Firstly an apology that there haven't been any sightings updates for three weeks, while I was enjoying a much needed family break and catching up on some admin on my return.
Of course, there have been plenty of sightings in that time, including a superb variety of birds, insects and plants.
I'll start with the rare visitors, although they have since all moved on. We were treated to not one, but two different species of North American waders as our second white-rumped sandpiper of the year and a pectoral sandpiper both joined the dunlins flock for about ten days. Soon after they departed, a lovely glossy ibis settled on West Scrape, where it was often hidden from view among the marestail. This scarce visitor from the Mediterranean was seen to fly off high to the east early this morning.
Not the best photo, but this was the glossy ibis as seen from North Hide yesterday
Glossy ibises are closely related to herons, of which a further five species have been seen this week: several grey herons and little egrets, regular bitterns, a great white egret and occasional flyover spoonbills.
The two North American waders have been just the pick a superb few weeks for migrant waders on the Scrape. As well as good numbers of avocets, black-tailed godwits, spotted redshanks, ruffs and dunlins, there are several green and common sandpipers, snipe, turnstones, ringed and little ringed plovers and knot, plus one or two curlew sandpipers, sanderlings, grey plovers, curlews and bar-tailed godwits. The first little stint of the autumn finally arrived today, and a wood sandpiper has also been seen a few times.
Green sandpiper, with teal for company
There is another wader to look for, too, but unlike the others this one is very seen around water. Instead, if you want to spot our shy stone-curlews, you need to look on dry, rabbit-grazed grasslands. To minimise disturbance we don't publicise the location of most breeding pairs, but we do currently have one pair that can be seen quite easily from one particular spot on our trails. Please ask at reception for details where to look.
As well as the waders and herons, there are also several gulls, terns and ducks still feeding on the Scrape, including little, common and Sandwich terns, little gulls and at least one juvenile garganey.
Please note that our wardens and volunteers have now started their annual habitat management work on the Scrape. This involves cutting and burning vegetation on the banks and islands to improve views and prepare the islands for next spring's breeding season. This work is usually restricted to one part of the Scrape at a time, with the birds simply moving to the other sections, where you can get great views from the hides. The best views are usually from East and South Hides and the Public Viewpoint.
Away from the Scrape, lots of visitors are still seeing bitterns, bearded tits, reed and sedge warblers, marsh harriers and hobbies around the reedbed, although our otters remain very elusive this year. A spotted flycatcher has been seen in North Bushes today, and we are anticipating the arrival of the first wheatears, whinchats and redstarts pausing on the migration south.
The first willow emerald damselflies can now be seen around the pond and close to the Wildlife Lookout, a red-veined darter was spotted earlier in the week, and there are lots of common and ruddy darters and migrant, southern and brown hawkers on the wing. Among the butterflies, the more notable species include silver-washed fritillaries on the Woodland Trail, clouded yellow in the dunes, and several common blues and graylings around the reserve.
As well as the usual exciting action around Digger Alley, other notable invertebrates to look for include wasp spiders in the dunes, great green bush-crickets along the North Wall and a hummingbird hawkmoth that was spotted around the buddleias close to the visitor centre today.
A female wasp spider, showing the typical black, yellow and white striped pattern
Finally, don't forget to check out some of our plants too. Marsh mallow is still flowering on the Scrape and along the Sluice Trail, and scarce marsh sow-thistle towers above the reedbeds. Perhaps the most exciting flower to look for at the moment is common bladderwort. This aquatic plant can be seen in the pool in front of North Hide, where its yellow flowers sit close to the water. It's below ground that the real action takes place though, as this is a carnivorous plant, catching aquatic insects in small sacs, or bladders, just below the water surface.
Bladderwort flowers by Charles Cuthbert
Good to see you back, Ian. I hope you had a wonderful time with your family!
To be honest, when no blog appears I generally assume you're on holiday .......... and you certainly shouldn't have to apologise for the lack of updates. It's not your fault.
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