Had quite a pleasant walk around parts of the reserve this morning doing some checks etc before being office bound. It was a little chilly but at least it stopped raining. 

With the continued rain, it will come as no surprise to you to hear the the Avalon Hide remains closed. It's back in waders territory (the type you wear - not the flying variety unfortunately), and many of the paths around site are open but a little soggy in places. The Tor View Hide and screens were accessible as normal this morning. 

It's very frustrating at the moment but the weather is something we can't control and are just getting on with things the best we can. In a few weeks, all this will be a distant memory (I hope) and by summertime we will perhaps be looking to the sky for some rain. 

Natures clock is still ticking though and many birds are readying themselves for breeding season - bird song has certainly increased over the last couple of weeks and some birds have already mated and are next building already. A classic example of this would be the Grey Herons, which traditionally start early each year. 

In the reedbeds on the eastern half of Waltons, birds have been witnessed both mating and nest building this week, as John Crispin's images show: 

Plus a nice close up of a bird in flight:

The second shot shows a heron sky pointing after mating. This pose is something that Bitterns are known to do - given the streakiness of the plumage it helps them blend into the reedbed. Maybe this is something many heron species do though as I also saw this morning a Great White Egret land in the reedbed (at a traditional nesting site) and it too was sky pointing - there was a second bird flying nearby.  

There haven't been many Bittern flight recorded this week but I did see two flying together this morning (would have been visible from VP1) - possibly a male pursuing a female. Plenty of booming from the male birds across the site too. Onw was booming well in the western half of Waltons this morning. 

Great White Egrets are being spotted frequently from the first viewing platform (VP1) or along the edges of the main drain which runs through the reserve.

Little Egrets are harder to come by at Ham Wall, but there is one on most days in the front corner of the first reedbed section on the right as you walk into the reserve. It can be seen from the little viewing areas on the right. This one was photographed by John Crispin this week further into the reserve having a good preen - you've got to look your best when breeding season is just around the corner:

Some other fine looking birds are already paired off and reinforcing old bonds. Great Crested Grebes are looking fine and have once again been seen weed dancing and head bobbing this week - all part of their elaborate and fascinating courtship displays. There were a couple of pairs in Waltons this morning but I wasn't lucky enough to see any of this behaviour.


Great Crested Grebes: Sandie Andrews

They had plenty of ducks for company this morning - Shoveler numbers in particular were high but also there were Tufted Duck, Mallard, Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall and a couple of Pochard. There has also been a pair of Pintail spotted in front of VP1 on several mornings this week. Below are a selection of duck shots taken in the last week:

Gadwall male - puffing up to impress a female perhaps: Sandie Andrews

Tufted Ducks in flight: Sandie Andrews

Shoveler male - making his presence known: Sandie Andrews

Wigeon pair: Bryn Evans

Ducks will need to keep their eyes open for hunting Marsh Harriers. They are being seen every day and are setting up territories in their usual spots. The Avalon Hide is usually the go to place but obviously that's not possible at the moment without some swimming trunks. Either viewing platforms are worth a try and VP1 in particular offers some very close views. This individual was harassed by a Raven this week - talons were out and they tussled for at least a minute:


If you are up at VP1 be sure to check out the bramble bushes opposite. A pair of Stonechats have been frequenting the area all week. The male is a pretty stunning bird I think:

Stonechat male

Stonechat female

A walk along the main track from the car park is often rewarding. There's a good variety to look & listen out for. Bullfinch have been spotted and a pair were also seen in the corner of the car park on Monday and a Firecrest was seen once again close to the boardwalk bridge which exits the car park. 

By the old rail bridge I've spotted Jays on a few occasions as well as Kingfishers on the left hand side. A grass snake was also seen here on Tuesday morning - I expect with the wetter and slightly colder weather it's gone back for a snooze for a bit longer. 

Long Tailed Tits are still moving around along the tree lines with their contact calls going constantly. Other groups you might see include Siskins - small groups are seen most days along with Redpolls, including this morning. There were also mixed groups moving around Loxtons yesterday. 

Treecreeper are also spotted quite frequently along the main path. I was hearing a couple just before VP1 on Monday but I couldn't for the life of me see them. 

Look out also for Goldcrest, Song Thrush, Goldfinches, Chiffchaffs, numerous Robins (who always make themselves obvious) as well as Fieldfare and Redwing. A small flock of about 5 Fieldfare flew over me this morning and Redwings have been seen feeding along the edge of the main drain. Perhaps from when the water level has been very high and then dropped down a little dumping food items on the edges - just my theory:

Redwing - Sandie Andrews

Redwing: Bryn Evans

When scanning the tree lines take note of all the fungus and moss that can be seen - all part of the rich tapestry of the reserve: 

Moss: Bryn Evans

Jelly Ear Fungus (Auricularia auricula-judea): Bryn Evans

Turkey Tail Bracket Fungus (Trametes versicolor): Bryn Evans

Scarlet Elf Cap (Sarcoscypha austriaca or coccineu): Bryn Evans

To tell the species exactly needs microscopic examination of hairs on the outside of the cap or on its spores.

The fungi have great names and often add a bit of colour and texture to the habitat. Even this gorse adds it's own colour - always seems to be in flower:

Water is not exactly our most favourite thing at the moment but Sandie Andrews has captured these water droplets on Willow trees beautifully:

Also seen this week: 4 Buzzards circling together over the car park on Tuesday, Red Kite spotted there on Monday, Weasel seen at close quarters on VP2 also on Tuesday, 2 Roe Deer spotted around the Loxtons trail yesterday and a single deer around the Waltons trail this morning - kept moving ahead but didn't seem bothered by my presence, Kingfishers seen from both platforms this week, Great Spotted Woodpeckers seen daily, Kestrel seen on the north of the reserve yesterday and Sparrowhawk seen at least twice from VP2 this week, uncut maize fields to the north (to wet to access) are full of corvids and Starlings making the most of the cobs left on the stems & 2 Egyptian Geese were in the next field yesterday (2 or 3 have been seen over the reserve on several occasions this week:

That's it for this week. Thanks as always to those who have contributed their wonderful images and additional information (John Crispin, Sandie Andrews & Bryn Evans) - I'm extremely grateful.

Thanks for reading and have a wonderful weekend!