It's felt like summer for much of the week at the reserve and visitors have been out in their droves enjoying the local reserves and what they have to offer. It's certainly been busy - thank you to those of you who sent me information or photos to include in the blog this week - at least 6 of you. There will be lots of photos this week - I've included most of what was sent me but not all - there were too many!!!
The car park is a good place to start this week. It's actually worth spending a few minutes here and listening to what's calling and flying over - you can tot up a fair few species before even getting to the main reserve. There are a few Song Thrushes singing in the trees with at least one seen carrying nesting material - as always John Crispin was on hand with hard evidence:
A Song thrush was also seen ejecting some fruit - makes an interesting photo - thanks again to John.
The pools here are beginning to come to life. A close examination will enable you to see a range of aquatic mini beasts including a few small fish and tadpoles and the outer edges are beginning to green up nicely and soften the hard edges of the paths and structures - it can only get better. Marsh Frogs are of particular note here and perhaps easier than on the reserve although the Waltons section can be pretty noisy with chorusing frogs during sunny spells. Thanks to Robin Morrison for the photo:
On Tuesday from the car park 12 Swift were seen flying over with a few Swallow and House Martin close by - I'm yet to see my first sighting of Swift - a bird I'm always pleased to welcome back. It's also possible to see a good range of Finches and Tits (some using our nest boxes) from the car park and a few of the numerous Blackcaps that seem to be all over the reserve this year. Finding it hard to track down a Garden Warbler though - there could be one along the rail path between the rail bridge and the 1st platform. There is a particularly showy Whitethroat as you walk down too.
Blackcap: Robin Morrison
The first platform is usually peoples next port of call. Probably you best place for a bittern sighting. There's still plenty of booming but from here there have been multiple birds seen at one time - generally males chasing females. 4 together on Thursday and 2 even flew over the car park as I talked to a group of Cannington College students the same day - a nice easy sighting. Thing should 'hot up' even further as we approach May - the best month for a sighting. It's likely by then females will be making feeding flights and regularly to and fro.
Also from the 1st platform this week: up to 3 Redshank, up to 6 Lapwing and most unusually 8 Jays together on Monday. There's a range of duck including a Garganey and the Great Crested Grebes are present too. They have abandoned the original nest built a second and are now on a third (more central) and were seen carrying weed and building throughout the week.
Across in Waltons may be the best place to see Great White Egrets. They have been busy here feeding all week - good views from the platform or the Tor View Hide.
Great White Egret - Robin Morrison
Grey Herons are also still nesting within the reedbeds here where the noise from the growing army of Reed Warblers is increasing. 1 or 2 Sedge Warblers have also been heard around the reserve and the usually elusive but explosively noisy Cettis Warbler has been a lot more obvious. A couple have been perching nicely near the disabled parking places this week - this wont last much longer if you want a photo opportunity.
Also from the Tor View Hide this week: Little Grebes, a pair of Garganey on Thursday, Water Rail briefly and a Common Tern seen flying but also perching on the wooden rafts by the screens. A Common Sandpiper did the same on Monday. Other waders seen this week include a few Snipe and 6 Green Sandpiper which dropped into the area between the 2 platforms on Sunday. This area is also worth scanning for Garganey where 5 males and 1 female were seen on Wednesday (some were still present yesterday too). A male & female looked to be swimming in tandem to perhaps a potential breeding pair.
Garganey - John Crispin
The second platform offers the usual range of duck including a Wigeon seen yesterday still present along with Canada Geese, Little Egrets, a lovely hunting male Marsh Harrier yesterday and groups of Mute Swan:
Mute Swan - Robin Morrison
Behind the second platform across Loxtons distant Hobby could be seen hunting but some come in closer and have been seen in front of both platforms. We have now opened the path up to the Loxtons screen (not the whole trail) so this may offer better views of Hobby and perhaps Cuckoo which often perch in the dead trees along these banks and also around Waltons. I finally heard my first one this week.
One bird people are constantly trying to track down is the Bearded Tit. There have been a few recent sightings within Loxtons recently but usually they tend to be outside of the public areas - you may have to content yourselves with a couple of pictures taken by John Crispin this week. One flying female and a male with a beak full of flies - ready to feed some youngsters perhaps?
Also this week: a Weasel seen running across the rail path, a Common Lizard near Street Heath, Slow Worms, 2 Grass Snakes swimming in the main drain, Lots of Marsh Harrier activity, a Red Kite seen on both Saturday and Sunday and Kingfisher activity from the rail bridge:
As far as I'm aware no further activity at the car park bank but if you know differently please let me know!
