Spring migrants have begun to arrive en masse this week, with a notable increase in the variety and volume of birdsong. The most exciting returnee so far is the nightingale that was in full song close to the car park entrance yesterday. This used to be a favoured spot, but we haven't heard them from that location for several years. Let's hope it stays and finds a mate so that many of our visitors can hear their beautiful melodies, without having to stop on Westleton Heath.

Several blackcaps are now back in the woods, and sedge warblers are singing around the South Hide and Island Mere areas, at least. The first grasshopper warbler of the year was reeling near the sluice yesterday and a willow warbler was in the North Bushes. Neither have been particularly common in recent years. We've also had reports of the first whitethroats, and it's only a matter of time before reed warblers and lesser whitethroats start to arrive.

Other migrants seen this week include the first hobby of the year at Island Mere yesterday, two wheatears at North Hide, and a significant increase in sand martins, with up to 50 birds already starting to excavate their nest burrows. The first cuckoos have now been reported in Suffolk too. When will we hear one?

Sand martin by Davene Everett

Sandwich tern numbers have increased on the Scrape, and the first common tern arrived on Tuesday. Mediterranean gulls are also increasing, while other gulls that may be seen lurking among the black-headed gulls are common, herring and lesser black-backed gulls and kittiwakes.

Passage waders are starting to become more numerous too, with bar-tailed godwit, whimbrel, sanderling, ruff and little ringed plover all seen this week as well as the regular black-tailed godwits, dunlins and turnstones. There's also a lot of courtship behaviour from our avocets, lapwings, redshanks, oystercatchers and ringed plovers.

Redshanks by Clare Carter

A pair of garganey are still present, but are usually difficult to locate as they are masters at hiding in taller vegetation. There's also still several pintails on the Scrape alongside the regular wigeon, gadwall, teal, mallard, shoveler and increasing numbers of shelducks.

Bitterns continue to boom from within the reedbed, with one spending quite a bit of time feeding in front of Island Mere Hide on Monday. At least one great egret remains in the Island Mere area too. Marsh harriers are really easy to see at the moment, with lots of display and several males collecting nest material or food to take back to their mates. 

The lesser yellowlegs continues to be seen occasionally on the South Levels, but a telescope is really needed to pick it out. The glossy ibis also remains, commuting between the Levels, Konik Field and reedbed pools. Two spoonbills also flew over yesterday. The very obliging snow bunting in the dunes appears to have moved on, with the last sighting being on Monday. Similarly, there have been no reports of any black redstarts around the sand martin bank since Monday.

The warmer weather has attracted a few more insects out, with orange tip and holly blue butterflies starting to be seen, the first green tiger beetles hunting below the sand martin bank, dark-edged beeflies feeding around patches of ground ivy and primrose, and even a very early large red damselfly seen at the pond this morning!

Talking of the pond, our pond dipping team spent an hour yesterday watching a water shrew catching smooth newts then swimming under the platform to eat them. No wonder the pond dippers didn't catch so many newts! [A reminder that pond dipping is on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays until the end of next week. Online booking is recommended, with only spaces that haven't been booked by 9 am on the day being available to book on the day.]

Many visitors are also reporting sightings of adders, common lizards and even slow worms from various parts of the reserve, so it's definitely worth keep your eyes open as you walk around the reserve.

Lots of these species feature in our fabulous new booklet containing 75 species to spot at Minsmere during our 75th birthday year. Why not treat yourself and talk up the challenge. Booklets cost just £3.50 from reception