After a superb few days of weather that brought in crowds of birdwatchers, walkers and families, a bit of drizzle this morning proved to be good for migrants, with several species of wader and passerine grounded on their long journeys.
Pride of place definitely went to the gorgeous male pied flycatcher that was found in the North Bushes this morning and remained for most of the day. Pied flycatchers are scarce spring migrants in Suffolk, being commoner in late summer as the youngsters head south, and it's very unusual to see a stunning black and white male, rather than the browner females and young. He certainly proved attractive to visitors.
Pied flycatcher by John Bridges (rspb-images.com)
Other migrants today included an influx of whitethroats, a wheatear at the sluice, plus willow warblers. A hobby was at Island Mere, cuckoos were singing in North Marsh and near Canopy HIde, and nightingales were singing near the work centre and on Westleton Heath.
Out of the Scrape migrants included Sandwich and common terns, whimbrel, greenshank, spotted redshank, bar-tailed godwits and grey plover, joining the Mediterranean gulls, avocets, lapwings and black-tailed godwits. A fulmar and a small flock of common scoters were seen offshore.
Other migrants over the weekend included yellow wagtails, common sandpipers and garden warblers, so most species have now begun to arrive.
Of course, our bitterns are booming, marsh harriers are displaying and bearded tits are feeding young at Island Mere.
Among the insects seen over the weekend were an exceptionally early hairy dragonfly and the first green hairstreak butterflies. Bluebells are now in flower too, further signalling the early arrival of spring
Guest blog by Kirstie Last, Assistant Retail Manager
We are delighted to announce that the delicious jams and chutneys have arrived in RSPB Shops this week, as a mouth-watering addition to the Love Nature range which includes our Love Nature Shortbread, extra-virgin rapeseed oil from our very own Hope Farm and our bird friendly fair-trade fresh ground coffee beans.
When looking to introduce jams and chutneys to our food range, we wanted to choose a supplier that had the same ethos as the RSPB when it comes to keeping things natural and loving nature.
Located in the small town of Stroud on the edge of the Cotswold Hills, Kitchen Garden foods produce delicious jams and preserves in the building that was formerly the Stroud Brewery.
All their ingredients, including sugar, are certified organic, and are sourced from the UK as much as possible. The jams and chutneys do not use thickeners or emulsifiers, they are also suitable for vegetarians, and really let the ingredients speak for themselves!
All of their Jams and Chutneys are produced to the highest standard in the heart of the Cotswolds.
The selection including strawberry, blackcurrant and plum jam and, plum and cranberry, real ale and country fruit chutneys are all available from our Minsmere shop now.
Some of our delicious Love Nature range to tempt you: coffee, rapeseed oil, jams and chutneys.
It's mid April, so the arrivals and departures board at Minsmere International is constantly changing as new arrivals land and old friends depart. Although numbers of most new migrants are still quite low, the number of species seen is growing by the day.
Here's a quick summary of migrant arrival dates so far (note: blackcap and chiffchaff are not included as one or two overwinter, so spring arrival dates can be difficult to judge)
A wheatear by Jon Evans
Other migrants include black-tailed godwits (96 this week), ruff, spotted redshank, knots (28 on 11th) and turnstones on the Scrape.
Departure dates are harder to judge, but several winter visitors are still hanging on. The highlight here is undoubtedly the jack snipe that has continued to show regularly at Island Mere until yesterday at least. A short-eared owl was seen again on Sunday, as was a hen harrier. A few redwings and fieldfares were still on the heath late last week too. On the Scrape there are still a handful of pintails and good numbers of teals, but most of the ducks have now left. Offshore, the few remaining red-throated divers are acquiring their summer finery.
Other birds of been merely passing through, and not actually touching down at Minsmere. There has been an excellent passage of buzzards so far this month (and a pair displaying near Eastbridge), along with the odd red kite, though numbers of the latter on down on recent springs. A real highlight for those lucky enough to see it (sadly not me, again) was the raven seen on several dates between 124 March and 10 April. I missed the last sightings as I was in the middle of a long phone call - very annoying!
There's also increasing breeding activity, with avocets, black-headed gulls, lapwings and redshanks already establishing territory on the Scrape, great crested grebes displaying at Island Mere, ten booming bitterns and several pairs of marsh harriers in the reedbed, bearded tits feeding chicks at Island mere, the sand martins, and nuthatches calling at Canopy Hide. Among the commoner nesting birds, the pair of great tits using our nestcam box now have seven eggs. They can be watched on the TV screen in the shop.
Of course, birds aren't the only things to see in spring. It's been a great week for butterflies, with the following species all seen regularly: peacock, small tortoiseshell, comma, speckled wood, small copper, orange tip, brimstone, small, large and green-veined white. Other insects seen on the wing this week include buff-tailed and early bumblebees, seven-spot ladybirds, alderflies, bee-flies and honeybees. Adders continue to be seen regularly, while mammal sightings include water voles, brown hares, stoats, otters and grey seals, as well as the more regular rabbits, grey squirrels, red deer and muntjac. And, of course, there are some interesting flowers to look out for, including cuckoo-flowers, mossy stonecrop and gorse.
Water vole by Jon Evans