About Graham Clarkson

Born & brought up in Marshside, I started birding there in the mid 1970s & made my first birding trip to Martin Mere in 1977. I've lived, worked & birdied in Abu Dhabi, Northern Ireland & Gloucestershire & I've spent time working in Kazakhstan & Madagascar. I enjoy birding my various West Lancashire patches, making frequent birding visits throughout the north-west of England and North Wales. I stray elsewhere in the UK & enjoy birding abroad from time to time. I'm particularly interested in wildfowl (especially pink-footed geese) with an interest in waders & raptors, bird counts & surveys & conservation. I'm trying to get the hang of photography & digiscoping - I'll get there eventually.

My degree from Edge Hill University is in conservation biology. I've guided on numerous birding days out & trips & guided birding holidays to Lesvos, Andalucia, Extremedura, Majorca, Camargue, Hungary, Finland & Florida. I enjoy showing people birds & habitats & helping them learn more about birds & enjoy birding. I'm currently involved with the Birdwatching and Beyond course at Edge Hill and a brand new venture; Skein Birding.

As well as birding I'm interested in captive breeding & reintroduction projects & zoos, how they're managed & how they contribute to conservation. I'm a proud Lancastrian & love the Lancashire countryside & landscapes. I'm an Evertonian & also keep up with what's happening at Southport, PNE & Bristol Rovers. Gardening, dogs (I have a Labrador & a Tibetan Terrier) and keeping chickens (especially Marsh Daisys & Scots Dumpy Bantams). Ruth & I have two marvellous boys who both love nature too. I hope you find the blog and subjects covered interesting; please feel free to leave a comment.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Avalon heron heaven

I was recently passing through the Glastonbury area and took the opportunity to nip down to the Avalon marshes and have a nose around Ham Wall, one of RSPBs flagship reserves in that area. Wow, I wasn't disappointed. As I walked down the main track I could hear several Water Rails, Cetti's Warbler and at least two Bitterns. Several Goldcrests were singing and I saw two Chiffchaffs flitting amongst the willow scrub. I happened upon a few birders who were watching a Pied-billed Grebe and I enjoyed watching this rare American visitor (only my third ever in Britain) going about its business. I joined these birders to look for a drake Ring-necked Duck that has been in the area for a while (also a hybrid Aythya bearing a resemblance to this species......); a local birder had found the Ring-necked Duck and I enjoyed scope views (someone else's scope, I hadn't brought mine) of it amongst a group of Tufted Ducks and Pochards. I thanked the helpful birders and explained I had to be somewhere else and headed back towards the car park - on the way back  I heard at least another three Bitterns, many more Cetti's Warblers and Water Rails and saw three Marsh Harriers, a Bearded Tit and hundreds of Gadwall.

At the car park I decided to head out the other side and check out Shapwick Heath NNR and the flock of Great White Egrets that reside on the reserve. I wasn't disappointed, seeing eight Great White Egrets straight away; three in pink-legged, dark-billed breeding plumage, four in non-breeding plumage and a single that I thought was a first winter bird. Amazing to think that I twitched the first one I saw in Britain at Rutland Water back in the 80s - I would never have thought they would be breeding here! But then who would have thought that the Avalon marshes would have 30 booming Bitterns and that Cattle Egret and Little Bittern would be breeding in Somerset, with Purple Herons breeding in Kent and a productive Spoonbill colony in Norfolk? What next Glossy Ibis breeding, or maybe Night Heron? Both I reckon.......

But back to Shapwick Heath. A Little Egret and several Grey Herons were feeding with the Great White Egrets. Almost as good as the Ribble. Okay, just as good, but certainly very different. I'll be back to Ham Wall and Shapwick Heath early in the sunmmer, can't wait, a brilliant, bird-filled wetland. Love it.

Pair of breeding plumage Great White Egrets (right hand bird ringed) at Shapwick Heath, Somerset.
Five of the eight Great White Egrets at Ham Wall, Somerset.
Record shot of Pied-billed Grebe at Ham Wall, Somerset.

No comments:

Post a Comment