A quick reminder that there various ways to keep in touch with news from here at Minsmere.
For detailed reports of sightings and management news, these regular blogs are a great way of keeping in touch with what's going on. You can even set up RSS feeds to ensure you are reminded when the latest blogs are written.
Elsewhere on the Community pages, you can post Forum entries, or reply to others, and share images via our gallery. We really appreciate hearing from you in this way.
For more frequent, but briefer, summaries of what's happening at Minsmere you can also like our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter. These are great ways to keep in touch with other visitors and find out what's happening on our reserves. Our Facebook page also includes news from other RSPB reserves on the Suffolk coast.
Although it may seem impersonal to chat to others via social media, many people strike up lasting friendships in this way (I even met my wife on line!) Today I was lucky enough to meet a couple of regular contributors to our community pages and a regualr Twitter correspondent - I hope they all had a good day at Minsmere.
Keep in touch - it's good to talk (or tweet or blog).
What a great way to end a busy day in the visitor centre.
At 3.45 pm I headed down to North Hide to check out the growing starling roost. After a gorgeous sunny late autumn day, it was becoming a bit overcast and misty, but the sunset was still impressive, if short-lived. Small flocks of starlings, varying from 150 to 500 strong, arrived from the west every couple of minutes. Each flock circled, then settled on the Scrape islands for a preen, bathe and general starling chatter.
As the sun disappeared, the first seven Bewick's swans flew in calling and settled to roost on South Scrape. Another six arrived five minutes later, but there had been 24 this morning so not sure whether the others were late returning or simply stayed on the Scrape for the day. A male sparrowhawk zipped past the hide, causing alarm among the lapwings and wigeons. A little egret flew up from West Scrape, it's plumage almost gleaming in the fading light.
Then suddenly a flock of maybe 2000 starlings began to circle above the reeds behind behind West Hide. Further back, almost invisible against the fading light, a much larger flock circled with a marsh harrier. The birds on South Scrape eventually joined them, adding at least another 3000 to the flock. The gathering now numbered at least 10k, maybe as many as 15k, and put an impressive display for a few minutes. I'm sure anyone in West, South and Bittern hides had equally impressive views until, suddenely, the sky was empty. The third sparrowhawk I'd seen during my 30 minute vigil arrived perhaps 30 seconds too late and simply cruised overhead.
Starlings, Bewick's swans and sunset. A perfect end to the day. Sparrowhawks, marsh harirers and whistling wigeons just added to the spectacle.
(PS: For gull enthusiasts, the large roost on East Scrape probably included one or two yellow-legged and Caspian gulls, while three avocets, ten dunlins, a knot, a spotted redshank, a bar-tailed godwit and 50+ black-tailed godwits were all seen on the Scrape today and a peregrine was reported over the Levels. Kingfishers and bitterns were seen from Bittern Hide too. No waxwings though.)
Starlings gathering to roost at Minsmere last year by Jon Evans
The RSPB has this week launched an exciting new competition to find the best original nature poems. Please see here for a blog from my regional office colleague Rachael, including details about how to enter.
This week has seen the return of one of our most popular birds: waxwings! Jon Gibbs spotted a flock of about 20 outside the visitor centre on Wednesday afternoon, and they were seen later that day in North Bushes. About 30 were in North Bushes yesterday too. I've not had any news of them yet today, but hopefully this is the start of another influx and we may begin to see them regularly. The wardens are planning to "resurrect" our apple tree by spiking apples onto a dead tree near the pond in the hope that this might attract the waxwings to stay.
Waxwing in typical pose by Jon Evans
Waxwings aren't the only recent arrivals. There has been a notable passage of blackbirds, fieldfares and redwings this week. Another wave of goldcrests seem to have arrived with these tiny birds widespread around the reserve. Up to 12 snow buntings are in the dunes, and up to three black redstarts have been in the dunes or around the wardens' office.
Short-eared owls are still being seen most days, with new birds sometimes reported flying in from the sea. Bewick's swans increased to nine yesterday. A few pink-footed geese have been reported, and there were 30 white-fronted geese at nearby RSPB North Warren on Wednesday. The red-crested pochard remains on South Scrape too, among increasing numbers of ducks.
Offshore, there have been a few little auks seen most days this week. These tiny, starling-sized seabirds are incredibly common in the Arctic and occur in varying numbers in the North Sea in autumn. It could prove a good year for them too. There have been sightings of pomarine and great skuas offshore this week, as well as red-breasted mergansers and goosanders.
Another popular sight at Minsmere, as elsewhere, is a starling roost. After reports of a few thousand in North Marsh last week, I'm hearing news of up to 20 000 roosting behind West Hide last night. There's a great photo of some of the flock on our Gallery. This may reflect a recent arrival, but we hope it's also the start of a winter of spectacular dusk birdwatching, with starlings, harriers and Bewick's swans returning to roost in the reedbed.
I also have news of two other popular Suffolk birds from recent weeks. Fiona, our itinerant greater flamingo, was still on RSPB Havergate Island last week, despite the arrival of the diggers for the winter. Meanwhile, we've heard reports of a sandhill crane being seen in Extremadura, Spain last week. It seems hard to believe that two birds are in Europe, so it's possible that the crane that spent a few days at RSPB Boyton Marshes in October may have continued south and met up with the vast flocks of common cranes that spend the winter in Spain. It would certainly be nice to think it's the same bird.
Another excuse to shwo Jon Evans' superb photo of the Boyton sandhill crane
Yesterday, along with most of my colleagues from the Suffolk cost, Eastern England Regioanl Office and RSPB HQ at the Lodge, I attended the launch of the new RSPB corporate strategy. We all filed into the West Road Concert Hall in Cambridge (bringing back many happy student memories from my time in the city) for a presentation by Mike Clarke, the RSPB's Chief Executive, followed by 45 minutes of questions from the audience.
For some people, the thought of this type of meeting/presentation may fill them with horror - sitting in a crowded room rather than in front of a computer screen or cutting reeds. For most of us, though, it's an opportunity to remind ourselves why we work for such a diverse and successful organisation as the RSPB.
Our new strategy sets out where we want to be in 2020: in a world that remains rich in biodiversity where people feel connected to nature. We want to see an end to the loss of biodiversity (the rich variety of life on Earth), which will require concerted effort from governments and individuals as well as the RSPB as a charity. We want every child to have the opportunity to explore the outdoors and discover anture for themselves - something that is at the heart of our redevelopment work here at Minsmere.
So we know, where we want to be, but how are we going to get there? By millions of steps for nature. Some of these will be tiny steps - reducing energy usage by switching off computer screens when not i use or attending meeting via video or phone conferencing instead of driving, for example. Others will be enormous steps, taken over several years, as we persuade the UK and international governments to take wildlife and climate change more seriously and enforce strong legislation to protect wildlife.
As ever, Mike's talk was inspirational, filled with astonishing facts and figures about how many volunteers work for the RSPB, how much work we do globally, as well as in UK, and more worringly, how few people really understand what the RSPB actually does. I won't bore you with the figures, but I'm more determined than ever to make sure we succeed.
Of course, we can't get to where we're going without your help and support. There many ways that you can step up for nature. Plant a wildlife friendly flower border. Put out birdfood. Take part in Big Garden Birdwatch. Join the RSPB (I'm sure many of you are already members, but perhaps there's someone you know who would love a gift membership for Christmas). Support one of our campaigns. Write to your MP.Volunteer. Take out an RSPB credit card - the original and still most successful charity credit card. What steps are you going to take to help to Save Nature?
Snow bunting by Jon Evans - one of the birds threatened by rising global temperatures