There's been a decidedly southern European feel to Minsmere this week - and I don't just mean the lovely warm weather.
The breeding stone-curlews continue to prove very obliging and popular, with good if distant views from the western end of the North Wall. We often have volunteer guides on duty to help you to see these shy birds without disturbing them. If there are no guides present, please only watch from the designated area and look across towards the fenced area.
We also still have a singing golden oriole in the Woodland Trail/Canopy Hide area, although it is only heard occasionally and seen very infrequently.
Adding to the Mediterranean feel, two glossy ibises arrived on South Scrape on Tuesday evening before relocating to the South Levels, where they remain this morning. What may have been the same two birds were also seen at RSPB North Warren earlier this week. See David Fairhurst's video of these birds on the Scrape.
At least one lucky visitor reported five bee-eaters calling as they flew north in the early hours of Monday.
Although more eastern than southern European, a female red-footed falcon has been hunting over the reedbed this morning, alongside several hobbies. In fact, it's been a good week for raptors, with at least two red kites seen daily for the last few days and an osprey over on Sunday. Both species were subsequently seen at RSPB Snape on Tuesday and Monday respectively. With the usual marsh harriers, kestrels and sparrowhawks, plus barn and tawny owls, Minsmere has been the place to come for raptor-lovers this week.
There's still a few passage waders on the move too, including knot, sanderling, greenshank, grey plover, common sandpiper and little stint over the last few days. A few black-tailed godwits are still present, and avocets and lapwings are making new nesting attempts after last month’s flooding.
Among the gulls on the Scrape, highlights include a few little gulls, a Polish-ringed Caspian gull and a yellow-legged gull. Sandwich, common and little terns are all still present too.
Elsewhere, nightingales continue to sing occasionally at the Work Centre and on Westleton Heath, a spotted flycatcher was in North Bushes yesterday, cuckoos remain vocal around Canopy Hide, crossbills are starting to move through on passage, bitterns are booming and the females are beginning to feed young, and the usual selection of warblers, finches and tits can be found in suitable habitats.
Stone-curlew by Jon Evans
In my absence on holiday there have been a few notable birds at Minsmere. Typically, some have been more obliging than others, and few people will have been able catch up with all the goodies.
For many, the stars of the show have been a pair of stone-curlews that have set up home in the field behind the visitor centre. These enigmatic noctunal wading birds, affectionately known as goggle-eyed plovers, have been nesting at Minsmere since 2003, but are usually restricted to areas that are closed to the public. Now that a pair is visible from the visitor trails we can at last alert visitors to their whereabouts. A volunteer guide is often available at the western (landward) end of North Wall with a telescope to help you to see them - ask at the visitor centre for further details.
Much harder to find, but equally popular were two golden orioles. The male arrived on Sunday and could be heard singing between the work centre and Canopy Hide. On Monday it settled into the Canopy Hide/Woodland Trail area, where it was again heard several times. On Tuesday morning, wardens and volunteers were surprised to see not just the male but also a female flitting among the trees in this area. Although they are annual visitors, golden orioles very rarely linger for more than a few minutes at Minsmere, so hopes were briefly raised of a possible breeding attempt, but sadly there have been no reports of either bird today. The only place to see these shy birds breeding in the UK is RSPB Lakenheath Fen.
Owls are always popular and a late short-eared owl was still in the dunes over the weekend - one of several lingering later than usual on the East Anglian coast this spring. A very obliging tawny owl was located in South Belt today, perched only about eight feet above the ground midway between South Belt Crossroads and Bittern Hide. This understandably proved popular. Barn owls are seen most evenings at Eastbridge. Little owls are difficult to find at Minsmere, but the rarest of our five owls is definity long-eared owl, so it was a major surprise when one was spotted on Westleton Heath this week. Nightjars are back churring on the heath too.
Other highlights this week have included two red kites yesterday, a ringtail (female) Montagu's harrier today, a few little gulls on the Scrape, a stunning summer-plumage great northern diver offshore on Monday, and two red-rumped swallows early last week.
Elsewhere, bitterns continue to boom and have been seen regularly at Bittern and Island Mere Hides, hobbies are showing well, cuckoos can be heard around the reserve, avocets and terns are beginning to nest again on the Scrape. There were several sightings of adders today, and insects are becoming much more visible with the belated arrival of warm spring weather - brimstone, small copper, and orange tip butterflies, hairy dragonflies and four-spotted chasers and swarms of St Mark's flies on which the hobbies are feeding.