There is a real sense of Autumn on the reserve with chillier mornings, damper weather and the changing colours of trees and plants we see every day. There has also been some thick mist hanging over the reserve and the surrounding roads giving that mysterious and almost timeless feel to the Avalon Marshes. For the most part it soon clears and there have been some lovely days to enjoy, plus we've made some good progress with habitat management work in front of the 1st platform.
All the cutting has now been completed but we've just some of the cut material to clear up and burn (the edges where our machine cannot safely reach). We aim to have this done on Thursday with our volunteers and we can then raise water levels to suppress any regrowth and create some nice splashy zones for waders and ducks to enjoy.
The main bulk of these birds at the moment are in front of the 2nd platform. As many as 200 Lapwing are using the area along with several hundred duck (including Mallard, Gadwall, Wigeon, Teal). They are not always immediately visible, until a Marsh Harrier pops by and puts them all up - then you get a real sense of the numbers hiding out there. One elusive visitor out here has been the Glossy Ibis - reported on Sunday & Monday from here but also reported roosting over at Shapwick much later in the week - so it's likely that it's still out there.
Dave Chislett and his son Sam were out and about on Sunday (1pm) and Sam managed to get these shots and kindly sent them in - thanks Sam.
Glossy Ibis: Sam Chislett
Glossy Ibis : Sam Chislett
Another more unusual visitor came on Wednesday in the form of a Pectoral Sandpiper, again seen in this area but was hard to track down and see well. Other people tried on Thursday to catch up with it but had no luck. They just had to enjoy a few Great White Egrets, c9 Snipe, c200 Lapwing, 5 Bearded Tits and 2 Ravens flying over - never mind. It could still be out there, the Glossy too, so perhaps if your having no luck from the 2nd platform cross to the grassy track via the new bridge and search the areas between there and the 2nd platform - it might just give you another angle on things.
It's a good time of year to see Bearded Tits as they tend to group together during September & October before dispersing. Several small groups have been seen in public areas this past week. 6 were seen from the 1st platform (and several small groups here last Sunday), 3 or 4 in Loxtons and 2 or 3 in Waltons (4 from the Tor View Hide last week too) so keep 'em peeled. Also out in the reedbeds you can still hear the piercing call of the Cettis Warbler and find Reed Buntings flitting around. You can often see other birds feeding on the seed heads too including Blue Tits.
Flocks of Tits are quite noticeable at the moment, particularly Long Tailed Tits as the call constantly, often following tree lines as you walk. Scan the groups, because you never know what might be hiding amongst them - both Goldcrest and Chiffchaff and been recorded in these groups this week and Chiffchaffs have been heard calling too.
In terms of birds of prey it's bee quite busy too. Daily sightings of Marsh Harrier from all over the reserve but 3 seen simultaneously on Wednesday morning. One was also seen hunting over Waltons on Wednesday where c500 Starlings are roosting at present. Any strong easterly winds could start to bring more birds in to boost these numbers. A Red Kite passed in front of the 1st platform on Sunday flying east towards the 2nd but not recorded again, a Sparrowhawk flew in front of the 2nd platform on Wednesday morning and a Kestrel was again seen hovering nearby too. It's being seen most days at the moment. John Crispin managed to photograph it from the 1st platform on Tuesday:
Buzzards are also a daily sight although a member of the public came across an injured one on Tuesday. John Crispin was on hand and phoned Secret World, who kindly came out and collected the bird.
There are still a few dragonflies on the wing with Southern Hawker, Ruddy darter & Common Darter all seen as well as Migrant Hawker (pictured):
Migrant Hawker : Carol Coward
It's going to be a quieter few months for Amphibians, Reptiles and mammals as we approach hibernation time but you can still at present see Iberian Water Frogs in the car park pools and a few Common Frog, Common Toads & Grass Snakes are still being spotted. A Roe Deer startled a visitor around the Waltons trail on Monday and I spotted a fox lurking on the north of the reserve late last week.
Also seen this week: c30 Meadow Pipits in fields adjacent to Tinneys (on the Sharpham Road), 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers along the canal bank, Hobbies seen earlier in the week, a lot of flights from both Bittern and Kingfishers this week so a good chance of seeing both of these, Garganey seen from the 2nd platform, groups of Canada Geese flying over and using the cut islands in front of the 1st platform but also Greylags with 2 seen on Wednesday and a group of 6 on Thursday in front of the 1st platform.
That's it for this week - have a great weekend. I'll leave you with a nice shot from John Crispin of a Grey Heron using the floating rafts in Waltons this week. Thanks to John as ever for all his fantastic shots.
