Last week I was so fed up with the weather and with the form of local birding that when the weatherman told me Friday and Saturday would be "Bright and dry" I jumped at the chance of shooting off somewhere for a couple of days.
I chose Ham Wall / Shapwick Heath in Somerset which I'd visited a couple of times before even though it's more of a birder's place than a photographer's because unless you are lucky the birds can be a long way off.My target birds were Bitterns usually easy and Great White Egrets usually distant plus Hobbies and Marsh Harriers also usually distant.
Started off early Friday morning and drove down the M5 along which the Motorway Agency had very kindly provided entertainment : Close up views of bridge strengthening works and to help you get a good view they had slowed down the traffic flow.Wonderful ! !
Parked up not long after 8.00 AM and headed down the track to Ham Wall.The good news was there were loads of birds in the trees and bushes.The bad news was it was very gloomy.Thanks yet again weatherman.
I'd ignored going after any of the several Cetti's Warblers calling out as I walked the path but when at the back of the first viewing point one challenged me very aggressively I might add with " Hey You Can't get a shot of me."I thought blow this I'm taking you on.He had chosen his ground well a gloomy bush with loads of leaves and twigs and together with the overcast conditions I thought I could be in trouble.I didn't do too bad but it was pity about the leaf in shot 3 as it could have been a pretty decent shot.
After an hour of great fun I gave up but not before my little friend gave me a mouthful of abuse.
I then walked the main path to the second view point where I saw Hobbies , Marsh Harriers and a GW Egret but they all were a long way off.In fact I think the Egret was over the border in Wiltshire.I then sat down on a bench by one of the ponds at the back of the viewing point for an early lunch.It was a great spot with Sedge and Reed Warblers close by in the reeds and a Bittern booming somewhere close (there are 22 booming males on the reserve) and also several of the Marsh frogs that make some entertaining noises.On the way back to the first viewing point all I got was a dragonfly shot.No idea what it is Four Spotted Chaser ?
Back at the first viewing point things improved dramatically and I had an excellent couple of hours despite the continuing overcast conditions.First of all Bitterns were flying around and one or two came fairly close.Oh for some sun to bring out the colours of these chaps.
Suddenly over the pond at the back of the viewing point 3 Bitterns suddenly started flying round together.Never seen two let alone three flying together before.Could only get a shot of the two together the third flew off the other way.
After the Bitterns disappeared a GW Egret appeared in the distance and flew into the scrape in front of the viewing point but landed at the far side unfortunately.Nice to get a half decent shot though.
Marsh Harriers were also flying around now but only in the distance.Same with the Hobbies that showed they were so high in the sky shots were a waste of time.A Barn Owl was also seen but it was flying around even further away than the Marsh Harriers.
By mid afternoon I decided to have a look round Shapwick Heath but as I was getting near the car park a helicopter that had been on the reserve since mid morning got very close to me.It was an Electricity helicopter.It got so close to me that my hat was blown off. I thought blimey it's been after me all day.Iit's that unpaid bill.Fully expecting a AK47 to poke through the window I dived for cover.
Had a pleasant walk round Shapwick Heath visiting some of the hides but did very poorly with my search for Hobbies and Marsh Harriers.All I got was a shot of a distant Garden Warbler and an even more distant shot of a male Marsh Harrier.By this time I was knackered and headed off to my bed for the night.