Normal summer weather appears to have returned this week. It's made things a little cooler and more manageable work wise. We've managed to get started on cutting the islands in front of the first viewing platform (VP1) despite some mechanical issues delaying our start. We'll crack on with this as best we can over the next few weeks and get water levels back up again to create some nice open splashy areas for waders and the various ducks and heron species to loaf and feed in.

Given the prolonged hot weather we've had prior to this week means that some areas of water have drawn down significantly leaving mud showing. The area in front of the second viewing platform (VP2) is one such place. It's also worth traversing the north side of the drain to to look into this compartment from other places other than VP2 itself. On Wednesday 2 wood sandpipers were seen flying out of this area (hope they come back) along with 2 green sandpipers which were also seen on Thursday. 

Up to 100 lapwing have also been seen in this area and a growing number of teal (c30) and a couple of snipe. 3 Snipe also flew over VP1 calling in flight during the week whilst behind VP1 in Waltons 6 common sandpiper were using the small raft on the eastern side. Thanks to John Crispin for his shot of the common sands:

Other waders seen this week were from the far end (Sharpham end) of the main track where one of our neighbours has pumped down some pools. 4 green sandpiper and a juvenile little ringed plover were spotted here on Wednesday along with pied wagtails and little egrets. 

VP2 is still one of the best places to see great white egrets with 6 seen here last Sunday although 7 were seen from the Avalon Hide the same day - water levels are getting lower in here too now and some mud is beginning to show - a while since that's happened in this section. Thanks to John Crispin for his lovely egret shots taken this week:

  

The juvenile bird in the images was showing begging behaviour as the adult picked up a small piece of reed. Perhaps the youngster mistook this for food (or a fish)? The juvenile had been feeding independently.

Water levels drawing down naturally create muddy areas and shallower pools making feeding perhaps a little bit easier for some species. This grey heron took full advantage as it caught this eel this week - thanks again to John Crispin for his photo sequence: 

The second image in the sequence shows the eye as being opaque. This is the nictitating membrane, sometimes referred to as the third eyelid, covering the eye as the heron shakes the eel to prevent damage to the eyes. 

Bitterns have been seen regularly this week from all corners of the reserve so keep a look out for them. One landed directly in front of the Tor View Hide yesterday much to the delight of one visitor. 

The marsh harriers are still spending much of their time in front of the Avalon Hide (the 3 juveniles) but have been spreading their range and exploring more of the reserve. On Thursday there were just 2. One bird was seen to fly right across in front of the hide from right to left and then flew south and out of sight. 

Also from the Avalon Hide this week: Hobby, red kite, barn owl and great crested grebe amongst others. Including bearded tits, with several being heard from the Avalon Hide this week and just a few seen. I've been hearing and seeing them from several places out on the non public areas over the last couple of weeks - lets hope they venture nearer to the visitor areas soon. 

By now the majority of birds have finished breeding but there are still some dedicated parents out there feeding youngsters. Thanks to Graham Wagner for his shot of a reed warbler still busy feeding two youngsters in front of the Avalon Hide this week:

Also while he was there this young roe deer decided to put in an appearance - thanks again to Graham

Meanwhile, this roe buck was photographed by John Crispin trying to hide out from visitors - thanks John

Insect life on the reserve is thriving in the warm conditions and it's a good time to get out and learn something new whilst the bird life is a little quieter. Butterflies are often a favourite starting point for people - easy to spot and not a huge number of species to learn. Look out for red admiral, peacock, meadow brown, gatekeeper, holly blue, common blue, green veined white, large white, speckled wood, painted lady and small tortoiseshell amongst others. Thanks to Chris Spracklen who sent in this photo a couple of weeks ago and I forgot to include it in the blog. Apologies to Chris but thanks too for his interesting shot of a red admiral which has settled on one of our signs advertising our soil conditioner which you can buy at the car park. It looks like its landed on the handle of the spade:

Plenty of dragonflies about too with emperor, black tailed skimmer, ruddy dater, common darter, brown hawker and southern hawker all seen this week.

Visitor Experience Manager, Abbie Thorne took this shot of a Jersey tiger moth at the car park pools this week. Look out also for scarlet tiger and garden tiger both seen recently too:

Site Manager, Steve Hughes has also been doing a bit of bug spotting this week and took these shots of a noon fly - mesembrina meridiana

This large fly is easily identified by the jet black colour adorned with the orange-gold on the base of its wings, on its feet and on its face. It likes well-wooded & vegetated areas, where it likes to sunbathe on plant leaves, fences, trees and even on the ground. Seen late summer and autumn (so plenty of time to try and find one)

Also this week: bullfinch calling in the car park and seen on the feeders along with greenfinch (nice to see), goldfinch, coal tit, chaffinch, blue tit, great tit, robin, blackbird and house sparrows, a shelduck recorded at VP2 on Tuesday, a kestrel flying over the car park also on Tuesday, kingfishers seen from the Avalon Hide, Tor View Hide and the old rail bridge, lesser whitethroat & whitethroat seen near VP1 this week, gangs of long tailed tits using the tree lines and contact calling as they go, and sparrowhawk seen from VP1 and the car park this week. 

That's it for this week. Thanks for reading. I'm off on annual leave next week (hence the rain) so there won't be a sightings blog next week I'm afraid but hopefully back to normal the following week. 

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