Things are certainly hotting up on the reserve - in more ways than one. A beautiful week has seen plenty of visitors to the reserve enjoying the sunshine and they have been rewarded with a host of wildlife.
Migrants arriving - some staying and some just passing through - but it's a time to keep your eyes and ears open to what's about. There's been a big influx of Reed Warblers this week and the noise in the reedbeds will gradually increase over the next couple of weeks with the excited chattering of these birds. A few Sedge Warblers have arrived too and many Reed Buntings are perching up and singing. There has been one particularly obliging male on the way up to the Tor View Hide.
Along the rail path there are many Blackcaps in full song and one potential Garden Warbler but I'm not sure I'm tuned in just yet - this is one I have to relearn every year to get the subtle differences between the 2 reinforced in my head (and ears). One or two Whitethroat have also been noted along here but the best place to see them most years is in the bramble and low scrub opposite the 1st platform.
Another notable warbler through this week has been the Grasshopper Warbler - heard from the canal bank path and from both platforms - at least 2 different birds, but most likely just passing through. The old rail path is often a great place to hear and see a variety of birds - as well as the warblers mentioned, there have been reports of Bullfinch, 2 x Treecreepers by Loxtons, Goldcrest, Song Thrush and a variety of Tits & Finches. We also await the possibility of the return of last years Nightingale.
Up at the car park it's worth just standing and watching a while - you'll most likely see a good variety of species in just a few minutes. Of particular note has been kingfishers who have taken an almost immediate like to the bank we have cut away at the end of one of the pools (made with them in mind). 2 birds were seen excavating and investigating holes last weekend so fingers crossed. Please observe any activity from a distance if possible. On the boardwalk out of the car park to Ham Wall Great Tits are nesting in the box on the left and Blue Tits in the box on the right as the photos show:
Also out feeding on seeds:
Back on the water there's plenty of activity too. Great Crested Grebes nesting at a few locations including from the 1st platform and within Waltons. There's a variety of duck too with Teal and just a couple of Wigeon still present, Pochard, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler & Tufted Duck present - these were joined by a Shelduck on a couple of occasions this week and of course the summer visitor - the Garganey. Good views again this week from the first platform to the left hand side.
This area has been good this week for Great White Egrets with an amazing 5 together (although briefly) on Wednesday morning and quite a few Little Egrets too throughout the week - obviously a good fishing spot currently.
Bitterns use this area too and there a plenty of booming males to listen too. The early morning surveys this week picked up a minimum of 39 males with around 17 at Ham Wall. There have been a few flights and chases too and there will be an increased likelyhood of a sighting during you visit over next 8 weeks of so. May traditionally being the best month for all sorts of Bittern activity.
Another noisy bird is the Canada Goose plenty about and some pretty boisterous behavior from some close to the Tor View Hide on Tuesday. Greylag Geese are being spotted too but we also had a brief visit (about 5 minutes) from an Egyptian Goose on Monday. Long enough for John Crispin to grab this photo though:
Another sure sound of Spring is the arrival of the Cuckoo and its familiar call. I haven't been lucky enough yet but a few people have seen some - with the 1st heard/seen around Waltons on Weds. Other migrants, such as Swallows are still arriving but not seeing them in large numbers - reports too of a few House Martins this week and the odd Hobby.
It's often a good time to see waders too, although some of our water levels may be just a little high. Lapwing though have been present from the 1st platform with up to 6 seen from this location and Redshank heard calling on at least 3 days this week. A Common Sandpiper was spotted at Loxtons and 35 Black Tailed Godwits dropped into the section between the 2 platforms.
Other great sightings this week include: Marsh Harriers daily including a well marked male, Osprey on Tuesday afternoon, a Whinchat at Tinneys (on the Sharpham road), Wheatear from the 1st platform on Tuesday, Barn Owl, 4 Roe Deer on the north of the reserve, lots of chorusing Marsh Frogs, recent reports of Adder, Slow Worm and Grass Snake and a few sightings of both Jays and Great Spotted Woodpecker.
