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Recent sightings

  • 2 March 2015

    Recent Sightings at RSPB Ham Wall - 02.03.2015

    Apologies for the slightly delayed blog this week, I'm afraid I was unable to attend work on Friday so it's been pushed onto today!

    All the photos this week come from the Waltons area of the reserve, where there seems to have been plenty of action this past week. Following on from last weeks photo sequence of pair bonding Great Crested Grebes, the pair were seen mating in Waltons this week.

    A rudimentary platform of reed is laid making the mating platform where the coupling takes place. The pair sometime uses the platform to make a nest but generally the pair of grebes build a nest away from this often flimsy structure.

    In the same section this week a Water Pipit was observed feeding on the cut islands visible from the 3rd screen at Waltons. This was identified by the wingbar, supercilium (eye stripe) and habitat it was seen in. We often get them in the winter and usually in the freshly cut areas - this one fits the bill. Thanks again to John Crispin for all the wonderful photos which really make the blog. 

    Water Pipit

    Bitterns are getting warmed up for the coming season - several are booming across the Avalon Marshes with birds in both Waltons and Loxtons putting in some practice. Our first official count will be on the 12th March where staff and volunteers will be out across the Avalon Marshes from the local conservation organisations (RSPB, Somerset Wildlife Trust & Natural England) - a nice 5am start. 

    Grey Herons, the bitterns cousin, have nested in the Waltons reedbed for the last few years, with 5 or 6 nests in each of the last 2.

    This year looks to be no exception, although the little flurry of action last week has quietened down somewhat. This lone bird was sat in the Waltons reedbed last week. We may well see activity pick up over the next few weeks and soon there will be plenty of noisy birds to entertain people. This activity should be visible to the left of the Tor View Hide when it occurs. 

    Another cousin the Great White Egret has again been seen daily. The 1st platform as good a place as any to see them. Lets hope for another successful breeding season for these majestic birds.

    The second platform has again proved to be a good place for Pochard with significant numbers using the area. Other duck on site include: Mallard, Tufted Duck, Shoveler, Gadwall, Teal & Wigeon. Marsh Harriers have been seen from here (and the 1st platform) with a pair seen regularly together last week. 

    Also this week: Rabbit and Grey Squirrel seen hopping along the rail path, Bullfinch and Goldcrest also along the same track, Bearded Tits heard 'pinging' within the Loxtons section (heard from rail path), Raven flying over, Great Spotted Woodpecker heard drumming, Sparowhawk flying from Street Heath over Loxtons, vocal Water Rails around the site, Kingfishers seen adding a touch of colour to the winter backdrop and Song Thrushes heard singing from the car park - as many as 3 on Monday 23rd Feb.

    The Starlings have continued to use Ham Wall this past week using the area distant of the 2nd platform. Now that we are into March we should start to see the numbers tail off a bit but there's still time to come and see one final show.

    Finally this young Roe deer (one of 2) that crossed over the Waltons boardwalk last weekend. Nice to have them so visible in the public areas.

    Roe Deer crossing the boardwalk.

    That's it for now - blog back on Friday this week. Have a good week! 

    Posted by Stephen Couch

  • 20 February 2015

    Recent Sightings at RSPB Ham Wall - 20.02.2015

    A bit of a mixed week at Ham Wall this week with some glorious weather for a couple days and a miserable day yesterday. It's been busy though with lots of visitors, including families, over the half term break.

    There's been plenty for people to enjoy, with the increase in birdsong of particular note. Just a little reminder that spring is on the way. There seem to be a few Song Thrushes about, with 3 in the car park area, at least one in the footpath trees and another bird near Waltons along the rail path - all perched up high. Wrens again seem plentiful along with blue tit, great tit, blackbird and robin you can get a bit of a chorus. A Chiffchaff has again been heard singing this week. On 2 consecutive days a Red Admiral was seen on the wing in the Central Wood.

    Another obvious sign of approaching spring is the boom of the bittern. Several have been heard around the Avalon Marshes including a couple with a good solid boom (one around the Waltons trail) and many others still a bit wheezy - more of a grunt (Loxtons section). Staff & volunteers will be out in the early mornings in a couple of weeks to record the number of males around the whole of the marshes - a 4.30 start is not for the faint hearted however, but so worth it once you're there.

    There have been a fair few sightings too - the 1st platform offers a good wide view and therefore a good chance of a sighting. There was even a report of a bittern swimming across one of the channels last weekend. It's not unheard of but very unusual - I've never been lucky enough myself - it must look a little bizarre.

    Like Bitterns, we have had Grey Herons nesting in our reedbeds in recent years, within the Waltons section. This year looks to be no different with some significant activity on a couple of islands on the left of the Tor View Hide (this will be a great place to watch them from over the coming weeks). 

    The 1st platform offers a fair range of species too: Mallard, Gadwall, Pochard, Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Wigeon & Teal all present. Groups of Lapwing seen flying over although less than in previous weeks and a group of 10 Snipe or more circling the reserve but the 1st platform offered good views as they flew in a tight pack. 3 Buzzard also on the wing together on Monday and a well marked male Marsh Harrier was great to see.  Great White Egrets also feed in this area frequently.

