Well, as promised, the area in front of the 1st viewing platform is wetting up nicely and beginning to create a bit of interest. We managed to walk out on the flat area just in front today to place a grit tray for Bearded Tits to use. They change there diet around this time of year and move from a diet of insects etc towards a diet of seed throughout the winter months. They need to take in grit like many birds to aid digestion of the seeds. We've also placed one close to the Avalon Hide (pictured) - there have been a few sightings here lately so you never know, you may be in luck.
There have been a couple of large groups of these birds seen this week of c20 or so. I had several birds around me on Wednesday with some birds perched up just yards away - a real treat. These groups are often a bit left of the 1st platform area - maybe just to far to see or hear but small groups have come nearer - lets hope they find the trays. The 2nd platform too has been good this week. On Tuesday morning they were heard on numerous occasions but without any sightings, however the following day 8 were seen to fly up and move west.
The 1st platform area has also been home to the Glossy Ibis on several occasions this week. Lots of good feeding opportunities here as the water level slowly rises. John Crispin managed these shots this week of the birds both on the ground and in flight. Thanks John:
As we walked across to put out the grit tray several Snipe were disturbed and shot off with their distinctive call and zigzag flight (at least 12). Great White Egret and Little Egret were also present. We'd earlier seen groups of 12 Great White Egret and 11 Little Egret come up from areas close to the Avalon Hide and with others in front of both platforms too, that's a healthy total for a bird rare in Britain (if not so rare to the Avalon Marshes).
John Crabb sent me these pictures taken from the Avalon Hide on Thursday. Thanks John:
Great White Egret
Little Egrets struggling to stand on the floating weeds.
Bitterns are still being seen too. The first platform and Waltons seem to have the most reports, although there was a flight in front of the Avalon Hide this morning as we set up the grit tray.
One bird stood within Waltons fro at least an hour on Tuesday - visible at the far end of the channel in front of the first 2 screens. For a few people it was their first ever sighting of this bird - wonderful for them.
Bittern in front of the first platform on Tuesday: John Crispin
Bittern in flight from the Tor View Hide on Thursday: John Crabb
The Tor View Hide is still a good place to try and track down Water Rail - another sighting this week in the open area. Also look out for Reed Warblers which are still present (2 seen on Tuesday), Kingfisher seen on Wednesday and Moorhens including juveniles in the open areas:
Juvenile Moorhen; John Crabb.
2 Kingfishers were also perched together on posts in front of the 1st platform on Tuesday afternoon.
Waltons has also been a good place to see the Osprey this week. It was seen on Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday (6.45am) flying over. No report to me yesterday, although I was at West Sedgemoor with our volunteers helping them out for the day - good views of Wheatear, Whinchat, Raven & female Merlin made for a good day.
A Raven flew over Waltons this morning too, with it's cronking call for all to hear! On Weds 6.45am 800-1000 Starlings lifted out of the Waltons reedbed - a mini murmuration. Numbers should begin to build during October.
The area in front of the 2nd platform is still producing some interesting stuff. Good numbers of Teal present and a few Shoveler and Wigeon (7) but no reports of Garganey this week. 50 Wigeon came out of Waltons on Wednesday and dropped into the next section nearer the car park (another 30 joined the them later flying in front of the first platform before dropping in).
Waders here are harder to see than the impressive scrape at Shapwick Heath but we've had the following (max numbers recorded): 3 Ruff, 6 Black Tailed Godwits, 1 Dunlin, c30 Snipe & c50 Lapwing (also some at 1st platform).
Also this week: Yellow Browed Warbler to the left of the boardwalk leading to the car park at the Ham Wall end, Marsh Harriers (Male, Female, Juvenile) - try Avalon Hide, Waltons for sightings, Red Kite reported over Shapwick on Wednesday, 2 Bullfinch in trees next to the Loxtons screen, Great Crested Grebes in Waltons, Great Spotted Woodpeckers around the reserve, Stoat on the rail path on Monday and the usual good numbers of Iberian Water Frogs in the car park pools - they were croaking loudly on Monday. I've heard a few Chiffchaff still singing around the reserve this week but also listen out for their call - a soft whistling hweet - something new to learn maybe.
Keep your eyes open for the remaining dragonflies: Migrant Hawkers and Southern Hawkers but also Common Dater and Ruddy Darter - the latter seen mating and egg laying in the car park pools on Monday.
That's it for this week. Have a great weekend!
Another week has flown by but it's been a productive one. Thanks to the hard work of volunteers we have finished reed cutting on the islands in front of the 1st viewing platform and we are currently raising the water levels once more. There have been some naturally lower and stickier parts on the islands anyway and a few birds have been sitting and feeding on the islands. WE even saw some voles & shrews scampering for cover (Could of been Water Shrews - we do get them on the reserve).
