With strong easterly winds for the last few days, the sea has been impressive, with white-topped waves crashing against the beach and salt spray coating your lips as you stroll through the dunes.
In such conditions, it's perhaps no surprise that some of our volunteers and regular visitors have spent long hours staring out to sea this week. For some, they have been richly rewarded with sightings of several species of seabird that are rarely seen from the Suffolk coast. The undoubted highlight was a female Surf Scoter that whizzed passed yesterday. This was the first sighting of this North American duck at Minsmere. Almost as rare for Suffolk was a European Storm Petrel on Tuesday. Other notable seabirds this week included Leach's Storm Petrel, Manx Shearwater, Sooty Shearwater, Pomarine Skua, Long-tailed Skua and Eider.
While only a few lucky people were able to most of these seabirds, if you spent more than a few minutes looking out to sea this week then you still had a good chance of seeing flocks of Dark-bellied Brent Geese heading south, often accompanied by ducks such as Wigeon, Teal or Red-breasted Merganser. There were also sightings of Short-eared Owl and Merlin arriving from Scandinavia, and the first sizeable flocks of Starlings coming ashore, with a small murmuration seen midweek.
Short-eared Owl by Matt Parrott
Another scarce duck for Minsmere was found yesterday when two female Scaup were spotted among a small flock of Tufted Ducks and Pochards at Island Mere, though they could be difficult to pick out at distance. Other birds at Island Mere include Little Grebes, Grey Heron, Marsh Harriers and Bearded Tits, though the latter have been keeping their heads down in the wind.
Bearded Tit by David Naylor
On the Scrape, the main attractions are ducks, Little Egrets, Black-tailed Godwits and a few Avocets. The odd Dunlin, Ringed Plover or Bar-tailed Godwit has been seen during the week, and a Rock Pipit was an unusual visitor.
Last week's Shore Lark continued to give many visitors amazing views of its yellow-and-black face pattern until yesterday. It may still be present, but not many people have been looking in today's torrential rain.
Other migrants that have been seen this week include a few Bramblings, a beautiful Firecrest, several Lesser Redpolls and increasing numbers of Goldcrests, while a few Swallows and Sand Martins remain too.
Firecrest by Steve Everett
The Water Voles continued to show off at the pond until at least Wednesday, before rising water levels made them harder to find yesterday. Despite the wind and rain there are also still several Common Darter dragonflies and a few Red Admiral butterflies on the wing.
Finally, don't forget that you can still book onto some of guided walks this autumn. Please see https://events.rspb.org.uk/minsmere for details.
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