I was lucky enough to be out and about for a couple of hours on the reserve this morning. So nice to feel the sun on my face - been quite an unusual occurrence in recent weeks. Definite spring vibes everywhere I went.
It took me just seconds to hear a booming bittern of which there are now several across the reserve.Staff and volunteers from all the organisations across the Avalon Marshes were up before dawn yesterday undertaking the first booming bittern count of the season. We'll collate the results and let you know soon what we found out.
Bitterns have also been seen in flight this week from the first viewing platform (VP1), Waltons and the Avalon Hide and with all these calling males on the look out for lady bitterns we should start seeing some chase flights before too long. One of our great spring spectacles.
One of the first signs that spring is here is the arrival of sand martins to our shores. Small groups have been seen this week at the reserve with 3 seen at VP2 and 2 at the car park on Sunday and a further group at VP1 on Tuesday so keep an eye for them.
Butterflies have also been seen today and throughout the week when the sun has shone. I saw peacock and small tortoiseshell this morning and a visitor reported seeing comma and brimstone.
At VP1 the nesting great crested grebes are still present and by the timings we could see youngsters as early as next week with a bit of luck. The parents have sat through all weathers, so lets hope they are rewarded.
Opposite in Waltons a pair have also been seen displaying in front of the screens there. The following photos from John Crispin show some displaying behaviour which on this occasion resulted in the male flying off (he'll be back). Thanks for the photos John:
The pair in Waltons have been flying quite a lot this week. I saw them do a little circuit before settling down again on Tuesday. John Crispin had mentioned they'd been doing it on several occasions. He got this shot on one such occasion - thanks John:
They can be seen swimming in front of the Waltons screens daily along with little grebes too.On the other side of the pond the grey herons are still nesting with at least 4 nests counted so far. You can pick out a couple of the nests with the help of your binoculars and a bit of scanning. These grey heron shots were taken elsewhere on the reserve by Mike Pearce this week. He mentioned (and I agree) how the massive complex wings fold up into such a nice neat bird. Take a look at his two pictures to see what we mean. Thanks Mike:
In a similar area on Sunday we had an unusual visitor for Ham Wall in the shape of a long tailed duck. It was seen by several people but was not seen again when searched for on Monday or Tuesday. Thanks though to Paul Cousins who did manage to track it down and was kind enough to send me in his photos. What a great sighting for us - I don't remember seeing one here before (and unfortunately I didn't get to see this one either Thanks Paul:
Plenty of other ducks to get interested in: this morning I could still hear both teal and wigeon with us along with mallard, gadwall, tufted duck, pochard and shoveler and we have had pintail (4 males and 2 females) with us all week from VP1 feeding and sleeping. Thanks to John Crispin who photographed one pair - the male swimming and the female in flight. Thanks John:
A nice variety of birds spotted in and around the car park this week including mistle thrush, song thrush, bullfinch, redwing, coal tit, great white egret and cattle egret flying over, goldcrest, an array of tits and finches and great spotted woodpecker (listen out for them drumming from locations around the reserve).
Several flights from great white egret over the car park this week, sometimes in pairs. I saw 4 together this morning close to the Avalon Hide. They are also looking to nest in a couple of locations which is great to know. Such an elegant looking bird.
Cattle egrets have continued to roost on the reserve with over 100 counted on several occasions this week. It would be great if we could get them back breeding again at Ham Wall. They nest a little later so it's a bit early to know yet.
Cormorants are also underway with nesting with double figures recorded at present. Thanks to John Crispin for his shot of a cormorant coming in to land - showing its breeding plumage:
Also this week: firecrest reported from the main path - one between the main road and the metal gate quite regularly and a second one near VP2, treecreepers seen and heard along the main path, a peregrine spotted during the bittern count yesterday with another seen earlier in the week from VP1, 2 Egyptian geese flew over Waltons at the end of last week, a tawny owl heard calling at 11.45 this morning (would have been heard easily from the old rail bridge), jays screeching noisily close by too, buzzards seen circling on thermals and calling this morning, bearded tits heard at Tinneys (the outlying plot on the Sharpham road - along with a booming bittern, 2 skylarks singing in adjacent fields, 10+ fieldfare, nesting grey herons in the reed beds and a nice group of pochard.
Finally look out for marsh harriers - I saw several this morning on the north of the reserve. Looks likely that they will nest again in this area (visible from the Avalon Hide). Lots of interaction between males and female birds - captured here by John Crispin. Thanks John:
That's it for this week. Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend.
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