Happy New Year everyone.

I hope that you have all had a happy, healthy and relaxing break over the Christmas and New Year period. I'm sure that many of you will, like birdwatchers across the globe, have totted up your final totals for your 2021 list, and eagerly started off a new list for 2022.

My personal list for 2021 ended on 207 species of bird, four of which I saw in the UK for the first time, and 2022 started off in style with a few days in the Cotswolds producing excellent sightings of some birds that I don't see so often in Suffolk: common crane, Bewick's swan, glossy ibis, red kite and grey wagtail, for example.

Today is my first day back at Minsmere post New Year, and this morning's task was to carry out the weekly health and safety checks of the hides and nature trails. Now, that might sound like a bit of a chore, but on a beautifully crisp, clear and frosty winter's morning, it was anything but. The health and safety checks involve checking that the benches, fences, window catches and hides are all in a safe and usable condition, and reporting any issues so that our fabulous volunteer teams can undertake any necessary repairs. If it's wet, this can, indeed, be a chore, but on a day like today it's a pleasure - and a great excuse to boost the year list.

My day started well as almost the first bird that I saw on our feeders was a marsh tit, followed seconds later by a coal tit. Two more for the year list. I never like taking photos of birds on the feeders, though, but was pleased to spot this coal tit in the woods later on. He was a bit reluctant to have his photo taken, but I was quite pleased with the peek-a-boo image that did get.

On entering North Hide, the first bird I spotted was a great egret (AKA great white egret), obligingly feeding alongside its smaller cousin, a little egret. This provided a perfect opportunity to compare the relative size, as well noting the different bill and leg colours.

As much of the Scrape was frozen, I quickly headed round to East Hide, where hundreds of ducks rested on the ice or dabbled in the small patches of open water - you can see mallard, teal and a single shoveler in this photo, but there were also wigeon, gadwall and shelducks, as well as a few dunlins and black-tailed godwits.

There was a bit more open water on South Scrape, which is brackish rather than freshwater. As well more ducks, dunlins and a few lapwings, the star birds here were about 14 avocets - a really good number for this time of year, especially when it's frosty.

Later, a group of college students were sitting in South Hide when a glossy ibis flew over. This exotic visitor is becoming more frequent in the UK and may soon follow the various egrets by starting to nest here. It is, however, still a special bird to see, and two of our guides were lucky enough to spot it flying towards Eastbridge later in the morning. I didn't see the ibis myself, but here's a picture of the one that I saw on New Year's Day in Gloucestershire. Even thought he photo was taken in the rain, you can clearly see the glossy plumage that gives it its name

With clear blue skies, the reserve was looking pretty spectacular, even if you weren't birdwatching. Here's the view from the Public Viewing Platform.

And, here's Leiston Abbey chapel, with two our popular koniks.

Returning down the track from the sluice, two photographers alerted me to a group of about a dozen bearded tits feeding close to the path. I enjoyed some superb views, but frustratingly they sat behind a screen of reeds, making photography more of a challenge. I was pleased to get a few half decent photos in the end, though I'm the two photographers who I was with will have done much better.

As I walked along this track I was also rewarded with a fabulous long flight by a bittern, before it dropped into the reeds behind South Hide. On reaching Wildlife Lookout, the great egret was again putting on a great show. At one point it was trying, and failing, to blend into the reeds like a bittern!

It was certainly busy feeding, though it seemed to be catching mostly very small food items - most likely aquatic invertebrates.

The view from Bittern Hide is always spectacular on a sunny day.

The bittern wasn't in view when I was in the hide, but has regularly been seen feeding in the pools in front of the hide in recent weeks. There was, however, a close marsh harrier resting in a low bush among the golden reeds. Up to 36 of these majestic birds of prey have been counted coming to roost in the reedbed in late afternoon.

At Island Mere, it was great to see seven whooper swans snoozing on the ice. Another small group have also been seen feeding fields near Westleton during the day and usually return to Island Mere to roost.

Other birds seen on the mere include two female goldeneyes, several goosanders (especailly around dawn and dusk), coots and little grebes, with snipe and water rail often seen in the cut reeds close to the hide.

Finally, although the low winter sun can be frustrating when looking south from the Island Mere Hide at midday, it does sometimes provide some interesting photo opportunities, as with this group of mute swans.

Happy birding everyone, and stay safe.