It's been a wonderfully sunny week on the reserve and good to see so many people out enjoying the weather and the wildlife. it's always a very interesting time of year with many new arrivals, a couple of hangers on from the winter and a whole host of birds already well into their breeding season.

In terms of new arrivals , confirmation that cuckoos are here, with several sightings over the last couple of days with birds seen around Waltons and Loxtons, including this one photographed by Graham Wagner - thanks Graham:

Definitely an iconic spring bird. Another one of my favourites has been arriving too over the last couple of days - the swift. Not been lucky enough to see one myself yet but am looking forward to seeing their acrobatic flights and screams of joy as they fly. Look out too for hobby - similar in shape to swifts and just as acrobatic. The first ones are being spotted and the big numbers are usually just a little later than this, often coinciding with the greater emergence of damselflies and the first dragonflies.

Small  umbers of swallow, house martin and sand martin are also being seen along with the noisy reed warblers which have had an obvious increase over the past week, given away by the increase of the incessant chattering in the reeds.

Plenty of blackcaps to listen too along the main path along with chiffchaff and good numbers of willow warblers with their descending calls. Thanks to Andy Collins for sending me in his willow warbler shots taken this week:

  

The main path is great for a dawn chorus if you fancy an early start, goldcrest, male and female bullfinch, blackbird robin, tits and finches and plenty of warblers to listen out for. Redpolls are still being seen - usually seen here in winter but rarely during breeding season. Another couple of winter visitors hanging on include both teal and wigeon which were seen form the first viewing platform (VP1) this morning. 

Whilst at VP1 look out for another warbler - the whitethroat. Nearly always present on the brambles opposite - often perching up and calling, offering great views.

Also from VP1 you'll get evidence of birds already well into breeding season with great crested grebes seen here with young. This sighting was a particularly pleasant surprise after what appeared to be the desertion of the nest on the 12th April (as mentioned in last weeks blog). Young were first seen on Sunday with 3 chicks spotted with the parents, although only 2 were seen yesterday. Thanks to John Crispin for his shots of adults and young and for his shot of 2 adults in flight also to Graham Wagner for his shot of a grebe catching a large fish in the Waltons section:

Not the only birds feeding youngsters of course. This song thrush has a beakful of tasty morsels for some youngsters somewhere. Thanks to John Crispin for the photo:

Look out around the reserve for other broods: Cormorants have a nest with 3 youngsters in a dead tree towards the far end of the reserve, moorhens with young in the car park pools seen on Monday, the tawny owl on the nest box cam in the car park Welcome Building is still there but eggs may have hatched as she appears to be behaving slightly differently - watch this space, grey herons continuing to nest and feed youngsters within the Waltons reedbeds, mallard broods also seen along with greylag goose (seen at Loxtons) and coot both photographed by Sandie Andrews - thanks Sandie:

Not all the youngsters seen are avian: how about this cute little fox cub (one of 2) seen around the Waltons trail again this week. Thanks to Graham Wagner who managed to get this great picture:

You don't necessarily have to have sightings of youngsters. The behaviour of adults can be a giveaway too like these great spotted woodpeckers with a rather public display of affection. thanks to Andrew Kirby for sending in these photos:

Bit too late to be shy now (thanks to Graham Wagner for this shot):

Two bitterns were seen in an open area of reedbed this morning too. Perhaps not in quite such a compromising position as the woodpeckers although they did sneak off into the reeds together. Several bittern flights have been seen over the past couple of days in particular. With a couple of birds seen in flight together as well as individual flights from VP1 (perhaps an early nest with a female making feeding flights?). Thanks to John Crispin for his bittern photograph taken this week on the reserve:

After last week's booming bittern count we amassed a total of 16 booming males on Ham Wall with 12 recorded on Shapwick Heath and 3 on Westhay, although staff were convinced of another 3 just prior to the survey - sometimes you can just miss some or they are just more quiet some mornings. My feeling is that the numbers throughout the marshes are a bit higher than this but we only had one crack at it this year due to the current circumstances. The number recorded is the minimum number that we are certain of, so likelihood is there are more but we don't want to inflate figures and be inaccurate. One was also recorded this week at RSPB West Sedgemoor.

Great white egrets are also very busy making feeding flights and feeding youngsters and we are aware of well over 30 nests active in the Avalon Marshes this season. Several flights over the car park this morning. 

Cattle egrets are also still being seen locally, often in the wider area away from reserves within fields of cattle but a group of around 40 did fly over the reserve and car park on Wednesday.

Look out too for little egret. We don't get many but they add to the heron family mix. Thanks to Andy Collins for his shots showing the wonderful plumes these birds have in breeding season:

Marsh harriers are busy too. Hard to tell from surveys exactly where they are in terms of breeding but there seems to be a lot of interaction between adults. Thanks to John Crispin and Graham Wagner for their marsh harrier photos. Note the displacement of wing feathers on the female. Not great for the bird maybe, but quite useful when surveying to identify individual birds. Generally distant from either viewing platform but Graham's picture was taken over the Waltons section this week:

In terms of butterflies, the warm week has seen a lot more activity with speckled wood, peacock, small tortoiseshell, small white, green veined white, holly blue (car park), brimstone and orange tip. Thanks to Jim Bishop who sent in his lovely orange tip photo to our Facebook page with permission to share in the blog:

Still not seen my first dragonfly yet (usually hairy dragonfly) but I'm still seeing a few large red damselflies and some newly emerged where I can't tell if it's large red or not. This large red came and settled by me as I ate my lunch by our workshop today. It's not up to the quality of my contributors but I just snapped it quickly on my phone to share with you:

Still quite a few roe deer being spotted around the reserve each day in ones and twos but a group of 9 or 10 still using the field to the north of the reserve frequently. Also this surprise, photographed by Andy Collins - a muntjac deer spotted in Loxtons whilst looking from Waltons. I'd heard there was perhaps one seen at Shapwick recently but this would seem to confirm their presence. Never seen one myself although I believe they are quite common in some places:

Also this week: buzzards daily, one or two grass snakes being spotted, raven flying high over the car park on Wednesday, a couple of barn owl sightings from VP1, a whinchat seen during a survey this morning, bearded tits heard around the reserve but unfortunately, as nearly always, not in public areas, lapwings seen displaying in a couple of areas including VP1 with a couple of snipe spotted here also and now just 2 black tailed godwits present after a mass exodus of the others on 21st: Thanks to John Crispin though for his photo:

Also kingfisher spotted from both VP1 and within Waltons. Plus another heading to a known nest site now in use for several years in an area of woodland - we believe nesting in an upturned tree root plate. Thanks to Graham Wagner for his kingfisher shot taken in Waltons this week:

I thought I'd leave these photos til last as it's usually quite an elusive bird. Thanks to John Crispin for his shots of a water rail taken this week. One in flight and the other on the ground. Great stuff:

One last thing to say is that we are aware of the injured Canada goose on the grassy track by the main drain. It has a badly injured foot/leg but even with one leg it's been giving everyone the run around (of sorts anyway) . It can fly and seems ok in the water but on land very obviously poorly. Secret World have tried at least 3 times without success but will most likely try again as our feeling is that its condition will deteriorate. We are having a lot of reports of it but the matter is being dealt with. 

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

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