It's the first blog of May - surely one of the best months of the wildlife calendar for Ham Wall and many other places. Birds are still pouring into the country and many ending up at the reserve - even if many are just passing through. Ham Wall acts as a big feeding station for many birds arriving in Britain after a long journey.

Large numbers of martins and swallows have been seen on many days this week with well over 600 swallows perched on the power cables which cross the end of the car park on Saturday. Wednesday and Thursday saw hundreds of house martins and swifts swooping around picking of hundreds of insects as they go.

Hobbies too have been seen in good numbers with regular reports from visitors having counted double figures - not quite the numbers we have seen at times in the past with 30-40 birds seen at the same time but always a joy too see. I was watching several from the first viewing platform (VP1)  this morning - so aerobatic and entertaining.

Also from VP1 this morning were marsh harrier and bittern flights. Usually separate but also on one occasion a coming together. This was also witnessed yesterday by volunteers undertaking bittern surveys. These two can often come into conflict if they decide to nest close together. Based on the behaviour seen it appears this could be the case - if they are both on eggs or at very early stages they will both be very protective as either may attempt to predate the others nest. Once youngsters are slightly bigger and more mobile it is far less likely. Keep an eye out for this behaviour. Thanks to Mike Pearce for his marsh harrier shot taken this week: 

It's not the only conflict marsh harriers have had this week. On the area the old rail bridge looks over a hobby was seen to go for a marsh harrier who turned over and grabbed the hobby. They both tumbled down to the reeds but only the marsh harrier was seen to reappear.

A Marsh harrier was also disturbed by Sandie Andrews and Mike Pearce as they wandered the reserve this week. It flew up from about 20 paces away from across the water. They wondered if it had left any prey behind and this is what they saw- thanks to Sandie for her photo: 

A lucky escape for at least one of these ducklings. Several reports of young birds around the reserve this week including great crested grebe, mallard, gadwall, greylag goose, grey herons on nests within Waltons, a fledgling robin around Loxtons, coot and moorhen (pictured) and also some long tailed tits (also pictured). Thanks to Sandie Andrews (moorhen) and Jamie & Lisa Waters (long tailed tits) for their photos:

 

I'm sure we will see plenty more young birds around the reserve soon. I think one of the most abundant birds we seem to have is the blackcap. They seem to be calling from everywhere. Obviously as a short distance migrant they have a distinct advantage other some other birds and many are now overwintering in our gardens - you may have seen them on your feeders. I was listening to one today close to the otter sculpture at Waltons and just a little further up on the other side was a garden warbler. See if you can tell the difference between their similar songs. There's no mistaking their differences on sight if you can see them sing. Thanks to Jamie and Lisa Waters for their blackcap shot taken from VP1 and Mike Pearce for his garden warbler shot:

Blackcap -looking usual due to the dappled light and shadows falling on him - looks very exotic doesn't it?

Plenty of other warblers to see and hear around the reserve including chiffchaff, whitethroat (seen from VP1 daily), reed warbler, sedge warbler, willow warbler, cettis warbler and a lesser whitethroat reported by one visitor to another and then to me (so no location) calling from deep within scrub and bramble - often what they do so I hear. Thanks to Mike Pearce and Sandie Andrews who have both sent me photos of willow warbler, to Sandie again for a sedge warbler shot and to Jamie & Lisa Waters for their shot of a cettis. 

Willow warblers

Sedge warbler 

Also today a report of spotted flycatcher around the Waltons trail. Didn't see it myself or the fox cubs which have been reported here on several occasions on the right hand side across the small ditch as you walk up the western side .

Keep a look out here also for great spotted woodpeckers - they nested here last year and have been seen again. Thanks to Sandie Andrews for her great spotted woodpecker shot taken this week:

Marsh harriers have been seen hunting over Waltons too and, as mentioned earlier look out for the grey herons who are nesting in the reedbeds - you can often hear the youngsters calling out. Hobbies can often be seen further to the south as you walk along the southernmost track. Thanks to Sandie Andrews once again for her lovely grey heron shot:

Other heron species of course, include the bittern which ae still booming during the day, although often noisier really early in the day - ie before and just after first light -0 great to catch the dawn chorus too. Flights and activity will increase throughout the month as more females begin to make feeding flights. Thanks to Mike Pearce for his bittern shot:

Cattle egrets are still around locally although I haven't seen any in surrounding fields on my commute to work for at least a week now - they're out there somewhere. Another cousin is the crane. Not often seen over Ham Wall but 8 flew over calling yesterday and then 3 flew back just a little later - wonderful sighting. 

Great white egrets now seem to be everywhere and hard not to see one on a visit -they fly over the car park regularly and with 35 nesting attempts counted so far in the Avalon Marshes iut gives you some idea of the numbers we have now. Thanks to both Sandie Andrews and Mike Pearce for their great white egret contributions:

They often fed in front of VP1 too where we've had some interesting sightings once again this week including black tailed godwit, dunlin, lapwing, a second hand report of a wood sandpiper and some flyovers by whimbrel - not bad considering the water levels are quite high. 

Thanks to Sandie Andrews who managed to catch this distanced shot of whimbrels with some black tailed godwits taken on Wednesday and thanks to Mike Pearce for his lapwing shot taken the same day:

Plenty of butterflies being seen during sunny spells including: holly blue, orange tip, small white, green veined white, brimstone, speckled wood, peacock and small tortoiseshell and dragonflies starting to emerge. Having had my first hairy dragonfly last week (I have seen several more this week), I saw my first 4 spotted chaser yesterday along by the main drain and then around Waltons today. Many more will begin to emerge now - often reaching thousands around Waltons in particular - great news for hobbies (as long as they don't keep trying to attack marsh harriers) Expect to see broad bodied chasers very soon.  Damselflies include: large red, variable and blue tailed with azure emerging at any time soon.

Thanks to Mike Pearce for his hairy dragonfly shot plus a close up of its thorax so you can see how they get their name:

Also this week: bullfinch seen at the car park, 2 ravens flying over yesterday, buzzards daily, 2 male garganey seen from VP1 this week, kingfishers seen from VP1 ,the old rail bridge and around Waltons, another report on Muntjac this time towards the end of the reserve this morning (early) and a few reports of roe deer too, jays seen flying across the car park, linnet also seen on the reserve and a sighting but no reeling from a grasshopper warbler on one of the reserve boundaries. Plus numerous sightings of cuckoo and plenty of calling. Thanks to Mike Pearce for his cuckoo photo:

That's it for this week. Thanks for reading - hope you get a chance to visit us soon if you haven't already. Have a great weekend.

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