It's been a bit of a continued theme from last week with lots of signs that spring is getting closer. There have been plenty of incidents of birds such as coots showing a little more aggression to one another than usual - perhaps already thinking about setting up some territorial boundaries or is it overcrowding with 44 counted together in front of the first platform (VP1) alone on Monday. This could be the case for these 2 little grebes (being territorial) who were photographed by John Crispin this week having a bit of a spat - always interesting to watch the behavior of these birds. Thanks for the photos John:

Their cousins the great crested grebes have been seen pairing off and performing their graceful head bobbing and weed dances. Earlier in the week in front of VP1 and this very morning right in front of the screens at Waltons much to the delight of a lady who was learning photography and had never seen them before. 

Thanks to John Crispin who sent in these photographs of a great crested grebe having a good preen this week - Well! a bird needs to look its best for these performances you know!

They are are not the only graceful bird preening to look its very best out there. There are a series of other characters who have been keeping their plumage in tip top condition too. Thanks to John Crispin for all of the following:

great white egret stretching for those hard to reach places!

little egret preening 

grey heron preening

shoveler preening -  note the comb structures in the bill, as mentioned in last week's blog

Shoveler are among many ducks to be seen on Ham Wall currently. VP1 is a good place to start for these joined by tufted duck (thanks to Andy Collins for his shot below), mallard, gadwall, teal & wigeon whilst at VP2 you've a good chance of seeing pochard with 82 recorded here on Monday. Also look out for pintail with 3 males and a female present for much of the week. 

Lapwing are adding some action and noise to the proceedings at VP1 with as many as 1100 counted there this morning but they have been present on most days. Thanks to Andy Collins for his shot of a lapwing taken on Monday:

 

Snipe too are present in good numbers but can take a bit more time and effort to track down and count. This morning they were present from both platforms (40 counted at VP2), on the island opposite the 3rd screen at Waltons and right in front of the Tor View Hide. Through the week as many as 56 were counted at VP2. 

Green sandpipers have again been seen at the far end of the main track on the drained down area with 4 seen on Monday and as many as 5 yesterday. Whilst here also look out for water pipit - 2 recorded on several occasions and grey wagtail which was also seen during the week. 

In the area before this on the right on Thursday bearded tits were heard on several occasions with estimates of 5 or 6 birds present but only one actually being seen. Also in this area and a couple of others great spotted woodpecker drumming and calling loudly - another sign that spring is coming? 

Noisy jays were also present in the area and have also been seen along the main path. Thanks to Andy Collins for his shot taken on Monday: 

The main track (and tree lines around the car park) is home to many of the smaller birds in particular. Look out for blue tit, great tit, long tailed tits, coal tit, goldfinch, chaffinch, treecreeper, goldcrest (4 on Monday), song thrush, wren, dunnock, blackbird, meadow pipit (12 in the car park yesterday, redpolls (this morning 3 groups of 46, 30 & 50 - total 126), siskin, bullfinch, robin thanks to Andy Collins for his picture below) and more.

Of course you could easily add 1 or 2 starlings to that list (or even a few hundred thousand if you come at the right time). The birds have continued to use Ham Wall this week but have generally moved to the north side of the reserve a little distant from VP1. Within the last couple of days however it also appears that a group have also split and are using Shapwick Heath too. 

The mornings are a good time to see them too. If you know where they roost the night before you are guaranteed a show in the mornings. It's also a good time to look out for marsh harriers as they quarter over the reedbeds looking for carrion. There were also both male and a female from the Avalon Hide this morning.

A buzzard has also taken to hunting over the reedbeds for carrion too this week. Not the usual behaviour we seem from buzzards so perhaps they have been watching and learning from the harriers. We have certainly seen crows displaying this behaviour recently but this week a raven was also spotted feeding on carrion from the starling roost. 

Not sure if this is the same buzzard but thanks to Andy Collins for his shot taken during the week:

During roost time at either end of the day you could also spot peregrines. 2 were working together this morning from VP1 but there have been several other sightings this week. 

The Avalon Hide is still providing some good view of a variety of birds. As mentioned - marsh harriers this morning (and buzzard) but also shoveler, tufted duck, gadwall teal and mallard and a grey heron who was fairly stationary for well over an hour. Thanks to Graham Wagner for his shot of a teal in flight taken from the Avalon Hide this week:

Thanks also to Graham Wagner for his shot of reed bunting taken on the path that leads to the hide:

Also this week: a pair of bullfinch spotted around the Waltons trail, a roe deer spotted around the same trail on Wednesday, a fox seen out on the north of the reserve during the week, cattle egrets seen over Waltons on Sunday morning but certainly seen around in fields in the local area during the day time, a merlin spotted from the car park yesterday, marsh harrier/great white egret & sparrowhawk other car park spots, a couple of bittern flights all I've heard about this week from the Avalon Hide as we await our first boomer (we've normally heard a weak one by now), a hoverfly seen at VP1 and chiffchaff seen along the main track and on the footpath side near VP2 - thanks to Graham Wagner for his shots of chiffchaff taken there this week:

That's about it for this week. Thanks for reading and have a great weekend! 

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