It's been a good start to the season for butterflies: Speckled Wood, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Holly Blue, Small White, Green Veined White, Large White, Brimstone and Orange Tip all seen this week.
There has also been an emergence of the first damselflies - often hard to tell with the new emergence what they are but blue tailed and azure are likely suspects and potentially large red should be present too. Volunteer Mike Tout sent this photo of a Hairy Dragonfly seen on Sunday. Thought to be newly emerged as she was vibrating and pumping up her wings. I didn't see my first until Wednesday though. Thanks for the photo Mike.
Hairy Dragonfly - Mike Tout
I think that had better do for this week. As you can seen there's plenty going on and loads to see so make sure to pay us a visit.
Have a great weekend!!
Things are certainly hotting up on the reserve - in more ways than one. A beautiful week has seen plenty of visitors to the reserve enjoying the sunshine and they have been rewarded with a host of wildlife.
Migrants arriving - some staying and some just passing through - but it's a time to keep your eyes and ears open to what's about. There's been a big influx of Reed Warblers this week and the noise in the reedbeds will gradually increase over the next couple of weeks with the excited chattering of these birds. A few Sedge Warblers have arrived too and many Reed Buntings are perching up and singing. There has been one particularly obliging male on the way up to the Tor View Hide.
Along the rail path there are many Blackcaps in full song and one potential Garden Warbler but I'm not sure I'm tuned in just yet - this is one I have to relearn every year to get the subtle differences between the 2 reinforced in my head (and ears). One or two Whitethroat have also been noted along here but the best place to see them most years is in the bramble and low scrub opposite the 1st platform.
Another notable warbler through this week has been the Grasshopper Warbler - heard from the canal bank path and from both platforms - at least 2 different birds, but most likely just passing through. The old rail path is often a great place to hear and see a variety of birds - as well as the warblers mentioned, there have been reports of Bullfinch, 2 x Treecreepers by Loxtons, Goldcrest, Song Thrush and a variety of Tits & Finches. We also await the possibility of the return of last years Nightingale.
Up at the car park it's worth just standing and watching a while - you'll most likely see a good variety of species in just a few minutes. Of particular note has been kingfishers who have taken an almost immediate like to the bank we have cut away at the end of one of the pools (made with them in mind). 2 birds were seen excavating and investigating holes last weekend so fingers crossed. Please observe any activity from a distance if possible. On the boardwalk out of the car park to Ham Wall Great Tits are nesting in the box on the left and Blue Tits in the box on the right as the photos show:
Also out feeding on seeds:
Back on the water there's plenty of activity too. Great Crested Grebes nesting at a few locations including from the 1st platform and within Waltons. There's a variety of duck too with Teal and just a couple of Wigeon still present, Pochard, Gadwall, Mallard, Shoveler & Tufted Duck present - these were joined by a Shelduck on a couple of occasions this week and of course the summer visitor - the Garganey. Good views again this week from the first platform to the left hand side.
This area has been good this week for Great White Egrets with an amazing 5 together (although briefly) on Wednesday morning and quite a few Little Egrets too throughout the week - obviously a good fishing spot currently.
Bitterns use this area too and there a plenty of booming males to listen too. The early morning surveys this week picked up a minimum of 39 males with around 17 at Ham Wall. There have been a few flights and chases too and there will be an increased likelyhood of a sighting during you visit over next 8 weeks of so. May traditionally being the best month for all sorts of Bittern activity.
Another noisy bird is the Canada Goose plenty about and some pretty boisterous behavior from some close to the Tor View Hide on Tuesday. Greylag Geese are being spotted too but we also had a brief visit (about 5 minutes) from an Egyptian Goose on Monday. Long enough for John Crispin to grab this photo though:
Another sure sound of Spring is the arrival of the Cuckoo and its familiar call. I haven't been lucky enough yet but a few people have seen some - with the 1st heard/seen around Waltons on Weds. Other migrants, such as Swallows are still arriving but not seeing them in large numbers - reports too of a few House Martins this week and the odd Hobby.
It's often a good time to see waders too, although some of our water levels may be just a little high. Lapwing though have been present from the 1st platform with up to 6 seen from this location and Redshank heard calling on at least 3 days this week. A Common Sandpiper was spotted at Loxtons and 35 Black Tailed Godwits dropped into the section between the 2 platforms.
