After the exceptionally dry weather of late, it's been a welcome to experience a more typical spell of weather during April. In a month known for it's April showers, the weather has been changeable to say the least in recent days. One minute you look out of the window at bright sunshine, the next there's torrential rain or hailstones battering against the glass. What with the north-westerly wind adding a noticeable chill to the air, it's been a case of packing away March's shorts and teashirts and unpacking the woollies, wellies and waterproofs.
Despite the weather, visitors have continued flooding into Minsmere to enjoy the new visitor centre - if only to warm up in the cafe after a morning on the reserve. Many families enjoyed some pond dipping over Easter, and our bunny hunt proved very popular.
The cool damp weather, and especially the wind direction, has had an impact on some of our migrants, but they are eventually beginning to arrive. Nightingales, sedge warblers and willow warblers have all arrived a week or so later than usual, but we had an early report of a cuckoo on Friday, along with the first nightingale. Whitethroats were reported for the first time this week, and a ring ouzel has spent a couple of days along the reserve entrance road.
Numbers of swallows, sand martins and house martins have increased considerably in the last few days, and several common terns are now present among the 35+ Sandwich terns on the Scrape. Mediterranean gulls are less numerous than in recent years, perhaps as a result of the cooler weather. Avocets, too, have been less common than we would expect, though there are still plenty to be seen.
Among the passage migrants on the Scrape are a few ruffs, grey plovers, spotted redshanks and turnstones, while Fiona the flamingo remains in residence on East Scrape. The long-staying glossy ibis, thoguh, finally decided it was time to head back towards the Mediterranean last Friday when it was reported flying high south over Sizewell. In it's place, a spoonbill dropped onto the Levels this morning.
Meanwhile, at bitterns have continued to show extremely well at Island Mere, where one has been in the open for at least an hour this afternoon. Earlier this week, photographer Ian Clarke took some great photos of a female that spent two and a half hours feeding in the open (see photo). Otters are still being seen on most dates, and water voles have been showing well at both Bittern Hide and the pond near the visitor centre - even while families were pond dipping. Another notable mammal sighting in the last week was a harbour porpoise about half a mile offshore on Thursday.