It's been a lovely week out on the reserve this week, with lovely cold, crisp mornings trurning into bright clear days. It's times like this I realise just how lucky I am to work in such a fantastic place. Despite the odd frost, we are still seing a few Butterflies and Dragonflies frerquenting the reserve. Just 1 Migrant Hawker this week but a few Ruddy Darters are still on the wing. In terms of Butterflies there have been several sightings of Peacock and Red Admiral and the odd sighting of Small Tortoiseshell and even a Comma reported.
Red Admiral - Carolin Coward
Once the sun shines through it can be a good opportunity to spot Bitterns from the 1st platform. They sometimes can be seen sunning themselves on the reed edges - so worth having a scan with binoculars. In fact, there have been frequent sightings of Bittern this week, particularly from the 1st platform. Great White Egrets have been seen frequently from both platforms - with this morning no exception. On Wednesday, John Crispin managed to capture some shots of one catching and swallowing an eel from the 1st platform.
Thanks for the photos John!
Another frequent flyer this week has ben the superb looking Male Marsh Harrier. It's looks to be in fantastic condition and is being spotted daily over Waltons and from the 1st platform. On Wdnesday it was being mobbed by a couple of crows, then 3, then 4, then 5 - he gave up at 6 and flew off with the crows still pestering him.
It's been a pretty good week all round for birds of prey, with a Tawny Owl heard calling from some of the reserves woodland on Sunday, a Peregrine seen following a Starling flock on Monday and sightings of Sparowhawk, Kestrel and Buzzard.
Numbers of wildfowl are building slowly. There has been a marked increase for some species over the last month. The WeBS (Wetland Bird Survey) count picked up 66 Shoveler, 28 Tufted Duck and 54 Snipe - noticeable increases on the last count.
Groups of Snipe c25 were seen this morning zipping about in the area in front of the 1st platform, along with several duck species, a group of Cormorants, 2 Pied Wagtails and a Kingfisher perched on the posts (one was also heard around the waltons trail). The other noticeable bird was the large gathering of Black Headed Gulls, either sat on the water or flying and fishing.
Black Headed Gulls Fishing (John Crispin)
The second platform again has the usual array of wildfowl as well as Snipe and Lapwing and as many as 7 Green Sandpipers were seen on Thursday morning. The star of the show was the reappearance of one of the Glossy Ibis, which showed well on Wednesday but has since hidden away again - but there's always a chance!
Also this week: Redpolls on the rail path trees daily, a group of Siskins in the tree line at the back of Waltons on Wednesday, c50 Fieldfare flying over on Monday just before the Starling roost, 2 Stock Doves on both Weds lunchtime and Thursday morning, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Little Grebes in Waltons, vocal Water Rails, a Raven flying over the 1st platform on Wednesday calling, frequent sightings of Stonechat around the new screen at Waltons (it's not finished yet but we are making good progress) and 6 Bearded Tits seen in the smae area on a couple of occasions.
The treeline of the rail path is worth a slow walk down if you have the time. There's always a possibility of birds such as Bullfinch or Treecreeper but equally the "more common" birds: groups of Long Tailed Tits, Goldcrest, Finches, Blue and Great Tit and even the humble Dunnock. Many of these birds, and others, are often overlooked but a closer inspection can reveal lovely markings and colours and even some interesting behaviour.
There has been a large increase in the starling roost over the last week or so. Estimates of around 100,000 dropping into Shapwick Haeth currently and another 15,000 now dropping into Ham Wall from the 1st platform.
The Starling Hotline is up and running 07866 554142 for the last known roost location.
That's it for this week. Have a great weekend!