Another week has flown by - it seems as if the whole year has gone by quickly this year. As staff we seem to be busier than ever, with a never ending jobs list. As soon as you tick one off another one appears.
There's been a lot going on in recent weeks in particular but now with the new viewing platforms finished (VP1 & VP2), the reforming works to the west of VP1 complete and the reed cutting work from the aquatic cutters (Truxors) finished on Monday there's a chance for us to get on with some usual business until after the Christmas break. Then we come back to crack on with replacing the 3 screens at Waltons in January.
We hope you enjoy the new platforms and the newly cut areas in front of hides and screens. These areas often attract egrets and bitterns for feeding and they are good areas for wildfowl to loaf about in too. Some small fragments of the cut material are floating around on the water still and are worth scanning over. Yesterday several pied wagtails were settling on it and feeding in front of the Waltons screens. Look out for water pipits too - they often come into these newly cut areas and use the floating material too. A number have been seen around the reserve this week. Thanks to John Crispin for his shots of water pipit. One perched on floating material and another in flight:
Bitterns have been seen on several occasions this week. I was lucky enough to catch one in flight myself over Waltons yesterday. Other sightings this week reported from VP1, the Tor View Hide and the Avalon Hide. John Crispin also managed to get this shot of a bittern exploding out of the reeds at the Loxtons screen on Sunday - thanks John:
At the same location, on the same day a kingfisher flashed past. In fact, there have been plentiful sightings kingfishers this week. Waltons seems to be a bit of a hotspot at the moment with further sightings from the Avalon Hide, VP1 and even the car park. John also mentioned hearing bearded tits 'pinging' in the reedbeds nearby but unfortunately no visual sighting. They have been seen and heard from the Avalon Hide this week however.
Loxtons and Waltons too are the areas being used by the starling roost too at the moment. There have been reports this week of some stunning displays and some lovely sunsets as a back drop too. Estimates of the numbers are hard and we usually act conservatively when giving totals - at least 120,000 birds are in the roost as an estimate at the moment - have a look for yourself and try your best guess. If you're planning to visit give yourself plenty of time. We advise arriving at least an hour before sunset which at the moment is given as about 4.05pm. The welcome building will be manned on most days until 4pm where staff or volunteers will be able to direct you.
In the mornings the display can be spectacular too but it's an early start as you would need to be in place before first light to see and hear the 'wake up'. Sunrise is said to be around 7.58am so come well before this (at least an hour). It can also be a good time to see birds of prey such as marsh harriers which quarter the reedbeds after the roost to pick up any dead starlings. Peregrine falcons and sparrowhawks can often be seen at roost time in the evenings too.
The area in front of VP1 is looking good at the moment now that the Truxors have been in and opened it up some more. The black tailed godwits did return and up to 55 have been seen there on most days. Lapwing and snipe have also made an appearance along with great white egrets. Good numbers of wildfowl across the reserve - look out for mallard, gadwall, pochard, tufted duck, shoveler, wigeon and teal. We've also had as many as 3 pintails this week from VP1 - thanks to John Crispin for his shot of 2 males taken this week:
Along the main path look out for treecreeper, bullfinch, chiffchaff, groups of long tailed tits, redpoll, siskin and mixed tit flocks. It's worth studying mixed flocks of birds to see what else is tagging along. Goldcrests have been spotted in the tit flocks this week. Also spotted on the reserve has been a Siberian chiffchaff (sorry no location) and at least one firecrest. There has been one in the car park in the ivy covered trees between the car park and the main path but there has been a report of one down as far as VP2.
Also this week: ravens seen and heard flying over Waltons, stonechats perched up in front of VP1, up to 108 cattle egrets in the roost distant from the old rail bridge to the south, a peacock butterfly out in the sun on Wednesday, small groups of fieldfare and redwings, great spotted woodpeckers daily, buzzards also daily, kestrel seen from the Avalon Hide and 2 whooper swans again reported from Noah's Hide over on Natural England's Shapwick Heath reserve.
Finally an event you may be interested in over on RSPB West Sedgemoor:
Why not book on a walk at RSPB West Sedgemoor and discover the reserve as it brims with winter wildlife. Tens of thousands of ducks and waders visit the fields to feed and roost during the day. Watch as flocks twist in flight when spooked by a hunting marsh harrier or peregrine falcon. Along with the chance to catch a glimpse of the Somerset cranes, all of this makes for an unmissable experience. Book now to join local RSPB guides for a rare opportunity to witness this wildlife spectacle .
Book here: https://winter-wildlife-watch-at-west-sedgemoor.eventbrite.co.uk
That's it for this week - thanks for reading and have a great weekend.
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