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Recent sightings

  • 27 July 2015

    Recent Sightings at RSPB Ham Wall 27.07.2015

    Apologies for another late blog - I've been laid out with a sickness bug and have just got back on my feet. I was even happier to be back when I caught up with the Osprey which several people reported to me this morning. It was seen over Waltons (and beyond), Loxtons and from the second platform today, so it's doing the rounds. It looks rather shabby so well into moult. It's a bird I quite often miss when they pass through so was glad to catch this one. 

    There has also been another flurry of Night Heron sightings, with and individual seen flying around Waltons on Wednesday afternoon and then again on Thursday morning, lunchtime and afternoon - I'm still yet to catch up with this one - could become my bogey bird - pretty terrible seeing how I work here. 

    Some of the best action of late has been in front of the 2nd platform. Water levels are reducing slowly here and small areas of mud are appearing. You have to work hard and be a little patient for some variety due to the patches of vegetation but they're there.  Recent reports of 200+ Lapwing, 60+ Black Tailed Godwits (seen today too), 2 Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, 2 Garganey, 3 Yellow Wagtails, 4 Wigeon and a host of other water fowl have been seen. 

    A look behind into Loxtons could bring rewards like today when 3 Hobby were seen flying together (5 were seen on Saturday) and Kingfishers were also seen and heard today here too, as well as in the Waltons section.

    Waltons has traditionally been a place crammed with fish lending itself to all fish loving species as a place to feed. This Cormorant took full advantage by grabbing this tench. A nice sequence sent in by John Crispin - thanks John!

    Great Crested Grebes get in on the act too where juveniles have been seen being fed by adults - but they do take the odd one for themselves too of course:

    Bitterns too love a fish and the odd flight can still be witnessed by the majority of the action has now calmed down from any nest sites but Waltons and the 1st platform as always a good place to try. Great White Egrets too are present - daily sightings to be had from either platform. A local nest on land adjacent to Ham Wall has now fledged so there are some youngsters to see.

    We have 3 Marsh Harrier nests either fledged or very close on the reserve so it's hard not to see one at present. An adult dropped food to youngsters today in front of the second platform, which they caught in mid air, part of their learning process. 

    Elsewhere, the car park is still of interest: last Tuesday saw Raven flying over, Young Great White Egrets, lots of small birds in the tree lines and plenty of life in the ponds (apart from the very obvious frogs). A female Brown Hawker was seen egg laying in the water and surrounding mud.

    Also seen this past week: Emperor, Southern Hawker, Black Tailed Skimmer, Migrant Hawker, Banded Demoiselle, Blue Tailed Damselfly, Common Blue Damselfly.

    Butterfly numbers have also been pretty good over the past few weeks: Green Veined White, Large White, Brimstone, Comma, Gatekeeper, Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Holly Blue, Peacock, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell and Speckled Wood all seen quite regularly but a treat was a Silver Washed Fritillary which settled along by the Waltons boardwalk on Friday and had many a picture taken by visitors (unfortunately I was off sick so missed out). 

    Also seen over the last few days: Kestrel on power lines by the reserve, Sparrowhawk from the 1st platform, Roe Deer around Waltons, Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Little Grebes, Groups of Long Tailed Tits, charms of Goldfinches, small flocks of Swifts and mixed flocks of House & Sand Martins. 

    Think that better do for now - more on Friday!!!   Have a good week!

    Posted by Stephen Couch

  • 17 July 2015

    Recent Sightings at RSPB Ham Wall - 17.07.2015

    It seems to be slowly creeping towards that very quiet time of year on the reserve. July is half over and August is fast approaching. Many birds are in moult after breeding which makes flight more difficult so they tend to be more hidden and of course there's a lot less singing. They've been busy feeding and tending their young for several weeks and looking for a well deserved rest. As a parent myself I know how they feel, although my rest may be several years away yet but I feel privileged to be able to escape each day to work in such a wonderful place. 

    Several young birds are still on show though. I caught sight of a young Cettis Warbler by the Waltons screens on Tuesday and there are often young Reed Warblers flitting around and calling. Often young birds can be a bit naive and perch out in the open sometimes. Some young Robins were doing this on the lower of the 2 boardwalks from the car park on Tuesday and at the same time young Goldcrests were high in the trees being fed by parents - a lovely sight.

    The car park pools are still full of life, with the "Iberian Water Frogs" still croaking loudly and sunning themselves on the pool edges. More life can be expected next year with a female Black Tailed Skimmer (example pictured) egg laying in the water this week and appearances from Emperor, Broad Bodied Chaser, 4 Spotted Chaser, Ruddy Darter and a beautiful newly emerged Common Darter seen there yesterday. 

