A very mixed bag with the weather this week with cold spells, a couple of heavy showers and a lovely mild day yesterday - almost felt like spring.  

Some of the wildlife certainly has spring in its mind. The signs are there if you look hard enough. This week both coots and mallards have been seen mating and another sighting of a small tortoiseshell butterfly on the wing around the back of the Waltons trail on Tuesday morning. Also the great crested grebes in front of the first viewing platform (VP1) have been seen displaying and weed dancing this week (including this morning). Thanks to John Crispin for his photos taken this week: 

Also changes in plumage from some birds including this cormorant photographed by John Crispin this week from the first viewing platform (VP1). The shots show the white speckling on the head & the white circles on the thighs.Thanks for the shots John: 

These of course are quite early signs and our winter wildlife is still very much in evidence. The most obvious one of these of course is the starling roost. Around 800,000 birds is the current estimate but it's anyone's guess what the real figure is. However, you look at it, it's an incredible display of nature and quite breath taking at times. They have also continued to use the same areas of Ham Wall - mainly Waltons at the moment but also Loxtons. Unless the weather is atrocious, there is normally some volunteers and/or staff present in the welcome building at the car park who will be able to point you in the right direction. You could also try the starling hotline on 07866 554142 which will give you the last known location of the roost. It gets updated as soon as the roost moves so assume nothing has changed if the message doesn't change. 

The birds can be equally impressive in the mornings as the take off too - thanks to Robin Morrison for hos photos take this week of starlings having an early morning bath and a gather and a chatter before getting on with their day:

Mornings and evenings are also a good time to see birds of prey looking for an easy meal - peregrine, merlin and sparrowhawk all recorded this week and in the mornings in particular marsh harriers can be seen quartering over the reedbeds looking for carrion. This one frightened off a mallard in the process this week. Thanks again to Robin Morrison for his photo: 

Winter normally brings in groups of waders too. Particularly lapwing and the numbers have been excellent for us this year with several hundred being reported at a time - particularly from VP1. They were joined this week by varying numbers of snipe 31 at VP1 on Wednesday and 37 at VP2 although I think these may have been in a large group together at VP1 on Tuesday. The lapwing were frequently taking to the air and landing again - as were the snipe - lots of action and lots of sound. 

Last Saturday (12th) saw 12 golden plovers over VP1 with 2 of the birds landing in with the lapwing for a brief spell. They disappeared after the lapwing had gone on one of their fly-arounds but John Crispin managed to get one of them in shot before this happened - thanks John!

He also manged to get this shot of a snipe showing a bit of an aggressive stance - lowering its body and raising its tail - perhaps aimed at the nearby duck?

To add to you wader list you could try walking further down the main track beyond VP2 and check out the drained area on the right. Green Sandpipers (up to 5) have been reported from here this week but also look out for water pipit (x2) and little egret which have also been spotted using this area. 

Duck numbers too swell in the winter with teal in particular in good numbers with 230 from VP2 on Monday along with 57 shoveler. Another 38 shoveler were counted at VP1 along with 59 tufted duck. Add to this gadwall, mallard, pochard (48 seen in Loxtons last Saturday) and a single pintail from VP2 (it was still there this morning) and you're beginning to build quite a list. Thanks to Robin Morrison for his photo of some fine looking tufted ducks and also to John Crispin for his shots of shoveler. The first showing a pair with the male in eclipse. The second shot shows the comb like structure or 'lamellae' on the edge of its upper mandible which it uses to filter food items sucked in with the water. Its tongue is used as a pump. Thanks for that info too John to accompany your shot:

TUFTED DUCK: ROBIN MORRISON

SHOVELER: JOHN CRISPIN 

Also joining the throngs of ducks and waders each day are large numbers of geese. Canada geese can be seen but its the 157 greylag geese seen roosting from VP1 this week which is most impressive. They spend the night on the reserve and then return to their feeding areas during the day. Thanks to John Crispin for his photo:

Whilst walking to the platforms and hides take a good look around the trees along the main track. All kinds of birds use these for food and shelter. This week once again good numbers of redpoll (up to 30) with a couple of siskin often tucked into the group, chiffchaff, treecreeper, blue tit, great tit, gangs of long tailed tits, bullfinch, goldcrest, greenfinch, chaffinch, song thrush (up to 4), great spotted woodpecker and even a firecrest reported on Monday.

Thanks to Graham Wagner for his shots below of goldcrest, siskin and blue tit (sorry Graham I couldn't seem to be able to import the treecreeper shot properly for some reason - most likely my mistake but thanks for your great photos):

Also look out for heron species in with the ducks geese and waders at the various viewpoints. Great white egrets seen at both VP1, VP2 and the Avalon Hide this week as well as from the bridge on the main track. Likewise, bitterns have been seen from the Avalon Hide, VP1 & Waltons. Grey heron are also a daily sighting but keep your eyes peeled in the local area for cattle egret too.

There are thought to be now well over 100 in the area and some can be seen over or close to Ham Wall on most days. Thanks to Robin Morrison who took these shots this week:

Also this week: ravens reported on several days including one over the car park this morning, meadow pipits from the car park, a flock of 50+ linnets at Tinney's ground in the Sharpham Road on Wednesday, kingfishers reported from the Avalon Hide and around Waltons this week, bearded tits reported from Waltons & VP1 yesterday, several reports of water rails from the Tor View Hide this week, green woodpecker reported calling south of Waltons on Wednesday,  a common gull spotted from VP1 yesterday, an otter from Tor View Hide on Sunday, and a stonechat from the Avalon Hide the same day. 

Finally, on the sightings news, a nice eye level view of a buzzard from John Crispin taken this week. You can see these daily but perhaps not this close or from this angle very often. Thanks John:

Just a little bit of extra news. Some of you may know we are celebrating 25 years of Ham Wall this year. We will be having a series of celebratory and special events along the way. One of them is a special walk with Site Manager Steve Hughes. The details are below should you wish to join in:

RSPB Ham Wall 25th Anniversary Walk

 Saturday 2 February

8 am – 10 am

Join RSPB Ham Wall Site Manager Steve on World Wetlands Day for a special walk to discover more about the history and wildlife of Ham Wall as we launch our celebrations of 25 years as a RSPB reserve. Ham Wall and the Avalon Marshes are one of the most important wetlands in the country. We will be going in search of some of the amazing birds that make their home here including bitterns, marsh harriers and great white egrets.

 Booking Essential

RSPB members £8; Non RSPB members £10

RSPB child members £4; Non RSPB child £5

All booking is online through Eventbrite:

https://hamwall25walk.eventbrite.co.uk

(Please note: booking charges apply)

 

 Look out for more news and events about our special year in the coming weeks. That's it again for another week. I hope you've enjoyed reading and of course the amazing photos people send in each week. Have a great weekend!

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