It certainly hasn't felt like spring this week at times but meteorological spring started on March 1st (astronomical spring officially starts on March 20th this year). Wildlife on the reserve has been responding to the extra daylight and slightly warmer temperatures at times with several species nesting already.
The traditional early nesters, Grey Herons, are well underway in the eastern side of Waltons and have been witnessed carrying in nesting material this week. This bird bringing in sticks to its partner on the nest on Tuesday. Thanks to John Crispin for his photo:
There are at least 3 active nests here at the moment and other herons nesting at 2 other locations on the reserve.
From the first viewing platform (VP1) a pair of great crested grebes have continued to sit - through all the howling winds and rain and hail of the last fortnight or so. That's dedication! Take a look for yourself when you get there - thanks again to John Crispin for sending in his shots:
Grebes are also present within Waltons (seen weed dancing on Wednesday), Loxtons and at the Avalon Hide. Now I've mentioned Loxtons, I need to remind people that we have closed the majority of the trail for the time being. A tree has fallen at one end (next to Waltons) - this should be cleared by some of our colleagues on Tuesday 17th March and the path to the screen is very flooded. We will reopen when the levels drop down - soon hopefully - no more rain for a while please.
Many parts of the reserve are on the wet and muddy side - no surprise given the weather we've had. The path to the Avalon Hide is muddy but passable. When your there look out for the pair of great crested grebes. Thanks to Graham Wagner for his shots of one trying to swallow a rather large fish - incredible how they can do this:
Look out also for the marsh harriers - often seen flying in pairs. They were dong a lot of interacting and tumbling yesterday - reinforcing pair bonds I guess.
Other signs of spring include the emergence of one or two grass snakes, more frog spawn appearing in the car park pools (and in our wildlife garden a couple of weeks ago), an increase in bird song in the last fortnight for sure with song thrush, chiffchaff, wren, robin, blackbird, dunnock, great tit and blue tit all in song (along with others) and snowdrops and daffodils in bloom. trees are also budding like these photographed by Sandie Andrews this week - thanks Sandie:
In many cases a birds plumage or other features will change colour or become brighter. A good example of this is the great white egret. Their bills turn from yellow to black in breeding season, the lores (where the bill meets the face) become a bright green, their wonderful plumage is more obvious and their legs become tinged with pink and red - all those features can be seen in John Crispin's photograph below - this one's ready for the season ahead - thanks John:
Bitterns are booming well - many booming all day now. The first booming bittern survey of the season will be next Thursday morning, meaning staff and volunteers are out on the reserve and in position before sunrise. Booming birds can be heard from the car park, Avalon Hide, Waltons, VP2 - pretty much all over really - an unmistakable sound once you hear it.
Sightings of bittern this week include: from the Avalon Hide, Waltons and VP2. As the weeks progress the chances of a sighting increase as birds are involved in chases, territorial disputes and then feeding flights from females to and from nests.
While on the subject, why not book onto one of our upcoming walks:
Mr Boombastic at Ham Wall
Sunday 22 March
Saturday 4 and 18 April
6 am – 8:30 am
With over forty male booming bitterns recorded last year, the Avalon Marshes is one of the best places in the country to find this shy and elusive bird.
Join us on an early morning walk to come and listen to the eerie booming of the bitterns as they look for a mate.
RSPB members £4.80 / Non members £6;
RSPB child members £2.40 / Non member child £3;
All bookings through Eventbrite: https://mrboombastic2020.eventbrite.co.uk
Please note booking charges apply
There are still a few of our wintering birds on site. Wigeon and teal are being seen from VP1 but there numbers will begin to diminish as spring gets into full swing. Redpoll and siskin have been seen occasionally along the rail path whilst stonechats have been seen in front of VP1. These pintail were also spotted briefly on Tuesday from VP1 before flying off. Thanks to John Crispin for sending in his photos:
Your chances of seeing a cettis warbler will also increase over the next few weeks as they begin to perch up more obviously singing from territory perches. Catch them before the leaves come out on the trees and hide them once more. This cettis was photographed by Mike Pearce from the Tor View Hide this week - thanks Mike:
Water rails have been seen around the Tor View Hide area in recent weeks but the water levels in Waltons are quite high at the moment - it asn't stopped these two snipe finding a muddy patch to feed in though - thanks once again to John Crispin for his shot:
If you don't fancy sloshing about on muddy paths yourself there is plenty to see from the main track. There are the two viewing platforms of course but check out the tree lines too. Bullfinch, treecreeper, chiffchaff, lots of tits & finches, song thrush and firecrest (close to VP2) all seen this week as well as goldcrests - photographed here by Graham Wagner - thanks Graham:
The car park can bring good rewards too: I heard treecreeper there yesterday and saw a kestrel perched on the car park rails on Tuesday before it perched up in the hedge and then dropped down on some prey (don't know if it was successful - it stayed there a while so I suspect it was). Mistle thrush and song thrush also seen, a flyover from a few cattle egrets, bullfinch,buzzard, coal tit and chiffchaff to name a few more. Also this Jay photographed by Graham Wagner - thanks Graham:
That's pretty much it for this week. I'll leave you with Mike Pearce's shot of a great spotted woodpecker taken from Central Wood (by the Avalon Hide) this week. I've heard a few drumming away this week - another sign of spring - thanks Mike:
That's it for this week. Thanks for reading and have a great weekend - get out and look for those signs of spring!
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