Yet another interesting week on the reserve. It seems that even after 9 years of working here there's always something new to experience and enjoy. I was out trying to find poo of various animals for our who's poo? event next week ( this is not the new experience I'm talking about), I was checking around sluices for signs of Otter and mink when I saw a water vole swimming in the sluice - managed to grab a couple of photos on my phone and even film it for a short while (you can view it on our facebook page). I then realised that the poor thing must have fallen in and was stuck as we had blocked the pipe at the other end to help hold water in. He was beginning to struggle so I picked him out and left him covered over by the sluice. It was gone the next day so fingers crossed it was ok. I've been doing some water vole surveying too and there are good signs out there of their presence.
Another new experience was that of witnessing the emergence of a dragonfly. I was able to see the larvae on the stem of vegetation and saw it emerging and got a few photos. The last bit was going to take a while so I left it to it and returned about 2 1/2 hours later and it had gone - but a wonderful thing to witness (again there's a short film and some photos on the Ham Wall Facebook page). I'm guessing this is a hairy dragonfly but happy to accept other suggestions! The emergence of 4 spotted chasers has continued soon - there are plenty around Waltons and Loxtons which may help to explain the good number of Hobby sightings being seen in these areas. Nothing like the numbers of previous weeks but always great birds to watch. 2 perched together in trees around Loxtons this week and good views can be had from the screen there or close by. Dragonflies on the wing at present are: 4 Spotted Chaser, Broad Bodied Chaser and Hairy Dragonfly with more set to join them in the next couple of weeks. Damselflies include: Azure, Variable, Red Eyed, Large Red, Blue Tailed and Banded Demoiselle.
I always say May is the best month for Bitterns and despite the rather changeable weather it has been a good week. Several chases of 2 or 3 birds have been witnessed including 2 in an altercation of the education area at Waltons. This photo from a couple of years ago will give you an idea what it was like: Great White Egrets are another favourite at the moment with many sightings each day, often with 2 or more birds seen together. Waltons, Loxtons and the 1st platform the most regular haunts but really they could be seen anywhere. Little Egrets are present too and just occasionally they will stand together to really give you an idea of the size difference. Around 20 Little Egrets were spotted in the area between the 2 platforms this week.
Also between the 2 platforms but in the tree line on the rail path a Spotted Flycatcher was "spotted" last weekend and joins a host of other birds with the Blackcap quite dominant. There do however seem to be more Garden Warblers this year and I spotted a pair by the boardwalk not far from the otter sculpture this morning. Willow warblers are also present but not in large numbers. Great Tit, Blue Tit, Long Tailed Tit, Goldfich, Chaffinch, Bullfinch, Blackbird, Robin and Chiffchaff have all been seen along here this week with a few vocal Song Thrushes.
In terms of waders, the most obvious are the Lapwings from the 1st platform still chasing off or at least dive bombing all comers. Any Great White Egret which stands close enough gets dive bombed until they move off. Redshank have also been seen out here on a daily basis although they are a little harder to track down and a single Black Tailed Godwit flew over on Sunday. Small groups of Whimbrel have also been seen from this location this week.
Another regular sight is that of hunting Marsh Harriers. Most areas of the reserve have been host to hunting birds this week but the platforms both offer good wide vistas with which to see them. The following bird was photographed by John Crispin this week. It's catch one of the many very noisy Marsh Frogs heard (and seen) around the reserve. Waltons is a good area for them but you can just as easily see and hear them in the car park pools. I was working with volunteers in the car park yesterday and its amazing what you can see from there sometimes - we had close views of Bittern Marsh Harrier and Great White Egret and the Swifts and Martins put on a great display flying low over the pools.
The legs of this frog look far too long to be that of common frog.
In previous years they have been seen carrying a variety of prey including young birds and even grass snakes. I was out walking on the reserve with my kids on Saturday and they found a grass snake. Unfortunately it was dead (not long dead though) and had an injured tail - guess something was disturbed or mobbed and dropped it. They also found newly emerged dragonflies with their wings still a bit crumpled - great to see them engaging with nature and if I do say so myself - on a great nature reserve.
Volunteers also saw Roe deer and a small fox cub this week on their travels and I discovered what I think is a foxes earth on my hunt for The Who's Poo? event this week so I guess the two things tie up. I also saw a rabbit (not astounding I know but we've had hardly any in recent years. It was by our electric pumps and eel pass (we are catching a few each week). Cuckoos are around and heard each day. I've seen one flying across the area in front of the 2nd platform twice this week but have also seen them perched in trees around Loxtons (like the Hobbies) and heard them from the old rail bridge looking over the eel pass to the wood. This area is also a possible place to spot Kingfishers. Kingfishers have also been reported from Long Drove (an isolated unit beyond Waltons and the fishing pools) - they've nested here previously and look set to again. 70 Greylag Geese were seen there this morning too and we often get Linnets in some of the bramble patches.
