There seems to have been an increase in Bittern activity this week - suggests that perhaps some females are off nests and out feeding youngsters. There have again been several chases involving multiple birds. his photograph taken by John Crispin is likely to be a female being chased by a male. The size difference as well as their behaviour lends themselves to this conclusion. There are still several booming males being heard during the day too. 3 were even seen and heard calling in the dark after dusk on Wednesday evening.
I was off work today but did have to pop in briefly - it was just after the rain stopped and the air was alive with Swifts and the odd Swallow too. No Martins although 12 House Martins were seen yesterday although for some this year they seem to have been a rare commodity. In the brief time I was there I did catch sight of both Bittern and Great White Egret and heard a host of warblers. Blackcaps are plentiful and there are also several Garden warblers, plenty of chattering Reed Warblers in the reedbeds with the odd Sedge Warbler for company.
There have been plenty of Great White Egret sightings all week - it's hard to have a visit and not see one to be honest. The 1st platform, Waltons & Loxtons probably the best places to see them along with Bitterns and Grey Herons. The areas seem to be full of Marsh Frogs and there's quite a chorus - particularly when the sun shines. This goes some way to explaining the large number of sightings here.
A stay awhile in Loxtons screen should give you sightings of Hobby - they also hunt over Waltons. These areas are home to 100's of 4 spotted chasers. A walk around the back of Waltons on a cool morning or evening should bring great rewards and photo opportunities of reed stems covered in these dragonflies. Loxtons screen also a good bet for Common Terns - they've been showing some interest in the old tern rafts there but will have to oust the resident Cormorants first (they managed it last year). They have also however been seen on the small rafts at Waltons on several occasions this week. Another bird being seen hassling others has been the Lapwings. Up to 5 have been seen defending what must be either nests or young against Great White Egrets, Marsh Harriers and Grey Herons from the 1st platform. They also chased off Redshanks who must also be nesting close by. Up to 3 have been seen and occasionally have perched on the rails by the islands.
Also from Loxtons: Kingfishers, Cuckoos perched in dead trees nearby (4 birds seen on Tuesday in the area) and Pochard with young pictured below.
Pochard with young
Marsh Harriers are using several areas of the reserve - great views from the Tot View Hide yesterday but lots of activity visible from both platforms. The male below photographed by John Crispin yesterday.
Buzzards are also seen regularly - particularly from the 2nd platform where 2 birds were seen circling, interacting and calling together on Wednesday.
It's been a bit wet & windy at times this week making butterfly spotting a little more difficult - a few less species seen by me this week - although it doesn't mean the others aren't there. I recorded Speckled Wood, Green veined White, Orange Tip, Peacock and Red Admiral this week.
In terms of mammals I've only seen Roe Deer and Rabbit but there are plenty of signs of others including: Water vole, Badger, Otter, Field Vole and fox.
Plenty of duck about with broods of Mallard seen. Also Gadwall, Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Pochard and these 2 Shelduck seen on Thursday morning.
Also this week: Barn Owl seen at 8am on Thursday, Spotted Flycatcher along the rail path on Tuesday, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Peregrine reported last Saturday & Sunday, Osprey also seen catching a fish at Loxtons on Friday and a brief glimpse on Saturday, Goldcrest by the car park boardwalk and Blue Tits still using the nest box in the same area.
As previously mentioned plenty of 4 spotted chasers about this week but also seen: Hairy Dragonfly, Broad bodied Chaser, Scarce Chaser, Red Eyed Damselfly, Variable Damselfly, Azure Damselfly and plenty of Blue Tailed Damselflies and many mating pairs as pictured below.
I've also been attempting to identify some of our bumblebees and think I've seen: Buff Tailed, White Tailed, Early, Common Carder and Tree Bumblebee - but I think I need more work here!
That's it for now - have a great weekend!
Yet another interesting week on the reserve. It seems that even after 9 years of working here there's always something new to experience and enjoy. I was out trying to find poo of various animals for our who's poo? event next week ( this is not the new experience I'm talking about), I was checking around sluices for signs of Otter and mink when I saw a water vole swimming in the sluice - managed to grab a couple of photos on my phone and even film it for a short while (you can view it on our facebook page). I then realised that the poor thing must have fallen in and was stuck as we had blocked the pipe at the other end to help hold water in. He was beginning to struggle so I picked him out and left him covered over by the sluice. It was gone the next day so fingers crossed it was ok. I've been doing some water vole surveying too and there are good signs out there of their presence.
