Still a lot of birds moving through the reserve this week. A few hirundines are being seen each day with around 30+ swallows on Wednesday over the car park. Also seen was a hobby - one was also seen today over on Shapwick Heath diving low onto the water. Presumably this was picking up egg laying dragonflies but must of been fascinating to watch.
Also, willow warblers can still be seen and heard, with one singing in the car park yesterday. A common whitethroat can still be seen opposite the first viewing platform (VP1) and chiffchaff can also be heard in song during sunnier spells - almost enough to fool you that it's still summer.
The darker, shorter days and cooler temperatures indicate otherwise, but autumn is always a good chance to see birds 'on the move' and you're never quite sure what may turn up (just look at the wryneck from last week). At Ham Wall we often get an influx of waders at this time of year, particularly if there are some muddy areas. The area in front of the second viewing platform (VP2) is your best bet or the 2 willow screens which look onto the same area on the other side of the drainage channel.
This week green sandpipers (pictured) have been spotted frequently again with up to 5 recorded by some visitors. The volunteers and I also saw one fly up from the VP1 area on Wednesday. Water levels are still well down in here as we try to finish off the last of the reedbed cutting in this section. Once we do, we will raise water levels slowly to provide some splashy areas for waders, egrets and ducks to feed and loaf about in. A redshank was also seen in this areas this week.
Also from VP2 and the willow screens this week - 11 snipe, 6 little egret, numerous sightings of great white egrets, 40+ lapwing, black tailed godwits and a ruff (both pictured). Thanks to John Crispin for his wader shots:
Black tailed godwit
Autumn/wintering birds of black tailed godwit are generally accepted as Islandica race and not the European nominate race Limosa - some Limosa race breed here in the east of England such as at Nene Washes in Cambridgeshire.
This could well be a juvenile - like autumn/winter adults but often a stronger buff tinge below and upper parts have neat scaly pattern with solid dark feather centres. Only one seen but we often get a few more as October approaches.
A large grass snake (therefore most likely a female) was seen swimming in front of the willow screens yesterday too but no sign of the wood sandpipers for a few days now - at least none reported to us anyway.
Bitterns have been seen in flight on a few occasions - although at this time of year they tend to go back to their more secretive behaviour. We did see one in flight yesterday as we were reed cutting in front of VP1 - it flew right over our work area. Birds have also been seen at Waltons and the Avalon Hide this week. Always worth scanning the edges of the reedbeds - particularly on sunny mornings when the fancy a bit of sunshine and come out to the edge.
Great white egrets are hard to miss on a visit. Apart from being big and white they also tend to hang out in some quite public areas such as VP2 and the Avalon Hide abut some have also been seen within the Waltons section this week.
Another Ham Wall favourite is the Marsh harrier. Sightings of a juvenile bird all week - most likely one of the birds from our successful nest. Thanks to John Crispin for his shot of this young bird just looking set to stoop into the reedbed - after a prey item?
Bearded tits are another bird on most peoples wish list. There are plenty out there although unfortunately for visitors they tend to hang around mostly on the north of the reserve. The closest you can get is the Avalon Hide really and that is where the bulk of our reports come from. Visitors have however been reporting one or two from both the viewing platforms this week and I certainly heard some in the VP1 area whilst working in there yesterday.
Despite things cooling slightly you can still see dragonflies out on the wing and some will be with us for several more weeks yet before the frost finally kills them off. Southern hawker, migrant hawker, black tailed skimmer, common darter and ruddy darter all seen this week.
Butterflies too are very busy during the warm spells. Look out for comma, red admiral, speckled wood, small tortoiseshell, green veined white, peacock, small copper and common blue amongst others. Visitor Andy Anderson also came across this character crossing his path whilst out on the reserve this week. It's the caterpillar of the death's head hawkmoth (so called because of the skull shaped marking it has. It's a large caterpillar as you can see. Andy has also sent us some film which we have shared on our Facebook and Twitter pages - thank you for sending this in Andy - a great find:
Also this week: Ravens being seen most days including 2 which circled around for some time yesterday in front of VP1 calling (cronking), stoat seen from the Avalon Hide on Wednesday, a sparrowhawk seen on a couple of occasions from VP1 this week, plenty of wildfowl about including gadwall, mallard, shoveler, tufted duck and teal but also a wigeon seen at the Avalon Hide, great spotted woodpeckers daily, treecreepers heard along the main track and a bullfinch )male) also seen, water rail seen from the willow screens mentioned earlier and from the Tor View Hide (they can be heard calling quite a lot too), a black tern reported from Noah's lake over on Shapwick Heath and a group of 50 cattle egrets seen roosting in the local area.
Next week on Wednesday and Thursday we will be cutting the islands in the car park and removing the cuttings as part of our management for the wild flowers. Wildflower seeds have been sown in an effort to create a meadow habitat that will enhance the site with a diversity of plants. This will in turn provide home for a wide range of invertebrates.
To achieve this there has to be regular mowing to control over-vigorous plants and reduce nutrients to suit the wildflowers. Some areas will be left uncut to provide winter habitat for all those invertebrates.
The car park will be open as normal although we may shut small sections to enable us to safely carry out the work. On Wednesday the Welcome Building will also be shut to enable staff to have a spring |(or autumn) clean and fit some new units for storage so we are all ready for the busy starling season. Still around 1000 birds roosting in Waltons at present - it could be as many as 1000 times this again at its winter peak.
That's it for this week. Thanks for reading and have a great weekend
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