Friday 28 May 2021

Ham Wall Heaven

Monday 24th May was cool, cloudy and showery but we headed out anyway for a quick walk from Sainsburys at Marsh Mills to Saltram House and back. A Swift flying overhead with Swallows was my first one in the Plymouth area this year and a surprise find was the female Red-crested Pochard on the duck pond where a female and 14 male Mandarin and 3 Moorhen chicks were also noted.

Red-crested Pochard


Wednesday 26th May was forecasted to be a warm and sunny day and so it turned out to be despite a fresh and cool wind, perfect for a trip to RSPB Ham Wall in Somerset with my mate Mavis. 

We arrived at the car park at just before 9:30 and it was already quite busy with birders and toggers getting their gear together. We did the same and headed off along the footpath to Shapwick Heath for the first part of our walk.

It was lovely to be out in the sunshine listening to Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Reed Warbler, Cettis Warbler and Garden Warbler and out of the wind it was pleasently warm too.

A large Slow Worm sunning itself on the footpath as we began our walk was a surprise and I carefully placed it in the vegetation by the side of the path to avoid any walker/cyclist accidents.

Slow Worm

Large Red, Blue-tailed and Variable Damselflies were flitting about in sheltered spots along with Banded Demoiselle and Scarce Chasers.

Large Red Damselfly

Blue-tailed Damsefly

Banded Demoiselle

Scarce Chaser

Brimstone, Orange Tip, Large White, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and Green Veined White were on the wing too.


We arrived at the first hide along the footpath and met the naturalist Mike Dilger from the TV leading a small tour, his voice being very distinctive and giving his identity away.

The birds began to show at this point and we stood and watched Hobby and Swift dashing about overhead feeding on flies, Marsh Harriers quartering the reed beds, Great White Egrets regularly flying past, a pair of Mute Swan being trailed by 7 small cygnets and a pair of Great Crested Grebe feeding small fish to 3 small humbug-like chicks.

Pochard, Tufted Duck, Coot, Gadwall, Cormorant, Mallard and a singing Whitethroat were also seen with Cuckoo, Bittern and Reed Bunting all heard.



We carried on to the hide overlooking Noahs Lake and added Greylag Goose, Little Egret, Moorhen and Grey Heron to our list while having more excellent views of Marsh Harrier, Great White Egret and Hobby.

Great White Egret 

Great White Egret 

Great White Egret 

Great White Egret 

Great White Egret

We walked back towards the car park and stopped along the way at the first hide again to have our lunch, seeing our first fly by Bittern of the day here along with a Jay and a Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Onwards to Ham Wall and more views of Marsh Harrier, Great White Egret and Hobby were had along with regular sightings of Bitterns in flight. A pair of Shoveler, a House Martin, 3 Little Grebe and 2 Lapwing were also found along with a very showy singing Sedge Warbler.

Marsh Harrier 

A female Roe Deer showed very well but briefly before disappearing into the reeds and another pair of Great Crested Grebe were feeding small fish to 2 much more well developed chicks than the 3 seen earlier at Shapwick Heath.

All too soon the day had gone and it was time to head back to Plymouth but what a place Ham Wall is and what a fantastic day out we had.

Donacia marginata

Ctenophora pectinicornis

And now this Spring is virtually spent and I move away from birds as my main focus and spend the next few months looking downwards at moths, butterflies, insects and plants until the autumn arrives. Its been a funny old Spring (and a funny old year so far) but who knows what the next 7 months will bring?

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