More so that at any other time year, late summer and early autumn is the time when the Scrape at Minsmere becomes the avian equivalent of Watford Gap Services or the Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport, with birds arriving, refuelling and departing again as migration continues apace. Some may be leaving these shores to spend the winter in warmer climes in Africa or around the Mediterranean. Others may be arriving to spend the winter here having bred farther north or east in the frozen Arctic landscapes of Greenland, Scandinavia or Siberia. Still more may simply be resting on their longer journeys from the Arctic to Africa.
With so many birds on the move, it's an exciting time for birdwatchers, as you never really know what to expect. However, with birds in a wide variety of plumages, including juveniles and adults in both winter and summer plumage, as well as all stages of intermediate moult, it can also be tricky to identify exactly what you are looking at. That's where our guides (and other birdwatchers in general) can come in helpful, so rather than struggling with an ID, why not ask someone else in the hide, or take a photo and ask back at reception. Better still, book a space on one of our guided walks.
The most numerous waders at the moment are Avocets, Black-tailed Godwits and Dunlins, but there are also double figure counts of Ruffs and Lapwings at the moment. Other waders present in smaller numbers include Green and Common Sandpipers, Spotted Redshanks, Redshanks, Greenshanks, Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers and Snipe. More excitingly, there are also upto six juvenile Curlew Sandpipers and a similar number of Little Stints. The latter is the UK's smallest wader, being about the same size as the Pied Wagtails that are often bobbing around with the waders.
It's not just waders on the Scrape either. Four larger species of wading bird might be seen too: Little Egret, Great Egret, Grey Heron and Spoonbill. Varying numbers of the latter have been present daily for several weeks now.
A few Common Terns remain among the mixed flocks of gulls, which usually include a few tiny Little Gulls. Ducks pose a real ID challenge in summer as they remain in their duller post-breeding moult plumage, known as eclipse plumage, but look carefully and you should spot Mallard, Gadwall, Teal, Shoveler and Shelduck, as well as a few Coots and Moorhens.
Most of the ducks can also be seen on Island Mere, along with Little and Great Crested Grebes and a few Tufted Ducks and Pochards. Kingfishers are becoming more regular at Island Mere and Bittern Hide, as well as around the Scrape, but Bearded Tits remain elusive.
Kingfisher by Steve Everett
Marsh Harriers are often feeding over nearby fields during the day, before returning to the reedbed in late afternoon. Hobbies should be seen over the reedbed, and a Peregrine has been spotted a few times over the Scrape. At least eight Common Buzzards were seen this morning, as well as two Ravens. The latter are becoming increasingly regular and they look likely to colonise the Suffolk coast soon.
The Scrape is the not the only proving to be an avian service station, with a good mix of warblers refuelling in the North Bushes. Mornings are best to look for them, with numbers and variety changing by the day, but look out for Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff. A couple of Whinchats and Wheatears have been in the dunes, too.
There have been several sightings of a Water Vole at the pond this week, and Common Lizards have been seen on Digger Alley and the East Hide Boardwalk. Insects continue to attract a lot attention, too, including a good variety of butterflies and dragonflies as well as many reports of the huge and very impressive Great Green Bush-cricket.
Great Green Bush-cricket
With so many birds on the move, will something rare arrive this week? Only time will tell.
Both of us saw a great green bush cricket when we visited yesterday, in two different locations. Mine was near the sluice and someone saw it clinging to my backside! Thankfully we got it off and got some photos.
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