Hi all and welcome to the last blog of 2019. We've certainly put the wet back into wetlands in the last week or so with plenty of heavy rain. Water levels are high in the local area with the River Brue full right to the brim but all the roads have remained open and levels will hopefully now begin to drop off. The reserve is open and fully accessible but there are some closures over the Christmas period I need to tell you about.
The Welcome Building will be closed on Dec 24th, 25th & 26th but the car park and toilets will be open at the usual times. The rest of the time the Welcome Building will remain open and manned barring any severe weather conditions, which may prevent this.
The rain has continued this morning - nice weather for ducks as they say. The wildfowl have been pretty visible from the first viewing platform (VP1) for much of the week, although not so consistently as the last. Perhaps they have sought more sheltered areas from the appalling weather. Also, with surrounding fields becoming waterlogged , other feeding opportunities are becoming available to lots of the water loving birds.
From VP1 on Saturday a male pintail was seen in flight - it didn't land but continued east towards the second viewing platform (VP2). Thanks to John Crispin who managed to capture these shots of the bird as it passed:
Other wildfowl seen from VP1 this week include: mallard, wigeon, teal, tufted duck, shoveler, pochard and gadwall, including this pair which John Crispin photographed again - thanks John. The male is the bird with the black bill, whilst the females bill is orange:
Lapwing have been present too with at least 500 there on Monday morning - they are also using the cut islands over in Waltons. Look out also for snipe feeding in the wet areas and also flying overhead. Thanks again to John Crispin for his snipe shot taken this week:
The leucistic snipe from last week has been around still this week - it's been seen from VP1 but also VP2 on a couple of occasions. This photograph was taken on Monday by Andy Collins. Thanks Andy:
With all the ducks and waders around, it's no surprise to see several marsh harriers using the reserve. From VP1 a male, immature male and female were seen on Saturday.
They can also be seen in the mornings after the starling roost has taken off hoovering up any carcasses from birds that didn't make it through the night. In recent weeks as many as 7 or even 8 have been seen in the early mornings. The starlings last night were using the western end of Waltons with a much smaller group using the area in front of VP2. In the evenings sunset is around 4pm and we recommend that you get in place at least an hour before this to watch the show. Be aware that weekends and over the Christmas break will be very busy so allow yourself extra time for your journey and to get parked up. We will have attendants at the car park to guide you at these busier so please listen to instructions and park considerately so we can get as many people in as possible to enjoy the spectacle. Thank you.
If you come in the mornings again arrive around an hour before sunrise which is currently around 8am. For the latest known location of the roost (ie the night before) please use the starling hotline - this is updated as and when the roost moves locations - which could happen on any night and something we can't predict. Hotline: 07866 554142.
Peregrine and barn owl have both been spotted during the roost times looking for a meal but also look out for sparrowhawk - this one was photographed by John Crispin this week from VP1. Thanks again to John:
Great white egrets are still being daily - try either viewing platform or the Avalon Hide. There was also one sat in Waltons near the Tor View Hide on Monday. Cattle egrets are also still using the reserve each night to roost and 30 flew over the car park on Monday morning while yesterday around 100 were in the field next to the car park following the digger as it cleaned out the drainage ditch. He must have been scooping up all kinds of goodies. Maximum count in the roost this week is a whopping 129 - the most I can remember. Fantastic stuff!
UPDATE: LATE ADDITION TO BLOG: 4PM TODAY 137 CATTLE EGRETS COUNTED IN ROOST AT HAM WALL - even more fantastic!
At the car park, near the entrance, by the yew tree across the road and the wooden boardwalk leading out of the car park at the Shapwick Heath end has been the place to find firecrest again this week. Please take care of the road and search from a safe location being aware of any traffic. Other more unusual birds to look out for are Siberian chiffchaff - seen along the main path near VP1 but also by the discovery trail on Shapwick Heath and yellow browed warbler spotted in the woodland on the way to the Avalon Hide (there's also been one at the RSPB Greylake car park recently).
Whist on the search for these take a good look along the main path for other species of interest. You could spot: groups of long tailed tits, bullfinch, chiffchaff, goldcrest and treecreeper amongst others. A firecrest was also spotted in the tree lines in the Loxtons section (still on the main path). Thanks to Andy Collins for his shots of goldcrest and treecreeper taken on Monday:
Also along the main path, whilst you stop off at VP1 look out in the brambles on the edge for stonechats. Both male and female are seen here regularly. The like to perch up on the tops of vegetation - good posers for a photograph. Thanks to Andy Collins for his shots taken this Monday:
Also this week: raven seen flying over both the car park and the main reserve, buzzards seen daily along with great spotted woodpecker (pictured below - thanks to Andy Collins), kingfishers seen regularly in the Waltons area but also over at Loxtons where from the screen a great crested grebe was spotted in its winter plumage - they usually vacate the reserve in the winter - thanks to John Crispin for his shot below, bitterns seen from the Avalon Hide and a water pipit seen in the cut areas in Loxtons close to the main path.
That's it for this week and indeed for this year. I hope you have enjoyed reading the blogs this year. Thank you to all those who contributed photographs and sightings throughout the year - i can't write this without your help. It just leaves me to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I'm looking forward to telling you all about the exciting happenings on the reserve in 2020.
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