Another superb week at Ham Wall with lots of activity to report. Breeding season is in full swing and the evidence is everywhere with many young birds being spotted all over the reserve both in and around the water and up in the trees. One of the most popular spots this week has been in Central Wood (the wood near the Avalon Hide) where the great spotted woodpeckers are putting on a good show. You'll hear them before you see them - the youngsters call constantly for food (there are at least 3 in there). As you enter the wood and turn left walk down a short way and look through the gap to a birch tree where they have made a hole. Wait quietly - although it seems the adults aren't too bothered and you'll see them in next to no time. Thanks to Martin Adams for sending in his shot:

Whilst watching it myself on Wednesday there were frequent sightings of treecreepers too using all the larger trees - some just a few feet away. They also climbed the woodpeckers tree causing quite a commotion when they got close to the hole. There was also a robin feeding a well grown youngster. 

2 tawny owl chicks were also reported on a few occasions from within the wood. From the box visible from the Avalon Hide no doubt. Always worth scanning the trees as you walk by. As always please don't enter the wood to try and get a better view or photo to respect the wildlife and reduce disturbance. Good views can be had from the path and hide. Thanks to Jack Clegg who sent in his shot of a young tawny owl sitting at the box.

There are plenty of other birds to be had in the wood. A blackcap was also coming quite close to us while we watched the woodpeckers - most likely a nest nearby - it's amazing how much you can see in a small space if you just wait quietly for a while. They can be heard all over the reserve at the moment but you don't always see them feeding youngsters like this. Thanks again to Jack Clegg for his photo: 

There are many other young birds to see - baby moorhens and coots can be seen quite regularly around Waltons and the Tor View Hide but if you're really lucky you may catch sight of juvenile water rails. They are seen most years in this area. Adult birds were seen nest building from the hide this week and this youngster was photographed by Jack Clegg this week plus there's a shot of an adult for comparison. Thanks for sending them in Jack:

Great crested grebes can be seen with young at Waltons too. At least 2 pairs here - often the young birds will ride on the parents backs. Jack Clegg was telling me that on a visit a few weeks ago he was watching a pair head bobbing and weed dancing when a third bird (most likely a male) popped up between them and a fight ensued for about 30 seconds - something I've never seen before. Thanks to Jack for his info and pictures:

The other most obvious youngsters are the cygnets. There is a pair of mute swans with 6 cygnets that are using the rafts quite often in front of the Loxtons screen and chasing off all comers. These are often used by cormorants but when the swans are there they are having none of it. The cormorants have to fly off or make do with a swim. Thanks to Jack Clegg for his Cormorant photo:

Great crested grebes were seen carrying nesting material here too, so they are a bit behind some of the other pairs. Also a great white egret was using the area for feeding too and cuckoo could be heard over the back. Great white egrets are now a regular feature of Ham Wall and can be seen pretty easily during a visit. Try either viewing platform as these are regular haunts but also the Avalon Hide or dropping in Waltons.

The Avalon Hide is the place to go for marsh harriers. Plenty of interesting activity being reported with food passes being recorded on several occasions. Also a little bit of conflict with bitterns again this week - always interesting to watch. There have been plenty of bittern sightings form the Avalon Hide this week too as well as from the first platform (VP1) and within Waltons. I also saw one fly directly in front of the second viewing platform (VP2) yesterday morning Thanks again to Jack Clegg for his pictures of both marsh harrier & bittern:

  

Also seen and heard from the Avalon Hide this week - bearded tits on Monday (also reported from VP1 this week), great crested grebe, little grebe, little egret, kingfisher, reed warbler, sedge warbler, pochard, mallard, gadwall and tufted duck. thanks to Mike Pearce for his tufted duck pair photo taken on Monday:

Barn Owl has also been spotted in the Avalon Hide area. A guided walk group on Tuesday saw one flying up the main drain which then turned and flew out towards the wood at the Avalon Hide. Birds have also been spotted in front of VP1 recently. This activity in daylight hours could be a good sign,considering that there has been little rain, that young owlets that need feeding - or more negatively that there is a shortage of food (let's hope it's the former). Thanks to Jack Clegg & Peter Burnett for 2 lovely shots. Jack for his barn owl and Peter for the prey - a vole he saw peeping out of a hole on the way to the Tor View Hide - a bit of cute factor for the blog:

Another brilliant picture here from Claire Tucker of a jay clinging upside down over water - picking off flies perhaps or taking a drink in a rather bizarre way? Thanks for sending it in Claire - one to be proud of!

