It's been another interesting week at Ham wall with some more fantastic sightings to report. There's was a particularly good day yesterday mainly due to the number of volunteers out and about first thing undertaking a bearded tit survey - annoyingly there were far more this morning in certain areas of the reserve than yesterday but I guess that's how it goes sometimes.
One lucky volunteer got to see an otter swimming in the area in front of the first platform (VP1) - it would have been to the left of this area as you face it so maybe not directly visible from the platform - thanks to Nick Wigzell who managed to take a shot of the beast before it swam away:
Otter: Nick Wigzell
Another prime sighting was that of a spoonbill which was seen to fly over the area we call Godwins (it's between the car park and Waltons) towards an area called Long Drove. It then returned around 10 mins later (about 10.30am). Also over at Long Drove whinchat was seen and also in the area groups of meadow pipits and skylarks flying over.
So lots of birds on the move by the looks of it. Some of the winter thrushes area arriving. I had a fieldfare calling in the car park trees yesterday morning and they were also reported elsewhere around the reserve along with redwings.
Along the main path look out for siskins and redpolls - check out the alders in particular as they like feeding on them. Check out all the flocks of small birds as well - they may very well be mixed flocks - people have recorded treecreepers, chiffchaffs and goldcrests in amongst mixed tit flocks this week.
Cattle egrets were also spotted yesterday with 4 yesterday from the second viewing platform (VP2), this was eclipsed by the group of 32 seen on Tuesday morning from VP1 (they had also been seen at the Avalon Hide and VP2 earlier). This however can be further eclipsed by the 97 recorded in the roost at Canada Farm (west of Shapwick Heath and managed by Natural England). Birds have also been noted this week at Tealham Moor and Catcott Lows, so plenty of places to try. Thanks to John Crispin for his shot of some of the cattle egrets that flew in front of us at VP1 on Tuesday morning:
Cattle egret: John Crispin
Great white egrets of course are widespread throughout the Avalon Marshes. On Ham Wall it's hard not to see one on your visit. There is often one present from VP1, and more often than not, more than one present at VP2 where you can also catch up with little egret (both frequently seen at the Avalon Hide too). Some jackdaws were playing around over the Godwins area yesterday and seemed to chase simply everything away. This included 8 little egrets which were settled in trees and a juvenile marsh harrier which flew over.
If it's grey heron you're after then simply walk along the main track and check out the main drain running parallel to it. There is one juvenile bird in particular who seems to enjoy fishing here - either that or he's been ousted to this area by other birds. Other, adult birds, have also been seen feeding along here this week.
When you are walking the main track look out for those mixed flocks but also check out the ivy clumps. The face south and are nicely sheltered and as a late nectar source are attracting a wide range of insects including hornets and hoverflies (thanks to Mike Pearce for his photo). It's also traditionally been a good place to see large numbers of red admiral butterflies.
Hoverfly: Mike Pearce
Red admirals on ivy
Around the car park and along the main path look out for chiffchaff (4 in the car park on Wednesday), blackcaps (1 male and 3 females - also Wednesday in the car park), coal tit, great spotted woodpecker, song thrush, reed buntings seen feeding on grit, jays collecting acorns as well as chaffinch, blackbird and robins.
VP2 is perhaps the most interesting place at present. Water levels in here have been lowered slightly and mud has appeared here and there. It's attracting a few waders, with green sandpiper and snipe being recorded this week along with occasional visits from a few black tailed godwits (around 20 on Monday) and varying numbers of Lapwing which seemed to increase as the week went on. As many as 200 - perhaps more were recorded over the last couple of days in there - really nice when they all go up together. Yesterday a peregrine flew over and put them all up along with teal, wigeon, mallard, gadwall and shoveler. There was also a scaup seen here which was then later spotted over at Loxtons.
