A similar week to last week, with some very hot days keeping wildlife a little quieter and visitors away too - although the thought of hitting Glastonbury Festival traffic has probably put people off too.
Bitterns are still showing well in some places, with VP1 and the Avalon Hide once again hotspots. Young birds (2 or 3) have been seen again yesterday standing in the reeds in front of the Avalon Hide with another bird standing out in the open even closer.
At the first viewing platform (VP1), there have still been active females flying to and from nests and feeding areas. It does tend to get quieter in the middle of the day if it is very hot. I did see a very short movement of a bittern here yesterday - just hopping a few feet in the reeds - perhaps a young bird flexing its wings. Thanks to John Crispin for his bittern shots taken this week - one flying towards camera and the other taking off from the reedbed.
The same two locations are perhaps the best for marsh harriers too. Regular flights seen at both places, with both male and female birds seen. No juveniles as yet - look out for their more gingery coloured cap.
Lapwings have continued to try and chase them off from VP1 this week, amongst other birds. This suggests there are still young birds present but they must be close to fledging by now. At least 4 birds are seen regularly.
You may also see or at least hear redshank too. Again their continued presence suggests nesting (a single pair). Thanks to John Crispin who managed to grab a couple of shots of one of them this week:
Black tailed godwits have also been seen here this week. The vegetation growth here and indeed all around the site is getting quite high and obscuring views in some cases. This is a perennial problem with VP1, although we are trying out some slightly different methods of management here to see if we can keep this more open. The reed is a vigorous plant though, with taller reeds on the very edges of the islands causing most of the problems.
Obviously we can't be out there cutting reeds at the moment but we could well start in August and once we are sure all breeding activity has ceased.
Thanks again to John Crispin - this time for his black tailed godwit shots:
Some birds are already showing signs that their season is already over with many duck going into eclipse, such as this male mallard photographed by John Crispin:
The male keeps the colour of the bill and legs but superficially looks a lot like a female. This is an interim state before obtaining their full colour plumage during winter - this eclipse state can actually last over quite a long period ( just remember you are not necessarily just seeing lots of female mallards - take a closer look at the bill).
Lots of birds have an eclipse or winter plumage of course - as if identifications weren't hard enough sometimes.
Quite a few other duck out on the reserve including a large gathering of gadwall in the Waltons area. In amongst them a young tufted duck was spotted alone but diving and feeding happily. There is still a female pochard with 2 young being seen at the Avalon Hide, whilst shoveler and even a wigeon have been seen during the week.
With bird life perhaps quietening down a bit I've seen a good number of visitors concentrating on some macro photography - plenty of insects in amongst the vegetation when you look close enough. Butterflies and dragonflies are perhaps the most obvious, although I undertook a butterfly survey on Monday and felt the numbers were quite low - a similar story in many places. I did however see: small tortoiseshell, green veined white, speckled wood, red admiral, comma and meadow brown. Painted lady has also been spotted this week and a close look at some of the nettles could get you groups of peacock caterpillars.
In terms of dragonflies and damselflies look out for emperor, black tailed skimmer, southern hawker, brown hawker, four spotted chaser and the last remaining broad bodied chasers. For damselflies: azure, common blue, variable, red eyed, blue tailed and banded demoiselle - these can be seen from the bridge that passes over the main drain on the road to the reserve entrance. Grass snakes have often been seen here too basking on the bank. I've dipped into our archive for this shot from Giles Morris of a male black tailed skimmer. These will often land on the path in front of you as you walk around the trails:
Watch where you tread too as you walk as there are quite a few froglets and toadlets hopping around at the moment - although this one's life was cut short by a hungry blackbird - all part of the food chain I guess. Thanks to John Crispin for this wonderful shot:
In terms of mammals - you are often left with signs of their presence, although an otter was spotted from the Avalon Hide last weekend, visitors have reported seeing the odd mouse or vole and I saw a rabbit basking happily in the sunshine in the car park on Tuesday. Roe deer is your most likely sighting for mammals perhaps - several reported this week around the reserve. I saw another mother and fawn (this one bigger than last week's) on the grassy footpath on the other side of the drain from the main track.
Tracey, one of our volunteers, found this fawn curled up in the grass as she was out surveying this week. It is highly unlikely that it as been abandoned - mothers will often leave their fawns for long periods, sometimes hours, but will return. Thanks Tracey:
Plenty of other youngsters to be seen around the reserve: both great crested grebe and little grebe have been seen with young in the Waltons section, the swallows continue to nest in the car park shelter. Great to have them back in there!
Hobby have also been seen out looking for insects. There are just a few birds left around after the initial influx in May (although just like martins and swallows there seemed fewer in number this year). One bird has been using the dead tree visible from VP1 as a feeding perch after hawking for insects. Thanks to John Crispin for his images. The first image in particular shows the extended alula - a small feather which is used generally when landing. It protrudes from the edge of the wing and helps even out the air flow over the wing making landing more controlled:
Other birds of prey seen recently include a red kite from VP1, buzzards seen most days flying high on thermals, tawny owl heard calling in the woodlands and of course our very busy barn owls. Three nests on Ham Wall this season is fantastic. The Avalon Hide is perhaps the best place to see them with an active nest box in woodland either side. They have been seen out and about well into the day. The owlets in the left hand box must be very close to branching so keep your eyes peeled when you're in the Avalon Hide - you never know.
Bird song has reduced somewhat - not surprisingly, but you can still hear chiffchaff, willow warbler, blackcap and garden warbler in amongst the songs and calls of the birds we consider more resident. Reed warbler and sedge warbler can also be heard. I often heard sedge warbler imitating bearded tits within its chattering, although you may see bearded tits yourself - the Avalon Hide area the most likely place.
Another warbler - the whitethroat can still be seen in the vegetation opposite VP1. Thanks to John Crispin for this action shot of a whitethroat which has just taken off:
Also this week: raven seen flying high over the Avalon Hide yesterday, at least 6 jays together right at the end of the main track on Tuesday (and Wednesday) chased off by 2 alarm calling blackbirds (obviously a nest nearby), kingfisher seen from the Tor View Hide, little egret seen from VP1 along with several great white egret and still hearing a few noisy grey herons within Waltons (10 nests recorded within the reedbeds here). Thanks to John Crispin for these lovely shots of a grey heron having a good preen on a raft within Waltons:
That's it for this week. Hope you've enjoyed the read - have a great weekend!
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