Last weekend saw several sightings of Bearded Tits in front of the first platform and a survey this week produced a count of close to 80 birds on site. They have also been picked up at Westhay & Shapwick within the last week so they must be doing well. Around 12 were picked up in Waltons on Thurs morning and some have also been heard in Loxtons this week. Friday 28th also saw them in front of 1st platform.
The Bearded Tit Synchronised Gymastics team in actiuon at Ham Wall.
Also last weekend a Yellow Wagtail flew over the first platform(flying south) on Saturday while 3 Great Whites were also seen in flight. Long Bittern flights were from the 1st platform (at least 4) and several Kingfisher sightings (1st platform, Waltons and Loxtons). Kingfishers have been a regular sighting at these locations all week.
4 Great White Egrets were on site on Monday at different locations but they are a daily fixture for Ham Wall and the area in front of the platform is again becoming popular with them and should more so as water levels increase. The ringed bird fed in here on Weds. We have now finished reed cutting in this area and are slowly bringing water levels back up to suppress any re-growth. An aquatic cutting machine (the Truxor) will then be on site in December to cut the edges we couldn't reach and any re-growth which does get away. There have still been c100 snipe on the islands and I believe I also disturbed a Jack Snipe whist working in there on Thursday afternoon. It flew up silently and dropped in quickly on the next island not far away (typical Jack Snipe behaviour). A Greenshank was also heard but not seen and up to 25 Canada Geese on occasions this week.
Tuesday saw c100 Gadwall come up from an area close to the owl boxes on the woodland edge visible from first platform and c45 Coot present, while c50 Wigeon flew over the wood (diagonally right of the 1st platform) the same day. By Thursday a group of c300 Wigeon were recorded on the north of the site.
Wigeon in flight
Ravens have been a daily fixture this week with 2 seen on Tues and Friday and 3 on Thursday. Single birds seen and heard on other days.
Also this week: Male Stonechat on Thursday morning, Sparrowhawks on several occasions, Kestrel, a few Teal from 1st platform, Great Crested Grebe with a juvenile, Several Buzzards (often together) Great Spotted Woodpecker and Groups of House Martins, Sand Martin (a few) and Swallows still passing through.
Jays have been spotted frequently this week and appear very active, 2-3 Goldcrests on the rail path, Coal Tit, singing Chiffchaffs and large Tit flocks particularly Long Tailed Tits. Several mixed flocks of birds have been seen over the last couple of weeks. They are worth scanning as Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and Willow Warblers have all been seen amongst them.
Marsh Harriers (male & female) have been seen on most days this week sometimes quite distant however (always nice to see though)
Male Marsh Harrier
A short trip to Waltons just before writing this saw several Shovelers, Gadwall and Mallards along with a few Little Grebes and a Kingfisher. 6 Snipe flew up as something disturbed the ducks but was unseen (Marsh Harrier perhaps) and a Great White flew into Loxtons not too bad for a few minutes work.
A Wild Day out in Autumn: Sunday September 30th 10am - 4pm
A day of children's activities linked to the autumn season. Come and join Natural England for competitions, wildlife quizzes, trails, trailer rides and much more at :
The Avalon Marshes Centre, Shapwick Road, Westhay, Somerset, BA6 9TT.
There will also be an opportunity to purchase some of Ham Wall's peat free soil conditioner produced from the waste vegetation obtained during the habitat management of the reserve fro birds & wildlife.
Reduced price if you bring your own bag/s.
Volunteers will be on hand to help load bags and provide information.
The following information has been taken from a recent press release by the RSPB with photo's used with kind permission from John Crispin.
Wildlife lovers are celebrating following the successful release of 19 cranes on the Somerset Levels and Moors on Tuesday 18th September. This is the third such release and the youngsters, brought as eggs from Germany in April and May, will join 33 cranes already out in the wild in the South West. The releases are being managed by the Great Crane Project, a partnership between the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, RSPB and Pensthorpe Conservation Trust, with major funding from Viridor Credits Environmental Company.