Thanks to John Crispin for his shots of black tailed godwits with a few lapwing mixed in taken this week:
Black Tailed Godwits (with lapwing in 3rd photo): John Crispin
Bearded tits have been seen and heard from this area this week although often they are distant from here. None were picked up in the Waltons section this week but they have been recently so you never know. They have however been seen from the Avalon Hide and VP1 - thanks to John Crispin for his shots of flocks of bearded tits taken yesterday:
Bearded tits: John Crispin
Also this week: hobby seen flying over on Sunday along with 30 Canada geese, a single swallow and a willow warbler from the car park, bitterns seen from both VP1 and VP2 during the week - 2 were seen flying over Waltons yesterday and another which flew over the old rail bridge at around 4pm yesterday, 4 red kite which flew distant from VP1 yesterday too, 3 different marsh harriers seen throughout the week including a male which flew over the car park on Wednesday, 6 raven over the car park on Tuesday, vocal cettis warblers from all around the reserve, little grebe and great crested grebe both from the Tor View Hide and a water rail on the path on the way up, sparrowhawks seen from both platforms throughout the week and kingfishers noted at the old rail bridge, Loxtons, the Avalon Hide, Tor View Hide and VP2.
Phew, I need to take a breath. I think I'd better leave it there for this week. Have a great weekend and thanks for reading.
There have been lots of great sightings on the reserve this week, so we 'll plunge straight in and get on with it.
Water is being lowered slightly in front of the second viewing platform (VP2) and shallow water and small areas of mud are appearing. Last week this attracted a ruff which has since been seen every day this week - it even made a brief appearance at the first viewing platform (VP1) on Tuesday. Thanks to John Crispin for his shot taken this week:
Ruff: John Crispin
Plenty of lapwing are being seen here each day too (around 30 seems to be a common count) and sometimes the ruff will take off with them so worth studying any lapwings in flight to check. John Crispin did just that and managed to capture this image - thanks again John.
Ruff in flight with lapwing: John Crispin
Groups of lapwing have also been seen over the car park during the week and from the Avalon Hide. Thanks to Mike Pearce who sent in this shot of lapwing with Glastonbury Tor as a backdrop:
Lapwings in flight: Mike Pearce
Other waders have been spotted here too. Snipe are present but often hard to see unless of course they are disturbed or in flight (they have also been seen at the Avalon Hide). Common sandpiper has also been spotted along with black tailed godwit and as many as 8 green sandpiper. Both John Crispin and Graham Wagner have sent me shots of green sandpiper this week. Many thanks to both:
Green sandpiper: Graham Wagner
Green Sandpiper: John Crispin
As well as waders is a good place to look for great white egret - you can often see 3 or 4 in this area along with little egret and grey heron. it's also thrown up a couple of other goodies this week. A whooper swan was seen here on Sunday as well as a common tern. Water rails are also being seen as well as a sparrowhawk on several occasions. Look out also for groups of greylag geese who often roost in this area. Thanks to Mike Pearce for his shot:
Greylag geese: Mike Pearce
VP2 is also a great place to hunt for marsh harriers, although they have been seen all over the reserve this week, this seems to be a hotspot. Most likely because along with all the waders there's plenty of wildfowl here too: gadwall, shoveler, teal and 30+ wigeon can be seen.
Thanks to John Crispin for his marsh harrier shots including one being hassled by a carrion crow and to Graham Wagner for his shot of wigeon:
Marsh harrier: John Crispin
Marsh harrier & carrion crow: John Crispin
Wigeon in flight: Graham Wagner
Bitterns have also been seen quite regularly from here with 3 different birds being spotted here on Sunday but there have been some fantastic views had from VP1 this week. On at least 3 days this week an individual has been seen walking around in the open on the islands (on Wednesday I'm told it was for about an hour and a half). It's well worth stopping here a while and taking a look along the edges of the reeds to see if it's there. Thanks once again to John Crispin for his shots of the bird in question:
Bittern: John Crispin
As mentioned earlier it can always be a good place to see great white egrets too. If your lucky they may perch up for you on the rails there like this one with a cormorant taken by Mike Pearce this week - thanks Mike:
Maybe in this shot they are daring each other to stand in the very middle - it is looking a bit rotten - i think we will have to get out there and change it at some point soon:
Great white egret & cormorant: Mike Pearce
I've mentioned in previous weeks about the autumn feel that is beginning to arrive (although some days like this Wednesday still feel like summer) and there are certainly changes to the species on the reserve - more waders for example and wigeon and teal arriving and we've also had records of redwing (Avalon Hide on Weds) and lesser redpoll (a couple of occasions along the main track). We're also seeing late migrants like the 3 sand martins which flew over on Sunday along with 6 house martins and 6 swallows. Willow warbler and chiffchaff have both been heard singing this week and hobbies are still being seen on most days.