    Damselflies too are present, with Banded Demoiselle, Blue Tailed, Common Blue, Red eyed and Variable all seen this week. Another special visitor, or more likely resident to the car park pools is a Water Vole seen by volunteer Pete Wood yesterday - he also mentioned that a visitor has seen one previously and mentioned it to him, so fantastic news that they've moved in. Good to see the new car park is "Giving Nature a Home" as well as the reserve. 

    It's been another good week for Butterflies too with several species sen or reported to me: Speckled Wood, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock (pictured), Red Admiral, Brimstone, Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Small Skipper, Painted Lady, Green Veined White, Large White and Comma all on the list. Not a bad list for the week.

    The car park can prove to be a good place to loiter for a while and looking towards the reserve will often reward you with Great White Egret and Marsh Harrier sightings.  There's some good news in terms of Marsh Harriers too - we've got fledged birds from the first nest with 4 youngsters flying around - you may see these pristine looking, dark birds for yourselves. It also looks like we have 2 birds in a second nest and a third nest with at least one further chick - our best year yet!

    As I wrote in a previous blog the Common Terns sadly failed in their breeding attempt this year but have been seen on the reserve on occasion since. On Tuesday one was seen hunting the channels with the Waltons reedbeds and the next day from the 1st platform. The growth in this area has really gone crazy in the last couple of weeks and it's hard to see much of the water at present. Rest assured we will be out cutting soon to really open it up for the autumn and winter - it should be ideal for waders, herons of all kinds and ducks as the water levels rise slowly after we finish. We are already building the pontoon bridge to access the islands with our machine (once it's back from repair) but need to be sure there are no breeding birds still active in the area before we start the management.

    Common Tern

    The Waltons section still holds a strong interest - people are still hoping to catch sight of a Night Heron or Purple Heron - possible Purple Heron seen distantly from the rail bridge on the right as you walk to the reserve but not confirmed - same place as Friday's bird but no good views seen (Grey Herons sit in this area too but the providers of the sightings are sensing that this bird is different - just too far away and a bit hidden). Waltons also played host to an Otter last weekend - we know they're here but we get so few sightings, it's great to hear about them when we do.

    From the other side of the bridge Kingfishers are still active at their nest site in the edge of the wood and active birds have also been seen in the back right corner of Waltons and with Loxtons including from the screen. We have at least 3 nest sites on the reserve this year that we know of. Always nice to see!


    Another favourite - although more seasonal is the Hobby. There are still some birds around - some of which are young non breeding birds. A single bird flew in front of the 1st platform yesterday and also perched in the tall dead willow in the wood at the back. On Tuesday there were 4  perched in this tree and a 5th bird in flight so a good place to start your search. 

    There are a few Bitterns still flying too, although most nesting activity is now winding down. A juvenile Bittern was again seen in the Loxtons section of the reserve as last week.

    If you're on the hunt for waders it's probably a bit more tricky but you could try the 2nd platform. Water is very slowly draining here and very small areas of mud will appear but it may even be worth walking the grassy bank to get a better view from all angles. Greenshank was recorded here this week and beyond this section 2 Green Sandpipers were seen. Apart from that the section between the the platforms holds a few Lapwing which fly up from time to time visible from the 1st platform and often Little & Great White Egrets are feeding in here (or you see them drop in).

    Green Sandpiper

    Also seen this week: Great Spotted Woodpecker, several gangs of Long Tailed Tits, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Buzzard, Grass Snake, Slow Worm, Smooth Newt and this Roe Deer seen around the Waltons trail:

    Roe Deer

    That's it for this week. Have a good weekend!!

    Posted by Stephen Couch

  • 10 July 2015

    Recent Sightings at RSPB Ham Wall - 10.07.2015

    It's been a bit of a changeable week on the reserve and there's a distinct sense of bird life just slowing down a little as we approach the end of the breeding season for many species. The sight of c60 Lapwings flocking together - often disturbed by birds of prey such as Marsh Harriers passing over  before settling again is one indicator of change. This could well be the most likely time you'll see them as they spend the rest of the time feeding in splashy areas between the 2 platforms.

    Starlings are also beginning to gather together. Around 1000 birds are roosting on the reserve each night and on Saturday evening spent time resting up on the electric cables over the car park or feeding in the adjacent field. This was until a male Peregrine hurtled in causing mayhem before plucking one out of the air. In the confusion a second bird was taken by a Carrion Crow and then joined by 2 juveniles and another adult which devoured it on the ground in very little time. 

    The car park can be a good place to sit and watch a while. If you face the reserve, you've a great chance of seeing Marsh Harrier, Bittern and Great White Egret with the latter 2 often flying directly over the car park to Shapwick Heath. The car park pools are also developing well and will be teeming with life in a couple of years. Many dragonflies and damselflies have been egg laying in the waters and of course we have the very noisy (soon to be confirmed as.....) Iberian Water Frogs.

    Bullfinches, Song Thrush and Treecreepers have all been seen and heard in and around the car park area of late (with juvenile Bullfinches x3 seen with parents last week). 