The aim is to restore healthy populations of wild cranes throughout the UK, so that people can once again experience these beautiful birds. Damon Bridge, Great Crane Project Manager said: “All went well. Eighteen birds left the aviaries straight away, the first out of the gate was the bird named Easter Beans and Blue Black Blue was the first to fly. One bird however, Evie, was a little unsure, and spent the night in the safety of the aviary but has since left the release enclosure and joined up with some of the older birds. “Most have taken big flights up and above the pen – some landing outside and being led back in, and many flying out on their own accord and returning under their own steam.” “Also, all the older birds from previous years have shown great interest in the new ones – flying over, and landing nearby. It’s going to be fascinating to watch how they all get on.”
The release is the latest in a series of successful developments for the project. Earlier this year, Viridor Credits confirmed further funding for the project. This will ensure that the project can release cranes for a further two years , monitor their welfare and movements, and start to create, improve and manage wetland habitats for them as they approach breeding age. The project also has a new team member. Susan Anders is now working three days a week as the Somerset Wetlands Community Officer. Susan will be building and expanding a programme of community engagement work linked to the cranes, which will be vital to the long-term success of the project. Mr Bridge added: “It’s as if the whole project has moved to a new level this year. Our funding is confirmed and with Susan on-board we are able to start developing our work with local people, especially schoolchildren. I really can’t wait for next spring though. The first birds brought over in 2010 will then be coming in breeding condition and might, just might, start to turn their attention to nesting!”
For more information contact: Tony Whitehead, RSPB Press Officer 01392 453754 07872 414365 email@example.com
Mark Simpson in the WWT Press Office 01453 891176 07825 890 590 Mark.firstname.lastname@example.org
Pensthorpe Conservation Trust Mark Noble 01328 851465 email@example.com
1. The Great Crane Project is a partnership between the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, RSPB and Pensthorpe Conservation Trust, with major funding from Viridor Credits Environmental Company. Our aim is to restore healthy populations of wild cranes throughout the UK, so that people can once again experience these beautiful birds.
2. For more information on the project, and regular updates, visit http://www.thegreatcraneproject.org.uk
3. WWT is a leading UK conservation organisation saving wetlands for wildlife and people across the world. With over 60 years experience of wetland conservation, WWT is committed to the protection of wetlands and all that depend on them for survival. WWT operates nine wetland visitor centres in the UK and manages over 2,000 hectares, including seven Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), one Area of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI), six Special Protection Areas (SPA), Part of one Marine Nature Reserve and six Ramsar sites, supporting over 200,000 waterbirds. WWT aviculturalists’ extensive hand-rearing expertise is a vital part of the Great Crane Project.
4. The RSPB is the largest wildlife conservation charity in Europe. The Society manages over 200 nature reserves in the UK and has been involved with the reintroduction of red kites, white-tailed eagles, corncrakes and cirl buntings, with other partners, to parts of the UK. The RSPB owns and manages 3 major nature reserves in Somerset covering over 900 hectares, at West Sedgemoor, Greylake and Ham Wall.
5. The Pensthorpe Conservation Trust is a Norfolk-based conservation charity which has been working with Eurasian cranes for over a decade and has a small population of wild cranes already using its 500 acre reserve in the Wensum Valley. It’s avicultural and satellite tracking expertise form an essential part of the Great Crane Project.
6. Viridor Credits Environmental Company distributes funding through the Landfill Communities Fund. Funding is available for community and environmental projects within 10 miles (priority to projects within five miles) of an active Viridor Waste Management Landfill site. Since 1996 Viridor Credits has allocated over £70m to over a thousand projects across the UK.
Every day this week there has been a fairly steady stream of House Martins and Swallows with a few Sand Martins thrown in for good measure. A sure sign that things are beginning to change. The mornings are noticeably more chilly and we should soon expect a build up of our winter visitors. Groups of duck are now building slowly. 80 Gadwall were seen on the north of the reserve and c40 in Loxtons. Also present in Loxtons on Thursday were c20 Mallard, 15 Teal 15 Cormorants and a handful of Shoveler and Grebes. One or two Wigeon are also present on the reserve.
