Ham Wall

Ham Wall

Ham Wall
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Ham Wall

  • Recent sightings at RSPB Ham Wall 12.09.2014

    The lovely "Autumn" weather has continued this week - great wildlife watching weather at a great time of year. There's a huge variety of wildlife on offer and plenty of birds "on the move".  The Osprey looks to have finally left the area late last week. Despite spending most of it's time at Shapwick Heath we did get occasional visits during its 3 week (or so) stay. 

    Lots of other birds are visiting us though on passage. Black Terns x2 have been spotted (again late last week) - a distant shot captured by John Crispin:

    Whinchat x2 and Wheatear have both been sighted over the last fortnight with the new car park field producing both this week. It's also seen Green Sandpiper, Goldcrest, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Sedge Warbler and Song Thrush over the last 7 days with a Hare to add to the list this morning. Contractors however are starting the main bulk of work next week and we should soon have ample space for visitors - particularly Starling watchers over the winter months.

    Swallows are still present locally in good numbers along with a few House Martins and the Sand Martin still appears from time to time, although most have now left. 

    Post breeding is a much quieter time for Bitterns but you do get the odd flurry of activity on occasions with 4 or 5 flights in a matter of minutes (often followed by and hour or so of nothing of course). They still like to pose for the odd picture.

    Work (reed cutting) continues in front of the first platform and we hope to finish this next week. If we do water levels will gradually be raised to knock back any regrowth (although we have left one or two patches of standing reed this season) and should create some nice splashy areas for waders and loafing ducks (and later on Egrets and Bitterns to feed in). The area in front of the 2nd platform is far more interesting at present with some exposed mud.

    Great White Egrets are commonplace here with 3 or 4 seen pretty much every early morning - they are still thereabouts during the daytime too. The 2 or 3 Garganey of the last few weeks seem to have finally left us for the winter but there are increasing numbers of Teal and as many as 7 Wigeon arrived so far for the winter months. Numbers of Mallard and Gadwall in here are good (along with large groups of Canada Geese at times) and numbers of Shoveler are on the up too.

    Although the scrape at Shapwick is attracting the bulk of waders we do have a select mix of our own (often a bit harder to find). If armed with a scope you should pick out Ruff (as many as 5 recorded), c100 Lapwing, Common Sandpiper, Ringed Plover and a few Snipe (up to 8) - 2 of which were feeding, preening and sleeping in the sunshine on Thursday (what a life!). Little Stint and Green Sandpiper have been seen on the reserve this week too. Not bad for a reserve without an official scrape. 

    A snapshot in front of the 2nd platform. Ruff & Lapwing both on show.

    The area has also thrown up Kingfisher, successfully fishing yesterday, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Little Grebe & Little Egret. Lots of other species could pop in, so keep your eyes peeled. 

    The warm weather has meant plenty of insects still busying themselves, with Butterflies still quite active.

    Common Blue, Comma, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Green Veined White, Small White, Speckled Wood & Red Admiral all seen this week.

    Common Blue Butterfly female

    Dragonflies are reducing in number generally although certain species that emerge later than most are quite abundant - Migrant Hawker, Ruddy Darter and Common Darter in particular. Southern Hawkers are also present and I saw an Emperor this morning and this Black Tailed Skimmer female was taken last week. The last couple of weeks has also seen a large drop in the numbers of damselflies - Blue tailed the most likely one to spot but their time is just about done.

    Also this week a Weasel seen by the 1st viewing platform this morning, Barn Owl disturbed from scrub to the left of the reed cutting area at the 1st platform last week and seen in the woods beyond this week, Raven flying over the reserve, Peregrine late last week, several singing Chiffchaff on the reserve but Willow Warbler also seen and on Loxtons Little Grebes feeding young snapped by John Crispin this week.

    That's it for now - have a great weekend!!

  • Recent Sightings at RSPB Ham Wall - 29.08.2014

    Hello all, firstly can I apologise for the lack of blogs lately. I have been away and various other problems have confounded the writing of what is usually a weekly catch up. There's a lot to catch up with but I'll try not to rabbit on for too long.

    It finally feels as though change is underway and that summer will soon turn to autumn. We've had a few downpours but relatively speaking it's been quite warm and settled. This mix of sun and showers recently means the vegetation on the reserve is still growing like the clapper as it has done all season. We are doing our best to keep up with the cutting to keep the place looking presentable and access easy. Of course the more infrastructure we have the long this takes (and we'll have a car park to deal with soon too - work is now starting to get underway again here). We have also begun this years habitat management work within the reedbed. The 1st area being tackled is the islands in front of the 1st viewing platform. In a couple of weeks time this will be completed and then water levels raised once more - to increase interest for wintering birds.

