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Recent sightings

  • 18 July 2014

    Recent Sightings at RSPB Ham Wall - 18.07.2014

    It may not feel like it - having just had the hottest day of the year so far, but there are a few reminders that Autumn will soon be on the way. The majority of our birds have finished their breeding - most notably the Bitterns. No feeding flights from females now but there are still birds moving about frequently throughout the day (7 flights recorded in a few hours just from the 1st platform yesterday). It's worth spending a bit of time at the 1st platform despite the amount of growth which has shot up recently.

    Bitterns occasionally can be seen sunning themselves in the reeds here and one landed directly in front of the platform, close in, this morning. It's also a good place to spot Marsh Harriers - often seen hunting low over the reedbed. There has also been sightings of juveniles (x3) close to the wind pump that can be seen distantly from the platform.

    Another sign of impending Autumn comes with the increase in wader activity, showing that birds are on the move. Common Sandpipers have been seen on a few occasions this week - often on the small rafts in Waltons: 4 were there on Sunday. Green Sandpipers are more prevalent with as many as 7 seen from the 2nd platform this week and 3  within Waltons on Sunday. Lapwings are also frequenting the area by the 2nd platform c50 the max count and 22 Black Tailed Godwits yesterday (c20 from here on Monday too and 13 this morning). The odd Snipe has also been reported.

    We are slowly draining water from this section at the moment so the exposed mud should draw in more waders over the coming weeks.

    We are also taking water from the area in front of the 1st platform in readiness for management work early next month - this should open the area up nicely for a winter bird spectacle.

    Some birds are still busy feeding young - the stars once again are the Common Terns. They continue to be very protective of their youngsters (x2), who are growing well. There's been plenty of preening, wing stretching & flapping and one chick even made a duck move - just like the adults do. The adults do tend to tolerate the nearby Cormorants and ducks but occasionally when taking off to feed will fly at them forcing them to vacate their raft for the water. Some great pictures below from both John Crispin & Robin Morrision taken this week - many thanks to you both:

    Adult in flight

    Wing stretching from a chick - primary feathers beginning to show!

    Adult with fish

    Doesn't look the most comfortable way to be flying but great parenting none the less.

    Another gullet stretching shot - this time of the Great Crested Grebes. There are adults with young in both Waltons and Loxtons and are quite easy to see, This adult caught quite a large fish but kept it all to itself rather than feeding the youngster - perhaps to encourage it to try feeding for itself.

    The warmer days are making it easier to see butterflies - several species spotted on the reserve this week: Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock (probably the most common at present), Red Admiral, Small White, Green Veined White, Speckled Wood, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Ringlet, Small Copper, Small Skipper and Comma all recorded.

    Dragonflies too are still busy although some species have finished for this year now (a couple are just starting too). Emperor, Southern Hawker, Brown Hawker, Common Darter, Ruddy Darter, Black Tailed Skimmer, Scarce Chaser, a late 4 spotted Chaser, Blue Tailed Damselflies (but reducing in number), Common Blue Damselfly, Banded Demoiselle (25-30 seen at the gateway to Tinneys ground on the Sharpham to Walton village road) and Red eyed Damselfly all seen.

    Ruddy darters (pictured below) are just getting started really and look out for Migrant Hawker too - another late one.

    Groups of birds are beginning to gather together a bit now - particularly the tits with mixed groups spotted -  but plenty of long tailed. The rail path is still a good place to take a slow walk - you never know what you might see. Bullfinch, Goldcrest, Treecreepers Great Spotted Woodpeckers and Spotted Flycatchers have all been spotted in the last week. Birds are also dusting themselves off on the trackway too - often finches but yesterday several Wrens were spotted doing this.

    This Song Thrush was also seen out sunning itself: Sunning can help dislodge feather parasites. The excess heat can encourage them to move to other places in the plumage where it may be easier to preen. It's essential for birds to get rid of these parasites which infest their feathers causing problems with flight, insulation and appearance which all impact on their survival.

    Also this week: Otter seen on the middle track at Tinneys, 14 Greylag Geese flying over this morning, a female/juv Garganey seen from the 2nd platform (it had pale lores), Great White Egrets regularly seen but 2 yesterday (One with orange bill, one with black), several Buzards seen flying high often in small groups, 2x Kestrels from the car park on Saturday and Sparrowhawk from 1st platform the same day, occasional Hobby, Jays from the 1st platform & the Sharpham end of the track and juvenile Cuckoo seen along the Ashcott Road - we had one within Loxtons last week too which I omitted to mention in the blog - apologies.

