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Recent sightings

  • 22 May 2015

    Recent Sightings at RSPB Ham Wall - 22.05.2015

    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!

    Posted by Stephen Couch

  • 17 May 2015

    Recent Sightings at RSPB Ham Wall - 15.05.2015

    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!

    Posted by Stephen Couch

  • 11 May 2015

    Recent Sightings at RSPB Ham Wall - 08.05.2015

    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.

    Hobby perched.

    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.

    Azure Damselfly

    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

    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.

    Brimstone 

    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!! 

    Posted by Stephen Couch

  • 1 May 2015

    Recent Sightings at RSPB Ham Wall - 01.05.2015

    It's been yet another busy week for visitors on the reserve - helped in some way by the Hudsonian Godwit that's been frequenting our neighbors reserve at Natural England's Shapwick Heath. Many people have made a day of it and got there rarity and then come to visit us.

    There's been plenty to show people but the star of the week has got to be the Hobby. Large groups have been reported by many visitors, particularly over Waltons, frequently in double figures. I counted around 25 myself on both Monday and Thursday but there have been counts of over 50 - Wow! that must be some sight. Many have flown over and in front of the 1st platform giving people much closer views. Their arrival has coincided with the emergence of hundreds of damselflies this week. Red Tailed, Azure and Blue tailed have all been spotted along with Hairy Dragonfly and the first Emperor. Broad Bodied Chaser the most likely candidate for the next species.

    Blue Tailed Damselfly


    The 1st platform has also been a good place to spot Bitterns this week with 2 birds flying together for several minutes yesterday. Not huge amounts of activity seen this week but this could of course be because females are sitting on eggs. Give it another week or 2 and activity should increase once more. There are a couple of lovely sounding boomers on the reserve at the moment - often booming during the day.

    Great White Egrets are also performing well. 6 were seen together on Monday and there were some Little Egrets around too to show the size difference. 5 were seen together on Saturday 25th in the section between the 2 platforms along with 12 Little Egrets. Garganey have also been spotted here, from the Tor View Hide (a pair) and from the 1st platform yesterday (again a pair).

      

    Garganey pair


    Great Crested Grebes are still nesting here in the center and several waders are frequenting the area including Lapwing (daily) and Redshank (most days). This bird snapped by John Crispin on Monday.

    A other waders have been seen this week including Snipe, 4 Dunlin on Sunday along with 2 Greenshank and a couple of Common Sandpipers. These have been seen at several locations including the rafts at both Waltons & Loxtons, between the 2 platforms and from the first platform itself.

    Common Sandpiper

    Whimbrel have also been seen in varying numbers this week anywhere from 1 up to 25 and on most days too. The largest group was encountered yesterday although around 7 did drop into the area in front of the first platform and sit on the islands for a while with Canada Geese for company. We seem to have a fair few Canada Geese around at the moment, although we have had a few Greylags including 2 on Thursday who had an Egyptian goose for company. It's been seen on a few days this week.

     

    Whimbrel


    The annual otter survey (nationally) happened this weekend. By carrying out the survey over 2 days you can tell if you have a fresh spraint over the 24 hours. One fresh spraint was recorded at Ham Wall which means we were paid a visit by otter.

    The annual Water Rail monitoring also occurred this week (slightly later than normal). It's done by playing the males call (known as sharming) and recording replies from other males to work out the number of territories: 33 recorded at Ham Wall.

    Also this week: sightings of both Barn Owl and Tawny Owl, Cuckoos - best places probably the back of Waltons and Loxtons (screen now open), 2 Cranes flying very high on Tuesday, 2 Coomon Terns over Loxtons on Thursday, 2 Wood Warbler along the rail path trees before the 1st platform last Saturday, an increase in the numbers of Garden Warbler & Willow Warbler on last year, the usual abundance of Blackcaps and several Shelduck sightings including 5 last weekend from the 1st platform and 1 on Monday and 2 on Tuesday.

    That's it for this week. Have a great Bank Holiday weekend!

    Posted by Stephen Couch

  • 24 April 2015

    Recent Sightings at RSPB Ham Wall - 24.04.2015

    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!!

