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)
- Spoonbill: 2 March. A very early arrival. One has been on the Scrape for most of this week too
- Stone-curlew: 13 March. Several pairs now present including one pair regularly visible from the west end of the North Wall (please do not attempt to watch these birds from anywhere else as they are extremely sensitive to disturbance
- Garganey: 16 March. A pair for just a couple of days. The next arrival is overdue
- Sandwich tern: 22 March. Up to four birds are present on the Scrape daily
- Wheatear: 23 March. Several sightings since, both on the dunes and north of the North Wall
- Yellow wagtail: 29 March. A very early record, but none since
- Sand martin: 30 March. A late arrival date, but there are now about 30 pairs actively excavating burrows in the bank outside the visitor centre, so let's hope they breed successfully this year
- Sedge warbler: 30 March. Only a handful have arrived and they are not yet singing regularly. They seem to be late.
- Black redstart: 31 March. One or two more since
- Hobby: 3 April. An early arrival, followed by a second sighting a couple of day s later, but none since
- Little gull: 3 April. One or two on several dates since, including two adults on South Scrape today
- Swallow: 3 April. A late arrival and still present only in single figures
- Reed warbler: 4 April. An early arrival. Only one or two since.
- House martin: 5 April. Another early arrival, but only or two so far
- Willow warbler: 5 April. A late arrival, but singing daily since at North Hide and a few elsewhere on the reserve
- Cuckoo: 10 April. An early arrival calling near Eastbridge. Heard most days since, including at least two today
- Ring ouzel: 10 April. One on the heath
- Little ringed plover: 11 April. One on the Scrape
- Nightingale: 11 April. A late arrival along the bridleway. Two heard on the heath yesterday and one near the car park entrance this morning - just in time for our first Sounds of Spring guided walk.
- Redstart: 11 April. A stunning male has been feeding north of the North Wall yesterday and today
- Grasshopper warbler: 13 April. One heard between Wildlife Lookout and South Hide. This is now a very rare bird at Minsmere, with only one heard last spring. We haven't heard it since
- Common tern: 15 April. Two on South Scrape today.
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