We're hosting a special celebration event on Saturday to thank our funders, contractors and consultants for their fantastic support during the recent redevelopment work at Minsmere. This event, which will be in the Discovery Centre, is for invited guests and their families. They will all be arriving in the visitor centre first, so please be prepared for it to be busier than usual around late morning/lunchtime. (Don't worry, we're laying food on for them in Discovery Centre, so it won't impact on numbers using the cafe.)
As part of this special event, we've also invited the Waveney Bird Club back fro another ringing demonstration. This event, which is free, will be open to all visitors, so why not come up to the Wild Zone to meet them. They'll be in a small marquee near the entrance to the Wild Zone. Please note that due to this ringing demo, we will have to close the North Bushes trail for the day on Saturday as they'll have ringing nets set up in that area. The trail will re-open on Saturday evening.
This is the second large thank you celebration event at Misnmere this week, as yesterday we welcomed more than 50 of the RSPB's volunteers from around Eastern England for the seventh of eight regional volunteer thank you events. These events, referred to as Aren't Volunteers Brilliant, allow volunteers from many different parts of the region, who do a wide vcariety of work for us, to meet each other, chat to RSPB staff, and learn about some of the RSPB's major projects int he region. It was great to see a few familiar faces among the crowd too.
I was lucky enough to spend an hour or so in Island Mere Hide to show the volunteers some of our new facilities. The wind and rain kept some birds down, but we enjoyed a good passage of sand martins and house martins, and regular sightings of kestrels and marsh harriers. A lovely male sparrowhawk sat on a post in the mere for a few minutes, and a great crested grebe hid among the flock of sheltering coots and gadwalls. Not surprisingly, given the wind, we didn't see any bearded tits or kingfishers yesterday, though both have been seen today.
Elsewhere, the pectoral continues to pop up in various locations: West Scrape and the Konik Field yesterday; East Scrape today. Two little stints were on West Scrape yesterday and a curlew sandpiper on East Scrape today. Other waders on the Scrape, Konik Field or North Levels Wader Trail include greenshanks, spotted redshanks, ruffs, dunlins, snipe, an avocet and black-tailed godwits. There was a good passage of brent geese and wigeon offshore, with the odd Arctic skua seen in recent days too. A garganey was on the Konik Field yesterday, and a redstart was in North Bushes this morning. The best bird of the week, though is a yellow-browed warbler, all the way from Siberia, that was found in the Sluice Bushes yesterday and seen again this morning.
It's been a great week for birdwatching at Minsmere, with an excellent passage of waders and some other great surprises, as you'll see from this guest blog by Jon Gibbs, Minsmere Catering Assistant.
As the sun rose over the North Sea on September 15th Robin, Paul, Ian and I gathered at the work centre to begin an epic birding day around Minsmere in our quest to win the Suffolk Ornithologist Group September bird race.
The rules were simple – we had to see or hear as many possible species of bird in one day without using any form of motorised transport.
Minsmere at this time of year is like a busy motorway junction with birds passing through on their way between their summer and winter sites so almost anything can turn up – and it certainly did for us! By mid morning, the sky overhead was full of common buzzards, hobbies, and even a red kite and an osprey made unexpected cameo appearances. Out to sea, Sandwich terns were heading south, a sooty shearwater was casually going about its global wanderings whilst a single Manx shearwater and a couple of puffins provided us with some unexpected highlights.
Add to this the range of bird species which inhabit Minsmere’s diverse range of habitats, from bitterns and bearded tits in the reedbed to woodlarks and stone-curlewson the heath, we ‘ticked off’ 114 species after covering over 13 miles on foot.
As we recorded our final species of the day, a calling tawny owl from Island Mere Hide, news reached us that we had won the race......a stunning achievement considering that many of our rival teams were travelling around Suffolk in their cars.
Minsmere is widely regarded as the place to see a wide range of birds and after our day out none of us bird racers would disagree - though the legs were a bit sore the next morning.
Osprey by Chris Gomersall (RSPB-images.com). At least three were seen last Saturday
As with any bird race, Jon and his team failed to find some of our more familiar species (song thrush, nuthatch, red-legged partridge for example). They also missed the ringtail Montagu's harrier that passed through and the often elusive pectoral sandpiper that remains. Among the wader highlights were greenshanks, spotted redshanks and ruffs.
Well done team. Roll on next year. I might even join a team myself.
It can be hard work trying to find a mate - especially if you're a red deer. Stags don't see much of the dainty hinds for most of the year, but in autumn their mating season, or 'rut', begins. They gather in large herds on open ground, showing off the size of their antlers and bellowing at each other to prove who is the mightiest and to catch the eye of onlooking females. Why not come along and watch them strut their stuff and bellow? You may even be lucky enough to see them clash antlers!
Where and when can you see the deer?
At the moment they're still a bit shy, but from 22 September we'll be doing 4x4 safari's to take you as close as possible. If you'd like to go on one, give us a call on 01728 648281 or email Alex on firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you'd like to experience this incredible spectacle for yourself, then join us on Westleton Heath where we'll open a free viewpoint to watch the action in the flesh. We'll have binoculars and telescopes to improve your views of the deer. You may also see foxes, green woodpeckers or even stone-curlews from the viewpoint.
RSPB helpers will be at the Westleton Heath viewpoint from 3.30pm until dusk on all Saturdays and Sundays between 22 September and 21 October. Head towards Dunwich from the B1125 in Westleton. Pass the turn off to RSPB Minsmere on your right and continue straight on for half a mile. Free parking is available in the car park on your left. The viewpoint is a gentle half mile walk from there and will be signed.
Want to know more?
For more details, contact Minsmere visitor centre on 01728 648281.
Young red deer stag by John Richardson.
Lots of migrants are still coming through this week. Only today there was a pectoral sandpiper near Lucky Pool, stopping off on its long journey from Siberia to Southern Africa. It could also have been a bit lost on its way from the eastern coast of North America, as they're sometimes blown over the Atlantic by areas of low pressure.
This week’s recent sightings are list-shaped this time, there’s so much! The North bushes trail is now open, so hopefully we’ll have more sightings from that area by next week.
Water rail by Hadders
The reserve wardens will be raking and burning the last of the vegetation on the scrape on Thursday, weather permitting. We apologise in advance for any inconvenience.
This will hopefully be the last of the major management work on the scrape for the season and once done we will be able to get some Konik ponies out there that will eat any re-growth over the winter.
Don't worry about the disturbance though, there's still lots of wildlife viewing opportunities elsewhere on the reserve including the newly opened wader trail which has been full of waders over the last few weeks including black tailed godwit, spotted redshank, greenshank, green sandpiper, wood sandpiper, ruff and snipe.