    There was a brief sighting of a Silver Washed Fritillary from the boardwalk at the Shapwick Heath end of the car park this week and in fact, it's been a good week for butterflies all round with quite a nice list built up: Peacock, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Speckled Wood, Meadow Brown, Ringlets, Small Skipper, Comma, Green Veined White, Brimstone and the first Gatekeepers of the season.

    We also been seeing plenty of Scarlet Tiger Moths over the last couple of weeks too - so worth keeping your eyes open for them.

    Dragonflies too are very busy and this week saw the first Ruddy Darters of the season. There are also plenty of Emperors, Black Tailed Skimmers and 4 Spotted Chasers to see as well as Broad Bodied Chaser and Common Darter. Banded Demoiselles can still be seen too - one of my favourites. Other Damselflies include: Red eyed, possibly small Red Eyed, Azure, Common Blue, Variable and Blue Tailed.

    Ruddy Darter

    A few Bitterns are still active on the reserve with a few nests still going. Some activity from the 1st platform and within Waltons suggests anything going on here is nearly over, while a Loxtons nest is still going strong. Juvenile bitterns were seen twice this week as you walk up to the Loxtons screen up the channel on the right. One of these birds was clinging to the reeds and panicked when it saw one of our volunteers looking at it and dropped into the water before scrabbling to the edge. Nice to know we got juveniles in the area. 

    Night Heron were again spotted throughout this past week. Saturday, Sunday and Thursday all brought reports with Waltons the most likely place to see it. Purple Heron was again seen early on Saturday morning again over Waltons before dropping in - not reported again so far this week until now - just had another possible sighting reported to me by volunteer Paul Marsh, as I write this blog - seen down the large drain to the right of the old rail bridge as you come onto the reserve - was quite distant. 

    We also had a brief visit (unless they are well hidden somewhere) of 2 Spoonbill which dropped into the splashy section (although out of sight) between the 2 platforms. Also seen the same day was a single Green Sandpiper. We are moving just a little water back into this section from the area in front of the 2nd platform. A few bare areas may begin to show here over the next couple of weeks and a Spotted Redshank was seen in this area on Monday by a visitor. A Great White Egret made good use of the area this week and these birds can be seen daily on the reserve.

    Also this week: Roe deer which frightened the life out of me as it hid in the grass as I checked our eel pass on Monday, 2 Cuckoo flying over 1st platform on Tuesday and 2 Hobbies seen here on Monday, Kingfishers seen at Waltons and Loxtons but also still active left of the old rail bridge flying into the wood (on a second brood by now), Barn Owls active from 1st platform during the evenings if you're lucky, Adder seen at Waltons but also plenty of Grass Snakes and Slow worms, Spotted Flycatcher seen last weekend, Great Crested Grebe and Little Grebe with youngsters in Waltons from the screens and plenty of Mute Swan families showing well:

    Mute Swans at Waltons

    Cygnets on the South Drain.

    Finally this week, I had an e-mail from an RSPB colleague, Rob Hughes, who had photographed this Teal on the reserve on Wednesday morning. The unusual this about it as you will notice from the photograph is that it has a nasal saddle as a form of identification:

    The sighting was reported by Rob and the following information sent back: 

    The teal was marked by Luis at EVOA project Lagoons – Tagus River Nature Reserve (, 38º50’51’’N 08º58’19’’W – at about 1449km from your resighting place. I enclose a GoogleEarth marker or use,-8.9708529,1105m/data=!3m1!1e3 ), and the other data are:


    Anas crecca V6blue, metal ring J15418, Male, Adult (EURING code 4), 323g, 191mm of wing - marked on 29-10-2014 and never resighted. This is the first resight for UK from a duck marked at EVOA!

    So it looks as though we have a Portuguese resident. It was Wednesday morning when I was stood at the 1st platform with some volunteers and we thought we had a brief sighting of a Teal  - so maybe we did! Thanks for sending through the information Rob. 

    That's it for this week - have a good weekend! 

    Posted by Stephen Couch

  • 3 July 2015

    Recent Sightings at RSPB Ham Wall - 03.07.2015

    Well, this blog quickly follows the last one but there's plenty to write about. The best news of the week came on Wednesday when Chris Sperring MBE of the Hawk & Owl Trust came in to check our Barn Owl Boxes for us. The first 2 boxes disappointingly were being used by Grey Squirrel and the 3rd box was empty but had evidence that Tawny Owls had used it - confirming what we had thought - a suspected sighting of a young Tawny Owl here several weeks ago.