    The 1st platform area and Waltons has been home to Great Crested Grebes lately & they have again been seen going through their mating rituals. John Crispin has sent me the following shots and annotations - thanks John!

    Male & Female approach each other in the prone position

    When together they start their much seen head shaking.

    The male then goes off on a wild run finishing with a great flurry

    Both birds then dive and surface with weed

    This is in readiness for their famous weed dance

    The excited birds usually take a little time to calm down

    They then fish and/or swim together

    Fascinating birds to watch and extremely handsome. Plenty of fishing to be had at Ham Wall so should be able to raise a successful brood - we expect several pairs around the reserve this coming season. There smaller cousins, Little Grebes are present too - you may be able to hear their whinnying call. c150 Pochard (mainly males) seen late in then day from the 2nd platform on a few occasions - probably coming in to roost, Bearded Tits heard pinging in Loxtons.

    The Starlings are still present and have been using the area distantly in front of the 2nd platform - they have been following this pattern for a few days but of course this can change so a call to the Starling hotline would be a good idea 07866 554142. The roost should begin to tail off during the month of March so there's just a little time left to see them this season.

    Also this week: Water Rail spotted again from the Tor View Hide, Raven flying overhead, Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming,  Sparrowhawk, Water Rails fairly vocal, Roe Deer x3 seen on the north of the reserve, evidence of Otter and Badger around the reserve and a Treecreeper seen and photographed by John Crispin by the ditch between Loxtons & Waltons.

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

    Posted by Stephen Couch

  • 13 February 2015

    Recent Sightings at RSPB Ham Wall - 13.02.2015

    It may still be February but I'm thinking about the arrival of Spring - one of my favourite times of year. There seems to have been an increase in bird song in the past week, showing I'm not the only one with spring on his mind. Blackbirds, Dunnock, Blue Tits & Great Tits and a multitude of Wrens (I've been seeing a lot on the reserve this week) have all been singing there hearts out at times. Chiffchaff have also been heard in song and a couple of Song Thrushes have been perched in trees by our car park this week belting out their repetitive notes.

    It's also a time for Bitterns to get booming, although the early boomers sound a bit wheezy - more of a grunt really. A few have been heard locally already - not unusual for us - they often start in January. There seems to have been a flurry of sightings too this week. Thursday in particular saw many reports from visitors, including at least 3 from the first platform (one pictured below) - maybe the hormones are stirring. Well it is valentines day tomorrow.

    Great Crested Grebes are present here too (and in Waltons), although only single birds at each location despite both areas have pairs bonding - including weed dancing and plenty of head bobbing recently.  Little Grebe also spotted and heard within Waltons.

    Marsh Harriers were seen mating within the Avalon Marshes last week - so perhaps there could be some early starts this season. Marsh Harriers are seen daily at Ham Wall, with at least 2 different birds seen on Thursday - one from the 1st platform and a second well marked male (pictured) over Waltons. Monday saw 5 Buzzards circling over woodland left of the 1st platform with a further 2 perched below in the tree line.

    Other birds of prey seen this week include a Kestrel seen daily on wires over the Meare to Glastonbury road (just a single field separates this from the north of the reserve) and a female Merlin seen perched on a fence post and then in flight at Tinneys Ground (the isolated unit we manage on the Sharpham Road). Adjacent to this plot, c250 Lapwing in a field along with Redwings (as last week) but Fieldfare also seen and heard this week.

    The most delightful sighting was one brief sighting of an Otter on the central path at Tinneys on Wednesday - they've been seen here before. A well used run and fresh spraint backed up the sighting.

    Another mammal sighting came on Thursday in the form of a Weasel, which ran across the pathway leading over the drain from the rail path into Waltons - it soon disappeared into vegetation however. 12 volunteers and I all missed it as I spoke to a visitor called Frank, who was the lucky witness - by the time I'd turned round it was already gone.

    Thursday seemed to be a good day all round, with a Great White Egret visible from the 1st platform for most of the day (a Little Egret for company at one point - great for a size comparison). The bird was photographed by John Crispin and it looks to be showing signs of its breeding plumage, with some superb looking feathers, although it's bill is still orange.


    There are still plenty of ducks on site, although this weeks WeBS (wetland bird survey) showed a decrease on the January figures - could be the beginning of duck movements back to their natal sights. There's still a fair selection around including Mallard, Gadwall, Teal, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Shoveler & Wigeon including around 30 which I flushed from the base on the posts of the part built Avalon Hide. Plenty of other water fowl nearby too - so looking good.

    The Starlings have again been unsettled and have changed location a couple of times. On Wednesday and Thursday evenings this week, the main bulk were at Ham Wall with a smaller roost on Shapwick Heath. There have been birds seen from the 1st platform but another flock further down too. Obviously it makes it hard to keep the Starling Hotline up to date and harder to make it specific but it's still worth ringing if you are planning a visit 07866 554142. The roost will probably begin to tail off during early March so you'll run out of chances soon.