Another new experience was that of witnessing the emergence of a dragonfly. I was able to see the larvae on the stem of vegetation and saw it emerging and got a few photos. The last bit was going to take a while so I left it to it and returned about 2 1/2 hours later and it had gone - but a wonderful thing to witness (again there's a short film and some photos on the Ham Wall Facebook page). I'm guessing this is a hairy dragonfly but happy to accept other suggestions! The emergence of 4 spotted chasers has continued soon - there are plenty around Waltons and Loxtons which may help to explain the good number of Hobby sightings being seen in these areas. Nothing like the numbers of previous weeks but always great birds to watch. 2 perched together in trees around Loxtons this week and good views can be had from the screen there or close by. Dragonflies on the wing at present are: 4 Spotted Chaser, Broad Bodied Chaser and Hairy Dragonfly with more set to join them in the next couple of weeks. Damselflies include: Azure, Variable, Red Eyed, Large Red, Blue Tailed and Banded Demoiselle.
I always say May is the best month for Bitterns and despite the rather changeable weather it has been a good week. Several chases of 2 or 3 birds have been witnessed including 2 in an altercation of the education area at Waltons. This photo from a couple of years ago will give you an idea what it was like: Great White Egrets are another favourite at the moment with many sightings each day, often with 2 or more birds seen together. Waltons, Loxtons and the 1st platform the most regular haunts but really they could be seen anywhere. Little Egrets are present too and just occasionally they will stand together to really give you an idea of the size difference. Around 20 Little Egrets were spotted in the area between the 2 platforms this week.
Also between the 2 platforms but in the tree line on the rail path a Spotted Flycatcher was "spotted" last weekend and joins a host of other birds with the Blackcap quite dominant. There do however seem to be more Garden Warblers this year and I spotted a pair by the boardwalk not far from the otter sculpture this morning. Willow warblers are also present but not in large numbers. Great Tit, Blue Tit, Long Tailed Tit, Goldfich, Chaffinch, Bullfinch, Blackbird, Robin and Chiffchaff have all been seen along here this week with a few vocal Song Thrushes.
In terms of waders, the most obvious are the Lapwings from the 1st platform still chasing off or at least dive bombing all comers. Any Great White Egret which stands close enough gets dive bombed until they move off. Redshank have also been seen out here on a daily basis although they are a little harder to track down and a single Black Tailed Godwit flew over on Sunday. Small groups of Whimbrel have also been seen from this location this week.
Another regular sight is that of hunting Marsh Harriers. Most areas of the reserve have been host to hunting birds this week but the platforms both offer good wide vistas with which to see them. The following bird was photographed by John Crispin this week. It's catch one of the many very noisy Marsh Frogs heard (and seen) around the reserve. Waltons is a good area for them but you can just as easily see and hear them in the car park pools. I was working with volunteers in the car park yesterday and its amazing what you can see from there sometimes - we had close views of Bittern Marsh Harrier and Great White Egret and the Swifts and Martins put on a great display flying low over the pools.
The legs of this frog look far too long to be that of common frog.
In previous years they have been seen carrying a variety of prey including young birds and even grass snakes. I was out walking on the reserve with my kids on Saturday and they found a grass snake. Unfortunately it was dead (not long dead though) and had an injured tail - guess something was disturbed or mobbed and dropped it. They also found newly emerged dragonflies with their wings still a bit crumpled - great to see them engaging with nature and if I do say so myself - on a great nature reserve.
Volunteers also saw Roe deer and a small fox cub this week on their travels and I discovered what I think is a foxes earth on my hunt for The Who's Poo? event this week so I guess the two things tie up. I also saw a rabbit (not astounding I know but we've had hardly any in recent years. It was by our electric pumps and eel pass (we are catching a few each week). Cuckoos are around and heard each day. I've seen one flying across the area in front of the 2nd platform twice this week but have also seen them perched in trees around Loxtons (like the Hobbies) and heard them from the old rail bridge looking over the eel pass to the wood. This area is also a possible place to spot Kingfishers. Kingfishers have also been reported from Long Drove (an isolated unit beyond Waltons and the fishing pools) - they've nested here previously and look set to again. 70 Greylag Geese were seen there this morning too and we often get Linnets in some of the bramble patches.
Some shots of Cuckoo in flight. Their wing shape and long tail means they are often confused with birds of prey by the less experienced bird watcher.
Also this week: 2 Crane reported flying high over the reserve on Tuesday and another high flyer - a Red Kite flying East on Sunday. The same day saw a Shelduck from the 1st platform and our friendly Egytian Goose (still around) flying north. Great Crested Grebes still nesting from the 1st platform but both them and Little grebe seen easily from the Tor View Hide. I've just been speaking to some ladies who were watch the parents feeding a youngster (Little Grebe) when a Grey Heron came down and tried drowning it before swallowing it whole - with some difficulty.That's nature I guess but there were still many wonderful moments this week!
