Despite the weekend storms and frequent heavy showers, our insects are continuing to attract a lot of attention. Butterflies such as gatekeepers and meadow browns are attracted to brambles, small coppers and common blues on the North Wall and dunes, and red admirals and small tortoiseshells still on the remaining buddleia flowers. Common and ruddy darters and migrant and southern hawker dragonflies are patrolling woodland rides and ditch edges in search of midges and other smaller insects to eat. The bee-wolfs remain very popular in the North Bushes, and look out too for hoverflies, bumblebees and crickets in suitable habitat.
In the bird world things are quietening down a bit as the breeding season finally ends and even the reed and sedge warblers stop singing. The best place to spot small birds in August is probably the North Bushes, where various warblers are refuelling for their long migration by feeding on blackberries or the flies that are attracted to the ripening fruits. Look out for whitethroats, lesser whitethroats, blackcaps, garden warblers and willow warblers, as well as various finches and tits. A robin or two is likely to be aggressively protecting it's chosen patch. With luck, in the next few weeks we may find a few more unusual migrants - pied or spotted flycatchers, red-backed shrike or wryneck, or perhaps a whinchat.
Other migrants are already passing through, with several yellow wagtails and a few wheatears seen most days, either in the dunes or around the Konik Field.
A wheatear in the dunes by Jon Evans
Out on the Scrape, there is still a good variety of waders present, although avocet numbers are dwindling as they head towards the estuaries. One of the best places to see them is the Alde Estuary, and we have just a handful of places left on the Havergate Adventure this weekend to look for avocets, spoonbills and other exciting wildlife on Havergate Island. If you are interested in going, please call 01728 648281 to book. (the only remaining spaces are at 12.30 pm or 1.30 pm on Saturday and 1.30 pm on Sunday). Alternatively, we also have trips to Havergate on Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 September - booking is essential.
Other waders still on the Scrape include black-tailed godwits (100+), spotted redshanks, greenshanks, green and common sandpipers, ruffs, dunlins and snipe. There's also a couple of garganeys, good numbers of teals, and several little egrets on the Scrape, although most of the little gulls have now moved on.
While water levels remain low, the wardens and volunteers are busy undertaking the annual management programme , preparing the Scrape for winter flooding and next year's breeding season. We've already cut much of the vegetation on West Scrape, and on Thursday the work party will be busy on East Scrape for the first time. We expect most of the waders to relocate either to West Scrape, the Konik Field or the North Levels for the day, and will locate our volunteer guides in the best locations to watch the waders. There is a temporary path tot he North Levels, which is also a good place to look for butterflies, goldfinches and bearded tits.
Next week we're expecting the arrival of a new piece of machinery to assist our wetland habitat management work. This will be second-phase of the DECC*-funded project to create biofuels from the material that we cut on our wetland nature reserves. The machine doing the cutting is a different one from that used when the project was first trialed earlier this year. It will be cutting the fen areas on the Scrape around North Hide, South Girder (where the highland cattle have been feeding all summer) and three fen areas at the west end of the reserve - Meadow Marsh, Boomacre and Eastbridge Meadow.
Our reedbed wildlife is rather elusive in mid summer, but bitterns and marsh harriers are still seen every day, kingfishers are becoming more regular, and the otters are still putting in regular appearances - one was on Island Mere for 40 minutes yesterday! Overhead, the sand martins and swallows are still actively feeding, though the former have now finished nesting, and the odd late swift or cuckoo might still be spotted.
Juvenile sand martin by Jon Evans
Don't forget, too, that our exciting family activities continue until the end of August - pond dipping on Mondays, owl pellet dissection on Tuesdays, family walks on Wednesdays, bird ringing demos on Thursdays and minibeast hunting on Fridays.
*DECC is the Department of the Environment and Climate Change