It's the start of a very busy time at Ham Wall for staff and volunteers (even if the birds are a little quiet). We're making good progress with clearing the reeds from the islands if front of the 1st platform. It may well be a couple more weeks before we finish but the end results are usually pretty good once the water levels are brought back up.
Other areas are draining down a bit - mostly through natural evaporation but in recent weeks we have let a little water out of the sections either side of the Avalon Hide Path. On the left so we can get in and cut with our machine to help create a spectacle similar to that we created on the right over the last couple of years with open water and muddy areas and on the right (the area in front of the 2nd platform) so some reed can regenerate and fill in some of the gaps. This should give us a nice mosaic and transition of habitat ages throughout the site, increasing diversity and giving visitors plenty to look at.
The area in front of the 2nd platform is still producing the goods but you have to work a little harder for it now. over the last couple of weeks there's been a nice variety of waders popping in. The following have all been seen this week: Wood Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Dunlin, Ruff 3, Black Tailed Godwits 30+, Common Sandpiper 5, Green Sandpiper 3, Snipe & several Lapwing.
The Glossy Ibis (still x2) are being seen pretty much daily in this section although they were also spotted at Shapwick Heath one day this week. They are currently pumping their scrape down so we may see some waders migrating a short distance to our neighbours for some good feeding.
Also seen in this area this week: Great Crested Grebes, several duck species including Garganey and several Great White Egrets:
Ones also still flying over the car park quite consistently offering good views to visitors as they first arrive.
Little Egrets are also fairly commonplace particularly in the 2 drier areas mentioned earlier but a couple were also spotted fishing by the edge of the reeds from the Loxtons screen yesterday. John Crispin was present to catch yet another great image - thanks John:
Also present from here were a Great Crested Grebe with a well grown youngster, 3 Little Grebes, Lesser Black Back Gulls and the throng of Cormorants which use the rafts. A Kingfisher also gave a flyby. It often perches on a particular twiggy branch in front. A guest was using it yesterday however. A Common Sandpiper perched on it for around 50 minutes - most unusual. A Kingfisher was also spotted from the Avalon Hide on Sunday.
Bitterns are still present but far less obvious than in the previous few months. A few flights are being recorded - I had one myself land near me as I cut the reeds with the Softrak machine on the islands in front of the 1st platform.
Yesterday - a little further to the left of here a Female Marsh Harrier was hunting and swooping over the reeds and pinging from Bearded Tits was picked up. Left again in the strip of woodland some noisy Jays were heard as well as Great Spotted Woodpecker. Singing Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff have also both been heard this week.
Other birds of note this week include a Lesser Whitethroat seen by the new wooden bridge that crosses the drain in some nearby privet. It's third time it's been spotted here recently, large flocks of Goldfinches - particularly in the car park with c100 seen, raven flying over, Buzzards daily and on Sunday large numbers of House Martins swooping along the Waltons Trail on the west side. There's also been an Osprey resting up at Shapwick Heath. Don't think it's been over to Ham Wall on this occasion but Natalie Talbot has sent me this picture taken at Shapwick this week - thanks Natalie:
It maybe quiet for birds but it's always worth looking a little closer at the insect life. The more you look the more you see and there are some wonderful looking bugs out there.
Dragonflies are always fascinating to watch: Common Darter, Ruddy Darter, Southern Hawker, Common Hawker, Migrant Hawker and Brown Hawker (pictured) all seen this week:
Butterflies this week include: Red Admiral, Peacock, Speckled Wood, Green Veined White, Meadow Brown and most commonly Small Tortoiseshell:
John Crispin has been out this week taking a look at some of these smaller critters. I haven't had time to ID any so if you know what any are just let us know. There's some amazing stuff out there. Here's a selection to whet your appetite:
and its dinner........
Fantastic stuff - thanks John!
That's it for this week - lets see what next week brings - change is in the air! Have a great weekend!
Well it's been quite a time since the last blog but it seems all the favourites have still been performing at Ham Wall in my absence. The 2 Glossy Ibis are still being seen regularly - usually in the area in front of the second platform but we have also lowered levels in the adjacent section (to the left of the Avalon Hide Path) and they have also been seen in here this week. Unfortunately, like the 2nd platform area not all this area is easily visible and there are plenty of hideouts for birds to disappear in. It's that time of year I'm afraid when the growth is at its peak. We have however started reed cutting on the lower vegetation in front of the 1st platform.
