Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Somerset Starling spectacle! .... 27-30th January 2011

On the way to Somerset a visit to Slimbridge for a couple of hours was made, more on that visit in the next post. The Starling roost at RSPB Ham Wall was the main reason for the visit to Somerset and also the Great White Egrets and hopefully a Great Grey Shrike at Shapwick Heath a National England Nature Reserve, though I was not optimistic with sighting the Shrike. A B&B had been booked in Glastonbury for the long weekend and very nice it was too with an added bonus of Starlings.....thousands of them in fact that flew over Glastonbury town on their way to and from the roost at Ham Wall. The weather over the weekend was breezy and cold, in fact bitterly cold!! Wrapped up in as many layers as was comfy a visit to Ham Wall was the first stop, actually the small car park is between Ham Wall and Shapwick Heath, very handy as long as there are spaces on the car park. It didn't take long to walk to the 3 viewing points and a treat was in store, 6 Great White Egrets in the reedbeds! They were very obliging and gave great views as they flew along the reedbeds settling for awhile and then taking off again! There were also 11 Little Egrets on view at one point. Later in the morning a walk was started along the path in Shapwick Heath but in all honestly it was so bitterly cold that after what seemed an age to get anywhere need the hides we gave up, the distance I believe from start to finish along the path at Shapwick Heath is approximately 3 miles! 6 miles all told in such cold conditions did not!! Instead a drive around to the site where the G G Shrike had taken up residence was a better option but after a long linger and long looks it was clear that an even longer wait would be needed and I wasn't that desperate to see a G G Shrike though it would have been good to see it.....the Starlings were the main event in my mind!
Around 3.30pm people started arriving at Ham Wall to see the roost. RSPB staff were also at the viewing area and one of them gave an interesting talk about Ham Wall how it had been turned from arable land to the wetlands that it is now, starting in 2003 if my memory serves me correctly. Every reed had been singly planted by volunteers, no mean feat! With such species as Bitterns, Bearded Tits, Cetti's Warblers, Hobby and Otters amongst many other species that can be seen at the the reserve it is a testament to their hard work over the years. It must be a great feeling to have been part of such dedicated and hard work and see it come to fruition! We were informed that over the Winter there has been approximately one and a quarter to three million Starlings coming to roost! With an average of 30 Starlings to a reed stem the heat they generate can raise the temperature up 5 degrees, no wonder they flock together!

The Starlings began to arrive, the vast flocks looking like huge clouds in the distance! What a sight...I cannot say sound as they roosted in reed beds that were distant from where we were viewing from. An almost continuous stream of Starlings flew across the tops of the reeds not far from where we stood, it looked like a fast flowing river, an amazing sight! A couple of G W Egrets were none too happy and alighted from the reeds from time to time! Everywhere you looked there were huge flocks arriving and in the main they were dropping down almost straight away into the reedbeds though a few flocks did make some amazing shapes which drew gasps from everyone! The cold air was beginning to take hold after standing for so long in the open but goodness me it was worth the goosebumps on top of goosebumps to see such a spectacular roost!

On Sunday morning I waited outside the B &B to see the Starlings go overhead as they dispersed to their chosen feeding sites for the day. In the early evenings they flew over the town to roost in huge almost circular flocks, yet I had noticed that in the mornings they dispersed in a long line, a line that looked endless. One huge flock flew low and I heard the incredible rushing sounds of their wings, this made me gasp and also gave me goosebumps!!!

I had added 13 ticks to my year list over the few days in Somerset, no G G Shrike but who needs one when there was something much more special to see which was the Starling roost and I also brought home with me a memory of them that will last with me for some time to come.

The photo's I have added do not do justice to the spectacle but nice to keep along with my memories. I took a couple of short videos and if I can get my head around Youtube I will hopefully add them to the post at some point.

My first attempts at videoing with my camera! Good fun!


  1. A nice informative report from your chilly Somerset trip Pam,those Starlings look an awesome sight!
    I love your romantic Swan pic too!

  2. Thanks for your kind comment Ruth. The Starlings were truly awesome...a wonderful feeling to see such quantities of birds!

    I reckon the Swans were getting in the mood in readiness for Valentines!!

  3. I enjoyed viewing all your videos Pam,well done.......another career in the making eh?
    I love the new "front" to your blog too......the pun is intended! lol

  4. I am pleased you enjoyed the videos and thanks for you kind comment Ruth! A new career....No, I don't think!!

    Ha ha! Love the pun. The Goosey Goosey Ganders like to be in the front!!