Mid June is a relatively static time in the bird world, with most birds settled into the routine of rearing their chicks, so there tends to be little change from day to day in terms of what species are present. That's not to say that there is no change. Far from it, in fact. It may not be midsummer's day until next week, but we're already starting to see the first returning southbound waders on the Scrape.
The pick of these waders, for many, are Spotted Redshanks, especially whilst they are still in the their stunning black breeding plumage, offset by small silvery spots on the upperparts and deep red legs. These are likely to be females, heading south after laying their eggs and leaving the males in charge of rearing the young.
It's hard to know whether some of the other waders seen this week are still heading north, or already returning south. Ringed Plovers and Dunlins are perhaps most likely to be northbound, while Little Ringed Plovers are probably early returning birds, perhaps having failed to breed successfully on a Midlands gravel pit.
There may not be much change, but this is still a superb time to sit and watch the behaviour of many of our breeding birds, taking the opportunity to studying the intricacies of plumage as birds feed close to the hides, or compare similar species side by side, especially on calm sunny days like we're experiencing at the moment. (Can we please have some rain though to replenish water levels!)
I did just that this week, taking advantage of the superb light to grab some photos and short videos of the feeding Avocets and bathing Black-headed Gulls on the Scrape.
This stunning adult Mediterranean Gull was busy preening among it's Black-headed cousins, clearly showing how badly named the latter really are with their chocolate-brown heads compared to the former's lovely yet black head. The clean white wingtips stand out too.
A second year Mediterranean Gull was much less obvious, though, with its mottled head, black wingtips and brownish flight feathers. Note the slightly larger size, bright red bill and paler upperparts than Black-headed Gulls.
The most exciting news on the Scrape is that at least three pairs of tiny Little Terns are nesting, split between East and South Scrape - excuse the photo, but they are really are small.
Other highlights on the Scrape this week have included large numbers of Black-tailed Godwits, one or two Little Gulls, several Sandwich Terns and Kittiwakes, Little Egrets, an unusual summer record of Pintail, and two Egyptian Geese - this one being photobombed by a Shelduck.
Most of the ducks are now starting to moult into their drabber eclipse plumage, and can look quite tatty, but this pair of Shovelers were trying their best to look as neat and tidy as possible.
This is also a good time of year to spot young birds, which frequently confuse visitors as they are rarely illustrated in fieldguides. This lovely young Moorhen is a classic example.
It's also really exciting to see so many of our Avocets chicks growing and getting close to fledging. These three at Wildlife Lookout may need a caption - any suggestions?
The Bitterns are currently showing well, with regular flights above the reeds as the females head off to find food for growing youngsters before returning to the nests with a full crop. Similarly, Marsh Harriers are busy feeding young. In contrast, you really have to be in the right place at the right time if you want to see the Great Egrets or Purple Heron that remain in the reedbed. Several Hobbies remain around Island Mere, and busy Bearded Tits, Sedge and Reed Warblers and Reed Buntings can be seen flitting through the upper levels of the reed stems. It s not often that you get the chance to Cetti's warblers well, though, so I was pleased to be able to grab this shot yesterday. I only had time for one quick photo.
With so much birdlife still to see at Minsmere, it's easy to forget to keep your eyes to the ground, too, and thus to miss out on spotting the many colourful and varied flowers and insects on show during June. Here's just a selection of the flowers with a pink, yellow and white theme to look out for as you wander around.
Bird's-foot Trefoil (above), Grass Vetchling (pink) and Oxeye Daisy (white) along the North Wall
Sea Pea (pink, above), Yellow Horned-poppy and Sea Kale (white) in the dunes
Common Spotted Orchid (above) from the East Hide boardwalk, Yellow Flag around the reedbed and Elder (white) in scrubby areas.
Finally, on the theme of colour, in case you have missed the news, it has just been confirmed that Bee-eaters are nesting in Norfolk for the second year in a row - this is first time that they have ever returned to a site in the UK. For further details, including how to visit, please click here.
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