Back with a more 'normal' blog this week, although the weather has been pretty atrocious for much of it with Tuesday and Thursday (yesterday) in particular a bit of a wash out. It's made sightings a little harder to come by this week but as always at Ham Wall there's something interesting to report. 

Fewer sightings of the yellow browed warbler this week. It was definitely seen last weekend and on Monday at the small bridge as you enter the wood on the way to the Avalon Hide. Thanks to Graham Wagner who sent me his shots captured last Friday:

If you are heading out towards the Avalon Hide just take note that the paths are a little muddy - no surprise given the amount of rain we've had. When you get there look out for marsh harriers - both males and females seen on the north of the reserve with at least 4 using this area quite frequently. Thank you to John Crispin for his shots of both male and female birds taken this week:

Also seen from the Avalon Hide this week: sparrowhawk, great white egret, little egret, bearded tits heard and meadow pipits following me around whilst I was cutting reeds with the Softrak machine this week, in the area beyond the open water in front of the hide. 

Firecrest has been seen again this week, in and around the car park area as well as along the main path. It's worth having a good scan in the trees as you walk through the reserve along the main track, there's usually a good selection of birds. Check out all the goldcrests - just in case they are firecrest. John Crispin took this goldcrest shot this week - thanks John:

Gangs of long tailed tits can also be seen every day - often containing the odd goldcest. They always brighten up my day when I see them. Thanks to both John Crispin & Karen Lawson for their long tailed tit shots: 

Long tailed tit: Karen Lawson 

Also look out for chaffinches picking up grit off the track, song thrush, great spotted woodpecker, chiffchaff, redpoll, bullfinch and treecreeper (the last two both photographed by John Crispin. The lovely male bullfinch adds a splash of colour on any dreary day and the treecreeper picture shows its acrobatic skills - take particular notice of its long claws. 

The first viewing platform (VP1) is a great place to stop off too. Plenty of wildfowl on show most days and good numbers of lapwing adding plenty of activity and noise to the proceedings. Gadwall, mallard, shoveler, tufted duck, pochard, teal and wigeon have all been seen this week along with great crested grebes which are now pairing back up after a break over winter. Pairs are getting reacquainted and there has been some head bobbing as they re-establish bonds. VP1, Loxtons and Waltons all have pairs at the moment. Thanks to John Crispin for his sequence of great crested grebe photos taken last week:

Also over in Waltons, it's worth stopping off at the first 2 screens (the 3rd one is closed at the moment as we look to revamp this area). Most days you should see great white egret here along with the odd heron and little egret. In fact on Tuesday there were 6 great white egret and 9 little egrets feeding. There has also been a lot of black headed gull activity recently. We believe it may be an after effect of having the starlings in this area for so long (all the way up to New Year). All the droppings from so many starlings each night, has an effect on the water quality, it becomes a bit de-oxygenated and fish come more up to the surface making them an easier catch. 

The regrowth of reed in the spring should help immensely and should go some way to filtering the water. So as amazing as they are - there is a down side to us with the crushing down of the reedbed and the poorer water quality. 

Having said that, there have been some spectacular displays this year and we estimate at least 500,000 birds in the roost - feel free to make your own estimates (it's not easy). They have been roosting over on Shapwick Heath in the area just past Noah Lake (The Roughet). We still recommend parking at Ham Wall to get information from our Welcome Building staff and volunteers or you could phone the Starling Hotline on 07866 554142 for the last known location of the roost (ie the night before).

Thanks to John Crispin and Karen Lawson for their great white egret shots taken this week - note in John's picture this is a ringed bird (a male ringed at Ham Wall on 25/5/16) : 

Great white egret: John Crispin

Great white egret: Karen Lawson 

Also thanks to John Crispin for his shots of black headed gull catching a fish - we think this could be a first winter bird:

Other sightings from the Waltons are this week include: kingfisher, water rail, lapwing and snipe on the cut areas, lots of shoveler and gadwall plus a few tufted duck and pochard. 

Thanks to John Crispin for his gadwall shot showing the lovely plumage of the drake:

Also this week: plenty of cattle egret roosting on the reserve each night (155 recorded last week) - on Tuesday there were 17 in the field next to the car park during the day, peregrine sighted from VP1, jays seen close to VP2, raven seen flying over on Wednesday, short bittern flights in Waltons, Loxtons and from the Avalon Hide this week, jack snipe reported from Waltons by a visitor, a hen harrier (female) spotted on Shapwick Heath last Saturday and Stonechat seen perched up in front of VP1 on several days this week.

Last couple of photos now from Karen Lawson of Britain's favourite bird - the robin. Lovely photos - thanks Karen:

That's going to have to be it for this week. Once again I'm running out of time - a wardens work is never done!

Before I go I'd like to mention some exciting upcoming events: 

What’s that duck?

 Saturday                1 February

Sunday                  16 February

Sunday                  8 March

 10 am – 12:30 pm

Winter is a great time for bird watching at RSPB Ham Wall but it can be tricky to identify all of the different ducks and other birds that are around at this time of year. Come along and learn how to tell the difference between a mallard and a gadwall or a teal and a wigeon. We will also look for the many other birds that call the reserve their home.

Booking essential

RSPB members £4:80; Non-RSPB members £6

RSPB child members £2:40; Non-RSPB child £3

All bookings are online via Eventbrite

Please note booking charges apply


Join Iolo Williams and RSPB Ham Wall at The Pavilion at Shapwick, Somerset near to the RSPB Ham Wall Reserve, one of the sites featured in his new book '‘Wild Places UK – UK’s Top 40 Nature Sites’, for an informative talk and book signing.

The UK is known for its natural beauty and its wildlife and in Wild Places UK television naturalist Iolo Williams picks his favourite forty wildlife sites from the many nature reserves around the country. As this informative and lavishly illustrated book demonstrates, all forty places are packed with the widest variety of trees, plants, birds, animals and insects. Williams draws on his enormous knowledge to guide readers and visitors to the natural delights of each site. Wild Places UK confirms the country’s stunning landscape inhabited in abundance of all manner of life. Author and book aim to introduce a new audience to the delights of the UK, be they armchair naturalists or, more importantly, visitors to the forty sites Williams has selected.

Wednesday 5th February  13:00 – 15:00

Tickets £20. All booking through Eventbrite (please note booking fees apply)

Thanks for reading - have a great weekend