Plenty to report this week after a week off last week. Migrants are just beginning to get on the move a bit more after the post breeding season lull. An osprey was seen from the old rail bridge last Sunday and has been spending much of its time over on neighbouring Shapwick Heath in the Noah's hide area.
Waders are on the increase too and using the area in front of the second viewing platform regularly as there are some nice areas of mud showing here. The most sought after of the waders being seen are the 2 wood sandpipers with many visitors coming back from their trip out saying that they had spotted them. If you can't see them from the platform you could try a walk on the footpath on the other side of the drain and try at the two willow screens which give a slightly different view. That's where Graham Wagner got this shot from during the week thanks Graham:
Green sandpipers are also being spotted in this area with up to 5 being seen at one point. Thanks again to Graham Wagner for his shot and to John Crispin for his shot of a green sandpiper which looks like it's in a bit of a hurry:
Look out also for groups of Lapwing which have been using the area. People have spotted the sandpipers more easily when the lapwing all come up together as if disturbed by something. Black tailed godwits have also been spotted here this week with 14 being recorded at one point. There was also a dunlin recorded from VP2 on Sunday (18th). Thanks to Graham Wagner for his shot of godwits in the air:
Whilst you're on your wader hunt here try to spot the little grebes with their young. One was seen by John Crispin diving and feeding the youngster fish yesterday.
Great white egrets are also using this area frequently along with little egrets fishing in the shallows. It's probably the best place to see them but they can be seen elsewhere with this shot captured by Graham Wagner at the Avalon Hide. Thanks Graham:
Thanks to John Crispin too for his delightful little egret picture taken this week:
As well as the waders, other birds are on the move too. Small groups of teal are beginning to gather and there has been a report of the first wigeon to return over on Shapwick Heath this week. Other birds are leaving us with groups of sand and house martin passing through. Just stopping off at Ham Wall for a good feed up before moving on. 7 swifts passed over early this week too along with a few swallows.
Thanks to John Crispin for his sand martin shot taken during the week:
Some bird species have yet to leave still with a few reed and sedge warblers being sighted in the reedbeds, a drake garganey in moult from VP2 earlier this week and a few willow warblers around with one being seen at VP2 on Monday along with chiffchaff (although many of these now choose to over winter).
Some insects migrate too with perhaps the best known being the painted lady butterfly - it's been a good year for them this year. Thanks to both Mike Pearce and Giles Morris for their shots:
Mike's top picture shows the painted lady on the purple loofstrife plant. You'll be able to see some of these around the reserve. The butterflies obviously like it as he also had small tortoiseshell and brimstone on the same plant. Thanks to Mike for his shots:
For more proof of the butterflies liking of this plant see Giles Morris' pictures of the same two species on the same plant (different days & different areas). Thanks Giles:
They also both managed to capture shots of comma butterfly as well. Mike's shot with the wings closed may help give you some idea of how it gets its name:
Giles' shots came during his butterfly survey yesterday where he also came across an unusual sight. This sextan beetle (Nicrophorus vespillo) was seen dragging this dead shrew. They are known to bury carcasses of small rodents or birds as a food source for their larvae. Thanks to Giles for these fascinating shots:
This sort of thing can often be missed as we're busy looking at birds, mammals & butterflies etc and miss what's going on right under our feet.
There are plenty of other fascinating insects to look out for. Giles took this picture of a green leafhopper this week too:
Dragonflies are another, more obvious species around at the moment. Some species such as the ruddy darter could be around into November if the weather stays mild and frost free.
Thanks to Giles Morris for his ruddy darter shots taken yesterday:
Thanks also to Mike Pearce for his shots of a close relation the common darter:
Look out also for migrant hawker (one of our latest dragonflies to appear), southern hawker & black tailed skimmer. Thanks once again to Mike Pearce for his shot of migrant hawker taken this week:
A few damselflies can still be seen too including blue tailed damselfly, common blue, red eyed and small red eyed. Thanks to Mike Pearce for his shot of a blue tailed damselfly having a spot of lunch and to Giles Morris for his shot of small red eyed damselfly. These can often be seen on floating vegetation on the water. Check for the red eyes but also for the tail end. The small red eyed damsel has the extra half blue segment at the end that the red eyed does not:
Blue tailed damselfly
A few of these critters have been seen this week too - the rusty tussock moth caterpillar - also known as vapourer moth. One of the caterpillars food plants is willow - so no surprises as to why we have quite a few of them. The black and yellow markings act as a warning sign and the hairy bodies deter birds from eating them. Thanks to Mike Pearce for his shot:
Well, I've got this far without mentioning a bittern yet but it is one of our specialities. Plenty of sightings this week from all over the reserve really but plenty of visitors coming back happy with a sighting. Thanks to John Crispin for his shot of a bittern coming in to land:
Another Ham Wall special, the marsh harrier has also been a frequent spot this week - particularly the youngsters as they explore their new world. The female form the successful nest has also been spotted - she's recognisable by having less of the pale feathering on her coverts and wings than usual.
Bearded the are also a bird have on their must see list. Harder to please people with this one although I have been hearing and seeing them whilst out reed cutting in front of the first viewing platform this week. We've made good progress in here this week and hope to be close to finishing the work in the next fortnight or so ready to bring water levels back up again. This should create a nice splashy area for egrets, ducks and waders to enjoy. Bearded tits have also been seen and heard from the Avalon Hide once again this week.
The Avalon hide was also host to an otter sighting this week. An individual was seen swimming across at around 10.30am by one of our volunteers. A second sighting of an otter came on Monday from the old rail bridge on the main track.
Also this week: Sparrowhawks seen from the car park and VP2 (female), 4 raven seen flying over VP1 calling and tumbling in the air as only these birds can, kingfishers from the Tor View Hide and VP1, a barn owl out hunting at 10am on Tuesday from VP1, a wheatear reported on the main path over on Shapwick Heath, a female redstart seen enjoying the wildlife garden behind the Welcome Building at the car park and a weasel in the same area early in the week and this grey herons flying together from the Avalon Hide - thanks to Graham Wagner for his photo:
Just before I finish if you're new to birding or would just love to learn a bit more how about booking onto our bird watching for beginners event. There are a few dates available so why not give it a try:
Beginners Guide to Bird Watching at Ham Wall
Saturday 14 September
Saturday 28 September
Saturday 19 October
10 am – 1 pm
Have you ever wondered which bird is which and want to learn more? Can you tell your bittern from your blackbird, or your marsh harrier from a mallard? If not then this is the event for you. Come along and learn how to identify some of the brilliant birds that call Ham Wall their home.
RSPB members £4.80 : Non RSPB members £6
RSPB child members £2.40 ; Non RSPB child £3
All bookings are online via Eventbrite
Please note booking charges apply
That's it for this week and indeed for next week too as I'm on annual leave again (hoping for better weather this time). The blog will return in two week's time. Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!
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