Surprise! Yes I'm a day early this week with the blog as I'm not in work tomorrow. We've cancelled our volunteer days due to the weather which means I've free time today to get on with it. 

We've been battered and blown this week with high winds for several days which seems set to continue for a bit longer. Several trees have come down on the reserve in the recent winds including 2 particularly large ones. Sadly one of these involved was the large multi-stemmed willow on the way to the Avalon Hide. About half of it has split away and fallen but the rest was still holding strong. We've also had heavy rain and hail this week to add to the mix. 

Take care if visiting - it's certainly made work out on the reserve a bit more tricky but spare a thought for the wildlife struggling in such conditions. A Bittern was seen battling against the winds this morning attempting to fly from Ham Wall towards Shapwick Heath. Some wildlife is moving around but the vast majority of our bird and mammal species are sensibly choosing to wait it out and take shelter. 

The bad weather may have contributed to the demise of the great crested grebe nest seen from the first viewing platform (VP1) this week. The birds had been sitting for 15 days. It was an early nest but the gamble didn't pay off this time but there's plenty of time for them to go again. 

Also despite these winds and the rain, sand martins have continued to flow through all week. Quite remarkable when you consider the winds they are fighting against. Thanks to both John Crispin & Graham Wagner for their sand martin shots taken this week:

During calmer spells, when the sun shines - yes it has happened on a couple of occasions this week, there is still plenty of bird song to enjoy. Song thrushes can be heard calling from high perches and there are a few chiffchaff in song along the main path. Thanks to David Love for sending in his shot taken on the reserve on Monday:

Chiffchaff: David Love 

Also along the main path keep a look out for bullfinch, goldcrest, jay, treecreeper and great spotted woodpecker - all frequently seen along here along with all the usual suspects you might see in you garden. A male blackcap was also spotted this week. Other wildlife obviously use this area too such as rabbits which can sometimes be seen scurrying around on the edges before darting into undergrowth and also grey squirrels - perhaps still looking for any acorns they may have cached in the autumn. Thanks to David Love for his photo taken on Monday:

Grey Squirrel : David Love 

On days when the weather is poor, places such as the Avalon Hide are good just to sit a while and shelter from the elements. Marsh harriers can still be seen interacting with each other as they look to nest once again in this area. There was also some interaction from carrion crows this week as John Crispin's photos show. The female getting a bit of harassment from a crow:

Whilst at the hide also look out for a pair of great crested grebes (there is also another pair in the Waltons area that often get close to the screens), shoveler, tufted duck, gadwall, teal, mallard and little grebe.

Thanks to Graham Wagner for his shots of gadwall & teal in flight taken from the Avalon Hide this week:

Great white egrets also visit this area and there have been a few sightings of bittern from here recently as well as the occasional visit from sparrowhawk. 

Great white egrets are fairly conspicuous around the reserve - being big and white and happy about sitting out in the open, I guess this is no surprise. Many of the birds are now transitioning into breeding plumage. Most notable signs are the bill colour turning from yellow to black/dark grey, the lores (around the bill) turning green and a reddish tinge on the legs and don't forget the fine plumage. Thanks to John Crispin for his image with a little egret too - perfect shot to show you that size comparison:

From the Tor View Hide and Waltons look out for snipe (on the island in front of the last screen - although water levels in here are quite high at the moment and a handful of lapwing earlier in the week. Waltons has also been a good place to see kingfishers of late. Cettis warblers & water rails can certainly be heard along the Tor View Hide path but seeing them is a different story. Cettis warblers may well be more visible over the next few weeks as they perch up and sing for mates and to defend their territory so keep a look out for these. With water rails you just need to be luck but it's always worth approaching the hide quietly, as they can be seen wandering around in front sometimes, as Graham Wagner's picture shows. Thanks Graham:

Whilst at Waltons keep an eye out also for the grey herons nesting in the eastern half of the reedbed. There are 3, perhaps 4, nests currently.

From VP1 several species of duck are present - I'm still hearing some wigeon and groups of pochard and tufted duck can be seen around the reserve. Black tailed godwits have dropped in on most days this week too so worth looking out for them. Thanks to John Crispin for his photo: 

From the second viewing platform you've always a chance of marsh harriers but scan about too for this male pintail - he's been hanging around for several days now. Thanks to John Crispin for his shots of the bird preening and resting:

Also this week: Raven seen and heard flying over on a couple of occasions, a peregrine flying over Waltons yesterday heading west, 8 common sandpiper reported from pools down at Sharpham, green sandpiper seen once again in the pools at the far end of the main track on the drained area to the right, 2 roe deer seen on the grassy banks to the right of the Avalon Hide, a glossy ibis seen yesterday on Shapwick Heath (it flew out of Ham Wall last Wednesday and headed towards Shapwick so it's still in the area, buzzards daily and reed buntings singing from the reedbeds (awaiting their noisy neighbour the reed warblers to arrive). Thanks to David Love for his shots of the latter 2 (buzzard and reed bunting) both taken this Monday at Ham Wall:

Well, that about wraps it up for this week. Thanks for reading and have a great weekend! Stay safe in the winds!!