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  • 1 August 2014

    Wonderful waders, beautiful butterflies & happy families

    It's been another gorgeous week at Minsmere. I heard on the radio yesterday that the Met Office were reporting that July was the best ever, and August has certainly started with another day of unbroken sunshine.

    With such lovely weather it's not been a surprise to see hundreds of happy families on the reserve this week. Many have explored the reserve's nature trails and hides as well as building a den and taking part in our family activities. Here's just a few highlights from the first week of school holiday activities:

    • three water stick insects and lots of newt efts (young newts) caught during pond dipping on Monday
    • vole skeletons reconstructed during owl pellet dissection on Tuesday
    • a slow worm found on Steve's family nature walks on Wednesday
    • at least 80 birds ringed by the Waveney Bird Club on Thursday, including green and great spotted woodpeckers, goldcrests, pied wagtails and lots of reed warblers
    • finding woodland minibeasts including an impressive longhorn beetle today (photo below)

    All these activities will be repeated next week.

    Insects have been the star attractions for many, especially the butterflies on the buddleias. White admirals, silver-washed fritillary, graylings and purple hairstreaks have been the more unusual species, but the peacocks, red admirals and small tortoiseshells are more reliably seen. There's good numbers of common blues, small copper and Essex skippers in the dunes, as well as well various crickets and grasshoppers.

    It's also a good time to look for dragonflies, including emperors, southern and migrant hawkers and emerald damselflies.

    With the seasons still well advanced many of our summer flowers are almost over. Marsh mallow sometimes doesn't start flowering until August, but it is almost finished already this year. The bushes are already full of ripening blackberries too.

    Talking of the changing seasons, autumn is well underway in the bird world. Whitethroats and lesser whitethroats are feeding on those blackberries, the swifts have mostly gone, and wader passage continues to impress this year. At least 16 wader species were seen again today. Although the pratincole is now gone (last seen in Northumberland!), less common passage waders include curlew sandpiper, little ringed plovers, up to three wood sandpipers and up to 20 sanderlings. Avocet numbers are starting to decline as they head to the estuaries, but snipe and teal are arriving and yellow wagtails have been moving through in good numbers this week.

    Common sandpiper by Jon Evans

    In the reedbed, bitterns and marsh harriers are becoming much more elusive, but water rails are emerging at the muddy margins, family parties of bearded tits and reed warblers may be seen, and the hobbies are becoming more visible again. The North Levels temporary trail is a good place to look for water rails and bearded tits, as well as waders and herons. Otters are still seen most days too, especially at Island Mere. 

    The highlight this week, for the one person lucky enough to see it (the warden from RSPB Snape), was a lovely female red-footed falcon over the sluice briefly yesterday.

    What does the weekend have to offer?

    Posted by Ian Barthorpe

  • 26 July 2014

    Something for everyone this summer

    With the school holidays now underway Minsmere really does offer something for everyone - and the reserve is looking superb right now.

    Families can enjoy letting off a bit of steam in the Wild Zone, build a den or stroll to the beach. Every weekday we also have an exciting range of family activities to enjoy. The events are as follows:

    • Mondays - pond dipping, 10-4
    • Tuesdays - owl pellet dissection, 10-4
    • Wednesdays - family nature walks, starting at 10.30, 11.30. 1.30 and 2.30. Cost £1.50 per person
    • Thursdays - bird ringing demonstrations with Waveney Bird Club, 10-4
    • Fridays - Woodland wanders. Minibeast hunting. 10-4

    No booking is required for these, though we recommend arriving early. Except where stated, all activities are free, though normal reserve entry fees apply for everyone. For full details see 

    If you're looking for somewhere to enjoy a countryside walk with stunning views, then Minsmere's your place too. The Coast Trail offers lovely views over the  reedbed and up the coast towards Southwold. When it's as hot as today, the cooling breeze on the beach is very welcome. You'll see a great variety of shingle flowers in the dunes, including harebells, sheepsbit, restharrow and sea bindweed. These, in turn, attract butterflies such as common blue, brown argus, grayling, small copper and small and Essex skippers.

