I'm back folks, so it's time for a belated summary of sightings over the last three weeks. My predication of a major rarity arriving in my absence didn't come true, but it has certainly been an exciting time for migrants passing through Minsmere on route to warmer climes for the winter. But where to start?
Possibly the most unusual bird, in a Minsmere context, over the last three weeks was a Long-tailed Duck that spent a short time on the Scrape. This species is most likely to be seen in the UK feeding offshore in the winter months, though even then it is a rare bird at Minsmere. Most of the other ducks present at the moment are moulting, and having lost their brightest colours they can pose an identification headache, but clues such as size, wing markings and beak shape can help. Look out for Gadwall, Mallard, Teal and Shoveler on the Scrape and Island Mere, plus a few Shelducks on the Scrape. At Island Mere there are also a few Tufted Ducks, Pochards and both Little and Great Crested Grebes.
Little Grebe by Jon Evans
Until the last couple of days, much of the migration action has centred on waders and terns passing through the Scrape. A juvenile Arctic Tern and a Black Tern have been seen on and off for several days, alongside diminishing numbers of Sandwich and Common Terns - though a few of the latter are still feeding chicks so should be around for another few weeks. Look carefully among the terns and you might also spot a few Little Gulls.
Wader variety is at its peak in mid-late August, with East and South Scrape, in particular, proving popular with a great mix of species. Scarcer migrants seen over the last few weeks include Little Stint (six today), Curlew Sandpiper and Whimbrel. Among the more regular passage waders are Ruff, Dunlin, Knot, Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers, Bar- and Black-tailed Godwits, Spotted Redshank, Redshank, Greenshank, Green and Common Sandpipers, Turnstone and Snipe, while good numbers of Avocets and Lapwings remain too.
Little Stint by Steve Everett
West Scrape is a bit quieter because we're drying that out ready for the next stage of the Scrape Restoration Project, which is due to start next month. However, there are still several waders, ducks and herons feeding on the mud.
Large white birds have also proved popular over the last few weeks. Up to 12 Spoonbills have been a daily feature on East Scrape, at least three Great Egrets remain in the reedbed, and several Little Egrets can be seen around the reserve. Bitterns are more elusive at this time of year, but we do still guarantee that someone sees one every day - we just don't know where or when! Marsh Harriers are harder to see during the day, too, as many are out feeding around newly harvested fields, returning to roost in the reedbed each evening.
Among the smaller birds, there has been a noticeable increase in migrant warblers passing through this week, especially Whitethroats, Lesser Whitethroats and Willow Warblers around North Bushes. Among them have been a few more unusual sightings, including both Pied and Spotted Flycatchers and Redstarts, plus Whinchats and Wheatears in the dunes.
With so many migrants on the move, it was inevitable that something rarer might arrive, and yesterday the Waveney Bird Club ringing team struck lucky when a beautiful juvenile Wryneck flew into their net. This was the undoubted star of the ringing demo, but sadly hasn't been located since being ringed and released. Other highlights of yesterday's demo included two Nightingales (one having already been ringed elsewhere) and a Grasshopper Warbler. These demos will continue every Thursday throughout the autumn (weather permitting).
Wryneck, after being ringed
It's also been a great few weeks for insect watching with a superb variety of butterflies, dragonflies, bees, wasps and crickets spotted. Highlights include White Admiral, Silver-washed Fritillary, Grayling butterflies, Emperor Dragonflies, Great Green Bush-crickets, Beewolves and Pantaloon Bees - but that's just the tip of the iceberg!
Good to see you back, Ian. Some lovely birds around and how wonderful for the ringers to get a wryneck!
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