Another slightly earlier blog this week as I will be off work tomorrow. Staff & volunteers were out in force again this morning across all the sites in the Avalon Marshes for the second of our booming bittern counts. The results are in: 18 from Ham Wall with a further 4 just off our boundaries on neighbouring land, 13 from Shapwick Heath & 7 from Somerset Wildlife Trust land at Westhay giving an Avalon Marshes total of 42. That's a bit down on year which totalled 50 at this stage. 

A further 3 boomers were recorded at Greylake with another being heard at West Sedgemoor and also at Screech Owl ponds near Bridgwater. Somerset total stands at 47. It's down on last year but birds could be finding new sites elsewhere and spreading the range of these birds which of course is good news. Thanks to all the volunteers who took part (over 70 of them across the marshes) who came in early to begin surveying at 5am - an amazing effort from everyone

It was a cold but bright morning this morning - a great morning to be out and about. A tawny owl could be heard calling on site and we still have one roosting in our camera box which can be viewed live on the TV in the Welcome Building at the Ham Wall car park. Further to this our other nest box cam shows blue tits are nest building as they did last year.  

The car park is good place to start your birding. Blackcaps are singing very well here and along the main path as the following 3 photographs show. Thanks to John Crispin, Graham Wagner and Mike Pearce for their contributions:

Listen out also for other songbirds such as chiffchaff, goldfinch, blackbird and robin along with blue tit, great tit, goldcrest and long tailed tit. Song thrush can also be heard singing from their high perches - some next to the car park. Thanks to Mike Pearce for sending in his shot:

Also spotted from the car park this week includes: treecreepers x2 from the wooden boardwalk leading to the reserve, pied wagtails, sparrowhawk, buzzard, jay, sand martin, swallow and many birds spotted on and around the feeders behind the Welcome Building including coal tit and greenfinch both photographed and submitted by Graham Wagner - thanks Graham:

As you walk along the main track look out for the odd bullfinch and also garden warbler before you reach the first viewing platform (VP1). A good opportunity to listen for bitterns at this point with a couple recorded in the Waltons area this morning and 3 to the south. From VP1 itself, often a good place to spot great white egrets although a couple have been seen dropping into Waltons on a regular basis but looks like they are just feeding here or loafing about rather than nesting. 

Also from VP1 this week a little gull seen on Saturday (also at Shapwick Heath), an otter the same day (another was seen from the Avalon Hide too), a report of a hobby here on Tuesday with further reports of a single hobby over the reserve yesterday. Yesterday (Weds) 3 black tailed godwits were present along with pochard, shoveler, teal, mallard, tufted duck, gadwall and little grebe. Its larger cousin the great crested grebe has been nesting again in this area towards the back. They have been sat now for 19 days!!

Another nest has been built and has grebes sat on at least one egg on the western side of Waltons. This is visible from the main track if you look over or from the last of the 3 screens which faces that way. Thanks to John Crispin who has sent in a lovely sequence of photos taken this week:

A pair of garganey have also been sen in this area but more frequently they have been spotted from the Tor View Hide and have been shoeing really well to lots of visitors who have gone away very happy. Further sightings have been had from the second viewing platform (VP2) during the week. Thanks to Graham Wagner for his shots taken from the Tor View Hide this week:

Look out also for a pair of teal which are still hanging on in this area. Thanks to John Crispin for his shot of some dozing Teal taken on the reserve this week:

Water rail are also still being seen from the Tot View Hide (they can certainly be heard from here but potentially as many as 4 were seen from here earlier this week. Listen out also for kingfishers seen and heard at the southern end of Waltons this week.

The other prime place to go at the moment would be the Avalon Hide. It's certainly the place to go for marsh harriers with at least 5 different birds being spotted this week (you can often see marsh harrier from VP2 as well). They have been seen displaying and carrying nesting material this week which is exciting. They look set to repeat the nesting in this area of previous years - they really show well here and the hide is perfectly placed to catch all the action. 

A few bittern sightings have also been recorded here this week in flight, hiding min the reeds and on the ground. Add to this a pair of great crested grebes, a selection of duck, an otter sighting on Saturday (6th),a high flyover by 2 cranes on Monday, a pair of sparrowhawks the same day, a mallard swimming with 6 young and bearded tits heard on one occasion then it's a great place to wait a while. 

Away from birds and there are plenty of insects out on the wing - good feeding opportunities for arriving migrants but also good to see plenty of butterflies out during the sunny spells: brimstone, green veined white, small tortoiseshell, speckled wood, red admiral, peacock, comma and orange tip all spotted during the week. 

Also this week: a further influx of sand martins and swallows, a couple of redwing recorded this week close to VP2, redpoll still being seen along the main path with a group of around 30 on Tuesday, at least 90 cattle egrets still in the local area, grey herons continue to nest in the Waltons reedbeds with 4 nests recorded, a brambling seen along the main path and a ruff spotted from VP2 on Saturday. 

That's it for this week. Thanks for reading! 

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