    Restharrow and sea pea in the dunes

    You can take a rest in one of the hides overlooking the Scrape. East Hide remains the place to be, with an excellent variety of wading birds present including the collared pratincole which has now reached day 12 of it's prolonged visit from the Mediterranean. Avocet numbers are starting to decline (88 were counted yesterday), as they usually do in midsummer, but the annual gathering of little gulls remains. The peak count so far is 75. Other waders this week have included wood, green, common and curlew sandpipers, spotted redshanks, greenshanks, ruffs and the more expected dunlins, lapwings and black-tailed godwits. Walking back from the sluice you'll see the lovely pale pink flowers of marsh mallow.

    If you're seeking shade, the Island Mere walk is mostly beneath the canopy of the oak wood. Look up and you might spot a purple hairstreak or white admiral butterfly. Check the brambles and ragwort flowers for other butterflies and hoverflies, which may in turn attract a hunting dragonfly. Spend some time in the hides on this walk and you may be lucky enough to spot some of Minsmere's reedbed specialists, though it's getting harder now that most of the chicks have fledged. Bitterns, marsh harriers and bearded tits are the main attractions, but reed and sedge warblers may be easier to see. The Cetti's warblers have mostly stopped singing while they moult, but sightings of kingfishers are becoming more frequent as the young disperse away from nearby nesting territories. Otters are still seen occasionally, but the star attraction in the reedbed at the moment may be the great crested grebe chicks that hatched at Island Mere today.

    if the weather's good, as today, some hides might be busy at times, so to avoid the crowds why not get here early, or stay till the evening. Minsmere's hides and nature trails are open from dawn to dusk. This week we've also opened a seasonal trail to the North Levels. The thistles along the New Cut bank are a haven for butterflies, while the pools are a good place to watch herons, egrets and spoonbills. As the water levels drop they'll be good for waders too.

    Small copper - one of the butterflies to look for in short grass areas

    If you don't feel like a walk, then you can browse the shop, where our Christmas cards and calendars are already in stock (sorry, I know it's only July but with 15% off as an early bird discount they're already selling fast). Or you can refuel in the cafe and sample our delicious home-cooked food, made using locally sourced produce wherever possible, or the tasty bird-friendly RSPB coffee.

    Why not come and see for yourself this summer?

    Posted by Ian Barthorpe

  • 22 July 2014

    The excitement continues

    Wow. What a month! July seems to keep getting better and better. 

    After all of the excitement over a new butterfly for the reserve list, we've since added both a new moth and a new beetle.

    Our wardens and volunteers regularly operate a moth trap at Minsmere, and over the years they have recorded an amazing variety of species, including two that had never previously been seen in the UK. The latest addition to the list is  a rare migrant from southern Europe, recorded only a handful of times in the UK since the first sighting in 1993. As with many moths, it doesn't have an English name so is known only by its scientific name - Evergestis limbata. This brings the list of Lepidoptera (the collective name for butterflies and moths) recorded at Minsmere to an impressive 1110.

    Evergestis limbata by Robin Harvey

    The discovery of our new beetle was even more unusual. Irene Ridley, Minsmere Administrator and Field Teacher, takes up the story.

    "Whilst clearing up in the woodlands last Tuesday after a school visit, I was intrigued by a large beetle, sitting on one of the logs in the circle, that I’d not seen before. It was about 20 mm long and a lovely chestnut colour. With the aid of an ID book, I concluded that it was a large type of click beetle. I watched it for a moment (it wasn’t doing much!), then carried on with my work and thought no more about it.

    Fast forward to yesterday, I came across Nigel Cuming,(our volunteer entomologist) hunting around in the car park area and I asked what he was after. His reply: 'I’m looking for a large click beetle’. After my brain finally sorted out why this ‘clicked’ with me, I was able to tell him about what I’d seen last week. A quick Google search and he verified that it was indeed the beetle he’d been looking for – Elater ferruginous. A few hours later, having trekked into the wood, Nigel came back a very happy man having found a male of the species."

    Elater ferruginous is a rare beetle in the UK, classified as RDB1, and there are few previous Suffolk records. Shortly after Nigel confirmed its presence at Minsmere, Irene headed into the woods and discovered another female - see photo below. Our wardens also report seeing several around the reserve, so it may have been overlooked previously. This large click beetle requires red-rot oak in which its larva feeds. Perhaps it has benefited from the increased quantity of dead wood after last autumn's storms.