    That's it for this week - have a great weekend!

     

    Posted by Stephen Couch

  • 11 July 2014

    Recent Sightings at RSPB Ham Wall - 11.07.2014

    There's a distinct feeling that everything has just slowed down a little on the reserve the last week or so. That's normal for this time of year - many birds have finished their breeding and are resting up - regaining strength & condition to prepare for the autumn & winter months (a fair way off yet admittedly).

    Bitterns have all but finished breeding but a few flights are still being seen and what could be juvenile birds are often seen popping up out the reeds from the 1st platform. In fact on a couple of the islands, with the lower vegetation, they have been seen out in the open for long periods - nearly 2 hours on Weds and over an hour yesterday. This morning saw one crash land into the reeds and then stand out on the edge - just visible, to give some visitors a treat. A second bird was also seen briefly on the island behind.

    Marsh Harrier (female) was also seen around this time and at one point landed very close to the first Bittern - waiting a couple of minute before flying off again.

    Many of the ducks on the reserve of course are in eclipse, making flying more difficult until their feathers are renewed - also can make identification a little more difficult too.

    Male Mallard in eclipse.

    The 1st platform also turned up some Bearded Tits this morning. They could be heard calling (pinging) more than a dozen times in the reeds with dead stems, just in front and to the right of the platform. Just a couple of brief sightings were had though - they were also there on Wednesday - so could be worth a look.

    Bearded Tits were also heard (but not seen) near the Tor View Hide yesterday - it's not often they venture over this side, so it was nice to hear them. The Tor view Hides has plenty to offer (as well as some shelter from the sun). Water Rails (inc juveniles) can be heard frequently here and are occasionally seen (directly down in front of the screen on the right as you enter). One juvenile was also seen on the track by the hide entrance this week. A mink was nearby but was luckily scared away by a visitor in the hide.

    Otter have also been seen from the hide recently and one swam within Waltons on Saturday - always jealous to hear about an Otter sighting. Also from the hide: Great Cested Grebes & Coots with young, Pochard, Great White Egrets and Marsh Harriers flying over and perhaps more spectacularly - Night Herons (x2) on Tuesday after 9pm. Single birds were also seen on Monday & Weds evenings to add to the 3 seen last week. Another unusual spot this week was a Red Footed Falcon seen once (maybe twice) on Tuesday from the 1st platform.

    Common Terns pass over Waltons ocasionally but are mainly concentrating on the areas around Loxtons close to their nest on the raft (in front of the Loxtons screen). The 2 chicks are still present and the parents are still chasing anything and everything away (including a 3rd adult Tern). Marsh Harriers, Crows, a Sparrowhawk and Lesser Black Backed Gulls have all felt the wrath of the parents for coming too close - with behaviour like this these chicks have a really good chance of survival.

    Common Tern sees off a Lesser Black Back Gull

    From the 2nd platform, you should see some changes soon. We are starting to draw water down slowly here and some fringes of mud are showing. Little Egrets and Great White Egrets were feeding here today along with a Green Sandpiper. These have also been seen eslewhere on the reserve this week (x3). In the drier area more distant from the 1st platform (left of the central wood) groups of Lapwing are still feeding with upwards of 40 seen along with the odd Redshank & Snipe - you may see them if they get disturbed. Starlings are also amongst them and a very small nightly roost already exists on Ham Wall of an evening - a gentle nudge,as a reminder of what's to come.

    The evenings also bring the chance of Barn Owls - although this could be late evening given the good weather. The boxes will be checked for the second time on July 22nd - with hopefully some good news to report and owlets to ring.

    Elsewhere: Spotted Flycatcher seen near the car park and along the rail path (between the 2 platforms), Bullfinches along the 1st stretch of rail path down to the 1st platform, Treecreepers towards the other end of the rail path where a Nightingale also sang on Saturday (beyond the 2nd platform) and the same day a Mistle Thrush flew over Waltons. Hobbies were active from the 1st platform earlier in the week and seen over Loxtons on Thursday, a Sparowhawk flew over the rail path on Wednesday too. Lots of juveile birds to be seen around the reserve like this Reed Warbler:

    Insect life is still good on the reserve and in particular it's been a good week for Butterflies: Red Admiral, White Admiral, Peacock, Green Veined White, Meadow Brown, Speckled Wod, Ringlet, Comma, Small Tortoiseshell and Gatekeeper all seen this week. Silver Washed Fritillary & Purple Hairstreak also reported from areas of Shapwick Heath.

