Once again a very active and interesting week on the reserve. You may have read articles this week on social media regarding some of our extra special birds we have on site at the moment. Great White Egrets were the main feature giving news of probable number of nests and about the ringing of some of the young birds. It's hope we can learn a lot more about the behaviour and distribution of this newly colonising pioneer.
The article also mentioned a bird that we often rather coy about (you may have noticed how I never mention it in the blog. Well the shackles are off - to a certain extent and I'm able to confirm that we have 2 male Little Bitterns (with a possible third) on site at present. I'll chose not to give away precise locations as we're not sure, despite watching them, whether anything significant is going on - but fantastic that they are here nonetheless.
Male in flight - John Crispin.
Night Herons have also been mentioned with a few sightings reported - even less evidence to go on with regards to these but great to have them.
Keeping with the heron theme, it was a surprise to see a second Glossy Ibis drop into the reserve on Saturday. They are spending most of the time in the area in front of the 2nd platform. They have been viewed from there but also from the willow blinds on the footpath side. Other times they are hidden in the now, much longer vegetation. Thanks to John Crispin (above), Natalie Talbot and Tracey Burniston for the great photos
The original Glossy Ibis - Natalie Talbot
2 of a kind (just in case you didn't believe me - Tracey Burniston
Great White Egrets are hard to miss at the moment with as many as 10 being seen in close proximity of each other this week. Bitterns are very busy too. We beleive we have at least 9 nests this year - it could be higher (and maybe the best year yet).
Lots of fantastic Bittern shots sent in to me this week:
Bittern - John Crabb
Thanks to John & Natalie
Plus a great take off sequence sent in by John Crispin. This followed a preening session of over an hour whilst perched in the reeds. Thanks John
Add to this the multiples of Little Egret and Grey Heron and recent fly overs by White Stork and Common Crane and you've got yourself quite a collection!
If that doesn't float your boat how about some birds of prey!
Marsh Harriers continue to busy themselves in front of the Avalon Hide with regular sightings of the 2 active nests here (there's a 3rd further east too).
Marsh Harrier - Natalie Talbot
They also have Buzzards for company in this on the north of the reserve:
Buzzard - John Crabb
If it's Hobby you're after then perhaps Waltons or Loxtons is the place to go. 3 birds seen regularly together here with 4 on one occasion this week. Thanks to John Crabb for another couple of crackers:
Also this week was a Kestrel seen hovering over the car park and perching up on the telegraph poles on Tuesday and Barn Owl see hunting this week but also what appeared to be a well grown youngster poking its head out of the box opposite the first viewing platform (in the woods at the back). A Red Kite also flew north over the first platform yesterday morning - we're certainly getting more frequent sightings of these as time goes on.
Hobbys will still be hunting the many dragonflies that are present on the reserve. Still good numbers of 4 Spotted Chasers but perhaps tailing off slightly. Also sen this week: Black Tailed Skimmer, Emperor, Southern Hawker and the first Common Darters. Damselflies aplenty too with Variable damselflies in huge numbers along with the Blue tailed. Lesser numbers of Azure Red Eyed and Common Blue, 1 or 2 Banded Demoiselle and reports of Scarce Blue Tailed Damselfly - a recent colonizer.
A fair number of butterflies too, along with lots of groups of peacock caterpillars (as last week). Meadow Browns are out in force along with Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Green Veined White, Speckled Wood, Large Skipper and a few Painted Ladies:
Painted Lady - John Crispin
Other more notable sightings this week in a sudden increase in Kingfisher activity. Some of these could be young birds but adults seemed to have returned to old nest sights where no activity has been recorded this season (maybe we just missed it). Great News though.
The area in front of the 2nd platform (apart from the Ibis) offers plenty of duck - many in eclipse plumage, but also several Lapwing, up to 3 Green Sandpiper and both Canada Geese and Greylag geese with young. There's Mute Swan with young here too and in Waltons but also had great views of a family from the Avalon Hide:
Mute Swan with young: John Crabb
Also this week: a slight drop off in the amount of Bearded Tit activity from the area where John Crispin's photos came from last week. Mostly juveniles seen suggesting perhaps they've all now fledged. Closer sightings reported from the second platform area this week. Also several Cuckoo sightings - some over Waltons, one perched towards the east of the reserve but also one perched on a post to the right of the Avalon Hide. Great Crested Grebes are sittng on a nesting platform in front of the hide too while Little Grebe chicks have been seen at a couple of locations including Loxtons. A Roe Deer and fawn were seen together around Loxtons on Tuesday and there seem to be more rabbits along the old rail path at the moment , there's plenty of song from warblers and other song birds and also sightings of Bullfinches which are likely to be nesting - all good stuff.