A family group of Mute Swans are regulars with the 8 cygnets in tow. A few Snipe are out there too but it's the Glossy Ibis which people enjoy seeing most. They have both been out feeding on the islands during the week and we unfortunately had to flush them off the island yesterday to finish our work there - I'm sure they will drop back in again. They moved to the north yesterday but then a single bird flew again and dropped in front of the 2nd platform so it's worth checking both these areas. Thanks to John Crispin for sending me in these photos of the Glossy Ibis seen in front of the 1st platform on Wednesday:
Glossy Ibis with Gadwall for company: John Crispin.
The other feathered star this week once again is the Osprey. It was still about yesterday (it arrived on the 9th August I believe) and is still spending much time over at Shapwick Heath. It's been seen daily at Ham Wall too, often from the Avalon Hide as on Monday & Tuesday but was seen over Waltons on Wednesday too. It's habits haven't changed since last week. Still catching fish at Ham Wall and taking them off to scoff at Shapwick on its preferred perch. I guess its nice that it pays us a visit though.
The non-feathered stars were the 2 Otters seen, albeit briefly, from the Tor View Hide on Monday morning just after 7am. Just after this a Water Rail was seen walking and feeding in the cut area in front of the hide. It was very wary though. Despite this John Crispin managed to catch these great shots. Thanks John:
Marsh Harriers have been seen hunting over Waltons too including a male on Tuesday morning. The previous day one was hunting over the section next door (just beyond the car park). At the same time a Kestrel was performing its distinct hover over the grassy banks at the end of the car park. The best view of this was from the old rail bridge. Also from the Tor View Hide this week - a few Bittern flights, Great Crested Grebes, 2 Kingfishers which flew past the hide, Reed Warbler and a late (or passing through) Sedge Warbler pictured below:
Sedge Warbler: John Crispin.
The 2nd platform is still of great interest, although you have to work a little harder than at the Shapwick Heath scrape for your rewards. This week in here: Varying numbers of Lapwing, with at least 170 seen in flight over the area yesterday having been disturbed by something (a Marsh Harrier perhaps), 4 Ruff (including 1 Reeve), 5 Green Sandpiper, 14 Snipe seen feeding and loafing, 2 Black Tailed Godwit (200+ reported at Shapwick) and a Wood Sandpiper reported on Monday.
In terms of duck there's the usual Mallard & Gadwall along with a few Shoveler plus at least 7 Wigeon loafing on the higher ground, a single Garganey reported and good numbers of Teal c50. 2 Bearded Tits were seen close to the platform of Tuesday morning and there was a single Bittern flight.
2 Bearded Tits were reported by a volunteer on the way to the Avalon Hide (again on Tuesday). They were on the left of the track leading to the hide and flew across the path. 2 were also heard in front of the hide just after (the same of different we don't know) but nice that they are present.
Just before this there was a Great White Egret perched in the trees in the woodland block there (we call this Central Wood). On Thursday a Sparrowhawk and a Kingfisher were seen in the same area.
The other places to see Great White Egrets are: in front of the 2nd platform, the Avalon Hide or as often is the case from the Waltons screens in the early morning. One has been seen perched on one of the small rafts in front of the screen (there's a photo in last weeks blog I think).
Insect life is still busy on the reserve - a few Martins and Swallows are still feeding over the water and there is the occasional Hobby sighting still as they chase the now reduced number of dragonflies. Southern Hawker, Common Hawker, Migrant Hawker as well as Common & Ruddy Darter have all been recorded this week.
Butterflies aren't abundant, but you can build a fair list with a bit of effort: Peacock, Red Admiral, Small White, Green Veined White, Small Tortoiseshell, Speckled Wood and Comma (seen In the car park) have all been recorded. There's always plenty of interesting critters in the ponds and look for crickets in the log grass too:
Lots of spiders too. When the frosts and dewy mornings come it's always amazing to see the webs and strands of gossamer hanging with water - good photo opportunities. In the meantime here's a regular spider photo:
Also this week: Great Spotted Woodpecker calling and perched every day in the first strip of wood on the footpath side of the track, Buzzard flew out of the same wood this lunchtime while another was spotted at the far end of the reserve earlier in the week (they very frequently seen at Ham Wall), Kingfisher & Grey Wagtail seen at Tinneys ground (the plot on the Sharpham Road) & lots of Iberian Water Frogs still seen easily in the car park pools.
Iberian Water Frog: John Crabb
Well you may have noticed yet another missing blog from last week. It was my own stupid fault as I badly cut the back of my hand at work last Friday morning and ended up in hospital having it stitched. I know excuses, excuse. It was a bit tender to say the least but I'm better now (thanks for asking) ready to report on all the goings on over the last fortnight.
