Back in late September I visited the showcase Somerset Wildlife Trust nature reserve of Westhay Moor.
Welcome to Westhay Moor
It has been a long time since I properly visited this reserve. Back in the day, before they moved to Ham Wall this was where I came to watch the huge flocks of starlings (sadly much larger flocks than we get anywhere today).
I took that picture nearly 15 years ago from a view point not far from the car park. There was only 2 other people watching the starlings that day – how things have changed!
Back to present day, and thankfully on a much warmer day, I returned to Westhay, to discover thousands of common darter dragonflies. In the dragonfly range these fit between the little blue match sticks and the big emperor and hawker models. Perhaps they are often a bit over looked.
The short board walk near the car park was a great place to begin my visit. There were loads of darters resting on the hand rails. After taking a few pictures I realised that most of the males were on the right-hand rail while most of the females were on the left-hand rail. Not sure why this was the case but this is a common pattern seen else where, such as night clubs when I was younger.
If there was a bit of bare wood there was a darter sitting on it.
You know the weather is good when the darters stand like this below. They turn their head away from the sun, and lift their tail pointing it directly at the sun. This exposes the smallest possible surface area to the the sun. So helping to keep a bit cooler.
Dagg’s Lane Drove
Leading from the car park is the very long and very straight Dagg’s Land Drove. This picture taken just a couple of days before the small path on the left was given a complete new face lift.
A short walk up the drove is the Island Hide. Of course the sign to the hide had a darter on it.
I really like the walk way to the hide over the water. It is covered in chicken wire and it is not easy to walk quietly along it. But it is a great place to look out for those bigger dragonflies.
I never made it to the hide, instead a pair of migrant hawkers were too much of a distraction.
Taking these pictures it felt like I was back in summer.
Turning back I by passed the grand Viridor Hide as it sounded a bit busy inside. Instead I headed off to the much smaller Tower Hide. The sunny side of the track was a good place to look for darters.
The view from the hide was beautiful.
A Mire to Admire
On finishing the Tower Hide loop I went on into the mire. This raised bog is intriguing. When you think of Westhay most people probably think of bird hides, reed beds and water. But it is such a rare habitat in southern England that you have to explore it.
Having left the hawkers behind, and as the sky turned dark I was reminded that it was in fact September.
Those clouds quickly moved on without a down pour.
At the far end of of the mire is a big old oak tree. I decided to have some fun with my phone. I put it on the ground to take some pictures looking upwards – a worms eye’s view. You can see the grass all around the edges of the picture.
This part on the reserve is a mix of trees and small shaded ponds.
This red admiral found a sunny location.
While I was in the wood the weather caught up with me as it started to rain. I found a old leaf hanging on a single thread of silk from a spider’s web. It was spinning and dancing in the breeze. I took the opportunity to record a short movie using my new camera.
This camera has two memory card slots. I had set it up to write images to both cards. Later when I got home I copied one of the cards to my computer, then deleted the contents off both cards. It was only then that I realised that movies were only being recorded to one card – obviously the one I did not copy to the computer.
So instead I have this still image of a similar leaf in another spider web.
I made the failed movie to fill some time while sheltering from the rain. The leaf was handing on the kissing gate that lead back to the mire. As the sun came out a rainbow appeared.
I could almost get the whole thing in one picture. I should have done a panorama, but my wife is the pano expert and she was not with me today.
As the rainbow was disappearing it looked like it was being washed away by the rain.
In the centre of the reserve is a wooden sculpture of a group of starlings. I like this sculpture and it is good to see that most of it is still there after all these years. Of course the darters had to rest on it.
The reserve has two long parallel droves, they are linked by a grass track. Darters were everywhere along this track. They took a fancy to my head on which they regularly landed. At one point I counted 6 darters on me – and those were the ones I could see.
The darters liked the hogweed.
… and the burdock.
Soon I reached the other drove. For some reason this one is called London Drove.
Like the Dagg’s Lane Drove this one has a series of hides, each with a different view over the reed beds and open water.
Dragonflies, such as this black-tailed skimmer liked to sun themselves on the ground. I guess it is a bit warmer there.
As you walk along the drove they repeatedly lift and fly a few yards before landing again. This could be one way to get a dragonfly all the way to London?
The darters also like using old reeds as a perch.
This one kept jumping up in the air. I tried to photograph it mid-jump but they all came out blurred like this one.
It was a bit of a stretch to try and get a picture of a Marsh Harrier as I do not have a telephoto lens. My macro lens had to do, but it is slow to focus and not very long. A lucky shot and a lot of cropping did the rest.
I was not expecting to see snakes. But a grass snake decided to go for a stroll down London Drove.
Until I stumbled along and it made a dash for cover.
There must be lots of grass snakes about at the moment. Only a couple of days ago, when cycling a few miles away, a buzzard flew over my head carrying a grass snake in its talons.
I was hoping for a sunset to end a brilliant day. But sadly there was too much cloud.
However there was a series of strange lights in the sky. The only rational explanation I could find for these was an alien space craft. Perhaps it abandoned its landing due to the low cloud.