Yet again there's a awful lot to report from the reserve this week - it's often hard to know where to start so I'll just go on a kind of imaginary walking tour of the reserve and take you through what's been seen.
Guess it makes sense then to start in the car park. Obviously lots of common species can be seen here including very friendly robins, blue tit, great tit, goldfinch, blackbird, wren and dunnock but also look out for pied wagtails darting around on the car park surface and bullfinches within the surrounding hedgerows - seen this morning too.
Keep your eyes and ears open for Ravens - seen flying over on a few occasions this week including today, jays in the taller trees - 2 flew out from here yesterday and fieldfare & redwing of which the latter was seen flying over on Sunday.
As you leave the car park and take to the main track you've got an increased chance of seeing bullfinches (see photos). Quite a few sightings this week all the way down but particularly from the 1st platform (VP1) to beyond the 2nd platform (VP2). Gangs of long tailed tits flit along the tree lines with constant contact calls. Look out for mixed flocks of birds they can often contain surprises - perhaps a chiffchaff or a goldcrest - both of which have been seen along the main track this week. Check all the goldcrests though - a firecrest instead perhaps (look for the obvious eye stripe). Also seen along the main track this week: redpoll, siskin, song thrush, treecreeper and look (and listen) out for great spotted woodpeckers - a few heard drumming away this week.
Your imaginary walk has now brought you to VP1. Definitely worth stopping here. Take a good scan around to see a great selection of wildfowl: mallard, gadwall, teal, wigeon, tufted duck, shoveler, pochard and even pintail have been recorded here during the last week.
It's a bit of a favourite haunt for great white egrets too - they can be seen here most days. Little Egrets are often seen here too - good when they are close together to see that size difference. Good numbers of lapwing are often present and on a couple of occasions 20+ black tailed godwits.
Little grebes are being spotted and most definitely heard across the reserve - with constant whinnying calls, whilst a great crested grebe pair have been spotted displaying and weed dancing this week.
Look out too for the glossy ibis. It's still been seen with cattle egrets in the local area and they are still roosting on the reserve each night . The ibis has been seen on the reserve a few times this week however including both platforms and the Avalon Hide. Here's John Crispin's photo of the glossy ibis dropping in front of VP1 yesterday. Thanks John:
Across in Waltons check out the island that the 3rd screen looks at (on the right as you walk into Waltons). 12 snipe were recorded here on Wednesday and 17 on Sunday but other records from other days too - a possible sighting of jack snipe as well. This screen is also a good place to sit and wait for kingfisher. They often perch on the right hand side across the water in the reeds and 2 were seen in a chase by John Crispin last weekend. Daily sightings at Waltons though.
The ferruginous duck was spotted with the Waltons section on Monday but I've had no further reports - but of course this doesn't mean it's not about. The ring necked duck has also been spotted again this week - from the Tor View Hide on Sunday but was spotted over at the Avalon Hide yesterday.
Also from the Tor View Hide this week: water rail, bittern, marsh harrier, peregrine, little grebe, great crested grebes, reed buntings, cettis warbler and kingfisher. Lookout also for signs of grey herons nest building again in the reedbeds. One was seen carrying a stick this week in the Waltons area - a now traditional nest site for a few herons each year. .
Out to the Avalon Hide next; On the way check out the area on your left. Quite shallow water here in places and the teal, shoveler and lapwings like this in particular as well as small flocks of snipe. You can get a bit closer by going to the temporary screens on the left just before you enter the wood.
Through the wood look out for treecreeper, stonechats in the reedy edges and great spotted woodpeckers. Always worth looking back to the owl box on the edge of the wood once you reach the hide - sometimes the tawny owl will show itself.