Gadwall in flight
The Loxtons trail remains closed at present and we have been pumping hard to get the levels down. We just need to get round with the machine to cut back the vegetation on the very overgrown paths and we anticipate being able to re-open the trail sometime next week unless we get another deluge.
We are continuing to cut reed in front of the first platform and are hopeful that this will be complete by the end of next week. We will then flood up the area to prevent re-growth and the aquatic cutting machine – the Truxor - will be hired in well before Christmas, to cut the edges and any growth which does get away. This should create a nice feeding area for ducks, waders, Bitterns and Great White Egrets (who in particular seem to enjoy this area). Currently in front of the 1st platform groups of Snipe can be seen, c100 yesterday were disturbed as we went out to cut the islands (spread across at least 3 of the islands – particularly those to the left hand side). Groups of Canada Geese along with Gadwall & Mallard are also using the area. I myself have witnessed a long, obvious Bittern flight in this area every day this week, whilst working in the area – so there’s always a chance.
A Bearded Tit survey this week saw a group of 17 and a group of 12 as well as a few smaller groups. The 17 were on the north eastern edge of the cut area in front of the platform and some were visible from the canal path. Better news is that 4 were seen within Waltons on Thursday. Today however saw even more action from the 'beardies'. The first and third screens at Waltons produced sightings (3-4 birds) and their trademark 'pinging' calls, as did the corner of Loxtons where it meets Waltons close to the rail track and later again 'pinging' could be heard in front of the second platform. They seemed to be well spread across the site. It would be worth familiarising yourself with the call as this will most likely be the first indication you get of their presence - sightings can be slightly harder to come by but it's a real treat when you see them. It's great to have them in the public access areas (long may they stay).
There was also an Otter sighting during the survey (Thurs morning). It would of been visible to any visitors from the rail bridge looking to the left up the drain that runs between the wood and the reedbed as you walk down the rail track. An Otter survey this week (looking for signs) produced 3 spraints (the name for their droppings) in 3 separate areas of the reserve - an increase on previous months which is good news. The one witnessed on Thursdsay was also seen to leave a deposit on a pile of reed cuttings from last years management - a good territory marker.
Along the rail path tree line, Chiffchaffs can be heard singing and large gangs of Long Tailed Tits can be seen daily as well as mixed flocks of Tits, Finches the odd Goldcrest and some Warblers (Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler). Several Kingfisher sightings have been had this week – Waltons in particular. They have successfully reared 2 broods this year, which is fantastic and 2 were seen fishing around Loxtons for some time today, perching up for long periods and catching fish - beautiful. Waltons has been a favourite hunting area over the last few weeks also.
A Kingfisher waits for its prey
Also this week: Shrew seen on the grassy path, Small groups c15 of Lapwing, Jays, Great Spotted Woodpecker at Loxtons Tree line, the wood opposite the rail bridge, the first platform and tapping against a tree by the second platform, Roe Deer have been seen on the canal path, Loxtons trail parallel to the rail path (this part is still open) and a youngster elsewhere on the reserve, Raven flying over on more than one occasion and Great White Egrets daily including one feeding within Loxtons. Marsh Harriers are also a daily sight but some patience is required - male female and juvenile all seen this week. Not had a Hobby reported this week but that's not to say you wont see the odd one still on their way back south. Some Reed Warblers can still be seen - in fact one showed extremely well from the willow screen around the Waltons trail today!
Come to the Avalon Marshes centre for a day of children's activities linked to the Autumn season.
Join Natural England staff and volunteers for competitions, wildlife quizzes, trails, trailer rides and much more.
The event is free and there's no need to book: Great For families to have some fun and then visit the local nature reserves.
Sunday 30th September 10am - 3.30pm. The Avalon Marshes Centre, Shapwick Road, Westhay, Somerset, BA6 9TT.
There will also be an opportunity to buy some of RSPB Ham Wall's peat free compost/soil conditioner produced as a result of habitat management work on the reserve.
Reduced price if you bring your own bags. For details on this call 01458 860494 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org