Have a great weekend!
Another week packed full of wildlife on the reserve, although the mixed bag of weather hasn't made things easy. Thursday in particular was so awful we cancelled the Bittern surveys and the Bitterns in Hot Pursuit event or as Ray Summers the Warden put it Bitterns in Wet Suits event. We'll be running more - every Thursday in May and the first 2 in June as well, so more opportunities. Bitterns are still active though, several lots of 3 birds together seen this week including twice today and a pair flying around at about 3.30pm. Also interesting to see the Lapwings dive bombing a Great White Egret from the 1st platform around the same time.
When the weather did finally clear on Thursday I quickly nipped out to strim around the platforms and benches etc - it's a good time to do at as there are few people around. I could hear the reserve coming back to life as the rain cleared with an increase in song and from the 1st platform a host of Swifts, Swallows and Martins began to show themselves. Lovely to watch as many flew low over the water hunting insects. There are plenty on the wing and in particular an emergence of dragonflies with more Hairy dragonflies from last week but also a number of 4 spotted chasers. Soon these will number in their hundreds if not thousands around the Waltons loop if previous years are anything to go by. Also Broad Bodied chaser of which I encountered a newly emerged female this week - I'll post a couple of photos of it on our Facebook and Twitter pages for you to see.
Damselflies are out in force too with: Azure, Variable, Blue Tailed, Large Red and Red Eyed (pictured below) all recorded this week.
Of course these are some of the Hobby's favourite snacks and they are still out in good numbers but not the hoards of last week where up to 50 were reported at one time. They have still given plenty of pleasure however with one excited visitor telling me that they had seen 16 together - great to see visitors so joyful at the wildlife on offer. Hobbies have been perched up occasionally on the dead trees around Loxtons and so to have Cuckoo.
John Crispin managed to get these shots this week (although at another location on the reserve - but you get the idea).
Also seen at Loxtons this week include Kingfisher and Marsh Harrier (although 1st platform also good for these) and is probably your best bet for Bearded Tits - just as you cut through from Waltons - but I make no promises on this one.
There's been a few waders around this week, although we have very little mud on offer. Lapwings from 1st platform already mentioned, 20 Whimbrel last Sunday (9th) flying north followed by a further 10 an hour or so later. A Common Sandpiper was seen briefly around Loxtons while we've had brief visits from Black Tailed Godwits with 4 on Monday from the 1st platform and 55 seen from the second platform (in flight) on Wednesday along with a single Egyptian Goose. 2 Greylag geese have also been seen on the reserve this week along with the usual Canada Geese with one bunch of 6 adults forming a crèche with 14 youngsters between them.
Black Tailed Godwits - you can check for the Hudsonian Godwit but it's not there!!
Common Terns have also been spotted with 3 last weekend and a further 2 on Thursday swooping low over the Loxtons rafts where they bred last year - they had a real go at the Cormorants and Black Headed Gulls which were perched there.
Common Terns on the attack!
We are starting to see young birds moving around with adults. Mute Swans are the most obvious and this week a pair were seen with 4 cygnets in the canal/main drain which runs through the reserve. Wilst I'm writing about Mute Swans this tagged adult was seen this week with the yellow ZAL ring (via Euring Colour ring recording team). This bird was ringed at Abbotsbury as a female on 04/07/06 it hatched that year but not at Abbotsbury.
Another great sighting this week was that of Water Rail chicks being seen around the base of the Tor View Hide on Friday (15th). Adults have been seen here occasionally in recent weeks so its always worth a quiet approach and a quick look over the side.
Also this week: Lots of action from Great White Egrets - the 1st platform and the Waltons section have been the best places to see them but 3 were seen together from the 2nd platform on Sunday. Great Crested Grebes continue to sit on a nest in front of the 1st platform but they can also be seen easily from the Tor View Hide along with Little Grebe. Barn Owls have also been spotted out hunting in the late evening - 2 different males from the 2 sets of Owl boxes in front of the 1st platform. One's also been spotted on the north of the reserve suggesting that we could have a repeat of last years 3 breeding pairs. There are plenty of warblers in full song around the reserve - the rail path trees the best for this - Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Garden Warbler and Whitethroat all present and in the reedbed Reed Warblers and the occasional Sedge Warbler. Roe Deer was spotted on Friday really close to the Waltons screens and seen by a number of visitors.
That's it for this week! Hope you are having a good weekend!