Monday, 15 May 2017

Three Egret Heaven at Ham Wall

Saturday 13th May and it was off on a coach trip to RSPB Ham Wall near Glastonbury in Somerset with the Plymouth RSPB Group on what may well be the last coach trip for the group as nobody is willing or able to take on the role of treasurer meaning the group will have to fold. I had originally planned to go on the DBWPS trip to Lundy this weekend but opted for Ham Wall instead (cheaper and less hassle) and I'm very glad I did.

It was sunny but breezey, cool in the wind and out of the sun but quite hot in sheltered and sunny spots. It did become increasingly cloudy and on the drive back to Plymouth at the end of the day the forecasted rain duly arrived.

On arrival we had the option to join the warden on a guided walk off the public paths but myself and my mate Mavis decided to head off on our own to find our own birds. We started with a nice singing male whitethroat in the car park hedge and walking along the path to the viewing platform we heard blackcap, chiffchaff, willow warbler, garden warbler, reed warbler and Cettis warblers singing. The deep resonant booming of a bittern could be distantly heard from the platform and we managed to get brief flight views of 2 birds flying over the reed beds, a new bird for Mavis. From the platform we also saw 2 great white egrets, pochard, 2 great crested grebes with 2 large young, at least 8 hobbys hawking for insects over the reeds, swifts, gadwall and tufted duck.

 Mallard and Pochard

Mallard and Pochard

 Great White Egret

Great White Egret

We carried on along the path towards the new Avalon hide situated right out in the reed beds but took a short detour first on the advice of a passing birder to a nearby small viewing platform overlooking a scrape where we found 2 little egrets, a very nice glossy ibis preening and a very smart male garganey feeding nearby, my bird of the day, along with lapwing, coot and mallard.

 Glossy Ibis

 Glossy Ibis

 2 sleeping male Garganey with Glossy Ibis


From the hide we watched a male and 2 female marsh harriers hunting with 2 mid air food passes seen by the male to the female, hobbys hawking overhead, a bittern flying over the reeds, 2 great crested grebes with 2 small young, bearded tit groups bouncing over the reeds including a few males, a tawny owl chick perched outside its nest box and 2 gaudy male ruff feeding on the mud.

 Tawny Owl chick

 Marsh Harrier over the reed bed

Marsh Harrier

We walked back to the small viewing platform where the glossy ibis was still on show along with a male teal, 2 male shoveler and now 2 male garganey. Mavis picked up 3 egrets flying towards the scrape which turned out to be cattle egrets in breeding plumage and at one point we had little-, cattle- and great white egret all on view together.

Cattle Egret

We walked back to the car park and crossed over the road to Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserve and visited the new tower hide overlooking a scrape where around 30 black tailed godwits were feeding. Also seen from the hide were more marsh harriers, hobbys, a bittern, great white egrets, 2 greylag geese with a gosling and a male wigeon. Mavis again picked up 3 cattle egrets flying towards the scrape with one coming in to land by a little egret, presumably different birds to those seen earlier.

Common Blue Damselfly

 Four Spotted Chaser - a new dragonfly for me

 Blue Tailed Damselfly

Azure Damselfly

With time running out we walked back to the viewing platform at Ham Wall where we watched a bittern having a tussle with a great white egret flying over the reeds, a little grebe, our only moorhen of the day, marsh harriers, hobbys, swifts and swallows before it was time to get back on the coach for the journey back to Plymouth - but what an amazing days birding we had had.

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