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