RSPB Ham Wall – December 2018

Last year I didn’t see a starling murmuration so I headed to RSPB Ham Wall on Thursday hoping to see one.  10mins after leaving home I hit the first bank of fog, it cleared a little and at some points I saw the sun but as I got closer to Glastonbury, again the fog appeared.  The weather said it would clear around midday.  I headed out on the reserve and made a bee line for Tor View hide, to say it was foggy would be an understatement!  As I headed along the footpath, a little bird flitted into the hedgerow; a blue tit.  There were a number of people in the hide but as people moved on a seat became available.  The fog was thick but it gave a different perspective to the reserve; although you generally listen to the birds, their calls in the fog were more prominent.  I liked that the lapwing were swirling around in front of the hide and the occasional duck would slowly appear out of the gloom.  

Every now and then someone would call marsh harrier and everyone would start looking for it, it would be visible and then vanish, then appear again.  Trying to take photographs in the fog was interesting, it was a case of forgetting the ‘normal’ shots you would want to take and make them more abstract or ‘arty’.  Focusing was the biggest problem, there was just no contrast.   

As the fog lifted a little, the other birds that had been using it as a cloak slowly began to appear… kingfisher, mallard, moorhen, coot, teal, tufted duck, and gadwall were distinguishable and didn’t need to just be called a ‘duck’ anymore.   

I was heading back towards the car park for lunch when a man let me know a pair of bearded tits had been seen in the Mini marshes.  I wasn’t lucky enough to see them, they had vanished when I got there and then shortly after a sparrowhawk flew from a nearby tree, I didn’t think they would be seen anytime soon!  

The fog had thickened again so after a walk along a few of the trails I headed back to Tor View hide in the hope of seeing a murmuration.  A great white egret landed over to the left of the hide and a tufted duck swam closer to keep us entertained as the light levels slowly began to drop.  After a while of waiting a small woosh of starlings flew over head, then a little later another, as the numbers increased they would suddenly appear from nowhere the only clue they were there was the sound; like a wave breaking on a pebble shore. They dove down into the reeds in front of the hide chattering as they went. 

My Patch – June 2018

So June’s blog is a little late! July’s will probably be a little later still! 

I have to say that I have spent a lot more time in the garden than I have out in the field because 1) the edge of the field was over grown and extremely difficult to walk around 2) the garden needed lots done to it 3) I’ve been working long hours at work and 4) 30 Days Wild happened 🙂

June 6th – I saw a Jay in the garden for the first time, it was a very fleeting visit but it was nice to see.  There are lots of fledgling birds about at the moment.  Starlings, great spotted woodpeckers, rooks and this evening I watched the house sparrows leaving their nest from under the roof tiles.  

June 11th – I heard the cuckoo again so he’s still here at the moment 🙂

June 12th – Seeing the slugs and snails have been making a meal out of the seedlings in the garden I decided they would be moving home, into the field! I found a brown garden snail and what I think is a white-lipped banded snail and a grey field slug – happy to be corrected if I’m wrong as I’ve not identified snails and slugs before! 

June 13th – I put the camera out last night to see how the fox is getting on in the field.  She’s still about and takes full advantage of any food that is put out for her 🙂

June 18th – For 30 Days Wild today I went out into the field to see what flowers were about, I found; Soft-brome grass, Corn Chamomile, Curled dock, Field Forget-me-not and of course Stinging nettles. 

June 25th – there was a Roe deer in the field first thing, a male.  I didn’t get a photo as only his antlers were visible in the rape!

June 26th – The cat showed his colours today – two dead birds, one juvenile robin and a blue tit.  There hasn’t been a ‘kill’ left on the doorstep for a while so not sure why its happened today.  

June 28th – Today I found my first Tiger Cranefly (Nephrotoma flavescens), I was looking at the plants in the raised beds and it caught my eye.  

June 29th – I was stood in the front garden and ‘something’ landed on a nearby tree – a Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus).  

I do seem to be writing about more insects this month; 30 Days Wild has started me looking for the smaller creatures in my patch and as I mentioned the field was a little difficult to get around so my attention diverted to what I could easily get too 🙂

I hadn’t heard the cuckoo since the 11th so I can only assume he’s left again for another year – safe travels little chap, hope to hear you again (and maybe see you!) next year…

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day 30

We have had hedgehogs visiting the garden for the last three years, I think we have three in total but we only ever see two at the same time.  They vary in size and that is why I think we have three.  Last night each hedgehog headed straight for the water bowls as soon as they entered the garden.  We have been filling them up each night, which is vitally important for them in this hot weather, what they don’t drink over night the birds have as reserve water until the bird bath is topped up in the morning.  

Last night we initially had one hedgehog show and then 15mins later a second turned up.  They didn’t get too close to each other but they didn’t argue.  There were two hedgehogs out the front of the house the other week that were barging each other around and making a lot of noise!  For some reason last night they both ran off at the same time in the same direction, I hove no idea why as nothing showed up on the camera.  We do have a lot of cats who use the garden as a corridor, they generally just pass thought and don’t stop.  Both hedgehogs did return not long after though.   

We know that at least one of the hedgehogs gets to the garden from the road side of the house, we generally know when it arrives as our house rabbit sits and listens, facing the wall it walks next to! the other looks like it comes from the back of the garden through the fence. 

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day 29

A few weeks ago I noticed the Oxeye daisy’s at work were in flower. They come up every year and their numbers are strong.

