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Recent sightings

  • 2 October 2015

    Recent Sightings at RSPB Ham Wall 02.10.2015

    I was away last Friday and didn't get a chance to do the blog so there' s a bit to catch up with. It's been a lovely week this week and we've made a bit of progress with our reed cutting in front of the 1st platform. We hope to finish by next Thursday and begin to raise the water levels once more.

    Work has also progressed with the new hide. The windows will hopefully be in next week but we'll have a fair bit of snagging to do as well as fitting shelves, seating and guttering amongst other things. The toilets and reception buildings are also expected to arrive next week - there will also be a fair bit of work to do here to to get them 'visitor ready'.We are really hoping to have everything up and running by the end of the month, as long as things go smoothly.

    Because of the reed cutting the area in front of the 1st platform is quite dry but there is some good mud showing in the area in front of the 2nd platform. You can get a bit closer by crossing over to the grassy bank. There have been small groups of Lapwing in there in recent weeks but over 200 were seen this morning along with several duck species.

    Great White Egrets hang about here too quite frequently and this week the Glossy Ibis returned. It was seen here on Monday before being disturbed by a Marsh Harrier, which then landed and took a casual drink. The Glossy Ibis was then reported this afternoon at around 12pm from the same location. There are plenty of places to hide so a bit of patience may be in order.

    The area has also played host to small groups of Bearded Tits recently but they have also been spotted from the Tor View Hide (Monday) and in both Waltons & Loxtons on Thursday during the Bearded Tit survey. Over 60 were recorded from the site, which was quite pleasing. These photos were taken last week by John Crispin.

    They were also spotted from the Avalon Hide this morning (x4) along with 2 Kingfishers, Mallard, Gadwall, Bittern, Snipe, Little Grebe and 2 Marsh Harriers (both pictured)

    These 2 have been seen over the reserve all week. It's quite unusual now to go out on the reserve and not see a Marsh Harrier at some point.

    Of course other birds of prey are seen frequently at Ham Wall, although the report of a stunning Male Hen Harrier came as a great surprise and then a great disappointment that I'd missed it myself. It flew along the edge of Waltons, circled and then headed off towards Shapwick Heath. 

    A female Kestrel was visible from the 1st platform on Thursday. Myself and the volunteers we very close to it, with its familiar flight pattern. Buzzards are a plenty on the reserve and can be seen daily but Hobby sightings are now very few and far between as they begin to make their way south. Peregrine seen last week.

    Barn Owls are also still being seen on site. A single bird in the box in the wood opposite the 1st platform last week but 2 seen there earlier this week.  

    The warm autumn sunshine is an unexpected bonus for many of the dragonflies on site. There are still plenty on the wing and are easy to see (even if they are not easy to identify). Ruddy Darter, Common Darter, Southern Hawker and Migrant Hawker are the most likely suspects. In fact I was still seeing Ruddy Darters in mid November last year. The frosts usual see off these later fliers. A few butterflies still being seen too. Most notably this week: Comma, Red Admiral, Green Veined White & Speckled Wood.

    With the colder weather on its way, many species on Ham Wall will begin to think about hibernation - particularly reptiles & amphibians. Adders & Grass Snakes will be looking for places to bed down this month and soon amphibians will follow suit. There are still Iberian Water Frogs in the car park pools at the moment however. 

    Also this week: Lots of groups of Little Egrets using splashy areas between the 2 platforms (Great White Egrets with them too at times), Still a few Swallows passing through, Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a few Snipe spotted - often disturbed from the edge of tracks when walking by, Chiffchaffs singing, groups of Long Tailed Tits moving along the tree lines (check them for Chiffchaff too), c150 Wigeon see in flight this morning (may well have landed in the area in front of the 2nd platform) and small groups of Canada Geese noisily making there presence known.

    I'll leave you with a nice sunrise shot taken by John Crispin this very morning!!

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

    Posted by Stephen Couch

  • 18 September 2015

    Recent Sightings 18.09.2015

    No doubt the star of the week was the Glossy Ibis. It was first seen on Sunday from  the second viewing platform where it showed well for some time. On Monday it was seen here again but also in the section to the left (between the 2 platforms). It was viewed by crossing the new bridge and taking a right and was in the splashy area on the left. I tried this myself but had no luck. It seemed it had gone but on Wednesday it appeared again from the 2nd platform - dropping in from the south and then flying left for a short distance.

