It's an exciting time to visit Minsmere as we have some unusual visitors that will be with us for the next six weeks.  Their names are Robin Robin, Flin & Flynn, Dink, Pip, Dad Mouse, Magpie and Cat, and they're the stars of the the brilliant new Aardman/Netflix film, Robin Robin. 

As well as watching the film, you can join in with Robin Robin's adventures here at Minsmere (and at many other RSPB reserves), until 10 January, by following our special Robin Robin trail. Discover your inner robin as you explore the trail, searching for Robin Robin and friends and taking part in a variety of robin-themed activities. The Robin Robin pack, including self-guided trail booklet and other robin-related goodies costs £3, and can be bought for £3 from the visitor centre.

One of Robin Robin's wild relatives has been causing us trouble in recent weeks, as if we leave a door open he (or she, it's impossible to tell) will quickly try to fly into the shop. You can hardly blame them - it's been cold and dreary outside today. Perhaps they are attracted by all the robins on our Christmas cards and calendars, or maybe it's the sacks of birdfood that are tempting it inside. Why not come along and stock up yourself.

When the robin isn't trying to come into the centre, it's often seen on the feeders, alongside the regular blue, great, coal and marsh tits, nuthatches, chaffinches and grey squirrels, or perhaps even a great spotted woodpecker. We also regularly see treecreepers close tot he visitor centre, so you don't need to walk far to see some exciting wildlife.

If you are suitably wrapped up against the elements, then there's loads of other wildlife to spot as you walk around the reserve. The Scrape, for example, looks superb in winter, with huge flocks of ducks in their finest plumage. In most of these species it's the males that sport the bright colours, with the females mostly being mottled brown as they need to remain camouflaged when nesting. This makes identifying the females a bit trickier, but luckily they are often associating with males of the same species. 

The males (drakes) are easier. Here's a few tips for identifying drakes. 

  • Gadwall - grey-brown with black under the tail and white wing patch
  • Teal (pictured below) - much smaller than the other species, grey with cream under the tail, green wing patch, speckled breast and orange and green head
  • Shoveler - large flattened bill, bottle-green head, white breast and chestnut flanks
  • Wigeon - chestnut with pinkish breast, cream forehead and small blue-grey bill
  • Pintail - elegant, slender, chocolate-brown head and neck with white stripe down side and elongated tail feathers
  • Mallard - the familiar duck of parks and rivers with bottle-green head, purplish breast, yellow bill 
  • Shelduck - mainly white with black and chestnut markings and red bill extending onto the forehead. This is also the exception to the rule, as females are also brightly coloured

As well as ducks, there several hundred lapwings (photo below), up to 80 black-tailed godwits, and a few dunlins, turnstones and snipe on the Scrape, with curlews usually coming to roost in late afternoon. Unusually for this time of year, we still have avocets, too, with a particularly notable flock of 22 seen today! There are also gulls - mostly great black-backed, herring and black-headed, but also including a few common, Caspian and yellow-legged gulls - barnacle, greylag and Canada geese, grey herons and little egrets.

Three whooper swans have been seen on the Scrape today, too, relocating form Island Mere. Several mute swans and more ducks are also at Island Mere, where other sightings include little grebe, cormorants, marsh harriers and water rails, plus the occasional kingfisher. Bearded tits and bitterns have been a bit less visible this week - or perhaps less regularly reported as we've had fewer visitors to spot them.

Of course, there are also many of the commoner species here, which are often overlooked by birdwatchers simply because they are so used to seeing them. This is a shame, as some are stunning, like these black and white birds that I photographed feeding in front of East Hide this week: magpie (one of my favourites) and pied wagtail

Finally, we've been getting lots of questions about starlings this week. Unfortunately, we only have a few roosting here at the moment, but it looks like they might still be gathering at Suffolk Wildlife Trust's Hen Reedbeds reserve, near Southwold. If/when they return to Minsmere, we'll publicise them on our Facebook and Twitter pages

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