    The area in front of the 2nd platform has also had water levels lowered to reveal some muddy areas. Many birds are taking advantage of this including the Great White Egrets where as many as11 have been seen this week (including the ringed bird). Little Egrets c10 and Grey Herons are also enjoying the area along with a handful of wader species. A Ruff was around on Monday & Tuesday last week, while varying numbers of Green Sandpiper have also been feeding here (up to 4) and a Wood Sandpiper was seen to drop into an area on the north of the reserve last weekend. 5 Black Tailed Godwits were present recently while Lapwings are frequent visitors (up to 160). In the area just beyond this 6 Snipe were recorded recently too. Many waders are currently being attracted to the scrape at Shapwick Heath where pump repairs have enabled our friends at Natural England to expose some nice muddy areas.

    An Osprey is also present, spending much of it's time at Shapwick but the odd appearance over Ham Wall Has been most welcome. 

    The area in front of the 2nd platform also holds interest for several Mute Swans, c10 Canada Geese & a selection of duck including several male Pochard in eclipse - as many as 13 recorded. One or 2 Shoveler are also present along with a few Teal, while 3 Garganey (one male in eclipse and 2 female or juvenile) were of note this week. 

     The Common Terns have still drawn plenty of interest in recent weeks seeing off all comers. A Crow and  Buzzard amongst those given their marching orders - thanks to Robin Morrison for the photo:

    They were still being seen regularly at Shapwick and Ham Wall until last week, having successfully fledged but seemed to disappear around the 18th although 2 were seen again on Tuesday (could be the juveniles). Amazing parenting from these birds even seeing off Peregrines at times.

    Some final feeding shots from our raft and the Loxtons pool from John Crispin & Robin Morrison. Thanks for the photos!

    Loxtons screen is still a pleasant place to sit and watch a while. Great Crested Grebe chicks were still good entertainment in recent weeks. Plenty of flight attempts (and crash landings) and plenty of feeding from parents. Kingfishers are a regular here too. If your quiet there's a good chance they will perch by the hide and fish from the branches overhanging the water. They've given several visitors a real treat lately.

    The place for Great Crested Grebe chicks is now in Waltons from the screens. 3 were riding on parents backs although earlier this week only one was sighted. 

    One possible culprit could of been an Otter which swam across Waltons last weekend sending the parents into a panic, with much flapping and paddling and very anxious looks. The youngsters were left to fend for themselves (they could of course still be present  - further investigation needed).

    With the end of summer approaching birds are on the move. A visible migration of hirundines (Swallows and Martins) is underway with good numbers passing through each day - Swifts too are still evident although in smaller numbers. I even had a juvenile Cuckoo on the 13th August at the back of Waltons. There are still reasonable numbers of Reed & Sedge Warblers on the reserve often feeding at the bases of trees, where water levels are lower. 

    The numbers of Dragonflies is also dropping - a few species can still be seen although some are very worn out such as this Emperor and the Brown Hawker below it.

    Emperor looking very worn.

    Brown Hawker

    Migrant Hawkers are present in good numbers (a much later dragonfly than the others), while other late season dragonflies Common & Ruddy darter can also be seen along with Southern Hawker. Blue Tailed damselfly, Red Eyed Damselfly and a few Common blue damselfly have also been recorded.

    Happily, it's been a better year for butterflies on the reserve. Small Tortoiseshell, Green veined White, Small White, Brimstone and Red Admiral all evident this week and we did have a couple of reports of Silver Washed Fritillary a couple of weeks ago, which was a pleasant surprise. 

    Small Tortoiseshell

    Green Veined White

    Red Admiral

    As mentioned earlier work is starting again on the new car park (to be completed end November). These Roe deer spotted by Robin Morrison a couple of weeks ago will have to find somewhere else to rest up for a while.

    Roe deer buck

    The doe - well hidden in the long grass.

    Other recent highlights include: the odd Hobby still being sighted. Barn Owls still present  and reported hunting during the evenings (between 8 and 10 Owlets from 3 nests this year on Ham Wall), Ravens flying over the reserve, Ringed and Little Ringed Plover both recorded, Spotted Flycatcher and Treecreeper spotted along the rail path trees this week, Water Rails seen from the Tor View hide where we have cut the reeds down, weasel reported this week on the log pile close to the log circle/pond dipping area (stoat also seen recently), Merlin, Peregrine & Sparrowhawk all reported in recent weeks, Marsh Harriers daily and of course Bitterns.

    One thing to clear up before I finish. There was very little talk of the Little Bittern this year. The main reason for this was the uncertainty as to where a nest sight would be. No females were recorded this year despite many hours put in by volunteers - although 4 barking males were. Until we know where a nest is located and that eggs/chicks are safe from disturbance etc it is very difficult to report information and manage the situation correctly. As it happens it is our belief that no breeding took place this year but we had to be sure hence no news until very late on. Apologies if you felt were we being over secretive or coy with information but we try to mange this as sympathetically as we can and the welfare and protection of the animal always comes first. Lets hope next year brings successful breeding back to the Avalon Marshes.