Other birds of prey spotted this week include: red kite on a couple of occasions (increasing numbers of these flying over these days), osprey reported flying over on Wednesday, buzzards seen daily, sparrowhawk seen from the Avalon Hide on Tuesday and hobby seen daily but not in the big numbers of the last couple of weeks as the majority have passed through. Thanks to Jack Clegg for his hobby shots including one homing in on a dragonfly:

There are many more dragonflies emerging this week - in particular the 4 spotted chaser numbers are continuing to grow. The best place is probably around the Waltons trail - they number in their thousands at peak. Plenty emerging this week - some witnessed by Robin Morrison who sent me in a few pics. I've just included a couple or the blog will just get too long.Thanks Robin: 

....and here's what the finished product looks like - thanks to Mike Pearce for his image:

Other dragonflies seen include emperor, hairy and some quite early black tailed skimmers - thanks to Giles Morris for his shots taken during his survey yesterday:

Hairy dragonfly - note the hairy thorax which gives it its name

Black Tailed skimmer (female) 

Damselflies are in evidence too with large red, red eyed (pictured - thanks to Giles Morris), azure, blue tailed & variable all recorded. 

Amazing sightings I'm sure you'll agree but it doesn't stop there. We've also had a further report of a black tern - again flying with black headed gulls from the rail bridge but also seen over Waltons on |Monday, another report of purple heron over on Shapwick Heath but again seen flying from Ham Wall direction, a Turtle Dove reported over on Shapwick Heath about 100 yards up from the small car park, 5 cattle egret flying over Ham Wall car park on Saturday 18th but still being seen frequently in the local area and a male garganey showing well from VP1 on several days this week.

The garganey has been spotted on the muddy island at the front but so too have a few waders this week. At least 4 lapwing have been chasing off all kinds of birds, including great white egrets - a good sign perhaps that they are nesting here. 2 ruff were seen here on Monday as were several black tailed godwits.  Thanks to Mike Pearce for sending in his shot of the godwits taken on Monday:

Also this week: 3 Egyptian geese seen from VP1 on Monday, spotted flycatcher reported from the Central Wood near the Avalon Hide on Monday, Otter reported from the Tor View Hide on both Monday & yesterday (carrying a prey item) and plenty of cuckoos calling from around the reserve - best places to try are probably around Waltons and at the back of Loxtons. Thanks to Jack Clegg for his shot taken at Ham Wall:

Also when visiting remember to visit our Welcome Building at the car park - the tawny chick may have left our nest cam box for the owls but our blue tit nest cam box is really busy and can be view on the screen inside. The 5 chicks seem to be doing well:

Finally here's some information about a couple of upcoming events on the reserve in case you fancied joining us:

Nature by night at Ham Wall

 Tuesday 4 & 18 June

8 pm to 10 pm

Dusk is a magical time to visit Ham Wall.

Join RSPB staff and volunteers on this special walk and explore the reed beds as it starts to get dark. Listen to the sounds of Ham Wall at dusk and perhaps even get a glimpse of an elusive barn owl.

 Insect repellent and long sleeved shirts and

trousers and a torch recommended.

 

Booking essential

£4.80 member / £6 non-member

£2.40 child member / £3 child non-member

All bookings are online via Eventbrite

https://hamwallnaturebynight2019.eventbrite.co.uk

Please note booking charges apply.

 

 ...and 

RSPB Ham Wall 25th Anniversary Walk

 Saturday 1 June

6 am – 8 am

 

Join RSPB Ham Wall Site Manager Steve, as part of Somerset Festival of Nature, for a special walk to discover more about the history and wildlife of Ham Wall as part of our celebrations of 25 years as a RSPB reserve. Ham Wall and the Avalon Marshes are one of the most important wetlands in the country. We will be going in search of some of the amazing birds that make their home here including bitterns, marsh harriers and great white egrets.

 

Booking Essential

RSPB members £8; Non RSPB members £10

RSPB child members £4; Non RSPB child £5

All booking is online through Eventbrite:

https://hamwall25.eventbrite.co.uk

(Please note: booking charges apply)

That's it for this week. Particular thanks to all those who contributed their wonderful photos - amazing I had so many with regular contributor and info provider John Crispin taking a well deserved holiday. Thanks for reading and have a great bank holiday weekend - a good opportunity to come and seen what you've been reading about.  Back with more next week!

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