No, not an 80s pop group, simply a description of the Suffolk coast right now. Like many parts of the UK, we've been badly affected by the recent weather. As you may have seen from Wednesday's quick blog, parts of the reserve are flooded following the unprecedented rainfall of Storm Babet and yesterday's Storm Ciaran.
Minsmere might be a wetland, but in more than 20 years working at Minsmere (and 15 years visiting regularly before that) I don't think I have ever seen so much water on the reserve. So much, in fact, that not only is the Scrape flooded but so is the entire Sluice track. Even South Hide is several inches deep in water! As it is now impossible to see where the path ends and the deep ditches alongside it start, this section of path is closed - and is likely to remain so for several weeks.
Don't worry, though, there's still loads to see around the Scrape. There are no restrictions on access to North Hide or East Hide, and the Public Viewing Platform remains open for those who can manage a walk along the beach. It's also well worth extending your walk south along the dunes to just beyond the sluice to scan across the South Levels and Chapel Field.
Of course, with so much water around it's great for ducks - in theory, at least. In reality, most of the ducks on the Scrape are dabbling ducks that like to filter seeds or invertebrates from the shallows, so parts of the Scrape are a bit too deep. Some of these ducks are better seen in the shallower water around the edges, and on the Levels. The most numerous species are Teal, Mallard and Shoveler, with smaller numbers of Gadwall and Wigeon. More surprisingly, for the time of year, a juvenile Garganey is also lurking among the hordes of Teal. The deeper water is more attractive to diving ducks, and sightings this week have also included Tufted Ducks, Goldeneyes and Goosanders.
With few islands left on the Scrape, it's perhaps not a surprise that the last of the Avocets have moved off to the estuaries, and most waders have left the Scrape. Lots of Lapwings remain on the Levels, and Snipe can be seen around any wet grassy patches, while a few Curlews come to roost in the evenings. Other waders seen this week have mostly been around the Sluice outfall or migrating along the coast and have included Dunlin, Sanderling, Turnstone and the odd Oystercatcher.
Migrants seen flying along the beach today include single Lapland and Snow Buntings, five Twite and about 30 Lesser Redpolls, while offshore there have been Little Gulls, Red-breasted Mergansers and Dark-bellied Brent Geese.
Lots of shallow water on the Levels is also proving attractive to herons, with sightings this week including Grey Heron, Great Egret, Cattle Egret and Little Egret. Perhaps the most surprising birds on the Levels at the moment are two Black Terns - it's very rare to see this species as late as this.
Cattle Egret by Steve Everett
Small mammals and reptiles have been flooded out of their burrows, making for easier hunting for Kestrels, Marsh Harriers, a ringtail (female-type) Hen Harrier and at least two Short-eared Owls. Many of these are best seen over the reedbed and Levels. One of the owls has also been seen hunting around the North Wall at dusk, chasing the small flock of Starlings that are seen most evenings - only about 1000 so far!
Bearded Tits continue to be seen regularly around the reedbed, and Cetti's Warblers can usually be heard somewhere in the reeds. Stonechats, Meadow Pipits and a Dartford Warbler have all been regular in the dunes. Marsh and Coal Tits and a Nuthatch are regular around the feeders, and you might spot a Green or Great Spotted Woodpecker or Treecreeper in the woods. There's also still a few Common Darters and Peacock butterflies on the wing, and the Water Voles are still being seen, though less frequently, at the pond.
Bearded Tit by David Naylor
Important update. Wellingtons are now needed to access East Hide, as well as Island Mere. The Scrape is still viewable from North Hide, the dunes and Public Viewpoint. Eastbridge road remains flooded, as does the Sluice track
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