The only problem with going on a birding trip is that, in order to get photos of the birdies, I usually have my long lens on my camera, which means it’s then not easy to get photos of all the lovely smaller creatures I see as I’m walking around. And both RSPB Ham Wall Nature Reserve and, just across the road, Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserve have a profusion of delightful, and sometimes rare smaller creatures to be seen.
In particular, we saw a wealth of damsel- and dragonflies, including several of the Four-spotted chasers and Black-tailed skimmers shown below and, we think, the unusual Variable damselfly (though this can be tricky to identify). Spiders were particularly abundant on the path-side scrub, as were Dock beetles, judging from all the holey leaves we saw.
We rescued several large hairy caterpillars which were determinedly marching across the paths but risked annihilation from feet and bicycle tyres, as well as one large and very friendly Caddisfly (above). Butterflies weren’t as plentiful as I expected, though we did see good numbers of very fresh Small tortoiseshells, presumably newly hatched.
The most unexpected sighting, and a highlight for me, was a Roe deer on the canal-side bank in Shapwick Heath. Only its head and its very large ears could be seen, as it munched happily on a large green mouthful of vegetation while keeping a close eye on our admiring group of photographers.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s piece on the birds of Ham Wall, you really need a week to explore these superb reserves thoroughly and then you might be lucky enough to see their resident water voles and otters. I have to go back!