Plenty of other possibilities when it comes to birds of prey here. Barn owls can also be seen sometimes in the boxes to the left of the hide. This week from the Avalon Hide: sparrowhawk, buzzard, kestrel, peregrine (male and female) and several marsh harriers have all been spotted. In fact on Monday a marsh harrier and a bittern were seen drinking from the waters edge together and then a sparrowhawk and marsh harrier were seen in close proximity. I'm sure the peace between marsh harrier and bittern will be far more uneasy come breeding season - we often see conflict between these 2 from this hide. A bittern was booming weakly from in front of this hide this morning and 3 were seen here yesterday.
Back to VP2 now to finish. More of the same perhaps but generally good sightings here of marsh harrier, great white egret, little egret (pictured) pintail and Canada or greylag goose. There has been a big group over near Sharpham where a pink footed goose was reported amongst them. These groups often loiter on the reserve or fly over so worth scanning the skeens.
A windblown Little Egret taken this week - John Crispin
Siskin can often be seen in the trees next to the platform, fieldfare and redwing have flown over this week too whilst lapwing, snipe and black tail godwits have also been seen here.
Again plenty of wildfowl. Here's an interesting shot of gadwall taken by John Crispin this week. Several males (black bills) persuing a female (orange bill) in order to obtain a mate - perhaps a little one sided. Thanks again John for all you shots this week:
Also on the reserve this week: Roe deer seen on several occasions, peacock butterflies seen out and about yesterday with a bumblebee (species not identified) and the starlings appear to be back on Ham Wall viewed from the 2 platforms.
Thank you to those of you who have voted for us so far in the Countryfile magazine awards. If you could please sign up to our Thunderclap too we'd be really grateful. You can do it here: http://thndr.me/GJ1Ych . It helps spread the message about voting for Ham Wall as Nature Reserve of the year. The more people who join the more people who know to vote for us.
That's it for this week - thanks for reading - have a great weekend.
Great to see the reserve and surrounding area on "Hugh's Wild West on BBC 1 on Saturday night. Ham Wall and the Avalon Marshes feature heavily and look stunning. If you haven't watched it, you really should. It's on BBC iplayer and features starlings, great white egrets, bitterns, staff, volunteers and local enthusiasts amongst other things. You even get the briefest glimpses of me - not that that's a great reason to watch it of course. The programme was a great advert for the reserve and the local area though and well worth watching.
So what's been happening on the reserve this week? - plenty as always - so much sometimes that it's hard to know where to start. Well seeing as all the heron species were some of the stars of the programme, let's start there.
More booming albeit quiet and some grunting reported from bitterns this week - they are still warming up but will be getting louder and more prominent over the next few weeks. We'll be having our usual early morning bittern listen across the Avalon Marshes in mid March and should reasonably expect to hear between 40 and 50 males, given the trends and figures for the last few years.
In terms of seeing one, you just have to be in the right place at the right time. Last Sunday (4th) one was stood in the cut areas in front of the Avalon Hide and there have been some flights reported here too so definitely worth a try. Some have also been seen in flight over the area in front of the 1st platform (VP1) this week too.
Great white egrets have been seen here too - pretty much on a daily basis so this is probably your best bet for seeing one of these although they are massive and white and therefore stick out like a sore thumb most days when they fly about.
The Glossy Ibis has been seen again this week too and again from VP1 (including yesterday) but on at least 3 other occasions too since last Friday's blog. During Monday's guided walk it was seen from VP1 and then flew to VP2 and was seen again - a nice thrill for the guests. It's still been hanging out with the cattle egrets too in the local fields this week.
The cattle egrets too have been seen on several occasions in varying numbers. An estimated 24 during Monday's walk flew over VP1 whilst 20 were seen on Tuesday and 8 were seen at around 8.30am on Wednesday morning - so it seems early in the morning may be the best time - this is probably shortly after they have left the roost site on the reserve.
You can also add grey heron and little egret to your heron list on most days but it will be around April before we welcome back the little bittern (we hope) and who know's what will happen with the night herons this year?
The rarer ducks have again been seen this week. The very rusty looking ferruginous duck was seen in front of the Avalon Hide on Sunday but was back on the other side of the reserve on Monday & Tuesday. It was in the section on the right just before you get to Waltons - either look across from the main path or from the old rail bridge.
