We've had another busy week on the reserve this week including inspecting and clearing up some of the damage from Storm Ciara. A fallen tree along the main track and a unstable tree over the Avalon Hide path have been dealt with and are open but a larger tree has fallen across the Loxtons trail closing this loop - the other end of the trail leading to the screen is pretty flooded too, so we thought this was the best decision.
Another tree is leaning into another over the boardwalk bridge in the north east corner of Waltons closing this too but you can still walk around the outer trail. We will get these dealt with when we can, although there could be further damage this weekend when Storm Dennis hits us. With this weather in mind the visitor team have decided it best to keep the Welcome Building closed this weekend. The car park, toilets and reserve will be open us normal.
Through the rain, hail storms and howling winds, there has still been plenty to talk about this week wildlife wise. Bitterns are booming - often in the daytime - with at least 9 different areas recording booming regularly. You have to listen quite well for some of them as they are still a bit wheezy, although the occasional, more recognisable boom sound can be heard. Booming heard from Waltons, Loxtons (you can walk the northern most path only), VP2 and the Avalon Hide this week.
Grey herons in Waltons are still nest building with 4 counted so far. Mating and nesting material being brought in, witnessed this week. Look from the open screen at Waltons to the far side to see if you can spot any. Look out for the red legs of the breeding herons - they look magnificent in their breeding attire.
The rebuild of the first screen is getting close to completion - could be open by next weekend if all goes well. Initial work has begun on the base of the next one. One remains open, as does the path up to the Tor View Hide. Some of the reed blinds got blown down in the storm - hope the rest hold out this weekend!
From the screen and the Tor View Hide look out for great crested grebes - at least 2 pairs in here, with one pair performing their weed dance yesterday - their courtship displays are great to watch. Another pair had been seen nest building last week from VP1 but haven't seen how they have been doing since last weekend's weather.
9 great white egrets were seen together in the Walton's reedbed on Wednesday with one showing a black bill - it turns from yellow to black in breeding season - this one's ready? There was also this individual who seemed very upset about something - it had originally been seen flying with another bird. Thanks to John Crispin for his photo:
Thanks also to Kevin McDonagh for his shot taken on Feb 1st. He sent me photos of his visit but I forgot to include them in the blog. Sorry Kevin but thanks for your photos (there's a few more to come later).
The cut areas such as this one seem to be attractive to great white egrets and bitterns - look out for them in front of our hides and screens. Great whites also like hanging out in front of the first viewing platform (VP1) and can be seen there on most days. As too can lapwing - a few hundred there this week adding some noise and action to the view. They were there this morning along with several duck species including shoveler. Thanks to Kevin McDonagh for his shoveler shot:
With the Avalon Hide path open again it's a good place to shelter and look out for Marsh Harriers. Frequent sightings in this area in particular (although also seen at VP1, Waltons, Loxtons and elsewhere this week) - there were 7 seen together on Wednesday - thanks to John Crispin who managed to capture them all in one shot (5 females, 1 male and one 2nd calendar bird - perhaps one of our own youngsters):
Also from the Avalon Hide this week: 100 fieldfare flying past on Wednesday, sparrowhawk, bearded tits heard, little egret, buzzard little grebe and the usual array of ducks.
Along the main path look out for chiffchaff, treecreeper, bullfinch, redpoll, groups of tits and finches as well as song thrush. More birds are singing now - warming up for spring - including song thrush - you may even be lucky enough to see it do battle with a snail - they often have a favourite stone which they use as an anvil to break the shell. Thanks to John Crispin for his shot:
Not certain I've heard of any firecrest sightings this week - I;ve seen people looking but not heard the results. Worth trying the tree line behind the toilet block (either side of the tree line) or just have a good study of birds along the main path - they have been spotted down as far as VP2 recently. You'll probably bump into a goldcrest or two on your search - thanks to Kevin McDonagh again for his photo:
Another star bird recently has been the cattle egrets, although they roost on the reserve each night they are more commonly seen off it - in the surrounding countryside. Counts of around 120 this week at the roost although the conditions some mornings have not lent themselves to easy counting. Thanks to volunteer John Crispin for his continued efforts at counting these birds. In fields close by 4 Egyptian geese have been seen regularly too.
In the reedbeds look out for cettis warblers (you're probably more likely to hear them than see them at the moment), bearded tits - heard at Loxtons this week and reed buntings. I've heard reed buntings singing on occasions this week - the ghastly weather not dampening their spirits. They can often be seen in trees too and many people in the local area (Street, Glastonbury) report them on their bird feeders too - we sometimes get them on our car park feeders. Thanks to John Crispin for his reed bunting in a tree shot:
Also this week; a female merlin seen during a rotten weather WeBS (Wetland bird survey) on Tuesday- could have been seen from the old rail bridge, stonechats seen from VP1 perched up in the vegetation, buzzards seen daily, great spotted woodpeckers daily, 64 golden plovers flying over Waltons on Wednesday, lapwings gathered on the the first Waltons cut island - look out for snipe here too, water rail seen on the way to the Avalon Hide, an otter seen from the Tor View Hide and Ravens seen tumbling and heard calling this week. Thanks to John Crispin for his picture:
If you're after starlings this could be tricky. They have been roosting completely off the nature reserves in an inaccessible part of the Avalon Marshes - given the weather the weekend could well be a wasted journey for these at the moment. If they move we will update the Starling Hotline so give it a call to see 07866 554142. As we approach the end of February/beginning of March the likelihood is that numbers will begin to diminish.
That's it for this week - thanks for reading. I'll leave you with a shot of one of our very friendly Ham Wall robins, with thanks for the photo to Kevin McDonagh. Have a great weekend and stay safe in the storms:
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