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Recent sightings

  • 30 January 2015

    Recent Sightings at RSPB Ham Wall - 30.01.2015

    Plenty of testing weather on the reserve this week with high winds, driving rain, hail and snow to deal with but none the less we're making plenty of progress. The view from the 1st platform will reveal that work has started on the Avalon hide to the left of the Central Wood. Telegraph poles have been driven in to reveal the outer shell of what will be a raised 2 tier hide. Weather conditions & access issues (eg if tracks are passable) will determine whether it will be finished for early spring or if we will have to wait for the end of summer (as not to disturb wildlife during breeding season).

    The Truxor (a floating reed cutter) has also been on site this week - ideal for clearing channels and cutting reed in wetter areas. The contractor has cut some small areas in front of the Tor View hide and the 1st platform to make things a bit more appealing for wildlife and therefore visitors too.

    Staff & volunteers have also been busy on the islands on the right side of Waltons. The weather on Wednesday morning & Thursday made it particularly challenging for volunteers who did a great job under the circumstances. We hope to finish this next week and raise water levels once more. This should create some good areas for loafing ducks and Snipe frequently use this area (which we cut annually) once it's cleared.

    A few Snipe are out on site but as usual they can be hard to track down - often only flying and becoming visible when disturbed. Lapwings too are in evidence c300 or more, both within the reserve and on its perimeter where they often settle in fields with groups of Starlings. 

    The Starlings themselves have been a little unsettled of late and have moved from Shapwick Heath to Ham Wall and back again, preferring to use areas towards the western end of the Natural England site. It's probably best to give the Starling Hotline a call just in case, or ask a friendly face when you arrive for advice. HOTLINE: 07786 554142


    The reserve still has plenty to offer in terms of wildfowl - both platforms offer a good selection of ducks: Mallard, Gadwall, Wigeon, Teal, Pochard, Tufted Duck and Shoveler seen this week and there's always a chance of the odd Pintail. The following shots show male Gadwall in pursuit of a female (with the orange bill) taken this week:

    There is plenty of other evidence of birds looking to pair up too. The odd Bittern has been reported grunting (a weak form of booming) within the Avalon Marshes recently. There have been a few flights from Bitterns this week - the 1st platform a good bet.

    From within Waltons Little Grebes have been seen & heard calling for a mate along with the Great Crested Grebe - seen successfully catching fish on Wednesday from the 1st screen. A pair were also seen head bobbing from land adjacent to the south end of Waltons on Wednesday - part of their bonding and mating rituals.

    A walk along the rail path can often reap benefits - Bullfinches have again been very evident -a stunning male near the 1st platform on Monday and a pair from the 2nd boardwalk bridge (at the car park) on Wednesday - this has also been a bit of a hotspot for Treecreeper in recent weeks.

    Another stunning bird - the Barn Owl was spotted hunting over the southern end of Waltons on Tuesday and then a little later down at Long Drove just beyond Waltons by the large wind pump (visible from the old rail bridge). Another bird was spotted close to Tinneys (on the Sharpham road) later in the week. 

    2 Fieldfares were also spotted at this end of the rail path on Tuesday, although generally there seem to be very few around this year - probably because it has been much milder than usual. Siskins and Redpolls too are noticeably fewer in number although one or two often hide out in flocks of Goldfinches (known as charms). A large flock of c50 was picked up along the line of hawthorn on the footpath side of the main drain by the wooden entrance gate this morning.

    Kingfishers are being seen quite frequently and always brighten up a visit. One was seen from the 2nd screen at Waltons yesterday, where it perched just to the right but out of sight. I myself had a great view of one at the bridge over the drain on the Ashcott Road, where it perched for a while on Tuesday. Often all you see is a flash of blue or hear its whistling call. 

    Also this week: 2 Ravens flying over on Thursday, daily sightings of Great White Egret often from the 1st platform, daily sightings of Marsh Harrier - several sightings over Waltons this week including a male on Wednesday, Great Spotted Woodpecker, female Reed Bunting feeding on reed heads in front of the 1st screen giving good views and Bearded Tits heard calling within Loxtons. 