    Also this week: Plenty of Snipe on site with 2 flushed from the Waltons cut island, 1 from Loxtons path, 4 from in front of the 1st platform and c15 from a flooded field on the northwest of the reserve, drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker (one in Loxtons on Thursday & one at The Avalon Marshes Centre on Wednesday), Water Rail from the Tor View Hide, Raven in flight , Jay perched and 2 Roe Deer laid down on the side of the rail path close to Loxtons. Finally this week, a great shot of a Cormorant by John Crispin showing off its full adult plumage - a fine specimen.

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

    Posted by Stephen Couch

  • 6 February 2015

    Recent Sightings at RSPB Ham Wall - 06.02.2015

    I've certainly felt the cold on the reserve this week. Temperatures have fallen well below freezing at night time and frozen, although thinly, large areas of water on the reserve. This often means birds are forced to gather closer together in areas of unfrozen water - one such area being in front of the 1st platform (rather conveniently for visitors). Good numbers of duck have been present including: Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler, Mallard, Gadwall & Tufted Duck with the odd Pochard being spotted on the reserve too. 

    Great White Egrets have been using the area too - often standing out in the open areas giving good views to visitors. Also visible from the 1st platform is the beginnings of the new Avalon Hide - looking rather like an old wood henge with a series of upright posts sticking up into the air. 

    During frozen times there's often a chance to see Water Rails. The front of the Tor View Hide had been a favourite place lately but we have currently drained that side to undertake management work, which we will hopefully finish on Monday and bring water levels back up. There have however been some spotted in the reed fringe on the left on the way up to the hide. It's always worth scanning the edges of islands etc to see some out on the fringes looking for morsels of food in the hard conditions.

    John Crispin captured this shot of a Water Rail this week - not exactly dancing on ice.

    We have recut the area immediately in front of the hide again this week and scraped cuttings up into piles. They are often used as perches and when water levels rise or the basis of a nest in the spring. A wren was perching and singing from the top of one pile this week. We also flushed 2 Snipe from the end of the cut island in front of the 3rd screen at Waltons.

    We often find certain birds close by when undertaking management work - Robins are well known for this as many of you probably discover in your gardens. While using our Softrak machine this week to cut reed, Stonechats (up to 5) have again been obvious. Feeding on the ground in cut areas before returning to perches with their familiar tail flicking behavior. 2 Chiffchaffs have also been regular visitors and even a Bullfinch was seen in the reedbed there this week somewhat unusually.


    At this time of year sightings always tend to be a little bird heavy but there has been a lot of Roe Deer activity on the reserve this week, with several sightings. A pair and a group of 3 were seen in fields on the north of the reserve, 3 to the north east and another 3 running along the high bank visible from the second platform at the back of the water on Tuesday. 

    Other than these and the odd Grey Squirrel we're pretty much limited to finding signs to tell us what's around. As usual plenty of Badger activity across the reserve but also discovered 2 areas that Otters had used at Tinneys Ground - the isolated plot on the Sharpham Road - with runs and spraints discovered. In adjacent fields to here, plenty of Lapwing c200 and several Redwing amongst them. Lapwing on the main reserve too.

    Another thing of note has been the emergence of the first Snowdrops. Keep an eye out by the first boardwalk bridge (nearest the road) from the new car park. Another new car park sighting was that of a Merlin last Saturday. A brief sighting but it is believed to have been a female bird. Other birds of prey of course include the Buzzard, seen daily and often perched on dead trees to the distant left of the 1st platform and of course the Marsh Harrier. Reports from one local site of a pair seen mating in a tree top is good news to share. Barn Owls are present too, with still evenings or early mornings giving you your best chance of course. Tawny Owls often heard on the reserve too.

    Also this week: Bullfinches, Goldcrest, 4 Redwing, Water Rail and Kingfisher all reported from the canal path side of the reserve over a couple of days, more reports of Bullfinches and Goldcrests on the main path, Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Great Spotted Woodpecker heard drumming and Raven flying over on Tuesday. 

    Bullfinch feeding



     The Starlings have been a little unsettled again lately and hard to predict. They now seem to have moved off the main reserves to an area of private land. This of course makes it very tricky to update the Starling Hotline and direct people. If they remain here the best I can suggest is to park at the end of Shapwick Heath or at the Avalon Marshes Centre and cross over the Shapwick Road from the western edge of Shapwick Heath and follow the path by the drain looking over to your right. The Starling Hotline will be updated as soon as is possible when the roost location changes, but when they behave like this it's very tricky. 

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

    Posted by Stephen Couch

  • 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.





    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

Your sightings

Grid reference: ST4439 (+2km)

Great White Egret ()
27 Feb 2015
Water Rail (2)
1 Mar 2015
Cetti's Warbler (2)
1 Mar 2015
Marsh Harrier ()
27 Feb 2015
Bearded Tit (7)
27 Feb 2015
Whooper Swan ()
24 Feb 2015
Bittern ()
21 Feb 2015
Kingfisher ()
21 Feb 2015
Great Spotted Woodpecker ()
1 Mar 2015
Goldcrest ()
1 Mar 2015

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Where is it?

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

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