    Some of Sundays shots by Les Mears:

    ..and Wednesday by John Crispin:

    The 2nd platform is also probably the best place to see Great White Egret. There were at least 2 there this morning but a count of 8 on Wednesday eclipses that. Add to this sightings of Purple Heron (again) in the Loxtons area on Sunday and Monday, Little Egret, Bitterns and Grey Heron - it's quite a place for heron species. Sadly the Night Heron has now not been seen for some time but there was a Cattle Egret which flew from Shapwick Heath over towards Ham Wall but it wasn't picked up on site. There are plenty of hiding places however.

    Bitterns are being seen occasionally. A short flight took place this morning in front of the 1st platform but they have also been seen over Waltons and Loxtons this week. 

    Waltons is also home to several Little Grebes at present - visible from the screens along with Great Crested Grebe and several Gadwall. Some areas of the reserve are particularly abundant in Gadwall at the moment but we're also home to a few Teal & Wigeon. 7 Wigeon dropped into the area in front of the 2nd platform on Wednesday (5 male & 2 female). 

    Waltons has also played host to a Redshank this week - it was heard calling but also 6 Black Terns which flew over the Tor View Hide on Wednesday, Kingfishers most days and on Monday 100's of House Martins were flying up and down the Western edge footpath - the rain was keeping the insects very low and they were swooping close over my head - lovely to watch for a while. 

    Of course the House Martins will be making the long journey south, as too are the large groups of Swallows seen from the 1st platform on Wednesday. In the same area a Kingfisher was seen several times and the same day a female Kestrel was seen hovering. The water has been lowered over the islands and some of it cut so maybe some voles were a little exposed - she had no luck though this time. 

    Other birds of prey this week include a female Sparrowhawk which zipped into the trees by the Waltons screens on Tuesday before flying overhead, Hobby seen over Waltons also on Tuesday and the Car Park today. Another this morning from the 2nd platform distantly in amongst Swallows. Marsh Harriers are a daily site - either platform gives you a great vista and therefore a great chance of a sighting, while Buzzards also frequent the reserve. A Peregrine was also seen from the 1st platform on Wednesday.

    We also undertook our first Bearded Tit survey of the year - not great results this time but over 20 recorded on the day. I saw about 12 this morning from the second platform along with John Crispin who was able to point them out to visitors - a first for one lady - fantastic. During the survey a few Sedge and Reed Warblers were noted still hanging on. 

    Dragonflies are still about although numbers will begin to dwindle: Southern Hawker, Migrant Hawker, Brown Hawker, Ruddy Darter and Common Darter all see this week. A fox was recorded on wednesday on our sightings board but I don't have a location while Roe Deer are also occasional visitors often seen around the Waltons trail. Iberian Water Frogs are also still present in good numbers in the car park pools although they are now very much quieter than just a few weeks ago.

    Also this week: An adder crossed the rail path just beyond the 2nd platform - it looked like she had eaten recently according to the visitors who saw her, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Raven, Singing Chiffchaffs and 2 Black Tailed Godwits along with 12 Snipe dropping in front of the 2nd platform.

    A nice atmospheric shot of the reserve to leave you with!

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

    Posted by Stephen Couch

  • 11 September 2015

    Recent Sightings at RSPB Ham Wall - 11.09.2015

    It's been a lovely warm week on the reserve and it's been a real help to get us catching up with our reedbed management work. We're cutting islands in front of the 1st platform and hopefully it may just be a couple more weeks before we finish and get water levels back up. 

    The weather has also helped the contractors building the new Avalon Hide. They've made some real progress: the lower walkway is finished, the stairs are in and the upper storey is almost completely cladded. 6 large glass windows are a couple of weeks away however and there's the roof to go on but it's coming together nicely. I'll try to get some pictures up soon.

    On the wildlife front there are plenty of birds on the move - many on their way through but some coming in for the winter.

    On Wednesday there were good groups of Swallows & House Martins feeding over the reserve and there are plenty of individuals hanging around locally. On Monday and Tuesday single Hobby were seen from the 1st platform & over Waltons and this afternoon 3 were seen out over Loxtons. 

    You may also encounter the odd Reed or Sedge Warbler flitting in amongst the reeds - these could be birds just hanging on or birds migrating and stopping off for a good feed up before continuing their long journey south. There are also still a few Chiffchaffs singing in the rail path trees but of course these may well overwinter as they have tended to do in recent years.

