An earlier blog post than usual this week, I'm going camping in Shropshire with friends and our children - lets hope it doesn't rain too much. I'd also like to get there in plenty of time to set up the tent and not miss the England v Scotland match tonight.
It's not been Euro20 football fever just yet but a bit of river warbler fever on the reserve recently, with it being present for 2 weeks today. It was showing well yesterday apparently and I had fantastic views of it on Tuesday, where it was perched up high just a few yards away. It's sad to think that all his efforts are almost certainly in vain. At some point I guess he will give up and I hope his radar doesn't let him down on his passage home and that all his efforts don't weaken him too much.
Some fantastic images are being posted on social media and I've been sent some amazing shots too by John Crispin and Chris Harwood, thank you to both for sending your images in:
River Warbler x4 : John Crispin
River Warbler: Chris Harwood.
You can really pick out the main features to look for - the very wide tail and the streaking around the throat area. The song is a bit of a giveaway too.
Obviously, writing this so early, I'm unaware if it is still present this morning but Ham Wall is always worth a trip anyway. Whilst waiting to see the river warbler - he does have some down time now and then, look out for the family groups of reed warblers close by and occasional calls and sightings of bearded tits.
More distantly, you'll be able to see marsh harriers and activity from bitterns, with still occasional conflict between the two - usually with marsh harriers dive bombing the bitterns in the reeds (this could well be young bitterns in the reeds here, moving away from the nest, perhaps close to fledging, but I'm only drawing my own conclusions - this may not be the case.
This activity is perhaps best viewed from the first viewing platform (VP1), where food passes have also been seen along with birds carrying nesting material also (perhaps making some running repairs). Marsh harriers are also busy in front of the Avalon Hide (bittern flights also spotted here over the last few days. Thanks to John Crispin for his marsh harrier shots taken this week:
Also this harrier flying amongst the gadwall:
Gadwall amongst several duck species you can see at Ham Wall including: shoveler, pochard, mallard, tufted duck and garganey (reported recently from VP2 and Waltons). Wigeon have also been seen hanging around recently - unusual for this time of year. I know 2 were seen last week from VP1 but seen at VP2 within the last couple of days.
Of course, marsh harriers aren't the only birds of prey we have at Ham Wall but the list was added to this week with reports of osprey on Tuesday, Wednesday and yesterday (flying over Waltons and then the car park I'm assuming as it was headed that way). Very unusual to have one here in June, as it should be at its breeding grounds. They normall don';t pass back through until August, when they loiter in the area for about 3 or 4 weeks.
Red kites are also being seen quite frequently with several sightings this week including 4 together on Tuesday. I've seen at least 2 over the car park this week.
There was also a hobby over the car park yesterday and one or two are being seen every day. I had one hunting in the twilight during an evening survey on Monday it was about 10.15pm. Barn owls were also spotted during the evening with a good sighting from the old rail bridge late on. They have also been out hunting in the early morning over the north of the reserve. This increase in activity sounds like good news to me. It most likely means there are young birds in our barn owl boxes and the adults have been seen carrying prey items.
Next Friday morning I will be on site with Chris Sperring from the Hawk & Owl Trust, who is licensed to inspect the boxes and ring any owlets of appropriate size. I'll let you all know how it goes and hopefully it wont eat into too much blog time during the afternoon or there might be a very short blog next week.
Tawny owls are also being heard in the evenings and occasionally during the day from the wood on the way to the Avalon Hide, although it appears that this year the box is not visible from the hide as a tree has either grown up r leaned over obscuring the views.
A sparrowhawk is suspected to be nesting in the western most wood with several flights being seen into that area, whilst buzzards are seen most days too.
Those hobbies remaining will be grateful for the increase in the number of dragonflies over the past 10 days or so brought on by the recent hot weather. A massive increase in four spotted chaser numbers in particular. Try walking the Waltons loop to see the higher numbers. Also reported this week: hairy dragonfly, emperor, black tailed skimmer, scarce chaser, broad bodied chaser and southern hawker.
In terms of damselflies look out for azure, variable, banded demoiselle, blue tailed, red eyed (often sat on floating vegetation such as lily pads), small blue eyed and common blue. Thanks to John Crispin for his shots of common blue damselfly taken this week:
Butterflies still seem to be in quite low numbers here although I was lucky enough to see a painted lady yesterday and we have had a report of a marsh fritillary which is particularly ice to hear. Look out also for the emergence of scarlet tiger moth over the next couple of weeks. This is a day flying moth with very red underwings and black upper wings with white and yellow spots. I believe they like the comfrey which is in flower at the moment.
Although the river warbler is making all the headlines we have plenty of other warblers to catch your attention, The main path is perhaps the best place to experience these. Blackcaps are still pretty abundant along with the odd garden warbler if you can pick out the difference in the song (once you can see them you can tell if your deductions are correct). Willow warblers are present too with their descending call as well as chiffchaff.
In the reed beds check out the chattering of reed warblers and the very loud, punchy call of the cettis warbler. In the scrubby edges you may pick up one or two sedge warblers - even more erratic sounding than the reed warbler but sometimes hard to tell the difference. From VP1 look out for the whitethroats. I assumed I was seeing fledged birds last week in the brambles opposite and Alastair Swinnerton has sent me pictures taken on Saturday to confirm this, thanks Alastair:
In the second picture you can see the tail of a damselfly sticking out.
Apart from warblers, look out for all the usual suspects such as song thrush, blue tit, great tit, robin, wren, dunnock, chaffinch and goldfinch but we've also had reports of mistle thrush, goldcrest, bullfinch, treecreeper and a spotted flycatcher yesterday just beyond the bridge past VP1.
After having a bit of a mow and strim around the car park and pools yesterday a female blackbird was feeding under the picnic benches quite happily with people close by and of course the usual robin who shows no fear. A song thrush was also feeding well in the car parking spaces.
Also this week: a raven flying over cronking yesterday, very vocal Iberian water frogs - particularly into the evening and particularly around Loxtons, great white egrets spotted daily (both platforms, the car park and a night time roost of 14 in trees down towards the far end of the reserve visible from the main track, grass snakes seen around the reserve including swimming, roe deer spotted grazing on the grassy tracks, a few cattle egrets seen flying over a couple of days ago and a group of 29 seen in fields locally (although I haven't seen them on my commute in for at least 4 weeks now, jay spotted at the car park yesterday, great spotted woodpeckers daily, cuckoos still calling (try VP1 or Waltons - some being seen in flight) and great crested grebes with chicks (two pairs in the east side of Waltons - one pair with one chick the others with four). Thanks once again to John Crispin for his shots of the youngsters hitch a ride with their parents:
That's it for this week. Thank you reading and all those who have contributed. Have a fantastic weekend!
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