Tor-ist trap


I (and James for that matter) have been hold heartedly pee'd off for pretty much the whole of January with this grey drab flat weather. We've been struggling to even see blue sky never mind the sun! On the days when there has been some vitamin D bouncing round both of us have been busy elsewhere. Today didn't start any different. During the week it was looking grey for today while nice bright sunshine midweek. Grrr.

Accompanied by an EFRS new friend Adrian I set off for a walk through Hamwall, grey as it comes. I was confident of no rain but not much else. James had other duties.

It was pleasant enough with little wind. We shot a few pics

Tree Creeper and Long Tailed Tit

From VP2 there were two pairs of Male and Female Marsh Harriers far off

A very obliging Chaffinch

Never far from a Great White Egret at Hamwall

It was great to see the Great Crested Grebes starting to do a few furtive courtship dances

It was starting to look the sky was clearing and turning blue, no wind and definitely no rain. My phone was beeping, James was on his way..................

We met up at Tor hide where things started kicking. Adrian broke out the chocolate Hobnobs and all was well.

We decided to check out the new Avalon Hide. We've been admiring it from afar for some time. It looks like a Sauna. We had visions of a swimming pool on top and steamy windows. The RSPB wardens lounging inside as us poor twitchers are freezing outside. How the other half lives ha!

We marched to the new obelisk..............

James at the gates of the mystical tower. What would the inside behold

Quit nice actually

Who am I kidding its bloody brilliant! It's huge with loads of space behind. Light and airy where you can have a walk around. Nice circular front that you can all see out. Around the base is a wall of screens with well sighted holes. James spent some time below while Adrian and I went up top.

exellent views

Never been so close to the water tower.

A view for all you Tor-ists out there

This is the screen. If you want to see an alternative take on the hide have a look at our other site manualfocusuk.com

This place is going to be great. The Marsh Harriers are nice and close unlike from the track where they are well out of reach for your average 400mm. Here there must have been four or five individuals.

Back of the net!

And what about a Peregrine passing through

Could it get better? Damn right, how about a Bittern making a close fly by!

James caught it on the way back

We were nicely settled down in there, plenty of comings and goings both in and outside of the hide but all were accommodated with lots of standing room behind those seated. I turned to Adrian for a couple more Hobnobs........... He'd eaten them all!! Hmm not the way to get invited back on an EFRS jaunt. That was the only let down of the day. HUMPH! They were CHOCOLATE Hobnobs as well!!

So well done RSPB Hamwall. Cracking hide and bear in mind I'm no lover of hides. Sitting in a shed in a field is not my idea of fun but this is different. It's well thought out, comfy with the prevailing wind behind you. Nice one boys the EFRS give its official stamp of approval and will be spending a lot more time in it.

And this Robin likes it to.


Keeping it retro

Retro is the cool thing to be these days.  Indeed it has sparked off a newer breed of human, the "hipster".

Sadly I'm not cool enough to be hipster.  But I can do some retro (please visit the EFRS sister site for retro cool.   Now after that shameless plug  I'm going to say something controversial...

Retro isn't always good.  Often our memories of the past are rose tinted and slightly dewy eyed.

I recently revisited my favourite early childhood game.  Gorf.  I remember the evil space ships slipping across the screen whilst I frantically tried to blast them before they blew me into a thousand pixel pieces...

Now, in 2016... Its bloody awful.  Chunks of gaudy colour blob across the screen with sound effects that sound like a toddler banging a baked bean tin.

Some things shouldn't be revisited.  Allow then to gracefully ease themselves away into our memory.  Forever immortalised and remembered with love.  I'm certainly not going back to Mario Bros...

Now, a good 6 years ago I was walking around with my Canon Powershot SX20.  One fateful evening I happened to be at Ham Wall as the starlings came in.  I just happened to be in the right spot at the right time.  It was incredible.  The birds twisted and turned, thousands, all in unison.

I did get some photos and I did revisit them today.  A risky thing to do, but I was pleasantly surprised.  Sure they are not great quality but boy those birds did throw some great shapes.  If you are interested in my vintage site please feel free to visit:

Link to my old retro site

Anyway, since that fateful day I have seen the starlings many times but its never quite matched up.

This year I have been a few times but they were not playing ball.  Straight in, no displays, no messing.  Sadly this isn't always the best for us avid starling watchers.

Today there was even more pressure as the family was coming along.  I envisaged tiny pin pricks, about a mile away diving down into the reeds.  Disappointment etched on faces...

I tweeted the man in the know.  Lee Dutton.  He recommended the Shapwick end.  So that's where we went.

Despite my daughters jet engine like voice, there were a few birds about the place, flapping and perching in the gloomy conditions

 Marsh harrier attacking a Buzzard

Grumpy heron sitting in the murk

The light was fading rapidly, Soph my daughter was having great fun running about on the bridge and couldnt care less whether their were Starlings or not.

Then, it happened a vast ball flew right over our heads.  Even Soph stopped (and getting a 4 year old to stop is tough).  We all simply watched.  I didnt even take a picture, I just enjoyed the moment.  The right time, the right place.

They slowly swept out across Noahs and performed a small display.  Distantly now.  It didnt really matter.  To have the shear number of birds right above you is amazing and something which hasnt really happened for me this year at all.

But it wasn't over... A second giant mass of birds began to form across Meare haeth.  The chattering from their beaks was clearly audible.  Some had settled already.  Turning the reeds black with the sheer number of feathered bodies.

I hit the record button :-)

Darkness had almost completely surrounded us, but the birds wouldnt settle and were still slipping around the reeds like a giant, black serpent.  When I left they had snaked right up to the edge of the canal.  A sight and sound to behold.

Was it up there with 6 years ago?  Possibly not quite that good.  But it was a great evening and one which I will hopefully revisit with fondness.