A bit of a miserable morning today with consistent rain showers but of course it's breeding season and there are still hungry mouths to feed so there was still a fair amount of activity this morning. I dropped in at the car park earlier and volunteer Steve Jennings was saying how birds were a bit braver and were showing well around the car park itself - most likely taking advantage of the quieter times. Ham Wall has a steady flow of visitors these days. Great spotted woodpecker, song thrush and coal tit were all out in the open and the feeders in the wildlife garden were very busy.
Plenty of activity to see as you peer through the screens: goldfinch, blue tit, great tit, dunnock, chaffinch, robin and wren all seen on or around the feeders with the latter two seen feeding young birds in the car park area. Look out also for field voles who have learned that a steady supply of food falls from the feeders - as many as 3 were seen this morning. One great tit in particular seemed to throw more on the floor than he ate - such a fussy eater. Our blue tits in our nest cam box fledged successfully on Sunday.
Blackbirds have been seen feeding young too and was captured on camera by John Crispin this week. A visitor has been leaving seed on the fence surrounding the first viewing platform (VP1) and this blackbird has too full advantage. Lovely photos John, thanks!
From VP1 look out for great white egrets - often using this area to feed (thanks to John Crispin for his portrait photo of great white egret below & another shot of one in flight from Gavin Branch - thanks Gavin), a selection of ducks, great crested grebes (which look to be nesting again) and lapwing. I was suspecting that lapwing had attempted to breed here on the first island but I'm not so sure if they were that they'll have success - a fox was seen on the island on Wednesday (it must have swum over) and was being closely followed by crows. 21 lapwing were reported together in a group on the reserve on Tuesday however.
There have been several sightings of fox this week. Once again some cubs were spotted close to the boardwalk which leaves the car park to the reserve but also on the main path and the other side of the drain - perhaps mum out hunting. Two further cubs were seen out on the north of the reserve during the week too - certainly a different lot to those near the car park. I guess it should be no surprise to see foxes given the wealth of wildlife on the reserve.
As I've already mentioned your experience starts at the car park and wildlife garden. Don't forget to look up too as there are frequent fly overs of great white egret (2 together on Wednesday) and marsh harrier. Also spotted there this week: cuckoo, hobby, buzzard, red kite and peregrine.
As you leave the car park via the boardwalk, apart from the fox cubs, look out for goldcrest, treecreeper and spotted flycatchers. A pair of flycatchers were seen with nesting material at this location yesterday.
Along the main path listen out for the warblers: chiffchaff, blackcap, garden warbler, willow warbler and whitethroat and keep an eye open for bullfinches too. A nice male was seen on the track on Tuesday but also in our wildlife garden. Look out for kingfisher from the old rail bridge.
Kingfishers have also been recorded at Waltons and the Tor View Hide this week. Also reports from the hide of water rail, marsh harriers and bitterns. Bitterns have been steadily reported all week in fact. No doubt many of these will be females making feeding flights to and from nests. There have also been a few incidents of 2 or more birds in a chase (either males chasing a female or males in dispute. Always a thrill to see though. Thanks to Phil Arnold, for his photos, who saw 3 together from the Avalon Hide on Sunday:
Also thanks to Pat Collins who was treated to close fly by from a bittern also at the Avalon Hide - this time on Monday:
Further thanks to Gavin Branch who captured his bittern shot and sent it in for inclusion in the blog:
Apologies to Gavin, as I haven't done any of the photos he sent me justice as I've resized them for the blog and lost some of the quality (I should have asked you to send me the original Gavin instead of plucking them off the e-mail - apologies)
When you're on your way to the hide do still keep a look out for the great spotted woodpeckers. They are still present in the wood. The youngsters may have left the nest but were still being fed by parent birds this week. Thanks to Claire Tucker for sending in her photos. Firstly dad with a beak full of food then one of the youngsters:
