OK, you might not be in for a surprise, but you'll certainly be rewarded with something special. Woodland walks in autumn are always special, and are guaranteed to bring the child out in all but a few people. After all, is there anything more enjoyable than walking through a deep litter of golden leaves, taking the chance to swing your boot, and giggling as the leaves tumble back down around you?
If you're really keen - and the knees allow - it's worth spending some foraging through the leaf litter in search of hidden minibeasts or fungi. You never know, you could even find a new species for the reserve if you were really lucky. I prefer to stand and watch as other creatures do the job much better than me. It's not unusual to see a cloud of leaves being thrown from the woodland floor as a blackbird or redwing searches for a tasty morsel hidden below: an earthworm, centipede, slug or beetle larva, for example. Others prefer to search for seeds, nuts or berries in the litter: jays and grey squirrels are busy collecting acorns or hazelnuts to cache for retrieval when the temperatures drop.
Birdwatching in woodland in winter requires a bit of patience - stand still and wait, and a busy feeding flock will soon come past. I was rewarded at lunchtime today with one large flock of tits that contained at least six goldcrests, and another nearby that included a treecreeper and many long-tailed tits. Nearby, a couple of jays screeched in annoyance at some unseen (by me) disturbance, while a whoosh of wings from the leaf litter alerted me to the presence of a woodcock as it exited stage left. The latter was one of several that were seen here today, having arrived from the continent - a clear sign of a drop in temperature.
Of course, there's an even easier way to watch our woodland birds, and that's to sit and watch the feeders at the visitor centre. We've been truly rewarded here this week, as alongside the regular tits and finches we've seen up to two nuthatches (below), two great spotted woodpeckers and regular passes from a hunting sparrowhawk. The latter's success rate is incredibly low!
Away from the woods, there's still a great variety of birds to be spotted around the Scrape. Highlights have included three Bewick's swans, several Caspian and yellow-legged gulls and a few goosanders, while the commoner species include greylag geese, wigeon, gadwall, teal, mallard, shoveler, pintail, shelduck, lapwing, herring and great black-backed gulls and cormorants.
Dartford warblers, stonechats and meadow pipits are regularly seen in the dunes, and bearded tits and Cetti's warblers are heard (and sometimes seen) in the reedbed. Several marsh harriers can seen quartering over the reedbed, where other birds of prey seen this week include sparrowhawk, kestrel, peregrine, buzzard and a ringtail hen harrier - the latter is an increasingly rare visitor at Minsmere. Both barn and short-eared owls have also been seen, as have little egrets, grey herons and bitterns.
You may have heard that EDF have recently launched a fifth stage of the public consultation over plans to develop Sizewell C, and that their plans are now with the planners. We're extremely concerned that the plans, as they currently stand, will have a serious impact on Minsmere's hydrology, as well as causing excessive noise and light pollution during the construction phase. Next Friday we're hosting a special live stream Love Minsmere event on both Facebook and Twitter to help us to fight the current proposals and ensure that there is no loss of wildlife or damage to our protected habitats due to this development. Please join us for this live stream at 10 am on Friday 27 November by following this link - https://bit.ly/38QUIBS.
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