Sunday 19 October – RSPB Ham Wall

 It was a sunny but windy day for our walk around the RSPB’s Ham Wall reserve. Bob Buck and John Crispin (both RSPB volunteers and experts at identifying birds) were our guides for the morning. We were going “off piste” into the conservation area of the reserve which members of the public don’t normally have access to. This was going to be real treat! Right from the start birds were popping up everywhere – either seen or heard. To kick off were Chiffchaff, Pied Wagtail, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Cetti’s Warbler. One member spotted a late Swallow who must have missed the last bus! There was a number of Stonechats, both male and female, and a stunning Reed Bunting posing beautifully on a swaying reed. As we progressed deeper into the reserve and looked out over lagoons, we spotted a lovely family group of Mute Swans with three young, gliding gracefully across the water. Great White and Little Egrets were present giving us the opportunity to note the difference in size. Wildfowl were in abundance including Gadwall, Wigeon, Pochard, Shoveler, Teal and Mallard; and John gave us some very useful tips for identifying wildfowl in flight. A flock of Lapwings obligingly did a few circuits overhead and we were able to pick out three Snipe within it. During the walk we had a brilliant sighting of a Marsh Harrier quartering over the reedbeds. There was some debate over whether this was a female or young juvenile male, a point which remained inconclusive. We also spotted a Buzzard and this provided a great opportunity to check the differences between the two birds of prey. Bearded Tits proved a little elusive probably due to the windy conditions, but at last they were heard ‘pinging’ and a couple of members had a brief glimpse. Water Rail was also heard but not seen. On the latter part of the walk we were treated to three Ruff feeding in the shallow water, and were able to get good views of three Snipe on the edge of the water (possibly the same ones we saw flying earlier). To round off the walk at the last viewing platform, a Bittern obligingly did a fly-past for us! Throughout the walk we were accompanied by a variety of flying insects including Southern Hawker and Ruddy Darter dragonflies, a Red Admiral butterfly, and a Hornet, and John drew our attention to a couple of specimens of otter spraint. The total number of birds recorded was 43. Many thanks to Bob and John for leading such an interesting and educational walk.          Linda Moysey