    Finally this week some good news about Otters. This months survey conducted by John Crispin has revealed a significant amount of activity for the month of January. Around Waltons & Loxtons 2 recent spraints (the technical name for an Otter poo) and a grass castle - used to spraint upon to give a better circulation of their scent. On the north side of the reserve: 1 fresh & 2 recent spraints along with 2 grass castles & several good, well used runs. Fingers crossed they use the newly built Otter holt on the reserve in the coming weeks!

    That's it for now. Have a great weekend!!

    Posted by Stephen Couch

  • 23 January 2015

    Recent Sightings at RSPB Ham Wall - 23.01.2015

    Yet another busy week on the reserve this week, scrub work underway on the old canal bank/footpath side of the reserve and the new small pedestrian bridge is now open. This will eventually allow access to a new hide (the Avalon Hide) which will be built behind the wood diagonally right of the first platform. Preliminary work has begun here by contractors, who will be building a 2 level raised hide overlooking the north of the reserve. We'll update you with some pictures and progress as time goes on. Odd jobs in the new car park continue and it's being used well - lovely to see, and great fro the locals that parking pressure has been taken off the road. There are further developments in this area due to come in over the next few months.

    In terms of wildlife, it's equally busy. A cold night last night meant many parts of the reserve had a thin layer of ice and great numbers of duck were squeezed in front of the first platform along with a wonderful looking Great White Egret producing a nice spectacle. This weeks WeBS count (Wetland Bird Survey) showed a large increase in numbers of Teal up from 89 to 616 and Shoveler up from 52 to 346 in particular on the December figures.

    Shoveler in flight - the second male in is showing that he has finished his transition form eclipse plumage to his full set of feathers.

    Marsh Harrier activity actually slowed down a little this week - possibly due to the Starlings have a week long excursion to Shapwick although on Weds night they seem to have come back to Ham Wall and were roosting in the Loxtons section. So sightings may well be on the up again. Use the Starling Hotline if you're planning a visit - they have been moving around a little the last week but volunteer JohnCrispin does the best job possible in keeping the hotline up to date. The Marsh Harriers are often seen in the morning post roost, searching for dead or weak birds in the reeds. It's always worth scanning the skies when ducks are disturbed too just in case a harrier or a Peregrine for example is present. A Peregrine was sighted on Sunday the 18th and a Marsh Harrier disturbed the wildfowl in this photo snapped by John Crispin this week (good numbers of Teal here):

    The large flocks of Lapwing have proved a little more elusive this week - they too often disturbed by birds of prey. The 2nd platform has been a favourite haunt lately but I saw a few hundred in surrounding fields on the north east extremity of the reserve this morning.

    The Tor View Hide continues to be popular with wildlife watchers - Barn Owl spotted here on Monday although the owl boxes in front of the first platform are always worth scanning too. A Short Eared Owl was also reported from the same location on the same day but no further sightings to back this up . Water Rails continue to use the areas in front of the hide although we have been pumping down water in this section in readiness for some reed cutting in the coming fortnight. The ends of the islands in front of the hide and screen to the right are planned for cutting to open up some views to visitors.

    Great Crested Grebes have returned and love is already in the air. A weed dance was observed here on Monday from a pair and on Tuesday a second pair from the 1st platform have been witnessed head bobbing as the old pair bonds are reinforced. It's certainly something to brighten up your day if you witness it!

    It's a bit thin on the ground for mammals at the moment although an Otter was seen at our Long Drove plot in Sharpham on Monday and Roe deer x3 on the north of the reserve the same day. There's plenty of signs of badger activity though at several locations around the reserve. The spring will certainly bring more variety to the blog with reptiles, insects and small mammals awakening from their winter slumber

    Away from the water, it's always worth checking the tree lines along the old rail path. Bullfinches have been sighted frequently this week, particularly on the stretch from the road to the 1st platform. While Treecreeper was sighted again from the 2nd boardwalk bridge from the new car park.

    There are plenty of flocks of small birds too - Goldfinches in particular (scan these for the odd Redpoll) and mixed tit flocks. Again, scan these as you never know what could be tagging along - this week both Goldcrest and Chiffhaff have been seen. Take a close look at these too as this week both Firecrest and Siberian Chiffchaff have been reported locally (Shapwick Heath and Westhay for example). 

