Thursday, 28 August 2014

26 August 2014: A trip to Shapwick Heath and Ham Wall reserves.

I had heard that an Osprey was at Shapwick Heath reserve - possibly the same bird that rested there for a couple of weeks last year. As soon as I could I arranged a trip with a colleague as I knew he had never seen an Osprey and we arranged to set off at 0600 for the 80 mile trip. The fore cast said it would rain until about 0900 and then brighten up but we committed to the trip as it was the only day this week we could make it and there's no way of knowing how long the Osprey would remain on site. It rained all the way down the M5 and as we entered the reserve car park at about 0745, it rained even heavier. We stayed in the car for a while but it got no easier so we drove round to the Avalon Marshes visitor centre to check on facilities and returned to the car park. At about 0930 the rain eased sufficently to make the trip up to the hide at Noahs Lake, where the Osprey had been reported. As soon as we reached the corner of the lake, we could see the Osprey in a tree in the middle of the lake, which made everything so far worthwhile. When we got to the hide there were already 6 people in it, so it was full (-:). None of the people in the hide had been there more than an hour as we had seen them all arrive, but they said hat the Osprey had not been fishing or eating whiule they had been there, so with luck it would eventually have to fish. I took my first picture at 0944.

So we settled for the long term, knowing that sooner or later it would have to fetch breakfast. There followed a period of preening

 This one fell out of focus, but I bagged a distant Jay(-:).

 The odd wingflap
 A load lightening exercise
 and finally at 1221 we had lift off.

 Fortunately it  chose to fish in the lake in front of us (unlike last year) so there was a bout of Kestrel imitation

 followed by a first dive
 from which it pulled out a the last second. More Kestrel impersonation
and then a second dive

 emerging with a late breakfast - it all looked rather easy.

 Back to base

 and time to eat.

 So it was quite long wait but thoroughly worth it. Besides, while the Osprey was preening etc, we did manage to see quite few other birds. A pair of Great Crested Grebe still feeding juveniles during one of the heavy showers
 and just looking graceful at other times

A flyover by a Marsh Harrier.

 A host of Cormorant, some taking off to go fishing/
Lots of Coot but this one actually flew, rather than just running over the water.
 A Water Rail, looking like it was admiring it's own reflection.

 A few Reed Warblers flitting through the reed beds.

 Wouldn't be a real reserve without a Black Headed Gull
 Two Greenshank rushing by.

After the Osprey had reated us to the fishing expedition and was now intent on it's breakfast, we headed off to do a tour of Ham Wall. As we walked along the towpath leaving Shapwick we saw what might be a Green Veined White, but glad of any correction.

At the pool just before the car park I snapped this solitary Black Tailed Godwit preening amongst multiple waders but it started to rain again, so we headed to the car for some cover.
 Once the rains stopped we sett off again heading directly into the Ham Wall RSPB reserve, catching this Hawker in mid flight - rather dilapidated now. I can't tell if ot's a Brown or a female Migrant or some other.

 Further on we saw Brimstone,
 a Wren,
 Clouded Yellow but no flight shot.
  In one of the reedbed channels this ormorant was basking
while Reed Warbler wer foraging at the reedbed edges.

 Grey Heron overflew
 as di this Buzzard.
 Lots of Common Darter about
 and the first male Blackcap I have seen in a long time.

 Butterflies were plentiful, with Red Admiral
 and a really fresh looking Small Tortoiseshell
 A female Ruddy Darter
 and a male Ruddy Darter
 Further on this Grey Heron obviously couldn't see us
 whereas this Little Egret clearly did(-:).

 By now we had returned to the car park but had not really had very goos views or pictures of Great White Egret. We decided to head back into Shapwick to view th pool we had rushed away from earlier because of the rain as we had also seen some Great Whites there earlier in the day as we passed to view the Osprey. We were delighted to see one fly in, almost on demand.
 It kept us very entertained as it fished, catching and eating at least 3 fish.

We also noted some Ruff along with the Black Tailed Godwit and Lapwing

as well as a group of 4 Dunlin.
 In the far distance we spotted a Bittern but it really was a long way off, especially for the available light - but a Bittern is a Bittern!

 Back now to the Great White Egret which was beginning to get reasonably close, intent on its fishing and we were blessed with a final purple patch of decent light.
 Keeping a weater eye on the rest of the pool I managed to catch a Snipe fly in.

 and the Egret edged closer
 but was eventually spooked by a couple of joggers(-:).

 A little Egret and its reflection stalked by
 and the Snipe came out to feed as we left.
A fantastic day espevcially as my colleague ticked his fiorst Osprey, Marsh Harrier and Clouded Yellow.


  1. Cool pictures of the Osprey, Marsh harrier(s) and GWE, looks like you had a great day out even if the weather was just like a typical English summers day!

    1. Thanks Roy. A very worthwhile trip, especially to have it fish in full view - last year when I went it chose to fish in another lake though did bring the fish back to eat on its perch.

    2. Hi Bob,
      I'm going to attempt to get down there in the next few days, do you have a web site address that will let me know if the Osprey is still around?

  2. Great stuff. I got my first british Osprey a couple of weeks ago. My shots are nowhere near as good as yours though.
    This week has been virtually birdless for me on account of the wind and rain. Missed out on some Redstarts , Black Redstarts , Whinchat , Wheatears , and Spotted Flycatchers all of which had been seen locally a day or two before my trips out.