The ring necked duck has been a little more obliging and has been seen from, or close to, the Tor View Hide every day this week. As you reach Waltons on the main track look up the channel that runs up in front of the hide - you may need a scope. Alternatively you could be lucky enough to see it right in front of the hide. Thansk to Graham Wagner for sending in these pictures he took this week. There's a nice comparison with a Tufted Duck to help you with what to look for:
Whilst your at the Tor View Hide, there's plenty more too look out for. Reported from there this week includes: Great crested grebe pair, little grebe pair, green winged teal (seen on Sunday) kingfisher, marsh harrier, sparrowhawk (male), snipe, teal, shoveler, mallard and water rail - This one Graham Wagner saw swimming across one of the channels - thanks for sending it in Graham:
Kingfishers seem to be generally quite busy in the Waltons area - try also the 3rd screen area where one if often seen perched up in the reeds. Listen out for its whistling call in flight to help make you aware of its presence.
The first platform maybe the best bet for a great white egret or a glossy ibis but there's plenty else to see too. A good range of wildfowl including: pochard, mallard, gadwall, tufted duck, shoveler, wigeon and teal. Look out also for great crested grebes and large flocks of lapwing and snipe. There have also been varying numbers of black tailed godwits reported here this week (and from VP2) with up to 26 on one occasion. Thanks to John Crispin for this snapshot of some of the godwits:
Also reported from VP1 this week: Peregrine on Tuesday which seemed very interested in the lapwing, kingfisher, raven, stonechat, marsh harrier, pintail and barn owl - seen in the box again in the wood opposite VP1 in the distance. Always worth scanning this box just in case. John Crispin was rewarded with this hot on Wednesday - thanks John:
The other owl box worth scanning is the one in the wood behind the Avalon Hide - once again this week Tawny Owl was reported looking out of the box just like the barn owl above. Whilst at the wood listen out for drumming great spotted woodpecker. They've been heard across the reserve this week but have bred in this wood for at least the last 3 years so hopefully more of the same again this season.
The 2nd platform VP2 is also worth a visit offering something slightly different - again lapwing, tight flocks of snipe in flight and black tailed godwits seen but also Canada goose and greylag goose reported. There are some quite big flocks around and are rather noisy beasts - you usually hear them coming. On our Long Drove plot this week (south of Waltons) c180 flock of mixed greylag and Canada geese were using the area - they flew right over me and the volunteers and was quite a sight.
19 pintail flew over VP2 on Wednesday headin south west and John Crispin manged to catch this shot of 11 of the group:
VP2 (or the Avalon Hide) is probably the best place to catch up with the marsh harriers during your visit, although they are seen elsewhere. John Crispin has sent in a couple of shots - they show off nicely how the harrier uses its tail for optimum control. Thanks John:
Also, whilst at VP2 check out the alder trees nearby. Often the trees in this area are good feeding spots for redpoll and siskin - both seen this week in this area. John Crispin too the lovely shots of one of four siskins feeding on alder cones next to VP2 on Wednesday. Lovely - thanks John:
The tree lines are always full of birds (warblers in particular come spring). Look out for goldcrest, treecreeper and bullfinch pairs, gangs of long tailed tits & song thrush all seen this week. A firecrest was also reported close to VP2 on Wednesday.
Also this week (as if that wasn't enough): bullfinches showing well in the car park, buzzards seen daily, both male and female sparrowhawk seen in woodlands opposite VP1 yesterday, 5 raven over the car park yesterday, plenty of goldfinches, roe deer seen in surrounding fields oh and 750,000 starlings (hard to ignore that one).
They've been moving around a bit but the majority have spent the week over on Shapwick Heath. Yesterday 8 marsh harriers, a peregrine and a merlin were seen close to the flock. I would still suggest parking at the Ham Wall end due to lack of space at the far end of Shapwick and prepare for a slightly longer walk. Also a good idea to check into our welcome building where staff or volunteers will hopefully have more up to date information about where they were the previous night - they could move again.
