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 Lodmoor – April 2017

I decided it was time to take a few days off work, so thatโ€™s what I did just before Easter and headed to the coast.  I have been following Weymouth Wetlands on Twitter for a while now, knowing that it would be a destination I would be visiting. I think Twitter is great for researching what wildlife you can spot around the country, specifically when you are going to a named site.  

I arrived in Weymouth in the afternoon and quickly visited the Discovery Centre to have a look at their recent sightings board before moving on to Lodmoor.  Lodmoor is about 4 miles along the coast from the Discovery Centre and really easy to find.  Both of the car parks for the RSPB sites in Weymouth are council owned so make sure you take change with you.  The worse part it deciding how long you think you are going to stay!

I decided to walk the Marsh Trail and the Reedbed Trail which join together to make a loop.  One of my first sightings was a Canada Goose sat on a nest on an island fairly close to the path, it was nice to see. There were quite a few people out in the reserve, so I walked on until I found a free bench to sit on.  I could see, over to the left a small flock of Black-tailed Godwits but they flew off before I could get a proper look.  They did fly back over later and I managed to grab a quick photograph.

I was suddenly aware of movement to my left and a Rabbit hopped out of the grass, it didnโ€™t seem bothered by me which is always concerning.  As I walked passed it only moved a few feet, it looked like it had been hit in the head, but I am more inclined to think it had Mixamytosis ๐Ÿ™

It was a lovely sunny day though and as I moved along the Reedbed Trail I became aware of the Swallows that were flying overhead, my first sighting this year ๐Ÿ™‚

There were about 20 House Sparrows darting in and out of the hedgerow opposite the houses and Blackbirds that kept hoping about on the grass.  All afternoon there was one bird that I heard continually, I had no idea what it was but was sure I was being stalked by it!! I would think I heard approx. 10+ of them on the site.  I am still in the very early stages of learning bird songโ€™s but this one I will now remember โ€“ a Cettiโ€™s Warbler! 

I ended my afternoon with a quick walk across the road to the beach, no trip to the coast would be right without seeing the sea ๐Ÿ™‚

My full sightings list:
Birds: Canada Goose (1 on nest), Shelduck, Coot, Little Egret, Mute Swan, Moorhen, Black-tailed Godwit, Mallards, Herring Gull, House Sparrow, Blackbird, Dunnock, Pochard, Teal,  Gadwall, Woodpigeon, Tufted Duck, Cormorant, Goldfinch, Magpie, Great Tit, Swallow, Grey Heron, Carrion Crow, heard Cetti’s Warbler, Black-headed Gull
Mammals: Rabbit
Butterflies: Speckled Wood

Boxing Day 2016 – Visit to WWT Slimbridge

For a change of scenery on Boxing Day I headed to WWT Slimbridge with my parents. We have visited Slimbridge a number of times before, although not in the colder months and my Mum wanted to see the Bewick’s Swans in particular. So taking the back roads to avoid the Boxing day sales traffic we headed towards Gloucester. 

Even as an adult I buy grain to feed the birds. The Nene Geese came to greet us asking nicely for food; I lost my packet of food to my Dad who took to feeding them and every Moorhen he saw! We took a slow walk towards the Zeiss hide stopping for lunch at the picnic benches on route.  My parents aren’t birders so don’t like sitting in hides for long but during the periods of time they managed to sit still, I saw Roe Deer, a Curlew, Bewick’s Swans in the distance, a couple of Mute Swan and hundreds of Lapwing and Wigeon.  

Warm drinks were needed after a walk around the site, the restaurant was packed but I managed to get us a table near the window which was very fortuitous as I saw my first Grey Wagtail, so of course I grabbed my camera and headed outside for a record shot! 

Towards the end of our visit we headed to the Peng observatory, knowing we wanted to be there for the 4pm feeding to have a closer look at the Bewick’s Swans.  It is a nice place to sit and watch the bird’s slowly growing in number as they head in for feeding time.  It was lovely to see the birds following the wheelbarrow of food, there were about 30 Bewick’s, a real treat to witness and something I highly recommend seeing if you have time to stay till closing.

My full list of sightings:
Birds: Curlew, Bewick’s Swan, Mute, Swan, Tufted Duck, Lapwing, Wigeon, Black-headed Gull, Shelduck, Coot, Moorhen, Reshank, Jackdaw, Rook, Teal, Pintail, Grey Wagtail, Long-tailed Tit, Woodpigeon, Song Thrush
Mammals: Roe Deer

RSPB Ham Wall – June 2016

RSPB Ham Wall - Glastonbury TorAs part of ’30 Days Wild’ I set out for the day to visit RSPB Ham Wall. I had heard of Ham Wall because of the Starlings they get in winter but I knew little about the site.

I had read the RSPB’s recent sightings blog posts before heading out so had an idea of what it was possible to see and where they might be. Obviously Bittern was at the top of the list!

It took me longer to get there than anticipated, I’m sure the satnav took me the scenic route! The car park is beautiful with wildflowers between the parking bays. I’d just stepped out of the car and heard a chap say ‘there’s a bittern flying overhead’ I caught a quick glimps – a shape moving in the distance.

Access via the main path wasn’t available due to work on the bridge so I followed the diversion signs and headed towards Tor view hide. On route I stopped at some of the screens to see what was about. A gentleman pointed me in the direction of a screen where a heron was nicely posing.

RSPB Ham Wall - BitternThe hide was quite busy when I got there with only a couple of seats spare. As people left I moved to a seat with a better view. The girl sat next to me was a regular to the site and amazing at spotting bitterns flying over the reeds, my first proper bittern sighting was thanks to her ๐Ÿ™‚ There were plenty of other birds to watch including the incredibly cute Coot chicks.

After a couple of hours I moved onto Alavon hide for a quick look. There were a pair of Marsh Harriers constantly in the sky along with a Great White Egret on what looked like its nest.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and look forward to heading back there in the Autumn to see the Starlings ๐Ÿ™‚

My full list of sightings for the day:
Birds: 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
Insects: Stag beetle