    I think this Long Tailed Tit has been snapped coming into land - rather than sat on an invisible branch. Groups of these frequently follow the tree lines on the reserve and bring a smile to many faces. 

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

    Posted by Stephen Couch

  • 16 January 2015

    Coot 1 Marsh Harrier 0 RSPB Ham Wall

    This Coot had a lucky escape as he avoided the clutches of a Marsh Harrier on the reserve this week. This was witnessed and Photographed by John Crispin at the 2nd viewing platform, who sent me the following photo sequence. Thanks for the photos John!   Of course, the Coot may not be so lucky next time!

    He lives to squeak another day!

    Posted by Stephen Couch

  • 16 January 2015

    Recent Sightings at RSPB Ham Wall 16.01.2015

    Happy New Year Everyone!!  Welcome to the first sightings blog for 2015!!!   Firstly, apologies for the lack of blog last week - I simply just ran out of time. It was notable by its absence - as many of you picked up on the fact it wasn't there and quizzed me - I should of known I wouldn't get away with it!  It means I've made it hard for myself to squeeze in nearly 4 weeks worth of stuff in one hit. To save me rabbiting on too much I'll concentrate more on the last fortnight and get things back to normal for next week!

    The reserve and wildlife of course doesn't stop for Christmas even if staff are on a break. The starlings stole the headlines once again, with close to 1 million birds dropping into Waltons each night over the Christmas break - usually during lovely still evenings with fantastic sunsets. The 2 occasions I dropped in saw the reserve very busy. The 2nd visit on Jan 2nd saw between 400 and 500 visitors Starling watching and a close to capacity new car park (thank goodness we got it open in time). Last Tuesday a Peregrine got in amongst the flock and caused some wonderful shapes as birds spiraled to avoid capture. During this week the main roost has left Ham Wall for Shapwick Heath and have been in the Decoy hide area (check the Starling Hotline though to check they haven't moved again 07786 554142)

    Apart from the Starlings the Christmas break highlights included Water Rails continuing to show well in front of the Tor View Hide - frequently 1, sometimes 2 and very occasionally 3 have been seen together (one was also seen on the ponds in the new car park when frozen)  - a Weasel was also seen around this time from the Tor View Hide, 3 Gooseander flew over on New Years Eve and a Woodcock was seen flying circuits around the reserve at dusk. Stonechats have also been of note both in the car park and from the 1st platform.

    Ducks during cold spells over the Christmas break!


    Another highlight was the visit of 11 Pintail - a more infrequent visitor to the reserve during the winter. John Crispin took these shots of them - a handsome looking duck!

    Pintails low from the 2nd platform

    Pintails in flight


    Last week saw the frequent presence of Great White Egrets from the first platform - a favoured fishing area, at the moment. This sequence of shots was taken at Loxtons of a GWE fishing from the tern rafts. The trail is still closed however currently as the newly formed banks & paths are on the stick side. It could be a while until we reopen as we really need the banks to firm up and vegetate over to make a safe and easy passage - apologies for the length of time this is taking but hopefully once the reopen, they will stay open for good and the flooded tracks will be a distant memory.

    Ready!

    Steady!

    Go!

    Reward!!

    GWE giving the Black Headed Gull his opinion!

    The last 2 weeks have seen large numbers of Lapwing using the reserve and surrounding fields - there must be 500 or more at times from the 2nd platform - a lovely sight when the take to the air. Other waders of note would be a group of 20 or more Snipe seen on a few occasions including them circling the area in front of the 1st platform on Tuesday this week, a single Green Sandpiper has also been spotted recently. This Monday (12th) saw c100 Golden Plovers pass over the 1st platform heading in a south westerly direction.

    The car park and surrounding area has  itself has begun to build a good bird list of its own. A Treecreeper has been seen on the large birch at the 2nd boardwalk bridge on a few occasions ( 2 Goldcrests here too this week) and groups of Goldfinches are frequently using the treeline (there could be the odd Redpoll among them too) and a Sparrowhawk chased a group across the car park last week. As the planted areas grow and mature this should become an even more desirable place for birds and other wildlife. Bullfinches are certainly of note at the moment - often seen in this area but also all the way down to the 1st platform or even just beyond, where frequent sightings of both males & females have been made.