The Avalon Hide is perhaps the best place to see marsh harrier activity too. Several food passes were witnessed by visitors this week with many coming back enthused with this along with great sightings of bitterns and the thrill of seeing 5 young great crested grebes with their parents. Thanks to Gavin Branch for his shot of a food pass taken this week:
....and to John Crispin for his shot of a male marsh harrier hovering, looking for prey:
Also thanks to John Crispin for his shot of great crested grebe feeding young. There are several broods around the reserve at the moment - they seem to be doing well this year:
Another fish eater this time. I don't know about you but this one brings a lump to my throat. A cormorant swallowing a large fish. hanks to John Crispin for his shots:
Bearded tits have been heard close to the Avalon Hide recently but also in front of the second platform this week. They have tended to hang around more in the non-public areas but several juveniles have been seen out there so that's good news. Thanks to John Crispin for his shot of a juvenile bearded tit. The black stripe on the mantle (back) a good identifying feature for juveniles:
Also within the reed beds you will undoubtedly hear the chattering of reed warblers and a few sedge warblers (one reported from the Tor View Hide and another close to the Avalon Hide), they sound similar so see if you can pick out the sedge warblers from amongst the noise. Thanks to Gavin Branch for his reed warbler shot and for the shot of reed bunting which follows. There are several singing from around the reserve with a male often perched up close to the Tor View Hide:
Of course reed warblers are one of the birds which the cuckoo favours for laying its eggs. Plenty of visitors surprised at the number they are hearing from around the Avalon Marshes. The numbers of reed warblers is one explanation for this. They can be heard at the car park but for a sighting perhaps try a walk around Waltons or Loxtons and listen but scan the tree lines too. Thanks to Claire Tucker for her shots of cuckoo taken this week:
If you are taking a walk around the Waltons trail you'll no doubt come across the many hundreds of 4 spotted chasers that spend time there - it's quite a sight. If you are there early in the morning when its cooler you may see them all up on the stems warming up in the morning sun. Thanks again to Gavin Branch for sending in his photo - this time of 4 spotted chaser:
Other dragonflies you may see include scarce chaser, black tailed skimmer, emperor and broad bodied chaser whilst you can also see azure, variable, common blue and blue tailed damselflies. Also keep an eye out along drainage channels for the wonderful looking banded demoiselles.
In terms of butterflies it seems quiet again this week (not that they are usually noisy) - there just doesn't seem to be quite so many about at the moment. Having said that: red admiral, brimstone, small skipper, small copper, green veined white and speckled wood have all been seen this week.
Also this week we've had reports of slow worm along the main track crossing the path, adder through the gate at Waltons near the start of the boardwalk and of grass snake in the ponds at the car park.
Also this week: sparrowhawk seen at the Tor View Hide & VP2, sightings of peregrine, c40 black tailed godwits at VP2 on Tuesday morning and 2 at VP1 with a redshank that dropped in the same morning, a few hobby still being seen with the max for one person this week standing at 8, 2 Egyptian geese which dropped in briefly on Sunday (2nd), a juvenile stonechat seen at the far end of the main path at Sharpham, a male garganey spotted at least twice from VP2, several house martins and swift still being spotted throughout the week and some birds still thinking of starting a family like these tufted duck photographed mating by John Crispin this week - thanks John:
That's pretty much it for this week but just a reminder of one of our events coming up should you wish to join in. Can you think of a better place to get close to nature and practise some yoga? Details below:
Evening Yoga at Ham Wall
Sunday 23 June
7 pm-8.30 pm
Nature is great for our well-being. Why not combine it with a spiritual Yoga session at our amazing Ham Wall nature reserve as we reach mid-summer.
RSPB members £9.60 / Non RSPB members £12
All booking is online through Eventbrite:
(Please note: booking charges apply)
That's it for this week but I'll leave you with one last image from John Crispin. A moorhen climbing in the reeds - not something you see every day:
That's it for this week. Thanks for reading and thanks to all those who sent in their photographs. Have a great weekend.
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