Dragonflies are still on the wing - the first real frosts usually make a difference here although it's not unusual to see ruddy darters on the wing in early November. There are also still plenty of migrant hawkers and common darters being spotted too. Thanks to Mike Pearce & Graham Wagner for their common darter photos:
Common darter: Mike Pearce
Common Darter mating: Graham Wagner
Another of our star species has been seen quite a lot this week by visitors. Bearded tits have been seen at several different locations this week - even 6 at the car park pools on Sunday. 7 others were seen at VP2 the same day but this was eclipsed by the 14 reported from there on Wednesday. They have also been seen from VP1, the Tor View Hide, the Avalon Hide and at the far end of the main track through the reserve this week. Obviously the weather does tend to make a difference to the number of sightings - warmer, stiller days are often better. Let's hope it's a good day for the next bearded tit survey at Ham Wall this coming Thursday.
Thanks to John Crispin for his interesting shot of a bearded tit inverted in flight. It's the second time we've had a shot of on flying almost upside down. It must be twisting over in flight or something and John's just caught the shot right - I don't think you'd notice this with the naked eye!
Bearded Tits: John Crispin
Also this week: Great spotted woodpeckers seen and heard daily, the same buzzard hanging around on gates on the way to the Avalon Hide this week (allowing you to get quite close),another otter sighting from the Avalon Hide on Wednesday morning, ravens seen over the car park and VP2, great crested grebe from the Tor View Hide along with little grebes (9 seen on Sunday), Jays seen collecting acorns along the main path, pochard recorded at the Tor View Hide as well as water rail - these have also been seen from VP2 and the Avalon Hide, kestrel from the Avalon Hide on Sunday and kingfishers seen at the Avalon Hide, Tor View Hide & VP2 this week.
Also listen out for the croaking of the Iberian water frogs. You can still hear and sometimes see them in the pools around the car park area - particularly in sunnier spells. Thanks to Graham Wagner for his photo:
Iberian water frog: Graham Wagner
If you are new to all this and would like to learn more why not join up on one of our Bird Watching for Beginners walks. There are still a few paces left on the next one which is coming up on Saturday 20th October. Just click the link for details and joining instructions.
On another note, many of you may be aware but the road is closed between Westhay and the Avalon Marshes Centre. It is however open from the other direction (Shapwick Village) and you can reach the Avalon Marshes Centre quite easily. Somerset Crafts and the cafe are open as normal but business is down and they would really appreciate your support while the works are being carried out on the road. Thank you.
That's it for this week - thanks for reading. Have a great weekend!
Another warm week on the reserve - it's great in some ways as it's helping us access areas to cut and clear more easily and certainly easier to burn off any of the cut material that we need to. On the downside we area bit short of water in other places where we would like it. It's taking us a bit of time to move water around the site. We'd eventually like to get some water into the section in front of the 1st viewing platform (VP1) to get this nice and splashy for ducks, waders & egrets etc but it's not happening yet. There's some rain coming tomorrow though by the looks of things so this will help a bit. In front of the 2nd platform (VP2) we are bringing water down a bit and some mud is appearing here and there which is attracting a few waders etc.
Black tailed godwits have been seen here on a few occasions along with groups of snipe. A knot was recorded on one day for the third week running (this time on Sunday) and lapwing are a regular feature with around 30 being seen on most days (seen over towards the Avalon Hide too at times). Thanks to Graham Wagner for his shot of Lapwing taken on the reserve this week:
They are moving around a bit - 15 even flew over the car park on Sunday so be prepared to bird watch as soon as you arrive!
Both platforms can be good places to spot great white egrets although it's usually just the one at VP1 while VP2 quite frequently will have 3 or 4 fishing away. This individual was photographed by Pete Manly with its catch this week - thanks Pete:
There's always a chance of seeing that elusive bittern here too but as always you'll need that element of luck. Sightings have been recorded in several places on the reserve this week: both platforms, Loxtons, Waltons (and the Tor View Hide) and the Avalon Hide. Where it's open at VP1 just scan the edges as I often advise. You never know - you may see a bittern against the edges of the reeds. One was seen walking about there in the open this morning so you never know. Cattle Egrets are in evidence locally but seem to be giving Ham Wall a bit of a miss at present but keep looking. Catcott Lows and Canada Farm to roost are the main places I'm hearing about with over 100 birds being reported. A glossy ibis is also being seen in the local area - hopefully if we wet things up a bit it might find us desirable.
