We had some welcome rain this week at the reserve - although it's not made a huge impact on water levels around the site.
It's generally a quieter time on the reserve during August, although there is plenty to see if you look hard enough. The season has perhaps all been a little later this year so it's no surprise to see adult birds still carrying food to the last few nests. Look out also for the array of juvenile birds on display. In fact I've been sent rather a nice selection this week so here we go.....
This young wren was snapped by John Crispin during the week.....
and another from Graham Wagner of an adult bird carrying food (not sure if these two are related though? Thanks to both John & Graham...
The adult bird was seen on the way to the Avalon Hide. Close by too was this juvenile reed bunting photographed by John Crispin:
and also this young blackcap. In this early stage the crowns of both males and females are brown:
While in front of the hide yesterday several house martins (c20) and several swift and sand martins were seen including this juvenile. Thanks again to John Crispin for sending in his shots:
The Avalon Hide is an interesting place to wait a while. Flights from adult Marsh Harriers suggest that there is still an active nest while the same could be said of bitterns who also look to have a late nest in this area too. John Crispin's photo below shows a male - we believe this to be the resident male in this area.
While below Mike Pearce took this shot of a bittern at the Avalon Hide - thanks Mike:
Most bittern nests are finished of course but there's always a chance of seeing some young birds flying about. When fledging young birds will make several short flights around the nesting area or just kind of hop up to the top of the reeds and back down again. Rob Balch sent in these shots of a young bittern last week so I've included them in this week's blog - thanks Rob:
There are , as always, plenty of great white egrets to see - including juvenile birds. Rob Balch also managed a shot of both an adult bird and a youngster this week. Thanks again Rob:
great white egret (juvenile) - Rob Balch
great white egret adult - Rob Balch
Note the extra black on the bill of the adult bird.
Another one here from Mike Pearce too - so photogenic aren't they. Thanks to all for these great shots:
If you're on the hunt for these you can see them almost anywhere but one hotspot is the second platform (VP2) or the small willow blinds on the grassy track that look into the same area. That's what Mike Pearce did and got this great shot of 3 great white egret & 10 little egret with a swan for company. Thanks Mike:
If it's quiet on the bird front there are always plenty of insects to keep you entertained. I guess dragonflies and butterflies are some of the most obvious.
In terms of dragonflies look out for southern hawker, emperor, brown hawker, black tailed skimmer, common darter and ruddy darter along with damselflies: blue tailed, common blue, red eyed and small red eyed - thanks to Giles Morris and John Crispin for their dragonfly pics taken this week:
Small Red Eyed Damselfly: Giles Morris
Blue tailed damselfly: Giles Morris
Ruddy Darter: Giles Morris
Ruddy Darter: John Crispin
Emperor: John Crispin
In terms of butterflies look out for: green veined white, large white, comma, gatekeeper, meadow brown, common blue, speckled wood (pictured), silver washed fritillary (seen along main path), red admiral, peacock and brimstone.
Speckled Wood; Giles Morris
Lots to see around Waltons and Loxtons too. A stop in the Tor View Hide can bring you good sightings of both little grebe and great crested grebe (the same pairing can also be seen around Loxtons) Thanks to Mike Pearce for his photos:
Whilst talking about Waltons and Loxtons it's worth mentioning a wasps nest in the vicinity. We're all for giving nature a home but unfortunately the wasps have selected a hole in the ground on the track as you pass between the 2 sections. We have had to cordon off the area I'm afraid. Both the loops of Waltons and Loxtons area fully open you just can't pass between the two. Access is only from the main track at the 3 crossing points (one at Waltons by the first platform) and 2 at Loxtons. Sorry for any inconvenience.
Look out in both areas too for kingfishers. There have been some good sightings here lately including 2 which chased each other around Waltons yesterday. There have also been a few sightings from the Avalon Hide this week. Here's a great shot taken at Waltons by Graham Wagner. Thank you Graham:
Also this week: 2 linnets seen on the gorse bank to the right of the Avalon Hide - they may come closer, a raven sen flying over the reserve on Thursday, a brief appearance of an osprey last Friday at the Avalon Hide but then again at the car park and 1st platform on Wednesday - may be more passing through at this time of year, bearded tits heard from the Avalon Hide throughout the week - few sightings though, a group of 25-30 greylag geese using areas of the reserve, hobbies seen through the week at the Avalon Hide, Waltons and the 1st platform, 6 teal at the Avalon Hide yesterday, buzzards daily and great spotted woodpecker at the car park. A sparrowhawk has been seen on several occasions too including this male carrying prey at the Avalon Hide - thanks to John Crispin for this shot:
Finally, a shot from Graham Wagner. Just a gentle reminder that with the end of the breeding season almost upon us we look forward to what autumn and winter has to offer. Of course starlings spring to mind. A few very small groups are gathering at the reserve each night already. Just a small fraction of what we can expect in a few months time:
That's it for this week. I'm afraid there will not be a blog next week as I'm off to Cornwall on holiday for a week. I'll be back the following week however with lots to report from this amazing reserve. Thanks for reading!