We have recently put the Tern Raft back out, although they used the old ones in Loxtons last year. It would be great to have them back breeding for a second year. One was seen from the 1st platform on Saturday 11th and photographed by John Crispin:
Plenty of butterflies on the wing this week, with an increase in Orange Tip numbers in particular but also sightings of Speckled Wood, Holly Blue, Peacock, Small White, Small Tortoiseshell & Brimstone. Dragonflies should follow soon with Hairy Dragonfly usually our first sighting.
That's it for this week. Have a great weekend!
It's been a wonderful week at Ham Wall - the sun has been shining making it almost feel like summer and the wildlife is very active. It's a special time of year for wildlife enthusiasts as creatures awaken from winter slumbers and migrants are on the move. Ham Wall has had its share with grass Snake and Adder reported on the reserve this week, Marsh Frogs being seen in the car park pools and heard croaking around the reserve. Common Frogs and their tadpoles have also been spotted.
It's often the migrant birds that capture peoples interest and there has been a series of firsts on the reserve this week as migrants arrive or pass through. Osprey was seen briefly last weekend but didn't stay. Also arriving over the Easter weekend was a male Garganey. This has been seen on several occasions to the left of the Tor View Hide and seems to be its favourite haunt and has since been joined by a second male. One occasionally flies over to the area in front of the 1st platform and yesterday stayed showing really well for over an hour.
The first Willow Warbler was heard towards the end of last week and there are at least 3 at various intervals along the rail path sing well. In fact bird song has increased dramatically over the last couple of weeks, with several Chiffchaff and Blackcap also singing well - particularly along the rail path.
Also of note along the rail path recently has been Goldcrest, Treecreeper, a pair Bullfinch on Thursday morning, plenty of Goldfinch, Blue Tit, Long Tailed Tit and Great Tit too.
The reedbeds are busy places too but will soon be full of noise as Reed Warblers and Sedge Warblers arrive. The first Reed Warbler was heard on Wednesday so keep you ears open. There's also the possibility of Grasshopper Warbler too - it's call sounds a bit like a fishing reel. Of course the most obvious bird in the reedbed currently is the Bittern with its booming call. Several can be heard in the daytime - there's a particularly good one within the Waltons section.
A few flights have been seen of individual birds but for the next few weeks we should be able to see multiple birds in the air chasing each other (usually males chasing females but perhaps males in a dispute). 4 birds flew together from the 1st platform on both Weds and Thurs this week and a couple of flights from 2 birds were also seen so the 1st platform is a good place to start.
A number of Sand Martins passed through around a week ago or so but seems to have quietened down this week. A few Swallows are being seen but mainly in 1's and 2's. The best being a group of 6 seen on Wednesday. One or 2 House Martins have also been reported. We still await our first Hobby, although a couple have been spotted in the county.
The first platform offers a few duck species too. Teal are still present in small numbers and Wigeon have been seen from the 2nd platform this week, also from the 1st platform: Shoveler, Mallard, Pochard, Tufted Duck and Gadwall. A Great Crested Grebe is also sat on a nest in this area although perhaps better views can be had of the nest in Waltons, visible from the rail path and the 3rd screen. Little Grebes are also present and can be heard calling loudly.
Lapwing too are present and have been seen displaying in front of the 1st platform and up to 12 have been seen at any one time from here and the field beyond. Perhaps a nesting attempt will be made out on these islands though. Other waders spotted this week include: Black Tailed Godwit (1), Snipe (c25), Redshank (1)
Also this week: Water Rail from the Tor View Hide but also behind the bench on the path to it, Mistle Thrush in the car park, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Barn Owl sunning itself on the owl box visible from the 1st platform but also seen at 2 locations to the east end of the reserve (Glastonbury end), 2 Cranes flew over the back of Waltons on Tuesday, Grey Herons still nesting in Waltons, Great White Egrets and Marsh Harriers seen daily from both platforms, Weasel on Tuesday around Waltons, Roe Deer from the rail bridge, Peregrine over Loxtons on Saturday and Kingfishers seen around Waltons too.
