Like many, I tend to be a bit of a creature of habitat. If I only have time for a quick lunchtime walk then I'm inclined to walk out to East Hide to have a quick over the Scrape, perhaps pausing in the North Bushes on route to look for warblers of insects.
I changed this routine slightly yesterday by returning from East Hide along the beach, rather than the boardwalk, and was duly rewarded with fabulous views of an enormous Great Green Bush-cricket that flew up from under my feet, settled briefly on the Marram Grass, then flew strongly along the beach.
Great Green Bush-cricket by Jon Evans
This is well-named insect. As well as being bright green, they are huge, measuring about 6 cm, and when they fly they look quite like a large dragonfly. Great Green Bush-crickets are quite common at Minsmere, and often seen along the dunes or other grassy areas in late summer, but this was the first one I've seen this year.
I changed my routine again today with a quick circuit of the Island Mere Trail. So quick, in fact, that I only had time for three or four minutes in each of Bittern Hide and Island Mere. That always feels completely wrong, as you really need to spend time in these two hides in order to spot our key reedbed species, so it was perhaps no surprise that I didn't see a Bittern, Kingfisher, Hobby or Marsh Harrier today.
However, there was a lot more to see, especially at Island Mere. Several Great Crested and Little Grebes remain on the mere, while the flocks of moulting ducks included Teal, Gadwall, Mallard and Wigeon. I was particularly excited to count seven Pochard among a group of 16 Tufted Ducks, as these are both large counts for Minsmere these days. A flotilla of eight Cormorants were actively fishing, with another four resting in their customary position on the wooden rail.
Cormorants at Island Mere. The white bellies identify these as young birds.
Better still, the reedbed seemed to be coming alive with the sounds of autumn: a squealing Water Rail lurking somewhere close to the hide, a Cetti's Warbler proclaiming its presence again after the summer moult, and several pinging Bearded Tits remaining frustratingly hidden below the tops of the reeds.
Bearded Tits are quite vocal right now along the North Wall, too: a reminder that family parties are getting ready to erupt and disperse elsewhere. You can often witness this behaviour on a calm autumn morning. Why not book onto a Reedbed Ramble to hopefully experience this for yourself.
The current hot, dry weather has encouraged many of our migrant waders to continue their journeys south, with numbers notably down over the few days. Several Dunlins remain, as do a few Avocets, Ruff, Green and Common Sandpipers, Ringed Plovers and Snipe, but the Little Stints, Curlew Sandpipers and Spotted Redshanks that were seen earlier in the week have gone. If we get a spell of easterly winds then I'm sure more waders will stop off during the month. The Spoonbills have moved on, too, but several Great Egrets, Little Egrets and Grey Herons remain.
Similarly, passerine migration has slowed a little this week, although there are still good numbers of Whitethroats, Lesser Whitethroats and Blackcaps in the North Bushes, and a couple of Whinchats in the dunes. Rarer migrants seen this week included a Wryneck near the Sluice for a couple of days, both Osprey and Honey-buzzard on Wednesday and a Great Skua offshore.
Many visitors have also found their walk delayed by up to four Water Voles that have regularly been seen at the pond, including one that shared its feeding platform with a Grass Snake yesterday! On Wednesday I also saw a tiny baby Adder, barely bigger than a pencil, crossing the steps to the cafe and had to watch until it slithered into the safety of a nearby hole.
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