Perhaps the star of the show over recent weeks has been the Osprey. There have been several sightings over Ham Wall -many from the Avalon Hide. On at least 2 occasions last week the bird was seen to carry a sizable fish over the hide and back to its perch at Shapwick Heath (the cheek of this bird). Thanks to Chris Hiscoke for those reports. He's posted some photos on Flickr if you want to look. I was lucky enough to see the bird in this area myself on Tuesday. John Crispin has managed to get some nice shots of this fantastic bird in flight over the reserve this week- thanks John:
and perched at Loxtons Marsh on Ham Wall:
Also from the Avalon Hide this week: a Barn Owl seen out hunting on Monday afternoon and then perching on the gate to the left of the hide, Great White Egrets dropping in frequently, a single Black Tailed Godwit on Wednesday and the same day Bearded Tits heard 'pinging' for around 40 mins but only 2 seen, a few Marsh Harrier sightings including one bird in moult and looking rather tatty and nearby a Wheatear. I thought I saw one briefly on Tuesday close to here but wasn't sure. John Crispin's photo tells me I was probably right:
Work has continued in the area in front of the 1st platform this week. The volunteers had a good day in there yesterday and we hope to be done by this time next week. As soon as we're finished will will begin to raise water levels once more and this should produce a nice open areas where ducks can loaf about and all our Heron species can feed. It's been especially popular with Great White Egrets in the past. Look out for the many Little Egrets we have round the reserve too:
5 Snipe were flushed up by the volunteers as they prepared to start work here yesterday and there have been several Bittern flights seen from the platform this week including this bird sat on the islands taken by John Crispin:
It's still the 2nd platform where most of the action is. It's much harder to see than a couple of months ago due to the vegetation growth but if you're patient there are potentially plenty of rewards.
The 2 Glossy Ibis had been using the scrape at Shapwick Heath a lot last week (where's the loyalty?) but this week seem to be spending a lot more time back with us in this area. They've often got Great White Egrets for company, although I did see perhaps as many as 12 on the Shapwick Scrape on Wednesday. The scrape and Tower Hide is a good place to see some waders but we've had some too. Max numbers reported this week as follows: Ruff 10, Lapwing c40, Snipe 8, Green Sandpiper & Black Tailed Godwit 2.
Lapwing : John Crispin
There have also been reports of Garganey again this week and the first arrivals of Wigeon (4 seen). There are also good numbers of Teal in here (at least 40) along with varying numbers of Mallard, Gadwall and Shoveler.
At Waltons this week there have been some good sightings of both Bittern and Great White Egrets. One of the Egrets was sat on the edge of the reeds on Monday offering good views from the screens. One was even seen perched on the small rafts:
Both Great Crested Grebe and a family group of Little Grebes were also showing well and from the Tor View Hide where we have cut the reeds Water Rails were seen out walking in the open area along with Moorhens with juveniles. Reed Warblers were also seen flitting in and out of the reeds nearby.
At Loxtons again good sightings of Little Grebe (5) and Great Crested Grebe, including this juvenile on its own who is just starting to show its adult plumage:
Also from the Loxtons screen: 21 Mallards in eclipse, the usual plethora of Cormorants on the rafts and a Kingfisher. one was also seen flying along the drain by the rail path near the old rail bridge on Tuesday. it disappeared up into the trees. I also spotted a Grass Snake just as it slithered away on the path towards the Loxtons screen on Monday.
A walk around the car park pools will almost certainly give you sightings of the Iberian Water Frogs and on the surface of the water you'll almost certainly see Whirlygig beetles and Pond Skaters. Flying above, and sometimes in pairs egg laying, you may see dragonflies. There are still several species on the wing at the moment. Recorded this week: Common Blue damselfly, Blue Tailed Damselfly, Variable Damselfly, Southern Hawker, Common Hawker (pictured), Common Darter and Ruddy Darter (these can still be on the wing in November, until the first frosts see them off).
In terms of butterflies, there aren't huge numbers. The most popular being either Small Tortoiseshell or Green Veined White (pictured). Also recorded this week: Speckled Wood, Small White, Red Admiral, Peacock, Brimstone and Painted Lady (seen by the Waltons boardwalk).
Also this week: A Water Vole that swam out from under our floating bridge that we use to access the islands with our reed cutting machine, a Weasel which ran across the rail path near the 1st platform, 2 Ravens which flew over Tinneys Ground (a plot we own on the Sharpham Road) and just after this a Green Woodpecker seen feeding on the tracks, a Great Spotted Woodpecker calling daily from the first woodland strip you encounter on the footpath/canal bank side of the reserve and a Blackcap singing in the same area. Still plenty of insects about looking for those late flowering plants too such as these hoverflies although perhaps feeding isn't the first thing on their minds at the moment!
If you're about locally you may see Starlings beginning to gather in the local villages - it will soon be that time again!
That's it for this week. Have a great weekend. Another blog next week barring any more stupid accidents!