With all these young birds and eggs around, there are dangers everywhere. Lesser Black Gulls have often been sen taking chicks of various species but it seems Crows are the expert egg theives. John Crabb's got the photographic evidence of one such bird. It was seen hawking over the reedbeds before plunging in:
It emerged around 10 minutes later with an egg which it carried off. Once they know where a nest location is they will usually clear it out. That was probably the case here as the bird returned and repeated the process:
That's it for this week - thank you to all who contributed the wonderful photographs. Without them it's just me rambling on!!
Have a great weekend !
As often with Ham Wall it's the long legged birds which steal the show. Bitterns are still busying themselves feeding youngsters. The activity suggests that we have at least 7 nests on the reserve this season. Waltons is a good area to try and track them down but they are also within the Loxtons area and visible from the Avalon Hide. One was seen perched up in the reeds preening from the hide during the week.
John Crabb sent me this photo of a Bittern in flight taken recently - thanks John:
The other long legged classic bird for Ham Wall is the Great White Egret of course. Again very busy and very visible each day on the reserve. Waltons along with the Bitterns and the area in front of the 2nd platform good places to catch up with them - to be honest it's hard not to see one during a visit at the moment. Thanks to John Crispin for some great Egret photos.
Note the yellowing of the bill showing its transition from breeding black to its 'off season' yellow.
We have Little Egrets and Grey Herons aplenty too but this by no means completes the set. Wednesday saw a rare visitor to Ham Wall (but our second visit of the year) of a White Stork. It was seen flying high over Waltons and gradually moved north circling all the time. At one point it was joined by Buzzards and a Hobby. There's been one residing at Steart for a few days, so it was probably this bird. Unfortunately no photo this time but I'll slip in a picture provided by John Crispin from the birds last visit in April:
We're not done yet though because we still have the Glossy Ibis present in the area in front of the 2nd platform and seen several times over the last couple of weeks. As I've said before if you can't see it from the 2nd platform itself just cross over to the footpath side of the drain and check out the area from the bench and willow blinds not far from the junction with the Avalon Hide (or from the Avalon Hide path itself which looks across this area). Also in this section this week: 3 Green Sandpipers, 20+ Lapwing, Garganey and lots of other duck species - many going into eclipse plumage.
The Avalon Hide is still the best place to go for Marsh Harriers, a male and 2 females seen here regularly here with another pair further east. Also out the front of the hide is a pair of Great Crested Grebes looking like they were courting again. The Waltons section is probably the best place to get views of the grebes either from the screens or the Tor View Hide. John Crabb managed these shots last week from this location:
Too Big? Great Crested Grebe: John Crabb
Great Crested Grebe with young : John Crabb
Volunteers were out surveying for bitterns yesterday at Waltons and Loxtons and were able to report several great sightings to me (as well as the great number of Bittern flights). These include 3 Cuckoos in a chase across Loxtons, 3 Hobbys seen flying together over Waltons, a Kingfisher seen within Waltons (and another carrying a fish further east on the reserve and they also reported lots of Garden Warblers along the footpaths. Thanks to Dennis Upshall and John Crabb for the Cuckoo and Hobby photos.
Cuckoo: Dennis Upshall
Hobby: John Crabb
The Hobby here can be seen clutching its prey. There are many thousand dragonflies around the Waltons trail. The majority of these are 4 spotted chasers but also recorded on the reserve this week have been: Emperor, Black Tailed Skimmer and Scarce Chaser along with damselflies: Azure, Blue Tailed, Variable, Red Eyed and Banded Demoiselle.
4 Spotted Chaser
Butterflies are out too - the best sighting this week was of Painted Lady but we've also had: Brimstone, Small Tortoiseshell, Green Veined White,Large Skipper, Speckled Wood, Scarlet Tiger moth and Red Admiral. Also spotted several sets of Peacock caterpillars on bunches of nettles this week:
Talking of caterpillars it appears that certain ones are a favourite meal for Bearded Tits. John Crispin took these shots of them on the north of the reserve this week- thanks John!:
Also partial to the odd spider:
In public areas Bearded Tits have been seen and heard in front of the 2nd platform this week and recently in front of the Avalon Hide - so there is a chance.
Also this week: a couple of Sparrowhawk sightings but this one captured by Dennis Upshall last week - thanks Dennis!
....lots of Warblers still present: Cettis, Reed Warbler and the odd Sedge Warbler within the reed beds and in the tree lines, lots of Blackcaps, Willow Warblers, Garden Warblers Chiffchaff and Whitethroat (pictured):
Whitethroat: John Crabb
...and lots of young birds around the reserve including these Mallards photographed by John Crabb:
That's it for this week. Have a great weekend!
After a week off last week the amount of vegetation growth around the reserve was very striking on my return. It means that some views are becoming slightly more obscured and there's plenty more places for the wildlife to hide away. The weather has also been particularly hot this week which often leads to less activity from wildlife at the hottest times of day but, as always, there's plenty to report and some great pictures to share.
