It certainly doesn't feel like the summer holidays this morning with high winds and bursts of rain but that hasn't stopped the slightly reduced numbers of visitors coming back with smiles. One couple were very happy to see a kingfisher perched at the Avalon Hide, with a supporting cast of little egrets, great white egrets, marsh harriers and great crested grebes - very nice.

 The great crested grebes with young in Waltons are still quite visible and were this morning too. Two pairs here, one with 3 quite small youngsters and the others with a single juvenile much more developed. All still showing their black and white stripes, which often gives them the name of humbugs. This one photographed by Graham Wagner this week was seen scampering across the water - thanks Graham:

 

Little grebe can also be seen in the Waltons area - the Tor View Hide probably the best bet. Thanks to both Mike Pearce & Graham Wagner who have both sent me photos of little grebe feeding a youngster this week:

 Also in Waltons are some large gatherings of ducks - mostly mallard, all in eclipse, but also spotted a few gadwall and a couple of pochards.

 In the reedbed grey herons are still dropping into a nest to feed young. You can sometimes hear their begging calls as the parent lands. They have been there quite a while now - perhaps they need some encouragement to "fly the nest".

 Another young bird seen begging for food is the juvenile lesser black back gull. It's been spotted on the rafts within Waltons (visible from the screens) on several occasions - including this morning. Yesterday it was begging for food and the adult bird came in and regurgitated food for the youngster.

 I was watching a great white egret on the rafts 0n Wednesday (with a second one hiding on the island nearby). It was fishing there for some time and being very patient and did have some success. John Crispin must have witnessed the same bird earlier in the day and too this great sequence of photos of a successful fishing attempt. Thanks John:

 

It was around the same time that a cettis warbler was flitting in the sparse reeds just in front of me. I was trying to take a picture with my phone - it was that close - about a foot away. I was however unsuccessful although Sandie Andrews did manage some shots of another obliging cettis. She was happy to see it grab its prize after "hanging around" for a while - as you will see from the photos. Thanks Sandie:

 

Not quite sure what it's grabbed there but there are plenty of insects around at the moment. During the lovely sunny spells yesterday some of the flowering trees and bushes were buzzing loudly with the sheer numbers of flying insects.

 Plenty of butterflies on the wing yesterday (not many this morning, surprise surprise!). Plenty of meadow browns and gatekeepers around the car park along with red admiral, peacock, brimstone, green veined white, speckled wood and comma - a painted lady was also reported.

 Volunteer Giles Morris undertook his dragonfly survey yesterday (definitely picked the right day) and has sent me some great shots, which may help with some ID's. Thanks Giles:

 First is the red eyed damselfly - they've got big red eyes so that's a good start:

 

But then again so has the small red eyed damselfly - look for the extra half a blue segment on the tail.

 Here's one with them both together on a lily pad with the small red eyed mating - you'll often see these on floating vegetation rather than on the sides. You can actually see the size difference too.

 

Another one you cold perhaps confuse them with is the blue tailed damselfly, which has the blue tail but not the red eyes.

 

The blues are where it gets more difficult. If they sit still long enough I'm ok, otherwise it's a struggle. This one is common blue - look for the ball on a stick shape on the first segment. In azure this looks more like a wine glass shape and anything else (at Ham Wall at least) is likely to be variable damselfly. I've probably made this as clear as mud but good luck with those ID's.

 

It can be just as hard with dragonflies despite the bigger size. The biggest is the emperor - look for the apple green thorax and pure blue tail. Thanks again to Giles Morris for his shot:

 

This one from Graham Wagner is southern hawker - you can start to see the differences when they are at rest can't you.

 

An easy one here from Graham again is the brown hawker - brown body but it's the brown tinge on the wings which really give it away. Thanks Graham:

 

The final one I have a shot of today is ruddy darter. These have been on the wing for just a couple of weeks and could be with us until November or until the first frosts finish them off. The deep red colour is lovely. Common darter tends to be a duller red or yellow in colour. The ruddy darters tail tends to taper in and out also. Thanks to Giles Morris for his photo:

 

These of course a great food source for many birds - the hobby being perhaps the best know. There have been a couple of sightings this week, although I have failed to see one myself.

 Marsh harriers are perhaps the most obvious birds of prey, seen from the first platform (VP1) or the Avalon Hide generally, although the juveniles have fledged so these birds will start to disperse all over the local area now.

Another favourite for people to spot is of course, the bittern. Still getting several sightings each week - most common places being VP1, the Avalon Hide or Waltons (although these are the most watched areas too so they could be seen anywhere really. Always nice to see one though - the reserve was designed with them in mind after all. Thanks to Sandie Andrews who managed this bittern shot this week. You can see all its markings as she has caught the shot as it has banked round:

Another aerial shot this time showing the markings of a juvenile black headed gull - thanks to John Crispin for his photo:

A walk along the main path can still bring some extra rewards. Along with the "usual suspects" such as tits, finches, blackbirds and robins, look out for bullfinch, treecreeper and goldcrest all seen this week as well as song thrush, great spotted woodpecker and a few, very quiet now, warblers - willow warbler, blackcap and chiffchaff all around and also this whitethroat spotted by John Crispin. Thanks John: 

Also this week: still small groups of sand martins passing over including a group mixed with house martins on Wednesday, c40 Lapwing passing front of VP1 late last week, buzzards daily, ravens over most days including 3 together on Tuesday, barn owl seen hunting when weather is dry, tawny owls heard in the evenings, roe deer spotted by some children yesterday, noisy Iberian water frogs in Waltons, Loxtons and the car park pools. Also good to see some bumblebees passing through the flowers including this common carder bee photographed by Graham Wagner. Thanks Graham:

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

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