It seems that we have perhaps seen the last of the hirundines for this year. I haven't seen any over the reserve this week. It definitely seems to have turned colder too, although there have been some lovely sunny spells once the early morning mists have dissipated. The misty early mornings make the reserve a much more mysterious and ancient looking place. It's times like this when knowledge of bird songs and calls helps even more.
Plenty of very vocal birds out there with cettis warblers and water rails of particular note. water rails will often reply like an echo when one bird calls.
The calls and songs are useful even when the sun is out as things often hide out in tree tops or in the reedbeds. If you are on the hunt for bearded tits knowing their pinging call will be of great benefit. They've been seen and heard across the reserve this week. We even saw some in the Waltons section this week as we were reed cutting the islands. Some were directly opposite the Tor View Hide and even fed down on the ground just a few yards from some volunteers.
John Crispin had a similar experience a couple of weeks ago and has sent me these photos of birds feeding on the ground - they could well be picking up seeds. It's about this time of year when things cool down that they switch their diet from invertebrates to seeds. They will take up grit like finches to help process seeds in their gut. Thanks for the photos JOhn:
How wonderful! They can still be seen flying in small groups too and several visitors have reported seeing some on the way to the Avalon Hide on the last stretch of path and also just before you leave the wood in the reedbeds on your left. Thanks to John Crispin and Graham Wagner who have sent me their pictures of bearded tits in flight:
On the way to the hide on Wednesday a lady reported seeing an unusual bird. On looking at IDs in the book at the welcome building it was concluded that it was a bluethroat. This not conclusive but it isn't out of the question. They breed in fens and wet woodlands in northern Europe and are on passage this time of year so you never know.
Another unusual sighting this week was of a pallid harrier. A 2nd winter male seen from the old rail bridge at 13.15 on Tuesday. The bridge is the place to look out for cattle egrets at roosting time too. As far as I'm aware somewhere between 40 and 60 birds are still using this area to roost each night. Kingfisher has also been seen here this week as well as at the Tor View Hide (we heard one here on Wednesday whilst working opposite), the Avalon Hide and the first viewing platform (VP1).
Just a reminder that work is continuing on both viewing platforms at the moment but the contractors are making good progress on this much needed revamp of this facility. They remain closed for the duration of this process so apologies for that. These areas can be viewed to the side of these platforms. Other hides/screens are open as normal. Work on the 3 viewing screens at Waltons will then start once the platforms are complete. Staff and volunteers will be undertaking this work.
Opposite the last of the screens we have now finished cutting on the first island. Once it gets splashy this island can be quite good for closer views of snipe, lapwing and teal. A few snipe did fly off this island as we disembarked on Wednesday so have a hunt around with you binoculars and see if you can spot them - they hide well!
Snipe have been seen elsewhere - here some are resting with teal in the area in front of the second viewing platform. Thanks to John Crispin for his shot:
Wildfowl numbers are pretty good at the moment. The Avalon Hide is a good place to look for them at the moment. Mallard, gadwall, shoveler, teal and wigeon all present. Some duck are showing signs of courtship display - the start to pair up in autumn/winter. This photo from John Crispin shows some gadwall in a pursuit flight. The female in front, usually with vocalisation:
Also from the Avalon Hide this week - good sightings of marsh harrier - a female in particular, water rail, coot, little egret and great white egret. Also reports of a fly by of ringed plover.
On your way to the Avalon Hide look out for a kestrel. A female was seen hunting here last weekend and has been seen again during the week. A kestrel was also reported over the car park this week (as were sparrowhawk and buzzard). Thanks once again to John Crispin for his shot of the female:
Raven have also been seen over the reserve on several occasions this week, including these two which had an interesting interaction this week. It's hard to tell if they were having a dispute of just a bit of fun. Either way thanks to John Crispin for his great shots:
Elsewhere on the reserve you should begin to see more frequent sightings of fieldfare and redwing as more arrive. I saw my first redwings on Wednesday as 4 flew over Waltons and thanks to Graham Wagner for his fieldfare shot - 1 of 10 which flew over the reserve this week:
Stonechats are becoming more visible too. They often make sightings quite easy as they have a habit of perching right up on the top of vegetation and often flick their tail. Thanks to John Crispin for his shots of the male and then the female taken recently at the reserve:
Look out also for jays carrying and stashing acorns. Thanks to Graham Wagner for his photo:
...and great spotted woodpeckers in our woodlands.
Also this week: bitterns seen from VP1, the Avalon Hide and even over the car park, great white egret at the same locations plus VP2, treecreeper hear along the main path and chiffchaff seen too, pheasants seen again by the car park feeders, reed buntings near the Tor View Hide, green sandpiper reported around the VP2 area, green woodpecker heard around the Waltons trail, ruddy darter, migrant hawker and common darter all seen this week and grey herons seen daily including this one who got into some deeper water than perhaps he expected:
That's it for this week. Have a great weekend!
Stephen, how do I send in some pictures for your Ham Wall blog?
Hi Tony. If you'd like to send in some photos you can send them in directly to me at Stephen.firstname.lastname@example.org I'd be really grateful. It's always nice to be able to include photos from new contributors. Just so you know, I will always acknowledge photos I use and will not use them for any other purpose other than the blog. Many thanks
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