This week is National Insect Week, and it's certainly been a great week for insect sightings at Minsmere, from butterflies to moths, bees to wasps, dragonflies to beetles.

First, the really exciting news is that Digger Alley is open for business. When I walked through on Tuesday I must have seen (and heard) at least 50 green-eyed flower-bees, their distinctive buzz filling the airwaves. As always, they were very mobile and dived straight into their burrows when landing, so I couldn't get great photos, but I'm sure Whistling Joe will be on the case soon.

I also saw one or two ornate-tailed sand wasps and a red-banded sand wasp (photo below), while a colleague spotted the first pantaloon bees yesterday.

Of course, for many the star attraction in Digger Alley are the beewolves. I only spotted a male this week, but there should be a lot more out in the next few days. You may already have seen this fabulous video of the beewolves on our Facebook or Twitter pages, but if not, then enjoy watching it to whet your appetite for more great photos and videos appearing in the next few weeks.

Minsmere's most impressive butterfly is probably the huge orange and black silver-washed fritillary. This is a relatively recent colonist, and until a few years ago we were lucky to see two or three a year, yet during this week's butterfly transect surveys our fabulous volunteers counted more than 25 of these gorgeous butterflies in a single day! Equally excitingly, they spotted the first white admirals of the season along the Woodland Trail.

Of course, there are many more butterflies to see this week, including red admiral, painted lady, comma, ringlet, meadow brown, three species of skipper, three species of white and small heath. The latter is best found around the short grassland on Whin Hill, where this one was hiding on Tuesday.

It's also been a good week for day-flying moths, including six-spot burnets, a couple of hummingbird hawkmoths, and another hawkmoth that behaves in a similar way and is often confused with it: a broad-bordered bee hawkmoth. This one was around the newly flowering buddleias close to the visitor centre on Tuesday morning.

Among the dragonflies, there are very good counts of Norfolk hawkers and four-spotted chasers, as well as several emperors, southern hawkers and black-tailed skimmers, and I finally saw my first broad-bodied chaser of the year yesterday. The various blue damselflies can all be seen in good numbers too, if you can work out the identification features to separate common blue, azure, variable, blue tailed and red-eyed damselflies!

As well as National Insect Week, we celebrated Suffolk Day on Tuesday, which was also the summer solstice. One of our volunteer guides, David Staff, produced this beautiful video of dawn at Minsmere to mark these two significant events.

Despite the concerning news that we've confirmed Bird Flu at Minsmere, there are still loads of birds to be seen. The three species that seem to have been affected are common and Sandwich terns and black-headed gulls, and though we've seen several corpses, all three are still breeding on the Scrape. Fortunately, we haven't seen any evidence yet of bird flu affecting the breeding avocets.

There have been several notable sightings alongside the breeding species on the Scrape this week, including up to five spotted redshanks resplendent in their black breeding plumage. This is always the first returning southbound wader, with the first birds invariably returning before midsummer day. Yes folks, "autumn" migration is underway, and more and more waders are expected to pass through Minsmere in July. The first green sandpipers were seen this week, too, while the odd dunlin and turnstone have presumably not even bothered going north to the Arctic. 

At least two glossy ibises remain, favouring the Konik Field, and several little egrets can be seen, including this very showy one right in front of Wildlife Lookout.

I had an interesting visit to Wildlife Lookout on Monday when, within just two minutes of entering the hide, I'd seen bearded tits, marsh harrier and a bittern flying over the Scrape. Apart from being a bonus to see all three star species in such a short space of time, I was watching the Scrape at the time, not the reedbed! All three species have showed well from the reedbed hides too, as have hobbies, reed buntings and the reedbed warblers, while at Island Mere you should spot great crested and little grebes and tufted ducks - and cormorants basking on the wooden crossbars!

Another highlight of midsummer for me is seeing the beautiful delicate pink flowers and soft furry leaves of marsh mallow lining the track to the sluice, so I was pleased to see the first blooms are already out.

Finally, returning to theme of insects, we shouldn't forget some of our commoner, more familiar species, and whilst photographing the marsh mallow flowers I spotted this lovely seven-spot ladybird lurking among the leaves.

What will you see at Minsmere this week? Have you seen any interesting insects in your gardens? Let me know your highlights.

Anonymous