Coinciding with the height of summer, this 4-day break to the southern English county of Somerset has something for everyone. We will visit the extensive wetlands of the famed Somerset Levels for a wide variety of marshland birds, explore the nearby hillsides for their butterflies and flora, and visit chalk grasslands rich in flowers, including the celebrated Cheddar Pink. We will head to the Mendip Hills for a bat walk, enjoy moth-trapping sessions in the garden of our picturesque accommodation at Brent Knoll and we will generally keep a look-out for a range of specialities, from Bee Orchids to Bitterns and from Marbled White to White Rock-rose. It promises to be a special short break of English natural history perambulation!
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Présente le mardi et vendredi toute la journée
26th Jun 2020 - 29th Jun 3 2020 - 574€
25th Jun 2021 - 28th Jun 2021 - 574€
3rd Jul 2021 - 6th Jul 2021 - 574€
Please note that the itinerary below offers our planned programme of excursions. However, adverse weather & other local considerations can necessitate some re-ordering of the programme during the course of the tour, though this will always be done to maximise best use of the time and weather conditions available.
Arrive Brent Knoll
Your tour leader(s) will meet you in the bar & lounge area of our lovely rural hotel late afternoon where we will enjoy a drink and an introductory talk outlining the programme for the next couple of days, and some of the wildlife we will hope to see, before enjoying our first meal together. After dinner we will head out into the lovely hotel gardens to set the moth trap, taking the bat detector with us to detect any species which may be feeding in the darkness overhead.
Quantock Hills and Steart Marshes
This morning there is the opportunity to search through the moth trap before breakfast. After a hearty and delicious breakfast we shall head to the wonderful Quantock Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Here we shall search the heathland and woodland habitats for Pied Flycatcher, Wood Warbler, Redstart, as well as studying the botanical and invertebrate life here. The Quantock Hills offer scenic beauty and upland nature, as well as interesting geology.
After a lovely pub lunch, we will head to Steart Marshes, the biggest new coastal wetland in Britain with the tidal area alone being nearly 3km long and over 1km wide. Here we will search the brackish and freshwater habitats for Avocet, Little Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Shelduck and hirundines. Odonata may include the amazing duo of Black-tailed Skimmer and Emperor, and plants we hope to find include Flowering Rush and Purple Loosestrife.
Avalon Marshes & Polden Hills
Willow trees and the now converted flooded peat-diggings are characteristic of the landscape here, and the resulting wetland pools and reedbeds provide superb habitat for wildfowl, waders, and herons. There are tracks running alongside many of these habitats, and there should be plenty of bird activity as we stop at a scrape, viewing point or a lakeside hide. Indeed, spring is an excellent time for birdlife on the Somerset Levels and our visit in June is timed to coincide with the breeding season. The number and variety of passage waders depends on water levels, but we can expect small flocks of waders, and we may see migrating summer plumaged Black-tailed Godwits, as well as a few Ruff and Little Ringed Plover among other commoner species such as Lapwings and Redshank.
June is also one of the best times to watch one of the area’s special birds, the Hobby. These exquisite falcons congregate over certain lakes to take advantage of the abundance of prey – in particular the vast numbers of dragonflies which are emerging at this time of year – and it is possible to see over 40 in the air together. It is worth keeping a careful eye out for Bitterns – their cryptic plumage never makes them easy to see but our chances are good as they make frequent feeding flights across reedbeds at this time of year. The large winter congregations of wildfowl which assemble in the lakes and pools have gone by spring, but we can hope to find Garganey among Mallard and Gadwall. Little and Great Egrets can be seen throughout the year with Cattle Egret also possible now, and Marsh Harriers are often seen patrolling the reedbeds and marshes for prey. As we bird the levels and moors we’ll be constantly on the alert for the explosive call of the Cetti’s Warbler, one of the most distinctive and easily recognisable bird songs of the Avalon Marshes and we will listen out for the characteristic ‘squealing’ of Water Rail as well as Cuckoos, which are still doing well here. We can expect up to 10 species of warbler to be present by mid to late June including Reed and Sedge Warbler, Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler, and there will be a chance for those interested in learning some bird song to practice their identification skills – either during the day or as an optional dawn chorus walk.
After a hearty pub lunch we head to the Polden Hills which are bestowed with a richness of natural beauty. In June, a wealth of wildflowers and wildlife will be awaiting us, including the beautiful and fascinating Large Blue butterfly.
In the evening we will make a visit to the Mendip Hills, where we hope to detect Lesser and Greater Horseshoe bats, both species are considered by The Bat Conservation Trust to be endangered. The Mendip Hills support significant populations of both species. Greater Horseshoe bats are now considered to be restricted to less than 20 roosts in the whole of the UK. Barbastelle bats will also be possible here.
Today we head to the Mendip Hills and Cheddar Gorge. Cheddar Gorge is a significant site of ecological importance and is classified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) with an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The mosaic of habitats here include calcareous grassland, cliffs, caves and woodland, supports flora and fauna of both UK and European significance. We will enjoy the site tremendously and will hope to find such key species as Peregrine Falcon, the Cheddar Pink, Roe deer, Orchids and, if the weather is suitable, basking Common Lizard, Adder and Grass Snake.
We will finish our Somerset tour in the late afternoon, in time to arrive back to our hotel in Brent Knoll in the early evening at around 1700. An extra night can be booked at the hotel and please let the Naturetrek office know if you would like this and we shall get back to you to confirm availability and with a cost for Bed & Breakfast or including Dinner too.