One of the highlights of our trip was exploring the nearby National Wildlife Refuge. We were about a mile down the road from it, and while route 180 is fast, there are wide margins so that it is eminantly walkable.
I have a birding life list into the hundreds and was still able to identify five new species without serious birding. (Just walking with binocculars in hand.) We walked there three times: first, late in the afternoon to the junction of the Gator Lake trail and the Pine Branch trail (4 miles round trip), second, to the shore on the Pine Branch trail (6 miles round trip), and lastly to the Gator Lake trail returning via Mobile street, the shore, and the Pine Branch trail (8 miles round trip).
Since pets (dogs) are not allowed in the refuge and there are not that many people who visit, the birds are quite tame. The Sandriling walked within two feet of me.
There were mosquitos, even at the winter solstice, so a summer visit should include insect repellent and quite possibly a face net.
Without trying, we saw:
Great Blue Heron
Double Crested Cormorant
There were gulls (of course) and crows, as well as several varieties of sparrow, that we didn’t identify. Not to mention these guys, who scared off the plover.
I’ve been queuing up a series of walks – mostly about 10 km (6 miles for us colonials), and this is the second.
This started out as a “pub walk” from the house we hired in Wootton Courtenay – and we did get to one, about seven miles in. After several missed turns and places where the map … deviated from the trails on the ground.
This shows our GPS trace overlaid on the most current Ordinance Survey map. These differences made it a bit interesting.
I covered the first part of the hike on an earlier post where we hunted a local pub. So you can read that post for details. We take this walk up at the village of Timberscombe.
We headed uphill on the wrong road, but eventually found our way to where we could see Dunster in the distance.
If you get to this carved bird (the buzzard), you’ve gone too far.
Some of the local landmarks have a decidedly sci-fi name. Is Gallox bridge in Gallifrey?
We stopped in the Stag – which is an excellent pub – and let two sweaty, dirty, and tired hikers enjoy their pints inside. It had a guitar in the corner so if you were a better player than I am, you could entertain the crowds (or if you were a better runner you might escape the disapprobriation.)
The path heads uphill, of course, from the town. It winds its way past St. Leonard’s well (Shades of Blackadder) along a ridge.
There is an excellent set of views of Minehead from the exposed ridge. The sun is shining on Butlin’s holiday camp.
We also wanted to look for this weird feature – seen on google maps.
Unfortunately, it’s nothing special.
I’ve been queuing up a series of walks – mostly about 10 km (6 miles for us colonials), and this is the first.
Dunkery Beacon is the tallest peak in Exmoor. We’d hired a house in Wootton Courtenay which is at the base of the peak, but if you’re driving there are other places to start from. I would probably park at Webber’s post where there is a large parking lot, but no post.
We managed to arrive just after a heat wave; 32-35 is no fun without aircon. It was typical English summer weather; i.e.raining and cold.
The trail proper starts in a lovely grove of trees and then ascends a moderate slope.
Of course we started in the sun, but that was not to last.
We passed the ponies several times – this shot being on the way up.
These preferred Bracken to handouts, which was a relief.
The top is marked by a cairn. We used it to shelter from the wind while eating lunch.
This shows the path up the hill.
We followed a steep descent part way down the hill and made our way through delightfully pretty woods (Rowan and Holly so we were doubly safe from the foul spirits of the undead) to Webber’s post, and back to our house. If I started from Webber’s post I’d go across the hill and up the way we did rather than the other way around.
The sandhill cranes have returned. We saw the first few birds a couple of weeks ago, but now they are there in flocks. When we drove through today, they were a tad more spread out than usual. These ones (above) were hunting the early wood frogs. I could hear the frogs while I took the pictures.
These were across the street from the others. During the summer this hill is a cotton field, so I’m not sure what critters there are now.
However, there must be something because the flocks were spread out over several fields. These were the closest to the road where there was a convenient place to pull over and take pictures. I used a 600mm sigma lens. I’m not thoroughly happy about the sharpness.
This map shows where to look if you’re interested in seeing them yourselves. Remember they are protected birds. If you continue to Centre there are some half-decent places to eat and the petrol is about 30 cents cheaper than in Atlanta.
The first day of winter was warm and foggy this year. It lent itself to great atmospheric pictures, if you like that sort of thing. It’s the sort of weather where even mundane dirt roads take on a Tolkienesque touch of mystery.
The lake is still out for the winter, but with the rain, back up to a normal pool. There’s a mudbank out there, but most of it is underwater.