Other great sightings this week include: Marsh Harriers daily including a well marked male, Osprey on Tuesday afternoon, a Whinchat at Tinneys (on the Sharpham road), Wheatear from the 1st platform on Tuesday, Barn Owl, 4 Roe Deer on the north of the reserve, lots of chorusing Marsh Frogs, recent reports of Adder, Slow Worm and Grass Snake and a few sightings of both Jays and Great Spotted Woodpecker.
We have recently put the Tern Raft back out, although they used the old ones in Loxtons last year. It would be great to have them back breeding for a second year. One was seen from the 1st platform on Saturday 11th and photographed by John Crispin:
Plenty of butterflies on the wing this week, with an increase in Orange Tip numbers in particular but also sightings of Speckled Wood, Holly Blue, Peacock, Small White, Small Tortoiseshell & Brimstone. Dragonflies should follow soon with Hairy Dragonfly usually our first sighting.
That's it for this week. Have a great weekend!
It's been a wonderful week at Ham Wall - the sun has been shining making it almost feel like summer and the wildlife is very active. It's a special time of year for wildlife enthusiasts as creatures awaken from winter slumbers and migrants are on the move. Ham Wall has had its share with grass Snake and Adder reported on the reserve this week, Marsh Frogs being seen in the car park pools and heard croaking around the reserve. Common Frogs and their tadpoles have also been spotted.
It's often the migrant birds that capture peoples interest and there has been a series of firsts on the reserve this week as migrants arrive or pass through. Osprey was seen briefly last weekend but didn't stay. Also arriving over the Easter weekend was a male Garganey. This has been seen on several occasions to the left of the Tor View Hide and seems to be its favourite haunt and has since been joined by a second male. One occasionally flies over to the area in front of the 1st platform and yesterday stayed showing really well for over an hour.
The first Willow Warbler was heard towards the end of last week and there are at least 3 at various intervals along the rail path sing well. In fact bird song has increased dramatically over the last couple of weeks, with several Chiffchaff and Blackcap also singing well - particularly along the rail path.
Also of note along the rail path recently has been Goldcrest, Treecreeper, a pair Bullfinch on Thursday morning, plenty of Goldfinch, Blue Tit, Long Tailed Tit and Great Tit too.
The reedbeds are busy places too but will soon be full of noise as Reed Warblers and Sedge Warblers arrive. The first Reed Warbler was heard on Wednesday so keep you ears open. There's also the possibility of Grasshopper Warbler too - it's call sounds a bit like a fishing reel. Of course the most obvious bird in the reedbed currently is the Bittern with its booming call. Several can be heard in the daytime - there's a particularly good one within the Waltons section.
A few flights have been seen of individual birds but for the next few weeks we should be able to see multiple birds in the air chasing each other (usually males chasing females but perhaps males in a dispute). 4 birds flew together from the 1st platform on both Weds and Thurs this week and a couple of flights from 2 birds were also seen so the 1st platform is a good place to start.
A number of Sand Martins passed through around a week ago or so but seems to have quietened down this week. A few Swallows are being seen but mainly in 1's and 2's. The best being a group of 6 seen on Wednesday. One or 2 House Martins have also been reported. We still await our first Hobby, although a couple have been spotted in the county.
The first platform offers a few duck species too. Teal are still present in small numbers and Wigeon have been seen from the 2nd platform this week, also from the 1st platform: Shoveler, Mallard, Pochard, Tufted Duck and Gadwall. A Great Crested Grebe is also sat on a nest in this area although perhaps better views can be had of the nest in Waltons, visible from the rail path and the 3rd screen. Little Grebes are also present and can be heard calling loudly.
Lapwing too are present and have been seen displaying in front of the 1st platform and up to 12 have been seen at any one time from here and the field beyond. Perhaps a nesting attempt will be made out on these islands though. Other waders spotted this week include: Black Tailed Godwit (1), Snipe (c25), Redshank (1)
Also this week: Water Rail from the Tor View Hide but also behind the bench on the path to it, Mistle Thrush in the car park, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Barn Owl sunning itself on the owl box visible from the 1st platform but also seen at 2 locations to the east end of the reserve (Glastonbury end), 2 Cranes flew over the back of Waltons on Tuesday, Grey Herons still nesting in Waltons, Great White Egrets and Marsh Harriers seen daily from both platforms, Weasel on Tuesday around Waltons, Roe Deer from the rail bridge, Peregrine over Loxtons on Saturday and Kingfishers seen around Waltons too.
A busy week, I'm sure you'll agree - let's hope next week tops it!
Have a great weekend!