It's a great time of year to be out and about looking for wildlife of all kinds and there's plenty to see at Ham Wall at the moment. The spring migration has continued and we saw a big influx of hobby and swift this week with many people coming back from their visit and reporting multiple sightings over 10 or more and a few reporting well over 20. It took me until yesterday to see the briefest glimpse of my first hobby of the year (obviously working far too hard with my head down to notice most of the time) but it was fantastic to see, and hear, several swifts flying and screaming over Waltons. Thanks to Graham Wagner for his swift shot taken this week:
House martin and swallows too are still arriving and being spotted over the reserve along too.
Warblers are making themselves known too and all adding to the chorus of noise from the tree lines and reedbeds. Blackcap, chiffchaff, willow warbler and garden warbler (just a few) are all singing well. This garden warbler was photographed by John Crispin during the week. Thanks John:
Also a report of a lesser whitethroat close to the first viewing platform this week (VP1) but it's here that you usually catch up with the common whitethroat. It was using the bramble patch on the other side of the drain here on Wednesday for sure. At the same time we were listening to a cuckoo belting out his call. It was perched in one of the dead trees in the wood distant to the left of VP1. A second bird the flew directly in front of us while a third called from the back of Waltons. If you are out searching for them try these places or in the trees that surround Loxtons - then often perch here too.
In the reedbeds, reed warblers are chattering away loudly along with the odd sedge warbler. They were both heard again this week either side of the final stretch of path to the Avalon Hide if you fancy a game of spot the difference.
Whilst at the hide look out for marsh harriers. As always plenty of activity reported from here - nesting very likely as they have done most years recently. It's also been a good place to spot bitterns lately with several people reporting seeing birds in this area. Thanks to Pete Manley who sent in this picture of a bittern swimming in front of the hide this week:
Birds have also been reported in and around the Waltons area and a pair even seen mating from the Tor View Hide. Thanks to Miles Watt for sending in his picture of mating bitterns, one in flight and one stood on the edge of the reeds - thanks Miles a nice selection:
...and also thanks to John Crispin for his shot of a bittern (probably a female) flying over Waltons this week:
Other heron species are also showing well including the grey herons who are continuing to nest in the Waltons area - if you listen carefully you can sometimes hear the youngsters calling out. Great white egrets are being seen daily - either viewing platform or within the Waltons section. Thanks to John Crispin for his shots of birds carrying nesting material this week and of the red ringed bird (AAC on the ring) plus one perched in a tree:
Thanks also to Nigel Street for his shot taken during his visit to the reserve this week:
Other egrets trees now. This time cattle egret taken by John Crispin. Cattle egrets are being seen a fair bit locally in local fields etc during the day. At the moment we will not be giving out a lot of information regarding these birds as it's around this time they may start to nest and we want to give them as much protection as possible should they decide to do so and we want to keep any disturbance to a minimum:
Of course some birds are already well underway with nesting and many are already out with their broods including Canada goose, greylag goose and this mallard with her large brood. Thanks to Graham Wagner for his photo:
Also this cygnet hitching a ride with its parent taken by Pete Manley from the Avalon Hide yesterday - thanks Pete:
One very special youngster is our tawny owl chick in the nest cam box which is beamed back into the Welcome Building at the car park. It's growing well and showing a lot more now it's got bigger. I took this quick shot on my phone to share with you:
Another tawny owl was seen sitting outside the box in the wood by the Avalon Hide this week to and barn owl was spotted on Saturday (27th).
Other birds of prey spotted this week (besides those already mentioned) include buzzard, red kite seen over the car park on Monday and as many as 5 sparrowhawks seen on Tuesday.
With so many hungry mouths it's a good job the reserve is packed with insects, small mammals and amphibians. Iberian water frogs are now calling well during sunny spells in particular. If you hear an unfamiliar sound out around the ponds and reedbeds that could be what it is.
Hobbies will be enjoying the dragonflies and damselflies out on the wing. Hairy dragonflies are on the wing as per last week but also this week saw the emergence of the first 4 spotted chasers of the year. Most years sees tens of thousands of these around the Waltons section in particular. Here's what you're looking for:
In terms of damselflies: variable, large red and blue tailed have all been spotted this week. As for butterflies: brimstone, peacock, green veined white, speckled wood, holly blue and orange tip all recorded.
You may have noticed that on top of some of the nettles and other plants have some dead flies on them. Site Manager Steve Hughes took some photos and sent them to the Natural History Museum to find out what was going on. As suspected it is a parasitic fungus which affects several flies species in the UK : Entomophthora muscae It eats away at the flies insides and eventually forces the insect to climb to the top of plants where it dies and send spores of the fungus out to land on new hosts. Here's one of Steve's photos to show you what to look for:
Large mammals too are sometimes seen such as this roe deer spotted on the main path near VP1 and then later on the grass footpath and then settled down near the Avalon Hide. Thank you to Nigel Street and Graham Wagner for their lovely shots:
Roe deer - Nigel Street
Roe Deer - Nigel Street
Back on the water look out for grebes and ducks of all kinds. Ham Wall usually has a good selection. Little grebes can be heard calling frequently with their whinnying like call while great crested grebes are in some places sat on nests while others have been seen pair bonding and mating. Thanks again to Nigel Smith and John Crispin for their grebe shots taken this week:
Great crested grebe pair- Nigel Street
Duck species include: mallard, gadwall, tufted duck, shoveler and pochard. thanks to Nigel Street for this beautiful shot of a male pochard:
Keep an eye out too for garganey. 3 males have been spotted sitting on the raft in Loxtons (the one visible from the main track - not the screen) for several days now. Thanks to Graham Wagner for his photographic evidence:
Plenty of other birds passing through including the odd tern on a couple of days. Thanks to John Crispin for his shot - thought to be Arctic Tern this one:
But also look out for waders - a group of 10 Whimbrel passed through on Thursday (photographed) but also a few snipe being spotted from both platforms along with a single lapwing yesterday from VP1 along with a single redshank. Also from VP1 48 black tailed godwits spotted last weekend and a lone curlew in our Long Drove plot (south of Waltons) on Tuesday.
Also this week: green woodpecker seen on Tuesday, great spotted woodpecker seen daily, water rail seen from both Tor |View Hide & Avalon Hide this week, kingfishers seen from the old rail bridge, VP1, Waltons & the Avalon Hide,2 bullfinch seen along the main track, a potential sighting (heard) of nightingale today along the main path at Ham Wall past the bridge which leads to the Avalon Hide from the main path, mistle thrush from the car park on Monday and several song thrush calling as well as this one smashing snails along the boardwalk at Waltons:
Phew! I think I'd better leave it there for now. I'll just leave you with a nice atmospheric shot of the reserve taken by Nigel Street during his visit this week. Thank you Nigel.
That's it for this week. Have a great bank holiday weekend
thanks, RSPB Ham Wall, and great photos guys
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