'Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness' Keats got it right for some of the mornings at this time of year, when mist hangs over the reed bed awaiting the sun to warm up the land and oneself. Early morning through the mist an adult Roe Deer, or maybe a couple of young deer can sometimes be seen feeding quietly, then suddenly the head is lifted, what has been heard, or seen, panic over and feeding continues.
Lookout for Jay's as they collect acorns at this time of year to form a food cache, burying the acorns for food during the winter months.
Most of the drakes have now completed their moult from eclipse plumage to bright new feathers ready to pair up during the winter, they will then be ready to mate next spring. Ducks to lookout for include: Mallard, Gadwall, Teal, Tufted Duck, Shoveler and Wigeon. A recent sighting of 11 Pintail flying over the reserve was a bonus for the day.
The reed cutting in front of the 1st viewing platform has now been completed and the water levels are being raised. A cross section of birds that are possible to see from the platform include: Wigeon, Mallard, Teal, Gadwall, Snipe ( with their cryptic plumage, diligent searching is required), Little Egret, Great-white Egret, Grey Heron, Coot, Little Grebe, Moorhen and Kingfisher - which frequently use the post and rail as a fishing platform. There has also been a couple of Greenshank feeding in the shallows.
Picture taken of the Greenshank on 2/10/2010
This time of year bittern activity is very limited - they stay secreted within the reedbed, but if lucky they do make the occasional flight, although these are sometimes very brief.
Raven's can often be heard over the reserve, attention is drawn by their familiar 'cronking' call and generally seen in pairs. Much larger than a crow or Rook, in fact as large as a Common Buzzard, a raptor you are likely to see along with Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel.
The Reed and Sedge Warbler's have now left and are on their way to West Africa and beyond, but, in the reedbeds and damp scrubby areas you can still hear the distinctive song/call of the Cetti's Warbler - a loud explosive series of notes, also the thin whistle call of the Reed Bunting; neither of these birds migrate for the winter.
The Bearded Tit is another bird to lookout for, recently heard - the unusual 'pinging' call -, and up to six birds have been observed from the 1st viewing platform. Looking out from this viewing area on the left hand side of the reeds, look for two, what look like bird tables, they are actually grit trays for the Bearded Tit. The reason for this is that during the winter months the birds change their diet from being mainly insectivorous to one of eating the seeds from the reed head. Although the gizzard (the second part of the stomach and performs the function of mammalian teeth) becomes more muscular, together with digestive enzymes, the grit is ingested into the gizzard to help break down the seeds. Quite an amazing transformation.
Apart from the Roe Deer mentioned earlier, other mammals to look out for include: stoat, weasel, fox and the perennial favourite the otter, which use the reserve all year round. Periodic sightings are recorded ( during July, August & September 2010 - 9 sightings were reported, mainly on Walton Heath), and together with the monthly otter survey that is carried out on the reserve there is always evidence of spraint (otter droppings) and runways which the otter use to travel from one stretch of water to another.
This picture was taken on Ham Wall Reserve during September 2010.
(Look through the Picture Gallery for some more otter photo's taken on Ham Wall)
Cormorants are always present on the reserve and good views can be had from the viewing screens on Walton Heath. Invariable there will always be a bird with its characteristic image of outstretched wings. The birds with a pale underside are the juveniles, born this year. In this area also lookout for: little grebe, a variety of ducks, Lesser-Black backed Gull and Black-headed Gull - this gull will show it's winter plumage.
A few butterflies can still be seen mainly small tortoiseshell and speckled wood, along with a few common darter dragonflies.