    Gatekeeper

    Dragonflies are also very evident with: 4 Spotted Chaser, Banded Demoiselle, Common Blue Damselfly, Blue Tailed Damselfly, Common Darter, Black Tailed Skimmer, Scarce Chaser, Emperor, Brown Hawker & Southern Hawker all seen this week.

    I managed to get quite a nice shot myself with my camera phone of a female Emperor close up. She had caught a Black Tailed Skimmer and was so busy devouring it, she barely noticed me.

    Female Emperor

    That's it for another week!  Have a great weekend!

     

    Posted by Stephen Couch

  • 4 July 2014

    Recent Sightings at RSPB Ham Wall - 04.07.2014

    After the flurry of activity over the last few weeks with breeding birds frantically feeding young, it finally appears things are beginning to slow down a little. The reserve has been a little quieter over the last couple of days - this doesn't of course mean there's nothing to see - that's rarely the case at Ham Wall.

    There are still a couple of active Bittern nests - the first platform still a good place to wait. A Bittern was seen roaming one of the islands on Wednesday but with the explosion of growth around the reserve lately, all you could see was its head popping up occasionally (the same with a Grey Heron today but a Bittern did fly in and crash into the reeds). We aim to start cutting the growth here in about a month to get it nice and open for the winter months so there'll be plenty to see. Booming has pretty much stopped now - don't remember hearing one this week and birds in general are a little quiter. Some Reed Warblers can be heard chattering away still - this could indicate they are into a second brood, while there have been very few Cuckoos heard this week - although there have been a few sightings.

    One bird that is breeding a little late is the Common Tern. The pair on the Loxtons raft (visible from the Loxtons screen) finally hatched their 1st chick on Tueday. We immeadiately sprung into action and with hard hats and goggles on for our own protection from these fiesty birds we rowed out to place heavy ridge tiles on the raft as a refuge from predators for the chicks. I say chicks as there are now 2 on the raft. This is a first for the reserve so we are very pleased.

    One of the chicks with its parent

    The terns are very protective of the nest site and have been seen chasing all sorts off - most notably Marsh Harriers. A female across Waltons today & 2 different Males across Loxtons yesterday. The female spent a long time hunting over Waltons today despite the attention of the terns and showed well from the Tor View Hide.

    The hide also offered Water Rail with young very close by - heard but not seen unfortunately, Bitterns, Great White Egrets and Great Crested Grebes with young (also visible from the screens along with young Coots and Moorhens). In fact there are plenty of young birds to see currently including this Kingfisher snapped by John Crispin in Loxtons this week.

    Most notable features to suggest that it's a juvenile are: the white tip to its bill, brownish feet as opposed to the red of the adult and the slightly duller colour to its plumage. Kingfishers can also be seen in Waltons and from the rail bridge quite regularly.

    While the Common Tern chicks were hatching, it was around this time that the Spotted Flycatcher youngsters were readying themselves to fledge from their nest in trees on the rail path (adjacent to Loxtons). John Crispin managed to grab these shots this week of the adult and of youngsters in the nest - lovely.

    Adult Spotted Flycatcher

    Youngsters in the nest

    Another shot of the nest

    The rail path is often a good source of small birds - with all the "more common" species seen along here but also Treecreepers (including near the new car park field) and Bullfinches (often between the Car Park and the 1st platform). Also had Bullfinches in the current car park this morning. In the winter months look out for Redpolls & Siskins along here. The rail path threw up a nice surprise yesterday evening with 3 Tawny Owl chicks (one seen) calling for food (the 2nd time in as many weeks this has happened)

    Barn Owls are still being seen regularly hunting and carrying food back to 3 known nest sites on the reserve - another record for us. Owlets in one nest have been ringed but the other 2 were some way behind. Chris Sperring from the Hawk & Owl Trust should be back in to ring the rest in a couple of weeks.

    It's been a good year for dragonflies it seems with still plenty on the wing including the big hawkers: Brown Hawker, Southern Hawker, Emperor, Black Tailed Skimmer, Scarce Chaser, Common Darter, Broad Bodied Chaser and 4 spotted Chaser all seen this week along with Blue Tailed Damselfly, Common Blue Damselfly and Banded demoiselle.

    Female Black Tailed Skimmer

    Butterflies are also in evidence with Large White, Green Veined White, Specked Wood, Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral and Comma all seen this week. Also look out for the hoards of hungry caterpillars on nettles - these are either Peacock or Small Tortoiseshell caterpillars (peacock being black and spiky).

