Thanks to Ali and Alison for filling in last week with a great blog. I'd spent much of the week at Greylake helping the team there by managing the reed beds with our Softrak machine. I had a kestrel for company for much of the time I was working, following the machine which was wonderful. Was also great to see large flocks of golden plover and lapwing passing over probably about 1000 of each. Once the water levels are raised it's well worth a visit to the hides to see the winter wildfowl gathering in front of the hide.
There's plenty of wildlife to see at Ham Wall of course with a great variety on offer this week. On Monday, probably the sunniest day this week, red admiral butterflies were seen out on the wing and I also saw both common and ruddy darter dragonflies on the Avalon Hide path - still one or two about escaping the frosts which usually finish them off.
On the same path on Tuesday a stoat was reported - I always like seeing these animals. We don't see many but it's a real treat. An otter was seen last Friday in Waltons, as mentioned in Ali's blog, I saw a water vole swimming in the main drain on Monday near the Avalon Hide turning and roe deer are seen fairly regularly too, including this week - often around the Waltons trail.
Also last week around Waltons a fox was seen feeding on the carcass of a dead swan. I hasten to add that the swan was already reported dead well before this and not killed by this fox (not that it doesn't happen - that's nature). Thanks to John Crabb for sending me in his shot of the feasting fox:
One more dead bird to mention before we get onto the more pleasant alive stuff - these marsh harriers were seen fighting over a dead starling this week. They tussled before the carrion dropped into the reed beds below on a misty morning. There are upwards of 80,000 starlings roosting on Ham Wall each night - mainly in the Loxtons section with some others in Waltons. Naturally, with this many birds and cold nights some don't make it through and birds such as marsh harrier (as many as 5 seen) and buzzards can be seen scouring the reed beds for any easy meals after the roost leaves each morning. Thanks to John Crispin for his photo:
The Starling Hotline is up and running - call it on 07866 554142 to hear a recorded message telling you the last known location of the roost. This is updated as and when the roost location changes. We recommend arriving at least an hour before sunset, which at the moment is about 4.20pm. The Welcome Building at the car park is manned on most days until 4pm for extra information and to buy hot drinks and snacks. It's an easy walk at the moment and visible from the main path.
The main path itself can provide lots of interest. This week 3 bullfinch, treecreeper, 7 goldcrest, 5 blackcaps (4 male, 1 female), 10 chiffchaff, 50+ goldfinch and 6 reed buntings (from the old rail bridge) all reported. Stop off at the 1st viewing platform (VP1) to see the lovely groups of black tailed godwits using the area. 126 were counted yesterday and John Crispin has provided some great photos - thanks John:
The birds are mainly using this area to roost but can be seen to become unsettled and fly up and around before settling again - a real treat for any visitor passing by. Lapwing are present too as you may see in the first of the photos and there were in excess of 200 from VP1 on Monday.
While on the subject of roosts (starlings, black tailed godwits etc) we do still of course have a roost of cattle egrets each night. A max count this week of 93 is more than impressive. They can be seen distantly from the old rail bridge at the right time of day but during the day is a different matter. They disperse out across the levels and |I have been seeing some most mornings in fields with cattle around the back of Westhay reserve as I drive into work each morning. They have however been seen closer to home with a few birds seen in the field next to the car park where cattle are present at the moment. These have bee seen from the old rail bridge this week looking back into the field from there.
Their cousins, the great white egrets are usually fairly easy to spot around the Avalon Marshes. On Ham Wall try either viewing platform areas or perhaps the Avalon Hide for a sighting. You may also see the odd little egret. Bizarrely, unlike most sites, these are harder to come by at Ham Wall than great white or cattle egret and perhaps even bittern.
Bitterns have been spotted this week with 2 seen flying into and with the Loxtons compartment yesterday and other sightings from the Tor View Hide and the second viewing platform (VP2). Also in Loxtons this week, kingfishers spotted from the screen, plenty of little grebes both here and around the reserve, a great crested grebe also seen from the screen and the usual group of cormorants sitting on the raft. There was also this cormorant who dropped into Loxtons yesterday with its prize - a tasty fish. Thanks to John Crispin for his shot:
Wildfowl numbers are building slowly but as many as 270 teal were counted in front of VP1 and VP2 this week. Look out also for wigeon, shoveler, mallard, gadwall, tufted duck, pochard and shoveler. 10 shelduck were also recorded from the Avalon Hide late last week.
Other winter visitors include the redwing and fieldfare. As many as 100 redwing were seen in the car park trees on Monday and there have been numerous sightings of both redwing and fieldfare throughout the week. A single redpoll was also spotted in the car park this week and a firecrest was seen around the mini marshes on Sunday.
Also this week: look out for stonechats in front of VP1, grey wagtail and water pipit both reported from VP1, sparrowhawk seen from the car park and the Avalon Hide, kestrel seen hovering beyond the bottom of the car park, another white stork seen from the reserve on Wednesday flying over (last week's bird was recaptured but apparently she escaped with a friend (not sure if this is true or rumours but stork seen nonetheless). Finally this week 6 ravens seen and heard overhead yesterday and these 3 photographed by John Crispin - thanks John!
That's it for this week. Thanks for reading and have a great weekend.
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