It's a fantastic time of year to be out watching wildlife and Ham Wall has continued to offer a brilliant spectacle this week. This, combined with wonderful weather, has made for some very happy and impressed visitors. We aim to please.
One of the stars of the show is the glossy ibis - or should I say 7 of them. They have been seen regularly from the first viewing platform (VP1) in varying numbers and have been quite active at times flying back and forth. They do sometimes seem to disappear completely, but return soon after. Thanks to John Crispin for his shots taken on a misty morning this week:
Bitterns are continuing to boom (more vocal early mornings) throughout the day and there have been an increasing number of sightings. I've seen a few flights across the area in front of VP1 this week including a long flight this morning.
A few birds have been seen chasing each other to - if there is any conflict involved it's likely to be 2 males, but males chase females too and often stay airborne for several minutes.
These two got a bit too close to a marsh harriers nest and the male then gave chase to them too. We often see conflict between the 2 species if they are nesting close together - it makes for interesting viewing. Thanks to John Crispin for his shot:
Thanks also to John for his shots of individuals in flight - all taken this week.
First what we think is a female nesting near the second viewing platform (VP2):
Now what we believe are males - note the coloured lores (the area where the bill meets the face) - they are a bluish colour on the males:
Grey herons are still nesting within the reedbeds of the Waltons section - I could hear the youngsters making a lot of noise yesterday. A visitor also reported a grey heron struggling to eat a grass snake on Wednesday - they did manage it eventually. Another species taking a meal was a suspected pike. Some visitors were watching some Canada geese at Waltons on Wednesday with 3 goslings. After a quick splash and some hissing from geese there were then just 2.
The purple heron has been seen on 3 days at least this week. There certainly aren't multiple sightings in a day - often just one or two - it is quite elusive. I haven't seen it yet but then I haven't taken any time out to look. The second platform is perhaps your best shot and then look behind you into the Loxtons section.
Also from the second platform this morning was a red kite and an osprey. Red kites have been seen more frequently recently and I suspect they will soon become a much more common feature in the local area. The osprey was also seen over the car park on Wednesday - flying quite high both over Ham Wall and neighbouring Shapwick Heath. It has also just been reported to me as I write this that it was seen catching a fish from the Avalon Hide this morning.
Buzzards were also flying and circling very high over the car park on Wednesday - at least 4 together along with a raven which eventually flew off.
Warblers are in great voice all around the reserve. In the reedbeds cettis, reed warbler and sedge warbler are adding plenty chatter, whilst in the tree lines and blocks of wood, willow warbler, blackcap, chiffchaff and garden warbler all contribute to a sweet chorus of song. Opposite VP1 look out in the brambles for whitethroat - often perched right up. Whitethroat pictured by John Crispin:
There seem to be a few more garden warblers this year. People were searching one out just past VP1 yesterday and apparently there was one showing really well from the wooden boardwalk that leaves the car park towards the reserve.
Other migrants are arriving. I was happy to see my first swifts of the year on Monday from the old rail bridge on the main path - a group of over 30 were seen again the next day. Martins and swallows are being seen but I don't think I've seen anything like the usual numbers on the reserve this year.
Another spring/summer visitor is the garganey. Still a good number of sightings being seen from VP1 each day. People are spotting them as they scan across the great variety of wader species that have been out there lately. Not sure how many species exactly but I can lost what I know has been seen in the last week: spotted redshank, redshank, lapwing, snipe, whimbrel, black tailed godwit, common sandpiper, wood sandpiper, turnstone, ruff, dunlin, ringed plover, little ringed plover, little stint and greenshank - this is just off the top of my head so there is almost certainly more.
Turnstone was seen on Tuesday, spotted redshank still present this morning and the whimbrel numbered as many as 57 (and may well be roosting here each evening) whilst the godwits were counted at around 45. Thanks to John Crispin for his whimbrels in the mist photo:
Marsh harriers are busy too, with many sightings per day around the reserve. The Avalon Hide maybe a good place to start - they nest in this area every year. You may also be lucky enough to see or hear bearded tits in this area. Listen out also for the vociferous sedge warbler on the way to the hide and a reed bunting singing well close by.
Thanks to John Crispin once again for his shots of a marsh harrier pair doing a food pass on a misty morning this week:
Hobbies are also being seen in greater numbers - the emergence of damselfly and dragonflies will be most welcome for them.
Good numbers of variable, azure, blue tailed and common blue damselflies can be seen along with a few large red.
For dragonflies look out for hairy, broad bodied chaser and four spotted chaser are the main ones to look out for. Four spotted chasers should increase rapidly over the next couple of weeks - the Waltons trail is often a good place to see hundreds if not thousands of them. Here's what you're looking out for:
Butterflies add some interest to visitors too: peacock, holly blue, small tortoiseshell, speckled wood, orange tip, green veined white and brimstone all seen this week. Thanks to John Crispin for his brimstone shot taken from our archive:
Roe deer have been seen regularly too - particularly towards the north of the reserve where a group of around 10 were spotted early this week, a visitor also thought they saw a water vole in the main drain. Staying with mammals - after last weeks otter sightings we've had 2 more this week. Both from VP2. One on Saturday 30th and another on Monday 2nd May. This time John Crispin was on hand to grab this photo before it disappeared. Fantastic to be getting these sightings. Thanks John:
Also this week: drumming great spotted woodpecker heard along the main path, 3 Egyptian geese from VP1, a male pintail along with 3 female also from VP1, a wheatear spotted passing through, barn owls seen most evenings from VP1 or close to the Avalon Hide, a second tawny owl chick in our owl-cam box (see the TV in the car park Welcome Building), cuckoos calling daily, cattle egrets being seen in the local area with a group of 50 being spotted, a few flyovers from Cranes during the week too.
Lastly, a few weeks ago I mentioned the peregrines which were nesting on St Johns church in Glastonbury. 4 eggs had been laid and the good news is, as of yesterday 2 have hatch - hopefully more to come. You can follow their progress here:
Thanks to Steve, who helps monitor the birds on camera and writes the updates. He's sent me this photo of the first of the hatched youngsters:
By popular demand we have added another date for our Dawn Chorus walks on 15 May 2022. Spaces are limited so book your place now on https://events.rspb.org.uk/events/17795
That's it for another week. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful wildlife packed weekend!
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