    We knew Barn Owls were around and the next box has traditionally held breeding. Sure enough it didn't let us down with 3 youngsters inside, 2 rather plump and the third slightly smaller (younger) but healthy bird. These birds were ringed by Chris and it was on to the next ones on the far north of the reserve. Again we were fairly sure we get something here too based on activity and lo and behold another 3 owlets at almost exactly the same stage as the others - 2 bigger and one smaller but again well fed and healthy. We actually had 3 nests last year but that was exceptional so we are very pleased with this result given the delicate nature of the Barn Owls existence and how prone they can be to changes in the weather or food availability. A big thank you to Chris for coming in - a pleasure as always.

    Wednesday also saw some interesting activity from the nesting Common Terns at Loxtons. They seem to have been sat fro a long time and we are beginning to wonder whether they have failed. It hasn't stopped them chasing off Marsh Harriers though as John Crispin's photo shows:

    The birds are still spending a lot of time on the raft and they still haven't chsed off all the Cormorants and ducks which like to loaf there - which suggests no hatching has taken place as yet - I guess there's still time.

    Bittern activity seems to come in flurries - some days seem busier than others. Unfortunately on Thursday, when our volunteers were out surveying it was very quiet - and also very wet. There are still active nests out there but perhaps in some places there is good food availability close to the nest eg Iberian Water Frogs (what we think the "Marsh Frogs" actually are) and there is little need to make long, obvious flights.

    They are also able to monitor up to 3 Marsh Harrier nests with 3 youngsters seen at one of the sites - great news. These birds are very visible as they hunt for prey and it's hard to come to the reserve at the moment and not see one.

    Great White Egrets are also still playing around but it's been hard to establish just what they are up to. There's not a lot of evidence of breeding successes here - it could be that they are younger birds just a little short of breeding maturity - but nature is full of surprises so you never know - I've learned never to speculate or say for sure I know what's happening. Many of these birds do roost together and can often be seen in small groups - the area between the 2 platforms is quite splashy and good feeding for them and Little Egrets.

    8 Great White Egrets together

    I've been seeing a lot of Bullfinches lately - particularly around the car park and by the old rail bridge. Yesterday (Thurs 2nd) and eagle eyed volunteer saw a pair too but 3 youngsters were also present.  We'd always suspected that they must be breeding on the reserve but it's great to have proof. 

    We've also of course had breeding Lapwing and Redshank on the reserve this season. Lapwing can still be seen flitting up from the splashy areas between the 2 platforms and a Redshank was seen and heard calling over Waltons yesterday too. 

    Also calling yesterday was Cuckoo with some visitors reporting seeing 2 together at Loxtons and another bird seen perched in a tree opposite the first viewing platform on Monday. 

    The Tor View Hide is still proving a popular place to watch wildlife - with good sightings of Bittern, Marsh Harrier< Cuckoo and Hobby all reported this week. A lady was also delighted to see a male Bearded Tit perched up right next to the hide on Monday - what a treat. The Waltons area which this hide looks at is also home to Great Crested Grebes with young, Coots with their youngsters, Little Grebe and several duck species. There have also been several reports of late of Night Heron flying over this area - not been lucky enough myself though.

    Over the next few weeks it will become a slightly quieter time for birds as many ducks are in eclipse and species have ceased breeding and are visibly less active until the autumn movement of birds. There are plenty of insects to keep people busy though. If it's warm enough there will be dragonflies on the wing right through to November. At the moment you'll see: 4 Spotted Chasers - Waltons loop the best spot, Emperors - very large and obvious, Black Tailed Skimmers often settled on the ground - try the car park paths and Broad Bodied Chaser - one was seen emerging from the car park pools on Wednesday - look for the flash of blue from the males:

    Male Broad Bodied Chaser 

    Butterflies are on the wing too with a few Painted Ladies seen recently - the rail path a good place, also Speckled Wood, Red Admiral, Green Veined White, Small Tortoiseshell, Small Skipper, Common Blue, Meadow Brown and the first Ringlets of the season. Also check the nettles for groups of Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock Caterpillars (below). 

    The monthly Otter survey picked up few signs this time round, although 1 spraint was recorded, which shows we are still being visited by these wonderful creatures. Reptile surveys have finished for the moment: Adder and Common Lizard were recorded once (but good to know they're here) and there were numerous sightings of Grass Snake and Slow worm. 

    That's it for this week - have a great weekend!

    Posted by Stephen Couch

  • 1 July 2015

    Ham Wall Barn Owls

    We had a visit today from Chris Sperring MBE from the Hawk & Owl Trust. He is licensed to inspect Barn Owl boxes and ring any owlets. The good news is we have 2 broods of 3 chicks each all looking very healthy.


    Chris with the first of this years young.

    Close up of another!

    Sorry if I look a bit grumpy in this photo - I've no reason to be. 6 young from 2 nests is a pleasing result. It's down on last year but 3 nests and c10 young was exceptional for us.  I'll hopefully get some more photos soon from volunteer John Crispin who accompanied us along with Clare above from our regional office in Exeter, who managed to squeeze in some barn owls before her meeting about developments on the reserve. 

