Ham Wall

Ham Wall

Ham Wall
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Ham Wall

  • Recent Sightings at RSPB Ham Wall - 31.07.2015

    I know it's only been a few days since the last one but thought it was well worth getting in the usual Friday blog and getting back on track.

     I hadn't been well for a few days and it was great to be back at work and catch sight of an Osprey. The bird was looking rather tatty - perhaps after a busy breeding season so there's a chance that it will hang around the local reserves for a few days. Good views were had over Waltons, Loxtons and the 2nd platform and the bird was seen yesterday distantly on the right of the old railway bridge as you come onto the reserve. Nothing so far today though as I write this but you never know.

    This rail bridge is often worth a quick stop off. Kingfishers have bred nearby, although it looks a though they have now fledged with multiple birds seen flying around late last week. If you peer into the water you'll often see groups of fish - Rudd were there this morning and a lovely Banded Demoiselle flitting along the bank edges. I've also seen Bullfinches nearby in recent weeks.

    The first platform is still very overgrown in front - so very little water showing. Our reed cutting machine should return from repair soon and in 2 weeks or so we should be able to get out and start cutting and clearing this area. The second platform and the section in between the the 2 platforms have plenty to offer though. Lots of splashy areas and some bare mud showing in front (and a bit to the left) of the second platform. There is still some vegetation that gets in the way a bit but with a bit of effort you should be able to pick out a variety of species. Reported from here this past week include: 3 Yellow Wagtails, 4 Wigeon, 3 Garganey,up to 70 Black Tailed Godwits, well over 200 Lapwing, Great White Egrets, Common Sandpiper, Redshank, 3x Green Sandpiper and 100's of other duck including: Gadwall, Mallard and Pochard.

    Behind you in Loxtons is still a good place to hunt for Hobby, with 3 seen together here on Tuesday and the usual host of Cormorants perched on the Loxtons rafts in front of the screen. Kingfishers are seen here too quite regularly as well as over in Waltons.

    There's a fair range of species here you can see readily from the screens and hide. Of particular note are Little Grebes of which there seen to be a few broods across the reserve. From the screen both adults and juveniles are clearly visible. There were some particularly small youngsters out on the north of the reserve on Wednesday - probably just a couple of days old - so tiny.

    Juvenile Little Grebe

    and the adult........

    adult with young...

    Also within Waltons and easily visible are Great Crested Grebes, although I'm not quite sure what this one is up to .....

    We're still seeing a few Bittern flights - Wednesday was particularly good although nesting has now all but finished. There were lots of flights distant of the 2nd platform and this area has been abundant with Marsh Harrier activity this week. They seen to be everywhere and adults have been seen up and flying with 2 youngsters together and food passes have also been witnessed. 3 successful nests out in this area is our best season to date. 

    When the suns shining, the insects seem to wake up and the butterflies, bumblebees and dragonflies become a lot more visible. Peacock butterflies seem to be the most abundant at the moment and the flowering plants along the edges of the paths seem to be packed with life. The Hemp Agrimony is a popular plant with the butterflies with a Speckled Wood pictured feeding on it below:

    Also seen this week: Small Skipper, Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Small Tortoiseshell, Green Veined White, Red Admiral and Brimstone (pictured).

    In terms of dragonflies it seems to be a fantastic year for Brown Hawkers - the most I've seen. Emperor, Migrant Hawker, Common Darter, Ruddy darter and Southern Hawker have also been recorded this week.

    We've been preparing some areas for our Reptiles & Amphibians day in August - hoping to attract some species to certain areas for good public views on the day.  Slow Worms and Grass Snakes were seen so we're in with a shout as well as Common Toad, Common Frog and of course the Iberian Water Frog - great views in the car park pools again this morning.

    Also this week: Great Spotted Woodpecker daily, Raven flying over Waltons on Thursday, good numbers of House and Sand Martins on Tuesday with c20 Swift the same day, Barn Owl seen from the boxes opposite the 1st platform on Tuesday, 2 Otter spraints (poos) on Tuesdays Otter survey - great to have signs if no sightings, Common Tern loafing with Godwits on Wednesday and a great sighting of 4 juvenile Bearded Tits (unfortunately not in public areas as usual) on Tuesday.

    juvenile Bearded Tit - with the familiar black stripe on the back (absent in adult birds).