There's no let up with the recent heat wave is there? Water levels are well down but it just means we have to really think about how we move water around to get ready for our management work. It's at times like this or in times of excessive rain (and we've experienced both in recent years) that you realise just how important understanding the hydrology of your site really is.
We are almost ready to get reed cutting underway in front of the 1st platform (VP1), although there are suspicions that a late bitterns nest is still underway in this area, which may delay things slightly. The levels are now down sufficiently for us to access the area so work will begin here soon - perhaps the week after next. Once it's done and water levels are back up (hopefully) it should produce a nice open splashy area for egrets, waders and ducks to feed and loaf about in.
You still see some of our wildlife from here - as I mentioned there has been some bittern activity here as well as visits from marsh harriers and great white egrets - you can see their heads sticking up out of the reeds.
If you want to get out of the sun, perhaps try the hides or one of the screens at Waltons or Loxtons and just wait a while - you'd be surprised what you can see if you just wait. This morning from the Loxtons screen an otter made an appearance - it inspected an abandoned great crested grebe's nest - there was no sign of the adults or young (perhaps this otter has visited before?). Thanks to Graham Wagner for his photo:
Some other interesting stuff seen from here this week include a couple of kingfishers seen perching and catching fish on Wednesday and around the same time a family of water rails were spotted and this bittern which flew over this morning - thanks again to Graham Wagner:
Another family of water rails were reported in front of the Avalon Hide yesterday by visitors. The Avalon Hide has certainly been one of the best places to see marsh harriers recently. We're uncertain as to exactly what's happened to the nest directly in front. Food has certainly been passed into the nest by the male and the female has been seen bringing back nesting material on several occasions - we are still looking at it to catch sight of any youngsters or clues as to what they are up to.
While you are at the hide there's a good chance of spotting some bearded tits. Several reports this week from here but you could also try the second platform where again we've had a couple of sightings mentioned to us.
There's a few waders popping in and out - black tailed godwits the most likely (here or VP2) but also seen include a wood sandpiper on Monday, Lapwing most days and the odd snipe.
Also within this area a few Linnets have been seen. These are often on the gorse covered bank to the right of the Avalon Hide but may venture closer if you are lucky - I also forgot to mention in my previous blogs that a male was seen in the car park 2 weeks ago so worth bearing in mind.
Also from the Avalon Hide look out for hobby - a few spotted this week (or perhaps VP1) where I saw 2 on Wednesday), swift, swallow and ravens. 5 ravens seen on Saturday, 2 on Wednesday but 7 together on Tuesday. Thanks to John Crispin who managed to get 6 in one shot and then a close up of 2:
In the maize fields beyond on the same day roe deer were spotted but I've encountered some on the reserve this week. One in particular was close to the Avalon Hide path as it enters the wood but Graham Wagner saw this mother and her fawn from the old rail bridge and managed to get these shots - thanks Graham!
It was close to here that I saw a fox both this week and last week - it was in the morning on both occasions as was this shot taken by John Crispin this week - thanks John!
The cooler mornings can often be better for wildlife watching before the heat of the day really kicks in. You may be able to see dragonflies up closer as the warm up before take off. Several species still on the wing: 4 spotted chasers (although literally just one or two now), black tailed skimmer, emperor, southern hawker, brown hawker, common darter and damselflies: blue tailed, common blue, red eyed and small red eyed.
Whilst at Tinney's Ground - a small plot we manage on the Sharpham Road I saw plenty of banded demoiselles in the drain by the bridge - such a beautiful insect:
Plenty of butterflies on the wing too: green veined white, common blue (car park this morning), peacock, red admiral, silver washed fritilary, speckled wood, gatekeeper, meadow brown and brimstone. Also a chance of small copper like the one pictured with some beetles having a bit of a cuddle ....ahem!
If you're short of sightings some days due to the heat it's sometimes just interesting to study the behaviour of those more common birds you see. A great example was photographed by John Crispin. Here's a song thrush smashing open snail shells and eating the contents. Sometimes, they will use a particular stone as an anvil and you'll see a collection of shells around it. Also another shot taken by Graham Wagner showing a bit of variation to their diet- thanks to both of you for you photos:
Song Thrush: John Crispin
Song Thrush: Graham Wagner
It may also be worth stopping at the old rail bridge for a while. Lots of birds this week have been seen feeding in the seed laden plants on the edge of the drain. A lesser whitethroat was spotted again here this week on Tuesday but plenty of other small birds to look out for too. Here's a recently fledged blue tit having a feed:
All along the tree lines on the main path is worth a study right from the car park through to the end really. Chiffchaff, blackcap, blackbird, robin, whitethroat (from VP1), treecreepers on a few occasions, bullfinch, goldfinch (20+ in the car park) and chaffinch all fairly easy to track down too as are the many small groups of long tailed tits being spotted. Thanks to Graham Wagner for his shot:
Also this week: Red kite over the car park on Wednesday, 7 swift from VP1 the same day, Iberian water frogs till making noise at the car park and at Waltons, grass snakes being seen from the old rail bridge still but also look out to the wooded area on the left for kingfishers, buzzards seen daily, sparrowhawk noted down for Tuesday and Wednesday and still quite a few young birds around including ducks and grebes.