A busy week, I'm sure you'll agree - let's hope next week tops it!
Have a great weekend!
Apologies for the lateness of this blog. Technical issues and being absent from work for a couple of days have really delayed this one! It was written ready for last Friday so concentrates up to that date only......
Another steady week of activity on the reserve this week as we await the big April rush. Many birds of course are in full song and of particular note this week have been Cetti’s Warblers. These little brown birds have a particularly punchy burst of song – very noticeable around the reserve. In fact many have been seen perching up or chasing each other over the last few days. It’s probably the best time of year to catch a clear sighting as they often perch up singing, being very territorial. Soon leaves will form on trees, territories will be established and it will be back to business as usual with the occasional flash across a channel for a sighting.
Other Warblers are present too. Chiffchaffs have been seen and heard singing their familiar songs – of course many of these now over winter, so may not have ‘migrated’ a long distance at all. Another overwintering bird (more often in gardens) is the Blackcap and one individual was heard singing from trees along the old rail path just yesterday. Soon these trees will be alive with song and of much interest to bird watchers as Willow Warblers and Garden Warblers join the throng and perhaps the nightingale will return again this year!
Other spring migrants have been spotted this week with further small groups of Sand Martins passing through but also hangers on from winter such as 2 Redwing spotted in the car park and still a number of Wigeon residing on the reserve.
Other evidence of the arrival of spring includes a grass snake warming itself in the sunshine (and male adders – the first to wake up on Shapwick Heath), frog spawn maturing well in the car park pools and flowering plants such as Celandine & Daffodils showing some colour. 4 species of butterfly have also been spotted this week: Brimstone and Small tortoiseshell but also a Peacock & Speckled Wood seen chasing each other on Wednesday. Quite a few bumblebees out on the wing too.
Grey Herons are also very busy nest building within the Waltons reedbed. Some good shots of the action captured by John Crispin this week. There will soon be plenty of noise coming from this area as youngsters squabble and compete for food.
Great White Egrets are also present on site and being seen on a daily basis and to add to our heron family.........
......Bitterns are of course making themselves obvious with plenty of booming around the reserve. A couple of chases of males & females have also been witnessed and a further bird flying from beyond the 1st platform to Waltons with a strong wind behind it – it was really motoring.
Another spring favourite has got to be the Great Crested Grebe with its elaborate courtship rituals – a pair were seen head bobbing and weed dancing in Waltons this week from the 1st screen but others are further ahead. From the 3rd screen nest building is well underway as is a nest in front of the 1st platform. There are at least 2 other pairs in Waltons too as well as a few more around other parts of the reserve.
Lapwings have been seen displaying over the area in front of the 2nd platform, while a Redshank has also been heard calling from one area of the reserve.
I’ve had a few queries about where to see Bearded Tits this week. Again like last week a pair were seen along the edge of Loxtons but have also occasionally been seen from both screens. 3 or 4 other locations were had this week although, as usual, these are usually a little away from the public areas but Loxtons seems to be a fairly regular thing at the moment. Get familiar with the call to give you an early warning and a better chance of a sighting. This female was snapped by John Crispin just last week at Loxtons.
Also this week: a Curlew was seen circling over Long Drove before flying south, Ravens over most days, 8 Buzzards circling in the morning sunshine on Wednesday – a lovely sight, Great Spotted Woodpecker heard drumming also on Wednesday (part of its mating ritual), a Red Kite passing over Waltons & Loxtons on Weds afternoon – it had been seen earlier at the car park and over Shapwick Heath, 2 Kingfishers hunting together around the back of Waltons, Roe Deer seen in fields surrounding the reserve, good evidence of the presence of Otters on the Otter survey and 2 Firecrests seen up close to the car park. Also from the car park boardwalk this Robin preening itself in the sunshine!
That covers last week. I'll do my best to get something done as a catch up before the Easter break!