Well, Spring has most definitely sprung and it keeps on springing. Lots of active wildlife on the reserve this week once again including new arrivals and busy parents. 

Reserve staff and volunteers have been busy too and starting to get things right back up together after the strange and difficult year we've had. Being so busy, it's not left me much time for a blog this week so it might be a bit shorter than normal - just when you needed extra info for you bank holiday weekend too. Oh well , here goes...

One of the most anticipated arrivals is always that of the hobby. We've been seeing just a few up until the last couple of days but prepare now for the influx. Several people are reporting seeing double figures of these birds on the local reserves including Ham Wall, with 10 being seen from the second viewing platform both yesterday and today. One of the most acrobatic birds you will see at Ham Wall, they are famed for catching and devouring dragonflies and other flying insects on the wing.

Very few dragonflies around at present - just a few hairy dragonflies but we await the emergence of many more at any minute. Damselflies (their smaller cousins) are now out in greater numbers with large reds, variable and blue tailed all seen this week. Also all photographed by volunteer Giles Morris during his first dragonfly survey of the season. Thanks Giles:

Large red damselfly - male: Giles Morris 

Variable damselfly - male: Giles Morris 

Variable damselfly - female: Giles Morris

There are plenty of flying insects around at this time of year - great for birds who have travelled long distances and need a good feed up. 

One which is quite conspicuous is the St. Marks Fly. The males are the shiny black flies with the bulbous eyes and long dangly legs - I make them sound so attractive don't I? 

These are so named as they emerge on or around 25th April - St. Marks Day. Having spent most of their life as a larvae in the soil eating rotting vegetation etc then then emerge on the wing for just a week - so catch them while you can.

More sand martins, house martins, swallows and swifts have also arrived to gorge on the abundance of insects - good numbers flew over me and the volunteers on Wednesday during our lunch break. Thanks to Graham Wagner for his shots of sand martin and swallow taken over Waltons this week:

Also around the same time as the hirundines were flying over a garden warbler was singing away near us. They can sound very similar to blackcaps and can easily be confused on song. I convinced myself that I had correctly identified it when I spied it through a gap in the brambles (too many times I have been disappointed to see a blackcap sitting there instead) - so that was pleasing. What's more is that a blackcap was sat on the other side of the gateway singing too. This was at the first gateway from the road on the footpath side of the drain by the woodland.

This track often provides good views of roe deer too and tawny owls often call from this wood, although today I heard one calling at 11.30am at the far end of the reserve. Most likely not too far from where the really obvious cormorants nest is in the dead tree to the right of the path. I was told the nest contains 3 youngsters.

Other adults are busy looking for mates or feeding young, including the cuckoo (well not feeding young obviously). I saw one from the first viewing platform today (VP1) and heard several including from the car park and around Loxtons. Loxtons is usually a good place to see them each year perched up - perhaps keenly watching reed warbler activity to get their timing just right to slip a rogue egg in a nest.

Other young birds spotted include moorhen, greylag goose, mallard, coot and great crested grebe, with the latter two both photographed around Waltons this week  by Graham Wagner - thanks Graham: 

With many protective parents around conflicts can often arise whether it be over territory or protecting young. Perhaps this Canada goose just got too close to this mute swan at Waltons. it got a good telling off by the looks of it. Thanks to Graham Wagner for the photo: 

I also noticed 3 marsh harriers today from VP1 circling round. It did look as though one well marked male was trying to see off a younger rival although the markings on the second bird weren't very distinctive - there is a vast variation in plumage sometimes amongst these birds. There is a very well marked male that can be seen distantly from VP2 quite often and this bird which was photographed by Graham Wagner over Waltons this week. Thanks Graham:

If you're on the hunt for marsh harrier at VP1 look out for the whitethroat who has a territory in the brambles opposite. He's often perched up singing. The main path offers a good sensory experience with the bird song. Blackcap, chiffchaff, willow warbler, song thrush, robin, blackbird, tits, finches, wren and goldcrest all seen and heard along here. It's a good place to take in a dawn chorus along with all the water birds who wake up and call too - including the mighty boom of the bittern of course. You can still hear them daily and even a few sightings are being seen of birds chasing in pairs or perhaps even the very first flights of feeding females of the season.

On the subject of the dawn chorus, it's International Dawn Chorus Day on Sunday 2nd May:

Does dawn sound little too early to be moving from your bed? Don’t worry! We’re bringing the dawn chorus to you instead!

Grab a cuppa and head to https://bit.ly/DawnChorusLive this Sunday 2 May from 5am to start the day differently. Experience the early songsters and the magic of the dawn chorus from across the RSPB’s reserves all from the comfort of your own home – what birds will you hear singing? Look out for some celebrity guests and birdsong experts too – there’s something for everyone  #DawnChorusDay

Many of the water birds make great sounds too like the squealing pig sound of the water rail or the long whinnying call of the little grebe. You may be lucky to see a water rail - often quite a tricky bird to spot but little grebes are often out in the open. Thanks to Sandie Andrews who sent in her sequence of a little grebe getting set to dive. Going...going....gone!

  

Also on the reserve this week: an otter spotted from VP1 at dawn on Monday, 2 ravens over the car park this morning, drumming great spotted woodpeckers, redpoll seen along the main path along with treecreeper and bullfinch, 3 black tailed godwits well hidden from VP1 today, male garganey from VP1 earlier in the week, great white egrets an easy spot every day - even from the car park, kingfisher from the old rail bridge on the main path - look out for swimming grass snakes seen here too and a red kite which flew over the car park this morning.

Thought I'd finish with some butterfly shots. Seen this week: brimstone, orange tip, holly blue, small white, green veined white (pictured), small tortoiseshell, speckled wood and peacock (pictured). Thanks to Mike Pearce for his butterfly photos to add yet more variety to your visit to Ham Wall.

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

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