Wow! Into August already - time really does fly. It won't be long before we begin the seasons reed cutting - starting with the area in front of the first viewing platform (VP1). Got a few teething problems with the machine to sort out first plus I'm likely to have around two weeks off over the school holidays too - so it might be slow progress to start with. 

It will certainly open the area back up again as we look to try and supress the reed regrowth in here to keep views open for longer. Last season 16 different species of wader were recorded in this section along with as many as 8 glossy Ibis - to repeat or even better this over the winter and into spring next year would be amazing. 

It will be no surprise to hear that the bird life is a little quieter during August although a little patience and a stroke of luck or just sheer persistence and determination can bring rewards.

Bittern flights are still being reported in from VP1 - one flew directly over it on Wednesday morning and there have been several other sightings both from here and over at the Avalon Hide (one was seen here preening out in the open for about 30 mins on Monday 1st)  and the second viewing platform (VP2). 

Marsh harriers too are still pretty active as parent birds continue to feed juveniles, although it may not be long before they explore the Avalon Marshes in more detail and then beyond. The post fledging perch they have been using in front of the Avalon Hide is being used less, so the behaviour is changing. They have also been seen from both viewing platforms pretty frequently too. Thanks to John Crispin for his shots taken this week. The first of a female (with noticeably few markings) and then the same female with 2 juveniles one of whom is clasping a prey item in its talons:

Other birds of prey you may see include the hobby - seen from VP1 this morning and from the Tor View Hide during the week, buzzards seen daily, tawny owls heard - sometimes during the day near the Avalon Hide and barn owls - at the moment most likely seen early or late in the day.

Plenty of insects (such as dragonflies) for hobbies to be chasing as well as other insect loving birds such as swift (2 seen from VP1 this morning) and swallow - several seen throughout the week, and often perched on wires at the car park. This would include the pair who are underway on their second brood - nesting in the wooden shelter at the car park. The seem pretty unfussed at any activity going on in this area but we are limiting time spent here until they fledge

Dragonflies recorded this week include: emperor, brown hawker, migrant hawker, southern hawker, ruddy darter and common darter (saw a newly emerged one this morning - my first of the season). 

Damselflies include: variable, blue tailed azure, common blue, banded demoiselle, red eyed damselfly and small red eyed damselfly. Also seen this week were a mating pair of white legged damselflies on the grassy footpath side of the main drain on Monday. Thanks to Sandie Andrews who has sent in some damselfly pictures this week:

Common blue damselfly

Azure damselfly (female)

Small red eyed damselfly - note the extra half segment of blue at the tail - this is absent in Red eyed damselflies (to help with your ID's)

Butterflies seem to be doing ok too, although I always wish for more of these splendid creatures. On the list so far this week: common blue, comma, red admiral, peacock, gatekeeper, meadow brown, green veined white, small white, large white, brimstone, speckled wood, small tortoiseshell and painted ladies (seen along the grassy footpath parallel to the main track.

Thanks to John Crispin for his shots of gatekeeper (wings closed) and then some small tortoiseshells on the hemp agrimony. He said at one point there were 9 on the same plant along with the gatekeeper - wonderful!

  

I've had a few encounters with insects myself this week but this was pretty cool. What I believe is a great green bush cricket was found by a visitor on the Welcome Building at the car park. We transferred it over to the grassland islands but couldn't resist a photo first:

These grow to around 7cm and feed on flies, caterpillars and other insect larvae and can live between 2 and 7 years. The stridate (sing) by rubbing their wings together unlike grasshoppers which rub their legs together. Also generally crickets have long antennae and grasshoppers short antennae - if you're looking to tell the difference. 

I'm assuming this is a brown bush cricket (although one should never assume anything). The photo's not great but it loos to have long antennae. It was taken the same day not far from the great green bush cricket:

Hoverflies are also out in abundance. I'm not great with ID's on these and I know for some you would need a microscope but here's one photographed by Sandie Andrews. We think it's a Volucella type but not sure which one. Thanks Sandie:

All these new things to learn should keep you entertained while you wait for the bird life to pick up a bit with the Autumn migration. 

There are still quite of our spring/summer migrants around if you look and listen hard enough. A willow warbler has been heard singing near VP1 this week although it was not a great rendition - perhaps a juvenile practicing or a very tired adult with one last hurrah! One was also spotted at VP2 during the week. 

A lesser whitethroat was seen at Loxtons (but from the main track) on Monday, whilst the common whitethroat at VP1 (in the brambles opposite) has been seen again (2 this morning) and photographed by John Crispin - thanks John: 

Reed warblers are still present - although I'm hearing far less chattering from them now and sedge warblers too are present including this one snapped by John Crispin during the week, thanks again to John:

Also this week: roe deer spotted from the Avalon Hide, another suspected sighting of muntjac opposite VP2 as it jumped in the long grass, grass snake seen swimming again at the Waltons screens, kingfisher seen from the old rail bridge on a couple of occasions this week, a jay spotted around the back of Waltons, 3 green woodpeckers perhaps in an altercation this morning from VP1 (2 flew one way and a third in the other direction), 2 garden warblers (most likely juveniles) were seen in the brambles opposite VP1 this morning, garganey spotted from the Avalon Hide this week, bullfinch & treecreeper both spotted along the main track, water rail & snipe seen from the Tor View Hide (reeds blocking views now cut back), 20 lapwing flew over VP1 this morning and both great crested grebe and little grebe seen around the Waltons section this week. 

Thanks to John Crispin for his shot of great crested grebe in flight - don't often see them flying - I often have to double take to check what I'm seeing. 

Lastly this shot of a song thrush from Sandie Andrews reminded of a strange knocking sound I heard down by the Waltons picnic benches on Monday. It turned out to be a song thrush trying to smash open a snail on the old green metal box which sits at the back of the area. Successful in the end. Thanks Sandie for you song thrush action shot:

Really lastly this time. I've been asked to pass on the following information, to give people advanced warning.

On Monday 22 August we are resurfacing the entire car park at Ham Wall.

 This means that the whole car park, toilets, Info Point and take-away refreshments will be closed and there will be no access to the car park or the Mini Marshes, so that we can all work safely with large machinery and we can ensure we have clear access to all the areas that need work.

 This resurfacing work is weather dependant so may need to be rescheduled depending on the forecast. We expect that the work should be completed in one day. If the work runs over or moves we will post updates here and on our social media feeds.

 Alternative parking is available at Natural England’s Shapwick Heath car park opposite. The nearest public toilets are at the Avalon Marshes Centre (BA6 9TT).

 Thank you for your understanding while the car park is closed so this work can be completed.

That's it for this week. Hope you enjoyed the read and the fabulous pictures contributed. Have a great weekend!

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