Somerset Levels Ham Wall

Thornbury U3A Birdwatching Group – Visit to Ham Walls RSPB Reserve 13.5.19

‘A Grand Day Out (with apologies to Wallace and Gromit)’

On a glorious May morning five members met at the RSPB Reserve at Ham Walls on the Somerset Levels. There was a gentle, slightly fresh, south-easterly breeze which ruffled the surface of the lagoons and made one pleased that an extra layer had been put on before leaving home. At the visitor centre Great Tits, Goldfinch and Blackbird were seen on the feeders before we moved off along the old railway line towards the viewing platforms. High above us Swifts could be seen while Mute Swan and Moorhen were on a distant lagoon and then a Jay flew close in front. In the distance Bitterns were booming, a Blackcap sang lustily in the trees and a Wood Pigeon collected small twigs. At the first viewing platform a Great White Egret could be seen preening with Black Headed Gulls, Lapwing and Pochard on the lagoon. All the time of our visit, other Great Whites were flying and chasing each other over the marshes. One member had gone ahead, attracted by the singing of a Garden Warbler close by in the top of an alder tree. We quickly joined him and had superb views of the bird for many minutes. Our first highlight! In the distance a Cuckoo was heard calling many times while Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Cetti’s Warbler sang repeatedly. Another high spot was the numerous Orange Tip and Brimstone butterflies flying up and down the track. While we had lunch a female Brimstone fed on the flowers of Comfry in front of us, letting us clearly see the delicate cream colour and graceful curves of the wings. A little further away, a Whitethroat fed on yellow flowers of Charlock.
Lunch having been consumed we walked to the Avalon Hide during which a group of five or six Hobby were flying high above. Approaching the hide a Greater Spotted Woodpecker was seen in the small wood, Reed Warblers scratched away in the reeds and then we had superb close sightings of a pair of Marsh Harriers over the reed beds accompanied by many Hobby flying around over the marshes. The return walk from the hide gave us a wonderful few minutes as we saw the Greater Spotted Woodpeckers landing on a silver birch tree and entering a hole in the trunk, to the chorus of squawks from the chicks in the nest. Each time the adult birds perched on the tree trunk, they paused just beneath the hole before entering and leaving giving excellent viewing and chances for the photographers.
It had been a ‘grand day out’! The birds and bird song, butterflies, dragonflies and flowers on a glorious May day could not have been bettered. Thank you to those who came and I hope that they enjoyed the day as much as myself.
Charles Hiscock
Bird List Butterflies
Goldfinch Mallard Orange Tip
Great Tit Wren Brimstone
Blackbird Tufted Duck Peacock
Buzzard Great Crested Grebe Large White
Swift Lapwing Common Blue
Cormorant Dunnock Speckled Wood
Mute Swan Chaffinch
Moorhen Greylag Goose
Jay Garden Warbler
Robin Cetti’s Warbler
Bittern (heard) Lesser Black-backed Gull
Blackcap Reed Bunting
Black Headed Gull Hobby
Great White Egret Whitethroat
Wood Pigeon Carrion Crow
Pochard Willow Warbler
Chiffchaff Reed Warbler
Cuckoo (heard) Greater Spotted Woodpecker
Coot Marsh Harrier 38 bird species