On duty this week at ravishing RSPB Ham Wall. We open up the visitor centre and brew a pot of coffee. The hot drinks are popular, as are the flapjacks and brownies.The car park is full early. The mini marshes area is bristling with long lenses, hopefully scoping for the exotic red footed falcon which is hawking among the hobbies.
Ham Wall is marvellous for all kinds of beasties. Dragonflies emerge as the morning warms up: hawkers and chasers and darters. It is a stronghold of the four-spotted chaser, large and easy to identify: all golden wings and those big black spots. During the morning, I have conversations with lots of dragonfly people and determine to learn more.
The new sightings board makes exciting reading at this time of year. The water rail has chicks on the nest, marsh harriers are commonplace as they dip and tip in the soft air, quartering along the edge of the reeds. And everyone has good views of bitterns today. The great white egret plies backwards and forwards across the car park all morning and our beautiful glossy ibis is a regular tick for lots of happy birders. The cattle egret completes our trio of white egrets; smaller than the little egret, he is much rarer. The yellow legs and yellow beak are distinguishing features.
The warblers continue to make their presence known, Cetti's and chiffchaffs shout loudly from the trees around the car park. There is a cuckoo calling regularly all morning. Goldfinches shimmer and tinkle from the feeders behind the visitor centre.
For many people, the presence of our exotic species is overshadowed by one much loved bird - showing regularly all morning. The barn owl is hunting in full daylight along the rhynes and meadows on the reserve.
Halfway through the morning, a visitor approaches from his car,
'I don't say this often,' he says, ' but you have the most stunning car park!' It's true, the meadow planting between the bays is marvellous; right now full of waist-high ox eye daisies.
Ham Wall is simply the best place to be ...