    That's it for this week. Have a great weekend!

  • Recent Sightings at RSPB Ham Wall 27.07.2015

    Apologies for another late blog - I've been laid out with a sickness bug and have just got back on my feet. I was even happier to be back when I caught up with the Osprey which several people reported to me this morning. It was seen over Waltons (and beyond), Loxtons and from the second platform today, so it's doing the rounds. It looks rather shabby so well into moult. It's a bird I quite often miss when they pass through so was glad to catch this one. 

    There has also been another flurry of Night Heron sightings, with and individual seen flying around Waltons on Wednesday afternoon and then again on Thursday morning, lunchtime and afternoon - I'm still yet to catch up with this one - could become my bogey bird - pretty terrible seeing how I work here. 

    Some of the best action of late has been in front of the 2nd platform. Water levels are reducing slowly here and small areas of mud are appearing. You have to work hard and be a little patient for some variety due to the patches of vegetation but they're there.  Recent reports of 200+ Lapwing, 60+ Black Tailed Godwits (seen today too), 2 Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, 2 Garganey, 3 Yellow Wagtails, 4 Wigeon and a host of other water fowl have been seen. 

    A look behind into Loxtons could bring rewards like today when 3 Hobby were seen flying together (5 were seen on Saturday) and Kingfishers were also seen and heard today here too, as well as in the Waltons section.

    Waltons has traditionally been a place crammed with fish lending itself to all fish loving species as a place to feed. This Cormorant took full advantage by grabbing this tench. A nice sequence sent in by John Crispin - thanks John!

    Great Crested Grebes get in on the act too where juveniles have been seen being fed by adults - but they do take the odd one for themselves too of course:

    Bitterns too love a fish and the odd flight can still be witnessed by the majority of the action has now calmed down from any nest sites but Waltons and the 1st platform as always a good place to try. Great White Egrets too are present - daily sightings to be had from either platform. A local nest on land adjacent to Ham Wall has now fledged so there are some youngsters to see.

    We have 3 Marsh Harrier nests either fledged or very close on the reserve so it's hard not to see one at present. An adult dropped food to youngsters today in front of the second platform, which they caught in mid air, part of their learning process. 

    Elsewhere, the car park is still of interest: last Tuesday saw Raven flying over, Young Great White Egrets, lots of small birds in the tree lines and plenty of life in the ponds (apart from the very obvious frogs). A female Brown Hawker was seen egg laying in the water and surrounding mud.

    Also seen this past week: Emperor, Southern Hawker, Black Tailed Skimmer, Migrant Hawker, Banded Demoiselle, Blue Tailed Damselfly, Common Blue Damselfly.

    Butterfly numbers have also been pretty good over the past few weeks: Green Veined White, Large White, Brimstone, Comma, Gatekeeper, Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Holly Blue, Peacock, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell and Speckled Wood all seen quite regularly but a treat was a Silver Washed Fritillary which settled along by the Waltons boardwalk on Friday and had many a picture taken by visitors (unfortunately I was off sick so missed out). 

    Also seen over the last few days: Kestrel on power lines by the reserve, Sparrowhawk from the 1st platform, Roe Deer around Waltons, Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Little Grebes, Groups of Long Tailed Tits, charms of Goldfinches, small flocks of Swifts and mixed flocks of House & Sand Martins. 

    Think that better do for now - more on Friday!!!   Have a good week!

  • Recent Sightings at RSPB Ham Wall - 17.07.2015

    It seems to be slowly creeping towards that very quiet time of year on the reserve. July is half over and August is fast approaching. Many birds are in moult after breeding which makes flight more difficult so they tend to be more hidden and of course there's a lot less singing. They've been busy feeding and tending their young for several weeks and looking for a well deserved rest. As a parent myself I know how they feel, although my rest may be several years away yet but I feel privileged to be able to escape each day to work in such a wonderful place. 

