Today’s post was meant to be my blog’s highlight. I have been looking forward to sharing one of nature’s greatest spectacles with my children and have been planning a trip to see the Starling murmuration at Ham Wall for a very long time. However, things didn’t quite go to plan.
It started OK, as we drove from our friends’ house in the Mendips towards the Somerset Levels. E was zonked and Izzy was playing I Spy with B and me. We started noticing small flocks of Starlings in the orchards and gardens as we drew closer to our destination, as well as Swans in the fields and mole hills of black peat. It was a gorgeous evening – clear and dry and our anticipation was growing. As we approached the overflowing car park, it became clear that the Ham Wall starlings are a lot more famous than they were the first time B and I watched them. maybe 6 years ago or so. We joined the river of people heading deeper into the reserve and found a place to stand and wait. A sliver of moon appeared and the sun set a deep orange on the horizon. There were Tufted Ducks, a Heron and Coots on the water in front of us. People pointed at the sky as clouds of Starlings started to drift in. The groups gathered and joined together, shifting like ribbons of smoke. It was amazing. Izzy watched from B’s shoulders, but, unfortunately, by this time, E had had enough. He cried “Mummy, Mummy” repeatedly at me as I tried, in vain, to work out what was wrong. He was clearly cold, but refused to wear a hat or gloves, flinging them off if I tried to insist. A few raisins helped calm him down, but as we hadn’t been at home beforehand, I was ill prepared and had nothing else to offer. Feeling guilty that we were ruining the experience for everybody around us, we started to head back to the car and then Izzy started whingeing, too. The crying continued as we drove home and worn out, we stopped for burgers at a service station. After a few mouthfuls of junk food, the kids instantly perked up. Venus was bright in the sky as we carried on with our journey, the kids singing and joking around and Izzy keeping her eyes open for fairy dust.
Total wild time – 1.5 hours
No time for the wild today, as we drove to Bath for an overnight stay. We did, however, spot Buzzards, Kestrels and 2 Roe Deer through the car window, as well as numerous Rookeries and lots of Mistletoe in the bare winter trees. Once in the city, E was delighted by the flocks of feral Pigeons that scavenged in the streets.
Total wild time – 0 mins
It was a foggy, cold morning on Axmouth Beach. We checked out the new ‘lookout’ and found some treasures on the beach – Scallop shells, bits of crab, cuttlefish ‘bones’, Oyster shells…
Total wild time – 50 mins
It was a gorgeous morning in Lyme Regis as we hit the beach to search for fossils. E had the best find – a rock covered in ammonites, but we all found a couple in the end. Izzy was disappointed not to find more – I think she was expecting to find a full dinosaur skeleton.
Total wild time – 1 hour 30 mins
B, E and I took Bramble for a quick run on the beach. Fog hung over the cliffs and the waves crashed against the shore. At one point, whilst we examined shell fragments, I had to snatch E and jump out of the way of the water to avoid wet feet. We found a Cuttlefish ‘bone’, which Bramble enjoyed playing with. There was more rubbish on the beach than I have seen before, a consequence of winter storms, I suppose.
Total wild time – 20 mins (E), Izzy (0)
I took E and Bramble out and E pointed out each bird he saw. With no leaves on the trees, it seemed as though they were teaming with birds. We spotted Blackbirds, Robins, Crows, Rooks, Blue Tits and a Song Thrush. I managed to whack my leg on the buggy when it got stuck in a pothole on the lane, but otherwise, it was a nice wintery walk, with the smell of woodsmoke in the air and not too cold. When we got back, E helped me to refill the bird bath and feeders in the garden.
Total wild time – 1 hour (E), Izzy (0)
We woke to a frosty morning and on the school run, made footprints in the grass. It was still frosty after lunch, when E and I took the dog out. We stamped on icy puddles, but only a few metres from the field gate, E found a patch of mud, where he spent a long time digging with a stick and drawing ‘tractor wheels’. I threw a stick for Bramble and let him do his thing, until told me that he needed his potty and we had to head home.
Total wild time – 50 mins (E), Izzy 0 mins
It felt like winter today and we hurried through a flurry of sleet in Axminster. I know I should embrace all seasons, but I have to admit that I am not a fan of winter. At all. Despite this, I am still going to try to get outdoors with the kids for an hour a day whenever possible over the next few months. Izzy had an inset day and her request was swimming. After that we had an explore and lunch in Bridport, then headed home, so that B could work and I could paint the dining room. By then, it was dark and we had run out of time for doing anything wild (although we did start a 1500 piece puzzle depicting waders and wildfowl, together!)
Total wild time – 0 mins