That's it for this week - thought I'd leave you a nice shot of a willow warbler taken by Graham Wagner this week on the bridge at the Waltons plastic boardwalk. Thanks Graham:
Have a great weekend everyone!
Another week with very little rain means the water levels are continuing to drop on the reserve. You can't help thinking we may in in for a deluge at some point soon. Water levels do traditionally drop at this time of year. In some ways it may be helpful for us when we move into reed cutting season with a lot less water to move to gain access with machinery and it also exposes fresh muddy fringes and shallow areas which many birds take advantage of.
In front of the second platform (VP2) great white egrets are seen regularly and in quite good numbers (depending on which angle you are looking from). At least 6 were visible from the platform this morning but there were more hidden round the corner so it's not been unusual to see 10 or more as well as a few little egrets and grey herons getting in on the action too.
A few waders are being picked up also. A redshank flew over calling in flight on Wednesday, whilst 3 green sandpipers were picked up from VP2 on Tuesday. We've also had reports of snipe and lapwing but the biggest numbers have been black tailed godwits.
As many as 22 have been spotted feeding in the shallows at VP2 and in front of the Avalon Hide. John Crispin took these shots this week of birds feeding in the water in in flight on Wednesday. Thanks John:
Numbers of waders should increase as breeding season finishes and we begin to move towards autumn - with birds very mobile at this time. Other birds are on the move too - species such as swift already look to be gathering together and there are daily sightings of swallow, house martin and sand martin - a short stay at either platform should bring you something. There was even a cuckoo seen along the main path on Tuesday - although I don't have a more exact location for this one I'm afraid.
A few hobbies are being seen too with up to 3 seen from VP2 on Wednesday but other sightings of single birds throughout the week from the 1st platform (VP1) & the Avalon Hide. Thanks to John Crispin for his hobby photo taken this week:
One was seen chasing a swift for several minutes in front of the Avalon Hide a couple of weeks ago - unsuccessfully it was said. Of course they are better known for catching insects on the wing such as dragonflies and there are still plenty of those being spotted on the reserve at the moment. Some, such as ruddy darters (just about emerging) will be on the wing until as late as November - depending on when the first frosts come and finish them off.
Dragonflies spotted this week include: emperor, common hawker, brown hawker, black tailed skimmer, common darter, banded demoiselle, just a couple of 4 spotted chasers, red eyed damselfly, small red eyed damselfly, blue tailed damselfly & common blue damselfly.
Plenty of other insects to look out for with many crickets and grasshoppers in the longer grasses by the car park pools and the more you look the more you see with hundreds of beetles, hoverflies and bumblebees to seek out. Butterflies seem to be having a good year. I don't know all the ins and outs of it all but I've heard that if the hot weather continues it could cause problems with certain food plants which would have a knock on effect on next years populations. Think I need to look into this a bit more unless someone out there can confirm this.
Anyway, there's a good opportunity to get a good butterfly list at the moment. Seen this week: Common blue (car park this morning), gatekeeper, meadow brown, speckled wood, small tortoiseshell, peacock, red admiral, brimstone, large white, small copper, green veined white (pictured below), painted lady, silver washed fritillary, white admiral (seen on Shapwick Heath but they have been seen on Ham Wall recently) and small skipper.
Hobby of course aren't the only birds of prey on the reserve. Buzzards are seen daily as are marsh harriers. One nest we believe has fledged 3 birds whilst the one in front of the Avalon Hide still appears to have parent birds dropping in food to what looks to be a single youngster. It's interesting behaviour to watch though and while you're there there's plenty more to take in.
How about barn owls - well this is as good a place as any or VP1. The box in the wood opposite VP1 (to the right of the Avalon Hide we know has 2 youngsters as they were ringed 2 weeks ago so there are active birds here. One adult was sat on top of the box when I passed nearby on Tuesday. There could also be activity in the wood to the left up by the gate. Sightings have been had from the Avalon Hide this week as well as great crested grebes, great white egrets, little egrets, snipe, roe deer and bearded tits (on a few occasions).
John Crispin saw several on the north of the reserve whilst undertaking a survey of the marsh harriers this week. Several juveniles were amongst them including this individual:
It looks to have very worn tail feathers - due to the abrasive nature of the reeds perhaps?
Other youngsters are about still with plenty of ducklings, cygnets and young moorhens and coots around the reserve. Thanks to John Crispin for his photo of 2 young coots discussing the days events:
Reed buntings sedge warblers and reed warblers are still active and calling in the reedbeds with the latter seen carrying food this week.
Also this week: bullfinch seen around Loxtons, a lesser whitethroat sen close to the old rail bridge, a grass snake seen swimming at the same location, a common tern seen from the Tor View Hide on Wednesday, great crested grebes with juveniles seen from VP2, kingfisher also from VP2 on Tuesday, Ravens seen flying over and calling a few times, sparrowhawk spotted from VP2 on Wednesday, chiffchaff & blackcap both heard in song from the car park and Iberian water frogs heard calling loudly from the ponds at the car park this morning.
That's it for this week. Have a great weekend!