The very popular, if rather elusive, little crake is still in residence in the reedbed pool in front of Bittern Hide. Having completed nearly two weeks here, it's stayed much longer than expected, giving most twitchers, and many casual birdwatchers, the chance to see it - though some have had to wait for several hours or return two or three times. How much longer will it stay? It's not been an easy bird to see, so getting good photos has been even more tricky - see here for one of the best examples, taken by Minsmere regular John Richardson, and shared on our community gallery.
The great white continues it's long stay too, having arrived a few days before the crake, with Island Mere its favoured spot. With so many eyes looking across the reedbed it's perhaps not surprising that sightings of bitterns, marsh harriers and kingfishers remain regular, while flocks of bearded tits are best seen in the mornings. Otters, too, are seen most days, with a large dog fishing on Island Mere today. My five year old was even lucky enough to see one there on Saturday afternoon!
After a beautiful weekend, the weather has deteriorated somewhat today. We had 25 mm (an inch) of rain in the 24 hours to 10 am today, most of that falling in the early hours, resulting in deep puddles in many places on the trails - so bring your wellies if visiting this week.
With the rain have come the migrants. It's been an excellent day for watching passage brent geese, with many flocks of upto 100 geese heading south, close tot he shoreline, and some resting briefly on the Scrape or Levels. Redwings, too, arrived in force this morning. Most passed straight over, but some landed briefly to rest, especially near Island Mere.
With so many birds on the move, it was perhaps inevitable that something notable would arrive. And it did. A brambling was reported near the visitor centre this morning, though perhaps not a new arrival as one was seen there over the weekend too.
Shortly after lunch our Senior Site Manager, Adam, located a yellow-browed warbler in the sluice bushes. Barely bigger than a goldcrest, these scarce autumn migrants breed in eastern Scandinavia and Russia and usually spend the winter in India and South-east Asia. Every year a proportion of the population migrates in the opposite direction, arriving along the east coast of the UK from mid September to late October, with a few even deciding to spent the winter here. What happens to the rest is unclear, but it seems that some of the tiny warblers are possibly pioneers, exploring alternative areas to spend the winter. I strolled down to the sluice, hoping for a glimpse of the lovely little bird, and my luck was in. There it was, perched momentarily right next to another gorgeous tiny migrant, a male firecrest. Better still, just behind them in the same bush was one of my favourite birds, a goldcrest. I still find it incredible that a bird so small (weighing the same as a 20 pence coin they are the smallest bird in the UK), can fly across the North Sea to spend the winter searching for insects and spiders in a wood or garden in the UK - perhaps even in my garden as i saw during last year's Big Garden Birdwatch.
Three of our smallest birds for comparison - a yellow-browed warbler (above, by Jon Evans), firecrest (below by Angie Knight) and goldcrest (bottom, by Jon Evans)
Also on my walk I followed a huge flock of long-tailed tits along the path towards the Wildlife Lookout, heard the distinctive song of Cetti's warblers and squealing call of water rails, spotted a kestrel hunting over the Konik Field, watched two wheatears and several meadow pipits in the dunes, and glimpsed six avocets and four dunlins with about 50 black-tailed godwits on South Scrape. If I'd entered the hide I'm sure I'd have seen even more. Perhaps most surprisingly, given the dull, damp and windy weather today, I also watched several migrant hawker dragonflies chasing tiny insects near the visitor centre.
The other highlight of my walk was a large red deer stag dashing through South Belt woods with four hinds. His antlers clattered loudly among the branches as he went. I'm not sure I've seen a stag that close to the visitor centre before. He was too fast for a photo, but I did get some brillaint views whilst leading deer safaris for the Minsmere Wildlife Explorers group on Saturday.
Two of the stags seen on Saturday, by Ian Barthorpe