We had a visit today from Chris Sperring MBE from the Hawk & Owl Trust. He is licensed to inspect Barn Owl boxes and ring any owlets. The good news is we have 2 broods of 3 chicks each all looking very healthy.
Chris with the first of this years young.
Close up of another!
Sorry if I look a bit grumpy in this photo - I've no reason to be. 6 young from 2 nests is a pleasing result. It's down on last year but 3 nests and c10 young was exceptional for us. I'll hopefully get some more photos soon from volunteer John Crispin who accompanied us along with Clare above from our regional office in Exeter, who managed to squeeze in some barn owls before her meeting about developments on the reserve.
When I get some more photos I will post a selection on a separate thread and also share some with our Facebook page (Ham Wall Nature Reserve) and Twitter page @RSPBSomerset
Apologies for the lack of blog last week - I was away for much of the week and just haven't had the time this week until now. I did spend a couple of days with work over at Arne in Dorset - a reserve well worth a visit. Good views of Nightjar, Spoonbill and Dartford Warbler the highlights. I'll hopefully do another blog this Friday or on Monday so I may keep this one more brief than usual.
While here in Somerset......... the reserve continues to be busy and throw up a few nice surprises with Purple Heron seen last Wednesday over the reserve and Night Heron this Monday - one of several recent sightings. Great White Egrets also continue to impress and offering good views (1st platform, Waltons & Loxtons all good places to spot them). It's thought that they must be numbering in the 20's on local reserves at present.
Bitterns are being seen quite regularly - particularly from the 1st platform and again in Waltons/Loxtons. Many of these sightings will be female birds flying to and from nests feeding youngsters. One bird was reported swimming on Monday and last weekend a bird in Waltons sky pointing with its wings outstretched - a threat posture perhaps to a nearby predator? The interest the Heron species show in these particular areas probably have a lot to do with the presence of what we used to refer to as Marsh Frogs. In fact they are more likely Iberian Water Frogs or hybrids of these and Edible Frog but we will know when results from DNA sequencing are revealed.
Marsh Harriers take them too as John Crispin's photo reveals:
This female bird and several others are being seen regularly and we believe we are host to 3 nests this year with 2 young birds seen at one of the nest sites.
Hobby are also being seen, although not that frequently - I'd be inclined to scan the back edge of Loxtons for a sighting although the Tor View Hide has also thrown up a couple of sightings this week. One Hobby was seen hunting a flock of around 100 Starlings from the Loxtons screen last weekend (unsuccessfully). Yes, we have a tiny Starling flock already.
There are dragonflies a plenty for the Hobbies though. A lot of Emperors on the wing but also begun to see Brown Hawkers over the past week. These are joining the vast numbers of 4 spotted chasers, Broad Bodied Chasers (one seen emerging in the car park pools today) and Black Tailed Skimmers. Damselflies include: Azure, Common Blue, Red Eyed, Variable and Banded Demoiselle (could spot these from the road bridge or go to the gate entrance at Tinneys - the isolated plot on the Sharpham Road - easily seen here).
4 Spotted Chaser close up. The white dots could be grass pollen?
Butterflies too are improving in numbers. Painted Ladies are still making an appearance as are: Small Tortoiseshell, Speckled Wood, Red Admiral, Green Veined White, Meadow Brown and the first Ringlets of the season.
Also over the last week or so: Lapwings and Black Tailed Godwits seen in the now splashy sections between the 2 platforms along with good numbers of Little Egret and the odd Great White Egret, Kingfishers seen frequently at the Loxtons screen along with a Pochard with 5 young, 2 Common Tern still present sitting on eggs, several Cuckoos still being seen and heard, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Treecreeper seen from the car park boardwalks on a few occasions.
Finally, a few shots of the very tame Song Thrush we have in our car park at the moment. It feeds along the edges of the pools and often perches up on the signs. I've also been seeing a pair of Bullfinches quite regularly of late in the car park area too:
Have a smashing few days until the next blog!
A nice bunch of photos this week thanks to contributions from both John Crispin and Robin Morrison - thank you both very much - the photos really make the blog what it is - rather than just my ramblings.
During the last couple of weeks there has been, not surprisingly, an increase in the number of young birds seen - particularly those out on the water as the following photos from Robin Morrison show:
Coot feeding a youngster.
They also seem to be looking to nest again perhaps as the next photo shows, although I was watching one with a youngster carrying sticks to a floating raft in Waltons and perching some on each end - seemed and looked a bit odd - maybe some kind of instinctive behavior.
