We've actually had a fair bit of rain in the past week or so - for the most part it's been overnight which is good while we are working outside. It will however add a bit of a growth spurt to all the lush vegetation around the reserve - we will go our best to keep all the paths and benches etc clear and cut the best we can.

You will probably have noticed the extra growth in front of the first viewing platform (VP1) - this usually happens at this time of year and it makes it a little harder to spot stuff but it's good to have a challenge now and again. The work we did over the last couple of years has certainly made a difference and there have been much more open spaces here with a plethora of waders have enjoyed recently about 18 different wader species have been recorded here in the last month. It has quietened down a little as many would have been birds passing through from one pace to another.

There have however been a good number of black tailed godwits out there this week on most days with perhaps 30 present. Redshank has also been seen daily along with lapwing. A couple of whimbrel were also recorded this week. Thanks to John Crispin for his shot of a feisty lapwing trying to see off a passing marsh harrier:

Marsh harriers have been fairly active around the reserve - we believe we have 4 nest sites currently but some interesting other activity from another couple of birds out on the north of the reserve which might need further investigation. The Avalon Hide seems to be a good place for good views of marsh harrier at the moment - close by yesterday was a cuckoo calling pretty consistently, good view of sedge warbler and reed bunting close to the hide.

In the wood on the way or on the scrubby edges of the tracks and banks look out for both jays and great spotted woodpecker - I've seen them in the area quite a few times lately (including yesterday).

There were a few bittern flights from the hide yesterday but VP1 is perhaps the best place to catch a sighting. Several flights were seen here yesterday - most likely this female photographed on Monday  by John Crispin was one of the likely culprits. Thanks John:

On Sunday he witnessed 2 birds in a chase - a male casing a female. They flew around for about 10 minutes before dropping into the reedbed together. A few minutes later the female flew of to the south west alone. He managed to get some shots of the action. The single bird is the female flying away at the end. Thanks again John:

VP1 has also been the place to see the glossy ibis. We seem to be seeing 6 now rather than 7 and they are also not necessarily all together all the time either. I had 5 fly over me and drop into the VP1 area on Monday evening. 

3 garganey were also spotted from this location yesterday whilst another drake was spotted in front of VP2 (also yesterday).

We have several pairs of great crested grebes around the reserve - most of which seem to have young now, including one pair in Waltons with 4 young. If you can't always see the young, check out the parents backs - they may well be hitching a ride. 

If you have read previous blogs there was an incident a few weeks ago with 2 great crested grebes having a full on fight. Well, this has happened again (no photos this time). Our site manager witnessed the event and was concerned that one might drown the other - thankfully it didn't quite get that far. 

John Crispin took this grebe shot during the week carrying what I think is quite a large dragonfly larvae. Looking at the size of it I would suggest it is an emperor dragonfly but I'm more than happy to be corrected on this if there are any experts out there. Thanks for the photo John:

That leads me nicely on to dragonflies. Emperors are now emerging with the first ones being spotted this week. Look out also for hairy dragonfly, broad bodied chaser, scarce chaser and the growing numbers of 4 spotted chaser out now. Thanks to Giles Morris for sending in his shots taken during his dragonfly survey this week. I also took a picture with my phone yesterday of some mating hairy dragonflies which I have also included:

Scarce chaser (female)

Four spotted chasers

Look out for the large roosts of these in the next couple of weeks at certain parts of the reserve - Waltons often a good bet - particularly the east side in the early mornings which gets the first sun. They need this to warm up and get away from predators - we have seen great spotted woodpeckers taking these back to nest holes in the past.

Damselflies are in very large numbers in places - particularly variable damselfly. You may also see: azure, common blue, large red, red eyed and large red. there's also a chance of the first banded demoiselles along the main drain (they tend to prefer slow moving water/streams.  Thanks again to Giles Morris for his photos all taken yesterday:

Male azure

Common blue male

Variable male

Red eyed male

Blue tailed female (rufescens form)

Several butterfly species can also be seen including: speckled wood, brimstone, red admiral, peacock, holly blue, small white, large white, green veined white and some orange tips. The white butterflies can be quite tricky to ID - not helped by the female orange tip also being white as you can see from this photo of mating orange tips from our back catalogue:

 

Plenty of bird song to enjoy from the car park and all the way along the main track. Warblers are in good voice including: chiffchaff, blackcap, willow warbler, garden warbler and whitethroat (we also had a report of common whitethroat early this week). For whitethroat VP1 in the brambles opposite or from the old rail bridge where it perches on the telegraph pole wires sometimes singing away. 

Whilst here look at the small drain opposite (on the left as you walk to the reserve) where a kingfisher has been perched low down a couple of times this week - I saw it here on Monday evening. Look out also in the drain - another swimming grass snake was spotted again this week, with another in the ponds by the car park on Wednesday. 

Here's another one of our old photos (from Graham Wagner) to help you with your ID - look out for the distinctive yellow flashes on each side near the head: 

Also this week: some very active barn owls, with several sightings each day - often flying around the vicinity of the Avalon Hide but one also seen in fields near the car park, tawny owls heard frequently and seen occasionally - the owlet from our nest cam box has left the nest (branched) but I'm assuming pops back in from time to time at the moment, a few red kite sightings this week (becoming more frequent now) and a very pale or leucistic sparrowhawk (we think) - it's been seen a few times in recent months (not by me) - don't know if anyone else has spotted it?

Also a group of 20 house martins at a muddy puddle on the road running past the reserve - that's good news as I've hardly seen any martins this year myself. there have been a few swallows over but quite a few swift this week. Love hearing them scream overhead. Thanks to John Crispin for his shot taken this week:

Lots of other young birds now being spotted on the reserve (as well as some very busy parents). Young moorhens were running across the paths at the car park on Wednesday and John Crispin photographed this young coot feeding itself this week - its first steps towards independence. Thanks John:

Think I'd better leave it there for now - I have to go out and meet a contractor out on the reserve (I know! it's Friday afternoon) Hope you've enjoyed reading - have a great weekend.

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