    Also this week: quite remarkably 3 Night Heron seen over the 1st platform Thursday night (going towards Street Heath area) to add to the one of last week, Raven from 1st platform on Wednesday, Sparrowhawk from 2nd platform, beyond 2nd platform and just to right (our composting area) Green Sandpiper and Grey Wagtail seen, Whilst beyond areas in fron of 1st platform c80 Lapwing, 4 Redshank and 2 Snipe (and several Pied Wagtails in an area of exposed mud, Marsh Frogs from the screens and Bearded Tits heard from the 1st platform (and seen by guided walk members on the north of the reserve last weekend.

    Another highlight was a Grass Snake resting on the culvert pipe which passes under the crossing to Waltons from the rail path - unfortunately it didn't stay long!

    Have a great weekend everyone!

    Posted by Stephen Couch

  • 20 June 2014

    Recent Sightings at RSPB Ham Wall - 20.06.2014

    Another very hot week on the reserve. It's hard going out there undertaking work on the reserve and must be too for wildlife busy nurturing and feeding youngsters during this time. I'm not going to complain too much given the weather conditions we were experiencing  in the early part of the year - I've no wish to return there anytime soon. When the suns at its height there does seem to be a lull in activity from birds (and who can blame them) but soon enough the need to feed themselves or young is sufficient to bring some movement.

    Bitterns are still a fairly easy spot. Several females are flying to and from nests. The area in front of the 1st platform is as good as any for a sighting. It's also been a top pace for Great White Egret sightings this week too with birds spending long periods in here fishing.

    Many birds of course have fledged - large gangs of Long Tailed Tits flew by the first platform on Thursday and juvenile Reed Warblers can be seen. An adult Reed Warbler was seen carrying nesting material this week - probably on course for its second brood.

    Other juveniles seen this week include Bearded Tits - not in public areas I'm afraid, although pinging was heard on a few occasions this week from the 1st platform and a couple of brief flashes of birds flying across channels. John Crispin did manage these shots from the north of the reserve this week.

    Juvenile Bearded Tit

    This is a juvenile male. Its bill is orange (the female's is dark) and he also has dark/black lores (where the bill meets the face) which is absent in the female. Great to know they've had success (and are likely on a second brood too).

    There are plenty of other juvenile birds to enjoy - even if you can't see these. In both Waltons and in Loxtons in front of the screen Great Crested Grebes are present swimming around with youngsters and fetching them occasional titbits.

    Feeding time for a young Great Crested Grebe.

    ...and now for the close up. Great colouration on these young birds - soon to be even more striking adults.

    Loxtons screen also offers the Common Terns. There's a pair here, with the female seemingly sat on eggs and the male bird chasing off just about anything that comes near. This was evident on Thursday when a Marsh Harrier passed over. On this occasion both birds saw it off. Hopefully, we'll have some youngsters here too. This as a nest site was a bit unexpected so they might need a bit of help. Once they hatch (if they do) we may need to very quickly nip out and place some heavy ridge tiles on the raft for youngsters to hide under from predators (particularly Gulls and Crows) to give them the best chance.

    There are plenty of broods of duck on the reserve - Pochard in front of the second platform and broods of Mallard at a few locations. Plenty of Mute Swans too with cygnets and groups of Canada Geese with young - almost like creches (6 adults and around14 young in one group). Of course they are several young Moorhen and Coot (see photo) around too).

      

    Continuing with the juvenile theme - here's a young Little Grebe photographed this week. (these can be seen and heard in Loxtons and Waltons at present).

    Top sightings for the week, if that's not enough already, would be Purple Heron seen on both Tuesday & Wednesday this week. Tuesday in front of the 1st platform (briefly), this sighting was confimed the next morning with several people seeing over Waltons, then perching up before dropping in the section behind). It was belived to be a first summer bird.

    Red Kites have been seen every day this week - quite unusual for us to have them quite so frequently. In fact 2 were seen together on Tuesday from the 1st platform - other days a bit more distantly from the same location.

    Peregrine put in a brief appearance on Thursday having a bit of an altercation with a Buzzard - the Peregrine actually turned over in flight to threaten the Buzzard. Still with birds of prey Barn Owls continue to hunt to feed young in the boxes, often in the light evenings( - keep an eye out from the 1st platform in particular) and Hobbies seen daily (not in huge numbers) - the back of Loxtons a favourite haunt.

    There's plenty of Dragonflies for them to hunt: 4 spotted Chaser, Emperor, Scarce Chaser, Black Tailed Skimmer, Broad Bodied Chaser, Common Darter, Brown Hawker & Southern Hawker all seen this week along with several species of damselfly, including the Banded Demoiselle seen from the bridge from the 1st platform to Waltons screens.

