what a gem. Every feature clear, its sculpted, chunky outline in full profile and the heavy, thick pied bill in clear view. Worth the wait and the chill!!
Walking in the opposite direction we entered the Shapwick Heath Reserve along the main footpath. Matthew walked quite a distance further than myself but, in essence, we saw virtually the same species, which included a couple of Marsh Harriers, Sparrowhawk, Little Egret, a variety of duck, but little else! Still a reserve to which I would return to repeatedly.
Following up on reports we moved to the nearby Catcott Lows Wetland Reserve, which is administered by the Somerset Wildlife Trust. It's an absolute gem, with two hides from which close views of duck and waders can be gained. One to be visited in future without a doubt! In addition to the Wigeon , Mallard, Teal and Mute Swans present we could see in the distance a tantalising number of white birds, all of which, at least seven of them, proved to be Little Egrets !! And then a larger, dark legged, curly necked individual rose in flight proving to be the Great White Egret (2013,176 ) we had come to see. Having sat semi-frozen for quite a time this was the signal to set off home in earnest, which we did, managing to reach Sheffield in the late afternoon. The snow hadn't gone entirely in several places and certainly conditions were no worse, but no better, than in the extreme south! So ended a productive, albeit chilly, birding trip which had provided equally as many unique and worthwhile experiences as that in 2012.
As a sequel to our arctic jaunt we went to a family and friends party in the evening to celebrate Rose's Mum's birthday (Happy Birthday, Jane! ) at an Indian restaurant. Equilibrium, body temperature and general well being is now in balance!