Another lovely week at Ham Wall has passed by and we've had lots of happy visitors enjoying the many sights and variety of wildlife on offer.
You don't even have to wander too far from the car park to see great things either. Great white egrets regularly fly over but we've also had sightings of bittern, marsh harrier and good numbers of hobby. Plenty of birdsong to enjoy also including song thrush, the call of the cuckoo and plenty of warblers. The Sunday volunteer team have also done a wonderful job in the wildlife garden area, transforming it by adding some pathways and a small water feature to add to the beautiful flowering plants, bug boxes and bird feeders. Take a look through the screens when you visit. The feeders are usually quite busy with a nice variety of birds.
Also reports of fox cubs close to the car park. Some very small ones were seen from the boardwalk bridge that leads out of the car park a couple of weeks ago some I'm assuming they must still be in this area. There always a chance of a treecreeper in this wooded area too.
Our nest cam boxes are providing good entertainment too although the tawny owl chick is now leaving the box for periods of time and was not there this morning. However the blue tit box is occupied and one of the adults was sat this morning but as it moved it revealed several small featherless youngsters so this should provide some nice entertainment for visitors for the next 2 or 3 weeks.
The first viewing platform (VP1) is also providing a good range of birds to spot too. There's a muddy area near the front where a few waders have visited this week including a few black tailed godwits on several occasions which were joined by 3 greenshank and a single ruff on Wednesday. Look out also for the odd snipe along with at least 4 lapwing which were displaying in this area yesterday and this morning and were seen chasing off crows too - a good sign perhaps.
Also from VP1 there's a good chance of seeing but certainly hearing bittern, great white egrets often visit and occasional visits from marsh harriers (male & female). Several warblers can be seen or heard from here too including reed warbler, sedge warbler, garden warbler, blackcap & whitethroat (often in the brambles opposite). Thanks to John Crispin for his shots of blackcap and whitethroat taken from VP1 this week:
Look out also for pochard, mallard, coot, grey heron, swifts, gadwall and great crested grebe all seen from VP1 this week. The great crested grebes have chicks although they seem to be losing some - most likely an attack from above by lesser black back gulls although a large pike could be an underwater threat. On the 11th they had 4 young, on the 13th they had 3 and on the 15th they had just 2.
There are at least 2 pairs with around 4 young in Waltons too and can be seen from the screens or the Tor View Hide so lets hope these all fair a bit better. The Tor View Hide is a good place to see kingfishers with a few sightings reported here this week and also the odd sighting of water rail but perhaps the best sighting came on Wednesday with the report of 3 otters swimming in front. I know it's true because a visitor showed me a photograph. Across at the Avalon Hide is the best place to see marsh harriers with a fair amount of activity reported this week along with a few bittern sightings. I saw a bittern myself this morning as it flew over my head and dropped into the area in front of VP2. The Avalon HIde area was also a good place to watch hobby this week with multiples of birds being seen (at least in double figures).
Thanks to John Crispin for his shots of a hobby taking a flying insect and eating it on the wing:
Of course dragonflies are one of their favourite snacks and there are increasing numbers on the reserve this week - particularly the 4 spot chasers - this upward trend should continue over the next couple of weeks until they number in their tens of thousands - Waltons is a particularly good area to see this amazing sight. Hairy dragonfly are out on the wing still as are broad bodied chasers but I also saw my first emperor of the year - a new emergent on reed stems in one the car park pools. Thanks to Giles Morris for his photos of red eyed and variable damselfly which are on the wing along with azure and blue tailed and there have been reports of early emerging banded demoiselles.
Red eyed damselfly
Plenty of other interesting species whizzing about too such as this scorpion fly - thanks again to Giles Morris for his shot:
Other non avian highlights this week include: very noisy Iberian water frogs - particularly in the Waltons and Loxtons area - but always a chance of a sighting at the car park pools too, a grass snake seen swimming within the Waltons area, a slow worm seen near the Avalon Hide & roe deer seen grazing the grassy paths of Waltons this week.
A few interesting birds passing through too include a purple heron seen at Shapwick Heath but the bird was reported flying from the Ham Wall direction, at least 2 sightings of red kite on both Wednesday & Thursday mornings from VP1 - thanks to John Crispin for the photo below and also a Wheatear which stopped at Ham Wall to preen for a while before moving on - again photographed by John Crispin (thanks John!)
Also this week - grey herons continue to nest in the Waltons reed beds - listen out for the noisy youngsters, garganey seen briefly at VP1 on Thursday, great spotted woodpeckers nesting in a tree close to the Avalon Hide path in the wood (as in previous years please do not push further into the wood to get a better shot - this causes disturbance and it is easily viewed from the path - thank you), treecreeper also seen in this area of woodland, a peregrine sen from VP2 yesterday (16th), bearded tits seen from the Avalon Hide yesterday (16th) and 2 ravens calling and circling over the woodland visible in front of VP1 on Wednesday. Better leave it there for this week as I'm pushed for time today.
Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!
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