Joint meeting with BNHS and Bath RSPB local group.
Meare Heath & Ham Wall on the Somerset Levels
(Leaders: Phillip & Lucy Delve)
Our party of six met at Ashcott Corner, where a lucky few saw a Grass Snake swimming across the drainage dyke. Ashcott Corner is well placed to access the extensive reed-bed and wetlands of Ham Wall, Walton, Meare and Shapwick Heaths. These can all be viewed from the track that runs east and west from here, along the line of a drainage dyke and the route of a disused railway line. Heading west in mild, calm and glare free conditions, we found plenty of interest throughout our morning on the Natural England Reserve. Bird sounds accompanied our progress; the explosive song of Cetti’s Warblers, more distant reed buntings, “hu itt” calls of leaf warblers, the occasional Water Rail squeal, and even a few pinging calls of Bearded Reedlings. Although water levels were very high, there were birds to see, flocks of Teal, Mallard and Gadwall circled above, a party of Lapwings passed over and the occasional lone Cormorant flew overhead. Swallows swooped low for insects over the reeds. A Hobby settled in nearby oak trees. Then on Noah’s Lake, the highlights: two Black Terns, tiny compared with Black-headed Gulls perched next to them; two Great White Egrets, among the first known to nest in the UK and only this year; an Osprey flying in with a large fish.
Although more inclined to fly in bright sunshine, several species of dragonfly were seen through the morning. The most notable find here were several Small Red-eyed Damselflies along the dyke, on bank side vegetation. This species, new to Britain in 1999, has been expanding its range westwards and if our identification is correct, is a new arrival here. After lunch, back at the car park, we set off eastward to view the Ham Wall and Walton Heath RSPB reserves. Now in sunshine, butterflies were more active. It was particularly heartening to see several Small Tortoiseshells, which have become so scarce elsewhere. Dark Bush CricketsClick here for photo 1 abounded in the path side vegetation.Click here for Photo 2 In the pools by Loxton’s Loop we saw several more Small Red-eyed damselflies and a small Marsh Frog. Among all the soaring Buzzards and at least four Hobbys, a dark juvenile Marsh Harrier flew across our path toward the Ham Wall. Also on Ham Wall, well hidden among cut reed stumps were up to twenty Snipe.
List of birds seen, heard or both. 45 species:
Mallard, Gadwall, Teal, Tufted Duck, Great-crested Grebes, Mute Swans, Greylag Geese Canada Geese, Grey Heron, Great White Egrets x2, Little Egrets x3, Cormorants x30, Hobbyx5, Buzzards, Marsh Harrier, Osprey, Black Ternsx2, Black-headed Gulls, Lesser-black-backed Gulls, Coots, Moorhen, Water Rails, Lapwingx15, Snipex20, Wood Pigeons, Swallows, House Martins, Blackbird, Cetti’s Warblerx3, Reed Warblersx3, Chiffchaffx5, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Blue, Great & Long-tailed Tits, Bearded Reedlings, Wrens, Robins, Goldfinches, Reed Buntingx2, Jackdaws, Carrion Crows, Jay.
Small White x 2, Green-veined White x 1, Common Blue x 1, Red Admirals x 4, Small Tortoiseshells x 10, Speckled Wood x 5.