Fed up because it's raining outside? Why not browse the new RSPB Minsmere flickr site, join, and add some photos of your own. Only photos taken on the reserve please!
First, a huge thank you to all you love people who regularly read my ramblings via the Minsmere blog. I hope you all enjoy hearing updates from Minsmere. I'm sure some of you are regulars, while the rest just have to make do with dreaming about your next visit.
Second, please tell us how much you like Minsmere - or don't, though I hope not many of you fit into the latter category. You can let us know your thoughts by commenting on my blogs, or starting or commenting on a forum thread on these community pages. Or you can add you photos of the reserve to the Minsmere gallery.
There other ways to keep in touch and spread the word about Minsmere too. Did you know that we now have an active presence on Facebook and Twitter. Most of our Facebook updates are written by members of our wardening team, and it's always great to hear that you like these. I try to update our Twitter pages regularly and it's always great to hear from visitors. We even have people who tweet (for the uninitiated, that's the technichal term for each entry on Twitter) from the reserve during their visit.
There's a new way to share you thoughts and pictures with us too. We now have our own Minsmere Flickr site where you can post all those superb photos you take at Minsmere.
Island Mere reedbed in low sun by Ian Barthorpe
Of course, while all these are great ways to keep in touch with Minsmere news, the best way to spread the word about what a great palce Minsmere is is to tell your friends. Don't just tell them about the birds. Remember there's much to be seen than that - butterflies, dragonflies, flowers, red deer, otters - whatever floats your boat. And, of course, the excellent food in the tearoom and great service in the shop.
Talking of the shop, we have 20% off all 12.75 kg sacks of birdfood until 8 March. That's another great reason to visit.
What of the birds? Not much news so far today due to wet weather, but the great white egret, five redhead smew and 10 snow buntings were still present yesterday, and I saw six water pipits at RSPB North Warren this morning.
Finally, I will be away from Minsmere until 3 March, so there may a gap between updates here - another reason to try Facebook or Twitter for news.
White seems to be the theme for this week's best birds.
Highlight so far is the great white egret that was spotted from Bittern Hide on Tuesday. It was a couple of times within the reedbed yesterday (including once in the same pool as a little egret), and was on the Levels this morning. I'm guessing this is the bird that has been at RSPB North Warren and Thorpeness for several weeks, but as great whites are known to wander widely it could be a different bird. Typically, it looks to be a tricky brd to see, popping up in various pools, but hopefully it will choose to settle somewhere visible soon.
Only a little easier to predict where you'll see it is the drake smew. It was just in front of Island Mere at lunchtime yesterday, showing really well, along with two redheads. Two more redheads were at the back of the mere, with another (or one of the same?) on South Scrape int he morning. No word yet today though. Up to eight smews continue to roam around Minsmere's pools.
Smew by Jon Evans (drake above, redhead below)
Two whooper swans were on Island Mere again yesterday - they seem quite settled now. At least 62 Bewick's swans came to roost on Monday - we haven't looked since. I also had great views of three mute swans at Bittern Hide.
Continuing the white theme, an adult Mediterranean gull - complete with gleaming white wingtips - was on East Scrape yesterday, an adult Caspian gull was there today, and ten gorgeous snow buntings flitted along the dunes like huge snow flakes this morning. Oh, and of course there's the snowdrops dancing merrily in the breeze around the car park entrance and near Scotts Hall.
Of course, not everything is white at the moment. Marsh harriers continue to show well and are starting to bring in nest material. A subadult male hen harrier was seen over the weekend. A lovely full summer plumage great crested grebe has returned to Island Mere - spring must be on its way - alongside a female goldeneye and several pochards and tufted ducks. Bitterns are seen most days, and a kingfisher has been regular at Bittern Hide. Buzzards have been regular over Island Mere. On the Scrape, look out for black-tailed godwits, dunlins, grey plovers and turnstones, while good numbers of ducks remain.
Finally, up to three firecrests are heading to roost like clockwork each evening. They flit along the hedge behind the volunteers chalet between 4.30 and 4.50 pm each evening. If you ask at reception, we can help you to find them.
Paul and I met a lovely group of folk today for a guided walk to celebrate the 40th birthday of one of the group. Mostly up from London for the weekend, and staying in nearby Walberswick, they joined us mid morning to discover Minsmere for the first time.
Paul took a group of mainly adults for an enjoyable birdwatching walk around the Scrape, finishing at Bittern Hide, while I took the younger children and a few parents to West and Bittern Hides.
The walks were obviously very different, with my group focussing on completing the children's Bird Bingo sheets. With a bit of effort we acheived a full house - thanks to the last few hawthorn berries close to Bittern Hide, a couple of flowers on a rather whispy gorse bush and scuttling centipedes and wood lice under a fallen log.
Inevitably, our birding was more limited, with highlights including black-tailed godwit, teal, good numbers of lapwings, singing Cetti's warbler, and a few marsh harriers. Good views of the koniks were a bonus. They seemed to enjoy it though, and the cakes, tea and coffee to finish went down well.
Paul's group spent more time learning about the reserve management and spotting a good range of wildlife. A couple of redhead smews on South Scrape were the highlights around the Scrape, but Bittern Hide really came up trumps. Both bittern and kingfisher were seen. The former was a long overdue first for another birdwatcher I had spoken to earlier, who had failed to see one in many visits over the last three years! A goldcrest was another bonus for Paul's group.
Kingfisher by Jon Evans
Elsewhere today, John Grant spotted a woodcock flying in off the sea - is return migration starting already? He also had a yellow-legged gull ont he Scrape - if you want to find our scarcer/trickier gulls such as Caspian or yellow-legged, John is the person to speak to. Yesterday, he found three Egyptian geese and a Mediterranean gull on the Levels too.
With gorse and snowdrops now in flower, and the daffodils threatening to burst bud any time, spring is definitley on it's way. You can prepare your garden birds for spring by making them a nestbox at our special make a nestbox events on Monday 21 to Wednesday 23 February. Call us on 01728 648281 to reserve your places.
It was a gorgeous spring-like day at Minsmere today. Shame I was in the office.
At least two buzzards flew over the warden's office - a sure sign that spring is on its way. Other signs of spring are increasing birdsong, drumming great spotted woodpeckers and flowering snowdrops.
A reminder of winter was the fabulous flock of Bewick's swans, with at least one whooper among them, that flew in mid afternoon. this is presumably the same flock that usually arrives after dark, suggesting they may be disturbed from their feeding fields at Blythburgh. They were tracked south from RSPB Dingle Marshes, over Dunwich Heath, before heading towards Island Mere.
Three smews (one male) were still on the Scrape today, and there were good numbers of red-throated divers offshore.
Check here for news of Saturday's wild goose chase at RSPB North Warren too.
Why not pop along and see for yourself.