    Oh, and the collared pratincole is still around today along with a great selection of waders. If you still don't know what a collared pratincole looks like, see Nick Brown's stunning photo in our gallery here.

    Posted by Ian Barthorpe

  • 21 July 2014

    A collared what?

    After the excitement of last week's run of rarities, attention has focused on two main parts of the reserve this - and for once it's not the reedbed.

    The buddleias have continued to attract a good range of butterflies. Red admirals, peacocks and graylings dominate numerically, but it's the continued presence of one or two silver-washed fritillaries that has been the star attraction here. A close second has been the broad-bordered bee-hawkmoth, although neither has been easy to locate at times. There has been no further sightings of the yellow-legged (or scarce) tortoiseshell, although others have since been found in Kent, Norfolk and Lincolnshire at least.

    Elsewhere, the most numerous butterfly on the reserve at present is the beautiful orange and brown gatekeeper, especially wherever bramble is still in flower. Several purple hairstreaks can be spotted in the oak canopy, occasionally descending to feed on bramble or even buddleia flowers. While out on the dunes and other grassy areas you may spot common blue, small and Essex skippers and brown argus - some of our smallest butterflies.


    Gatekeeper (left) and small skipper butterflies. Both photos by Ian Barthorpe

    The other part of the reserve attracting a lot of attention is the Scrape, especially East Hide. Our collared pratincole has now completed a full week in residence, and although it disappears for long periods it has been added to many visitors' lists during its stay. Hundreds of twitchers have been able to spot this elegant wader and it to their Suffolk list at last - 18 years after the last county record. But many other visitors on being advised to look for it have replied with phrases like "collared what" and "I've never heard of that". With lots of eyes looking for it from the hides, even the most casual of visitors have had the chance to see this rare visitor.

    The pratincole is far from the only wader on the Scrape though - up to 24 species can be seen from East Hide alone at the moment. Peak wader counts this week include: 99 avocets (down from the recent 200+), 6 little ringed plovers, 58 lapwings, 6 knot, 3 sanderlings, 88 dunlins, 3 ruffs, 92 black-tailed godwits, 15 spotted redshanks, 6 greenshanks, 2 green sandpipers, 4 common sandpipers plus single golden plover, little stint, curlew sandpiper, bar-tailed godwit, wood sandpiper and turnstone. Add in a few oystercatchers, ringed plovers, redshanks, snipe, curlews and whimbrels and that's a pretty impressive list.

    And it's not just waders either. The summer build up of little gulls reached 58 today. The tern flock on East Scrape peaked at 100 common terns today, joined by several Sandwich and little terns and an adult arctic tern. 

    With so many gulls, terns and waders all in a variety of different plumages (adult, juvenile, summer, winter, and various intermediate stages of moult) it's a real test of your ID skills. Luckily, we often have a volunteer in the hide to help out, but if in doubt why not take a photo to help us to identify the bird for you later. You can share your photos in our gallery, of on the RSPB Suffolk Facebook pages, or by mentioning @RSPBMinsmere on Twitter.


    Curlew sandpiper (left) and common sandpiper - two of the waders present on the Scrape. Both photos by Jon Evans

    Don't forget too, that we regularly update sightings, events and management news on Facebook and Twitter, so check the links for the latest information.

    Of course, there are still good sightings in the reedbed too including bitterns, marsh harriers, bearded tits (a great video was shared on our Facebook page yesterday), reed and sedge warblers and hobbies, plus a nesting pair of great crested grebes at Island Mere. There's lots of dragonflies too.

    Posted by Ian Barthorpe

  • 16 July 2014

    Surprise visitors from afar

    With migration in full swing, July often brings an unexpected visitor or two to the Suffolk coast, but nothing could really prepare us for the events that have unfolded this week.

    The excitement began on Monday morning when our Senior Site Manager, Adam Rowlands, called on the reserve radios to say that he thought he had a large tortoiseshell butterfly in his garden. This was potentially a first reserve record of this rare migrant, which used to breed in the UK, so a handful of us rushed across to take a closer look. Sure enough, sitting on the bungalow guttering was an unusual tortoiseshell butterfly. It was slightly larger and paler than the familiar small tortoiseshell and had a slightly different upperwing pattern. After consulting a field guide and taking a few photos we alerted other colleagues to have a closer look.

