As my last blog shows, even if our birds are not paying ball, there is still a good chance to spot something a bit more unusual on a walk around Minsmere, and the last two days have proved this, once again.
It certainly pays to look carefully in the long grass on the inland edge of the dunes, where several gorgeous wasp spiders (photo below) have emerged to hunt crickets. These large black, white and yellow striped spiders are well camouflaged in the grass, but if seen well then you can easily spot the distinctive thick zigzag pattern in the web, which is thought to help to stabilise the web.
Whilst looking for the wasp spiders, I disturbed several crickets, probably a mix of Roesel's bush-crickets, long-winged coneheads and dark bush-crickets, although I wasn't lucky enough to spot any of the enormous and aptly-named great green bush-crickets that have been spotted by some lucky visitors.
Today it was butterflies that caught the attention again when Phil and Derek, our volunteers who carry out weekly butterfly and dragonfly transect counts, glimpsed a purple emperor around the Whin Hill watchpoint. This is at least the fourth sighting this summer, albeit the first for almost two weeks. There have also been lots of sightings of purple hairstreaks around Canopy Hide and silver-washed fritillaries along the Woodland Trail or around the buddleias at the visitor centre, where another hummingbird hawkmoth was seen on Tuesday.
Our pond dippers have had great fun spotting some of the creatures under the water, too, including water stick-insects, water scorpions, smooth newts and diving beetle larvae - why not book a session for families. Pond dipping is on every Monday, Wednesday and Friday this month, and you can book at https://events.rspb.org.uk/browse?filter[schedule]=482 Our pond dippers even saw an adder and a grass snake at the pond on Wednesday!
We held our latest moth morning on Wednesday, and as well as a superb variety of moths, we found two huge great silver diving beetles and an adult antlion (photo below). This is a nocturnal insect that first colonised the UK in 1996 when it was found breeding here at Minsmere. You can easily spot the larval burrows outside the visitor centre, but we rarely see the adults, so if proved popular with those who were lucky enough to see it.
It's felt a bit more like Minsmere should be on the Scrape for the last two days, too, with an increase in the numbers of waders passing through. The highlight has been a curlew sandpiper still in its lovely brick-red summer plumage. Other waders include dunlin, knot, ringed and little ringed plovers, ruff, black-tailed godwit, whimbrel, spotted redshank, greenshank, common and green sandpipers, and a few very showy snipe at Wildlife Lookout (photo below).
There seem to be more avocets and black-headed gulls around again, too, with the latter joined by up to five little gulls. A nice bonus was the arrival of two little terns joining the common and Sandwich terns on South Scrape, too. Perhaps these were two of the birds from the very successful colony at Winterton on the Norfolk coast, where upto 700 young have fledged this year!
As well as the wasp spiders in the dunes, there are several linnets and stonechats (photo of male below) present, and the first wheatear of the autumn was seen this week.
Although bitterns aren't being seen as often as they have been, there are still several sightings every day from the reedbed hides. Up to three great egrets remain at Island Mere, and both little egret and grey heron are usually visible on the Scrape. Marsh harriers buzzards, sparrowhawks, hobbies and kestrels should all be visible from Bittern Hide and Island Mere, too, and a red kite was seen on Tuesday. It looks like it's been a good breeding season for great crested grebes, too, with at least 12 on Island Mere this afternoon.
Finally, returning to the theme of looking down, whilst looking at some lovely flowering water mint from the Island Mere boardwalk this afternoon I was pleased to spot an emerging flower spike of the rare round-leaved wintergreen. This flower was first seen at Minsmere almost 20 years ago having been absent from Suffolk for 100 years, so it's always good to confirm that it continues to grow here.
I'm going to be away for the next couple of weeks, so I'm sure something exciting will turn in my absence. I'm sure Matt will post a summary of sightings during that times, or you can see regular updates on our Facebook and Twitter pages
We spend 90% of net income on conservation, public education and advocacy
The RSPB is a member of BirdLife International. Find out more about the partnership
© The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a registered charity: England and Wales no. 207076, Scotland no. SC037654
Accepting all non-essential cookies helps us to personalise your experience
These cookies are required for basic web functions
Allow us to collect anonymised performance data
Allow us to personalise your experience