    The Waltons section too can prove fruitful a selection of wildfowl (as with both platforms) often on show, Water Rails heard & seen, Bearded Tits seen and heard from the Tor View Hide (but also along the bottom Loxtons path (still open), Ravens on several occasions including 4 together last week and a single bird both yesterday and this morning. A walk along the boardwalk this morning saw Song Thrush (seen here on a few occasions recently), 4 or 5 Dunnocks sitting and calling to each other from their perches a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming on the metal box near the log circle and several sightings of Marsh Harrier. Whilst clearing vegetation form the side of the boardwalk Common Frogs and Voles were disturbed briefly and a Roe Deer was spotted along the Waltons Trail on Thursday. On Wednesday one was visible from the old rail bridge resting on the grassy bank. Celandines were also out in flower along some of the ditch edges - quite early?

    Waterfowl on site includes: Mallard, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Teal, Shoveler, Wigeon  but keep and eye out for Pintail. 

    We've had visits this week from RSPB South Lincolnshire local Group on Sunday and Volunteers form the RSPB reserves in the Exeter area on Wednesday who also took in the Cranes as part of their visit - great to give something back to groups and people which help the organisation so much - both kindly guided by John Crispin - thanks John!

    Well I think we're just about up to date!

      Have a great weekend!

    Posted by Stephen Couch

  • 19 December 2014

    Recent Sightings at RSPB Ham Wall - 19.12.2014

    This will probably be the last blog before the Christmas break arrives - it will return in January!!

    The biggest news of the week is that we have opened the new car park. There's still some finishing touches to do but we wanted it to be open in time for Christmas, as this will be a busy time with many visitors wanting to see the starling roost. There is an automatic gate which closes at the stated times so please make a note of these before you leave for your visit. We have been featured on ITV West this week, thanks to the Starling photos by Robin Morrison (featured in the blog about 3 weeks or so ago). They became a bit of an internet hit on social media so a film crew followed Robin onto Ham Wall seeking out the roost. It's worth a watch if you search for it (it's also on our Facebook page).

    The Starlings are still a bit split up at the moment. There are reasonable groups at both Ham Wall & Shapwick Heath. Slightly more on Meare Heath on Shapwick and some birds were in The Roughet just beyond Noah's Lake also on Shapwick Heath. At Ham Wall you can see the group at close quarters, with all the chattering noise, with the Walton Heath reedbed - easily viewed from the rail path or the Tor View Hide. 

    Whilst you wait keep an eye out for birds of prey. Sightings of Sparrowhawk & Peregrine are quite common around roost time (PM & AM). This Peregrine was photographed by John Crispin this on Sunday morning:

    The same morning a Buzzard flew in very close over the first platform giving good views of its underwing patterns, as shown in the photo, again from John Crispin. A Buzzard has also been loitering frequently in the car park area and a Sparrowhawk shot across the area too yesterday (18th). The morning is a good time to come and see the Starlings (take off) and also a good time to see Marsh Harriers hunting over the reedbeds.

    Numbers of duck on the reserve are staying fairly steady. There's a good mix to be had across the reserve - the 2 platforms offering good vantage points. Mallard, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Wigeon, Teal & Shoveler are all present and fairly easy to spot. Lapwing numbers too are perhaps even climbing slightly - there's at least 300 on the reserve regularly - the 2nd platform a good spot. The second platform too for noisy Canada and Greylag Geese. 

    Great White Egrets are a real bonus for the local reserves - your chances of seeing one during your visit are quite high. The 2 platforms again offer the best chance - the often feed out in the open giving visitors a great view of this majestic bird.

    One sighting missed from last week was a report of an immature Purple Heron seen just south of the rail bridge between the car park & the 1st platform. Not sure it's been seen again but you never know. Things can easily disappear into this ever growing wetland landscape.

    Not sure the cold has really hit the continent yet as I've not yet seen the large numbers of Fieldfare and Redwing that I would normally expect - there's still reports of Blackbirds in people's gardens in Sweden (they've normally left by now).  Small groups did fly down the rail path yesterday - seen in groups of trees by the new car park in the late afternoon. Groups of Redpoll - again less than usual were also spotted. Groups of Goldfinches and Long Tailed Tits or mixed tit flocks are more common (- it's worth scanning these groups to see if anything more unusual is tagging along).