There are plenty of young cygnets too - some Mute Swans have had quite large broods in the past of 9 or more.
Groups of ducklings with parents are also being seen - commonly Mallard as pictured below:
and a duckling close up........
........running for cover!
Shoveler with young have also been reported recently along with Pochard which have been seen from the Loxtons screen this week.
Pochard with young.
While on the subject of ducks it's important to remember that at this time of year (after breeding season) wildfowl undergo a moult of feathers and go into what's known as eclipse. The drakes are of particular interest here as they undergo this transformation and take on the appearance of the female - this can make identification a little harder.
During this moult they lose their flight feathers and so become unable to fly for a short period. Luckily they live in a wetland habitat which provides ample food, shelter and safety during this period.
Pictured below is the drake of the Tufted Duck with the dark slick on its usually pristine white flank.
Also the drake Mallard which moults into a brown plumage losing most of its regular, distinctive markings. A good point to remember however is that its bill always stays a dull yellow colour making it easy to distinguish from the female.
Drake Mallards in eclipse
Ducks are interesting but it seems to be the Heron species that attract most of the attention. Bitterns are still regularly flying around the reserve - the 1st platform a good place to start where there is an active nest towards the left side. A female has been seen flying this morning on 3 occasions in a short space of time.
Great White Egrets are regulars too, with frequent sightings of these majestic beasts on a daily basis. Ham Wall seems to be a real stronghold at the moment for them. 2 of the RSPBs ecologists were out and about on the reserve late Weds and early Thursday morning and saw 13 together in a partially drained area with another 5 in flight. These 18 do not include any on other reserves or those few perhaps attending nests so quite a remarkable figure. They were joined by an incredible 78 Little Egrets, 1 Dunlin, 1 Wood Sandpiper, a Garganey and several Shoveler. It was interesting on Monday to see a Grey Heron and a Great White Egret in a very noisy dispute - 2 very cranky birds.
A Great White Egret flies in front of the Tor View Hide
The area is between the 2 platforms but over a bank and to the rear of the visible section - a shame I know for visitors but they can be seen flying up on occasions - perhaps when a passing Marsh Harrier comes into view. The ecologists recorded nearly 30 Black Tailed Godwits here too but over 50 flew over on Monday and landed in front of the 1st paltform.
Redshank are here too and often seen perching up on the posts and rails there 2 adults and 2 juveniles seen (great news). Lapwings are still chasing off all comers including dive bombing the odd Great White Egret and groups of around 50 have been seen on occasions (51 on Monday).
Varying numbers of butterflies being seen on the reserve but several sightings of Painted Lady this week, which is nice. Also seen Green Veined White, Speckled Wood, Red Admiral, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Common Blue and Small Skipper.
Dragonflies still very obvious all around the reserve with 4 Spotted Chasers again the stars with thousand seen all over the place - the back of Waltons, as usual, the best place. Several Emperor also seen - our biggest dragonfly, Black Tailed Skimmer, Broad Bodied Chaser, Blue Tailed Damselfly, Banded Demoiselle, Common Blue damselfly and Azure Damselfly all about. The car park pools are becoming a good place to see these out in the open.
The car park pools are also providing a good feeding area for Blackbird and Song Thrush nesting nearby. The Song Thrush in particular is proving very brave often coming up close with a beak full of food or even perching up on rails just yards away (as well as being very vocal and calling from the tree line). A Mistle Thrush was also reported this week from the car park.
On exiting the car park you will notice we have place a sign and information on the boardwalk about a colony of Tree Bumblebees which have decided to nest under the boardwalk. I have also heard both Goldcrest and Treecreeper in this area this week and Blackcap and Chiffchaff often sing from this location.
The treelines are good places to find these and many other song birds - lots of Goldfinches present and gangs of Long Tailed Tits working their way along. You may also see and hear the odd Garden Warbler. John Crispin managed this shot during the week:
Also this week: a few Roe Deer seen around the reserve, Stoats regularly crossing the rail path carrying prey items eg mouse just past the 1st platform, frequent Marsh Harrier sightings, Red Kite seen on Thursday, Common Terns still sat on the raft at Loxtons screen (eggs could hatch sometime next week) and a Sparrowhawk snapped by Robin Morrison during the week.
If the weathers good come down and pay us a visit - as you can see there's a lot of wildlife on show!
Have a great weekend!!