    On the new arrivals front both Wigeon & Teal have been seen recently on the reserve and on Wednesday a Wigeon was seen dropping into the area in front of the 2nd platform. 

    This area has been good for waders over the last couple of weeks, although the vegetation growth means you may have to work a little harder and be a bit more patient for you rewards. Last weekend saw: Little Stint, Wood Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper and Common Sandpiper, while the working week has seen: Lapwing 200+, Black Tailed Godwit c30, Snipe 6 or more, Wood Sandpiper 1, Ruff 1, Knot 1, Common Sandpiper 1 , Green Sandpiper 2 and who knows what else could be lurking out there.

    It's also been a favourite haunt for Great White Egrets (5 or more seen) - one was also seen opposite the Waltons screens on Monday in full view, Marsh Harrier and Bittern (all seen easily this morning). There have been a few more Bittern Sightings this week, particularly form the 2 platforms. John Crispin's best bittern moment this week came from Loxtons. He managed to get this photo sequence of a bird perched in the reeds and then taking off. It then flew off south towards Durston's Peat works:

    There was also a bittern seen with a dodgy looking leg. It flew from Central Wood (close to the new hide build) and flew over to Shapwick - all the time with its leg at this jaunty angle:

    Elsewhere on the reserve Waltons is worth a look. There's normally something on display from the first 2 screens - a good place to see Little Grebe. The Tor View Hide Offers a bit more height to help pick things out (and we've now cut the reeds to give better views. Water Rail was seen very briefly on the edge of the cut reed here on Monday but was also squealing well, while on the other side a Cettis Warbler sat up obligingly and pumped out it's punchy song.

    Purple Heron was seen here about 1.30pm today, a lady reported it to me (as usual I missed it). It flew out of Waltons and over towards Loxtons and a while later another couple of visitors said that it may have returned but weren't 100% sure. So it's still out there.....good luck!

    Kingfishers are a bird people always question me about - a bit of a favourite. Best places to wait: Loxtons screen - they often perch on branches to the right or fly across the front, Waltons from the screens and this week a few sightings from the 1st platform. Get familiar with their whistling call to give you the heads up and a better chance.

    Again this week I can't say I've seen that many butterflies. Here's the few I have seen and like last week you could easily add to this: Small Tortoiseshell, Speckled Wood, Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Green Veined White, Brimstone & Common Blue.

    There are still a number of dragonflies too - it seems to have been a good year with plenty visible. This week I've seen: Brown Hawker (a rather battered looking one pictured - close to the end for this one), Southern Hawker, Migrant Hawker, Common Darter, Ruddy Darter (also pictured), Blue Tailed Damselfly, Common Blue Damselfly and again this week Small Red Eyed Damselfly.

    Brown Hawker

    Ruddy Darter

    Also this week: several sightings of Ravens, Great Spotted Woodpeckers, large groups of Gadwall and Mallard, Little Egrets from the 2nd platform, Sparrowhawk, Buzzards and an Osprey which flew over the Tor View Hide on Wednesday. Another bird was seen over at Shapwick Heath today but it just kept on flying. 

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

    Posted by Stephen Couch

  • 4 September 2015

    Recent Sightings at RSPB Ham Wall - 04/09/2015

    Firstly, I must apologize again for the lack of blog in the last 2 or 3 weeks. I've been away on annual leave and despite my best efforts to try and squeeze a blog in before I was away, I failed miserably. Unfortunately, I've given myself a lot to catch up with to catch up with. It's probably best I just give a quick overview of the last couple of weeks and then get back on track with more current news.

    Well, the kids are back at school and I guess that kind of heralds the end of the summer and the beginning of autumn - although at times of late it felt like autumn was already here. We're just leaving what is probably the quietest time of year on the reserve and change is in the air. It's been like that for a couple of weeks now but if you look hard enough though there is still plenty to see and thanks to many eagle eyed people reporting back to me there's plenty to report.

    Top bird sightings recently include Osprey seen last Friday (and before). It spent much of its time at Shapwick Heath but I believe it moved onward on Monday. The same Friday a Purple Heron was reported over both Loxtons and Waltons. This bird however has not moved on. Its been seen over Loxtons on both Monday and yesterday. It's out there lurking somewhere for a lucky few to see.

    One of the biggest changes of late has been the increase in wader numbers. The scrape at Shapwick is easy pickings but we have our fair share too. They are just harder to see. The second viewing platform is the best bet - but you'll need to be patient. We've chalked up a good list recently with 200+ Lapwing regularly using the sight in recent weeks. 26 Knot dropped in on Aug 18th along with a single Ringed Plover and reports of Ruff, Wood Sandpiper (up to 5), Green Sandpiper, Green shank, Redshank and Dunlin all while I was away.

