Here are the extra pictures I promised from this years Barn Owl Ringing. Thanks again to Chris Sperring MBE for coming in and doing it with us.
With the weather so changeable it's hard to remember sometimes that it's still August - it's almost felt autumnal at times this week. Although it's a quiet time of year for birds on the reserve there is still plenty to report. A good hunt around different areas of the reserve can bring great rewards.
A good place to start at the moment is the 2nd viewing platform. You have to work a bit harder here than on the Shapwick scrape (currently pumped down quite low) but there are some interesting waders to see. Monday saw 3 Dunlin and a Little Stint while Thursday (and this morning) saw a Wood Sandpiper and a single Dunlin. There have been varying numbers of Black Tailed Godwits present up to 90, maybe more and fluctuations in the number of Green Sandpipers (anywhere between 1 & 6). There are also good numbers of Lapwing spread out in front of the 2nd platform and in the section intermediately before it - up to 200 seen. It may be worth taking a walk down the other side of the drain just to get a slightly different perspective on things - you never know what you might find.
The 1st platform area is still pretty overgrown, but we have now finished building our floating bridge ready for the return of our cutting machine. We hope to access this area as soon as we can and begin the usual cut to open things up a bit. Hobbies are still using the area (and Waltons) quite regularly with as many as 15 reported last weekend. I just had to make do with 2 this morning over Waltons - nice to see though. Last weekend also saw 2 Kestrel reported along with 2 Sparrowhawk (one carrying food) and 20 or more Buzzards. Marsh Harriers have been seen soaring high with buzzards too, as well as giving them some hassle from time to time. There are several Marsh Harriers about due to the successful fledging of our 3 nests and the darker, more plain looking youngsters can be picked out. A male bird flew over the car park this morning and was then seen from the 1st platform.
Also this morning a Night Heron was seen again - and again in was within the Waltons section. Missed it again though.
Bitterns are a little quieter now but there's always the chance of a sighting given the numbers that are present over local reserves. John Crispin snapped this one on Wednesday as it flew out of the reeds in front of the 1st platform:
Great White Egrets are still seen daily - often in good numbers. They do form roosts at night and as many as 18 were reported this week. 12 flew into Ham wall from Shapwick Heath on Saturday 1st, perhaps disturbed by a hot air balloon which passed overhead. 6 were seen feeding together on Ham Wall on Sunday 2nd. One also perched in trees along with 7 Little Egrets at the Central Wood this week.
The 1st platform is probably the best place to catch sight of Barn Owl too. Obviously the later in the evening the better chance you'll have but they have been seen perching outside of the box opposite the 1st platform. It's harder to see now due to the leaves on the trees but it is possible. Barn Owls have been perched outside during the day on a couple of occasions lately. John Crispin manged this shot as he passed the box during a survey. As it saw him though it casually wandered back into the box without a care.
The gloomier weather can sometimes be an advantage. Insects often fly lower and will give you better views of insect loving birds. Plenty of Swift, Swallow and House Martin to be had during these times.
Also this week: several sightings of Raven (up to 3), Great Spotted Woodpecker (up to 6), plenty of mixed tit flocks and Goldfinches, Blackcap, family of Whitethroat in the far corner of Waltons, family groups of Reed Warblers and Reed Buntings too, Roe Deer around Waltons trail and Kingfisher sightings from 1st platform, Loxtons screen and Waltons screens.
The Waltons screens are also great places to see both Little Grebe and Great Crested Grebe with young. John Crispin had some interesting observations of Great Crested Grebes and their behavior as the pictures below show:
He also offered the following commentary which I thought was well worth including - thanks John:
"Both parent Great Crested Grebes share equally in carrying and feeding the whole brood when young are small but later a different system operates in families of 2 or more young. The system is known as brood division, which results in the formation of 2 family sub groups with each parent only feeding their 'own' young and showing hostility to 'other' youngsters if they approach too close. The adult pair bond grows progressively weaker after the brood has been divided unless there is an attempt at a second brood."
In terms of butterflies it's been another steady week. Brimstone, Red Admiral, Peacock, Common Blue, Green Veined White, Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Speckled Wood all seen this week and a Jersey Tiger moth on Wednesday.
Dragonflies too are still on the wing and many will be well into October (I even had a Ruddy darter in mid to late November last year): Seen this week: Southern Hawker, Migrant Hawker, Brown Hawker, Ruddy Darter, Common Darter, Black Tailed Skimmer, Broad Bodied Chaser and 4 spotted chaser - I've seen all these around the ponds in the car park this week along with loads of Iberian Marsh Frogs of course. Also this week we've seen Common Frog, Common Toad, Slow Worm and Grass Snake.
Finally I'll leave you with a Starling picture. It shows a young bird with both adult and juvenile plumage - just thought it was interesting. Of course it will be joined by a million or so more over the next few months as the Starling murmurations build once more.
That's it for this week. I'm on annual leave next week but will try to get a quick catch up the following Monday if I can. Have a good week!
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!