Review - An Evening with Mike Read “Land Of The Somer People”, 7 Feb 2022

A review by Janine Scola - An Evening with Mike Read “Land Of The Somer People”, 7 Feb 2022
Mike Read is a freelance nature photographer specialising in birds, flowers and mammals as well as landscapes. His presentation to the club via Zoom centred around his love of the Somerset Levels and the diverse abundance of wildlife that it offers.

The Levels were once referred to as the Somer Seate and following recent excavations in the area, various ‘broadwalks’ were found, some of which dated back to 3806BC – they obviously knew how to build them back in the day! Mike gave a ‘potted history’ of the area showing images of how the tidal flows along the many rivers of Somerset are controlled to better effect than in the past.

As many of our members are aware, there are several reserves located throughout this County – Shedwick Heath, Grey Lake, Catcott and Ham Wall to name but a few, all offering different habitats for wildlife. Mike then took us through the seasons of the Levels accompanied by his wonderful images. Spring was first up with lapwing, curlews and red shanks all returning in increased numbers due to the maintenance of the water levels providing good feeding grounds. This improved habitat has also seen the return of the bittern along the waterways around Shadwick Hill.

After spring comes Summer and with it the huge variety of wild flowers along the edge of the rivers. This encourages butterflies, damsels and again all beautifully captured images by Mike. Summer is also the season for the swans and moorhens to rear their young as insects are also plentiful to feed their broods. It is also the time when some of the migrant birds start to head South again. Clearing of the channels from weed also takes place, all heaved to the sides for invertebrates to return to the water and the cattle egrets to have easy pickings. Cider apples are also ready and of course form a major industry in the area – just don’t try and eat one! A walk up Glastonbury Tor provided us with wonderful images of the surrounding countryside.

During the short break, Mike provided us with several stunning images of wildlife, from not only the UK, but other parts of the world, all for us to decide just where! So many places look similar….maybe!

And so autumn wanders in and with it the winter waders arriving particularly at Grey Lake. A new addition to the scene is the return of the common crane, once prevalent many years before. These are now beginning to breed on the Levels and showing to be a self-sustaining population.

Winter quickly follows with wonderful images of the thousands of lapwing, plover, snipe and wigeon flocking to their favourite roosting grounds. The return of the barn owls on the prowl and also, ever present throughout the year, the hen harriers and sparrowhawks with amazing images of them in aerial combat. Of course the Levels are renowned for their starling murmurations which take place ahead of their roosting for the night in the reed beds, all shown to great effect by Mike – and certainly his favourite time of year to visit.

A great presentation giving everyone a ‘flavour’ of the Levels and all that it has to offer year-round with the variety of birds that visit this region, not to mention the butterflies and brilliantly brought to life with Mike’s stunning images. If you’ve not managed to visit the Levels this presentation encouraged everyone to do so.

Link to Mike's website, where you can enjoy his photography https://www.mikeread.co.uk/

~ Janine Scola