Much like London buses, hot on the heels of last week's report of a Purple Emperor, we've had several more sightings of this huge, impressive butterfly this week. Two were seen near Bittern Hide on Tuesday, then on Wednesday morning we were treated to incredible views as a stunning male flitted between the picnic tables outside the cafe, even landing on one of my colleagues! It went on to spend the morning resting under the cafe terrace canopy, before vanishing. What a treat.
Purple Emperor by Kirstie Last
Amazingly, the cafe team later spotted a Hummingbird Hawkmoth zipping around the Buddleia bushes, too.
In fact, any patch of flowering Bramble or Buddleia is worth checking for butterflies, with sightings including Painted Lady, Peacock, Red Admiral, White Admiral, Silver-washed Fritillary, Comma, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Grayling and Large White. Grassy areas are good places to look for Small, Essex and Large Skippers, Brown Argus and Small Heath, too.
Dragonflies are also very obvious, especially when the sun is out. This week I've seen my first Brown Hawker and Migrant Hawker of the year, as well as lots of Common and Ruddy Darters, Black-tailed Skimmer, Common Blue and Blue-tailed Damselflies. A visitor has also reported a scarce Red-veined Darter near the Sluice today.
Mid summer is typically not a good time to look for mammals, but one lucky visitor spotted an Otter from the North Wall Sluice today, and Stoats continue to be reported regularly.
The star birds this week continue to be the Spoonbills, with up to five present throughout on East Scrape. They are often very active: feeding, preening or even flying around and providing great views for visitors. They appear to be immature birds, probably in their second year, that have not bred this year so have dispersed away from breeding areas, probably in the Netherlands.
Spoonbill by David Naylor
The other highlights on the Scrape are the Little Gulls and various passage waders: Spotted Redshanks, Greenshanks, Green, Common and Wood Sandpipers, Ruffs, Little Ringed Plovers and 150+ Black-tailed Godwits. There are also good numbers of Avocets, Dunlins, Redshanks and Lapwings. An Arctic tern joined the Common Terns yesterday, and a few Little and Sandwich Terns remain.
Juvenile Common Tern fishing by David Naylor
Among the moulting ducks at Island Mere, look out for a Red-crested Pochard, a few Pochard and Tufted Ducks, plus several broods of Little and Great-crested Grebes. Bitterns, Great Egrets, Hobbies and Marsh Harriers are regularly seen too.
There has been great excitement amongst local birdwatchers this week, with the discovery of a Black-winged Kite in Norfolk, before it moved to Suffolk last night. The is only the second time that this beautiful bird of prey has been spotted in the UK, and has brought the crowds out. I presumably flew past (or round) Minsmere at some point yesterday, en route from Horsey to the Felixstowe area. Will it return, or head back to France or Spain? Will any other rare birds or insects be pushed north by the extreme weather around the Mediterranean? Only time will tell.
A Black-winged Kite photographed in France last year
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