An absolute scorcher of a week this week. The weather that is, although the sightings are pretty good as well. It's certainly been a little quieter in terms of visitor numbers with soaring temperatures the most likely factor. The wildlife has unsurprisingly also been less active although visitors are returning with smiles after their trips out. 

Bitterns are less busy than they were although a couple reported seeing a bittern on a couple of occasions this morning in front of the Avalon Hide and there has been activity reported from the first viewing platform (VP1) during the week. On Monday one was heard calling in flight and it landed in the east side of the Waltons section and this bird dropped into the reeds in the distance from VP1. Thanks to John Crispin who was on hand to capture this shot as it landed:

John's favourite moment of the last week came on Sunday when a juvenile cuckoo flew past VP1 offering great views as you can see from his images. Thanks John:

I can see why he was so overjoyed - wonderful stuff.

Great white egrets are still a joy to see - even though we see them all the time these days. They are often perched out in front of either platform, close to the Tor View Hide or the Avalon Hide (there was one there this morning). Thanks to Sandie Andrews for her lovely egret shot:

Marsh harriers are still making themselves fairly obvious at the moment - particularly the juveniles. The distribution of the juveniles has been interesting with a single bird from in front of the  Avalon Hide joining the 2 from VP1 area. The two were then seen together again but possibly another two simultaneously over at the Avalon Hide - potentially making four, although it is very hard to be certain given the nature of the habitat and how they behave. The adults are being seen less now (particularly the females), with the juveniles becoming far more independent with their hunting activity. 

Thanks to John Crispin for his photos of juveniles. First showing the plumage colours - dark brown with the gingery brown crown and secondly the size of wingspan on these birds.

Plenty of other juvenile birds to look out for at the reserve. Out on the water you'll see swans with cygnets, moorhen and coot with well grown young, at both Waltons and the Avalon Hide you'll see great crested grebes with youngsters, from the Tor View Hide I saw little grebe with a juvenile on Monday, whilst also at the Waltons area these gadwall were crammed onto one of the floating raft. There are a few youngsters here of varying ages. The male mallard to their left is in eclipse although you can start to see his wing feathers starting to develop. Thanks to John Crispin for the shot of this huddle:

In the tree lines and bushes you may well see and hear family groups of long tailed tits - there was a fair group in the wood near the Avalon Hide on Monday and a group of very noisy jays - most likely a family party. Look out also for young reed warblers, whitethroats (pictured), robins still showing some of their speckles.  Thanks again to John Crispin for his shot:

This juvenile whitethroat was seen in vegetation along the path on the other side of the drain as was this willow warbler:

The vegetation is also teeming with invertebrates of all kinds and I think the hot weather has helped bring an increase in butterfly activity. I saw my first gatekeepers of the season this week along with speckled wood, red admiral, green veined white, large white, small copper, small skipper, common blue (female seen in car park), brimstone, comma and meadow brown. This one I photographed this morning with my phone:

We also mustn't forget the very beautiful peacock. This one snapped by Sandie Andrews yesterday - thanks Sandie: 

Dragonflies and damselflies are perhaps the next most obvious insect we have. Ham Wall has plenty it must be said. Look out for Emperor (female pictured egg laying), black tailed skimmer, broad bodied chaser, four spotted chaser, brown hawker, southern hawker, common darter, ruddy darter and I also think I saw my first migrant hawker on Monday - they come out at the end of July so given the weather I'm pretty certain.

In terms of damselflies look out for banded demoiselle (try alongside the main drain), azure, red eyed, variable, small red eyed, common blue (pictured) and blue tailed (also pictured). Thanks to Sandie Andrews for her shots: 

Common blue damselfly

Blue tailed damselfly 

The flowering plants around the reserve also help feed some very busy bees - this white tailed bumblebee was photographed by Sandie Andrews yesterday. Thanks Sandie:

You may also see the odd caterpillar if you are lucky. Sometimes big groups such as the black coloured spiky caterpillars of the peacock butterfly which feed on nettles. This caterpillar I snapped with my phone this week however feeds on ragwort:

These black and yellow/orange caterpillars are that of the cinnabar moth. They love to munch on ragwort. Their bright colours warn predators that they are poisonous although this poison only builds up as they munch the ragwort. This is poisonous to livestock although they will most likely avoid it preferring to feed on grasses etc. If it's cut in hay and dries it can cause liver problems in livestock. We have some small pockets of it on our reserve where our cattle don't roam - good news for these moths.

Also on the reserve this week: barn owl still out flying at around 6.40am or later from VP1 if you're an early bird like this one, 20 sand martins flying over headed south on Monday, a few swallows zipping over the car park this morning, a few kingfisher sightings this week from the Waltons screens and the Tor View Hide, a common shrew spotted by a visitor this morning and a roe deer spotted from the rail bridge (the same one I disturbed I think when I arrived in that area), a grass snake spotted swimming in the Waltons section on Monday, buzzards daily, great spotted woodpeckers daily and a bit more movement from greylag geese recently - I've spotted a couple of family groups around too. Thanks to John Crispin for his shot of a greylag in flight taken this week:

Some black tailed godwits (about 15-20) also flew in late last week in front of  VP2 but soon disappeared in the tall vegetation (plenty more waders and other passage birds to come in the coming weeks. It also shows the tremendous growth of some of the vegetation around the site. We will begin to get this cut back and views opened up as soon as we are certain breeding has finished. We have also cancelled some volunteer work parties in the last couple of weeks due to the severely hot weather, so there's a little regrowth in those areas we normally keep cut back for access to hides/screens etc. We hope to catch back up with things over the next couple of weeks, so please bear with us.

Also a reminder that the bridge at the far end of the Ham Wall loop which crosses back over the drain has been closed by the Environment Agency due to safety concerns. It's for the foreseeable future but we will update you when we know more. The other bridge which leads to towards the Avalon hide just past VP1 remains open. We can only apologise for any inconvenience this causes. 

That's it for this week. Thanks for reading and have an enjoyable weekend

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