A big increase in bittern activity this week with large numbers of flights being recorded at several locations. This suggests that females are now out and feeding youngsters at nests. A good number of flights from the first viewing platform (VP1) in particular. I was at the second viewing platform (VP2) yesterday lunchtime and witnessed 2 birds in a long chase to the north - so this kind of behaviour is still being seen too - I also saw a bittern fly in front of the Avalon Hide this morning. It's probably the best time of year to catch a bittern sighting - so if this is an elusive bird for you get down to the reserve and try your luck. Thanks to visitor Sid Deeming who visited us last week and sent in this bittern photo:
Grey herons are continuing to nest within the reedbeds at Waltons - an amazing 10 nests have been recorded in this area this season - so if you are hearing all kinds of noises from the reeds here - this is most likely the culprit.
Great white egrets are also nesting in large numbers across the Avalon Marshes - I would estimate between 30 and 40 nests but when I know a more accurate figure I will let you know. The ringing team have made several visits to ring some of this years youngsters too. They are an easy spot on the reserve but this beautiful and graceful bird is always nice to see. Thanks to Alastair Robinson for sending in his great white egret image.
The glossy ibis continue to use the VP1 area - not sure if anyone has had all 7 together this week but 6 have been seen with 3 or 4 regularly seen from this area. The red growth is just beginning to make spotting things a little more tricky but it's still a hotspot here for all kinds of birds - waders in particular.
This week has still offered quite a good list including: wood sandpiper, common sandpiper, redshank, little ringed plover, 4 ringed plover, a few dunlin, good numbers of black tailed godwits, small groups of whimbrel, and a small number of lapwing which have been displaying and chasing off other birds (a good sign) - this brave lapwing tried to see off this marsh harrier this week - thanks to John Crispin for his photo and for the black tailed godwit image which follows it:
Increasing numbers of damselflies and dragonflies is good news for the hobbies which are still arriving. Several seen over the reserve yesterday. Thanks to John Crispin and Sid Deeming for sending in their shots:
Thought that we should take a closer look at their prey. One dragonfly you will start to see more of is the four spotted chaser. Waltons is usually a good place to see these - often in large numbers but this can vary year on year. Look for the extra spots on each wing which give it its name. Thanks to John Crispin and Alastair Robinson for the photos:
Look out also for broad bodied chaser, hairy dragonfly and scarce chaser all on the wing at the moment. thanks again to Alastair Robinson for his scarce chaser shot:
In terms of damselflies there are several species to look out for. If you find a good area clouds of them move out of the long grasses as you walk along. The blue damsels are generally either variable, azure or common blue but you may also see the following (thanks to Alastair Robinson for his photos). Large red damselfly:
Blue tailed damselfly:
Red eyed damselfly - similar to blue tailed (apart from the big red eyes). It is worth noting that we also get small red eyed damselfly on the reserve. This will have an extra half blue segment on the tail to tell the difference - they often settle on floating vegetation, so gives you a good chance:
Still quite good numbers of butterflies on the wing too. This week includes: holly blue, brimstone, speckled wood, orange tip, green veined white, red admiral and peacock. thanks again to Alastair Robinson for his image of peacock butterfly take this week:
You may also hear a peacock (bird variety) calling - it lives at one of our neighbours up the road from the reserve.
Talking of calling, I was busy painting a bench down at Loxtons yesterday and I heard a commotion - lots of angry calling. I had my back to proceedings and by the time I'd realised what was happening I saw what I think was the purple heron disappearing into the reeds. It has however been seen on at least 3 other occasions this week in this area (behind VP2) - so keep your eyes peeled if you are in the vicinity.
Another commotion also happened close to VP1 yesterday when a fight erupted between two pairs of coots, with 4 youngsters involved too (one getting pushed back into the reeds). Lots of noise and splashing. Some very protective parents there.
Quite a few broods of different birds being seen at the moment including: moorhen, coot, mallard, Canada Goose and great crested grebe (the pair have hatched at least 2 young on the way to the Avalon Hide on the right before you enter the woodland).
Within the woodland here was a drumming great spotted woodpecker - I also saw it going from tree to tree feeding, so guessing to may also have some young. A barn owl is being seen regularly flying to the wood in front of the Avalon Hide ( I saw it myself carrying prey this morning). A tawny owl was also heard calling from woodland near the car park whilst the 2 owlets on our nest cam box are now just one very fat owlet - guess where the smaller one went.
The car park and main path offer good opportunities to hear and see a variety of warblers and other passerines. Blackcaps are out and singing in good numbers - thanks to John Crispin for his shots of the male and female.
Garden warblers seem to be here in good numbers too. At Loxtons this afternoon blackcap was on one side of the track and garden warbler the other - great in helping to distinguish between these two similar songs. Listen out also for willow warbler, chiffchaff and whitethroat. Whitethroat can be seen often in the brambles opposite VP1 but also from the old rail bridge on the main path. It was perched on the supporting cable on the telegraph pole singing happily.
Nearby sat on the edge of the small channel running away from you was a kingfisher. They are nesting nearby so worth pausing a while here. Also, while you wait, check out the groups of fish in the drain and see if you can spot a swimming grass snake. One has been seen here a couple of times this week and another today in Waltons near the Tor View Hide.
You'll more than likely see some very friendly robins around the reserve (or are they just after your food?) Thanks to Alastair Robinson for his robin shot:
The osprey has again been seen this week on at least 3 occasions - yesterday it was seen high over Loxtons, today at Shapwick Heath and John Crispin took this shot last weekend. Thanks John:
Other birds of prey include a sparrowhawk at VP2 yesterday, a buzzard today at VP1 which disturbed a lot of waders and a glossy ibis and a couple of red kite sightings throughout the week - seem to be getting more frequent now. Thanks to John Crispin for this shot taken on Saturday (7th).
Also this week: cuckoo being heard around the reserve with a couple seen in flight from VP2 yesterday, garganey seen from VP1 including 2 males this afternoon, 3 Egyptian geese seen a few times including in flight from the Avalon Hide this morning, an otter spotted at Loxtons on Monday daytime with another in the evening on the north of the reserve, good numbers of swift seen from VP2 today but also elsewhere on the reserve, cattle egrets seen in flight to the south of Waltons yesterday and a jay seen carrying nesting material at the boardwalk bridge which exits the car park to the reserve.
Also several roe deer spotted around the reserve - usually in singles but often small groups to the north and just beyond our boundary. Thanks to Sid Deeming for his roe deer image.
That's it for this week. Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!
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