We had another great weekend at Minsmere. Our staff and volunteers spoke to many visitors, helping them to spot our special species and make the visit more enjoyable. It was great to see so many families, especially on Saturday when the weather was superb. Sunday remained dull and dreary, with the forecast rain falling overnight, so we stayed dry till about 4.30 pm.
What were the highlights? For many it probably the emperor dragonfly emerging by the pond on Saturday. Sadly, it seemed to have damaged it's wing, and is unlikely to survive, although it was still there on Sunday. A four-spotted chaser was found emerging on Sunday. Loads of common blue, large red and blue-tailed damselflies were around the pond on Saturday, as were four-spotted chasers and hairy dragonflies.
Also at the pond, the pond dipping, mini-beast hunting and parachute games proved very popular with childrena nd families, as did the bird ringing demonstration. My 19 month old son, Thomas, loved the parachute games and got excited watching a great tit being ringed - until it pecked someone's fnger!
Dragonflies weren't the only insects flying over the weekend. I spotted a rather faded painted lady at the foot of Whin Hill on Sunday, and there were several black and red cinnabar moths on the wing.
For me, personally, a highlight was the cuckoo, which called regualrly all weekend. They've been really elusive all year, so it was great tot here them. House martins, too, have been late arriving, delayed by the northerly winds in early May. A flock of several hundred over Island Mere on Sunday morning were presumably newly arrived migrants.
Several visitors were lucky enough to spot bitterns flying, although you did have to be either patient or lucky. The purple heron was seen on Saturday, but remained hidden all day on Sunday. It's been seen again from Bittern Hide today (five minutes ago, for example). A spoonbill and a couple of little egrets remained on the Levels too, with the former occasionally flying over the reedbed. It, too, has been seen again today.
A red kite was reported on Saturday, and again yesterday, and an unseasonal peregrine was over the sand martin cliff on Sunday morning. Marsh harriers continued to perform very well.
At Island Mere, a pair of nesting great crested grebes were a highlight. Reed and sedge warblers and bearded tits were very actively feeding young both here and on the North wall, where a family of Cetti's warblers were also feeding young. The nuthatches brought their chick to the feeders outside the visitor centre on Sunday afternoon. The swallows are actively feeding young at the sluice. Avocet chicks are always popular, and several remain on the Scrape, along with loads of black-headed gull chicks, broods of mallards and shelducks and lots of goslings. And, of course, the konik pony foals reamin popular.
If you visited over the weeknd, I hope you had a good time and our guides were able to spot something notable for you. we certainly enjoyed meeting so many interesting visitors.
Red deer continue to allow visitors to approach quite closely around the car park entrance or in South Belt. This morning, a group of four were keeping a coach driver entertained while he waited for the school group to return!