Wildlife at Steart Marshes

The marshes lie between the mouth of the River Parrett and the Bristol Channel on the Somerset coast. This position attracts migrating birds and has some of the biggest tidal forces in the world, creating an ever changing experience.

Seasonal highlights

Steart Marshes is a working wetland, developed to tackle climate change by locking away carbon from the atmosphere. But it's also home to a vast array of wildlife that varies wildly throughout the year. Find out what you could see when you visit each season.

New life emerges

As the reserve awakens from winter, wildflowers start to blossom, a variety of spring migrants arrive from their wintering grounds and breeding season begins.

Marsh marigold, cuckoo flower and cowslip bring splashes of colour and flowering scurvy grass blankets the saltmarsh in white.

Boxing hares abound on Otterhampton Marshes and skylarks fill the air with song. Traditional livestock returns to graze on the reserve - helping manage the habitat.

As the season warms, webs of caterpillars appear in the hedgerows, followed by a profusion of butterflies.

Spring also sees the arrival of migrants, including hirundines, warblers, Mediterranean gulls, godwit and grey plover. Breeding avocets, oystercatcher, lapwing and little ringed plover defend their eggs and hatchlings.

Awash with life and colour

Dragonflies and damselflies are a Steart speciality and summer is the time to see them in force. They're accompanied by juvenile waders, an abundance of wildflowers and bountiful butterflies.

The islands in Otterhampton are packed with juvenile avocet, little ringed plover and oystercatcher.

Little egrets fish in the lagoons. Other species include spoonbill, cattle egret, curlew sandpiper, the occasional sandwich tern, ruff, yellow wagtail, and whinchat.

Black-winged stilts bred successfully here for the first time in 2020 – the only known pair in the UK that year.

Steart is a Priority Site of National Importance for dragonflies with 18 species of dragonflies and damselflies found on site. Watch out for black-tailed skimmer and emperor dragonflies.

Wintering birds start to arrive

September offers a hint of the winter spectacles to come, as flocks of waders begin to arrive. High tides bring more water which can be stored on site, providing the perfect conditions.

Dunlin, lapwing, avocet, knot and golden plover all feed and roost in high numbers.

In November, flooded freshwater marsh offers the perfect refuge for species such as pintail, ruff, shoveler and teal. Rare passage birds occasionally drop into the reserve.

Birds of prey, such as merlin, peregrine, kestrel, buzzard and marsh harrier are attracted by the abundance of prey.

Hedgerows offer splashes of colour with rose-hips, guelder-rose and spindle berries.

The busiest season begins

Steart is an important site for wintering ducks and waders. Feeding is predominantly at night, when passage birds stock up before continuing their long migration flights. Mixed flocks of small farm birds feed in their hundreds.

Shelduck, teal, wigeon, gadwall and pintail enjoy the bounty of food.

There is an abundance of small farm birds such as linnet, chaffinch, goldfinch, greenfinch, yellowhammer, fieldfare, and redwing. Winter rarities include brambling, lapland bunting, penduline tits and twite.

See breath-taking numbers of lapwing, dunlin, golden plover and avocet.

Peregrines, marsh harriers, hen harriers and merlin hunt for prey.

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