    When I get some more photos I will post a selection on a separate thread and also share some with our Facebook page (Ham Wall Nature Reserve) and Twitter page @RSPBSomerset 

    Posted by Stephen Couch

  • 1 July 2015

    Recent Sightings from RSPB Ham Wall - 01.07.2015

    Apologies for the lack of blog last week - I was away for much of the week and just haven't had the time this week until now. I did spend a couple of days with work over at Arne in Dorset - a reserve well worth a visit.  Good views of Nightjar, Spoonbill and Dartford Warbler the highlights. I'll hopefully do another blog this Friday or on Monday so I may keep this one more brief than usual.

    While here in Somerset......... the reserve continues to be busy and throw up a few nice surprises with Purple Heron seen last Wednesday over the reserve and Night Heron this Monday - one of several recent sightings. Great White Egrets also continue to impress and offering good views (1st platform, Waltons & Loxtons all good places to spot them). It's thought that they must be numbering in the 20's on local reserves at present.

    Bitterns are being seen quite regularly - particularly from the 1st platform and again in Waltons/Loxtons. Many of these sightings will be female birds flying to and from nests feeding youngsters. One bird was reported swimming on Monday and last weekend a bird in Waltons sky pointing with its wings outstretched - a threat posture perhaps to a nearby predator? The interest the Heron species show in these particular areas probably have a lot to do with the presence of what we used to refer to as Marsh Frogs. In fact they are more likely Iberian Water Frogs or hybrids of these and Edible Frog but we will know when results from DNA sequencing are revealed. 

    Marsh Harriers take them too as John Crispin's photo reveals:

    This female bird and several others are being seen regularly and we believe we are host to 3 nests this year with 2 young birds seen at one of the nest sites. 

    Hobby are also being seen, although not that frequently - I'd be inclined to scan the back edge of Loxtons for a sighting although the Tor View Hide has also thrown up a couple of sightings this week. One Hobby was seen hunting a flock of around 100 Starlings from the Loxtons screen last weekend (unsuccessfully). Yes, we have a tiny Starling flock already. 

    There are dragonflies a plenty for the Hobbies though. A lot of Emperors on the wing but also begun to see Brown Hawkers over the past week. These are joining the vast numbers of 4 spotted chasers, Broad Bodied Chasers (one seen emerging in the car park pools today) and Black Tailed Skimmers. Damselflies include: Azure, Common Blue, Red Eyed, Variable and Banded Demoiselle (could spot these from the road bridge or go to the gate entrance at Tinneys - the isolated plot on the Sharpham Road - easily seen here).

    4 Spotted Chaser close up. The white dots could be grass pollen? 

    Butterflies too are improving in numbers. Painted Ladies are still making an appearance as are: Small Tortoiseshell, Speckled Wood, Red Admiral, Green Veined White, Meadow Brown and the first Ringlets of the season.

    Also over the last week or so: Lapwings and Black Tailed Godwits seen in the now splashy sections between the 2 platforms along with good numbers of Little Egret and the odd Great White Egret, Kingfishers seen frequently at the Loxtons screen along with a Pochard with 5 young, 2 Common Tern still present sitting on eggs, several Cuckoos still being seen and heard, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Treecreeper seen from the car park boardwalks on a few occasions.

    Finally, a few shots of the very tame Song Thrush we have in our car park at the moment. It feeds along the edges of the pools and often perches up on the signs. I've also been seeing a pair of Bullfinches quite regularly of late in the car park area too:

    Have a smashing few days until the next blog!

    Posted by Stephen Couch

  • 19 June 2015

    Recent Sightings at RSPB Ham Wall - 19.06.2015

    A nice bunch of photos this week thanks to contributions from both John Crispin and Robin Morrison - thank you both very much - the photos really make the blog what it is - rather than just my ramblings.

    During the last couple of weeks there has been, not surprisingly, an increase in the number of young birds seen - particularly those out on the water as the following photos from Robin Morrison show:

    Coot feeding a youngster.

    They also seem to be looking to nest again perhaps as the next photo shows, although I was watching one with a youngster carrying sticks to a floating raft in Waltons and perching some on each end - seemed and looked a bit odd - maybe some kind of instinctive behavior.

    There are plenty of young cygnets too - some Mute Swans have had quite large broods in the past of 9 or more.


    Groups of ducklings with parents are also being seen - commonly Mallard as pictured below:

    and a duckling close up........

    ........running for cover!

    Shoveler with young have also been reported recently along with Pochard which have been seen from the Loxtons screen this week.

    Pochard with young.

    While on the subject of ducks it's important to remember that at this time of year (after breeding season) wildfowl undergo a moult of feathers and go into what's known as eclipse. The drakes are of particular interest here as they undergo this transformation and take on the appearance of the female - this can make identification a little harder. 

