Thursday, 21 April 2016

Bird Song SIG trip to Ham Wall and Meare Heath

We had a good 4 hours listening and watching birds in this fantastic wetland habitat, mainly focussing on warblers. We enjoyed the deep, Basso Profundo “booming” male Bitterns and the delightful “trilling” call of Little Grebe. The high pitched “scream” of a newly arrived Swift was heard above the soft buzzing chatter of many Sand Martins. Reed Warblers delivered their rather monotonous continuous ditty while its relative the Sedge Warbler gave us an array of mimicry including “pink” notes of Chaffinch, a “swee…eep” of a Yellow Wagtail and the alarm note of a Blue Tit and joyful twitter of a Swallow. There were plenty of Blackcaps singing their fluty jumble of notes, staring somewhat hesitantly and then building up to a big finish. The poet, John Clare, referred to a Blackcap as the March Nightingale. Willow Warblers were dotted along our route from the car park to the first platform at Ham Wall, emitting their simply rather muted trickle of soft descending notes ending in a modest trill. A distant Cuckoo was heard very briefly.
In total contrast to the Willow Warbler, Cetti’s Warblers were blasting us with their outbursts at high volume. If you are caught unaware of the bird’s presence deep in cover only a foot or so away, the un-expected song almost knocks you of your feet! We were so lucky that one bird decided, very out of character, to sit in full view on a low bare branch for nearly three or so minutes and even burst into song for us to see. That was a real treat to us bird listeners! Another warbler kindly let us take a look at him, that was a Common Whitethroat who after some hopping about in a hawthorn, popped into a nice gap in the foliage to let us see him deliver his short, rather scratchy song.
We had good views of male Marsh Harriers and Great White Egrets in flight, but we unfortunately missed Bitterns displaying at Meare Heath by a couple of minutes. The surprise of the morning was flushing a Short-Eared Owl at Ham Wall when in pursuit of a singing Sedge Warbler. This reserve never disappoints in any season and the new hide overlooking the scrape at Meare Heath with views also behind overlooking the reed beds is now open!

Thank you Lucy Delve

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