    Yesterday saw small groups of Snipe, a Wood Sandpiper and 3 Greenshank but also groups of up to 60 Black Tailed Godwit. A smaller group of 19 were seen on Wednesday and photographed by John Crispin:

    The second platform is also the best place to see Great White Egrets at present. On Wednesday 5 were seen together along with 6 Little Egrets but we've some way to go to beat 15 seen by John Crispin on the 12th August.

    Also seen from the 2nd platform this week: Ruff, 4 Shoveler, c100 Lapwing, Wigeon and Teal starting to arrive, numerous Gadwall & Mallard but also Bittern Flights and appearance s from Marsh Harrier - both male and female. A Sparrowhawk also flew across on Wednesday. 

    You may have noticed some changes in the car park. The sewage treatment system for the toilets is in and the toilet and reception buildings are on order. It is hoped that all will be up and running during October - lets hope all goes according to plan.

    The car park is still proving an interesting place to get close to nature. Numerous dragonflies are still using the ponds, including Small Red Eyed Damselflies (as well as our usual Red Eyed Damsels) and of course the Iberian Water Frogs.

    Iberian Water Frog - blowing bubbles?

    The photos show how they can vary in colour. They are a lot quieter now but you may still hear the occasional croak when the sun is shining. The ponds also housed a Green Sandpiper which shot out of the ponds as I walked around on Tuesday morning.

    The car park wires have been home to resting Swallows in recent weeks and they can still be seen flitting low over water bodies along with House Martins. A single Swift was reported yesterday from the 2nd platform - they'll all be gone very soon.

    Swallows on wires at the car park.

    Another visitor that will be on its way soon is the Hobby. There are still a few around though and a fairly good chance of a sighting each day. 3 were seen from the Loxtons screen on Tuesday while one flew obligingly in front of the 1st platform on Wednesday morning. Another recent Loxtons sighting was that of 2 Mandarin Duck, seen resting on the rafts (about 2 weeks ago now) - they have since left however.

    Mandarin Duck!

    I have tried to note which butterflies I've encountered this week but it's a short list - I'm sure you'll have your own to add: Green Veined White, Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Common Blue, Speckled Wood and Small Tortoiseshell.

    Also this week: Whitethroat seen from the 1st platform, Raven flying over and calling this morning and on Wednesday, Spotted Flycatcher seen in the large oak by the 2nd viewing platform yesterday, Kingfisher in Waltons on Wednesday and this morning, singing Chiffchaff around Loxtons on Tuesday and then later another perched by the hide, Little Grebes in Waltons pools, Grass Snakes, Smooth Newts and Slow Worms all seen and several single Roe Deer on at least 4 different occasions this week. This Roe Buck taken by John Crispin a fortnight ago!

    Roe Buck!!

    I finally began to cut in front of the 1st platform yesterday. We'll do our best to crack on with it over the next couple of weeks and get things opened up. Volunteers also cut in front of the Tor View Hide yesterday to make things more visible there - there's just a small section left to do. Thanks for your patience while we catch up with work and try to make your visit more rewarding. You'll also notice that the Avalon Hide is well under construction now and is looking great busy and exciting times ahead.

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

    Posted by Stephen Couch

  • 7 August 2015

    Recent Sightings at RSPB Ham Wall - 07.08.15

    With the weather so changeable it's hard to remember sometimes that it's still August - it's almost felt autumnal at times this week. Although it's a quiet time of year for birds on the reserve there is still plenty to report. A good hunt around different areas of the reserve can bring great rewards.

    A good place to start at the moment is the 2nd viewing platform. You have to work a bit harder here than on the Shapwick scrape (currently pumped down quite low) but there are some interesting waders to see. Monday saw 3 Dunlin and a Little Stint while Thursday (and this morning) saw a Wood Sandpiper and a single Dunlin. There have been varying numbers of Black Tailed Godwits present up to 90, maybe more and fluctuations in the number of Green Sandpipers (anywhere between 1 & 6). There are also good numbers of Lapwing spread out in front of the 2nd platform and in the section intermediately before it - up to 200 seen. It may be worth taking a walk down the other side of the drain just to get a slightly different perspective on things - you never know what you might find.