    During this moult they lose their flight feathers and so become unable to fly for a short period. Luckily they live in a wetland habitat which provides ample food, shelter and safety during this period.

    Pictured below is the drake of the Tufted Duck with the dark slick on its usually pristine white flank.


    Also the drake Mallard which moults into a brown plumage losing most of its regular, distinctive markings. A good point to remember however is that its bill always stays a dull yellow colour making it easy to distinguish from the female.

    Drake Mallards in eclipse

    Ducks are interesting but it seems to be the Heron species that attract most of the attention. Bitterns are still regularly flying around the reserve - the 1st platform a good place to start where there is an active nest towards the left side. A female has been seen flying this morning on 3 occasions in a short space of time.

    Great White Egrets are regulars too, with frequent sightings of these majestic beasts on a daily basis. Ham Wall seems to be a real stronghold at the moment for them. 2 of the RSPBs ecologists were out and about on the reserve late Weds and early Thursday morning and saw 13 together in  a partially drained area with another 5 in flight. These 18 do not include any on other reserves or those few perhaps attending nests so quite a remarkable figure. They were joined by an incredible 78 Little Egrets, 1 Dunlin, 1 Wood Sandpiper, a Garganey and several Shoveler. It was interesting on Monday to see a Grey Heron and a Great White Egret in a very noisy dispute - 2 very cranky birds. 

    A Great White Egret flies in front of the Tor View Hide

    The area is between the 2 platforms but over a bank and to the rear of the visible section - a shame I know for visitors but they can be seen flying up on occasions - perhaps when a passing Marsh Harrier comes into view. The ecologists recorded nearly 30 Black Tailed Godwits here too but over 50 flew over on Monday and landed in front of the 1st paltform.

    Redshank are here too and often seen perching up on the posts and rails there 2 adults and 2 juveniles seen (great news). Lapwings are still chasing off all comers including dive bombing the odd Great White Egret and groups of around 50 have been seen on occasions (51 on Monday). 

    Varying numbers of butterflies being seen on the reserve but several sightings of Painted Lady this week, which is nice. Also seen Green Veined White, Speckled Wood, Red Admiral, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Common Blue and Small Skipper.

    Dragonflies still very obvious all around the reserve with 4 Spotted Chasers again the stars with thousand seen all over the place - the back of Waltons, as usual, the best place. Several Emperor also seen - our biggest dragonfly, Black Tailed Skimmer, Broad Bodied Chaser, Blue Tailed Damselfly, Banded Demoiselle, Common Blue damselfly and Azure Damselfly all about. The car park pools are becoming a good place to see these out in the open.

    The car park pools are also providing a good feeding area for Blackbird and Song Thrush nesting nearby. The Song Thrush in particular is proving very brave often coming up close with a beak full of food or even perching up on rails just yards away (as well as being very vocal and calling from the tree line). A Mistle Thrush was also reported this week from the car park.

    On exiting the car park you will notice we have place a sign and information on the boardwalk about a colony of Tree Bumblebees which have decided to nest under the boardwalk. I have also heard both Goldcrest and Treecreeper in this area this week and Blackcap and Chiffchaff often sing from this location.

    The treelines are good places to find these and many other song birds - lots of Goldfinches present and gangs of Long Tailed Tits working their way along. You may also see and hear the odd Garden Warbler. John Crispin managed this shot during the week:

    Also this week: a few Roe Deer seen around the reserve, Stoats regularly crossing the rail path carrying prey items eg mouse just past the 1st platform, frequent Marsh Harrier sightings, Red Kite seen on Thursday, Common Terns still sat on the raft at Loxtons screen (eggs could hatch sometime next week) and a Sparrowhawk snapped by Robin Morrison during the week. 

    If the weathers good come down and pay us a visit - as you can see there's a lot of wildlife on show!

    Have a great weekend!!

    Posted by Stephen Couch

  • 12 June 2015

    Recent Sightings at RSPB Ham Wall - 12.06.2015

    Another great week on the reserve, with plenty to see for our growing numbers of visitors. It's been so great to be hearing such positive things from our guests and even more rewarding to be able to give them an interesting wildlife spectacle.

    There are several stars of the show each week at present, so I'll do my bets to include as many as I can.

    Bitterns are an obvious start with plenty of sightings to speak of once again. The 1st platform is a good place to go as parts of Loxtons which were particularly busy yesterday. You often get flurries of activity - particularly earlier in the day before thing really warm up. There are often little lulls in the middle of the day when the sun is at its hottest - but there are always exceptions to the rule to prove me wrong.

    The Loxtons screen often has a lot to offer - of particular note are the Common Terns which appear to be sitting for long periods - hopefully this is a good sign. They are still sharing their raft with a few Cormorants but if any eggs present hatch they will soon be ousted by these protective parents. A Black Tern was also seen this week in breeding plumage over at Long Drove - an isolated section south of Waltons. It too was chased by a Common Tern - most likely one of the Loxtons pair. 

