Lots going on at the reserve again this week, with plenty of interesting reports and one or two unusual sightings.
Bitterns seem to be much more active over the past couple of weeks and there have been plenty of sightings at Ham Wall. The first viewing platform still seems to be the most fruitful place for Bittern hunters with sightings here every day. This morning, a couple reported seeing one from the platform but also hearing them too. There are perhaps as many as 5 males currently grunting (like a rather weak boom) on Ham Wall - mainly in the early mornings, although I did hear one myself from the Loxtons screen at around 1pm today. He gave 2 sets of 6 grunts in the short time I was there. I also observed 2 other bitterns making flights within the Loxtons area.
Also from the screen at Loxtons - good views of a pair of Great Crested Grebes who have been seen in courtship display on several occasions this week - always a pleasure to watch this, snipe both seen and heard, shoveler, gadwall and Great White Egret.
As well as the Great Crested Grebes on site 'getting in the mood', the Little Grebes are also extremely vocal, with their whinnying like call heard almost consistently at times - particularly in the Waltons section.
Little Grebe: John Crispin
Also on a walk around Waltons Loop this morning a large number of Pochard were observed - over 50 along with several Tufted Ducks and a sprinkling of Gadwall. Teal best observed from the viewing platform, where up to 3 drake Pintails have been present all week (only two this morning). Also observed around 1.30pm at the platform a juvenile male Marsh Harrier seen hunting, although only for a short while as a peregrine appeared and began to hassle the Harrier until they both disappeared behind the wood to the right. Both male and female Marsh Harriers seen repeatedly this week. The first viewing platform in particular, has been a good place to spot the male.
Bearded tits have been seen and heard at a few loctions on the reserve this week. As usual they tend to spend most of their time in the non-access areas of the reserve. They have been heard from the platfrom recently and were seen flying over the railway line and into Loxtons on one occasion.
On Thursday night, around Starling murmuration time, 2 Merlin were seen - thought to be one male and one female from the first viewing platform and on Weds evening a Ruff was seen flying over Ham Wall. A Glossy Ibis has also been seen in flight in the early evening recently and this week on both Sunday and Monday sightings have been reported.
My best encounter this week came late on Thursday when walking up to one of our rides in the woodland. Staff & volunteers have been clearing them out a bit this week and been discussing how they might be suitable for Woodcock. Low and behold, not far away from where we were working I flushed one up from just a few feet away from me - what a view! Good to know they are in the area.
Great White Egrets still a daily occurence with 2 being seen together this afternoon and a third one close by. Also this week: Great Spotted Woodpecker seen and heard - including drumming, several Goldcrest, Small flocks of Siskin & Redpoll, Coal Tits by the first viewing platform, small groups of Lapwing in Waltons - visible from the third screen but with larger flocks flying over and Kingfisher from the first viewing platform.
Treecreepers have been seen at a couple of locations: firstly in the wood by the first wooden gate on the footpath side of the main drain and as is more usual in the Alders between Loxtons and the railway track.
Treecreeper: John Crispin.
Starlings are still showing well and are currently back at Ham Wall in areas easily visible - although do check with the Starling Hotline (07866 554142) as they are prone to changing the location of their roost. A couple spoke to me this morning and said that they had come in the morning also and said it was just as good if not better than the night before - so it might be worth considering a morning visit (it wont be so busy either - the couple I spoke to had the reserve to themselves). Of course, you are also guaranteed to see the Starlings if you know exactly where they roosted the night before.