    Also this week: Song Thrush seen on the rail path on Wednesday, Bullfinch seen in the rail path trees on a couple of occasions, Kestrel reported last weekend but there are a couple close to the reserve seen regularly (the Meare to Glastonbury road in particular), Great Spotted Woodpeckers heard calling (drumming last week), occasional Bittern flights, Little Grebes in Waltons, plenty of Water Rails calling (worth a wait at the Tor view hide for a possible sighting), Raven flying over on Wednesday and plenty of Christmas Robins following as as we work.

    That's it for now. Merry Christmas everybody!!!

    Posted by Stephen Couch

  • 12 December 2014

    Recent Sightings at RSPB Ham Wall - 12.12.2014

    The weather this week has certainly reminded us that it's winter. Although the WeBS count (wetland bird survey) for this month was slightly down on Novembe,r the winter pattern of species on the reserve continues.There  have been fluctuations in the numbers of wildfowl visible from both platforms (the second platform in particular) though. On a good day there's a lot to scan through (worth doing as you never know what might be lurking) but on other days it can be quite sparse. Some birds are quite hidden though - the section beyond the 2nd platform looked quite empty during the WeBS but 100 Gadwall flew up from channels with the reed - so you can never be sure what's around - a Green Winged Teal was reported last weekend but not spotted since.

    Generally there's a good selection however: Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Shoveler, Mallard & Pochard all present and around 85 Greylags which are very settled here. Good numbers of Canada Geese join them daily to add some noise to the proceedings along with 300 or so Lapwings. These seem to be easily spooked and can often be seen flying up in groups and circling before settling down again. Little Grebes have also been seen and both Little & Great White Egrets feeding on the mud or in the shallows daily.

    This bird is on the mud at Loxtons, with wildfowl and gulls for company and 12 Cormorants also using the island. The Loxtons Trail is still closed (apart from the bottom track) as we wait for the rebuilt paths and banks to settle before reopening them - there a bit slippy at the moment, comprising mostly of clay. 

    At this time of year on the reserve the focus tends to be on birds - most of our reptiles and insects will be hidden away hibernating now and mammal sightings are hard to come by. There are certainly signs of Badgers all over place - they seem to be enjoying digging up areas around the boardwalk and screens at the moment and there are occasional signs that Otters are about too. I can report sightings of Roe Deer on the reserve and Grey Squirrel both on the rail track and in the new car park area. 

    The new car park has progressed well but we are still awaiting contractors to come in and sort out the electrics for the gates etc - it's so close!!  It's looking good though and will be a welcome addition to the local reserves, particularly in Starling season.

    The roost has been quite split from what I can gather - small roosts at Westhay, Shapwick Heath and the far end of Ham Wall but the main bulk have been landing in Waltons again this week. I got to see it for myself on Tuesday (despite working here it doesn't happen very often). It was very cold so my advice would be to wrap up warm - the temperature seemed to drop very quickly once the sun disappeared. Good numbers came in and there was a bit of swirling but not of epic proportions - just the luck of the draw I guess - the weather was quite poor so maybe this meant they wanted to go straight to bed.  A Sparrowhawk was seen around roost time waiting for a meal however.

    The morning is still a good time to see them. If you come for "lift off"  you may also be lucky enough to see Marsh Harriers come in afterwards to hoover up any Starling bodies from those which died in the night. One day this week 3 Marsh Harriers were seen together. Both John Crispin & Robin Morison have sent me Marsh Harrier Pictures this week - thank you both!

    As you can see - 2 different birds here.

    Marsh Harrier with some company this time!

    Also during roost time you may, as I saw on Tuesday evening, groups of Fieldfare & Redwing. Fieldfares with their familiar, almost chuckling call, are a real sign of winter for me!!.

    We also, of course, get groups of Redpolls & Siskins on the reserve in the winter months. For the best chance of a sighting look for groups of alder trees as they like to feed on the alder cones. So too do the many groups (or charms) of Goldfinches which we are seeing at the moment.