    A short walk at Loxtons for me yesterday was rewarded with good sightings of Terns, the peep and a flash of a Kingfisher , a Cuckoo perched and then disturbed (by me), Great Spotted Woodpecker calling in flight as well as good views of a Hobby which flew in front of me and flashed over the hide which sent photographers clicking wildly. It's probably the best area for Hobby at the moment although Waltons can also bring rewards.

    Kingfishers have been perching in front of the Loxtons screen and must be nesting in the vicinity, while they've also been spotted within the Waltons section and from the old rail bridge. Great Spotted Woodpeckers have also been discovered this week nesting, we think in the top of a tall dead birch tree in some of our wet woodland. 

    There not the only birds of prey seen this week. There have been further reports of Barn Owls out hunting - the first platform a good spot to stand in the late evening for your best chance and of course some very busy Marsh Harriers seen passing food and dropping into the reedbeds carrying prey items. Either viewing platform should bring sightings after a short wait. 2 Red Kites were reported yesterday flying east over Waltons in the late afternoon followed by a 3rd 5 minutes later, a Peregrine was spotted during the week and a Kestrel was seen carrying food on the eastern side of the reserve. Buzzards too are present, often seen circling high on hot days but also seen scavenging in the field next to the car park where they have been grass cutting this week.

    The car park pools are coming on nicely and beginning to spring to life. The most obvious resident being the Marsh Frogs (Iberian Water Frogs) who croak madly during warm spells. Scanning with your binoculars and following the sound could well reveal their  hiding places and give you a sighting. Many dragonflies are starting to use the pools too with 4 Spotted Chaser, Scarce Chaser and Broad bodied Chaser all seen there this week. Blackbirds are regularly hunting along the edges and it was lovely to see a pair of Goldfinches coming down to drink delicately from the edge on Wednesday. We also saw Bittern, Great White Egret and Marsh Harrier all from the car park - easy bird watching from the comfort of your car.

    4 Spotted Chaser

    Female Black Tailed Skimmer

    Other dragonflies seen this week include: Emperor - the biggest dragonfly (apple green body and blue tail), Black Tailed Skimmer (pictured above), Hairy Dragonfly (nearly the end of the flight period for these), Banded Demoiselle (Tor View Hide path and Tinneys this week), Blue Tailed Damselfly, Azure Damselfly, Red Eyed Damselfly, Common Blue Damselfly and Variable Damselfly.

    Butterflies also present but seems fewer this week - maybe the winds are not making it easy for them: Common Blue, Speckled Wood, Brimstone, Green Veined White, Red Admiral & Peacock all seen.

    Also this week: a male Bullfinch seen perched in the woodland next to the footpath track by the 1st gate (other side of the drain), Roe deer seen feeding on the islands opposite the 1st viewing platform for the second week running (enjoys a swim obviously), juvenile Bearded Tits seen at Tinneys (the plot on the Sharpham Road), c75 Black Tailed Godwits from 1st platform yesterday but also 4 Redshank (1 or 2 suspected to be juveniles - great news), small Adder reported on the rail path, Lapwings still defending the islands from 1st platform and a Stoat seen to run along the rail path yesterday. 

    That's it for this week. Thanks to John Crispin for use of these archive pictures. Hope you're enjoying your holiday John.

    Have a great weekend everyone!

    Posted by Stephen Couch

  • 5 June 2015

    Recent Sightings at RSPB Ham Wall - 05.06.2015

    The very windy weather on Monday & Tuesday meant there was a lot less activity - that is apart from the hundreds of Swifts swooping around the reserve who seemed to buck the trend - it was a fantastic sight. I'm guessing the wind must have kept the insect life a lot lower and the Swifts took full advantage. I was in awe for several minutes. 

    Now I know House Martins don't read this blog but it's as though they wanted to prove me wrong when I said they had been a bit of a rare commodity this year so far. There were plenty out with the Swifts over the weekend and the early part of the week, enjoying the bountiful supply of insects for precisely the same reason as the Swifts - it was a real treat to watch these birds in such numbers. The skies were grey but I was happy.

    Once the weather calmed it was normal service resumed with the usual cascade of Bittern sightings across the reserve with volunteer Lee Dutton recording 26 flights during his stint on the platform as Information Warden on Saturday. The first platform always a good vantage point - I had 4 flights in a short space of time this morning along with the same number of Great White Egrets and a couple of Marsh Harriers - can't be bad.

    Bitterns are still booming and again the 1st platform a good bet but also over at Loxtons. A bird was perched on the far bank in front of the hide here on Thursday before taking off and just touching the water when doing so. A bird returned to the same spot around 2 hours later and perched again - pictured below:

    10 minutes later it, or another bird, took off again. It looks like a female from the photos but I could be wrong.

