The main talking point this week has been - not surprisingly - the Starlings. Numbers are beginning to swell and the latest "guesstimates" seem to be in the region of as many as 750,000. There has been a smaller roost on Shapwick Heath but the main bulk of the birds seems to be at Ham Wall at the moment - this of course is subject to change as more experienced Starling watchers will tell you. There is a huge area for the birds to choose from in the Avalon Marshes but there are good sightings to be had at the moment. They have been roosting in Waltons and towards the far end of Ham Wall but I'm told that there was a change last night and the majority were next to Waltons and behind Loxtons. The second viewing platform the best bet (but look behind you - not in front).
Robin Morrison sent me these stunning pictures on Monday but they have since become a bit of an internet sensation on Twitter and Facebook - with thousands of viewings, shares and likes (for those of you who know about this sort of thing) - Well done Robin and thank you!
The shots were taken over the Waltons section on Sunday. During the roost on both Saturday & Sunday a Peregrine was present but arrived after all the birds had landed - so did not disturb the roost. Often the presence of a bird of prey as the birds come in can cause the great displays of swirling we all want to see. Remember to call the Starling Hotline for the last known location of the roost to help you plan your visit
STARLING HOTLINE: 07866 554142
There are of course plenty of other birds & wildlife to see while you wait for the roost. Great White Egrets are seen daily from both platforms, spending long periods feeding in the open. While Bitterns still make occasional flights. Perhaps the 1st platform being the best vantage point with its wide vista.
Marsh Harriers too are a common sight these days. On Wednesday 2 birds were seen - the 1st being a young male who had evidence of plumage showing - particularly the grey tail. The 2nd was a female which was showing much yellowing of feathers on the leading edge of her wings and on the coverts.
Another reedbed favourite is of course, then Bearded Tit. Notoriously hard to see here at Ham Wall though as in many other places. They have been seen & heard this week however in public areas. Last weekend they were heard within Waltons from the rail path and on the north of the reserve in 2 locations. Even better though 4 (2 male, 1 female & 1 juvenile) were seen from the Tor View Hide on Wednesday.
Note this bird is showing immature plumage.
The Tor View hide has been a great place recently to see Water Rails and this week was no exception. On Thursday morning 2 individuals were out feeding in the open with a third bird standing out on the path. If you want to have a chance of seeing these shy birds you will need to approach the hide quietly.
There's an array of wildfowl across the reserve - with Loxtons trail currently closed, the 2 platforms are probably the best bet. Mallard, Gadwall, Teal, Tufted Duck, Wigeon, Pochard & Shoveler are all present. Great shot below from John Crispin showing the wonderful plumage of the male Shoveler.
Shoveler in flight
The weather has certainly cooled off of late and we had our first frost on Monday morning. It was therefore with great surprise that I saw yet another Ruddy Darter dragonfly sunning itself on the Loxtons gate to the rail path on Monday morning. Red Admiral and Peacock butterflies have been seen too but they will by now be seeking for a place to spend the winter. At least 5 were found under wood piles in our storage area on site along with 30+ Smooth Newts.
The Otter survey on Monday this week undertaken by John Crispin showed up signs of their continued presence on site - always good to know. Such a shame we don't get more sightings. Other mammals seen this week include Roe Deer around the Waltons trail & a Fox seen running away from me close to the area in front of the 1st platform. Plenty of signs of the presence of Badgers too.
More winter birds are being picked up now - during Starling roost time look out for small parties of Redwing & Fieldfare 12-15 birds and Redpolls & Siskins in the new car park. Work is progressing here well. We'll be looking to get a lot done in the coming week and should be close to opening the parking area at least.
It's also worth checking out groups of mixed tits - they often hide unexpected surprises such as Goldcrests and Treecreepers and the large groups of Long Tailed Tits on the reserve always bring a smile to my face.
Long Tailed Tit
Also this week: 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers squabbling along the canal path, 2 Chiffchaff together along the same stretch, Kingfishers regularly seen, a Barn Owl sunning itself on the barn owl box opposite the 1st platform on Monday,a few Common Frogs still being seen, Stonechats, 100's of Lapwing and a very obliging Reed Bunting on the way to the Tor View Hide on Tuesday
That's it for this week - have a great weekend!!