    The 1st platform area is still pretty overgrown, but we have now finished building our floating bridge ready for the return of our cutting machine. We hope to access this area as soon as we can and begin the usual cut to open things up a bit. Hobbies are still using the area (and Waltons) quite regularly with as many as 15 reported last weekend. I just had to make do with 2 this morning over Waltons - nice to see though. Last weekend also saw 2 Kestrel reported along with 2 Sparrowhawk (one carrying food) and 20 or more Buzzards. Marsh Harriers have been seen soaring high with buzzards too, as well as giving them some hassle from time to time. There are several Marsh Harriers about due to the successful fledging of our 3 nests and the darker, more plain looking youngsters can be picked out. A male bird flew over the car park this morning and was then seen from the 1st platform.

    Also this morning a Night Heron was seen again - and again in was within the Waltons section. Missed it again though. 

    Bitterns are a little quieter now but there's always the chance of a sighting given the numbers that are present over local reserves. John Crispin snapped this one on Wednesday as it flew out of the reeds in front of the 1st platform: 

    Great White Egrets are still seen daily - often in good numbers. They do form roosts at night and as many as 18 were reported this week. 12 flew into Ham wall from Shapwick Heath on Saturday 1st, perhaps disturbed by a hot air balloon which passed overhead. 6 were seen feeding together on Ham Wall on Sunday 2nd. One also perched in trees along with 7 Little Egrets at the Central Wood this week.

    The 1st platform is probably the best place to catch sight of Barn Owl too. Obviously the later in the evening the better chance you'll have but they have been seen perching outside of the box opposite the 1st platform. It's harder to see now due to the leaves on the trees but it is possible. Barn Owls have been perched outside during the day on a couple of occasions lately. John Crispin manged this shot as he passed the box during a survey. As it saw him though it casually wandered back into the box without a care.

    The gloomier weather can sometimes be an advantage. Insects often fly lower and will give you better views of insect loving birds. Plenty of Swift, Swallow and House Martin to be had during these times.

    Also this week: several sightings of Raven (up to 3), Great Spotted Woodpecker (up to 6), plenty of mixed tit flocks and Goldfinches, Blackcap, family of Whitethroat in the far corner of Waltons, family groups of Reed Warblers and Reed Buntings too, Roe Deer around Waltons trail and Kingfisher sightings from 1st platform, Loxtons screen and Waltons screens.

    The Waltons screens are also great places to see both Little Grebe and Great Crested Grebe with young. John Crispin had some interesting observations of Great Crested Grebes and their behavior as the pictures below show:

    He also offered the following commentary which I thought was well worth including - thanks John:

    "Both parent Great Crested Grebes share equally in carrying and feeding the whole brood when young are small but later a different system operates in families of 2 or more young. The system is known as brood division, which results in the formation of 2 family sub groups with each parent only feeding their 'own' young and showing hostility to 'other' youngsters if they approach too close. The adult pair bond grows progressively weaker after the brood has been divided unless there is an attempt at a second brood."

    In terms of butterflies it's been another steady week. Brimstone, Red Admiral, Peacock, Common Blue, Green Veined White, Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Speckled Wood all seen this week and a Jersey Tiger moth on Wednesday.

    Dragonflies too are still on the wing and many will be well into October (I even had a Ruddy darter in mid to late November last year): Seen this week: Southern Hawker, Migrant Hawker, Brown Hawker, Ruddy Darter, Common Darter, Black Tailed Skimmer, Broad Bodied Chaser and 4 spotted chaser - I've seen all these around the ponds in the car park this week along with loads of Iberian Marsh Frogs of course.  Also this week we've seen Common Frog, Common Toad, Slow Worm and Grass Snake.

    Finally I'll leave you with a Starling picture. It shows a young bird with both adult and juvenile plumage - just thought it was interesting. Of course it will be joined by a million or so more over the next few months as the Starling murmurations build once more.

    That's it for this week. I'm on annual leave next week but will try to get a quick catch up the following Monday if I can. Have a good week!

    Posted by Stephen Couch

  • 31 July 2015

    Recent Sightings at RSPB Ham Wall - 31.07.2015

    I know it's only been a few days since the last one but thought it was well worth getting in the usual Friday blog and getting back on track.

     I hadn't been well for a few days and it was great to be back at work and catch sight of an Osprey. The bird was looking rather tatty - perhaps after a busy breeding season so there's a chance that it will hang around the local reserves for a few days. Good views were had over Waltons, Loxtons and the 2nd platform and the bird was seen yesterday distantly on the right of the old railway bridge as you come onto the reserve. Nothing so far today though as I write this but you never know.