    Also on the reserve this week: Raven flying over and calling on Tuesday, Great Spotted Woodpeckers seen but also heard drumming this week, plenty of Kingfisher sightings, Stonechats in several places but a pair often opposite the 1st platform (the male bird is particularly beautiful), a few Bittern Sightings(1st platform maybe the best bet), groups of Long Tailed Tits to brighten your day, a Tawny Owl seen sitting on a Barn Owl box in the central wood this morning (I've heard then here recently) and plenty of Black Headed Gulls circling high or down low squawking as they do!!

    Black Headed Gull


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

    Posted by Stephen Couch

  • 5 December 2014

    Recent Sightings at RSPB Ham Wall - 05.12.2014

    The Starlings have yet again dominated the headlines here this week with the main bulk of the roost dropping into the Waltons section of the reserve. It is likely that the cold weather will swell the numbers further as birds arrive from the north & east of the continent. The rail path or the Tor View Hide are great places to watch the spectacle at present.The roost is still proving popular, with good numbers of visitors coming to watch. We are trying our best to complete on the car park but are awaiting on electrical contractors to finish work on the electric gates at the entrance.

    Staff and volunteers have been busy this week erecting rails and undertaking more planting and erecting signs. There's still a little more to do, so I'm glad I chose not to make any predictions about an opening date - it's very close though. The best advice I can give (until the new car park opens) is to avoid weekends if you can and arrive in plenty of time to walk to your vantage point. If you're coming phone the Starling Hotline for the last known location of the roost 07866 554142.  If you can only do weekends you could perhaps come in the morning before sunrise to see them take off - there will be far fewer visitors then and it's still a great spectacle. 

    Starlings over Waltons


    The Starlings often attract attention from birds of prey and, as last week, a Peregrine was present this week, showing well on Tuesday night - actually seen taking a Starling. The time of day also means there's a possibility of a Barn Owl sighting - as was the case on Tuesday too when one was spotted flying through the fading light. I saw a Peregrine myself during the early afternoon on the north of the reserve and minutes later a Sparrowhawk flew high over the reserve. 

    Individual birds can be seen hanging around the reserve during the day. Close up views of these birds show just how interesting their markings are - something lost when watching the mumuration.

      

    With the cold weather too has meant the end of the dragonfly sightings - no Ruddy Darters seen this week. They did well to hold on for as long as they did. I did however see a Red Admiral butterfly sunning itself on the newly planted hedgerow in the new car park on Wednesday. 

    Elsewhere on the reserve the 2nd platform is always worth a look at the moment. On Wednesday a drake Pintail was present - quite nice for us as we get very few visiting Ham Wall over the winter. The area is also home to a good number of Greylag geese at the moment - they seem very settled here. On Wednesday a couple of hundred Canada Geese were present too and these along with a few hundred Lapwing made for quite a spectacle both visually and audibly.

    Great White Egrets spend time here too but I've been seeing one every day out in the open from the 1st platform too spending long periods of time fishing and offering great views. Also this morning 3 were seen flying together over the Loxtons section.

    Both platforms offer a selection of wildfowl: Plenty of Mallard & Gadwall and fair numbers of Wigeon and Teal. Shoveler are also present along with Tufted Duck. Ham Wall is also home to a few Pochard at the moment with 8 females and 1 male present. 

    Pochard in flight


    Wigeon in flight over the reserve


    Also this week: Water Rails seen from the Tor View Hide, a late report of an Otter sighting in Waltons early last week, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Groups of Goldfinches and groups of Long Tailed Tits following the tree lines, small flocks of Fieldfare and Redwing seen, Goldcrests seen along the rail path, Snipe seen from the 2nd platform, Marsh Harriers seen daily with a female showing particularly well from the Tor View Hide on Monday and a Raven flying over on Wednesday snapped by John Crispin.

    Raven


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

    Posted by Stephen Couch

  • 28 November 2014

    Recent Sightings from RSPB Ham Wall - 28.11.2014

    The main talking point this week has been - not surprisingly - the Starlings. Numbers are beginning to swell and the latest "guesstimates" seem to be in the region of as many as 750,000. There has been a smaller roost on Shapwick Heath but the main bulk of the birds seems to be at Ham Wall at the moment - this of course is subject to change as more experienced Starling watchers will tell you. There is a huge area for the birds to choose from in the Avalon Marshes but there are good sightings to be had at the moment. They have been roosting in Waltons and towards the far end of Ham Wall but I'm told that there was a change last night and the majority were next to Waltons and behind Loxtons. The second viewing platform the best bet (but look behind you - not in front).

