Trip reports

Ham Wall Nature Reserve (RSPB), 20 May 2018

Ham Wall Nature Reserve (RSPB), 20 May 2018
MJ Fisher

Sunday, 27 May 2018

On a warm Sunday morning we set off at 7.10 a.m. with 31 on board the coach headed for Somerset and RSPB Ham Wall. A pleasant stop was taken at the Gloucester Services for breakfast and with the thermometers beginning to sore we arrived at 10.20. We were greeted by the song of Blackcaps, two friends swelling our number to 33 and Michael, a reserve volunteer, who gave us a quick briefing about recent sightings and activities.

Soon we were on our way in search of the treasures held by the wetland habitat developed by the RSPB from a former peat extraction site and overlooked by Glastonbury Tor. Bitterns and cuckoos promptly announced their presence but did not immediately show themselves, unlike the good number of Great white egrets and Little egrets who seemed less shy. Bitterns did not keep us waiting too long before making an appearance but the cuckoos proved elusive to the eye for all but a handful of us.

Warblers were making themselves known all round the reserve. Cetti's warbler was not just very vocal but uncharacteristically visible. Other close relatives were Garden, Sedge and Reed warbler, Whitethroat and Lesser whitethroat, Chiffchaff and our welcoming Blackcaps.

Six dragonfly species were seen including Four-spotted dragonflies emerging in abundance and Banded demoiselle whilst Clouded yellow and Holly blue butterflies were in our list of 7 Lepidoptera. However the skies were surprisingly thinly populated given the flying insects that were around. Swift, Swallow and House martin were seen but in small numbers only. Hobbies were occasionally a bit more noticeable and other raptors that made appearances were Marsh harrier, Peregrine, Red kite, Sparrowhawk and Common Buzzard.

The bodies of water all displayed their share of water fowl. Swans with cygnets, Great crested grebe with youngsters, and ducks including Garganey, Shoveller, Teal and Gadwall decorated the waters. Little grebe were being quite noisy, mainly from the reed beds. Only small numbers of geese were seen and limited to Greylag and Canada geese.

Waders were very scarce, with only Lapwings being recorded, but Raven and Jay featured in our fairly complete list of corvids, and it was interesting to watch Carrion crows hawking and feasting on the erupting dragonflies. Other species noted around the reserve included Bullfinch, Reed bunting, Grey wagtail, Skylark, Collared dove, Green woodpecker and Great spotted woodpecker.

When there is a Bittern sighted it will often get star billing, but on this occasion the accolade is granted to some youngsters. Not many of us saw them but the Tawny owl chicks seen waiting for their parents to bring their next meal grab is deemed to be this month's highight.

On the day the group recorded 73 bird species as seen and one, Goldcrest, as heard. This added 13 species to our coach trip 'seen' list for the year to bring the cumulative total to 100 species.

Leaving the reserve at 4 p.m. the journey home was uneventful although the countryside scenery at this time of year was quite delightful. We arrived back in Sutton Coldfield at about 7.10 p.m., exactly 12 hours after our departure. May often delivers one of the most memorable field trips of the year, and the weather (with temperatures well into double figures for the first time this year!) and Ham Wall did not fail us. It was a great day out!

Tony Green
Sutton Coldfield RSPB - Field Trip Organiser