As the spring migration gathers pace, new birds are being added to the reserve year list ever day. The following species have already arrived: Sandwich and common terns, little gulls, sand martins, swallows, house martins, sedge warblers, reed warblers (including the earliest ever Suffolk record), blackcaps, willow warblers, nightingales (at least three already), hobby (a very early one). The first cuckoo was reported today, as was a whinchat.
With the first dawn chorus guided walk approaching (Sunday 24 April, 4 am, places still available, call 01728 648281 to book for this or Sat 21 May - all others fully booked) we expect most other species to arrive this week. There are exceptions though. A swift before Easter would be early. Nightjar and spotted flycatcher will not arrive until May.
However, I can confidently say that one species we were not expecting to see at Minsmere in April is greater flamingo! Yet we did. Yes, last Friday a greater flamingo popped up on the North Levels, feeding alongside three spoonbills - it must have felt quite at home. By Saturday morning it was on the Scrape, and it reappeared on Monday and Tuesday.
A truly wild greater flamingo would be a star attraction for hundreds of birdwatchers, as the nearest breeding birds are in the Camargue and southern Spain. However, this individual wore a natty blue ring bearing the lettering M30. This bling confirmed the suspicions of the wardens: the flamingo was an escapee. It originally came from Marwell Zoo, and after touring various sites popped up at RSPB Titchwell Marsh earlier in the week, before heading down the coast to Minsmere. Escapee or not, it has proved popular, and is a rather incongruous sight on the Scrape.
Minsmere's houdini flamingo by Jon Evans
There are many of our more expected species to look out for though - avocets, nesting lapwings, black-tailed godwits, marsh harriers, bearded tits have all been showing well. Even the bitterns and Cetti's warblers seem more showy than usual, and a few otter sightings had made the lucky few very happy. And on the heaths you may spot Dartford warblers or woodlarks.
A typically busy and unpredictable spring looks likely at Minsmere.