Welcome to this week's sightings blog. It's been another busy week - not only for birds but for staff and volunteers too. Survey season is now pretty much at an end but there is always plenty of maintenance work to do to keep the site looking good and access open to all users. Bear with us if some views are becoming slightly obscured eg Tor View Hide or in front of the 2 viewing platforms (VP2 in particular). By the end of the month we can be pretty certain that breeding has finished in these areas and begin to trim things down a bit to help open up the vistas again.
Plenty of juvenile birds are being seen around the site including coot, moorhen and gadwall within the Waltons section along with great crested grebes. They look to be nesting again in both the eastern side of Waltons and in front of the Avalon Hide, so there last brood of youngsters are receiving a lot less attention now. Keep your eyes open for young little grebes too. When first born they seem incredibly tiny. This one's a little older - thanks to John Crispin for his photo:
Also with Waltons this week: tufted duck, mallard, shoveler, pochard, teal, water rail heard a lot but rarely seen and 2 kingfishers spotted here on Monday. There was also a report of bearded tits being heard here during the week. They don't often venture over to Waltons but post breeding they do become a little more mobile. Come September/October time they can go around in quite large groups before dispersing so it's a good time to try and see them. In the mean time try along the grassy path on the other side of the drain (the Avalon Hide side) and perhaps close to the hide to try your luck. Familiarise yourself with the call to give you a better chance. These young birds were photographed by John Crispin in the Avalon Hide area this week. The female juvenile has a grey bill and the male yellow. In time the females bill will also turn yellow. Thanks to John for his images:
Some rather more obvious juveniles now are those of the marsh harrier. The nest distant in front of VP1 has fledged 2 birds and they can be seen flying around more independently now. Look out for the more gingery looking cap on its head rather than the more creamy look of the female. Thanks to John Crispin again for his photos:
Another nest is still active in front of the Avalon Hide, although we think one juvenile was seen briefly here late last week.
Both the same areas are still seeing bittern flights too although educed now and I would expect these to cease any day now with some successful fledging - much harder to tell the numbers here. A bitten flew right over VP1 on Thursday morning - a fantastic view for those that were there.
Not quite as exciting but there was a very very busy wood pigeon there yesterday constantly flying backwards and forwards collecting nesting material to the willows to the right of the platform.
As we approach the end of the month and then August it becomes traditionally a slightly quieter time for birds on the reserve as we await the autumn migration. Birds often go into eclipse or moult and although they can still fly with feather changes maybe not quite as adeptly as usual. Many may chose to spend more time hidden away or generally just be less active.
Whist there will still be many wonderful birds to see on Ham Wall you may chose to switch your interest to other fauna such as insects and other invertebrates. There is a whole host to discover here too.
Butterflies are the most obvious place to start I guess, although I have to admit to struggling to tell the difference between some of the whites.
Seen this week: speckled wood, small tortoiseshell. peacock, brimstone, meadow brown, small skipper, green veined white, small white, comma and red admiral. White admirals have been reported over on Shapwick Heath close to the Sweet track area and in times past have been reported along the main path through Ham Wall, so you never know. Thanks to Mike Pearce for his 2 shots of Red Admiral showing both the upper and underwings:
I was enjoying watching a comma at Waltons yesterday, thinking how beautiful it wasa before it landed in a spiders web. It got free on this occasion - one of the many perils of being a flying insect I guess - it's a jungle out there!
Look out also for the scarlet tiger moth - if you see an insect flying with a lovely red colour flashing in its wings that is probably it. It's the underwing which is red. At rest it is black with white and yellow/orange dots. Burnet moths have also been seen. I saw a couple yesterday in the long grasses and flowers beyond the picnic benches at the car park. We have cut a small loop around the grasses for you to explore the are - usually plenty of grasshoppers and crickets here too amongst other things.
Other things may include this spotted legged long bodied spider photographed by John Crispin this week. Thanks John:
Dragonflies and damselflies are also a popular choice and Ham Wall is a great place to find a variety of species. There are a few new ones out on the wing since the last blog too. Spotted this week: southern hawker, scarce chaser, black tailed skimmer, four spotted chaser, emperor, broad bodied chaser and first sightings this week of brown hawker, common darter and ruddy darter (these can stick around as long as November dependent on the weather - the frosts normally see them off.
Thanks to Mike Pearce for his shots of four spotted chaser taken this week. Waltons a great place to see these in numbers. First a praenublia form - showing more extended dark marks near wing tips and then a very worn looking individual probably near the end of its time:
Mike has also snapped this common darter - these have begun to emerge during the last week. Thanks Mike:
Plenty of damselflies to enjoy - the prettiest is perhaps the banded demoiselle - you may find these alongside the main drain through the reserve. Look out also for common blue, azure, red eyed, variable and blue tailed such as this female. these come in several different colours or forms with this one being violacea . Thanks again to Mike Pearce for the photo:
Whilst he was out surveying butterflies he also came across this fox during his transect. One of a few more visible mammals on the reserve. You may also see roe deer, grey squirrel, rabbit (often dash off into the brambles on the main track) and even otter. One was spotted this week - it was on the sightings board at the car park but I have no location I'm afraid. Anyway, here's Mikes great fox picture:
As well as mammals look out for grass snakes - seen in several places this week including the car park and from the old rail bridge on the main track swimming in the drain. Froglets of common frog have been spotted hopping over the paths of some of the trails and the Iberian water frogs have been croaking away in Waltons, Loxtons and in the car park pools. If you hear un unfamiliar noise on the reserve, it could be this.
The rail path trees still offer plenty of variety for birdlife. Warblers such as chiffchaff, blackcap, willow warbler and whitethroat have all been heard singing this week. In the reedbeds, reed warbler, sedge warbler and cettis warbler are also holding a tune too. The main path also offers treecreeper, bullfinch and goldcrest amongst the usual suspects such as robins (including youngsters), blackbirds, tits, finches and song thrush. this individual was captured by John Crispin smashing up a snail this week. Thanks John:
Also this week: great white egrets an easy spot on most days - either platform, Avalon Hide or Waltons, Kingfisher seen from VP1, sparrowhawk from VP2, raven flying over yesterday, great spotted woodpeckers daily, buzzards daily, hobby seen on most days - try VP1 or the Avalon Hide and barn owl out hunting early mornings and evenings. It was seen out hunting in a period of rain on Sunday. When observed on a gate post it looked very dishevelled. I know how it feels.
That's it for this week. Thanks for reading., Have a great weekend
We spend 90% of net income on conservation, public education and advocacy
The RSPB is a member of BirdLife International. Find out more about the partnership
© The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a registered charity: England and Wales no. 207076, Scotland no. SC037654
Accepting all non-essential cookies helps us to personalise your experience
These cookies are required for basic web functions
Allow us to collect anonymised performance data
Allow us to personalise your experience