    Also this week: Painted Lady Butterfly, very noisy Marsh Frogs, Fox in reserves woodland along with Roe Deer, Slow Worm under reptile sheets, c35 Lapwing on site this morning, Treecreeper heard by the metal entrance gate, Kingfisher from the old rail bridge and in Waltons by the screens (most days) and several Scarlet Tiger moths around the reserve (see photo).

    That's it for this week - have a great weekend

     

    Posted by Stephen Couch

  • 15 June 2014

    Recent Sightings at RSPB Ham Wall - 13.06.2014

    An absolute scorcher on the reserve this week. It must be a little harder for some of our species battling to feed hungry youngsters in such hot conditions -perhaps evenings and early mornings will offer more success for visitors. Some of the reserves inhabitants seem to thrive in these conditions. There is a bounty of insect life on the reserve and hunting many of these smaller flying creatures are the dragonflies. Several species are on the wing at present. There seems to have been an emergence of Emperor Dragonflies this week. Several were seen today - some seen taking flies in mid air and some in territorial disputes. They are our biggest dragonfly and can often be seen patrolling their territories - they will come quite close to you.

    4 Spotted Chasers, as usual, are everywhere but particularly around Waltons and Loxtons (there are thousands here). Also seen today were Southern Hawker, Broad Bodied Chaser, Hairy Dragonfly and Common Darter.One I didn't get today was Scarce Chaser (it lives up to its name), luckily John Crispin snapped this male yesterday.

    Scarce Chaser (male)

    As well as Dragonflies, damselflies are out in full force too. Azure are still about in good numbers and there's been a big increase in Common blue damselfly this week. Also about are Red Eyed Damselfly, Banded Demoiselle and of course our most abundant damselfly on the reserve - the Blue Tailed. Many of these are paired up, both flying and settling on vegetation coupled up as pictured below!

    Blue Tailed Damselflies!

    On the bird front, Bitterns are still very active. Males continue to boom, there are still occasional chases involving 2 or more birds and many females are undertaking feeding flights to and from their nests (with of course no help from the males).

    There is one very protective male on site at the moment is the Common Tern. They now seem to be occupying the old floating rafts at the back of Loxtons, overlooked by the screen. They've been showing classic behaviour regarding security of the nest site: chasing crows, evicting ducks trying to use the raft and when a Marsh Harrier flew by both birds went up to keep an eye on the master of the marsh.

    Common Terns

    There are 3 Terns, but when the third bird came in he was sent on its way by the resident standing bird.

    Common Terns

    The usual group of Cormorants are confined to the other raft but there are also Great Crested Grebes present and this is one of the best areas to see Hobby on the reserve.

    Great Crested Grebes are also present within Waltons with 2 pairs present with young One pair with 3 young and another with 2. When they are smaller the youngsters will often hitch a rid on the parents back as pictured below. 

    Youngster hitching a ride - Great Crested Grebes!

    Things are fairly quiet from the 2nd platform at present: plenty of Mute Swans, Great White Egrets pop in to feed occasionally and a fair selection of duck are resent. One female Pochard is present with 2 young. To see the young dive is both interesting and comical, as when they surface they invariably preen and become quite unstable.

    The best news of the week came with us checking our Barn Owl boxes. The increase in activity recently had led us to believe they were feeding young. Well, the good news is we have 3 pairs. 2 of these are at the egg stage (one with an owlet just a couple of days old). The last box we checked however had 4 plump youngsters which were subsequently ringed Chris Sperring from the Hawk and Owl Trust. There are some photos of this on our Facebook page. £ pairs is a record for us - lets hope this good weather continues and makes it our best year ever - they need it after the last couple of years!

    Also this week: 25 Greylag Geese flew over Waltons on Monday, 35+ Black Tailed Godwits (these would be visible from the location of the new hide which is being built this autumn behind the central wood), 3 or 4 Lapwing in the same area, Treecreeper and Bullfinch both seen along the rail path, plenty of Cuckoos seen and heard every day including 2 in a chase on Monday, Sparrowhawk from the 2nd platform on Friday, Song Thrush in woodland at the beginning of the footpath walk (other side of the drain to rail path), Grey Herons still dropping into the Waltons reedbed feeding young and Roe Deer seen around Waltons during the week.

    That's it for this week - apologies for the slightly later posting than usual - Happy Fathers day!

