Sunday 18 January – Shapwick Heath and Ham Wall

Eighteen members met at the new RSPB car park at Ashcott Corner on a bright crisp afternoon. Bristol Naturalists’ were also meeting there that afternoon under the leadership of club member Giles Morris so we decided to combine and have a joint field meeting. We walked down the path being the former Somerset and Dorset Railway track from Burnham-on-Sea to Evercreech that divides the two sides of Ham Wall. The RSPB have created a number of new features at this reserve lately one being the new Tor Hide and boardwalk approach which takes you right into the heart of the reed bed. At the hide we had wonderfully close views of a Water Rail stealthily weaving between the vegetation seeking insect prey. A Kingfisher sped past in a turquoise-blue flash and a Cetti’s Warbler announced its presence with an explosive outburst of notes. From the viewing platforms we observed a good selection of water birds including Mallard, Gadwall, Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Mute Swan, Grey Heron and Little Grebe. Waders were represented by Lapwing and Snipe. Incredibly, these days, you seem more likely to see a Great White Egret rather than its smaller cousin at this reserve and such was the case today. Some had brilliant views of a Goldcrest feeding in an alder with the sun lighting up its orange and yellow crown stripe. A Marsh Harrier drifted low over the reeds. We then walked through part of the Natural England Meare Heath reserve where we had heard that the Starlings had roosted the previous evening. We were not disappointed as just before dusk tens of thousands of the birds poured into the reed beds, swirling and twisting in their huge flocks. A captivating sight as usual(Thanks to Mike for leading) Mike Johnson