Summer is always an exciting time for insect lovers, with a great variety of butterflies, dragonflies, bees, wasps and other species on the wing. I saw my first silver-washed fritillaries of the year along the Woodland Trail yesterday and expect the white admirals and purple hairstreaks to be active very soon. Silver-washed fritillary is a relatively recent arrival at Minsmere, and one of the UK's largest and most spectacular butterflies. Ringlets and meadow browns are becoming more numerous in the grasslands, too, with the recent heatwave clearly encouraging the emergence of many butterflies.
Silver-washed fritillary by Peter Norfolk
There’s a good variety of dragonflies to spot, too, including Norfolk hawkers, emperors, black-tailed skimmers and various damselflies, as well as banded demoiselles along the New Cut.
Even more excitingly, Digger Alley is now open for business. I saw both green-eyed flower-bee and ornate-tailed wasp yesterday, and I’m sure that the bee-wolves and pantaloon bees will be emerging any day now.
Green-eyed flower-bee by Steve Everett
Some of the inhabitants of Digger Alley feature on a stunning range of Moorcroft Pottery that was launched at Minsmere this weekend to celebrate Minsmere's 75th anniversary, with avocets and marsh harriers also featuring. This range is produced in strictly limited quantities, and you can see more details on the Moorcroft website at www.moorcroft.com.
Bird-wise, there’s loads to see as well. At least two glossy ibises have been seen today and one or two great egrets remain. Bitterns are busy feeding young so are being seen regularly over the reedbed. The first marsh harrier chicks have begun to fledge, and hobbies continue to hunt dragonflies over the woodland edge.
Avocet chicks can be seen on South Scrape, where two roseate terns have again been seen today. The first returning spotted redshanks have been reported from West Scrape today, looking resplendent in their black breeding plumage – these are birds heading south again having already been to the Arctic, and are likely to be joined by ruffs and green sandpipers in the next few days.
Other highlights this week have included garganey, two very unseasonal goosanders, spoonbill, common crane, red kite, up to 70 Mediterranean gulls, plus some very vocal cuckoos. More typical species to look for include common and Sandwich terns, shovelers, shelducks and little egrets around the Scrape, great crested grebes, bearded tits and Cetti's warblers at Island Mere or nuthatches and green woodpeckers around the woods.
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