    This rail bridge is often worth a quick stop off. Kingfishers have bred nearby, although it looks a though they have now fledged with multiple birds seen flying around late last week. If you peer into the water you'll often see groups of fish - Rudd were there this morning and a lovely Banded Demoiselle flitting along the bank edges. I've also seen Bullfinches nearby in recent weeks.

    The first platform is still very overgrown in front - so very little water showing. Our reed cutting machine should return from repair soon and in 2 weeks or so we should be able to get out and start cutting and clearing this area. The second platform and the section in between the the 2 platforms have plenty to offer though. Lots of splashy areas and some bare mud showing in front (and a bit to the left) of the second platform. There is still some vegetation that gets in the way a bit but with a bit of effort you should be able to pick out a variety of species. Reported from here this past week include: 3 Yellow Wagtails, 4 Wigeon, 3 Garganey,up to 70 Black Tailed Godwits, well over 200 Lapwing, Great White Egrets, Common Sandpiper, Redshank, 3x Green Sandpiper and 100's of other duck including: Gadwall, Mallard and Pochard.

    Behind you in Loxtons is still a good place to hunt for Hobby, with 3 seen together here on Tuesday and the usual host of Cormorants perched on the Loxtons rafts in front of the screen. Kingfishers are seen here too quite regularly as well as over in Waltons.

    There's a fair range of species here you can see readily from the screens and hide. Of particular note are Little Grebes of which there seen to be a few broods across the reserve. From the screen both adults and juveniles are clearly visible. There were some particularly small youngsters out on the north of the reserve on Wednesday - probably just a couple of days old - so tiny.

    Juvenile Little Grebe

    and the adult........

    adult with young...

    Also within Waltons and easily visible are Great Crested Grebes, although I'm not quite sure what this one is up to .....

    We're still seeing a few Bittern flights - Wednesday was particularly good although nesting has now all but finished. There were lots of flights distant of the 2nd platform and this area has been abundant with Marsh Harrier activity this week. They seen to be everywhere and adults have been seen up and flying with 2 youngsters together and food passes have also been witnessed. 3 successful nests out in this area is our best season to date. 

    When the suns shining, the insects seem to wake up and the butterflies, bumblebees and dragonflies become a lot more visible. Peacock butterflies seem to be the most abundant at the moment and the flowering plants along the edges of the paths seem to be packed with life. The Hemp Agrimony is a popular plant with the butterflies with a Speckled Wood pictured feeding on it below:

    Also seen this week: Small Skipper, Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Small Tortoiseshell, Green Veined White, Red Admiral and Brimstone (pictured).

    In terms of dragonflies it seems to be a fantastic year for Brown Hawkers - the most I've seen. Emperor, Migrant Hawker, Common Darter, Ruddy darter and Southern Hawker have also been recorded this week.

    We've been preparing some areas for our Reptiles & Amphibians day in August - hoping to attract some species to certain areas for good public views on the day.  Slow Worms and Grass Snakes were seen so we're in with a shout as well as Common Toad, Common Frog and of course the Iberian Water Frog - great views in the car park pools again this morning.

    Also this week: Great Spotted Woodpecker daily, Raven flying over Waltons on Thursday, good numbers of House and Sand Martins on Tuesday with c20 Swift the same day, Barn Owl seen from the boxes opposite the 1st platform on Tuesday, 2 Otter spraints (poos) on Tuesdays Otter survey - great to have signs if no sightings, Common Tern loafing with Godwits on Wednesday and a great sighting of 4 juvenile Bearded Tits (unfortunately not in public areas as usual) on Tuesday.

    juvenile Bearded Tit - with the familiar black stripe on the back (absent in adult birds).

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

    Posted by Stephen Couch

  • 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

Your sightings

Grid reference: ST4439 (+2km)

Great White Egret (1)
3 Oct 2015
Glossy Ibis (1)
3 Oct 2015
Purple Heron ()
13 Sep 2015
Bittern (1)
3 Oct 2015
Marsh Harrier (1)
3 Oct 2015
Bearded Tit (1)
3 Oct 2015
Cattle Egret (1)
3 Oct 2015
Water Rail ()
3 Oct 2015
Ruff (1)
3 Oct 2015
Kingfisher (1)
3 Oct 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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