    Posted by Stephen Couch

  • 6 June 2014

    Recent Sightings at RSPB Ham Wall - 06.06.2014

     

    A fairly similar week to last week - this of course means plenty of wildlife on offer.

    Bitterns continue to make themselves quite obvious and there's always a good chance of a sighting or two every day. There are still sightings of multiple birds at the same time with several birds seen chasing each other this week - with 3 seen together flying across Waltons on Thursday. The occasional boomer can also be heard.

    Marsh Harriers too are active and seen daily. Good views of a male this afternoon directly in front of the 1st viewing platform but females also seen on a daily basis.

    Another star of the week has been the Barn Owl or Owls. Yet again this afternoon, as with other afternoons this week one was flying in front of the 1st viewing platform. They can also be seen sitting outside the box oppostite in the wood but have also used a kestrel box nearby and another barn owl box in the large oaks opposite. Hopefully, all will become clear on Tuesday when Chriss Sperring visits us to inspect the boxes and ring any owlets (if they are big enough). There has also been Barn Owl activity in the north of the site. Tawny Owls are often heard from within the reserves wooded areas too!

    Insect life has again been impressive - particularly the dragonflies. The Waltons (Giving Nature a Home) Trail has been alive once again with thousands of 4 spotted chasers. On cooler mornings many can be seen resting up on the reedsin groups. Hairy Dragonflies are also on the wing along with Broad Bodied Chasers and Black Tailed Skimmers (female pictured below). 

    Black Tailed Skimmer (female)

    Several Emperors too have been seen this week - some newly emerged and only just ready to fly.

    Emperor (immature) - Giles Morris

    Of course, they spend long periods as Larvae - veracious predators in the underwater world but climb up stems of vegetation to emerge leaving the exoskeleton or exuvia behind (pictured below). I've never witnessed the event myself - merely found the evidence afterwards. Must be an interesting process to watch.

    Exuvia - Emperor

    The dragonflies will be hunting their prey - smaller invertebrates, which includes damselflies. There are several on the wing at the moment including: Blue Tailed, Azure, Red Eyed, Large Red, Variable and Common. Banded Demoiselles can also be seen. All of the above are fair game for Hobbies hunting the reed beds. Waltons and in particular Loxtons (close to the screen) seem to be prime places - this again may be linked to the numbers of 4 Spotted Chasers. As many as 8 were seen there last weekend.

    Waltons and to a lesser extent Loxtons are also the best places to see the Common Terns - still present but not nesting as far as we can tell. There have been as many as four but at least 3 were there today on the floating pallets in Waltons. Great Crested Grebes are also there with 3 young and the odd call from Little grebe can be heard too. The oddity of the week would be the Wood Duck seen on the raft in front of the 3rd screen on Monday - not seen since but was picked up last week too, so could still be around somewhere. It's likely to be an escape from somebodies collection but was a handsome bird nevertheless.

    It seems that the Waltons and Loxtons areas are also the hotspots for Cuckoos although they can be seen from either platform too. 2 chased each other up to the central wood on Tuesday.  

    The rail path trees continues to offer a good selection of birds. Highlights would be the impressive number of Blackcaps, accompanied by Garden Warber, Chiffchaff, occasional Willow Warbler (although disappointingly low), Goldfinches (good numbers) and a couple of very vocal Song Thrushes. The highlights in this area: Bullfinches on the first stretch before the 1st platform, a Treecreeper close to Loxtons and a pair of Spotted Flycatchers by the second boardwalk that will eventually lead to the new car park.

    Butterflies don't seem particularly abundant at the moment but there's a fair selection of species being seen recently including: Small Tortoiseshell, Brimstone, Small Copper, Common Blue, Peacock, Green Veined White, Speckled Wood and most interestingly Painted Lady. There are reports of Meadow Brown on the wing but not seen any myself yet - worth looking out for the first ones.

    Elsewhere we've had numerous Great White Egret sightings, Rabbit and Stoat on the rail path, Roe Deer feeding on grassy paths, Lapwing flying over (and a serous lack of other waders),  Good numbers of House Martins seen feeding low over the water on a few occasions this week, good numbers of Swift, Kingfishers - Waltons probably the best spot and plenty of Reed Bunting, Cettis Warbers and Reed Warblers in the reed beds. Juvenile Bearded Tits were seen out on the non-access part of the reserve this week so there's plenty of opportunity to see fledging birds over the coming weeks. These young reed warblers is an old shot taken at Greylake some years ago but thought it was worth posting.

    Juvenile Reed Warblers

    That's it for this week - Have a great weekend!