VP2 often offers large groups of greylag geese if you are in early enough. They seem to use this area to roost in and take off at around 7.15 -7.30am. You may get a shot like this one from Graham Wagner of them taking off against a lovely sunrise. Thanks Graham!
Marsh Harrier have also been making themselves quite obvious in this area too - I saw one there this morning but as many as 3 were seen together by volunteer John Crispin on Wednesday - a wonderful sight he said! Other birds of prey are spotted quite regularly too. Sparrowhawks have been seen on several days this week - on at least 3 occasions from VP1 with one quartering the reeds close to the platform on Wednesday. A kestrel was spotted from the Avalon Hide on Sunday last, along with a hobby. Barn Owls were seen out briefly by the owl box in the wood to the left of the Avalon Hide (in front of VP1) one day this week and tawny owls can often be heard in the darker hours. No red kite reports for a while - sightings often tend to come in clusters and seemed to be becoming more frequent but not heard much in a while. Buzzards, however are a daily fixture and this one on the way to the Avalon Hide was very obliging as it sat on a gate post - thanks to Graham Wagner for sending in his shot!#
VP1 despite still having low water levels turns up a few good things. It's become a god place to see kingfisher. On Wednesday one caught a fish with each dive and returned to the post and rails in the water each time. Other sightings this week from around Waltons & the Tor View Hide, the Avalon Hide and yesterday from the old rail bridge on the main path - one flew up the drainage channel there.
VP1 also brought us a pair of Mandarin ducks on Wednesday. A few people got to see them amongst the mallards - I wasn't one of them, but John Crispin was. The male looks to be in eclipse so not as colourful as normal but nice to see. Thanks for the photo John!
A few bearded tits have also been seen and heard here this week so listen out for their call if you know it. If you don't then it's one to learn to help you track them down. Sightings also from VP2 and the Avalon Hide this week where 4 were seen on Sunday.
The Tor View Hide is a good place to sit and wait a while too. Yet another otter sighting from here on Monday - one was seen although far too briefly by a visitor. Water rails can often be heard calling here and on occasions can be seen out in the open. Great crested grebe and little grebe also both seen here with up to 7 little grebes (or dabchicks) spotted together on Monday.
The mild weather seems to be keeping the numbers of dragonflies about quite high. Really good numbers of migrant hawker still about along with both ruddy and common darter. Thanks to John Crispin who snapped this female common darter taking a rest on his camera bag on Wednesday. A good ID feature that sets it apart from the ruddy darter is the white stripe along the legs. Thanks John:
In terms of butterflies look out for: Brimstone, small white, green veined white, common blue, speckled wood, small tortoiseshell, red admiral and peacock. Also this small copper photographed by John Crispin this week - with photos of both the upper and under wing - thanks John!
I'm fairly certain I saw on of these at the car park this week along with common blue and a couple of the others. A short walk round the car park can often bring extra treats. In previous weeks grass snakes have been seen in the ponds there (one was seen swimming in Waltons on Tuesday) but at the moment with the sun shining the Iberian water frogs are quite evident. They are croaking quite loudly during the sunny spells and often sit sunning themselves on the open edges or on the surface of the water. Thanks to Graham Wagner for his shot taken during the week:
The car park has also been home to goldcrest, groups of goldfinch and a pretty tame robin this week who paid our picnic table a visit during lunch with the volunteer group on Wednesday. Following out of the car park and down the main path look out for mixed flocks of birds - you never know what's hiding in the group and check the tree lines too. Chiffchaff have been bursting into song from time to time - perhaps it's the mild weather and Jays have been harvesting the early acorns - starting their winter cache already - if only I was this organised. Taking a close look at these birds, sometimes if often hard to believe they are members of the corvid family. Thanks to John Crispin once again for his photo:
Also look out for treecreeper. A couple reported along the main path this week. This "tree mouse", can be seen working the trunks of trees looking for insects and spiders eggs. They usually move up the tree to the top then fly to the base of the next tree and repeat the procedure - it's quite distinctive behaviour. It's one of my favourite little birds. Well done to John Crispin for capturing this shot on Wednesday this week:
I think that had better do for this week. I hope you enjoy the blog and if you don't know we are also producing a monthly Vlog at the moment. It's a short video of staff talking about various goings on at the reserve. You can watch the October episode here: http://bit.ly/2y5RIO0
Hope you enjoy it and have a great weekend. Thanks for reading!