Wow! July already - time is flying by at the moment. Another breeding season is drawing to a close and it wont be long before we are thinking about starting another season of reed cutting. In one or two places the growth is getting a little high and beginning to obscure views a little. We will of course deal with this issue as soon as we are confident that there are no breeding birds that will be put at risk by our actions. Thanks for bearing with us at this time.

Despite this you can still see plenty of bird life from the first viewing platform (VP1) despite much of the open water now hidden from view. A great white egret has been a frequent visitor to this area this week. They are now a standing fixture of any visit to the Avalon Marshes these days. The Avalon Hide is another good place to track these down. Thanks to Andy Collins for his shots of great white egret taken one from each of the last 2 weeks:

Breeding season is nearly over but there is still plenty of evidence that it's not over. Some bitterns nests are still active with several sightings from the Avalon Hide as well as the second viewing platform (VP2) and one hardy male is still booming within Waltons albeit a lot weaker now. 

Marsh Harriers are still busy in front of the Avalon Hide too with regular sightings of both male and female around the nest site - thanks to John Crispin for his shot of the male bird:

Whilst at the hide look out also for the great crested grebes with their noisy youngsters. Adult and young grebes can also be seen at Waltons & Loxtons. It seems they have had a good breeding season at Ham Wall this year - with at least one pair going for a second brood. Young birds can often be seen riding on the backs of there parents when small. This was also seen in some little grebes this week which I can't recall seeing before - perhaps a little more unusual in this species. 

Thanks to Andy Collins & John Crispin for their shots taken this week: 

Great crested grebe with youngsters swimming - Andy Collins 

Great crested grebe with youngster on its back: John Crispin 

Also this shot from John Crispin of one in flight. Looking at its stripy head shows it is a juvenile bird - perhaps leaving mum and dad to make it's own way in the world. Thanks John:

There are plenty of other young birds to spot around the reserve. A good place to start is the car park at the small wildlife garden behind the Welcome Building. This week there have been juvenile house sparrows, great tit, blue tit, great spotted woodpecker and robin all using the feeders. Look out also for numerous goldfinches, chaffinch, bullfinch, greenfinch & blackbird as well as field mice which scurry out occasionally to pick up discarded seed from the floor. 

Out on the reserve parent birds can still be seen carrying food such as this female blackcap snapped by John Crispin:

Or youngsters can be seen with parent birds still such as the Gadwall with 12 young at Loxtons along with a few broods of pochards. This young pochard was accompanying its parnet this week whilst another smaller duckling was seen alone. Thanks to John Crispin for the pictures: 

Other youngsters are independent far more quickly such as these young bearded tits photographed by Len Collard on Tuesday outside the Avalon Hide. There have been 2 or 3 other reports of bearded tits in this area this week so worth bearing in mind if you're headed that way. Thanks for sending in your shots Len. The black streaking on the back and tail as well as the black around the eye suggest these are juvenile birds:

Another sign that the breeding season is drawing to a close is when birds start flocking together a bit more. A group of 250 or so gadwall have been counted in the Loxtons section, whilst around 30 lapwing have been seen together from VP1 on several days this week, including this morning. Of course many of the duck species are moving into an eclipse state often making ID's a little harder. 

Whist on the subject of large groups, an impressive 117 cormorants were seen gathered together in the group of dead trees visible from the old rail bridge, in the section before Waltons. More close up views can be had from VP1 where they sit on the rails or the Loxtons screen where they perch on the rafts.

It's a time of year when birds will also begin to move around a lot more. Several groups of sand martins have passed through this week and there seems to have been a reduction in the numbers of swift being seen. A black tailed godwit joined the lapwing at VP1 this week for a while and an osprey was seen over the Avalon Hide on Sunday. Quite early, so perhaps a non breeding bird. Thanks to Ben Walker who sent in his shot of the osprey which was being watched closely by a lesser black back gull:

Often when days are hotter and bird sightings decrease a little (as they often do in July & August) peoples attention is often caught by the insect life. Great numbers of dragonflies can be seen across The Levels along with damselflies & Butterflies too.

A few new emergent dragonflies over the last couple of weeks since the last blog. The first brown hawkers of the season this week along with ruddy darter whilst last week saw the first common darters of the season. They join the emperors, the few remaining four spotted chasers, scarce chasers and black tailed skimmers already buzzing around the reserve.

Thanks to Andy Collins, Mike Pearce & Giles Morris for their dragonfly pics all sent in this week:

Black tailed skimmer female: Andy Collins 

Black tailed skimmer male: Giles Morris

Common darter (immature male) - Mike Pearce

Ruddy darter: Giles Morris

Emperor male: Giles Morris

Emperor female: Mike Pearce

It's been a pretty good week for butterflies too with some newly emerged species here too such as ringlet and gatekeeper both seen for the first time this week. Add to these green veined white, large white, small tortoiseshell, meadow brown, brimstone, comma, speckled wood, large skipper, painted lady, red admiral and you're getting quite a nice list. It's also worth looking out for white admiral - particularly along the main track we do get the odd sighting each year and they have been seen over on Shapwick Heath this week. Thank you to John Crispin, Andy Collins, Mike Pearce & Giles Morris who have all sent me photos of butterflies this week:

Comma: John Crispin

Large Skipper: Andy Collins

Large skipper: Giles Morris

Large skipper: Mike Pearce

Painted Lady: Giles Morris

Red Admiral: Mike Pearce

Many of the butterfly species can be seen using the flowers in the wildlife garden or around the raised beds. Look out also here for the hummingbird hawkmoth which particularly likes the verbena and for scarlet tiger moth out on the reserve. A visitor also reported a garden tiger moth yesterday around the mini marshes path at the car park. 

The flowers are full of bumblebees too with buff tailed bumbles commonplace. I took this shot of a buff tail queen (i'm assuming as it was quite large) at the raised beds last week:

A lady who knew about bees also said there was a wool carder bee on the flowers. A solitary bee I think. Volunteers manning the Welcome Building said it was quite aggressive towards other bees.

There are plenty of other interesting bugs to be found. The closer you look, the more you see. Thanks to Andy Collins for his shot of a black & yellow longhorn beetle taken on Monday:

Also this week: a purple heron seen several times over on Shapwick Heath this week but it also dropped into Waltons briefly yesterday, a tawny owl seen from VP2 on Tuesday, a roe deer seen from the same location on Tuesday, stock doves seen from VP1 this morning, whitethroats also seen from VP1, a drake garganey seen from VP2 early in the week, a song thrush seen feeding in the car park this morning (see Andy Collins' photo below of another bird seen on Monday), Hobby seen from the car park, Waltons & the Avalon Hide this week, barn owls seen on several occasions from both platforms and the Avalon Hide (mornings and evenings) - thanks to John Crispin for his shot from VP2 (this bird returned to an owl box on the north of the reserve meaning we are likely to have at least 2 nests) and cuckoos are still present but much quieter now - again thanks to John Crispin for his shots taken at Loxtons this week.

Song Thrush feeding: Andy Collins 

Barn Owl: John Crispin 

That's it for this week. Thanks for reading and to all those who contributed there wonderful photos. Have a great weekend 

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