After some lovely sunny weather recently, we've finally had some welcome rain this week. Perhaps not so welcome for those who have been visiting the reserve, but certainly welcome for our wetland wardens (though even more rain would be welcome), and for gardeners, because April was an incredibly dry month on the Suffolk coast. It looks like we have a few more dry days in store for now, though.

Despite the gloomy weather, there was great excitement yesterday with the discovery of four glossy ibises together on West Scrape. I've mentioned glossy ibis quite a lot recently, as we've had one long-staying bird that has been joined on occasion by a second, but four is the largest ever count at Minsmere.

It may not be the best photo, but you can at least see all four glossy ibises together!

Until a few years ago, glossy ibis was a major rarity in the UK, and news of just one would have sent the twitchers rushing to see it. However, like the various herons and egrets that have begun to colonise the UK, glossy ibises are becoming much more frequent visitors, and there have been several flocks spotted around the UK this winter and spring. In fact, it would not be a surprise if they decide to start nesting somewhere in the UK in the next couple of years.

The photo above doesn't really do them any justice, as they just look like large black curlews. and certainly don't look very glossy. However, if you are able to get a good look at a glossy ibis you will realise that they are, in fact, beautiful birds with a green, purple and bronze gloss to the black plumage, as can be seen in the photo below that I took in Gloucestershire durng the winter. 

The glossy ibises aren't the only tall, long-legged birds that have caused excitement this week. Lots of visitors have been lucky enough to spot two common cranes flying over on several days - these will be roaming birds from the growing populations in the Fens and Broads. Equally exciting has been the spoonbill that graced us with it's presence both yesterday and Tuesday, though I haven't been able to spot this bizarre-looking bird yet this month. It spent some time on East Scrape yesterday.

Spoonbill by David Fairhurst

At least one great egret remains in the Island Mere area, and both little egret and grey heron have been easier to spot than they sometimes are this week. Bitterns continue to boom, with several courtship flights reported still. News has also come in today that a purple heron has been around the Island Mere area since last night to complete an excellent week for watching herons.

It's been a good week for wader sightings on the Scrape too. Highlights have included greenshanks, spotted redshanks, common sandpipers and ruffs, plus a lovely breeding plumage knot. A few bar-tailed godwits continue to pass through, providing a good comparison with the regular black-tailed godwits. The avocets, lapwings, redshanks and oystercatchers are all displaying around the Scrape, hurriedly chasing away any passing crow or lesser black-backed gull.

One of these big gulls ran the gauntlet on Tuesday as it dived onto an island looking for a tasty black-headed gull egg, only to be driven away by an agitated flock of protective prospective parents. Exit lesser black-backed stage left, hotly pursued by black-headed gulls and avocets!  There are still good numbers of common gulls passing through, and there's been a notable increase in Mediterranean gulls this week, too,

Common tern numbers have increased significantly, too, although Sandwich terns have begun to disperse. The peak little tern count so far has been eight, but we expect more to arrive this week. The other notable bird on the scrape this week was a blue-headed wagtail - the continental race of yellow wagtail - but this didn't stay long.

Perhaps the most significant arrivals this week were the swifts, which returned en masse to many Suffolk towns and villages, as well as to Minsmere, on Tuesday. It was a joy to watch a party wheeling over the reedbed in pursuit of insects, jostling for air space with sand martins, black-headed gulls and hobbies.

Hobby by Allan King

Two nightingales continue to sing near the entrance to the car park, often alongside an equally melodic garden warbler. The latter can be tricky to tell apart from blackcaps by song, and with the leaf cover thickening rapidly it's getting increasingly difficult to spot the hidden songster! Similarly, in the reedbed many people struggle to separate reed warbler from sedge warbler by song (think reluctant reed and spirited sedge), although at least the sedge warblers will often sing in flight too, helping you to clinch the ID - reed warblers don't do this. Listen out, too, for whitethroats and lesser whitethroats in scrubby areas, cuckoos almost anywhere, and perhaps a tawny owl that has been disturbed from its roost by protective tits or finches trying to chase away a potential predator.

It's also great to see a good variety fo butterflies and dragonflies flitting around the reserve now - a real sign that summer is almost here!

Finally, the first nightjars have returned to the heath, so why not book onto one of nightjar guided walks next month to listen to their incredible mechanical song. Alternatively, you could join me in the early hours of Saturday 21 May as we open the moth traps at Minsmere for the first moth morning of the year, or join one of many other guided walks throughout the year.

Anonymous