There have been some very frosty starts to the days this week (it was -6c on my drive in this morning) but the days have generally cleared up well and been quite sunny. In fact at times you could be fooled into thinking spring was here already. Some wildlife has definitely responded to these mild temperatures. As I mentioned in the last blog birds have been singing more readily and others have been staking out territories - particularly birds which generally start a bit earlier such as herons. 

I heard a drumming great spotted woodpecker this morning, bitterns have been heard 'grunting' (not quite a boom) and one was actually heard to do a single boom from the first viewing platform (VP1) yesterday. 

A great crested grebe was heard calling from VP1 this week - perhaps setting up a territory or calling a mate whilst over in Waltons a pair have been seen pair bonding including head bobbing and presenting weed (what a splendid gift). Thank you to Andrew Kirby who captured this behaviour on Saturday (15th):

  

Thanks also to Sandie Andrews for her grebe shots taken last week:

After all that pair bonding and splashing about it must be nice to put your feet up and relax - thanks to John Crispin for his shot of a relaxing grebe:

Some have decided to take their romance to the next level already - thanks to Sandie Andrews who captured these shots of mating teal last week:

Also some teal in flight courtesy of Mike Pearce - thanks Mike:

Also within the Waltons section today were a lot of very noisy coot and a few hundred shoveler - particularly on the eastern side. The western side had groups of tufted duck . Whilst scanning over the groups look out for the ring necked duck which has been seen every day this week . Thanks go to: Mike Pearce for his shot of persistently fighting coot, John Crispin for his photo of tufted duck and Graham Wagner for his ring necked duck photo:

  

Look out also for gadwall - from distance a plain looking duck but actually a rather lovely plumage when seen close up. Thanks to both Mike Pearce and John Crispin for sending in their gadwall shots:

Time for a bath - water off a ducks back!

From VP1 we have brought water levels up any higher than in the last blog but shallows and land are at a premium here, hence the depleted numbers of lapwing and duck. Our plan is to keep water levels high here to try and supress the regrowth of reed. We are now slowly lowering water levels in front of the second viewing platform  (VP2) and some mud and shallows should begin to appear here as the days progress. 

There are still a few pochard and wigeon using the area along with lapwing and some quite visible snipe this morning (groups of snipe are called a 'wisp' - rather a nice collective noun I thought. Lapwing and snipe can also be seen over on the island in front of the 3rd Waltons screen or from the Tor View Hide. Thanks to John Crispin who caught them both in the same shot this week: 

Thanks also to Sandie Andrews for her Lapwing photo:

Snipe have a wonderful plumage which is great camouflage - a bit of preening keeps in tip top condition. Thanks once again to John Crispin for his contributions: 

  

The Avalon Hide has plenty to offer too and is usually the best place to see marsh harriers - the mess in the hide is down to barn owls using it as a dining room (hence the starling remains), a toilet (hence the mess) and a place to catch up on some sleep, then leaving before visitors arrive. Marsh harriers are seen daily (up to 4 together) and thanks go to Sandie Andrews for sending in her shots:

and just to prove it's here, one with Glastonbury Tor in the background:

Despite the remains of starlings being found there are large roosts still each night of course. We are currently suggesting that people go to VP2 (this of course could change tonight or over the weekend). A smaller group is dropping into the eastern end of Loxtons whilst a much larger group were distant from VP2 - you'll get a good idea of numbers but they were a fair way off. There may be other roost areas off of Ham Wall as the flocks are possibly split a bit currently this is the best bet. 

Thank you again to Sandie Andrews for sending in some starling shot:

Other birds roost in numbers on local reserves including Ham Wall - these include great white egrets and cattle egrets, which then disperse out into the local area during the day. Great white egrets are a easy daily sighting at Ham Wall. One was stood out in the open today from VP1 - also try the Avalon Hide or within Waltons. Thanks to Graham Wagner who took this shot on Monday from the Tot View Hide:

Cattle egret are a little harder to come by perhaps - usually in local fields with sheep or cattle. When you do find them it could be in large numbers with c360 being spotted locally recently - though to be over 400 in Somerset currently. Roosting with them lately has been a glossy ibis - it has also been out feeding with them. It was joined by a second one this week and it is possible that the one being seen at Catcott of late could be a third not confirmed). I'm keeping the roost site locations pretty vague as I feel it's the right thing to do. Plenty of opportunities to find these in daylight hours.

Thanks to Sandie Andrews for her cattle egrets shot and John Crispin for his shots of some very frosty cattle egrets and 2 glossy ibis:

If all this isn't enough for you there is always plenty to see around the car park or by taking a walk along the main path. Robins, in particular, are being remarked upon. Everywhere you seem to go a robin (or two, or three) is never far behind. Many feeding out of peoples hands. Also spotted along the main path this week: bullfinch, lesser redpoll, goldcrest, flocks of goldfinch and long tailed tits, song thrush, blackbird, treecreeper and these 3 pictured: wren, siskin and chiffchaff - thanks to Graham Wagner for these 3 lovely shots:

Out in and around the reedbeds: listen out for noisy water rails (they sound like a squealing pig) - in fact icy weather can be a good time to see them as they get braver in the hunt for food, also the cettis warbler with its loud and punchy call, bearded tits - seen within the Waltons area a couple of times this week (including this morning) or near the Avalon Hide, stonechats - often in pairs (try VP1 or around the Waltons/Loxtons trails) and reed buntings. Thanks to Graham Wagner for his reed bunting photo:

Think I'd better leave it there for this week. I hope it's given you a good taste for what the reserve has to offer.

Thanks for reading and all those who contributed their amazing photographs.

Have a great weekend.

Anonymous