Autumn and winter are busy times for staff and volunteers on the reserve. It seems as the years go by and the reserve has grown and evolved so much that we get busier still with extra visitor facilities that have appeared in recent years including the car park and toilet block and the surrounding paths and pools, plus the Tor View Hide and Avalon Hide and the paths leading to them. On top of this of course we have all the reserve's habitat management work to undertake with reed cutting and scrub management in full swing. I have a lot less time to write today so it may well be a shorter blog than normal.

The 2 viewing platforms remain closed as the revamp work continues. It's been quiet there over the last week or so as the contractors are preparing the benches and other wooden structures off site. Work should be completed before the end of the month, ready to deal with any increase in visitors we receive coming to see the starling roost.
Currently the roost stands at around 25,000 birds although this will steadily grow from now on - particularly if things turn cold to the east and drive more across to Britain.

The Starling Hotline is up and running again - the hotline number is 07866 554142. This is a recorded message which tells you which reserve the starlings roosted on the night before and is updated as and when the starlings move location. It is a pretty good guide as to where to head for to see the starlings but there no guarantee as they can move as they please from night to night. Sunset is around 4.30pm at the moment and the advice is generally to arrive one hour before this to get into place and perhaps grab yourself a hot drink from the Welcome Building before heading out. We will try to have this manned each night until 4pm to provide information. To get the most from your visit check out our top tips post here:

Other wintering birds are arriving at Ham Wall too. Look out for flocks of redwing and fieldfare passing over the reserve. A group of 30-40 fieldfare passed over Waltons on Wednesday morning.
Wigeon and teal are also present on the reserve but maybe not as many as we would usually expect. It may feel colder but for November it is still relatively mild so perhaps birds aren't feeling they need to move so far as yet.

Groups of Lapwing are enjoying the increasingly splashy area in front of VP1 (it may be closed but you can still stand to the side and scan around) along with some wildfowl. A group of snipe were also seen on Wednesday here flying round in a tight pack.

We have a contractor in working on land to the left hand side too (to the west). We've cleared the reed completely in here over the last couple of years in an attempt to rejuvenate the reedbeds here. We are adding extra sinuous channels and islands here too and I'm really looking forward to seeing how this develops next year. One work is finished and the water levels return this could be quite interesting for bird life over the winter.

Also from VP1 this week was a 1st winter comic tern. Comic is the term given a tern where it is undecided whether it is a common tern or an arctic tern - they can look very similar and cause confusion. Anyway, I will post John Crispin's photos and let you fight it out amongst yourselves. Thanks for the photos John!

From the same perch John has also photographed this black headed gull taking off. Great to catch the plumage of this bird. Watch out for other plumage variations showing different ages.

With the platforms out of action for the time being and the weather a bit changeable, The Avalon Hide has been a well visited place lately. A good selection of wildfowl along with little egret, marsh harrier, bittern and great white egret all seen pretty regularly. Thanks to our administrator Sandie Andrews who visited the reserve on one of her rest days and took these lovely photos of a great white egret successfully fishing. Great shots of it moving about too. 

Cattle egrets have also been seen this week both in the wider area but also much closer to home. They are still roosting each night on Ham Wall - can be seen distantly from the old rail bridge but they were also seen on Wednesday in the field directly next to the car park with cattle. 72 were counted in total.

Other sightings this week include: kingfisher from VP1, Tor View HIde and the Avalon Hide, kestrel seen flying over the car park, ravens seen and heard over the reserve most days, gangs of long tailed tits travelling amongst the trees, goldcrest & chiffchaff along the main path, buzzards daily, barn owl for the second Wednesday running from the old rail bridge, bearded tits from the Avalon Hide and surrounding reed beds, a ruff from the VP2 area on Sunday, vocal water rails but as always hard to see and this otter seen in the main drain last Friday afternoon. Thanks to Chris Baker for his report and photograph - what a great sighting - I'm very jealous:

I'm going to have to stop there for this week. I hope that's enough for you to get your teeth into. I'll be working at RSPB Greylake next week in their reedbeds, so it's unlikely |I'll have time to do a blog. The Warden Ali Blaney, will try time to fill in with a management blog (but no promises). Like I said at the start - we are very busy. If all is well I'll be back with you the following week. Thanks for reading.