Minsmere has had a bit of purple patch in the last week or so, although you had to be quick to catcha glimpse of all our unusual visitors. Typically, I missed them all.
The first week of May saw sightings of two rare herons in the reedbed: purple heron and two great white egrets. Typically, they were seen by only a few people, usually when flying over the reedbed from one pool to another. With up to six spoonbills, and the usual bitterns (now eight booming males), little egrets and grey herons, it was possible, with a bit of luck, to see six different species of heron in a week.
The real excitement started on Saturday morning when, shortly after I'd completed a tour of all the hides, reports came in of a cattle egret on the Levels - a seventh heron and, in Minsmere's terms, the rarest. Sadly, barely had the news broken of this rare visitor from the Mediterranean it was reported flying south over Sizewell. It was spotted later that day at RSPB North Warren, just a few miles to the south, but had gone by the following morning.
Hot on the heels of the cattle egret, came news of a singing Savi's warbler in the reedbed near South Belt Crossroads. This is an increasingly rare visitor to the UK, and proved very popular as it sang on and off all day. Frustratingly for me, it had not been present the previous morning when I had led our third dawn chorus walk of the year, and, liek the egret, it was gone the next day. Savi's warblers are common in wetlands in central and Eastern Europe, and sound very similar to the grasshopper warbler, which has, sadly, disappeared as a breeding bird at Minsmere in recent years.
Then on Tuesday another difficult to see species was found on the Scrape: a Temminck's stint. One of our smallest wading birds, this species likes to hide in vegetation around the edge of wetlands, so can be hard to spot, but once again, it seems to have been a one day visitor, with no reports so far today. Another passing visitor yesterday was a common crane seen flying over the car park at 9 am.
There have, of course, been a few more obliging migrants for visitors to see, including knot, sanderling, grey plover and bar-tailed godwits on the Scrape, hobbies over the reedbed, little terns, cuckoos and the usual mix of commoner warblers, plus a whinchat in the North Bushes on Saturday. We had reportts of our first spotted flycatcher of the year this week too.
Among the resident species, lapwings, oystercatchers, redshanks and avocets are now nesting on the Scrape, as can be seen from Jeffrey Eagle's photo of an avocet below, a tawny owl is regularly seen near South Belt Crossroads and the great spotted woodpeckers are often on the visitor centre feeders.
We also had an unusual sighting of a water shrew near the Wildlife Lookout this week (photo below by Ian Clarke), where it was seen feeding on common frogs, while water voles are often seen in the pond near the visitor centre. We've also finally begun tosee the first large red damselflies of the year, and a selection of butterflies including orange tip and small copper.