The Avalon Marshes situated at the foot of Glastonbury Tor and stretching westwards towards the sea, are witness to one of the country’s most exciting wildlife projects: a mosaic of new wetland habitats including over 2,500 hectares of reed-bed, wet scrub, open water, grassland and woodland.
Created out of former peat workings, it gives refuge to European Otters, Water Voles, Western Barn Owls and the Eurasian Bittern, although the main spectacle here is the sight of tens of thousands of Common Starlings wheeling through the sky.
Tour Leader: Steve Grimwade
Maximum Group Size: 7
Travel from Essex to Somerset stopping at Chew Valley Lake. Chew attracts a variety of winter wildfowl including Common Pochard, Great Crested Grebe, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, Eurasian Teal, Goosander and Smew in nationally important numbers and the lake is also a stronghold for wintering Eurasian Wigeon and Common Goldeneye. Rare wildfowl are a frequent occurrence with Green-winged Teal, Lesser Scaup, Blue-winged Teal, Ferruginous and Ring-necked Ducks noted regularly.
We arrive at our hotel late afternoon and settle in before our evening meal.
Days 2 – 3
During the next few days we will visit Shapwick Heath and Ham Wall. These two superb reserves (run by Natural England and the RSPB respectively) are the centrepiece of the Avalon Marshes project, which has created new and extensive wetlands out of old peat diggings. The mosaic of reed-beds, open water, scrub and damp woodland hold a wide variety of wintering species.
Wildfowl are present in good numbers and flocks of Black-tailed Godwit can be seen on the scrapes at Meare Heath (part of Shapwick Heath reserve). In the last few winters, Western Cattle Egret, Great Egret and Glossy Ibis have wintered, so fingers crossed.
Our main target and the highlight of the tour is the huge Common Starling roost, where up to a million Starlings wheel across the sky before roosting in the vast reed-beds. The Common Starlings attract the unwanted attention of raptors such as Peregrine Falcon, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Merlin and Common Kestrel as they swoop through the flocks.
It’s also a great place to see Eurasian Bittern, Hen & Western Marsh Harriers and European Otter.
We will also spend time at Catcott Lows, a reserve which is superb for wintering ducks. The hides offer views across a flooded area of fields which can hold large flocks of wildfowl. Western Marsh Harrier and Peregrine Falcon regularly hunt over the area and another hide close-by can yield small flocks of Lesser Redpoll and Eurasian Siskin as well as Western Barn Owl.
We will spend the morning at RSPB’s Greylake reserve, once a series of carrot fields with little to offer the nature lover, but now transformed into a wetland teeming with wildlife. With luck, Hen Harrier, Northern Raven and Common Buzzard will be seen overhead and large numbers of Northern Pintail, Eurasian Wigeon, Eurasian Teal and Mallard frequent the wetlands.
We will leave early afternoon for our journey home after what is sure to have been a great weekend!
Full board accommodation for 3 nights
All ground transport
Full guiding throughout
Drinks and items of a personal nature
Lunch on Day 1
Relaxed, one to two miles walking per day
Expect between 100 and 115 species
Tour Price: £790
Single Supplement: £90