     

    Posted by Stephen Couch

  • 30 May 2014

    Common Terns at Ham Wall

    2 Common Terns have been present at Ham Wall for about 10 days now. Bonding between the two birds has been witnessed, passing of fish, sky pointing and mating. The most annoying thing is that all this is happening on the floating pallets in Waltons (which have no shingle)  rather than the purpose built tern raft just yards away. Fingers crossed they may still use it.

    The other side of these birds behaviour has also been witnessed. They are quite boistrous birds and have had altercations with several other species including Black Headed Gulls, Grey Heron and Mallards - winning the argument on each occassion. In the case of the Mallard the tern ran full pelt at the duck and chest bumped him of the pallet to the amusement of those who saw it.

    Whatever the out come, these birds are always a pleasure to watch. We'll get them breeding in the end I'm sure. Here's some pics that John Crispin took this week:

    Great photos - thanks John!

    Posted by Stephen Couch

  • 24 May 2014

    Recent Sightings at RSPB Ham Wall 23.05.2014

    Another interesting week on the reserve. It seems that there are a birds arriving a little later than expected with Common Tern and Osprey both seen on Monday. In fact the former mobbed the latter along with a crow as it passed over. It seems that the Common Tern was not one to stand for any nonsense as it proceeded to pester both Black Headed Gulls and a few ducks that dared to perch on one of the pallets floating in Waltons - its preferred perch. Unfortunately it has not yet shown much interest in the tern raft we have set up nearby. It has prched on top of the Tor View Hide however and made frequent flights over Waltons offering good views.

    The Tor View Hide has proved to be a good place for views of Bittern this week, with one individual making regular flights on Thursday. The first platform also was extremely productive with 2 birds in a dispute both coming to settle in the tops of reeds and perch for a couple of minutes. The hide and the east side of Waltons in particular has also been a very productive place to see Great White Egret. It seems a couple of individuals see this as a preferred feeding place. Thanks to Robin Morrison for the photo below.

    Waltons is also a great place to see Kingfisher, Great Crested Grebes and Pochard. With breeding season in full swing, many young birds are being seen around the reserve. Juvenile Bearded Tits are of particular note, although these were seen on the non-access side of the reserve. They have however been heard from the Tor View Hide within the last week. Broods of Mallard have also been seen around the reserve as well as a brood of 8 Canada Geese in Garleys (just past Street Heath (the section beyond Loxtons). This group of Mute Swans was snapped by John Crispin this week.

    Mute Swan Family

    Smaller birds are busy feeding young and a wide range of birds can be heard calling from reed beds and along the tree lines on the reserve - the rail path is always a firm favourite and the best bet for a wide selection. Blackcaps are abundant, while Chiffchaff are easily located. Garden Warbler and Willow Warbler are present but just take a little more work. Along with the usual tits and finches come Goldcrest, Treecreeper and Bullfinch - all seen this week with the latter often seen on the first part of the rail path.

    The reedbeds bring an abundance of Reed Warbler, but also Cettis Warbler - with their loud piercing call always a giveaway and Reed Bunting. Thickets of bramble around the edges are home to a number of Whitethroats (pictured below), which often sing whilst in flight.

    Whitethroat

    Other favourites this time of year are of course Hobbies. They are seen daily, but 6 were seen together over Street Heath on Wednesday and later the same day 5 over Waltons. Of course on of their favourite snacks is the dragonfly. Hairy dragonflies are still present along with broad bodied chaser and the very large number of 4 spotted chasers. In fact, a walk around Waltons - particularly the back path, is quite an awesome sight. A walk of Waltons will probably bring you a few thousand individuals. During one such walk on Thursday I had a very close encounter with an Adder. I was close to treading on it and it wasn't too pleased with me as I tried to take a picture. I got a shot of its tail as it hissed and slithered into the undergrowth . Another great sighting this week was that of a Scarce Chaser (quite rare for us as its name suggests). There's a photo of it on our Facebook page that our reserve assistant James Edwards managed to take. Damselflies too are present and a close inspection along the edges of paths brings to light the large numbers that live on the reserve. Most abundant are Azure & Blue Tailed damselfly but you may also record Red Eyed, Variable and Common (just emerging about now) damselfly and the very wonderful Banded Demoiselle.

    Also this week: Wonderful views of Barn Owl hunting across the reserve and owls known to be present in boxes in 2 different areas of the reserve. Tawny Owls have also been heard on the reserve this week, an unconfirmed report of a Turtle Dove flying over  the reporter seemed convinced (I just missed the bird myself), sightings of Lapwing, Common Sandpiper (on Waltons raft), 40 Sand Martins flying around Garleys, Swift daily over the reserve, good Marsh Harrier activity, plenty of singing Song Thrushes and a nice selection of butterflies including Small Copper (pictured).