    Posted by Stephen Couch

  • 17 April 2015

    Recent Sightings at RSPB Ham Wall - 17.04.2015

    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!

    Posted by Stephen Couch

  • 10 April 2015

    Recent Sightings at RSPB Ham Wall - 10.04.2015

    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.

    Male Garganey


    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. 

    Willow Warbler


    Blackcap


    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. 

    Male Bullfinch


    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!

    Posted by Stephen Couch

  • 1 April 2015

    Recent Sightings RSPB Ham Wall - week 21st - 27th March 2015

    Apologies for the lateness of this blog. Technical issues and being absent from work for a couple of days have really delayed this one! It was written ready for last Friday so concentrates up to that date only......

    Another steady week of activity on the reserve this week as we await the big April rush. Many birds of course are in full song and of particular note this week have been Cetti’s Warblers. These little brown birds have a particularly punchy burst of song – very noticeable around the reserve. In fact many have been seen perching up or chasing each other over the last few days. It’s probably the best time of year to catch a clear sighting as they often perch up singing, being very territorial. Soon leaves will form on trees, territories will be established and it will be back to business as usual with the occasional flash across a channel for a sighting.

    Other Warblers are present too. Chiffchaffs have been seen and heard singing their familiar songs – of course many of these now over winter, so may not have ‘migrated’ a long distance at all. Another overwintering bird (more often in gardens) is the Blackcap and one individual was heard singing from trees along the old rail path just yesterday. Soon these trees will be alive with song and of much interest to bird watchers as Willow Warblers and Garden Warblers join the throng and perhaps the nightingale will return again this year!

    Other spring migrants have been spotted this week with further small groups of Sand Martins passing through but also hangers on from winter such as 2 Redwing spotted in the car park and still a number of Wigeon residing on the reserve.

    Other evidence of the arrival of spring includes a grass snake warming itself in the sunshine (and male adders – the first to wake up on Shapwick Heath), frog spawn maturing well in the car park pools and flowering plants such as Celandine & Daffodils showing some colour. 4 species of butterfly have also been spotted this week: Brimstone and Small tortoiseshell but also a Peacock & Speckled Wood seen chasing each other on Wednesday. Quite a few bumblebees out on the wing too.

    Grey Herons are also very busy nest building within the Waltons reedbed. Some good shots of the action captured by John Crispin this week. There will soon be plenty of noise coming from this area as youngsters squabble and compete for food.

    Great White Egrets are also present on site and being seen on a daily basis and to add to our heron family.........

    ......Bitterns are of course making themselves obvious with plenty of booming around the reserve. A couple of chases of males & females have also been witnessed and a further bird flying from beyond the 1st platform to Waltons with a strong wind behind it – it was really motoring.

    Another spring favourite has got to be the Great Crested Grebe with its elaborate courtship rituals – a pair were seen head bobbing and weed dancing in Waltons this week from the 1st screen but others are further ahead. From the 3rd screen nest building is well underway as is a nest in front of the 1st platform. There are at least 2 other pairs in Waltons too as well as a few more around other parts of the reserve.

    Lapwings have been seen displaying over the area in front of the 2nd platform, while a Redshank has also been heard calling from one area of the reserve.

    I’ve had a few queries about where to see Bearded Tits this week. Again like last week a pair were seen along the edge of Loxtons but have also occasionally been seen from both screens. 3 or 4 other locations were had this week although, as usual, these are usually a little away from the public areas but Loxtons seems to be a fairly regular thing at the moment. Get familiar with the call to give you an early warning and a better chance of a sighting. This female was snapped by John Crispin just last week at Loxtons.

    Also this week: a Curlew was seen circling over Long Drove before flying south, Ravens over most days, 8 Buzzards circling in the morning sunshine on Wednesday – a lovely sight, Great Spotted Woodpecker heard drumming also on Wednesday (part of its mating ritual), a Red Kite passing over Waltons & Loxtons on Weds afternoon – it had been seen earlier at the car park and over Shapwick Heath, 2 Kingfishers hunting together around the back of Waltons, Roe Deer seen in fields surrounding the reserve, good evidence of the presence of Otters on the Otter survey and 2 Firecrests seen up close to the car park. Also from the car park boardwalk this Robin preening itself in the sunshine!

