It can be quite an interesting time on the reserve during October. You can still see the tail end of the summer visitors as they migrate south but you begin to get that build up of winter birds too.

Swallows and martins can still be seen over the reserve but not in any great numbers now and several skylarks (13 yesterday) can be seen heading south. On the flip side we are seeing a slow build up of teal and wigeon and have seen the first of the winter thrushes with 3 redwing spotted yesterday. Autumn/winter also sees a rise in numbers of redpoll and siskin (2 yesterday) as well as visits from meadow pipits and stonechats. Look out for stonechats perched up on the tops of reeds and rushes - a male and female were seen together from the first viewing platform (VP1) this week. I've used one of John Crispin's photos from our archive to show you the male:

As you may, or may not know, the 2 viewing platforms are currently closed off to the public at the moment as they are being completely refurbished. Sorry for any inconvenience this causes - it will all be worth it in the end. You can still view the 2 areas to the side of the works. Great white egrets have been seen from both platforms this week as have marsh harriers and bearded tits. 

Thursday saw the second of our annual bearded tit surveys with a count of 140 birds. A lot lower than the September count (which is traditionally higher) of 288 but still higher than many of the previous October counts so it's been a good year. Other sightings have been had from the Avalon Hide this week and I'm sure I heard a couple in the Waltons sections on Wednesday. 

The same day we saw and heard a few raven flying over - they have been a feature most days actually - even heard one over the car park this morning. 

Some good sightings from the car park this week - a firecrest reported but not found it myself, great white egret, marsh harrier, buzzards, jay, song thrush, blackcap, 10x meadow pipits yesterday,  goldcrest, goldfinch (including one which was feeding on the dead teasels today - would have made a great photo), a pair of pheasants under the feeders this morning and 23 cattle egrets which flew over yesterday. As many as 67 cattle egret have been roosting on Ham Wall each evening. This would be best viewed from the old rail bridge on the main track. 40+ birds have been seen at Catcott Lows this week during the day. If you're at the old rail bridge look out also for the gathering of cormorants (82 seen) and mute swans (68 seen) in the same area.

Other roosts include good numbers of greylags roosting in front of VP2 each night with c100 seen. We also had a visit this week again from 2 Egyptian geese in front of VP1 briefly. Thanks to John Crispin for his shot of greylags in flight. Also for hos shot of an Egyptian goose with a greylag for comparison:

Water levels at VP2 have, not surprisingly increased with the amount of rain we've had in the last week or so. It's less suitable for waders at present and may not get back to those lower , muddy levels again for long. We will need to bring water back up a bit for the amphibious reed cutter (Truxor) to be able to work more easily when it comes on site in November. Water levels at VP1 have also come up, so that now the islands there are becoming more splashy and will stay like this throughout most of the winter.  Just one green sandpiper, a few lapwing and a few snipe have been seen from the VP2 area this week. Great white egrets are usually regular spots from either platform each day. 

Also this week: grey herons fishing along the main drain - where the water has been high you may see them launch themselves into the water to catch fish, a grass snake seen swimming from the Tor View Hide, an otter seen last Friday from VP1 at 8.30am, kingfishers seen at Waltons, the Avalon Hide and VP1, a few chiffchaff heard singing around the reserve, treecreepers spotted along the main path (I've been hearing a few myself around the reserve) along with gangs of long tailed tits (pictured below), Bitterns seen from the Avalon Hide, Tor View hide and VP1, several pochard and tufted duck in the Loxtons section where the water is slightly deeper, a hobby spotted flying over the reserve on Monday, both water rail and sparrowhawk seen from the Avalon Hide (water rails & cettis warblers are quite vocal at the moment) and still a few dragonflies on the wing including migrant hawker, common darter and ruddy darter (pictured below).

That's it for this week. Have a great weekend!

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