So far during this festive period I have been out twice with my camera. On the first occasion I went to RSPB Ham Wall www.rspb.org.uk/hamwall. This was the first time I've been to this reserve and I found it to be a really good one. It seems to have been upgraded recently with new toilets, visitor centre ( not fully ready yet ) and a new double tier hide named "Avalon" ( more about this hide later ). Car parking is free and on a hard standing. The entrance is via a couple of small ponds called mini marshes which could be very good for Water voles, Dragonflies, Damselflies and Hobbies. As you walk on, the reserve opens up on both sides of Glastonbury Canal. There are several viewing screens and a hide on the right. They have named this Tor hide although it should be named windy hide, you have been warned. As soon as I settled down with the sun behind me in this hide I saw a Bittern take off from the left and land in the reeds on the right. Apart from this nothing else happened but it has potential for later in the year. I say apart from this but Bitterns were scarce a few years ago. This is a hide that can be used all day as the light there was superb. There is only one hide on the left of the canal, the new Avalon hide. This hide gives you two photography options due to it being a double decker. The circular bottom deck which is open does not have any seats but has three levels of viewing windows which are great to get images of birds or other wildlife at nearly eye level. The top circular deck is inside and has got plastic seats. The large opening viewing windows are great for flight shots due to the hide being quite tall. Settling in here I got photos of Bittern and Great White Egrets in flight. (There's a sentence I would not have said a few years ago). I also saw a Kingfisher, Marsh Harriers hunting and a real close up of a female Sparrowhawk as it flew within a couple of feet from my window. All this excitement in two hours. This hide is well sited and good for all day light but the path is a bit muddy getting to it. On my way back to the car I saw 2 Goldcrests flittering about in a large bush but they were too close for me to photograph, the downside of a 500mm f4 lens. Also there was a Dusky Warbler in one of the bushes and several people were there trying to see it. The bush was in the shade and the bird was covered by twigs and branches so would not have made a good photo. I am not a "Twitcher" or a "tick in the box" person so I carried on walking. Please don't get me wrong, I have no problem with these type of people. We all seek different things in life which is great. If everybody was the same as me they would all be bald, good looking with a tash!!!!!!!!! Bald women with moustache's, sorry I digress. This reserve regularly has views of Barn Owls, Kestrels, Starlings, Bearded Tits, Cetti's Warblers, Woodpeckers, Grass Snakes, Hobbies, Roe Deer and Otters to name but a few. I had a fantastic morning and will visit regularly.
The second day I went over the road from RSPB Ham Wall to NNR Shapwick Heath. The car park is a bit smaller but you could use the RSPB car park. People are really lucky in this area of Somerset for nature reserves RSPB Ham Wall, Shapwick Heath, Shapwick Moor and Avalon Marshes all within a few miles of each other. Shapwick Heath has 5 hides and again is on both sides of the canal. This reserve has hundreds of birds visiting it:- Bitterns, Herons, Swans, Marsh Harriers, Hobbies, Starlings, Gadwall, Shoveler, Tufted duck, Teal, Lapwing to name a few but it is also visited by Otters and Horseshoe bats. Again I spent a morning here and visited 2 of the hides: - Noah's and Meare Heath. These were quite good for photography but not for tripods as they were a bit small and the bench type seats could not be moved, bean bag and monopod worked well. Meare Heath hide has a lot of potential but could be quite boring waiting for the moment but then again that's wildlife photography. Although Noah's hide was quite good it is small and the occasion was spoilt by a female "photographer/birder". As I was walking to this hide I could hear her talking. I entered the hide and settled down and 20 minutes later she was still talking. Now I don't mine people talking as long as it's quietly and her vocals were far from it. The trouble was that whilst she was talking she kept on gesticulating with her arms sticking outside the viewing windows and I wondered when she was going to start waving a BIG RED FLAG out the window, in the end I had to say something. After this she did quieten down a bit and 30 minutes later she left and photography could begin. I got some photos of Swans in flight, a group of Lapwings, a Cormorant in great light and a Swan in great light. I'll have to see if they are any good when I see them on my computer monitor. Sadly the woman returned after about an hour and started telling another person what a bad man I was because I told her to keep quiet! This seems to be par for the course nowadays, with people, which I call a "blameless culture". It was her talking loudly, it was her waving her arms outside the windows, but because I told her, politely, to keep quiet I'm the one to blame! A couple of months ago, on Dartmoor, a woman and child walked up, getting very close, to a young foal and were annoyed that it's mother went for them. The woman made a complaint stating that the Dartmoor ponies should be removed from the moor because they were dangerous! Why doesn't anybody take the blame for their own actions nowadays?
I am afraid I cannot understand some humans desire to kill wildlife for fun. I just cannot see what pleasure people can get out of it, stand, sit or kneel yards away, squeeze your finger on the trigger, the gun goes bang and "hopefully" the wildlife is killed instantly. I say "hopefully" because I know that most people are not good shots and the wildlife they hit can take ages to die. I understand if you need to kill to eat but to kill for pleasure, no. I have just read that a court in Sweden has temporarily banned Wolf hunting in certain areas. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jan/09/swedish-court-stops-hotly-contested-wolf-hunt The hunting fraternity wanted to kill, sorry cull, 46 wolves (this animal is supposed to be protected under European law!). That is more then 10% of the wolves in Sweden, WHY? In a huge country like Sweden they have only 400 wolves left. How few do they need to go before they leave the bloody things alone? I suppose the usual arguments will arise like they are attacking people, cats, dogs etc. They were thought to be extinct a few years ago so a reintroduction program was started. This program worked so wolf hunting started!!! Is that what they brought them back for? Is this going to happen to all the UK introduction programs? Will we be hunting Red Kite, White Tailed Sea Eagles and Beavers in a few years? You might laugh but they have already started killing, sorry culling, Wild Bore and Buzzards. As you can tell I am really passionate about wildlife, why do we humans have to interfere? England, America and Russia seem to think they need to "police" the world and look at the mess they have done. Leave the things alone and nature will sort it out. Look what happened at Yellowstone if you kill all the wolves. People moan that there are too many Foxes and Deer in this country, it's because we killed all the wolves their main predator.