    That covers last week. I'll do my best to get something done as a catch up before the Easter break!

    Posted by Stephen Couch

  • 20 March 2015

    Recent Sightings at RSPB Ham Wall - 20.03.2015

    Spring has most definitely sprung and the evidence is all around. Last weekend saw the arrival of 100's of Sand Martins on the reserve and even during this week small groups c20 can be seen most days. They are not always flying low though so familiarising yourself with their call can help you locate them.

    Bird song has been increasing steadily over recent weeks - those calling of particular note have been a couple of Chiffchaff between the 2 platforms and a Song Thrush near Street Heath although these have been heard in the car park recently too. The car park has been a good place to spot  groups of Goldfinch too and on the boardwalks out Goldcrest and Treecreeper have been seen as well as a beautiful carpet of Snowdrops.

    The ponds here are now home to several clumps of frogs spawn - some quite well developed, and a Red Kite was seen to fly over last weekend along with 2 Redwings spotted in the treeline. 

    Elsewhere on the reserve Grey Herons are still busying themselves in the Waltons reedbed. It's hard to tell exactly how many nests are present at the moment but it's at least 3. Their cousins the Great White Egrets have also been seen posturing and there looks set to be a repeat of the nesting successes of the last 3 years but I guess time will tell.

    They're not the only birds displaying significant behavior. Marsh Harriers too have been seen displaying and food passing in the air - distant from the second platform has offered good views recently. There have also been reports of a Marsh Harrier interacting with a Peregrine this week and a further Peregrine sighting as one flew over the reserve yesterday. 

    Buzzards have also been displaying. Rising on thermals, calling, chasing and interacting all week. The 1st platform the best here, where a Buzzard was also harassed by a Sparrowhawk for a while on Tuesday.

    The second platform has been host to displaying Lapwing this week. They attempted to breed on the high banks/ridges here last year and look set to try again this year. Redshank has also been heard calling in the area this week - another of our breeding waders. Redwings x6 were also spotted from this platform on 2 occasions this week. 

    Bitterns of course are an obvious indicator that breeding season is underway. Last weeks early morning survey across the Avalon Marshes picked up 36 booming males (16 at Ham Wall) and a further bird is booming at Greylake reserve. The figure could increase during the 2nd survey in mid April. Whatever happens it's likely that the Avalon Marshes will again have around a quarter of the UK's population of booming males. The first chase (male chasing female was also picked up this week).

    The warmer weather has meant that certain species are awakening from a winter sleep: frogs, newts and a toad have all been sighted this week along with 3 species of Butterfly seen on the wing - a Peacock looking rather battered, Brimstone and Small Tortoiseshell.

    In the water some ducks are pairing up although we still have several Wigeon on site and teal, Great Crested Grebes have been seen undertaking courtship displays while Coots are aggressively marking their territories with plenty of splashing and noise.

    Also this week: a pair of Ravens flying over calling on Thursday, Smooth newt also seen on Thursday, male Pintail feeding from the 1st platform from time to time, Bearded Tits heard and seen occasionally in Loxtons but also from the 2nd platform last weekend, several Snipe in wetter fields, Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming and Water Rail seen again from the Tor View Hide.  

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

    Posted by Stephen Couch

Your sightings

Grid reference: ST4439 (+2km)

Hudsonian Godwit (1)
3 May 2015
Cetti's Warbler ()
26 May 2015
Cuckoo (1)
21 May 2015
Water Rail ()
14 May 2015
Kingfisher (1)
14 May 2015
Whimbrel (1)
13 May 2015
Gadwall ()
26 May 2015
Pochard ()
26 May 2015
Great Spotted Woodpecker ()
26 May 2015
Goldcrest ()
26 May 2015

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Where is it?

  • Lat/lng: 51.15384,-2.78925
  • Postcode: BA6 9SX
  • Grid reference: ST449397
  • Nearest town: Glastonbury, Somerset
  • County: Somerset
  • Country: England

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