It's been a very warm week on the reserve as everywhere and there's been a real buzz of activity. Birds are most definitely on the move with a few Swallows seen on the reserve this week as I reported in a previous blog. However, it appears that some Sand Martins did beat them after all. On Thursday a lady reported to me that she'd seen quite a large group come through nearly two weeks ago and this morning a gentleman told me he'd spotted 3 on Monday whilst watching a Great White Egret.
Around the same time he'd also seen 2 Cranes flying over and 2 of the released Cranes on the levels at West Sedgemoor had been reported out this way, so it could of been them. Other significant 'movements' include the sighting of an Osprey at Ham Wall on Saturday (24th) and a Sedge Warbler heard chattering away in the reedbed on the right of the railway line behind the first bench the same day. Also heard today - the first Willow Warbler of the season on the rail path trees close to Waltons.
The warm weather has seen a significant number of butterflies on the reserve - many much earlier than usual. Peacock, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Speckled Wood, Green-veined White, Orange Tip and Brimstone all seen this week.
Peacock butterfly: John Crispin.
Last weekend saw Bearded Tits appearing again in the Waltons section. They have been spotted/heard frequently in non-access parts of the reserve, which is great, but to see them more frequently in the public areas is fantastic! Lets hope they now begin to colonise this part of the reserve this year by breeding in these areas and giving our visitors a real treat.
Bitterns, are of course still booming strongly and there is thought to be as many as 30 booming males across the Avalon Marshes at present and this figure could rise further over the coming weeks with more early morning 'bittern listens' planned. Flights are still more difficult to come by at the moment but the first viewing platfrom offers a great vista and the best chance of a sighting.
Great White Egrets are still being seen and there is still thought to be at least 3 in the marshes still, including the ringed bird. Marsh Harriers are also seen but maybe not quite as frequently as a few weeks ago, although a handsome looking male is using Waltons and Loxtons fairly regularly. A second, younger male has also been seen on occasions but a lot less female activity.
Sparowhawks are being seen most days and one flew right in front of the viewing platfrom really close in on Thursday. The visitors who were up there missed it as they were engrossed in something else at the time. Just shows how easy it is for things to pass you by. Last Saturday morning around 6.10am one of our volunteers John Crispin saw a female Sparrowhawk down a female Mallard and managed to get the shot below. The bird was then spooked and flew off leaving the poor Mallard to hobble into the reeds. It was looked for but not found.
Kingfishers can still be seen with the old railway bridge as you come into the reserve still a hotspot, where birds are seen flying up and down the surrounding drains, a lady reported seeing one here on Thursday afternoon.
The rail path trees still offer great bird song especially in the morning for a dawn chorus: Blackcaps can now be heard easily, Willow Warbler as mentioned, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Wren, Dunnock, Goldcrest, Goldfinch and Chaffinch to name but a few. Treecreeper has also been spotted in the usual Alders between Loxtons and the rail path.
Also this week: Raven flying and calling over Waltons on Thurs, 2 Jays on the north of the reserve but also seen at the back of Waltons and by Street Heath (next to Loxtons the other side), 2 Greylag Geese flying over on Thursday, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Little Egrets feeding in Waltons, groups of snipe and single birds at a few different locations, Small groups of Lapwing in Waltons but also several pairs displaying at various locations, and extremely vocal Water Rails and Little Grebes. Several Pairs of Great Crested Grebe on site seen displaying and signs of nest building with the best views in Waltons, in front of the 1st platform and from Loxtons screen.
Well, I think that's it for now - apologies again if you came across this blog half complete previously - hope you find it fully intact this time. Have an enjoyable weekend even if the weather has turned a little colder!
Reported to me today at 3.30pm ( I missed them by seconds myself), 2 Swallows flying left to right in front of the first viewing platform at Ham Wall. No Sand Martins as yet but only a matter of time.
Also a great looking male Marsh Harrier hunting over Loxtons 3.35pm and another male seen just a litle earlier.
Bitterns booming everywhere, Bearded Tits and 6 species of butterlfy seen on the reserve today!
More info to come on sightings in Fridays Blog.
There have been some beautiful days on the reserve this week, although there has been a cold wind at times. Spring is slowly creeping it's way upon us, but as yet, I cannot report the first Sand Martins (usually the first to arrive) or Swallows of spring at Ham Wall. The odd one or two have been reported locally however by a lucky few.
Birds are warming up for spring too, with plenty of singing to be heard along the tree lines and of course the booming of the male bittern becoming stronger by the day. Chiffchaff have been heard singing around the reserve along with Song Thrush, Blackbird, Robin, Great Tit and Dunnock to name a few. Groups of Tits and Finches can still be seen feeding together, although it wont be long before these begin to pair up for the breeding season. A few butterflies are on the wing with both Red Admiral and Small Tortoiseshell seen this week.
Today, on the north of the reserve it was nice to see a group of c25 Fieldfares with one or two Redwings mixed in for good measure - these will soon be moving of to their own breeding grounds and there has been significant drop in the number of Starlings too as the weather has warmed up and the days lengthened (although still enough of a flock to impress at present). We also say goodbye to Jen & Chris this week (our Starling Information Officers) after another successful season, well done to both of you and many thanks. They are both moving on to pastures new in Scotland - if you plan to visit Loch Garten up at Abernethy pop in and say hello to Jen. Sure they've both got the Avalon Marshes bug now and will simply have to come back and visit.
As well as Bitterns booming over the reserve, there has been an increase in activity also, as birds search for partners and suitable nesting and feeding sites. Two birds were also seen chasing each other this week - whether this is a male chasing a female, or chasing another male away we don't know- but activity is on the up. Around 5 flights were observed from the first viewing platform last Saturday, between sunrise an 10am and I was lucky enough to have 4 flights in about half an hour from the same location on Monday. One flew right across and very close in - great view.
From the birds observed on Saturday, one showed particularly well in the small cut area of reed in front of the 1st viewing platform. It was said to have quite a lot of white in its plumage - particularly the wing but also the head. This is useful info for surveying later, to identify and track an individual bird. Also seen Saturday morning, a Female Hen Harrier, quartering the north of the reserve headed west visible from 2nd viewing platform.
Also last weekend, this shot of a Great White Egret in a rather unusual pose was taken by John Crispin:
Throughout the week from the first viewing platform 2 or 3 Male Pintail have been seen as well as: Green Woodpecker, 7 Little Egret put up together spooked by something, Kingfisher flying up the drain and a Female Marsh Harrier along with a Juvenile (male being seen a lot less over the last week or so). Duck numbers are definitely decreasing, although a few Wigeon & Teal remain. Still good numbers of Pochard in Waltons and there were 30 in front of the Loxtons screen on Monday and also present are Tufted Duck, Mallard & Shoveler.
Kingfishers have been seen regularly this week with the old railway bridge the best spot (a pair seen here on Weds). 6 Buzzards were seen together on Tuesday as well as 3 Ravens the same day. Lapwing can be seen daily with a nice group often settling in Waltons from the 3rd screen and one or two pairs possibly exploring the reserve for potential nest sites. Also this week: Sparrowhawk on Monday from the old rail bridge, Short-Eared Owl seen quartering distantly from 2nd viewing platform after Starling Roost, Kestrel in the last area on the left of the railway line past 2nd platform, Roe Deer, Bearded Tits in areas in front of the 1st platform but not very close in and small groups of Redpoll feeding on Alders around the reserve.
These shots of Lesser Redpoll were taken this week by John Crispin:
A handsome looking bird.
Have a great Weekend everyone!