Once again the draw of Minsmere virtually filled our coach and although there had been some light rain in the air before we left, by the time we hit the road the sun was shining and we were in high spirits.
On the way we passed the time by bird watching – magpie, starling, crow and farmyard hens being the main suspects, enjoying another trip around the car and lorry park at Tesco’s on the A12, and the highlight – Julies wildlife quiz. For those of you who missed it, or who want/need another go, check out our wildlife challenge – no cheating now! Nearing the reserve we were met by our first bird – a curlew on Whinhill.
On arrival at the reserve proper we were met by one of the wardens who arranged to hand out trail guides, recent bird sightings and our passes which was a very efficient way of getting us all ready for the off. As always, we quickly disappeared in various directions depending on our target for the day. Those trying for purple heron and spoonbill went off to Whinhill viewpoint, those wishing to concentrate on the scrapes moved off towards the first couple of hides and others wanted to sea watch and shot off for the beach. Some (rather sensibly given the strong breeze) decided that it was time for elevenses and stayed nearer to the cafe.
The usual birds were spotted on the scrapes with lots of black-headed gulls, lesser black-backed and the odd greater black-backed and common gull. There were also several pairs of mediterranean gull, but they did not appear to be on nests yet. We also saw, mute swan, greylag, canada and barnacle geese, shelduck, widgeon, gadwall, shoveler, pochard, and tufted duck. Over the reed beds some were lucky enough to see hobby, marsh harrier, bittern, red kite, and at least one person saw the purple heron. Sadly the spoonbill eluded us all, but has been seen yesterday and today.
For those of you who need a break from the ‘feathers’ at this stage we also managed to spot red admiral, speckled wood, Cream-spot tiger, garden tiger larva, rabbit, adder, water vole and a few lucky folk had great views of an otter from the Bittern Hide.
Moving towards the sea and more waders were seen with oystercatcher and avocet joined by ringed plover, lapwing, knot, dunlin, redshank, greenshank, and black-tailed godwit. Sandwich and common tern were taking over colonies on some of the islands, and several little terns were also spotted with there diagnostic white foreheads. Swift, house martin, swallow and sand martin were feeding over the scrapes, but we didn’t see any sand martin using the holes in the sandbank near the reserve centre this year. Down near the beach bearded tit were spotted diving low over the reeds in the breeze.
A few decided to try to see the dartford warbler, usually to be seen on Dunwich Heath. Although they are apparently back in the area it was far too windy to hear or see them but linnet were very obliging.
Those who walked the woodland trails saw wood pigeon, green and great spotted woodpecker, wren, dunnock, jay, magpie, jackdaw and crow. Blue and great tit were in the woodland and around the reserve centre along with robin, chaffinch, greenfinch and blackbird. Cetti’s warbler were calling near the bittern hide along with sedge and reed warbler. Blackcap and chiffchaff sang on and off all day, nightingale and garden warbler were also heard by a few lucky listeners.
Finally, for those of you who like a good story, yes we did see Fiona the Flamingo from Marwell Zoo!
The only other thing to await now is the result of the photographic competition [you will guess from the above that I will NOT be entering on this occasion!] get your best shots in to Malcolm by next weekend. All entries will be added to the gallery, and prizes will be awarded for the best.