Wow! August already - not that it really felt like it for much of the week with some dull and rainy spells. Quite a heavy downpour on Saturday from what I hear and windy at times. We had to close the Avalon Hide briefly this morning to deal with a tree which had fallen and was suspended over the track  it all went smoothly thank goodness and the hide was soon open again.

We had a quick peep in this morning, before starting the tree work to check for visitors. The usual great white egret was present along with a good selection of duck: mallard, gadwall, shoveler, tufted duck and a few teal. 4 teal were mentioned on the sightings board this week so I'm guessing it was them. This great white egret was photographed at the hide on Saturday by Sandie Andrews as she took shelter from the rain. Thanks Sandie:

Great white egrets are almost a dead cert in terms of sightings at Ham Wall these days, although I guess it helps to be big and pure white.

They have been seen using the rafts in Waltons again (pictured in last weeks blog). Perhaps the same bird, although this week was joined by "a friend", although they ended up more like enemies - it must be a prime fishing location for them to fall out like this. Many thanks go to John Crispin who sent in this fantastic sequence of photos. 

I don't think you'd want to be on the wrong end of that beak somehow. Amazing shots though I'm sure you'll agree.

The rafts are proving quite popular - also last week I mentioned the lesser black backed gulls feeding a youngster on here. Well thanks to John Crispin again for these images of the parent bird doing just that, with a nice bit of regurgitated fish on the menu:

There has been some marsh harrier activity back at the Avalon Hide this week but is markedly less busy, as the parents and now well fledged juveniles, have dispersed into the wider landscape. You're still very likely to see one on a visit to Ham Wall though. 

Perhaps the main interest of the hide now (apart from the odd bittern sighting) is the activity of the great crested grebes with their young. They've been busy fishing and feeding youngsters throughout the week. It's a nice bit of activity to keep you occupied, whilst you dodge the summer showers and await your bittern on marsh harrier flight. Thanks to Sandie Andrews who captured these shots last Saturday (31st July): 

One for me......

and one for you.....

It's always worth checking the reeds and the woodland on the way to the hide. Plenty of birds flitting around in the reeds and the undergrowth. For example juveniles of both reed warbler and sedge warbler seen this week. The reed warbler photographed by Alastair Swinnerton and the sedge warbler by Sandie Andrews. Thanks to both for their contributions: 

Young reed warbler - Alastair Swinnerton

Alastair was also pleased to see and photograph this lovely female reed bunting. I saw a small group of these myself picking up grit from the main track through the reserve this week. Thanks to Alastair for his photo:

However, the thing he was most delighted about (and I can see why) was spotting these juvenile bearded tits (or bearded reedlings if you prefer), just moving through the reeds on the way to the hide. There have been a few reports here in the last few weeks. Great photos Alastair:

Many of the birds in these photos are looking a little damp from rain aren't they. It has been commented that the rain sometimes knocks the vegetation down a bit and gives more open views to some birds. That was Mike Pearce's feeling when he took this shot of a willow warbler along the main track last Saturday - thanks Mike:

The rain affects some birds less than others - nice weather for ducks and all that. Perhaps not to bad for gulls too - perhaps a bit more adapted for the wet conditions. Thanks again to Mike Pearce for his shot of a black headed gull in the rain:

The rains not a lot of good for the reserves butterflies of course, although we have had our fair share of sun this week too and during those spells there has been plenty of activity from butterflies and we have built up a pretty good list this week. Several species can be spotted around the car park and its pond areas. Here's this week's list I've compiled from what I've seen personally and from the sightings board in the car park:

Peacock, red admiral, painted lady, brimstone, speckled wood, comma, meadow brown, gatekeeper (pictured), small copper (also pictured), green veined white, large white, small tortoiseshell, small skipper, holly blue and silver washed fritillary (on the sightings board but not clear of exact location). 

Thanks to Mike Pearce for his 2 photographs both taken around the car park pools:

Many dragonflies & damselflies can still be seen including: emperor, southern hawker, migrant hawker, brown hawker, four spotted chaser(although in smaller numbers now), ruddy darter, common darter, black tailed skimmer, red eyed damselfly, small red eyed damselfly, azure damselfly, common blue damselfly (pictured), variable damselfly, blue tailed damselfly and banded demoiselle (saw one this morning - wonderful).

Thanks to Mike Pearce for his shot of mating common blue damselflies taken this week:

Whilst at the car park pools listen out for the Iberian water frogs - very noisy during sunny spell or later into the evening - also many around Loxtons in particular and Waltons. 

A few grass snakes have also been spotted tis week including one at the car park and from the old rail bridge on the main track. A kingfisher was also spotted from here on Monday as well as at Waltons and the Avalon Hide during the week - there's a lot of competition for fish out there. 

The first viewing platform (VP1) has been the top place to spot bitterns again this week with many people seeing several flights across this area each day. It could be a really late nest or just a natural hot spot - more completion for fish (and those noisy frogs). 

VP1 is now seemingly covered in reeds with none of the channels and islands discernible at the moment. We will aim to start cutting in here during early September and will once again this year cut the whole area (rather than just the ends of the islands) to give it some harder management to try and knock back the reed a little more and create some more sparse and patchy areas. It's a technique we have used in previous years (repeat drying out, cutting and rewetting) to good success. We are changing this management slightly in each block we do over the years to learn which methods work best so we can pass this knowledge on to other reserves.  

From VP1 this week: green woodpecker on Monday (I had one calling and flying at the far end of the reserve on Tuesday), 2 green sandpipers, 3 lapwing, hobby (also seen over the car park), a few sparrowhawk sightings, buzzard, swifts, marsh harrier and both great white and little egrets. Late last week 2 Egyptian geese were spotted here which then flew south. Thanks to John Crispin who captured this shot of one of them:

Also this week: ravens flying over the reserve once or twice, roe deer seen on a couple of occasions near the Avalon Hide, tawny owls heard calling in the evenings, grey herons still on a nest in Waltons (can be heard begging when parents arrive - come on! time to leave the nest!), willow warblers heard singing along main track, bullfinch & treecreeper also on main track along with many other birds including those feeding in the tree lines including: young blue tits, reed buntings, whitethroats, jays, sedge warblers and these blackcaps feeding young - thanks to Sandie Andrews for her shot:

That's it for this week and next week to actually, as I am going away camping with my kids in Cornwall for the week (no rain please). Thanks for reading and have a great couple of weeks.