There have been several interesting sightings this week, most with the common theme of starting with the letter O. O for owl, osprey, oriole and oooo.

First, on Monday afternoon one of our volunteer guides reported a tawny owl showing well in the woods between Bittern Hide and Island Mere. We all rushed down for a look and were soon rewarded with superb views of this nocturnal hunter that is rarely seen by day.

The tawny owl doing its best to hide - look carefully and you'll see it in the centre of the picture

Then on Tuesday morning, one of our wardens heard the distinctive song of a golden oriole in exactly the same area. Golden orioles are virtually extinct as breeding birds in the UK, having last nested successfully at RSPB Lakenheath Fen several years ago. They are now only passage migrants, occurring along east coast headlands in the spring and autumn. We don’t hear them every year at Minsmere, and they usually sing for just a few minutes before continuing their migration.

Unusually, this golden oriole stayed throughout Tuesday, singing intermittently between the visitor centre and Bittern Hide, and even being seen on several occasions. Better still, it remained on Wednesday morning, though became more elusive during the second day of its stay. I did glimpse it on Tuesday but didn't get a picture.

Also on Tuesday, and osprey was seen fishing over Island Mere during the afternoon. It probably roosted somewhere nearby as it was seen again first thing on Wednesday, before flying south and being reported over RSPB North Warren half an hour later.

The oooo is the sound that can be heard from visitors in East Hide who have enjoyed sightings of the first avocet chicks on the Scrape. Elsewhere on the Scrape you can see lots of broods of greylag, Canada and barnacle geese and a pair of bar-headed geese with chicks for at least the fourth year. The latter are escapees from a collection somewhere in western Europe, rather than migrants from China.

Avocet with chicks by Charles Cuthbert

Other species on the Scrape include about 50 little terns, several Sandwich terns, lots of common terns and kittiwakes, three or four Mediterranean gulls, hundreds of black-headed gulls with chicks, breeding lapwings, redshanks and oystercatchers and several species of duck. In addition a there are still a few waders pausing on their northward journey, including common sandpiper, sanderling, dunlin and turnstone.

Bitterns are regularly being seen flying over the reedbed. As our reedbed hides are often at capacity due to the limited numbers that can use them at the moment, I recommend looking for bitterns from the North Wall, around South Hide, or the boardwalk to Island Mere.

Marsh harriers and hobbies are also often seen feeding over the reedbed. The hobbies particularly favour the area around Bittern Hide, where they can be seen hunting dragonflies, damselflies and St Mark’s flies. They don’t seem to be paying too much attention to the hundreds of swifts and sand martins though.

Hobby at Bittern Hide

Various warblers are still singing around the reserve, and a few nightingales can still be heard on Westleton Heath, but they’ll be stopping singing very soon. Reed buntings are very vocal around the reedbed too.

Singing male reed bunting

Any botanists among you will also enjoy a visit to admire the bluebells and climbing corydalis in the woods, while sea kale is beginning to flower in the dunes and yellow flag in the reedbed. The first southern marsh orchids should be out within the next few weeks too.

Finally, we’re excited to announce that our guided walks are set to restart from Monday 7 June. There are at least five walks per week throughout the summer, including beginners walks for birds, plants and insects and hire a guide. You’ll find all details of our events, and links to the booking pages, at www.rspb.org.uk/minsmere.

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