Still plenty of time to vote for us in the Countryfile Awards. If you don't know we have been nominated in the best nature reserve category and we need your votes to win so please do vote and encourage friends and family who love the reserve to vote too. Thank you.
You can do it here: bit.ly/2DqOvhN
If you could also please sign up your social media accounts to our Thunderclap to we'd be really grateful. It will help us reach more people all at once and generate more support. It's really simple and quick to do and can be done here:
That had better be it for this week - have a great weekend!
The weeks seem to be flying by at the moment. Maybe because there is plenty of work to keep staff and volunteers busy.
Winter has always traditionally been a busy time as we undertake much of the habitat management work to keep the reserve in tip top shape for wildlife. Some volunteers have continued to strengthen some of the viewing screens around Waltons, while others have been taking on some scrub work over the last couple of weeks to cut back overhanging branches, cut back some of our pollards and open up views down channels.
All these little extra vistas and viewpoints make a big difference in bringing wildlife closer to visitors and as always there is plenty for people to see. For those looking for those extra ticks on their bird lists there's a few things we may be able to offer.
A trip to either the first platform (VP1) or The Tor View Hide within the Waltons section could bring rewards of ferruginous duck (drake plus a female reported from Shapwick Heath this week too) - seen from VP1 earlier in the week and from Tor View Hide later in the week including this morning.
Joining it there this morning was the ring necked duck - it's been seen in this area pretty much every day this week and photographed by John Crispin below. It's worth checking both these areas for these two. Also on Monday a scaup reported from the Tor View Hide although another visitor suggested that it may have been a hybrid of some kind but worth looking out for.
Ring necked duck: John Crispin
Ring necked duck with tufted ducks: John Crispin
Whilst scanning these areas you'll most likely see plenty of other species including mallard, gadwall, wigeon, teal, shoveler and pochard (plus occasional pintail). Look out also for the Glossy Ibis - despite spending much of its time hanging with the cattle egrets locally it does drop in to visit from time to time (often landing here as on Monday and Tuesday). Cattle egrets and the glossy ibis are still roosting on Ham Wall each night so look out for flocks at dusk. They can sometimes be seen during the day with 20 flying over the car park on Saturday.
Great crested grebes have been seen here too displaying again but also what looks to be a half-hearted attempt at nest building. A small platform was started but it came to nothing. Some coots decided to sit on the structure for a bit of preening however.
A better place to spot the pintails could be the 2nd platform (VP2) with a few sightings this week. John Crispin manged to take this shot yesterday of 2 males and 2 females. Thanks John!
Also seen this week was this pochard with a 'nose saddle' - colour pale green with H in front and ko either side. John Crispin reported this to Euring and so Far he's been told it was ringed in France. Details have been apssed onto Alain Caizergues co-ordinator for the ringing project. If he finds anything else out he'll let me know - thank you John!
Other slightly rarer birds this week include the Siberian chiffchaff seen and heard in the car park this morning and a firecrest seen along the main track through the reserve. The trees along the track are always worth a look. In spring and summer they are full of warblers but at this time of year look out for redpoll seen a few times this week in the alders and siskins - with 7 seen together yesterday. Also sighted on the main track this week apart from all the usual tits and finches: treecreeper, goldcrest, song thrush, chiffchaff and bullfinch.
Look out for bullfinch in and around the car park too. A pair have been reported at least 4 times this week. They were seen close to the toilet block on Tuesday and on Monday and Wednesday in the hedge lines on the other side of the car park and next to the road. The male is a particularly stunning bird isn't it!
Great Spotted Woodpeckers are being seen pretty regularly from all corners of the reserve. I've heard plenty of tapping on wood but also full drumming this week. John Crispin caught this one in the act over in Loxtons (seen from the main track) drumming on the shorter dead stem - thanks for the photo John!
