The weather may be a bit changeable at the moment but as I said last week there is a definite feeling of spring in the air at times - just waiting for the cold snap to drag us back into reality. In the meantime look out for the reaction of wildlife to the mild weather.
Bitterns are booming - one or two just weakly while others are still producing more of a grunt. Reports this week from: the Avalon Hide, distant of VP2, one in Loxtons heard several times yesterday, one at Tinneys ground (the isolated plot we manage on the Sharpham road) and I heard one this morning from the last section on the left past the second viewing platform (VP2) - it's all revving up!
Grey herons are still dropping in nesting material in the Waltons reedbed in at least 2 locations and have been sitting out on the Tor View Hide path this week - thanks to John Crispin for his photo:
In Waltons itself frequent sightings of great white egret and prolonged visits from little egret - visible from the first viewing screen. Thanks again to John Crispin for his lovely shots of little egret posing away in it's finery:
Cattle egret have been seen locally. A large group reported on a couple of occasions out on the Burtle Road 150 -160 birds. This is the sort of number roosting on the reserve each night. 60 reported from fields in the Sharpham area on Wednesday too where Egyptian geese have also been reported - thanks to John Crispin for his photo:
Now that I've mentioned the viewing screens I can give you a progress report. The Screen 3 construction has progressed well despite the volunteers being a man down at this week's session. The roof will go on next week, then we just need to clad the back of the seating area, put the seats in, make any final tweaks and fingers crossed it will be ready to go. The second screen has now been completely dismantled and cleared leaving just the first one open. This will remain open until the first of the new ones is complete and we aim to keep the path to the Tor View Hide open at all times.
From the Tor View Hide this week there have been sightings of water rail, marsh harrier, bittern, snipe and on Monday an otter with a youngster. A peregrine was also seen over Waltons on Monday. Peregrines have been seen quite frequently at RSPB Greylake recently. Hunting the large flocks of wildfowl and waders no doubt. Graham Wagner visited Greylake on Tuesday and got these great shots. A peregrine caught a teal and went of to feed but had its meal stolen by a marsh harrier - the peregrine was not impressed. Great photos Graham - thank you:
Our own marsh harriers have been pretty busy this week. Plenty of sightings - particularly over the north of the reserve, with the Avalon Hide being a good place to search from. Barn owl also spotted from here this week and tawny owl heard calling from the wood behind the hide.
One of our booming bitterns was not only heard in front of the hide this week but seen booming too. It walked out into one of the cut areas much to the excitement of a few visitors lucky enough to see it. Great white egrets are regular visitors too with a good selection of wild fowl to add to the mix.
The first viewing platform (VP1) is a wonderful place to stop a while at the moment. The lapwings were putting on a lovely show yesterday and seemed very unsettled and were constantly up and down. On occasions it was due to visits by marsh harriers but the rest of the time there was nothing obvious. Good numbers of wildfowl here too with shoveler, mallard, wigeon, teal and tufted duck (111 counted here on Saturday) all present along with gadwall. Thanks to John Crispin for his shot of a gadwall having a good preen taken this week:
Coots are also very vocal and often boisterous at this time of year as they seek to establish territories for breeding season. Thanks to John Crispin for his interesting shot of a coot running on the surface of the water.
Great crested grebes are also present from VP1 and a visitor mentioned seeing them nest building. They can also be seen over at Waltons from the screens and Tor View Hide and within the Loxtons section where they were seen weed dancing and strengthening those bonds further. Looking forward to the full on mating ritual - a fascinating display to watch. Thanks again to John Crispin for his photos of the Loxtons pair:
Along the main path this week: all the usual suspects such as tits and finches as well as bullfinch, treecreeper, chiffchaff, redpoll x6, siskin, great spotted woodpecker, song thrush and jay. Stonechats also seen in front of both platforms and several reports of firecrest. On Wednesday, several sightings close to VP2 while yesterday between VP1 and VP2. Reports also from the treeline behind the toilets visible from the track but also to the left of the toilet block from the car park side - good luck firecrest hunters!!
Also this week: ravens seen and heard over the reserve on several occasions this week, buzzards daily, sparrowhawk from the Avalon Hide on Tuesday, bearded tits heard in Loxtons yesterday close to the main track, roe deer seen around Waltons and on the north of the reserve, a few butterflies spotted out in the sun including brimstone, red admiral and small tortoiseshell, goldeneye seen on Wednesday morning both from the Avalon Hide and VP2 but not seen in the afternoon and 2 pintail seen from the small blinds which look into the VP2 area on the grassy track.
Finally, I'll leave you with this shot of a cormorant coming into land from John Crispin - great reflections and symmetry. Thanks John:
Finally finally, just a reminder of some upcoming events on the reserve which still have places available:
What’s that duck?
Sunday 16 February
Sunday 8 March
10 am – 12:30 pm
Winter is a great time for bird watching at RSPB Ham Wall but it can be tricky to identify all of the different ducks and other birds that are around at this time of year. Come along and learn how to tell the difference between a mallard and a gadwall or a teal and a wigeon. We will also look for the many other birds that call the reserve their home.
RSPB members £4:80; Non-RSPB members £6
RSPB child members £2:40; Non-RSPB child £3
All bookings are online via Eventbrite
Please note booking charges apply.
That's it for this week. Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!
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