With migration season continuing, we've had a variety of long-distance travellers passing through over the past week, but not all have arrived by air. One arrived by bike. Gary Prescott, AKA The Biking Birder, visited us for the weekend as part of his challenge to break the European record for the most species of bird seen in a calendar year without using any form of combustion engine.
Gary Prescott, AKA The Biking Birder (right), with me at East Hide
This is the fourth time that Gary has undertaken a similar challenge, but on his previous trips he used ferries to visit islands such as the Farnes, Shetland and Scilly. This time he is sticking rigidly to Green Birding, travelling only by foot or bike.
This year Gary is fundraising both for the RSPB and Acorns Children's Hospice in Birmingham. You can read more about his challenge and support his efforts at http://bikingbirder2016.blogspot.com/ or you can follow his journey via his Facebook page.
As well as the more expected species, we've had several sightings this week of birds that are more usually seen farther south in Europe. Star-billing must go the the incredible five glossy ibises that have now taken up residence around the Scrape, and seven great egrets in the reedbed. Surely both species are going to start nesting in Suffolk soon (or in the case in the ibis nesting successfully in the UK for the first time!).
Glossy ibis by Jon Evans
For exotic flamboyance, the flock of five bee-eaters that flew over on Sunday morning have to take top honours. Initially reported from RSPB North Warren, they were later seen over Sizewell village before briefly landing close to the North Wall - where one lucky visitor even managed to photograph them. Sadly they quickly continued their journey northwards and have not been reported since, although this was just one of several flocks in the UK (including elsewhere in Suffolk) that day, so some may still be lurking in the area.
Bee-eater by Matt Parrott (taken a couple of years ago)
Another bird that regularly overshoots on its northward migration and arrives in the UK each spring is the purple heron. One was seen in the reedbed on Thursday and Friday last week, though was typically elusive and only showed on a handful of occasions. Continuing the theme of colour, there were also reports of two red-rumped swallows flying south over Dunwich Heath NT on Friday - though sadly not seen here at Minsmere - and a golden oriole heard a couple of times on Saturday.
Other more typical passage migrants this week have included an osprey on Friday evening, several wheatears, and a couple of roaming common cranes, while Tuesday also saw the first notable arrival of painted lady butterflies this spring.
Of course, there are plenty of breeding birds to look out for too, with bitterns regularly seen flying over the reedbed, marsh harriers carrying out food-passes, and the first fledged bearded tits spotted along the North Wall. Several hobbies can be seen hawking damselflies and St Mark's flies along the woodland edge, and a grasshopper warbler is singing alongside reed, sedge and Cetti's warblers in North Marsh.
Hunting hobby by Steve Everett
On the Scrape, the nesting avocets, lapwings, redshanks, oystercatcher, common, Sandwich and little terns and black-headed and Mediterranean gulls are all easily spotted, while passage waders seen this week include curlew sandpiper, knot, sanderling, grey plover, bar-tailed godwit, whimbrel, greenshank, spotted redshank and common sandpiper.
Cuckoos and nightingales continue to sing around the reserve (though both will be going quiet very soon), while garden warblers, blackcaps, chiffchaffs, chaffinches, wrens, robins and blackbirds are singing around the woods. Nuthatches and great spotted woodpeckers are regular around the visitor centre feeders, too.
There's a much better variety of butterflies and dragonflies on the wing now, too. The former include small heath, brown argus, small copper, red admiral and orange tip, while the latter include hairy dragonfly, four-spotted chaser, azure, variable, blue-tailed and large red damselflies. One of my colleagues was also lucky enough to spot a stoat carrying her kit in her mouth yesterday.
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