RSPB Ham wall – August 2018

I headed to RSPB Ham Wall over the August Bank Holiday weekend with a friend who wanted to try out a couple of cameras he had hired. I also had with me my new Sigma 150mm Macro 2.8, I had put it on my old Nikon D300 seeing I probably wouldn’t need to crop into the images much.  Although we had gone to go bird watching we were also trying out new kit 🙂    

We headed down to Tor hide; from previous visits we know it is a good place to spot bitterns!  There was a fair amount of activity, a marsh harrier, gadwall, great white egret, cormorant, swallow, little brown thing that flew between the reeds that I just saw out of the corner of my eye (I have no idea at all what it was!), black headed gull, moorhen, the Red Arrows flew over!, little grebe, and of course a bittern.  It took a very short flight over the reed beds, I was lucky to get a photo as by the time you had seen it, it was gone! 

After a few hours I walked back to the car park to use the facilities!  On the way I saw a mute swan and 4 cygnets and a little creature ran across the path.  I’m not sure who was most surprised, me or him, we both stopped, looked at each other briefly and he shot into the grass.  I think it was a vole but it was such a brief encounter I can’t be certain.  That will teach me for not taking my camera!

On the walk to the Avalon Hide I saw another vole! This one didn’t stop to look, he just shot across the path!  The hide wasn’t too busy when we got there but people were very spread out, it became obvious after a while that people who were there together were taking up a window each rather than sitting together to allow others to sit down. Now I do see the value of a window each because it allows you more room, however, I have always moved to sit with a companion if others come in to sit down, I just see it as polite. We had to squeeze in a gap in between a window and someone’s scope because they were taking up two windows, they were sat a good few feet away from the windows and at an angle, it was a little odd, they didn’t even acknowledge we were there!  After a while of feeling rather uncomfortable we were able to move to a window that became available.  

There wasn’t a huge number of birds about but enough to keep us occupied: little egret, great white egret, mute swan, coot, house martin, cormorant, 4 marsh harriers at once and a sparrowhawk!  The lady sat next to me noticed it at the same time and we were debating on what it was at the time.  I think it took us both by surprise sat in the water by the reeds. 

With regards to my new lens, after a bit of testing I think it would work better on my D3s, the D300 just doesn’t seem to work properly with it, it didn’t seem to want to focus, it just wasn’t right.  I normally have a wide angle on the D3s so looks like I might have to do some switching of lenses while out in the field when necessary!  Not something I like to do if I can help it, I rather dislike cleaning camera sensors!

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. 

RSPB Ham Wall – December 2016

Over the Christmas break I decided to take a trip to RSPB Ham Wall. Although I didn’t leave overly early it was still freezing and misty outside. After an hour and 20min drive to Glastonbury the mist had cleared and the sun bathed the wetlands.

I have only been to Ham Wall once before and that was in June so this time I decided to explore a little more of the site. It was also an excuse to keep warm! 

At one of the screens I was watching 6 Snipe, when the lady next to me asked if I knew what the smaller bird next to them was. She thought it was a Water Pipit, as she had heard one had been seen recently, so having a closer look and comparing it to an image I looked up on my phone we decided it indeed was a Water Pipit. This was the first Water Pipit either of us had knowingly seen. A great start to the day!

On the Loxton’s Marsh Trail there were Black-headed Gulls doing laps of the reeds. They were so predictable it was quite easy to get a nice shot of them. I quite like Black-headed Gulls they seem to have a lot of personality 🙂

I headed to Avalon Hide in the afternoon. On the walk there, there were signs that Deer had been sleeping in the reeds.  The hide is currently being used by a Barn Owl as it’s dining room so there are a lot of Starling feathers about! With the sun creeping just above the tree line the reeds seemed like they were made of gold. A great time for a Bittern to appear at the far side of the reed bed 🙂

I headed back outside at 3pm to get set for watching the Starlings. There were hundreds of people congregated so I stood a little away from the crowd. They first started to appear at 16:08, streams of them coming in from all angles, diving down into the reeds. The sound they make is lovely. Unfortunately there were no murmurations but the sheer number alone was a sight to see. Its definitely worth a visit. 

My full sightings list:
Wren, Robin, Snipe, Water Pipit, Shovler, Great-crested Grebe, Coot, Mallard, Cormorant, Little Grebe, Mute Swan, Grey Heron, Great White Egret, Black Headed Gull, Greylag Geese, Canada Geese, Kingfisher, Wigeon, Stonechat, Reed Bunting

30 Days Wild 2016 – Part 3: Days 11-20

Days 11-20 of 30 Days Wild…

Day 11: It rained so I visited Whelford Pools Nature Reserve to sit in the hides & watch the birds. I saw Great Created Grebe, Common Turn, Mallard, Coot, Cormorant, Black Headed Gulls, Blue Tit and Mute Swan.

Day 12: Day out at Avalon Marshes. At RSPB Ham Wall I saw – Bittern, Mute Swan, Mallard, Cormorant, Grey Heron, Great Crested Grebe, Tufted Duck, Coot, Great White Egret, Little Grebe, Hobby, Buzzard, Swift, Marsh Harrier, Pied Wagtail and at RSPB Greylake – Redshank, Marsh Harrier, Mute Swan, Coot and Roe Deer – blog posts: RSPB Ham Wall and RSPB Greylake coming soon.

Day 13: Cleaned the bird feeders 🙂

Day 14: Okay so today wasn’t completely wild but half wild! We found a stray kitten in the garage. After about an hour, I managed to convince him I was friendly and he came over for a cuddle. We asked around locally but no one had lost him. We fed him and gave him a pet carrier with a blanket so he was comfortable in the garage until we could take him to the Blue Cross.

Day 15: Nature breaking through – I like how nature works its way through the obstacles humans put in it way 🙂

Day 16: Wildlife spotting on the way to work – Yellow Hammer, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Buzzard, Rabbit, Red-legged Partridge, Sparrow, Magpie, Starling, Crow, Jackdaw, Blackbird and Pheasant.

Day 17: Logging ladybird sightings

Day 18: Feathers from my recent wanderings – I tend to pick up feathers when I’m out and about especially interesting looking ones. Some of the ones I photographed today were from a Red Kite 🙂

Day 19: Watched Springwatch – catching up on the shows I missed

Day 20: Lovely sunny evening after a very wet morning #summersolstice