Today I went to see if they had gone over. Many of them had so I broke off two flower heads, thanked the plant and took them home. I plan to distribute the seeds in the garden next to my Patch (I have permission to do this) and also some along the road verge. They have recently cut the grasses that were happily growing, so I thought if a few flowers come up next year it would add to the variety of vegetation. If you don’t count the cow parsley there are actually no flowers growing in the verge at all, I’d like to slowly change this to try and help our pollinators 🙂

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day 28

When leaving work tonight I found this cockchafer (Melolontha melolontha) in the road.  I have never seen one before but managed to identify it from images I have seen on Twitter.  I learn a lot of plants and insects from other peoples Tweets 🙂  I took a quick picture and then tried to move it, only to realise it was not moving at all and never would again.  I picked it up off of the floor and brought it home.  Normally we get such fleeting glances of insects as they fly by that I thought I would take the opportunity to have a closer look.

Cockchafer are common in the UK and are also know as the May-bug.  They typically appear late April to early May and live for around 6 weeks.  Eggs are laid around June – July, the grubs then feed on roots and tubers for about 3 years until they are about 4cm.  They pupate and emerge as adults in spring.  Their numbers decreased in the 20th century due to pesticide use but their numbers have been bouncing back since the 1980’s with the regulations of pesticide.

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day 25

This evening I went with a friend to Bampton Cemetery in Oxfordshire.  They visited a grave while I had a look around the Cemetery.  Filling the watering can was a slow process, the tap produced no more than a dribble. While I was stood waiting for the can to fill, I noticed the ivy that is making its way up the tree by the tap, a robin briefly sat on the wall then quickly flew off once it had noticed me.  Walking back along to the grave I noticed that the horse-chestnut tree has leaf-mining moth damage (you can record this data via an app called Leaf watch where the results are submitted to the Conker Tree Science project).  I recorded this tree last year with roughly the same amount of damage.

I noticed that it also had conkers starting to form.  The squirrels that live there like the conker tree, however they also like that my friend leaves them a pile of hazelnuts when he visits.  They have in the winter traded conkers for hazelnuts! Leaving him the conker and running of with the hazelnut, they are quite friendly in winter! 

There are quite a few birds in the area.  The blackbirds were eating the fruit off of what I think is a Japanese Crab tree and I managed to get a single photo of the song thrush before a passer-by scared it off.  There were blue tits and chaffinches in the branches of the trees and woodpigeons grazing among the grave stones.  

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day 24

I had lots of tasks to do today which meant I didn’t have a lot of time free to do much wild.  One thing I do everyday that is important, is watering the birds! 

We have one full sized bird bath and 2 small ‘poppy’s’ which are also filled with water that the smaller birds often use, especially when the pigeons are in the garden.  It is important for birds to have access to water all year round but when its especially hot (22°C here at the moment) the water evaporates quickly so its important to keep an eye on the water level and refresh it as often as needed.  Although I didn’t get any pictures earlier, we had goldfinches having a drink and blue tits having a bath.  The doves turned up late this afternoon for a drink. 

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day 23

Today has been warm and sunny.  I spent this afternoon in the garden looking for insects.  As I was given an insect book for my birthday, I have spent this evening doing my best to identify them.  Some were easier to identify than others! Its been really nice to discover what’s in the garden.  

As I started to thumb through my guide to British insects I spotted one of them straight away – its one of the reasons I like a photographic guide as my brain will connect to a photograph easier than a drawing.  I looked to the info page to find out what it was, much to my surprise it is a common froghopper!  Now on Day 01 when I wrote about cuckoo-spit I said ‘However, we are not very likely to see an adult! They are 6mm long but disappear as soon as they are disturbed – they can jump 70cm in one bound!’ now this one didn’t seem to be bounding anywhere, I think I was extremely lucky to find it 🙂

On the same plant I found harlequin ladybird larvae and on the roses next to that were pollen beetles. 

I moved over to the lavender where I knew there were lots of Honeybee’s (Apis mllifera), a Small tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) fluttered around.  Also on the lavender were a couple of Rosemary beetle’s (Chrysolina americana).  

Over the other side of the path is the mini pond, I found a Helophilus Pendulus which to start with wasn’t going to sit still but it finally settled on a leaf and I managed to get a photograph.  

In the greenhouse I found a Large Yellow Underwing (Noctua pronuba).  I didn’t get a very good photo as it was all over the place and generally hiding down the back of the plants.  

So with a little time in the garden this afternoon I have seen 8 different insects, 3 of which I have never seen before 🙂

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day 22

I knew I wouldn’t have a huge amount of time today so I popped out into the garden to look for textures and patterns.  I first came across a feather on the grass, soft to touch but made up of tiny ridges.  Then my attention was drawn to the plants.  Leaves have so much texture to them, the veins create dips and ridges and the lines, patterns.  The leaves of the pine were my favourite to photograph.  The head of dandelion seeds looks soft and fluffy but when you look closely it looks prickly; its way of attaching itself to passer-by for distribution.   The common daisy – full of pattern from its yellow centre to its layered petals.  


30 Days Wild 2018 – Day 18

Since I received my new wild flower book I have wanted to spend a little time out in the field exploring what plants are living along the margins.  The farmer has now cut a path around the edge where the wild plants were meeting the crop so it is now more accessible to walk around.  I spent about 10 mins this evening out in the field, I had intended on spending longer but I wasn’t expecting the rain quite so early!  I have managed to identify a few of the plants I found:  Soft-brome grass, Corn Chamomile, Field Forget-me-not and of course the Stinging nettle. 


Others are still a complete mystery!…


I think I might make a winter project out of the wild flowers in the field – photograph them in the summer and then identify in the winter.  I only looked at a small corner of the field, if I’m to try and identify what the rest of the field holds (126 acres though the crop covers 98% of it!) I think its best to get out and photograph them all in the coming month or two!