It's certainly the time for seeing youngsters. Many are up and about with parents like ducklings and young Coots or fledging nests and hanging around in family groups like Long Tailed Tits or Goldfinches. The young Heron in Waltons still hadn't left the nest earlier in the week at around 65 days he's rather a lazy individual. Also within Waltons Young Coots, Moorhens and Mallards are all very visible as are now well grown Great Crested Grebe chicks. it looks as though some are left more to their own devices now as the parents are possibly nesting again.
The young Water Rails are still occasionally seen along the Tor View Hide path - although more often hidden just to the side (I counted 3 on Monday). These shots were taken last week by Dennis Upshall and sent into us here at the office. Thanks Dennis!
Water Rail & chick - Dennis Upshall
Some of our other star youngsters have now fledged. The Great Spotted Woodpeckers from Central Wood (on the way to the Avalon Hide). There were many happy photographers there the week before last getting some great shots. Thankfully the parents were unfazed by the attention and the youngsters left the nest last week but can still be heard in the woods calling. Thanks to Natalie Talbot for sending in these shots:
Of course lots of birds are still very busy feeding youngsters. Great White Egrets are still being seen frequently and we know there are a few nests with youngsters. Bitterns are still flying regularly - particularly within Waltons and Loxtons. The birds in front of the Avalon Hide had been kept pretty quiet by a very aggressive male Marsh Harrier but it appears that now his youngsters are of a certain size he is less bothered and the tables actually turned on Wednesday when the Bittern chased off the Marsh Harrier. This suggests to me that it is now the Bittern who has young to protect and the increase in Bittern activity in this area supports this - great news.
Natalie Talbot took this shot of a Bittern this week but also managed to catch one standing in the reeds. Well done Natalie and thanks for the photos!
Bearded Tits were seen again in the vicinity of the Avalon Hide this week and on Monday during survey,s several juveniles were seen. Adults are still busy though as John Crispin's pictures show, with both males and females seen carrying food. Thanks John!
John did mention that the tail feathers were beginning to look worn, when compared to the photo below which was taken in the same area last week.
As already mentioned the Marsh Harriers are still very busy out in front of the Avalon hide. Several interactions and food passes have been witnessed this week. John Crispin manged to grab these shots of a food pass between the male and one of the females this week. They give a great idea of what to expect if you see it for yourself.
Great action shots - thanks John!
Youngsters have been seen at the nest locations of the Marsh Harriers - at least one in each for sure.
Other young birds spotted, just to add to the action are Mute Swans and their cygnets seen in the area in front of the 2nd viewing platform and also some Canada Goose goslings.
The Glossy Ibis is still present here at the moment. It can be tricky to find sometimes but use every angle you can to look into this area to track it down. You could try the 2nd platform itself or go to the track the other side and stop at the 2 willow blinds or the nearby bench. You could also stop on the way to the Avalon Hide and look right across the area. Great White Egrets are also using this area regularly and there are several Lapwings using this area. Unfortunately it appears that what was thought to be a Lapwing chick was swallowed by a Lesser Black Backed Gull during the week. 2 Garganey have also been seen regularly along with a pair of Wigeon and a pair of Teal.
Dragonflies and damselflies are plentiful on the reserve at the moment. Particularly the 4 spotted chaser which is abundant to the point of a plague on occasions around the back of Waltons and Loxtons. there are still a few Hairy dragonflies on the wing but these have been joined over the last couple of weeks by Broad Bodied Chaser, Scarce Chaser, Black Tailed Skimmer and Emperor.
Black Tailed Skimmer female - John Crispin
4 Spotted Chaser - Nicola Berry
Damselflies include: Red Eyed, Blue Tailed, Banded Demoiselle, Azure and Variable. Thanks to Nicola Berry for the above picture.
In terms of mammals, they're harder to come by although John Crispin reported an Otter sighting from the Tor View Hide on Wednesday, which was nice to hear. You can see the occasional Roe Deer grazing on the gassy banks around the reserve - often around Waltons and a couple of Grey Squirrels are busy along the rail path.
Also this week: Red Kite on both Monday and Thursday mornings, 6 Cranes flying north over the reserve on Tuesday, 3 Bitterns in a chase from the 1st platform on Wednesday, Hobby seen daily (2 over Loxtons yesterday), Grass Snake at the bridge next to the Ashcott Road on Wednesday and some noisy Iberian Water Frogs each day. Barn Owls have been seen out hunting close to the Avalon hide (including yesterday), a Raven flew over cronking loudly on Wednesday, while Cuckoos have been heard around Waltons on a number of occasion. The usual chorus of Warblers in the tree lines and the reedbeds add to the visitor experience.
We've also had a report of a Gull billed Tern that flew over Shapwick Heath and Ham Wall on Sunday while a couple of days before a Common Tern was spotted at Loxtons where they've bred in the past. John Crispin was on hand to take this shot. Thanks John: