Finally! I'm back at my desk on a Friday to bring you the blog after a 3 week break. Apologies for my absence - other work matters have taken a priority as we try to catch up with some of our reed cutting work after mechanical issues with our Softrak machine caused us some delays.
Thanks to Ali and Abbie who have filled in for a couple of weeks with news and a few sightings from the reserve. The spoonbills have moved off after at least a week on the reserve. I suspect that these are the 2 that were the ones from WWT Steart. High tides at that time could well have pushed them inland for a short time. The black winged stilt (juv) has also since left and there have certainly been fewer sightings of green sandpiper, ruff and other waders from the second viewing platform (VP2) area.
That doesn't mean that there is nothing to see of course. Lapwing and snipe are still evident from VP2. Thanks to John Crispin who captured these snipe in flight this week:
As Ali mentioned a couple of weeks ago we've had great success with our bearded tits this year with a high count of 288 birds on our survey. You can see them all over the north side of the reserve (less likely in Waltons & Loxtons on the south) and many people have been coming back delighted that they have seen small flocks. They tend to be a bit of a fair weather bird - you're far more likely to see them on still warm days - not been too many of those this week . In particular there have been several sightings of birds close to the Avalon Hide so perhaps that's a good place to head for.
While you're there (perhaps sheltering from the rain) look out for great white egrets and bitterns - several sightings of both here this week and little egrets too. Thanks to John Crispin for his shot of a little egret having a good shake of its feathers taken this week:
We've finally finished the reed cutting in front of the first viewing platform and we are now raising the water levels to produce a nice splashy area for loafing ducks and visiting waders. The great white egrets usually like to lurk here too. Just a warning though that there will be some works going on at both platforms for the next month or so. I've cut and pasted Abbie's news from last week's blog as a reminder, which you can read below:
"If you've visited the reserve in the last couple of days you might already know this news but we are very excited to announce that works to replace the two viewing platforms will begin on October 14th and should be completed by the end of November. These works have kindly been made possible by funding from Virador Credits.
During the time that the works are being undertaken there will be no access to either of the viewing platforms or the Blue Badge Spaces on the reserve. The Avalon Hide, Tor View Hide, screens and trails will remain open as usual. Blue badge parking will be available in the main car park as usual.
The image below is an artists depiction of now the new viewing platforms will look (don't worry the existing trees next to the platforms will remain in place). If you have any questions please contact the RSPB Ham Wall Office on email@example.com. "
Also a reminder about some upcoming roadworks you need to be aware of when trying to access the reserve:
Road Works in the Area:
There are a few road works happening near RSPB Ham Wall next week that might be useful to be aware of.
From the 14th – 18th October there will be no access to the reserve from Meare as the road is being closed by Bristol Water. Diversions will be in place and access will be via Ashcott only.
From the 4th – 8th November the road will be closed just outside the reserve entrance to complete the temporary repairs made there earlier this year. This means that there will be no access from Ashcott this time!
For more details visit: https://www.travelsomerset.co.uk/roadworks/
Until works start on the platforms I'm not sure how visible the areas in front of the platforms will be but you can still view them from the footpath on the other side of the drain where we have reduced the height of some of the vegetation to enable better views.
Great views of kingfisher from VP1 this week using the post and rails close to the first island but also seen around the Waltons trail. Thanks to John Crispin for his wonderful shot of a kingfisher after a successful fishing attempt:
From VP2 look out for growing numbers of wigeon and teal (winter is coming!!) and the usual scattering of great white egrets, little egrets, mallard, gadwall, shoveler and other wildfowl. Sunday also saw two Egyptian geese paying us a visit. Thanks to David Love who managed to get a shot of the pair of them and has sent it in for inclusion in the blog:
Any visit to Ham Wall obviously starts at the car park. It's always worth having a good scan around the car park on your. Monday saw a hobby flying over and there have also been reports of a firecrest, although I haven't manged to catch up with this one myself, but worth knowing that it could be around. Look out also for winter thrushes. Some redwing have already been seen locally and fieldfare could be about too. There are plenty of berries in the car park hedgerows for them to get stuck into.
Also the puddles formed by the rain have given blackbirds and a song thrush plenty of opportunities for bath time which I've witnessed on a few occasions this week. Look out also for flocks of goldfinch, house sparrow and long tailed tits.
Along the main path I've heard several treecreepers this week and there are good numbers of goldcrest and chiffchaff (pictured) too along with bullfinch, groups of linnet (8 seen together on Tuesday) and an increase in Jay activity as they busy themselves carrying acorns to their winter caches. Thanks to John Crispin for his shots of goldcrest, chiffchaff and shots of a busy Jay:
Despite the miserable weather for much of the week you can still see a few butterflies and dragonflies on the wing. Red Admiral and speckled wood perhaps the most abundant with the odd green veined white seen during the week. The ivy around the reserve provides a valuable late nectar source so worth looking at particularly if it's south facing and a bit sheltered (along the main path is a good spot before VP1). In terns of dragonflies we are left with migrant hawker (the larger ones you will see) and both common and ruddy darter. Thanks to David Love for his red admiral shot taken on Sunday with a wasp hovering nearby. I've also seen several hornets on the reserve this week. Thanks also to Giles Morris for his shots of Migrant Hawker and common darter sent to me recently:
Whilst writing about insects I should include these shots of a short-winged conehead cricket (hopefully we've ID'd this correctly) taken by volunteer Giles Morris a few weeks ago. I haven't done a blog for 3 weeks so haven't been able to use them. It's the behaviour which is interesting. It appears to be laying eggs in the piece of rope used to tie up a gate (I'm assuming this would normally be a stem of vegetation). Thanks to Giles for these great photos:
Also this week: a few swallows and house martins still passing through, one or two stonechats around (they often perch at the top of vegetation and flick their tail), a few skylark also passing overhead, ravens seen flying and calling over the reserve, 10 cattle egrets seen flying over the car park on Monday (there is a flock of around 60 locally), both great spotted and green woodpecker seen on the reserve this week, a sparrowhawk seen from VP1 on Tuesday, buzzards and marsh harriers (up to 4) seen daily, roe deer seen on a couple of occasions, a grass snake crossing the main track last weekend, a stoat also seen crossing the main path near VP1 on Sunday and a few reports of bittern - one of which was sat out in the open in Waltons on Tuesday and another flying over Waltons yesterday. Thanks to John Crispin for his bittern sighting in the form of this lovely photograph:
That's it for this week - thanks for reading. Have a great weekend!
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