Mid winter tends to be a time of predictability in terms of sightings, so it was a bit of a surprise when a rare visitor from North America was discovered on Sunday. The bird in question is a lesser yellowlegs, and it's the first one seen at Minsmere since 2008. It hasn't been easy to see as it spends most of its time feeding amongst hundreds of ducks, gulls and lapwings on the South Levels, so is usually quite distant. Some lucky visitors have seen at much closer quarters, however, as it does also visit the closer pool known as Lucky Pool.

Only a handful of lesser yellowlegs will be seen in the UK each year, and they usually arrive between July and October when they should be migrating between north and South America but get caught up in strong easterly airflows. Winter records are not unknown, however, and probably relate to birds that crossed the Atlantic previously and are now migrating through Europe with similar species such as redshanks.

Lesser yellowlegs (photo by allaboutbirds.org)

In fact, it is really the North American equivalent of a redshank, to which it is closely related. In comparison, the lesser yellowlegs is slimmer, paler, and has bright yellow (rather than orange-red) legs.

Redshank by Steve Everett

The lesser yellowlegs is still present today and is often feeding with a redshank, giving a good chance to compare them. Other waders to look for at the moment are black-tailed godwits, dunlins and a few avocets on the Scrape, turnstones on the sluice outfall and snipe at Island Mere.

Other highlights this week have included a great egret on the Scrape (usually close to a little egret), several goosanders at Island Mere, whooper swans on either Island Mere or South Scrape, displaying marsh harriers and buzzards, drumming great spotted woodpeckers, large flocks of siskins and regular sightings of bitterns.

For most visitors though, the bearded tits have been the stars of the show, with up to 20 feeding close to the path between South Hide and Sluice.

Bearded tit by Jon Evans

Finally, please note that our contractors will be starting work on the expansion of East Hide on Monday 31 January. This will mean that the hide will be closed for up to three weeks whilst the extension is added. During this time, East Scrape will still be viewable from the dunes, Public Viewing Platform and North Hide. This is the first phase of a programme of developments to improve accessibility at Minsmere, which will include a new fully accessible path to East Hide that will be built during the autumn (when the breeding season has finished).