The cold grip of winter has come early, the result being frozen water and the reed seed heads dusted white with light snow and nightly frosts.
From the 1st Viewing Platform a good variety of species can be seen, with the most prominent being Shoveler - unmistakable with their white breast - Teal, Gadwall, and Mallard represent the 'dabbling' ducks and the diving ducks include Tufted Duck and a good winter bird for Ham Wall the Golden Eye. Also from this platform regular sightings of Little Egret and Great White Egret can be seen (there are four Great White Egrets in the area) - if these two species are together the size differential is very apparent. The ubiquitous Grey Heron is never far away, and sometimes takes a dislike to the Great White Egret and chases it off. Coot and Moorhen can also be seen - the coots are generally out in open water whilst the moorhen likes to stay close to the reedbed. Bittern can sometimes be seen from the 1st Viewing Platform, especially on a sunny morning when it might sun itself or even give you a fly by as the bird relocates to another section of reedbed. Water Rail are often heard, their 'pig squealing' calls emanating from the reedbed, but on frosty days they will sometimes be out in the open feeding. Cormorants can be seen, either fishing or roosting with their familiar 'wings outstretched' poise.
The smaller birds to lookout for that stay with us all year includes the Reed Bunting - their call is a quiet single note, Cetti's Warbler - they sing right through the winter with their explosive series of notes - and on occasions Bearded Tit have been seen and heard from the 1st Viewing Platform - their unique 'pinging' call cannot be mistaken for any other bird. Wintering Lapwing - 150+ - can be seen flying around the reserve also Black-headed Gulls. Winter thrushes, the Fieldfare and Redwing, which migrate in for the winter from Scandinavia and Finland can be seen on your visit to Ham Wall reserve. The Fieldfare has a 'chuckling' flight contact call whilst the Redwing are mainly heard after dark, when their far-carrying 'seep' contact notes can be heard. Kingfisher can be seen through out the winter, dashing over water or reedbeds.
Taking a walk along the main path look out for mixed tit flocks, which include Long-tailed Tits - the most numerous in the flock -, Blue Tits, Great Tits and sometimes Goldcrest can be seen. Also on this walk look closely at any tree trunk for the small but agile Treecreeper. Great Spotted Woodpecker can also be heard tapping on the trunks or branches of tree's looking for insects or larvae. Their contact call, a loud 'tchick', can draw your attention, so there is a much improved chance of seeing this delightful bird. Their flight is very undulating as they completely fold their wings against the body between each series of several flaps. In the tops of the Alder trees look for Lesser Redpoll, in groups of 12 - 30 birds, where they can be seen feeding, occasionally with Goldfinch and Siskins.
Stonechats are another winter visitor to Ham Wall Reserve, and recently we have had a family of Whooper Swans - 2 adults & 5 juveniles.
A winter spectacular is the arrival of Starlings to the reserve where up to 1 million birds use the reedbed as their preferred roosting area. For information on the roosting starlings please phone the Avalon Marshes Starling Hotline - 07866 554142, email firstname.lastname@example.org
To add to your understanding and enjoyment of the Ham Wall Reserve why not come along to one of our guided walks. Information can be obtained from the 'What's On' link on this page.
This contented juvenile Mute Swan was soaking up the winter sunshine.