Some pretty nasty weather through this week with Storm Barra making a bit of a mark. Thankfully the reserve got off pretty lightly with just a couple of trees down. Not surprisingly there were very few visitors around at times although one or two brave souls were out and about. It gave us a bit of heart as we donned chest waders to erect a small floating raft in Loxtons (on Tuesday during wind and rain), with the help of Jack from the Environment Agency. This will monitor the water quality in this area and send us the information remotely. It all went very smoothly and we soon get some very useful data.
Loxtons obviously looks very open at the moment after all the reed cutting work but there's a fair amount of action if you look for it, Grey heron and great white egrets have been seen in here and a few duck but look out for pied wagtails and water pipits too. In fact anywhere there is floating rafts of cut vegetation is a good place to look for water pipits. Thanks to John Crispin for his shots taken this week. The eye stripe is the main feature to look for I would say:
One was also seen from the first viewing platform (VP1) yesterday. This morning VP1 was a wonderful sight. At least 400 lapwing were present , spread across the splashy islands. They always add plenty of action and noise to the reserve I think. Good numbers can be seen here on most days.
Look out for snipe too. Your best chance maybe when the get disturbed and fly up together in a group as they are well camouflaged against the reed stubble. Careful scanning with a scope or your binoculars could bring rewards though. You could also try the cut island over in Waltons in front of the third screen - there were some there this morning and I was luck enough to see a group of around 15 in flight over Loxtons on Wednesday. Thanks again to John Crispin for his snipe shots taken this week:
Also from VP1 this week were 2 black tailed godwits hidden amongst the lapwing and great white egrets sit out in the open on most days too.
Over in Waltons more wildfowl have begun to gather - plenty there this morning particularly gadwall and coot. Look out for gadwall stealing vegetation from the coots which they collect during dives (of course the gadwall cannot). There were also shoveler there this morning and a few tufted duck. Also 3 great crested grebes which have usually dispersed by now for the winter. Water rail can also occasional be seen around here so keep your eyes open although general it's their squealing calls you will hear only. 7 pochard were also recorded last Saturday - not seen up until then. This shot from John Crispin shows the gadwalls lovely plumage - thanks John:
Wigeon and teal are also around the reserve - they are winter visitors and often add a bit of noise to the proceedings with their distinctive calls. Thanks again to John Crispin for his Wigeon shot taken from VP2:
In the far corner of Waltons this week (south east) a grey heron and a great white egret were having a bit of a disagreement. I went of to do something and cam back an hour later and they were still at it. No idea what the argument was about but it did make me chuckle.
They aren't the only heron species around of course. A little egret was watching the previous argument from a short distance - perhaps they had a better idea than me what it was about. Bitterns too are being seen occasionally in flight and sometimes calling as they do so - you just have to be in the right place at the right time. Thanks to John Crispin who took this shot as a bittern flew over the second viewing platform (VP2) this week:
Cattle egrets are around locally 150 or more have been reported - look in fields of cattle on your way to the local reserves - you never know! Also if you come to visit the reserve to see the starlings you may see good numbers flying over to their roosts in the gloom.
Starlings are currently estimated to be at around 250,000 and VP1 is probably the best place to see the show. I would suggest being in place by at least 3.30pm to save from disappointment. Also remember the weekends can be pretty busy around starling time so if you can come during the week, do that.
When starlings come there's always a chance of birds of prey too. Often in the morning you will see marsh harriers quartering over the roost site to hoover up any dead bodies and we already know the barn owls take starlings for their supper - you can tell by the mess they make in the Avalon Hide.
Sparrowhawk aren't uncommon - one flew over the reserve on Wednesday not long before the roost and a peregrine was seen over the car park yesterday. The occasional kestrel can also be seen whilst buzzards are pretty much a daily occurrence. These 2 marsh harrier (male and female) were photographed by John Crispin this week - probably the 2 most prominent birds we have. Thanks John:
Along the main path on the way into the reserve look out for goldcrest (no firecrest reported to me yet but keep looking), bullfinch, chiffchaff, great spotted woodpecker, groups of long tailed tits, goldfinches and mixed tit flocks along with small flocks of redpolls and the odd siskin (alder trees a good place to spot them).
Many of these can be seen from the car park too, with all kids of extras flying over including ravens. We've been holding a few volunteer work parties in the car parks in recent weeks and great progress has been made - thanks to all of the for their hard work. From the Sunday team: Rowan (who's only 11), Dan and Lee did a great job revamping the bug house in the grassy area. I think it looks fab.
That's it for this week - hope to be able to keep these blogs more regular again now (although I will be taking a Christmas break of course). Thanks for reading - have a great weekend.
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