July gone, in the blink of an eye it seems, and August is upon us already. Some welcome rain this week but very hot days too. There have been some quiet days in terms of visitors with the heat keeping some people away. It was great however to see so many children and parents enjoying our bug hunt event yesterday - a reminder that Ham Wall is crammed full of insects - as always the more you look, the more you see but often the more obvious ones are the favourites.
It seems to be a good period for butterflies at the moment with painted ladies in particular being seen quite regularly this week. Thanks to John Crispin and Andy Collins for their shots taken during the week:
Painted lady butterflies on hemp agrimony: John Crispin
Painted Lady: Andy Collins
Look out also for small tortoiseshell, green veined white, large white, small white, common blue, holly blue, speckled wood, peacock, red admiral, meadow brown and gatekeeper. The hemp agrimony plants which line the ditch edges and pathways are a particular favourite nectar source (see John's photos above).
Dragonflies are another firm favourite (definitely one of mine) and still plenty of species to keep an eye out for: Brown hawker, emperor, black tailed skimmer, scarce chaser, southern hawker, common darter and ruddy darter. The latter is our latest dragonfly and if frosts are avoided can be on the wing well into November. The males identifiable by the red colour but look out for the tapering in and out of the tail to help distinguish it from common darter. Thanks to Andy Collins for his photo:
Bumblebees too are going about their business, as they do, collecting nectar and transporting pollen from place to place. This common carder (think I've got the ID right - correct me if I'm wrong) is showing swollen pollen sacks on it's hind legs. Thanks to John Crispin for his shots:
Insects are a great thing to get into at this time of year when the bird life is traditionally a little quieter. But this is Ham Wall & the Avalon Marshes and there's always something to see. Birds are on the move. House Martins, swallows & swift have all been seen passing through and some waders are beginning to group up and pay us a visit.
Lapwing are the most noticeable with a group of up to 100 spotted from the second viewing platform this week (c70 yesterday morning) with enough mud showing now to accommodate them. The hot weather has naturally drawn down these water levels through evaporation. Look out also for snipe - one or two hidden amongst the vegetation, black tailed godwits (2 yesterday) and a redshank seen on a couple of occasions. Hopefully wader numbers will continue to increase over the coming weeks.
If you're looking over the VP2 area there's a good chance of a sighting of great white egret or two or even 15 as was the case yesterday morning. They are here most mornings and often one or two little egrets can be seen too. It's great when you get them side by side for a size comparison. Thanks to Graham Wagner for his photos which do precisely that:
Thanks also to John Crispin for his shot of a little egret fluffing up it's plumage - beautiful!
Bitterns are still being seen quite regularly, good reports from the Tor View Hide/Waltons on Tuesday and several sightings from the Avalon Hide this week too. That's also the place to see the most of the marsh harrier activity too. The 3 youngsters from the nest have been out and about all week honing their flying skills, ready for independence. This one has also been practising some hunting skills by the looks of it. It did a kind of mock prey capture a couple of times in the same reedbed area. Thanks to John Crispin who captured the action:
Thanks also to Andy Collins and Graham Wagner for their marsh harrier shots taken this week:
Juvenile marsh harrier: Andy Collins
Marsh harrier adult & juvenile: Graham Wagner
Other birds of prey seen this week include the barn owls from the 1st platform (VP1) and the Avalon Hide, a kestrel seen from the Tor View Hide & VP2, a sparrowhawk seen at least twice from VP1 (once carrying prey to the wood on the left (as last week), buzzards seen daily (4 seen circling high on thermals yesterday above the Avalon Hide, and the osprey seen earlier in the week over on neighbouring Shapwick Heath but no reports at this end of the week as far as I know and still a few hobby being spotted - VP1, VP2, Waltons and the Avalon Hide all with sightings.
Studying the behaviour of these and other birds can be fascinating. Here's some other interesting behaviour shots captured by Andy Collins and Graham Wagner this week - thanks to both:
A cormorant and a mute swam have a polite discussion over who's turn it is on the raft at Loxtons - Graham Wagner
Great crested grebes practice their weed dance for next year - Andy Collins
A wren enjoys a good old fashioned dust bath - Andy Collins
A water rail has a bit of a jig at the Tor View Hide - Graham Wagner
A mallard enjoys a light lunch of freshwater snails - Andy Collins.
So when you're out there thinking that it's a bit quiet or not much around take a closer look at what is there and see what they're up to - there's all sorts of interesting stuff that you might miss.
Also this week: a bullfinch calling for long periods in the car park yesterday, a water rail family seen from the Tor View Hide, a garganey seen last weekend near VP2, a lesser whitethroat seen on the main track near VP1, singing willow warbler at the car park (blackcap and chiffchaff seen also, kingfisher seen from the old rail bridge and at Waltons, ravens seen and heard flying over the car park, a jay seen around the Waltons trail, great spotted woodpeckers seen at various locations, a build up of wildfowl including: a few teal, pochard, shoveler, gadwall, mallard and tufted duck (look out for females of these with quite small young and a grass snake seen near VP2.
If you're thinking about what where the cranes might be (we get a few enquiries here) perhaps Aller Moor is the place to try. This is more likely as winter approaches but 8 were seen there this week but and early start is suggested. John Crispin (an early bird) saw 8 there on Wednesday morning between 5.15 & 7.30am (while I'm still eating my corn flakes).
I thought I'd leave you with a lovely picture of a roe deer from Graham Wagner taken from the Avalon Hide - looking at its face it looks like quite a young one. Thanks Graham:
That's it for this week - thanks for reading. Have a great weekend!
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