Cutting it at this time of year (knowing no breeding birds are present) suppresses the regrowth leaving it lower, sparser and more varied when it grows back. Once cut and cleared water levels will be raised to further suppress regrowth and should leave large splashy areas for passage waders and loafing/feeding areas for ducks and heron species.
In the lowered areas the Glossy Ibis use, it has also been common to see both Little Egret (12 together on Monday) and Great White Egret (5 on Monday) as well as an array of ducks, grebes and waders. A Garganey is of particular note - spotted in front of the bench just past the junction to the Avalon Hide path where it meets the main track.
The second platform area often sees Green Sandpiper - although just a single this week, a single Ruff last week and Lapwing this week (up to 30) but most abundant is the Black Tailed Godwits with 60+ reported yesterday. These were photographed by John Crispin:
Bittern are of course still present. A couple with very purposeful looking flights perhaps late nesters going back to feed young. On Wednesday flights were observed in both Waltons and from the 1st platform and left of here a bittern in moult was spotted.
Another favourite, the Marsh Harrier is sighted daily with a Male seen hunting near the car park on Monday while juvenile birds are now far more mobile and out hunting on their own looking very adept. The colouration on their heads makes them stand out. Natalie Talbot sent me these photos of juveniles taken at Shapwick Heath (we won't hold it against her) this week. Thanks Natalie:
Marsh Harrier - Natalie Talbot
A few other birds of prey have frequented the reserve this week. On Monday a Peregrine flew over the car park and shortly after a Sparrowhawk passed over being mobbed by a few smaller birds. Unusual to see one being mobbed by it's own dinner?
Occasional Hobbies are also seen at various locations and of course daily Buzzards. On Wednesday night on the Nature by Night walk at Ham Wall a Barn Owl was spotted in the box opposite the 1st platform. They also picked up several bats as did the Brue Valley bat survey this week. I'll try to find out exactly how many species we've had recorded here but it's looking healthy.
Not a Ham Wall sighting (as far as I'm aware) but an Osprey has been present from Noah's hide on Shapwick Heath for most of the week (seen this morning). It sounds like the usual bird for this time of year so there's a good chance of it loitering for a while.
Duck ID's are tricky at this time of year as many are in eclipse. Many ducks become more difficult to tell apart as many colours are lost. This picture was taken last year but shows both male and female Mallard in eclipse. The bill colour being the best identifying factor for telling the apart:
Within Waltons there is the usual selection of ducks including Mallard (some with youngsters) and Gadwall. There is also a large brood of well grown Tufted Duck to look out for. It's a good area also for spotting Great Crested Grebes with youngsters while in the far corner with the single screen Little Grebes have been recorded feeding their young.
This has also been the case in front of the Loxtons screen along with the usual noisy group of Cormorants which use the rafts.
It is a quiet time of year for birds as most of you know. Bug life however is quite abundant and the closer you look, the more you see. The obvious ones of course being butterflies and dragonflies. Butterflies this week include: Red Admiral. Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Small Skipper, Green Veined White, Large White, Speckled Wood and Painted Lady.
Red Admiral: Giles Morris
In terms of dragonflies the following have been recorded this week: Emperor, Brown Hawker, Southern Hawker, Migrant Hawker, Black Tailed Skimmer, Common Darter, Ruddy Darter, Blue Tailed Damselfly, Common Blue Damselfly and Variable Damselfly.
Common Darter female - Giles Morris
Southern Hawker female: Giles Morris
In terms of mammals it's always harder to come by sightings. Roe deer are seen around both Waltons and Loxtons each week while rabbits and Grey Squirrel will be seen daily along the rail path along with the rare sighting of Weasel or Stoat. Evidence is always present of Badger - plenty of digging and foraging marks and while Otter sightings are unusual you can often find runs and spraints (posh word for Otter Poo!)
Just a couple of shots to finish this week. First one taken from last year - yes I'm cheating again but I did see Song Thrush smashing snails on the main rail path earlier this week - always fascinating to watch. I remembered that John Crispin had sent me some action shots last year. Thanks again John!
Finally another from John taken this week at the car park. This Kingfisher perched on the new water vole raft. Eventually we hope that we can beam back some footage of feeding water voles. Currently we've got some underwater footage we can play on the TV in the visitor building. Gives you a little taster of all the action that goes on underwater in and around the Avalon Marshes.
That's it for this week. I'm away again next week so no blog again - I know, it's the Life of Riley. I'll be back the week after and get everything back to normal.
Have a great couple of weeks!
