Apologies for the lack of a recent sightings update. It's not that there hasn't been much happening. Far from it. We've actually had a really busy couple of weeks for birds. I'll try to summarise the highlights for you.
Skuas have featured heavily for those keen enough to try a bit of seawatching. Great skuas have been seen most days, including more than 20 on a couple of dates. Pomarine skuas have been regular, including a nice pale phase adult this morning. There's been the odd arctic skua too. An unexpected record last week as a very late arctic tern lingering offshore on Monday. There has been an excellent passage of brent geese, usually in small flocks, but often totalling a few thousand per day. Among them are the odd common scoter, various flocks of waders (278 dunlins and 16 knots on Wednesday, for example), a few red-throated divers and a flock of 18 pink-footed geese last Saturday.
As usual at this time of year, wildfowl are easy to spot, with large flocks of wigeons, teals, gadwalls, shovelers and mallards on the Scrape, along with a few pintails and the usual flocks of feral geese (accompanied as always by four escaped red-breasted geese). Two whooper swans were seen on 28th, replaced next day by the first two Bewick's swans of the year. There were six Bewick's at South Hide today. A red-crested pochard is regular on the Scrape and a chiloe wigeon can sometimes be spotted among its European cousins (this is a South American species that has escaped from a collection).
Although winter is not typically a good time of year to see waders at Minsmere, there's a reasonable good mix of species present still. Three avocets remain on South Scrape, with both ruff and spotted redshank on the Konik Field on Wednesday. There are several black-tailed godwits and the occasional ringed plover or dunlin on the Scrape. Snipe remain fairly scarce, but I flushed a woodcock near Whin Hill on Tuesday. Another pectoral sandpiper was reported on 26 October.
Short-eared owls are seen most days, usually around the Levels or Chapel Field, with another one reported flying in from the sea on Wednesday. A male hen harrier is regular too (I'm told it or another was at Dingle Marshes all day yesterday). Two peregrines are regular, the last hobby was reported on 27 October, and several marsh harriers remain.
Bitterns continue to be seen most days, either from Bittern Hide or Whin Hill (two were seen near Island Mere Hide today, but the hide remains closed until the end of the month). A kingfisher is regualr at Bittern Hide. Bearded tits are still most easily seen from the reedbed trail. Up to 3000 starlings are roosting in North Marsh - but remember that the North Wall remains closed till February.
There's been quite a bit of activity among our smaller birds too. Two very late swallows were seen yesterday, and a swift was reported. The latter is either incredibly late, or may have been a pallid swift - a rare visitor from southern Europe. Flocks of finches including siskins, lesser redpolls, bullfinches and crossbills can be spotted anywhere, with the odd brambling among them. Tit flocks are widespread, with many goldcrests among them, but the last of several yellow-browed warbler sightings was on Saturday. A black redstart was near the sluice last Saturday, and four Dartford warblers in the dunes today. Two house sparrows (reserve rarities) have been present near the wardens' office. A snow bunting was behind East Hide on Monday, and a Lapland bunting in the dunes last week. Perhaps rarest of all was a hawfinch near the car park entrance on the morning of 26 October.
Despite it being November, we're still seeing common darter and migrant hawker dragonflies, red admiral and small copper butterflies and a handful of other late insects.
A family of Bewick's swans in flight, taken last winter by Jon Evans