    Also from the Loxtons screen the Common Terns are still present on a daily basis. They have shown signs of mating but haven't quite managed it yet - or it hasn't been witnessed at least. They are certainly beginning to take more control of the raft, often ousting the usually resident Cormorants. They are just about tolerating them for now though but will not stand for any company or any nonsense if they begin to nest.

    Other feisty ones are the Lapwings - often seen chasing away other birds - particularly crows and gulls in front of the first platform - their continued presence and behavior is a good sign they are nesting or have youngsters. Small groups of Lapwing are also using the reserve with groups of up to 14 seen, including this morning. Redshank are also present here with at least 3 individuals seen - possibly 4 and one was seen to 'have a go' at a passing Marsh Harrier on Tuesday. The Lapwings stayed out of this one but have been seen chasing off the Redshank if it got too close. One bird has also frequently perched on the rails by the front island offering great views and photo opportunities:


    It was in the same area this morning that a Roe Deer was seen out grazing - must be worth it to swim to the islands. 

    Other mammals recorded this week include a Water Vole seen in the ditch around Waltons, Rabbits seen on the footpath side of the main drain, Grey Squirrel hopping along the rail path and a Stoat which crossed the entrance between the 1st platform and Waltons - a common crossing place for Stoats and Weasels in the past.

    As previously mentioned there's plenty of insect life around the reserve - I won't even try to learn them all. Some of the more obvious of course are Dragonflies, Damselflies and Butterflies.

    I must admit I haven't been particularly mindful of Butterflies this week but from memory have seen Brimstone on several occasions, Peacock, Speckled Wood & Green Veined White. John Crispin also photographed this Common Blue around Loxtons - thanks John.

    As predicted Waltons (particularly the back path) is alive with 4 spotted chaser, with hundreds, if not thousands, present. A cool morning should bring great rewards but even in the warm it's a wonderful sight as I saw, with a couple of visitors on Tuesday afternoon as they put up swarms of the as they walked. I've also recorded Scarce Chaser this week along with my first Emperor and first Black Tailed Skimmers of the season. 

    Damselflies are in plentiful supply with thousands of Blue Tailed Damselflies along with Azure & Variable. I've also seen my first Common Blues of the season. The path to the Tor View Hide is a good place to spot them all as it's quite sheltered. We also have Red Eyed Damselfly and a White Legged Damselfly recorded on the rail path on Tuesday. I've also seen my favourite - the Banded Demoiselle in a few places including the bridge over the drain by the road and in the new Car Park. 

    Banded Demoiselle - Giles Morris

    Banded Demoiselle were also seen at Tinneys this week - the isolated plot we manage on the Sharpham road. They are by the stream/South Drain to the right of the main gateway. I also had Grey Wagtail in the same area, a Marsh Harrier and for the 2nd week running a Cuckoo around the back path.

    Cuckoos are of course on the main reserve - Loxtons a frequent haunt on the dead trees - up to 4 seen by 1 person. John Crispin managed to capture some shots of one taking off this week:

    Also this week: plenty of Marsh Harrier activity - it's rare not to get a sighting, 2 Barn Owls seen hunting from the 1st platform 9pm Thursday (we'll be checking the owl boxes very soon - fingers crossed), 7 or 8 Hobby seen on Tuesday but a few others throughout the week, Treecreeper seen last Saturday, Spotted Flycatcher late last week, very vocal Song Thrush in the car park by the top boardwalk and a Peregrine in a nasty dispute with 2 Marsh Harriers - apparently it looked like a big ball of birds at one point - luckily it looks as though all came away unscathed. 

    That's it for this week. Thanks as usual to John Crispin for all his topical photos. He's on a well deserved holiday this coming week so I'll trawl through my archives to supplement the blog next week.

    Remember if you're into your social media you can follow us on twitter @RSPBSomerset or on Facebook: Ham Wall Nature Reserve for all the latest news

    Have a great weekend!

    Posted by Stephen Couch

Your sightings

Grid reference: ST4439 (+2km)

Kingfisher (1)
30 Jul 2015
Cetti's Warbler (3)
30 Jul 2015
Seen in suitable nesting habitat
Bar-tailed Godwit ()
28 Jul 2015
Water Rail ()
25 Jul 2015
Gadwall ()
30 Jul 2015
Pochard ()
30 Jul 2015
Buzzard (2)
30 Jul 2015
Green Woodpecker (1)
30 Jul 2015
Shag ()
28 Jul 2015
Great Black-backed Gull ()
28 Jul 2015

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Where is it?

  • Lat/lng: 51.151166,-2.791024
  • Postcode: BA6 9SX
  • Grid reference: ST449397
  • Nearest town: Glastonbury, Somerset
  • County: Somerset
  • Country: England

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