Yet again another wonderful week on the reserve - although the very hot weather has made working quite difficult as well as perhaps calmed down some of the activity from the birds. The early mornings have been the time to come by the sounds of it, with cooler weather, good light and a magical feel.
The early starts is best for catching up with the Little Bittern (well beyond the 2nd platform on the right). 2 males have been recorded barking here again this week and most days see several flights before the sun really gets going. Lots of visitors are trying to see it - often it's the luck of the draw. Some people stand for hours and then miss it, while the lucky ones turn up wait ten minutes and get a sighting - oh to be in that category. Thanks to Robin Morrison for sending in this shot.
There's plenty of other stuff to keep you occupied while you wait. Kingfishers are being seen and heard regularly here along with several Jays and a family group of Great Spotted Woodpeckers - these 2 taken by John Crispin. The dead tree is the one close to the Little Bittern area - thanks John:
Young and adult jays seen regularly too:
Bitterns are often seen in this area too although activity generally across the reserve has greatly reduced, they are still seen fairly regularly. Some going into moult like this landing bird from Robin Morrison again:
Often perched in the reeds too:
Bittern in reeds - Robin Morrison
Other birds have been seen passing through this area including a Greenshank and Green Sandpiper. Green Sandpiper have been seen several times in front of the 2nd platform this week with as many as 10 seen together last weekend. Wood Sandpiper was recorded at the back of this section on Tuesday and Little Ringed Plover on Saturday and Sunday last week.
Green Sandpipers: John Crispin
The Glossy Ibis x2 have also been seen here this week - although not always immediately obvious. They were however also seen from the first viewing platform on Monday. The vegetation is high here at present and making visibility difficult. We have drained the water slightly in readiness to start cutting the reeds at the start of next month. This will open up the views once more and provide good feeding and loafing areas for birds over the autumn and winter months.
The hot weather may be keeping the birds a little quieter but it seems to be good news for butterflies and dragonflies. Quite a good list forming this week:
In terms of butterflies we've recorded: Comma, Red Admiral, Small Skipper, Large Skipper, Speckled Wood, Peacock, Green Veined White, Small White, Large White, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Common Blue & Ringlet. Also a possible Silver Washed Fritillary along the rail path near Loxtons.
Gatekeeper: John Crispin.
For Dragonflies: Emperor, Southern Hawker, Brown Hawker, Common Darter, Ruddy Darter, 4 Spotted Chaser, Broad Bodied Chaser, Black Tailed Skimmer, Common Blue Damselfly, Red Eyed Damselfly, Blue Tailed Damselfly and Variable Damselfly:
Black Tailed Skimmer: Giles Morris
Ruddy Darter: Giles Morris.
Variable Damselfly: Giles Morris
Other bus of note this week include a large hornet which was working along the brambles close to the Little Bittern area and a leaf cutter bee which was carrying leaves into the visitor building early in the week.
The hedgerows are good places for bug hunting but also look and listen out for juvenile birds being fed by adults. A Goldcrest was also spotted this week collecting spiders webs for nest building.
The Avalon Hide is still the place to go for Marsh Harriers. 3 juvenile birds were all seen perched up in small willows in the reed beds on several occasions this week. Their crowns still a very coppery colour in the sun. Hobby again seen here this week perched out on a tuft or old nest in the water but also seen from the second platform and over Loxtons.
The Collared Pratincole has thought to have left although a volunteer thought they may have seen it again on Tuesday and described it's colours and behaviour perfectly. Nobody else has reported anything but you never know. Thanks to Brendan Sheils for sending in a couple of shots of last weeks star bird:
Elsewhere on the reserve this week: both Great Crested and Little Grebe adults and chicks from the Waltons screens, Cuckoo heard calling for the whole week until yesterday, Raven flying over, Kestrel spotted last weekend, Great White Egrets abundant with 11 seen together from second platform last Sunday and both Adder & Grass Snake seen by yours truly on Monday around the Waltons trail.
Finally some pics to finish:
This morning (and during the week) 4 young Water Rail chicks seen on the Tor View Hide path all feeding independently with an adult close by. Thanks to John Crispin for the photos taken this morning:
Other young families include Mute Swans. Thanks to Robin Morrison for this photo:
and this lovely shot of a Roe deer hind and fawn from around the Waltons Trail on Tuesday. Thanks to Robin Morrison again:
That's it for this week. There maybe no blog next week as I have to attend a funeral and then I'm off on annual leave, so it could be 3 weeks before I write again for which I can only apologise.
Hope you have a great weekend in the sun!!