Some shots of Cuckoo in flight. Their wing shape and long tail means they are often confused with birds of prey by the less experienced bird watcher.
Also this week: 2 Crane reported flying high over the reserve on Tuesday and another high flyer - a Red Kite flying East on Sunday. The same day saw a Shelduck from the 1st platform and our friendly Egytian Goose (still around) flying north. Great Crested Grebes still nesting from the 1st platform but both them and Little grebe seen easily from the Tor View Hide. I've just been speaking to some ladies who were watch the parents feeding a youngster (Little Grebe) when a Grey Heron came down and tried drowning it before swallowing it whole - with some difficulty.That's nature I guess but there were still many wonderful moments this week!
Have a great weekend!
Another week packed full of wildlife on the reserve, although the mixed bag of weather hasn't made things easy. Thursday in particular was so awful we cancelled the Bittern surveys and the Bitterns in Hot Pursuit event or as Ray Summers the Warden put it Bitterns in Wet Suits event. We'll be running more - every Thursday in May and the first 2 in June as well, so more opportunities. Bitterns are still active though, several lots of 3 birds together seen this week including twice today and a pair flying around at about 3.30pm. Also interesting to see the Lapwings dive bombing a Great White Egret from the 1st platform around the same time.
When the weather did finally clear on Thursday I quickly nipped out to strim around the platforms and benches etc - it's a good time to do at as there are few people around. I could hear the reserve coming back to life as the rain cleared with an increase in song and from the 1st platform a host of Swifts, Swallows and Martins began to show themselves. Lovely to watch as many flew low over the water hunting insects. There are plenty on the wing and in particular an emergence of dragonflies with more Hairy dragonflies from last week but also a number of 4 spotted chasers. Soon these will number in their hundreds if not thousands around the Waltons loop if previous years are anything to go by. Also Broad Bodied chaser of which I encountered a newly emerged female this week - I'll post a couple of photos of it on our Facebook and Twitter pages for you to see.
Damselflies are out in force too with: Azure, Variable, Blue Tailed, Large Red and Red Eyed (pictured below) all recorded this week.
Of course these are some of the Hobby's favourite snacks and they are still out in good numbers but not the hoards of last week where up to 50 were reported at one time. They have still given plenty of pleasure however with one excited visitor telling me that they had seen 16 together - great to see visitors so joyful at the wildlife on offer. Hobbies have been perched up occasionally on the dead trees around Loxtons and so to have Cuckoo.
John Crispin managed to get these shots this week (although at another location on the reserve - but you get the idea).
Also seen at Loxtons this week include Kingfisher and Marsh Harrier (although 1st platform also good for these) and is probably your best bet for Bearded Tits - just as you cut through from Waltons - but I make no promises on this one.
There's been a few waders around this week, although we have very little mud on offer. Lapwings from 1st platform already mentioned, 20 Whimbrel last Sunday (9th) flying north followed by a further 10 an hour or so later. A Common Sandpiper was seen briefly around Loxtons while we've had brief visits from Black Tailed Godwits with 4 on Monday from the 1st platform and 55 seen from the second platform (in flight) on Wednesday along with a single Egyptian Goose. 2 Greylag geese have also been seen on the reserve this week along with the usual Canada Geese with one bunch of 6 adults forming a crèche with 14 youngsters between them.
Black Tailed Godwits - you can check for the Hudsonian Godwit but it's not there!!
Common Terns have also been spotted with 3 last weekend and a further 2 on Thursday swooping low over the Loxtons rafts where they bred last year - they had a real go at the Cormorants and Black Headed Gulls which were perched there.
Common Terns on the attack!
We are starting to see young birds moving around with adults. Mute Swans are the most obvious and this week a pair were seen with 4 cygnets in the canal/main drain which runs through the reserve. Wilst I'm writing about Mute Swans this tagged adult was seen this week with the yellow ZAL ring (via Euring Colour ring recording team). This bird was ringed at Abbotsbury as a female on 04/07/06 it hatched that year but not at Abbotsbury.
Another great sighting this week was that of Water Rail chicks being seen around the base of the Tor View Hide on Friday (15th). Adults have been seen here occasionally in recent weeks so its always worth a quiet approach and a quick look over the side.
