There has been a bit of a theme to our sightings this week, with big white birds with long legs dominating the news. First came the sighting of three spoonbills flying past Bittern Hide during yesterday's Birdwatching for Beginners guided walk. Now that's what I call starting with a bang.
While spoonbills are hardly unexpected visitors in April, it's still always a pleasant surprise to spot one, so multiple sightings such as this always prove popular. Today's big white bird, however, was far more unexpected and there was great excitement when our volunteer guide, Clare, called over the radio to say that a white stork had just flown past Island Mere! Mick confirmed the sightings from his position in East Hide, and reported that it was flying over Bittern Hide towards the visitor centre.
White storks are not often seen in the UK, and flying birds are usually circling high on a thermal, but with the chill easterly wind today this bird kept low as it cruised over the work centre then circled the car park a few times, giving those of lucky enough to see some incredible views. Our reception volunteer, Dene (who just happens to be married to Clare) even managed to get this fabulous photo.
White stork by Dene Carter
If you look carefully at this photo you might just see a green ring on the bird's left leg. This may hint at a slightly less than fully wild origin. There are, you see, several free-flying white storks around the UK that have originated from captive stock. In particular, there are some rehabilitated injured birds that are now free-flying. At least one of these is known to wear a green ring. However, given the wind direction is it also possible that this could be a continental bird, possibly from reintroduced populations in the Low Countries. Whatever its origins, it was a spectacular bird to see.
One group of visitors who were very pleased to see the stork were those families that were enjoying the first Waveney Bird Club ringing demonstration of the year, including my ten year old son and his grandad! The demo itself produced a great variety of birds, including long-tailed and marsh tits, chiffchaffs, treecreepers, goldfinches, the ever popular blue tits and robins, a pair of bullfinches and this stunning male firecrest.
Elsewhere on the reserve, perhaps the biggest highlight was the bittern that climbed the reed stems and posed at Island Mere for ten minutes this afternoon! Island Mere sightings also included three pairs of displaying great crested grebes, displaying marsh harriers, a jack snipe and common snipe and a couple of reports of an otter, while one or two swallows fed among the sand martin flock.
A drake goosander and two peregrines were seen on the South Levels, and a ruff was spotted on the Scrape. Otherwise, the Scrape was full of gulls (mainly black-headed with 100+ Mediterranean), avocets and ducks, plus a few Sandwich terns.
What will the rest of the week produce?
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