Spring is my favourite season and the reserve never seems to let you down at this time of year. The past couple of weeks have been no exception with all kinds of weird and wonderful happenings on the reserve. It's the first blog for a couple of weeks because of the Easter break and the reserve seems like such a different place in that short space of time.
The vegetation is really getting going and a greener, lusher reserve is now home to many more species than when I last wrote - some more obvious than others. Perhaps the most obvious being the arrival of the cuckoo with its iconic call - a real sentinel of spring. Several can be heard around the reserve - try either platform or the Waltons and Loxtons trails to try and catch a glimpse of this bird. Thanks to John Crispin for his shot of a cuckoo he'd seen calling and preening around Loxtons this week:
Also pouring in over the last fortnight have been numerous house martin, sand martin and swallows and the first of the years swifts. One big surprise yesterday among 5 or so common swift was an alpine swift. First seen during the morning from the second viewing platform (VP2) it was later seen between the bridge and Waltons on the main track. 2 Arctic terns were also reported by members of the small crowd who gathered yesterday evening to catch a sighting of this bird. Thanks to Mike Trew for his shot taken yesterday:
Somewhat larger than a regular swift and very white underneath it's hard to mistake for anything else. Great to have one on the reserve.
Several hobby have been seen too - still waiting for my first one, with 9 being seen from the Avalon Hide during the week. Sightings also from the car park and both viewing platforms. They have timed their arrival well as the first dragonflies & damselflies of the season have been seen on the wing. Hairy dragonfly is our earliest emergent and the most likely if you see one. In terns of damselflies look out for large red, variable (blue) and blue tailed - all seen this week.
Obviously the sunnier spells are the most likely times to see them and the same can be said of most of our insect species. Several butterfly species have been recorded this week: Speckled wood, red admiral, green veined white, brimstone, holly blue, small tortoiseshell, small copper, orange tip and peacock (the last too pictured below - both photos by John Crispin - thanks John):
Along with the brimstone butterfly mentioned above there is also a brimstone moth - once again photographed by John Crispin on the reserve this week:
Plenty of other insects to discover, if that's your thing - it's amazing just what you can see if you really look closer. Thanks again to John Crispin - this time for a shot of common carder bumblebee taken during the week:
With all the increase in insect life there are plenty of other new arrivals who will take advantage of the abundance of food. Reed warblers have been on the increase over the last fortnight - certainly a noticeable increase in volume within the reedbeds with their chattering songs. Listen out also for sedge warbler who have a similar song but usually a lot more varied than that of the reed warbler. Obviously a sighting always helps with the eye stripe on the sedge warbler the most obvious difference. Thanks to Graham Wagner for his shots of reed and sedge warbler below both taken on the way to the Avalon Hide. Have a listen and see if you can tell them apart:
Also thanks to John Crispin for his shot of a sedge warbler in song:
Other warblers of course are present including chiffchaff, cettis warbler, blackcaps (plenty), garden warbler (try next to VP1) and willow warbler - listen out for their descending call. Thanks to Graham Wagner for his photograph taken this morning on the main track:
Another arrival is the whitethroat. A regular place to find one on Ham Wall is in the brambles in front of VP1 and this year is no exception with several sightings this week. Thanks to both John Crispin & Graham Wagner for their photos submitted from this week:
It's a time of year when you never know what's going to turn up - the last couple of weeks have been a prime example.
The Alpine swift yesterday is one example but add to this a purple heron seen on Sunday flying over Ham Wall on at least 2 occasions, a White Stork which flew over last week and was seen locally for several days, a Goshawk reported twice last week, an Osprey seen perched in trees south of Waltons on Saturday, c80 Cattle Egret (perhaps more, possibly over 100) still being seen in the local area (seen in the last week from the Tor View Hide and VP2 but also seen perched in trees at Loxtons - see John Crispin's photo below) , the glossy ibis still being seen on the Avalon Marshes - spotted from the Tor View Hide on Monday, Red Kites seen on at least 3 occasions in the last 10 days or so (seen flying over the car park on Sunday and from the Avalon Hide), an Egyptian goose spotted on 13th April along with a ferrugenous duck & the arrival of a nightingale singing in the car park last Sunday. The bird has since move across to Shapwick Heath where it has been heard from the Ashcott Corner car park and then along the discovery tail which leads off it.
Never a dull moment it would seem (although somehow I seem to have managed to miss the vast majority of these myself. I can still make do with daily sightings of great white egrets - often seen feeding from VP1 (this morning included) and in Waltons and marsh harriers - with great views being had from the Avalon Hide in particular with sky dancing and other interactions between pairs. Also from here look for nest building great crested grebes (also sat at Waltons - visible from the main path or from the western most screen) and bitterns.
A few flights from bitterns being seen from the Avalon Hide or within Waltons but it's the booming which is still most obvious. One I heard in particular from VP2 had a really beautiful, pure tone to his boom.
Within Waltons look out for the nesting grey herons although there is a bit of a puzzle over one nest. Last week at least 2 youngsters were present and being fed by adults but then over the weekend no sign of adults at all for a couple of days. Then a male returned with nesting material while the female stood at the nest site and the couple then mated. A mystery to be solved?
Thanks to John Crispin for his evidencial pictures:
Other youngsters are appearing out on the reserve now with a mallard with ducklings seen from VP1, greylags with goslings from both VP1 & VP2 and wonderfully for us a hatched tawny owl in our camera box which is beaming back to the Welcome Building in the car park. Occasional glimpses can be seen when the parent bird moves around and preens or tears apart food from its cache in the box.
Thanks to Graham Wagner for his shot of coot with young taken from the Tor View Hide this morning:
Also seen this week: bullfinch along the main path on several days, song thrush singing loudly near the car park, drumming and calling great spotted woodpecker, roe deer seen from the Avalon Hide & VP1, a badger seen around the Loxtons trail, grass snakes seen around the mini marshes at the car park, water rail spotted from the Avalon Hide yesterday, black tailed godwits seen from VP1 yesterday along with a common sandpiper (also seen at Loxtons). Thanks to John Crispin for his shot of the common sandpiper:
Finally some news about a couple of our upcoming events. There are still spaces available on our Spring Migration Walks which are coming up soon. Details are below:
Spring Migration at Ham Wall:
May 14th and 21st 7 -9pm
Spring is an amazing time of the year on the Avalon Marshes.
Join members of the Ham Wall team as we go in search of cuckoos, reed warblers and hobbys and not to mention the reserves star of the show the ever elusive bittern! Booking essential. £4.80 RSPB member / £6 non-member £2.40 child member / £3 child non-member / (Suitable for children ages 10+) All booking is online via eventbrite Please note booking charges apply
Also we have decided to keep the Welcome Building closed at the car park tomorrow due to the prediction of some adverse weather. Apologies for this but the reserve and toilets will be open as normal. This also means that we have had to cancel the Optics day scheduled for tomorrow. Don't worry there are other dates coming up with the next Optics day due on Saturday 25th May.
That's it for this week - and what a week it was. Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!
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