Also this week: Lots of action from Great White Egrets - the 1st platform and the Waltons section have been the best places to see them but 3 were seen together from the 2nd platform on Sunday. Great Crested Grebes continue to sit on a nest in front of the 1st platform but they can also be seen easily from the Tor View Hide along with Little Grebe. Barn Owls have also been spotted out hunting in the late evening - 2 different males from the 2 sets of Owl boxes in front of the 1st platform. One's also been spotted on the north of the reserve suggesting that we could have a repeat of last years 3 breeding pairs. There are plenty of warblers in full song around the reserve - the rail path trees the best for this - Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Garden Warbler and Whitethroat all present and in the reedbed Reed Warblers and the occasional Sedge Warbler. Roe Deer was spotted on Friday really close to the Waltons screens and seen by a number of visitors.
That's it for this week! Hope you are having a good weekend!
There have been several stars of this weeks show on the reserve, with great numbers of Hobby, in particular, wowing visitors.
Hobby on the hunt
Hobby grabbing its prey
Time for lunch.
It's been a wonderful sight all week with 15 - 20 birds often on show at one time but occasionally 30 -40 seen - it's quite something. The Waltons section has been the most profitable for those seeking them out.
They are often joined by good numbers of Swift over the same area (similar numbers) and these are frequently joined by Swallows and to a lesser extent Sand Martins and House Martins. A scan towards the back of Loxtons with binoculars could reveal a nice surprise in the dead trees on the far bank. Hobbies have occasionally perched here throughout the week as have Cuckoos, which can be heard on a daily basis.
Hobbys are feeding on the large numbers of insects that are on the wing. They are particularly fond of Dragonflies of which Hairy Dragonfly is certainly present but Broad Bodied chaser could also be about - I may have seen one distantly in the car park but couldn't be certain. There are plenty of damselflies too including: Azure, Blue Tailed & Large Red.
Another Wow moment came on Monday when 6 Bitterns were snapped together by several photographers lucky enough to be there. John Crispin was one of the lucky few and has sent me this shot - thanks John.
It is most likely that it is a female being chased by 5 males (poor girl) and this is a usual occurrence during May for this often thought, shy bird. Nothing shy about these birds however. Thoughts turned to the collective noun for Bitterns and an online search has come up with 3. A Sedge of bitterns, a pretence of bitterns and a siege of bitterns - pick the one you like the best. Saw 5 together myself from the 1st platform at 4pm today. The Ham Wall record is 12 however, so we've got some way to go to beat that!
They are continuing to boom - a pretty frequent one in Loxtons, easily heard from the rail path, was heard on Thursday and there are some flights going on but nothing "significant" yet to suggest a nesting female - but they are not the easiest bird to survey if they don't fly far for food. There could be females feeding within the vicinity of the nests or they could still be incubating leading to low flight counts being recorded.
Common Terns have been seen on several days this week. As many as 4 seen together on Thursday but frequently 3 in a group. It is hoped that we can repeat last years breeding success. They may have to oust the large groups of Cormorants which perch on the raft they used last year and maybe these Black Headed Gulls too. These 2 were seen pair bonding this week. The right hand bird is a submissive female perhaps but she still seems to have a sub adult plumage.
Black Headed Gulls
A Common Sandpiper has been seen around Loxtons too this week but also perched on small rafts in Waltons and even on the mini marshes trail (the little loop at the car park around the pools. Other waders this week include: varying numbers of Whimbrel with as many as 28 spotted on Thursday, Redshank - most days from the 1st platform along with several Lapwing which are looking to breed at this location perhaps. 2 Black Tailed Godwits were also spotted flying over this week.
With warmer days, insect activity increases and that includes butterflies. Several species seen this week including: Small White, Large White, Green Veined White, Orange Tip, Brimstone, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Speckled Wood and Holly Blue.
Also this week: Water Rail seen very close in behind the bench on the way to the Tor View Hide, Lots of Great White Egret activity within Waltons and from the 1st platform, good Marsh Harrier activity too, Kestrel seen from the 1st platform, lots of noisy warblers particularly Blackcaps which seem to be everywhere, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Reed Warbler, a few Sedge Warbler, Whitethroat and Garden Warbler (a particularly obliging one in a willow on the way to the 1st platform) . Several Song Thrush are perched up belting out their repetitive calls and a Mistle Thrush was also reported this week. Other highlights include: a stoat seen last weekend, Roe Deer from the rail bridge, nesting Great Crested Grebes, Kingfishers at Waltons, Greylag Geese and a good range of duck species including Shelduck.
That's it for this week. Sorry for the delayed posting - computer issues in the office of Friday meant I couldn't post it. The joys of modern technology!!