They can often be seen and heard in the wood close to the Avalon Hide. The path is still pretty muddy but we've managed to get the water off the path so access here is easier at least. After my wonderful sighting of a mother otter and 2 cubs last Friday they were seen again on Sunday morning from the hide - keep an eye open. Whilst you do take regular look back towards the wood to the owl box. Tawny owls are still using it and one sat outside for some time on Monday giving great views.
In front of the hide look out for bitterns - a few reports from here again this week and a report of a boom from a male bird. As we pass through February into March and beyond this noise will become far more obvious and widespread throughout the Avalon Marshes.
Marsh Harriers are regulars here too although 2 males (one adult and one sub adult) have been seen across the reserve this week. They've bred in front of the hide for the last few years so expect to see the same again - we hope so anyway!
Also reported from the Avalon Hide this week: peregrine, sparrowhawk, great white egret, stonechat, golden plover (presumably flying over - I have no more info on this), a range of wildfowl along with groups of lapwing and snipe.
For lapwing and snipe perhaps check the temporary blind out to the right just before you enter the wood to go the the Avalon Hide. A good 300 lapwing there during the week - maybe more and several groups of snipe roaming around c50+ in some groups but also some birds on the ground hidden amongst the throngs of teal and shoveler on Monday.
Lots of snipe being sen over Waltons too, with these snapped by John Crispin this week:
Starlings are moving to and fro between Ham Wall and Shapwick. Weds and Thursday night saw them roosting at Shapwick Heath opposite the tower hide so parking at the Ham Wall car park still the best option. Of course you can phone the hotline which will tell you where the main roost was the night before on 07866 554142 or ask in the Welcome building in the Ham Wall car park where staff and volunteers will do their best to help.
Also on the reserve this week: Water rail seen both at the Tor View Hide and the Loxtons screen during the week, buzzard seen daily including the car park, 2 jays seen at the car park on Monday, 30-40 fieldfares flew over the reserve on Saturday, little grebes being very vocal with 3 pairs in Loxtons alone (and a pair of great crested grebe), mistle thrush seen twice at the car park this week, 2 barn owls seen outside the box opposite VP1 on Tuesday, Peregrine and sparrowhawk seen several times throughout the week including today, Ravens seen and heard on almost a daily basis at the moment and plenty of kingfisher activity particularly around Waltons and Loxtons.
If you follow us or other RSPB pages on Facebook and want to see our stories pop up in your feed you'll find that Facebook have made some changes to your Newsfeed. That means to continue to see our blog, events news and all our fun and informative material, we are highlighting that you will need to change your Newsfeed Preferences to include our page. We do hope you will make this easy change, as we love hearing from you and seeing what you’ve been up to during your week when giving nature a home. Here is our step-by-step guide:
1. Click on the Facebook app on your phone.
2. Select the options button (bottom right hand corner, triple bar).
3. Scroll down to 'Settings' and click on 'News Feed Preferences'.
4. Click on the 'Prioritise who to see first' tab.
5. You should see a list of all your friends, pages you like and businesses. Find 'RSPB Ham Wall' and tap our icon.
6. A star with a blue background will appear in the top right hand corner of that profile.
7. Click 'Done' at the top to save this preference selection and 'Done' again to return to your options menu. All done!
Obviously if you follow other pages click on their icons too.
Also please, if you haven't done so already vote for Ham Wall in the Countryfile Awards 2018 for Nature Reserve of the Year.
You can do it by following the link here: bit.ly/2DqOvhN
Please also sign up for our Thunderclap on Facebook and Twitter. It means a big post will go out to all contacts at the same time and have a bigger impact in peoples news feeds etc.
It's very simple and you can do that here. https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/66978-vote-now-for-rspb-ham-wall
Please encourage all your friends and family to vote for us too. Thank you.
Think that's about it for this week. Thanks as always to John Crispin for his excellent photos. Have a great weekend everybody!