Important Notice – Footpath ClosureEssential Maintenance Works to Ashcott Railway Bridge from 12 October for 6 weeks
Due to circumstances beyond our control, Dawnus Construction will be carrying out some essential maintenance works to Ashcott Railway Bridge on behalf of the environment agency who manage the main path through the reserve. These works are due to commence on the 12th October 2015. The works will take approximately 6 weeks.
This means that access via the main path footpath will not be available during this period. However, the reserve and all other paths remain open as usual and access will be via an alternative signed route along the Glastonbury canal. We regret that this path is unsuitable for disabled and cycling access. During this period, the RADAR key system allowing access to the disabled parking area on the reserve will not be in operation.
The Ham Wall team hope that you will continue to enjoy the reserve during this period and apologise for any inconvenience caused.
Please bear with us during this time and we hope that everything will be back to normal as soon as possible.
The alternative route on to the reserve is shown on the image below. Please double click on image to enlarge.
I was away last Friday and didn't get a chance to do the blog so there' s a bit to catch up with. It's been a lovely week this week and we've made a bit of progress with our reed cutting in front of the 1st platform. We hope to finish by next Thursday and begin to raise the water levels once more.
Work has also progressed with the new hide. The windows will hopefully be in next week but we'll have a fair bit of snagging to do as well as fitting shelves, seating and guttering amongst other things. The toilets and reception buildings are also expected to arrive next week - there will also be a fair bit of work to do here to to get them 'visitor ready'.We are really hoping to have everything up and running by the end of the month, as long as things go smoothly.
Because of the reed cutting the area in front of the 1st platform is quite dry but there is some good mud showing in the area in front of the 2nd platform. You can get a bit closer by crossing over to the grassy bank. There have been small groups of Lapwing in there in recent weeks but over 200 were seen this morning along with several duck species.
Great White Egrets hang about here too quite frequently and this week the Glossy Ibis returned. It was seen here on Monday before being disturbed by a Marsh Harrier, which then landed and took a casual drink. The Glossy Ibis was then reported this afternoon at around 12pm from the same location. There are plenty of places to hide so a bit of patience may be in order.
The area has also played host to small groups of Bearded Tits recently but they have also been spotted from the Tor View Hide (Monday) and in both Waltons & Loxtons on Thursday during the Bearded Tit survey. Over 60 were recorded from the site, which was quite pleasing. These photos were taken last week by John Crispin.
They were also spotted from the Avalon Hide this morning (x4) along with 2 Kingfishers, Mallard, Gadwall, Bittern, Snipe, Little Grebe and 2 Marsh Harriers (both pictured)
These 2 have been seen over the reserve all week. It's quite unusual now to go out on the reserve and not see a Marsh Harrier at some point.
Of course other birds of prey are seen frequently at Ham Wall, although the report of a stunning Male Hen Harrier came as a great surprise and then a great disappointment that I'd missed it myself. It flew along the edge of Waltons, circled and then headed off towards Shapwick Heath.
A female Kestrel was visible from the 1st platform on Thursday. Myself and the volunteers we very close to it, with its familiar flight pattern. Buzzards are a plenty on the reserve and can be seen daily but Hobby sightings are now very few and far between as they begin to make their way south. Peregrine seen last week.
Barn Owls are also still being seen on site. A single bird in the box in the wood opposite the 1st platform last week but 2 seen there earlier this week.
The warm autumn sunshine is an unexpected bonus for many of the dragonflies on site. There are still plenty on the wing and are easy to see (even if they are not easy to identify). Ruddy Darter, Common Darter, Southern Hawker and Migrant Hawker are the most likely suspects. In fact I was still seeing Ruddy Darters in mid November last year. The frosts usual see off these later fliers. A few butterflies still being seen too. Most notably this week: Comma, Red Admiral, Green Veined White & Speckled Wood.
With the colder weather on its way, many species on Ham Wall will begin to think about hibernation - particularly reptiles & amphibians. Adders & Grass Snakes will be looking for places to bed down this month and soon amphibians will follow suit. There are still Iberian Water Frogs in the car park pools at the moment however.
Also this week: Lots of groups of Little Egrets using splashy areas between the 2 platforms (Great White Egrets with them too at times), Still a few Swallows passing through, Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a few Snipe spotted - often disturbed from the edge of tracks when walking by, Chiffchaffs singing, groups of Long Tailed Tits moving along the tree lines (check them for Chiffchaff too), c150 Wigeon see in flight this morning (may well have landed in the area in front of the 2nd platform) and small groups of Canada Geese noisily making there presence known.
I'll leave you with a nice sunrise shot taken by John Crispin this very morning!!
That's it for this week. Have a great weekend!