I haven't spent much time out on the main parts of the reserve this week as we have continued with work on the path in the mini marshes area at the car park. Thankfully we have finished the loop after much hard work from staff and volunteers. Thanks to you all for your hard work on a back-breaking job.
Spending time in the car park however has its advantages. It's surprising what you can see and hear there throughout the day. The wildlife garden has been brilliant recently. A great variety of birds both on the feeders and on the ground. Highlights include a male bullfinch and a family of great spotted woodpeckers. The woodpeckers were also hanging around the picnic bench area feeding off the ground yesterday and had a good peck at one of our wooden signposts.
Also in the garden this week: robin, blackbird (including juveniles), dunnock, goldfinch, chaffinch, a male siskin, blue tit, great tit, collared dove, field vole, wood mouse and house sparrow including several juvenile birds. Great to see so much activity - not only feeding but having the odd mud bath and splashing in the pond. A hummingbird hawk moth was also seen on Sunday feeding on plants in the raised beds by the toilets.
Plenty of birds flying over the car park too including: great white egret (daily), marsh harrier, bittern, buzzard and a red kite on Sunday. Cuckoos are calling and warblers singing - including young reed warblers around the pools. Not bad before you even get out onto the reserve is it?
A walk towards the first viewing platform (VP1) should bring a variety of warblers. Blackcaps aplenty, willow warbler, garden warbler, chiffchaff and whitethroat all seen or heard by the time you reach the platform. Also loiter a while at the raised wooden boardwalk which leaves the car park. A pair of spotted flycatchers have been seen here this week.
Reed growth in front of the first platform is starting to block out some of the views of open water but there is still plenty to see (we will start to reed cut in here after breeding season is over - August time).
One to look out for here, and indeed the second platform (VP2) is barn owl. A noticeable increase in sightings over the last week or so suggesting they are busy feeding youngsters. They are being seen most days but obviously early mornings and before dusk would be more likely. One was sen late into the morning on Monday (11am) and on Saturday morning one flew back to the owl box in the wood opposite VP1 - this is our most successful box with successful breeding almost every year (only one year missed in the 14 breeding seasons I have worked here).
Thanks to John Crispin for his shot taken from VP2 this week:
Another beautiful bird to look out for at VP1 is the great crested grebe. They are sitting on a nest again and still have well grown youngsters still in attendance. These can also be seen at the Avalon Hide, Loxtons and in Waltons where there are at least 2 pairs with youngsters. Thanks to Pate Manley and John Crispin for there pictures showing the caring parental side of the grebes nature:
Great crested grebe family: Pete Manley
They can be very protective of their young too and the two pairs in Waltons got just a little to close to each other which came to blows. A dramatic sight as John Crispins pictures show. Thanks John:
One also seemed to get in some bother with some coots too:
Little grebes are present too with a pair with 4 young visible from the Tor View Hide this week. Some visitors here also reported sightings of marsh harrier, bittern, hobby and water rail.
The best location for marsh harrier sightings is the Avalon Hide. Plenty of activity here this week including food passes right in front of the hide as well as several bittern sightings - suggesting an active bittern nest close by. Sparrowhawk, lapwing and hobby also reported from the Avalon Hide this week.
Hobbys also seen from both platforms and over Waltons this week with a peak of 7 sightings from Dean, one of our volunteers. Plenty of dragonflies for them to feed on. Still good numbers of 4 spotted chasers to be seen but perhaps not as high as some years but impressive nonetheless - try the Waltons trail. There were good numbers on the eastern side on Monday. Look out also for black tailed skimmers, emperor and scarce chaser which was also reported this week.
Scarce chaser: John Crispin.
Damselflies are on show too including: red eyed, azure, variable, common blue and blue tailed. Thanks to John Crispin for his shot of a female blue tailed damselfly. The salmon pink colour of the thorax means it is the rufescens form (there are 5 different forms of the females in this species)
Butterflies have been hard to come by this week given how little sunshine we've had. Some have appeared during sunny spells but I only recall seeing red admiral this week but Warden Ali Blaney took this shot of a female common Blue at the car park this week:
Thanks also to John Crispin for his shot of a caterpillar of a drinker moth:
No reports of foxes this week despite the flurry of sightings of adults and cubs last week including one which swam to the islands in front of VP1. We did have a report of a swimming mole last week from the Avalon Hide which was bizarre but true.
The more natural swimmer, the otter, has been seen again this week with reports of 2 together from the Tor View Hide/Waltons on Sunday and a further single on Wednesday from the screens at Waltons.
VP2 has had its fair share of action this week with 8 great white egrets sen together on Monday (a mixture of yellow and black billed birds here - non breeders/juveniles with yellow bills and breeding condition adults with black bills). Also on Sunday a group of 31 black tailed godwits dropped in at around 8am and most likely the same group dropped in front of VP1 amongst the loafing ducks. Thanks to John Crispin once again for his photos:
Garganey has also been spotted in this area this week along with sightings of marsh harrier and bittern (I believe there is still an active nest to the right hand side).
Also this week: 2 Raven which flew over on Tuesday, a single unringed common crane which was spotted high over VP1 late on Sunday, a hobby chasing off a peregrine close to the car park on Monday, sparrowhawk seen from VP1 on Sunday, pinging bearded tits heard albeit briefly from VP2 this week but also from the Avalon Hide, cuckoos heard from Waltons, Loxtons and the car park as well as a pair seen flying together yesterday & kingfisher sightings from Waltons (a few sightings) and the Avalon Hide.
Before rounding off here's some news of upcoming events on the reserve bother offering something a little bit unique and special. There are spaces available on both so why not give them a try?
Evening Yoga at Ham Wall
Sunday 23 June
7 pm-8.30 pm
Nature is great for our well-being. Why not combine it with a spiritual Yoga session at our amazing Ham Wall nature reserve as we reach mid-summer.
RSPB members £9.60 / Non RSPB members £12
All booking is online through Eventbrite:
(Please note: booking charges apply)
Nature by Canoe at Ham Wall
Saturday 3 and Sunday 4 August
Saturday 7 and Sunday 8 September
One hour group tours between 10 am and 3 pm
Have you ever thought what Ham Wall would look like if you were an otter? Now here’s your chance to find out – Join a qualified instructor and an expert wildlife guide on this unique opportunity to experience this amazing nature reserve by canoe! No experience needed.
RSPB members £14.40; Non RSPB members £18
RSPB child members £7.20; Non RSPB child £9
https://naturebycanoehamwall2019.eventbrite.co.uk (Please note: booking charges apply)
That's it for this week. Thanks for reading and have a great, and fingers crossed, a dry weekend.
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