After my walk around the Scrape today, I think it's safe to say that autumn wader migration is well underway. There are waders galore scattered across the Scrape, dominated by some impressive counts of avocets. Earlier this week our site manager counted more than 400 avocets, and, even more excitingly, there are quite a few fledged young among them. It's been a few years since these graceful birds have fledged more than odd chick at Minsmere, so I was really pleased to see this one feeding close to South Hide, then flying across the Scrape with its parents.

The most numerous of the passage waders are the Icelandic black-tailed godwits, with a count of 175 of these long-billed, orange-breasted waders present today. It's certainly worth scanning through the godwits and avocets as you have a good chance of spotting a variety of other southbound waders. Many of these are still in their finest summer plumage, though the colours are beginning to fade as they start their post-breeding moult. Look out, in particular, for jet black spotted redshanks, pale, slender greenshanks, or the variably plumaged male ruffs, sporting a mix of white, chestnut or black headgear.

Left to right: black-tailed godwit, black-headed gull, spotted redshank, male ruff

There was a good passage of dunlins today, peaking at 52 birds, but I couldn't find the curlew sandpiper that was seen yesterday. One or two green and common sandpipers and turnstones are seen, too, as well as breeding redshanks, oystercatchers, lapwings and ringed plovers.

Up to 35 little terns have now settled on South Scrape where they are usually just in front of the hide. Common and Sandwich terns and kittiwakes are also present in good numbers, and we continue to have occasional reports of both Arctic and roseate terns among them. Six little gulls were present today, too, and there are also still one or two Mediterranean gulls among the black-headed gulls.

Sandwich tern

The long-legged theme continues in the reedbed where bitterns have been seen regularly throughout the week. Up t three great white egrets appear to have returned to the Levels, and several little egrets and grey herons are feeding on the Scrape.

Marsh harriers and hobbies are regular above the reedbed, with family parties of reed and sedge warblers and bearded tits seen flitting among the reeds.

When the sun shines, the woods are now full of butterflies, including several white admirals, purple hairstreaks and silver-washed fritillaries along the Woodland Trail. The latter is a particularly spectacular orange and black butterfly, and a relatively recent colonist at Minsmere. 

Dragonflies are numerous, too, but perhaps the biggest insect excitement is along Digger Alley where the first beewolves have finally emerged, joining the ornate-tailed bee-foxes, pantaloon bees, red-banded sand wasps, and green-eyed flower bees with their distinctive high-pitched buzz.

I also had fun watching this dune chafer bulldozing a hole into the sand

Finally, as you walk from the Sluice to Wildlife Lookout, don't forget to keep an eye open for the delicate pink flowers and soft leaves of marsh mallow.

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