"Anything special about?" ....It's a question we, as staff and volunteers, often hear from visitors. Yes of course! is the answer: Great white egret, marsh harrier, bitterns, .......No I've seen all those....anything special? 

It's amazing to think that these species are not considered special at Ham Wall anymore. Sometimes it's good just to sit and enjoy these "ordinary" Ham Wall birds and think about the story behind them and remind ourselves that everything is special and important in it's own way and what has been achieved in the Avalon Marshes over the last 10 years. 

There are still rarer birds that appear from time to time. The purple heron is still being seen locally - spending much of its time at neighbouring Shapwick Heath, although a couple of brief sightings from Ham Wall in the last week. I've not been lucky enough to see it myself though. 

Cattle egrets are also being spotted locally although not reported from Ham Wall this week it's still worth looking out for them. Ham Wall was the favoured autumn/winter roost site with a max count of 110 at peak so numbers could easily build back up over the coming months. 

Great white egrets, in my eyes, are still very special and perhaps some of the most photogenic birds we have here. Thanks to Kevin Bowers who has sent me a fine collection of shots from his recent visit to the reserve:

Thanks Kevin some lovely shots. Quality birds I'm sure you'll agree. Well, we can do quantity too. Thanks to John Crispin for his amazing shot of 17 of the 18 birds seen together in front of the second viewing platform (VP2) on the morning of Saturday 6th. 

Quite a sight. Thanks John!

We have other members of the heron family around too of course. Along with grey heron, you may also see one or two  little egrets (these are actually far less common here than the larger cousins above). Thanks again to Kevin Bowers for his little egret shot:

There are still some active bitterns nests too so a good chance of a sighting. One from VP2 which flies quite regularly and often calls in flight along with another in front of the Avalon Hide. I saw it twice in two brief visits this week. On both occasions it flew very close to the hide on the same flight path. Thanks to John Crispin for his great bittern shot taken during the week:

Whilst you're at the Avalon Hide look out for another photogenic bird, the great crested grebe. There are still a couple of busy parents feeding young here - something great to watch while you await a potential bittern sighting. Thanks to Kevin Bowers for his lovely grebe shots of adults and juveniles taken last weekend:

One of the other Avalon Hide specialities is of course the marsh harrier. We're still monitoring but it looks as though this year 2 nesting attempts have failed leaving just the one in front of the hide still going. It's a bit disappointing but sometimes you have a year like that. Maybe the heavy rain in June caused a problem? 

Both the male and female have been carrying in food this week although the male doesn't loiter for long. I witnessed a food pass on Monday in front of VP2 and one bird was seen carrying in what looked like a snake (most likely grass snake) yesterday. A visitor also reported seeing a large snake on the main path whilst cycling through yesterday. Given the size he described it was most likely a female grass snake. Also whilst bagging up some of our soil conditioner from our covered pile yesterday we came across some grass snake eggs. The heat given off as the material continues to decompose is ideal for incubation. I took a quick picture on my phone to show you.

Also from the Avalon Hide this week several reports of bearded tit. Sightings on a couple of occasions but quite frequently heard rather than seen. Reports also this week of birds calling or "pinging" as its known in front of the first viewing platform (VP1).

The Avalon Hide and VP1 could well be the best places to see barn owls too. Boxes are located in areas that can be viewed from these locations and adult birds have been seen out regularly in daylight hours - obviously hungry mouths to feed but it cant be more than a couple of weeks before these birds fledge. 

Hobbies too have been seen from the Avalon Hide this week occasionally seen catching flying insects such as dragonflies on the wing. Several species of dragonfly have been seen this week including: Emperor, brown hawker, common darter, ruddy darter, black tailed skimmer, scarce chaser and the last remaining four spotted chasers as well as a possible lesser emperor although not confirmed. Thanks to Kevin Bowers for his four spotted chaser photo taken at the car park:

As you can see from it's wings it's a bit tatty and towards the end of its life. A similar thing can happen with butterflies too as John Crispin's photo (and close up) of this red admiral shows. Thanks John:

Other butterflies recorded this week include: Green veined white, small white, large white, speckled wood, peacock, comma, painted lady meadow brown, gatekeeper, common blue, ringlet, small copper & small skipper. The latter two photographed by John Crispin and included below. Thanks again to John: 

Elsewhere, it's a good time to go out and see family groups of ducks and grebes. There are plenty still out there including some adorable pochard chicks photographed by John Crispin:

Look out also for mute swans and cygnets. I came across some very hissy parents with some quite small young this morning at Waltons. Thanks to Kevin Bowers for his Mute Swan shot:

Whilst there are many young birds around now some adults are still feeding and this reed warbler was even seen carry nesting material on several occasions. Breeding again or just refurbishing its current nest? Thanks to John Crispin for his observations and photos:

This one however is still feeding youngsters. A juicy fly on this occasion. Thanks again to Kevin Bowers for his shot:

Also this week: 6 black tailed godwits from VP1 on Monday, red kite flew over on Sunday & Monday, a bittern stood out in the open for some time in front of Tor View Hide last weekend, last cuckoo heard last weekend and now looks as though the last of our bitterns has stopped booming, kingfisher seen frequently in the south eastern area of Waltons, buzzards daily and a few fly overs from calling ravens.

One of the ravens fellow corvids to finish with this shot of carrion crows perched on one of our gates. Thanks to Kevin Bowers:

That's it for this week. Thanks for reading and have a great weekend.