    On a lighter note here's a nice picture of a wren sunning itself on the old rail path to finish - thought it was a nice shot! 

    Have a great weekend!

  • Recent Sightings at RSPB Ham Wall - 25.07.2014

    The relentless heat has made it hard work for staff & volunteers this week and not surprisingly many of the reserves birds have been fairly quiet but throughout the week as a whole there is still plenty to shout about. Bitterns are still around but with nesting finished they are going back to their more secretive ways but given the number we have locally there's always a good chance of an encounter.

    The Marsh Harriers on the reserve are still active but now almost finished with the nest. The great news is that 4 juveniles were spotted at the nest site yesterday. The male bird has been a prolific hunter and on one visit yesterday flew over the nest site and the 4 juveniles came up to meet him to try and get the food package. As they did this he let it go and all four spiralled down with it - one of them grabbing the reward - must of been fantastic to see (for one lucky volunteer anyway). A female Sparrowhawk was also seen in the vicinity yesterday and from the rail path a male Marsh Harrier with a grass Snake - although this never went back to the nest site. Another Grass Snake was seen swimming in the drain from the rail bridge on Weds.

    The Common Terns are still going great guns on the raft in front of the Loxtons screen. 2 well grown youngsters are almost ready to go. They have been seen flexing their wings to build up there flight muscles (pectorals) and have actually lifted off the raft to make very small flights. The last couple of days has seen them taking a bit of a dip in the water too - so it wont be long

    Common Tern adult and juvenile earlier this week.

    Juvenile in a flap!

    In the same area Great Crested Grebe youngsters have also been seen attempting to achieve lift off - getting just of the water on one occasion. At one stage all the birds followed each other flying/running diagonally across the water in front of the screen. It's amazing the behaviour you can witness if you just give it a bit of time.

    Great Crested Grebe juvenile attempting a take off!

    More good news this week for young birds on the reserve came when we revisited the Barn Owl boxes. On JUne 10th 4 owlets were ringed from on box but at 2 other sites chicks were either too small or still at egg stage. Chris Sperring (Hawk & Owl Trust) came in once again to undertake any ringing of birds and of course we need a licence to check the nests anyway. We took a quick look at the ringed birds from before to double check there was no second brood attempt. There wasn't but fully grown youngsters were still using the box - here's a snap of one (you can see the ring on it's leg). Absolutely pristine condition - wonderful!

    Ringed Juvenile

    The second box we visited - previously at egg stage gave us 2 Owlets which were subsequently ringed (see photo) whilst the last box saw juvenile birds on the wing and too big to ring unfortunately. Chris will undertake another quick watch of the box if he has time to establish just how many yopungsters there are. 3 successful pairs is a reserve record.  Many thanks agin to Chris Sperring for giving up his time to help - always a pleasure to have him visit us - such an enthusiastic naturalist.

    Although generally it's a quiet time of year for birds (been lots of reports of departing Swifts, Swallows & Sand Martins at coastal locations) there are still plenty of species to look for: Bullfinch & Treecreeper have been seen along the rail path, groups of Tits & finches also seen, Raven have flown over on a few occasiona and Buzzards are a regular. The second platform is beginning to come back into play, as such. Water has been lowered in here over the last couple of weeks and now some mud is exposed - Green Sandpipers x4 and Lapwing c150 have been taking advantage of this so keep an eye out for other waders popping in - there's been a report of a Black Winged Stilt at Shapwick Heath this week so you never know what might drop in.

    A small group of Black Tailed Godwits has been see on a few occasions, a Kestrel was spied at the northern edge of the reserve - be great to see them back, Tawny Owls heard and up to 6 Great WHite Egrets from the 2nd platform but in any numbers down to 1 on many occasions this week.

    Away from birds there's always plenty to interest someone - Dragonflies are still out in force : Brown Hawker, Southern Hawker, Emperor, Common Darter, Ruddy Darter have all been seen. Damselflies are beginning to fade now although Blue Tailed and Common Blue damselflies can still be seen along with the odd Banded Demoiselle.

    Butterflies are more abundant at the moment - there are still plenty of flowering plants around to interest them. In particular Hemp Agrimony often seen growing along the eges of waterways around the reserve - butterflies are particularly attracted to this. Here's an example below as what to look for:

    Speckled Wood (above), Small White, Green Veined White, Small Tortoiseshell, Comma, Small Skipper, Small Copper, Peacock, Red Admiral, Brimstone, Ringlet, Meadow Brown & Gatekeeper all recorded this week.

    Plenty of other interesting bugs around too (and not all of them bite). Found a large Beetle today and later discovered it was a Musk Beetle - so useful to have a good camera on my phone for such things. I'm going to post it on the Ham Wall Facebook page later if you want to see but may also do a short blog with other interesting mini beats I've snapped over the last couple of weeks very soon. There's a whole new complicated world lurking in the bushes!!

    That's it for this week!!   Enjoy your weekend!!