    Robin Morrison sent me these stunning pictures on Monday but they have since become a bit of an internet sensation on Twitter and Facebook - with thousands of viewings, shares and likes (for those of you who know about this sort of thing) - Well done Robin and thank you!

    The shots were taken over the Waltons section on Sunday. During the roost on both Saturday & Sunday a Peregrine was present but arrived after all the birds had landed - so did not disturb the roost. Often the presence of a bird of prey as the birds come in can cause the great displays of swirling we all want to see. Remember to call the Starling Hotline for the last known location of the roost to help you plan your visit

    STARLING HOTLINE: 07866 554142


    There are of course plenty of other birds & wildlife to see while you wait for the roost. Great White Egrets are seen daily from both platforms, spending long periods feeding in the open. While Bitterns still make occasional flights. Perhaps the 1st platform being the best vantage point with its wide vista.

    Marsh Harriers too are a common sight these days. On Wednesday 2 birds were seen - the 1st being a young male who had evidence of plumage showing - particularly the grey tail. The 2nd was a female which was showing much yellowing of feathers on the leading edge of her wings and on the coverts.

    Another reedbed favourite is of course, then Bearded Tit. Notoriously hard to see here at Ham Wall though as in many other places. They have been seen & heard this week however in public areas. Last weekend they were heard within Waltons from the rail path and on the north of the reserve in 2 locations. Even better though 4 (2 male, 1 female & 1 juvenile) were seen from the Tor View Hide on Wednesday.

    Note this bird is showing immature plumage.


    The Tor View hide has been a great place recently to see Water Rails and this week was no exception. On Thursday morning 2 individuals were out feeding in the open with a third bird standing out on the path. If you want to have a chance of seeing these shy birds you will need to approach the hide quietly.

    There's an array of wildfowl across the reserve - with Loxtons trail currently closed, the 2 platforms are probably  the best bet. Mallard, Gadwall, Teal, Tufted Duck, Wigeon, Pochard & Shoveler are all present. Great shot below from John Crispin showing the wonderful plumage of the male Shoveler.

    Shoveler in flight

    The weather has certainly cooled off of late and we had our first frost on Monday morning. It was therefore with great surprise that I saw yet another Ruddy Darter dragonfly sunning itself on the Loxtons gate to the rail path on Monday morning. Red Admiral and Peacock butterflies have been seen too but they will by now be seeking for a place to spend the winter. At least 5 were found under wood piles in our storage area on site along with 30+ Smooth Newts.

    The Otter survey on Monday this week undertaken by John Crispin showed up signs of their continued presence on site - always good to know. Such a shame we don't get more sightings. Other mammals seen this week include Roe Deer around the Waltons trail & a Fox seen running away from me close to the area in front of the 1st platform. Plenty of signs of the presence of Badgers too.

    More winter birds are being picked up now - during Starling roost time look out for small parties of Redwing & Fieldfare 12-15 birds and Redpolls & Siskins in the new car park. Work is progressing here well. We'll be looking to get a lot done in the coming week and should be close to opening the parking area at least.

    It's also worth checking out groups of mixed tits - they often hide unexpected surprises such as Goldcrests and Treecreepers and the large groups of Long Tailed Tits on the reserve always bring a smile to my face.


    Long Tailed Tit

    Also this week: 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers squabbling along the canal path, 2 Chiffchaff together along the same stretch, Kingfishers regularly seen, a Barn Owl sunning itself on the barn owl box opposite the 1st platform on Monday,a few Common Frogs still being seen, Stonechats, 100's of Lapwing and a very obliging Reed Bunting on the way to the Tor View Hide on Tuesday


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

    Posted by Stephen Couch

  • 21 November 2014

    Recent Sightings from RSPB Ham Wall - 21.11.2014

    Don't seem to have had much time for actually getting out on the reserve this week and seeing what's about. A training course took up Tuesday and we've spent a good couple of day doing odd jobs in the new car park area. Things are starting to come together but there's still  a fair bit to do. The contractors should be in Monday & Tuesday to finish the surfacing and infilling - once this is leveled out and tidied up it should start looking a lot more like a car park. I'm not making any predictions about an opening day - there may well be unforeseen delays but early December is what we're aiming for.

