The dry weather has been a real blessing and enabled us to complete the reed cutting work in front of the 1st platform. We've cleared all we want for now (but have left a few clumps of standing reed here and there around the island edges - we felt this might be beneficial for birds using this area. The water level will now come up slowly over the next couple of weeks and should encourage some waders (there are already a few Snipe using the area, although well hidden) through to ducks and egrets as it goes from splashy to a covering of water. The flooding up of the area should discourage any regrowth and leave the area nice and open for the autumn and winter months. A female Roe Deer was seen with 2 youngsters using the area this morning - I was only talking to someone about them doing this earlier this week.
The second platform is the pace to look for waders at the moment. 5 Ruff have been present for much of the week, while 2 Little Stint joined them earlier in the week. Varying numbers of Lapwing are present, while 3 Greenshank were here last weekend. Green Sandpipers pop in from time to time and Snipe can be picked out although a telescope is a real help in this area. Also last weekend a single Whimbrel was spotted and a few Knot have been noted: 4 on one occasion and up to 30 on another. The other wader of note this week is the Black Tailed Godwit. Flock numbers fluctuate but I did see a flock of just under 50 on Thursday over the reserve. Many of these birds are using both Ham Wall and the scrape at Shapwick Heath so it's worth giving both sites a visit to get your totals up if you're into list making.
The 2nd platform is also performing well for ducks too. Wigeon are arriving with 12 seen this week, while Teal numbers will also increase over the coming weeks. Good numbers of Gadwall and Mallard are here too and a pleasing number of Shoveler can be spotted also. Having said the Garganey had left in my last blog, 2 duly turned up again the next day (either female or juv) but it may be the last we see of them for this year.
Mallard in eclipse
Both Little and Great White Egrets are using the area regularly too with 14 of the former seen flying over the reserve from east to west this very morning. John Crispin has sent in a few shots of the Great White Egrets (these were taken over Loxtons this week) - thanks John.
This is a shot of the ringed bird (you can see them if you look closely). It has a black tip to the bill and suggests this is probably an adult bird.
No rings this time. This low flying bird has an all orange bill - this is probably a non-breeding bird.
Coming in to land
Fantastic looking bird - what a privilege to have them in the Avalon Marshes.
The warm weather and long growing season can be a real bonus for many species. Weather they be migrant birds feeding up before a long journey or the invertebrates themselves taking advantage of extra nectar sources or lack of rain. Dragonfly numbers still look good although we are down to just a few species, while damselflies are notable by their absence. Stand and stare for a minute and you will see plenty of dragonflies on the wing. The bulk of them seem to be Migrant Hawkers and Ruddy Darters but Southern Hawker and Common Darter are also present.
Mating Ruddy Darters - Photo: Carol Coward
Butterflies too continue to show. Green Veined White & Small White are common while there seems to be more Speckled Woods this year than previously. Clouded Yellow has been reported recently while I had a nice view of a Comma earlier in the week. Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral and Peacock also seen while Meadow Brown and Gatekeeper could well still be seen for the next few weeks in small numbers.
Comma - Photo: Carol Coward
Also this week: Great Spotted Woodpecker flying in front of the 1st platform, Plenty of Swallows and House Martins, Pied Flycatcher reported by a visitor on the footpath side in the first section of wood - probably just passing through, Bearded Tits reported by the pond in Waltons corner but other small flocks seen at various locations around the reserve (often non access areas but close to 1st platform been good recently).
Photo taken during bearded tit survey this Thursday by Dave Roberts. Peak count around 40 at the moment - I expect this to increase but it's often all down to luck on the day you survey!
Singing Chiffchaffs, groups of Long Tailed Tits, several Ravens including 2 groups of 3 on Monday, 2 Barn Owls in woodland opposite 1st platform, Yellow Wagtail reported by visitor and Grey Wagtail by a volunteer, Great Crested Grebes including a juvenile from the 2nd platform (2 Little Grebe also here and heard calling), Sparrowhawk from the 2nd platform and lots of Buzzard activity including lots of calling from young birds.
Finally, birds of prey often get a hard time from other birds (understandably so). This week a Hobby was seen to be mobbed by several House Martins and this Marsh Harrier was harassed by crows, with John Crispin catching this shot!
That's it for now. Have a great weekend!!
The lovely "Autumn" weather has continued this week - great wildlife watching weather at a great time of year. There's a huge variety of wildlife on offer and plenty of birds "on the move". The Osprey looks to have finally left the area late last week. Despite spending most of it's time at Shapwick Heath we did get occasional visits during its 3 week (or so) stay.
