Migration has continued apace this week, with the Scrape taking on a new identity as Sandpiper Central Station. First to arrive were up to six Curlew Sandpipers over the Bank Holiday weekend, joining the small flock of Dunlins and Ruffs. As the Curlew Sandpipers moved on, they were quickly replaced by a few Little Stints, only for another small group of Curlew Sandpipers to arrive today.
Yesterday, it was Common Sandpipers that stole the headlines. Whilst we've become used to watching two of three of these lovely waders bobbing along the muddy margins of the Scrape, the numbers seen yesterday were unusually high. It started with our guides reporting an impressive count of six, but when these were joined by an even larger flock arriving from the north, there were an incredible 22 Common Sandpipers on East Scrape alone. It's very unusual to see double-figure counts of this species. Most of them were juvenile birds, showing pale edges to the wing and tail feathers - as can clearly be seen in the photo below.
They weren't the only sandpipers seen this week, either. Two or three Green Sandpipers have been present on most days, and a Wood Sandpiper was on West Scrape for a few days.
Other waders are still on the move too, including Ringed, Little Ringed and Golden Plovers, Knot, Whimbrel, Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit and Spotted Redshank, while Snipe and increasing and there remain good numbers of Black-tailed Godwits, Lapwings and Avocets (photo below). Up to six Spoonbills remain; a Yellow Wagtail was seen today, and several Pied Wagtails are taking advantage of the soft mud on the Scrape.
It's not only waders on the Scrape, though. Flocks of moulting ducks include Shovelers, Gadwalls, Mallards and Teals, plus a few Wigeons and Shelducks, as well as Barnacle, Greylag and Canada Geese and Coots. A few Black-headed, Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls remain, and the last few Common Tern chicks have fledged this week. A Kingfisher has been regular, too
Our wardens will be busy cutting vegetation on West Scrape next week, ready for the arrival of diggers to undertake the final phase of the the Scrape Enhancement Project. Over the next couple of months, this will involve reprofiling the islands and banks on West Scrape, and excavating deeper hollows that will retain water for longer. Following similar work on East Scrape last autumn, that area has been very good for birds and birdwatchers this year, so when finished later in the autumn, the whole Scrape should be perfect for wildlife.
The seasonal North Bushes Trail opened this week, too, giving birdwatchers a great opportunity to spot migrant warblers and finches, especially in the morning. (Note: this trail will be closed on Thursdays to allow for our Bird Ringing Demonstrations to continue.) Birds seen here this week have included Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat (phot below by Steve Everett) , Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and various tits. More surprisingly, one of our volunteers spotted a late Nightingale there this morning, while our second Wryneck of the autumn has just been found in the dunes south of the Sluice.
Although Island Mere and Bittern Hide have not featured as heavily as usual in reports from our guides, there have still been daily sightings of Bitterns, Great Egrets, Marsh Harriers, Bearded Tits, Little and Great Crested Grebes, Pochard and Tufted Ducks.
A few lucky visitors have also spotted an Otter at Island Mere this week, while up to four Water Vole have proved to be very popular around the pond. The nearby Digger Alley has remained open for business this week, but today's rain may have brought a premature closure to the season. There are also still good numbers of butterflies and dragonflies around.
Finally, if you haven't done so yet, please be quick if you want to reserve a space on one of this year's Red Deer Safaris. A few spaces remain, especially midweek. Alternatively, why not book a guided walk for your next visit.
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