    Thursday was a glorious day and helped us achieve a lot in the car park. During the day I was surprised to still be seeing dragonflies on the wing. One single Ruddy Darter & a mating pair were present and there were several sightings of Red Admiral Butterflies too, enjoying the sunshine. The pools are coming to life too with many water loving invertebrates residing within but also both Marsh Frog and Common Frog spotted - time to start thinking about somewhere to hibernate you'd think!

    The early part of the week saw the return of a few passage waders including Ruff, Dunlin & Green Sandpiper all recorded from the 2nd platform (Ruff & Dunlin also seen within Loxtons). The trail & screen are still closed due to the track repairs but bottom path still open. A Spotted Redshank was also sighted last Saturday (15th) from the 2nd platform too and I flushed a group of 19 Snipe from a splashy field distant of the 1st platform this morning.

    Green Sandpiper


    Wildfowl numbers are now on the up with significant gains in the numbers of Wigeon & Teal (c360) in particular. These are accompanied by Tufted Duck, Pochard (6 males), Gadwall, Mallard & Shoveler. Lapwings at the 2nd platform are adding both colour and noise and when, on occasion, they fly en masse it provides a wonderful spectacle to enjoy - particularly when the sun is shining. 

    On Wednesday there were several Tawny Owls heard calling (first thing in the day) from the first strip of wood on the left (Westwood) from the Central Wood and from the copse just after the rail path bridge on the right. Just before the rail bridge a Song Thrush was singing the same day. Another was singing up at our workshop area at the Avalon Marshes Centre on Thursday and today a Mistle Thrush calling and flitting about in a large Holly bush in the garden opposite. 

    Bitterns have been sighted on several occasions this week - luck of the draw whether you are in the right place to see them though. Daily sightings of Great White Egret - 1st or 2nd platform where they show well - particularly early morning where they may be seen stalking in the shallows closer to the platform. 

    Marsh Harriers are also being sighted on a daily basis - there are plenty of targets for them to hunt at this time of year.

    Marsh Harrier


    Also this week: 2 Roe Deer seen running along the top edge of the Waltons Trail, Kingfishers in Loxtons and from both platforms, Greylag Geese earlier in the week from the 2nd platform, a pair of Stonechats at Tinneys (the isolated plot on the Sharpham to Walton village road), Great Spotted Woodpecker, Sparrowhawk and an increase in Fieldfare & Redwing numbers(c40 and c20 respectively seen on Thursday).

      

    Fieldfare


    Starlings numbers are still climbing c400,000 is the number being banded about. The flock is still split a with a group still at the Meare Heath section of Shapwick Heath and 2 groups on Ham Wall - the first at Waltons but probably the biggest was towards the far end of Ham Wall (past the 2nd platform) where large numbers were seen funneling over the rail path on Thursday evening. Remember they can change roost sites at any time so this (and the Starling Hotline message) is just a guide to try and help. The Hotline is worth ringing and is updated frequently thanks to volunteer John Crispin : 07866 554142

    Finally,  away from Ham Wall, a couple of shots of the Cranes to finish with.

    These were taken near Martock in an area the birds have been using for a while. They have however been seen recently from Stathe/Oath on the River Parrett Way. We are so privileged to have such a wonderful array of species to enjoy in our Somerset countryside and on our reserves!

    Have a great weekend!!

    Posted by Stephen Couch

Your sightings

Grid reference: ST4439 (+2km)

Great White Egret (1)
28 Jan 2015
Marsh Harrier (5)
28 Jan 2015
Water Rail ()
28 Jan 2015
Cetti's Warbler ()
28 Jan 2015
Bittern (1)
24 Jan 2015
Kingfisher (1)
24 Jan 2015
Whooper Swan (1)
23 Jan 2015
Wigeon ()
28 Jan 2015
Gadwall ()
28 Jan 2015
Pintail ()
28 Jan 2015

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  • Lat/lng: 51.15384,-2.78925
  • Postcode: BA6 9SX
  • Grid reference: ST449397
  • Nearest town: Glastonbury, Somerset
  • County: Somerset
  • Country: England

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