Chris Chappell has suggestions about where to see fungi and migrant birds this month.
Great Breach Woods and the Polden Hills
Situated on the crest of a hilly ridge near Butleigh, at the eastern end of the Polden Hills range, this important SWT reserve is a good spot for an autumn walk. It is a major site for fungi, having 600 species recorded, and many rare moths, butterflies and insects have also been recorded. Looking west you will see Dundon Camp, an Iron Age hill fort, and beyond that a wonderful view of the levels of Kings Sedge Moor. You may see kestrels hunting on the hillside, and a pair of buzzards circling overhead. The walk can be extended into nearby woods, where Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Nuthatches and mixed groups of tits can be seen and heard. Rabbits abound, and fieldfares and redwings feed on the sloe and hawthorn berries.
Steart and Bridgwater Bay
For keen birdwatchers, this is a great place to see wintering and passage waders and waterfowl, where wigeon and shelduck gather in huge numbers. Curlew probe for food on the mud flats, alongside many little egret, and if you are lucky, there are occasional visits by spoonbill. Steart is a National Nature reserve, and part of a larger SSSI. This is a very exposed coastal area, so wear good warm clothing. There is a pretty pub in Combwich which is a good refuge in winter. While in the area, you may like to visit Sutton’s Ponds, an SWT reserve developed from a worked out clay pit. There are two hides, and while a small reserve, there is a good area of open water to attract wildfowl.
Decoy Hide and Meare Heath at Shapwick
The scrape at Meare Heath now has a good population of waders including lapwing, black tailed godwit, knot, sandpipers and snipe. Many rarities are seen. The great white and little egret feed here, alongside herons, and bittern will make regular appearances. Ducks include numbers of wigeon and gadwall. Marsh harrier, sparrowhawk and peregrine patrol the area, putting the smaller birds to flight when they appear. And of course, the starling numbers are now building up at their roost nearby, as the domestic population is joined by northern migrants.
In addition to the numerous mute swans, a few Bewicks swans, and occasionally a Whooper swan, may be seen from Decoy hide. The lagoon at Decoy hide is a superb place to see a winter sunset, with the abundant aquatic birds of all kinds. Cormorants and great crested grebe dive for fish, and ducks and gulls abound. Greylag geese, the largest wild native goose, winter here, and call noisily in flight. Little grebes or dabchicks dive at the reed bed fringes, now in their brown winter plumage.
Photographs © Chris Chappell