The Somerset Levels are indeed flat. It has taken some time to get used to the long fields echoing into the distance, each one mirrored and devoid of landmarks. Every lane looks like the next, edged by rhines of thick black water, dark ditches and whips of bulrushes. Catcott Complex Nature Reserve is a mosaic of these elements, a mix of marsh and heath with a novelty spot of woodland. Now that the weather has warmed, Sunday strolls are a regular event and I enjoy the opportunity to stretch my mind as well as my legs and dabble in a little bird spotting.
I’m a complete novice. I’m also battling a few issues with my eyes, I try not to let that deter me or dampen my enthusiasm. Today I must have walked for an hour without spotting anything of any great interest. A swan or two, beautiful but very common here. Lots of families with dogs and kids, hollering, barking and general hullaballoo.
Then I caught sight of a small, blush coloured bird. Each tree I passed would flitter with one, two or even six of these. Try as I might, I could not get a clear photo, every focus pull was met with blank space and a flutter to the next tree. Turn by turn, these tiny creatures flicked ahead of me then waited for me to catch up before flying away again, teasing me down the track.
I gave up and reached the marsh, admired the collected trip of wigeon and a random egret. Other birders arrived, armed with camera lenses the size of my leg. I dont have a problem admitting my novice status and I’ve always found other birders very keen to help and expand my knowledge, it pays to ask questions and chat. I described my little feathered friend, rosé coloured and quick and the experts nodded in agreement, “That’ll be the long-tailed tit. Never sits still”. On my way back down the track I waited patiently and caught sight of one and managed a smudgy snap in amongst the hedgerow. It looks stubby, the lengthy tail is hidden, but now at least I know what it is.
I relaxed, pleased with my tiny snap. During that brief moment of smugness, a bird swooped past, so close, it almost touched my arm. Brown and white with a curved beak, it landed at eye level on the tree next to me and slowly crawled along the bark. A treecreeper. I managed to snap a few photos of this brazen bird before it disappeared around the trunk.
A good day on the Levels.