Lots of other birds are visiting us though on passage. Black Terns x2 have been spotted (again late last week) - a distant shot captured by John Crispin:
Whinchat x2 and Wheatear have both been sighted over the last fortnight with the new car park field producing both this week. It's also seen Green Sandpiper, Goldcrest, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Sedge Warbler and Song Thrush over the last 7 days with a Hare to add to the list this morning. Contractors however are starting the main bulk of work next week and we should soon have ample space for visitors - particularly Starling watchers over the winter months.
Swallows are still present locally in good numbers along with a few House Martins and the Sand Martin still appears from time to time, although most have now left.
Post breeding is a much quieter time for Bitterns but you do get the odd flurry of activity on occasions with 4 or 5 flights in a matter of minutes (often followed by and hour or so of nothing of course). They still like to pose for the odd picture.
Work (reed cutting) continues in front of the first platform and we hope to finish this next week. If we do water levels will gradually be raised to knock back any regrowth (although we have left one or two patches of standing reed this season) and should create some nice splashy areas for waders and loafing ducks (and later on Egrets and Bitterns to feed in). The area in front of the 2nd platform is far more interesting at present with some exposed mud.
Great White Egrets are commonplace here with 3 or 4 seen pretty much every early morning - they are still thereabouts during the daytime too. The 2 or 3 Garganey of the last few weeks seem to have finally left us for the winter but there are increasing numbers of Teal and as many as 7 Wigeon arrived so far for the winter months. Numbers of Mallard and Gadwall in here are good (along with large groups of Canada Geese at times) and numbers of Shoveler are on the up too.
Although the scrape at Shapwick is attracting the bulk of waders we do have a select mix of our own (often a bit harder to find). If armed with a scope you should pick out Ruff (as many as 5 recorded), c100 Lapwing, Common Sandpiper, Ringed Plover and a few Snipe (up to 8) - 2 of which were feeding, preening and sleeping in the sunshine on Thursday (what a life!). Little Stint and Green Sandpiper have been seen on the reserve this week too. Not bad for a reserve without an official scrape.
A snapshot in front of the 2nd platform. Ruff & Lapwing both on show.
The area has also thrown up Kingfisher, successfully fishing yesterday, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Little Grebe & Little Egret. Lots of other species could pop in, so keep your eyes peeled.
The warm weather has meant plenty of insects still busying themselves, with Butterflies still quite active.
Common Blue, Comma, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Green Veined White, Small White, Speckled Wood & Red Admiral all seen this week.
Common Blue Butterfly female
Dragonflies are reducing in number generally although certain species that emerge later than most are quite abundant - Migrant Hawker, Ruddy Darter and Common Darter in particular. Southern Hawkers are also present and I saw an Emperor this morning and this Black Tailed Skimmer female was taken last week. The last couple of weeks has also seen a large drop in the numbers of damselflies - Blue tailed the most likely one to spot but their time is just about done.
Also this week a Weasel seen by the 1st viewing platform this morning, Barn Owl disturbed from scrub to the left of the reed cutting area at the 1st platform last week and seen in the woods beyond this week, Raven flying over the reserve, Peregrine late last week, several singing Chiffchaff on the reserve but Willow Warbler also seen and on Loxtons Little Grebes feeding young snapped by John Crispin this week.
That's it for now - have a great weekend!!
Hello all, firstly can I apologise for the lack of blogs lately. I have been away and various other problems have confounded the writing of what is usually a weekly catch up. There's a lot to catch up with but I'll try not to rabbit on for too long.
It finally feels as though change is underway and that summer will soon turn to autumn. We've had a few downpours but relatively speaking it's been quite warm and settled. This mix of sun and showers recently means the vegetation on the reserve is still growing like the clapper as it has done all season. We are doing our best to keep up with the cutting to keep the place looking presentable and access easy. Of course the more infrastructure we have the long this takes (and we'll have a car park to deal with soon too - work is now starting to get underway again here). We have also begun this years habitat management work within the reedbed. The 1st area being tackled is the islands in front of the 1st viewing platform. In a couple of weeks time this will be completed and then water levels raised once more - to increase interest for wintering birds.
The area in front of the 2nd platform has also had water levels lowered to reveal some muddy areas. Many birds are taking advantage of this including the Great White Egrets where as many as11 have been seen this week (including the ringed bird). Little Egrets c10 and Grey Herons are also enjoying the area along with a handful of wader species. A Ruff was around on Monday & Tuesday last week, while varying numbers of Green Sandpiper have also been feeding here (up to 4) and a Wood Sandpiper was seen to drop into an area on the north of the reserve last weekend. 5 Black Tailed Godwits were present recently while Lapwings are frequent visitors (up to 160). In the area just beyond this 6 Snipe were recorded recently too. Many waders are currently being attracted to the scrape at Shapwick Heath where pump repairs have enabled our friends at Natural England to expose some nice muddy areas.