    Small Copper

    That's it for now. Enjoy the rest of you Bank Holiday Weekend!

     

    Posted by Stephen Couch

  • 18 May 2014

    Recent Sightings at RSPB Ham Wall - 16.05.2014

    We've been blessed with a wonderful few days on the reserve this week and the reserve is full of life. The Bitterns particularly have sprung into action, with a big increase on sightings over the last 10 days or so.  There have been several reports of 2 or more birds chasing each other, often calling and John Crispin photographed this during the week. This behaviour is likely to be one or more males chasing a female but could be 2 male birds in a dispute. On Tuesday I had 2 myself from the second viewing platform and these were then joined by 2 more. At the same time 3 Marsh Harriers were also present with 2 displaying and a Great White Egret flew by. This kind of sight was something we could only dream of just 6 years ago. Something we should do well to remember. The same day 2 birds were seen fighting in Waltons.

    Waltons is still home to busy Grey Herons, who continue to feed some noisy youngsters - watch their flights from the Tor View Hide. Great White Egrets & Little Egrets also feed here regularly.

    Grey Herons in Waltons - thanks to Robin Morrison for the photo.

    The Waltons perimeter is also a good place to look for Cuckoo. You can here them calling and are probably on the lookout for Reed Warbler nests where they can lay their eggs - they need to get the timing just right.

    There are plenty of Warblers all over the reserve at present. The Reedbeds are full of chattering Reed Warblers, a growing (although small) number of Sedge Warblers and plenty of loud and belting Cettis Warblers. The treelines - particularly the rail path, are packed with Blackcaps, plenty of Garden Warblers, Cettis Warblers and to a lesser extent Willow Warbler, while bramble thickets are a good place to look for Whitethroats.

    The rail path trees have also been home to Spotted Flycatchers, Treecreepers, Bullfinches and Goldcrests this week along with all the usual suspects.

    Lots of the more common birds get overlooked but they can display some interesting behaviour. On Friday I was watching a Cormorant circling very high on thermals with gulls for long periods. It's always worth keeping your eyes on the skies. A very distant and high Red Kite was picked out on Thursday and there's always a chance of Cranes passing over. I saw 2 myself on Wednesday, although this was at Steart Marshes where staff & volunteers were helping the WWT to plant some aquatic plants on their new site.

    Couldn't resist including the following photo of another 'common bird'. Thanks to Robin Morrison again for this one of a Mute Swan landing on water. There is still a female present sat on her nest on the way to Tor View Hide - be interesting to see how this develops.

    Mute Swan - crash landing

    Other highlights this week include: several appearances by Barn Owl sitting outside the box opposite the 1st viewing platform as well as a couple of sightings of it hunting at dusk, Tawny Owls also seen and heard this week, a Hare seen on the rail path near the new car park field, a Goldeneye seen flying over on Thursday - later seen at Shapwick Heath and a Fox and cub seen in one of our Woodlands. It's been quiet for waders recently but we have seen Redshank, Lapwing, Snipe, Common Sandpiper and a small group of Whimbrel this week. Black Tailed Godwits and Dunlin have also been seen at Shapwick.

    Swift are still being seen and both platforms have several duck species on offer, as well as Little Grebe, displaying Great Crested Grebe and these rather good looking Canada Geese, photographed by Robin Morrison.

    Canada Goose & 4 goslings

    One of the most noticeable features of the reserve this week has been the number of insects - great feeding for several of our bird species, but also for hunting Dragonfly and Damselfly. Several species are on the wing at the moment. Hary Dragonfly, Broad Bodied Chaser and 4 Spotted Chaser all seen this week. In terms of damselflies there are hundreds of Azure and Blue tailed damselfly and a closer look reveals several Variable Damselfly. On floating vegetation there's a good chance of Red Eyed Damselfly (pictured) but you could also see Large Red and Banded Demoiselle. These species will be joined by more as the season goes on and should provide good fodder for the number of Hobbies seen passing overhead.

    That's it for now - enjoy the weather

     

    Posted by Stephen Couch

Your sightings

Grid reference: ST4439 (+2km)

Common Sandpiper ()
13 Jul 2014
Black Tern (1)
13 Jul 2014
Kingfisher (2)
10 Jul 2014
Water Rail ()
9 Jul 2014
Cetti's Warbler ()
8 Jul 2014

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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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