Topsham Birdwatching & Naturalist Society's Field Trip to RSPB Ham Wall Reserve on 20 May 2017.
The third TBNS field trip of 2017 was to the RSPB's reserve at Ham Wall in the Somerset Levels. Having visited the reserve in March 2016 and had to cancel a further trip two months later, hopes were high for hearing and seeing one of Ham Wall’s specialities, its booming Bitterns.
Ham Wall is on the site of previous intensive peat workings. The RSPB now actively manages the area which comprises open water, reed beds, scrub and woodland. It’s a great place to visit at any time of year – a TBNS field trip in early 2015 witnessed the reserve’s legendary winter evening Starling murmuration.
Despite an indifferent weather forecast, thirteen members made it to the reserve for our latest visit. There was time for a quick coffee and comfort stop before meeting our guides Bob and David, both veteran volunteers of the reserve.
After a brief stop to explain how eels arrive at Ham Wall following a 4-year journey from the Sargasso Sea(!), we were taken off the main visitor circuit and across the north of the reserve towards the Avalon Hide. En route we were treated to several bird highlights of the trip: hobby, red kite, barn owl and great white egret. Bob and David’s wildlife knowledge was extensive and most people learned to identify several new bird species. Cuckoo, Cetti’s warbler and a few booming bitterns were amongst the birds heard but unseen. Darters, beetles and flora were also identified.
The climax of our visit came as we settled into the big Avalon Hide for lunch. Our guides had no sooner mentioned “being able to see bitterns from here”, than two adult bitterns emerged from the reeds and flew back and forth in front of the hide for several minutes. Bob and David got gold stars for that!
Our guides left us at lunchtime, and after lunch we had free time to explore more of the reserve. Despite the rain that settled in for an hour or so, we continued to enjoy its sights and sounds, arriving back at the reserve centre about 3pm.
It had been an interesting and rewarding trip, with about 30 bird species identified. Being in the company of knowledgeable guides had really enhanced the experience.
The next TBNS field trip will be on Saturday 7 October, when we shall have an escorted visit to Seaton Marshes.
Gordon Davis, TBNS Secretary.