Another week has flown by and December is nearly upon us already. It's still been quite mild but we've had a fair amount of rain which has brought some of the water levels up a bit. It's quite noticeable in front of the first viewing platform (VP1), although the cutting of some of the reeds with the Truxor machine has opened this up a bit too. If you've been onto the reserve this week you may have seen one or both of the machines working away. They are a floating reed cutter in effect and can go places where my Softrak machine dare not tread.
Particularly useful for clearing channels and opening up vistas in front of hides and screens - hopefully you'll see the benefits when you visit. They have a couple more days to go - that's today and Monday and will be working in the Waltons and Loxtons areas just to inform you.
It's been quite a busy time on the reserve over the last month or more with the Truxors in, the Softrak working away steadily as always, the reforming works in the area to the west of VP1 and the revamping of the 2 viewing platforms (VP1 & VP2). The reforming works have now finished and water levels are being raised. Some nice splashy areas are forming and water pipit has already been spotted taking advantage.
We are also very excited to be able to announce that the new viewing platforms have been completed and are now open. The design and building work was undertaken by Red Kite Design and Build ltd. (https://www.redkitebuild.com/) and they procured the wood from Longleat. A big thanks to the Red Kite team for all of the hard work they have put in. We were out this morning to test the platforms out before opening and were treated to views of great white egret, wheeling flocks of lapwing (pee-witting away) and a wisp of snipe floating across the sky above us. The platform will have a new identification board each – we are hoping to reach the stage where these can be printed and put up soon. We hope you like and enjoy the new viewing platforms as much as we do. This work was made possible by generous funding from Virador Credits.
Now that the works on the viewing platforms have been complete we are able to open the on reserves blue badge spaces at Waltons. Access as usual is via RADAR key.
Here's a few visitors already enjoying the great new VP1:
Photo: Abbie Thorne
We hope that you all enjoy the improvements we have made to the facilities and the habitat and thank you for your patience during this time. There will be a little bit of down time now over the Christmas period before we begin work on the 3 viewing screens at Waltons in the New Year. We will try to work on them one at a time if we can to reduce the impact and the Tor View Hide will remain open at all times.
In front of VP1 this week have been good numbers of lapwing c100 there this morning along with groups of snipe with up to 67 counted. Black tailed godwits were present earlier in the week c70 but since the arrival of the Truxors have moved elsewhere. Hopefully, it wont be long before they return and settle once more. Thanks to John Crispin for his shot of godwits coming into land taken on Saturday:
Plenty of wildfowl using the reserve this week too. Several species of duck can be seen from all corners of the reserve. Look out for: mallard, gadwall, shoveler (119 counted), tufted duck, pochard (seen from VP2) plus teal and wigeon our winter visitors. Thanks to John Crispin for his lovely shot of gadwall showing its lovely vermiculated plumage.
A visit to Ham Wall obviously starts at the car park. It's always worth a scan around before you set off to the main reserve. This morning a firecrest was spotted in the bushes quite close to the Welcome Building and there have been good numbers of fieldfare and redwing spotted too. In the field next door to the car park and overhead on one occasion have been cattle egrets. Up to 90 have been roosting on the reserve each night before dispersing out to the surrounding area during the day. The field next to the car park has been one such location. It may be possible to view this field from the old rail bridge on the main path.
Bitterns have been seen on occasions too from both platforms and the Avalon Hide, while great white egrets are usually quite an easy spot on any visit. If it's big and white and it's not a swan then it's probably a great white egret barring any more rogue white storks like we had recently.
Marsh harriers have been really easy to spot this week too - up to 7 have been seen using all parts of the reserve. They are particularly evident after the starling roost has left. They quarter over the roost site looking for any dead starlings for a nice easy meal. Thanks to John Crispin for his marsh harrier shots. The first a well marked female and the second a young male in a twisted position. His grey tail feathers are showing a fair bit of damage:
The starlings have continued to use the Waltons and Loxtons areas and are easily visible from the main path. An estimate of close to 100,000 birds are currently in the roost and sunset is at around 4.20pm. We recommend arriving at least 1 hour before this time to catch the show. Be aware though that they can change roost sites at any point and we can only tell people where the birds roosted the night before. The Starling Hotline 07866 554142 is updated as and when this happens and is therefor a good guide to give you the best chance of finding the right location. The Welcome Building in the car park is manned on most days until 4pm where staff and volunteers can point you in the right direction.
A walk along the main path towards the viewing areas can be rewarding too. Look out for treecreeper, goldcrest, gangs of long tailed tits, redpoll (11 recorded), bullfinch and chiffchaff (7 recorded). On those sunny mornings we've had a chiffchaff was heard singing briefly as was a song thrush. The cettis warblers have also been quite vocal. They can be quite a tricky bird to spot generally as they spend much of their time time deep in the reeds or scrub. Any photo opportunity is most welcome - thanks to John Crispin for his shot taken this week:
Also this week: roe deer seen around the Waltons trail, sparrowhawk seen over the car park, stonechats seen from VP1, kestrel a couple of times from the Avalon Hide, both peacock and red admiral butterflies spotted and yesterday a common darter dragonfly still holding on, 2 whooper swans have been seen at Noah's lake over on neighbouring Shapwick Heath and a water rail spotted from The Tor View Hide. Also this common frog spent all day on Monday huddled up against the Welcome Building in the car park - gathering warmth or a new volunteer?
Just before I sign off a message from the visitor team in case you were planning a visit to our optics event:
Optics day Cancelled
Unfortunately due to staff illness the Binocular and Telescope day on Saturday November 30th has been cancelled.
Apologies for any inconvenience caused.
That's it for this week. Thanks for reading and have a great weekend.
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