One of the most popular parts of the RSPB Ham Wall nature reserve is Waltons Heath. Each winter the Waltons play host to a million starlings roosting amongst the reed to keep a little bit warmer and a little bit safer. Watching the huge flocks of birds return to each evening is becoming an very popular – and I love going there.
The Waltons is divided into two sides a series of hides and a long footpath. Known as Waltons West and Waltons East each side is a mixture of open water and reedbeds.
They are like a pair of lungs that breaths life into the reserve. And if they are the lungs then to me its heart, sitting in the centre, is the Tor View bird hide. From this hide you can look all around the reserve and see the famous Glastonbury Tor in the distance. Something I have done for many hours.
In Waltons East the reeds pick up the warmth of the low winter sun as three young swans line up to cross the open water. Now and then a marsh harrier or two will fly passed triggering the sound of cameras with there long telephoto lenses by those lucky enough to find space on one of the wooden benches.
On a beautiful winter day like today, you can see the subtle warm tones of the evening.
At around four o’clock the first flocks of starlings appear.
Looking through the windows on the other side of the hide you can watch the sun set through a wide open sky.
After the large flocks the birds have dropped into the reeds more birds continue to stream in low and fast from neighbouring farms and fields.
Turn around to look back through the other windows and the birds are streaming across the reserve in waves in-front of the tor. The reflections in the water doubling their numbers.
Not knowing which way to turn, back to the west the birds are lifting out the reeds and launching themselves high into a coloured sky.
Gradually, the number of birds drops as they start to settle down for the night.
What a wonderful sunset even without flocks of starlings. Do not rush away back to the car park but instead watch the colours build after the sun has set and listen to the noise of the birds amongst the reeds.