    Several young birds are still on show though. I caught sight of a young Cettis Warbler by the Waltons screens on Tuesday and there are often young Reed Warblers flitting around and calling. Often young birds can be a bit naive and perch out in the open sometimes. Some young Robins were doing this on the lower of the 2 boardwalks from the car park on Tuesday and at the same time young Goldcrests were high in the trees being fed by parents - a lovely sight.

    The car park pools are still full of life, with the "Iberian Water Frogs" still croaking loudly and sunning themselves on the pool edges. More life can be expected next year with a female Black Tailed Skimmer (example pictured) egg laying in the water this week and appearances from Emperor, Broad Bodied Chaser, 4 Spotted Chaser, Ruddy Darter and a beautiful newly emerged Common Darter seen there yesterday. 

    Damselflies too are present, with Banded Demoiselle, Blue Tailed, Common Blue, Red eyed and Variable all seen this week. Another special visitor, or more likely resident to the car park pools is a Water Vole seen by volunteer Pete Wood yesterday - he also mentioned that a visitor has seen one previously and mentioned it to him, so fantastic news that they've moved in. Good to see the new car park is "Giving Nature a Home" as well as the reserve. 

    It's been another good week for Butterflies too with several species sen or reported to me: Speckled Wood, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock (pictured), Red Admiral, Brimstone, Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Small Skipper, Painted Lady, Green Veined White, Large White and Comma all on the list. Not a bad list for the week.

    The car park can prove to be a good place to loiter for a while and looking towards the reserve will often reward you with Great White Egret and Marsh Harrier sightings.  There's some good news in terms of Marsh Harriers too - we've got fledged birds from the first nest with 4 youngsters flying around - you may see these pristine looking, dark birds for yourselves. It also looks like we have 2 birds in a second nest and a third nest with at least one further chick - our best year yet!

    As I wrote in a previous blog the Common Terns sadly failed in their breeding attempt this year but have been seen on the reserve on occasion since. On Tuesday one was seen hunting the channels with the Waltons reedbeds and the next day from the 1st platform. The growth in this area has really gone crazy in the last couple of weeks and it's hard to see much of the water at present. Rest assured we will be out cutting soon to really open it up for the autumn and winter - it should be ideal for waders, herons of all kinds and ducks as the water levels rise slowly after we finish. We are already building the pontoon bridge to access the islands with our machine (once it's back from repair) but need to be sure there are no breeding birds still active in the area before we start the management.

    Common Tern

    The Waltons section still holds a strong interest - people are still hoping to catch sight of a Night Heron or Purple Heron - possible Purple Heron seen distantly from the rail bridge on the right as you walk to the reserve but not confirmed - same place as Friday's bird but no good views seen (Grey Herons sit in this area too but the providers of the sightings are sensing that this bird is different - just too far away and a bit hidden). Waltons also played host to an Otter last weekend - we know they're here but we get so few sightings, it's great to hear about them when we do.

    From the other side of the bridge Kingfishers are still active at their nest site in the edge of the wood and active birds have also been seen in the back right corner of Waltons and with Loxtons including from the screen. We have at least 3 nest sites on the reserve this year that we know of. Always nice to see!


    Another favourite - although more seasonal is the Hobby. There are still some birds around - some of which are young non breeding birds. A single bird flew in front of the 1st platform yesterday and also perched in the tall dead willow in the wood at the back. On Tuesday there were 4  perched in this tree and a 5th bird in flight so a good place to start your search. 

    There are a few Bitterns still flying too, although most nesting activity is now winding down. A juvenile Bittern was again seen in the Loxtons section of the reserve as last week.

    If you're on the hunt for waders it's probably a bit more tricky but you could try the 2nd platform. Water is very slowly draining here and very small areas of mud will appear but it may even be worth walking the grassy bank to get a better view from all angles. Greenshank was recorded here this week and beyond this section 2 Green Sandpipers were seen. Apart from that the section between the the platforms holds a few Lapwing which fly up from time to time visible from the 1st platform and often Little & Great White Egrets are feeding in here (or you see them drop in).

    Green Sandpiper

    Also seen this week: Great Spotted Woodpecker, several gangs of Long Tailed Tits, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Buzzard, Grass Snake, Slow Worm, Smooth Newt and this Roe Deer seen around the Waltons trail:

    Roe Deer

    That's it for this week. Have a good weekend!!