It's been a bit of a miserable week with plenty of rain and some high winds in for good measure too. It often means that wildlife tends to be less mobile but it also often gathers birds together in a few isolated places where there's a bit more shelter.
Despite the conditions this morning there were plenty of birds on show from the new first viewing platform (VP1). Lots of Lapwing to be seen - perhaps 200 and a few snipe hidden away too. There have been counts of over 50 around the reserve but often hide away with their excellent camouflage - apart from this one bird pictured below. It's a leucistic snipe. It's a condition where there is a partial loss of pigmentation causing white, pale or patchy skin, fur or feathers. Thanks to John Crispin for getting some shots of this interesting customer:
I've seen leucistic starlings in the past - the stick out like a sore thumb during a murmuration. Whilst on the subject, the starlings are continuing to use Ham Wall at the moment and are still in the Waltons and Loxtons sections. Last night apparently they dropped into the west side of Waltons but then drifted towards the east. By this morning many more came out of the west side of Loxtons so must have drifted further still. Anyway, these areas are all easily visible from the main path which is great and there have been some wonderful displays so far (also some days when they dropped straight in - not quite so fun but still impressive and well worth seeing.
Current estimates are around 200,000 birds - although we like to be conservative on this number rather than over exaggerate. Come and see for yourself and have a go at your own estimates. Sunset is currently around 4pm and we recommend arriving at least an hour beforehand to get in position. For a morning take off sunrise is around 8am but again arrive well before this to see and hear the birds waking up and then lifting off. The starling hotline will be updated as soon as the roost moves location (07866 554142).
Reports of peregrines chasing around the flock on most nights recently and on Sunday a barn owl out hunting too. Also a report of a merlin one evening and there's always a chance of a sparrowhawk too. The morning tends to be a good time to see the marsh harriers quartering over the reedbeds to pick up any dead birds that didn't make it through the night. This morning a very poorly looking starling was hopping up the Tor View Hide path, unable to fly. Birds such as this one are unlikely to make it through another night.
Also in the mornings check out the area in front of the second viewing platform (VP2). Greylags have been using this too roost each night and often take off in the morning and head south to feed in fields just off the reserve. Thanks to John Crispin for his shot of two of these birds:
Cattle egrets are also using the reserve as a roost site - distant from the old rail bridge up to around 90 counted this week. They can also be seen in local fields with cows out towards Mudgely and close to Westhay reserve during the day.
Before heading off to the reserve give yourself time to check around the car park areas too. Plenty of reports of firecrests this week (including today) from the tree line that runs parallel to the main path, from the wooden boardwalk that leads to Shapwick Heath and just across the road by the yew tree. Reports of at least 2 perhaps 3. Look out also for chiffchaffs - plenty around the rest of the reserve too. We also had some bullfinches calling in the hedge line at the car park this morning too.
Along the main path keep your eyes open for treecreeper, gangs of long tailed tits - always brighten my day and goldcrests. The latter two both photographed by our administrator Sandie Andrews - thanks Sandie:
As well as the lapwing & snipe at VP1 feast your eyes and ears on the selection of wildfowl using the area too. Mallard, gadwall, shoveler, tufted duck, teal and wigeon all there this morning but also nice close views of some of these from the Waltons screens (a bit more sheltered from the wind too). Also this morning a female marsh harrier was fighting though the winds to hunt and a great white egret was fishing out to one side.
Great white egrets are a common sight on Ham Wall now and a relatively easy spot. They (and many other species) also seem to enjoy using the newly cut areas of reed, so try those visible from all of our viewing structures such as the 2 viewing platforms, the Waltons screens, the Tor View Hide and the Avalon Hide. Some areas within Loxtons have also been cut and they have been seen using these too. This photo from John Crispin was taken at Loxtons this week showing an egret having a good preen. Thanks John:
Look out on the floating material left after cutting for water pipits too. Several sightings this week again including this morning. Pied wagtails also seem to enjoy using these areas for feeding.
Also this week: 3 raven flying over the reserve on Monday, kingfishers seen from the Avalon Hide and around the Waltons area, redpolls seen amongst the alder trees, kestrel seen from the Avalon Hide, 4 stock doves seen on Sunday, whooper swans seen over on Noah's lake again at Shapwick Heath, buzzards seen daily and great spotted woodpeckers seen frequently throughout the week - listen out for them tapping on trees searching for food. Thanks to John Crispin for his shot taken this week:
That's it for this week. Thanks for reading and have a great weekend.
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