An Osprey is also present, spending much of it's time at Shapwick but the odd appearance over Ham Wall Has been most welcome.
The area in front of the 2nd platform also holds interest for several Mute Swans, c10 Canada Geese & a selection of duck including several male Pochard in eclipse - as many as 13 recorded. One or 2 Shoveler are also present along with a few Teal, while 3 Garganey (one male in eclipse and 2 female or juvenile) were of note this week.
The Common Terns have still drawn plenty of interest in recent weeks seeing off all comers. A Crow and Buzzard amongst those given their marching orders - thanks to Robin Morrison for the photo:
They were still being seen regularly at Shapwick and Ham Wall until last week, having successfully fledged but seemed to disappear around the 18th although 2 were seen again on Tuesday (could be the juveniles). Amazing parenting from these birds even seeing off Peregrines at times.
Some final feeding shots from our raft and the Loxtons pool from John Crispin & Robin Morrison. Thanks for the photos!
Loxtons screen is still a pleasant place to sit and watch a while. Great Crested Grebe chicks were still good entertainment in recent weeks. Plenty of flight attempts (and crash landings) and plenty of feeding from parents. Kingfishers are a regular here too. If your quiet there's a good chance they will perch by the hide and fish from the branches overhanging the water. They've given several visitors a real treat lately.
The place for Great Crested Grebe chicks is now in Waltons from the screens. 3 were riding on parents backs although earlier this week only one was sighted.
One possible culprit could of been an Otter which swam across Waltons last weekend sending the parents into a panic, with much flapping and paddling and very anxious looks. The youngsters were left to fend for themselves (they could of course still be present - further investigation needed).
With the end of summer approaching birds are on the move. A visible migration of hirundines (Swallows and Martins) is underway with good numbers passing through each day - Swifts too are still evident although in smaller numbers. I even had a juvenile Cuckoo on the 13th August at the back of Waltons. There are still reasonable numbers of Reed & Sedge Warblers on the reserve often feeding at the bases of trees, where water levels are lower.
The numbers of Dragonflies is also dropping - a few species can still be seen although some are very worn out such as this Emperor and the Brown Hawker below it.
Emperor looking very worn.
Migrant Hawkers are present in good numbers (a much later dragonfly than the others), while other late season dragonflies Common & Ruddy darter can also be seen along with Southern Hawker. Blue Tailed damselfly, Red Eyed Damselfly and a few Common blue damselfly have also been recorded.
Happily, it's been a better year for butterflies on the reserve. Small Tortoiseshell, Green veined White, Small White, Brimstone and Red Admiral all evident this week and we did have a couple of reports of Silver Washed Fritillary a couple of weeks ago, which was a pleasant surprise.
Green Veined White
As mentioned earlier work is starting again on the new car park (to be completed end November). These Roe deer spotted by Robin Morrison a couple of weeks ago will have to find somewhere else to rest up for a while.
Roe deer buck
The doe - well hidden in the long grass.
Other recent highlights include: the odd Hobby still being sighted. Barn Owls still present and reported hunting during the evenings (between 8 and 10 Owlets from 3 nests this year on Ham Wall), Ravens flying over the reserve, Ringed and Little Ringed Plover both recorded, Spotted Flycatcher and Treecreeper spotted along the rail path trees this week, Water Rails seen from the Tor View hide where we have cut the reeds down, weasel reported this week on the log pile close to the log circle/pond dipping area (stoat also seen recently), Merlin, Peregrine & Sparrowhawk all reported in recent weeks, Marsh Harriers daily and of course Bitterns.
One thing to clear up before I finish. There was very little talk of the Little Bittern this year. The main reason for this was the uncertainty as to where a nest sight would be. No females were recorded this year despite many hours put in by volunteers - although 4 barking males were. Until we know where a nest is located and that eggs/chicks are safe from disturbance etc it is very difficult to report information and manage the situation correctly. As it happens it is our belief that no breeding took place this year but we had to be sure hence no news until very late on. Apologies if you felt were we being over secretive or coy with information but we try to mange this as sympathetically as we can and the welfare and protection of the animal always comes first. Lets hope next year brings successful breeding back to the Avalon Marshes.
On a lighter note here's a nice picture of a wren sunning itself on the old rail path to finish - thought it was a nice shot!
Have a great weekend!