    The butterfly promptly flew to the top of the bungalow roof to soak up the sun, before eventually providing excellent views as it fed on nectar from a buddleia bush. There had clearly been a large arrival of migrant butterflies as the bush was full of red admirals and large whites, with a few painted ladies, as well as newly emerged peacocks, a few graylings and commas and even a purple hairstreak. Unfortunately, it was difficult to arrange wider access that day.

    Large tortoiseshell would have been a new species for most of us, but things were about to get even more exciting. During the evening questions were asked on Twitter (@RSPBMinsmere) about whether we had ruled out yellow-legged tortoiseshell. After some internet research I discovered that this butterfly, which had only once been seen in the UK (in the 1950s) had been seen in large numbers in Holland over the last couple of days - for the time ever. The two species are very similar, apart form leg colour, so easily confused - especially when you're not even considering one of them! My photos didn't show the legs, but others did, and we were able to confirm the identification as yellow-legged tortoiseshell, also known as scarce tortoiseshell. They usually occur in eastern Europe and are very rare in the west.


    Photos by Robin Harvey. A short video clip by David Fairhurst clearly shows the yellowish legs -

    Luckily the butterfly was still present on Tuesday, so we arranged for guided access to the garden to watch it. A few visitors were lucky enough to see this amazing butterfly before it suddenly vanished at about 11 am and was sadly not relocated.

    There was some consolation for those unlucky enough to miss this butterfly, as a rare bird was located on the Scrape yesterday morning - a collared pratincole. This was the first time this wader had been seen at Minsmere, or anywhere else in Suffolk, since 1996, so it attracted a lot of attention. Although it could be difficult to spot at times, it also gave some great views as it flew over the Scrape in pursuit of insects, or simply jumped to catch flies. Collared pratincoles breed in Spain, locally elsewhere around the Mediterranean, then from Greece eastwards through central Asia and only a handful visit the UK each year. The bird is still on the Scrape as I type.

    There's a superb variety of waders on the Scrape at the moment as birds pass through on migration. The most numerous species are avocets (upto 200) and black-tailed godwits (upto 150), but there are also several spotted redshanks, ruffs, green and common sandpipers, greenshanks, dunlins and little ringed plovers, as well as the odd wood sandpiper and whimbrel. There's also an increasing number of little gulls (36 today) and a few common, little and Sandwich terns, while a spoonbill was spotted on Monday too. This week we are planning to open the seasonal path to view the North Levels pools, which are also great places to spot waders and herons and give a different view of Minsmere's reedbeds.

    The tortoiseshell isn't the only rare insect seen at Minsmere this week either. Two of our most distinctive day-flying moths have been seen on the buddleias at the visitor centre too - the hummingbird hawkmoth and the relatively similar broad-bordered bee-hawkmoth. The latter can regularly be seen patrolling from flower to flower, with it's bee-like colouration.

    Broad-bordered bee-hawkmoth by Ian Barthorpe

    With so many eyes looking at buddleias it's perhaps not a surprise that other insects have been seen too, including a varied mix of hoverflies and bees. And today we've found another rare butterfly, at least as far as Minsmere is concerned. The silver-washed fritillary is one of our largest butterflies and has slowly been colonising parts of East Anglia in recent years. This is at least the third consecutive year that one has been seen at Minsmere suggesting that they might be breeding locally. It too, has favoured the area in front of the visitor centre, though it has been quite mobile.

    With so much excitement our bitterns, bearded tits and marsh harriers may be feeling a bit left out, but they're continuing to show well too, and  a few hobbies remain over the reedbed. And, of course, many of our commoner plants, birds and insects can still easily be spotted as you wander around the reserve.

    Posted by Ian Barthorpe

  • 9 July 2014

    Fledgings, flowers and migrants

    We've some exciting news on some of the stars of Springwatch this week.

    First Grub.

    Those who follow us on Twitter (@RSPBMinsmere) or Facebook (RSPBSuffolk) will already have heard that Grub is alive and well. Adam, our Senior Site Manager, heard a young tawny owl calling from the area of Grub's nest on Sunday evening. As there was only one pair of tawny owls nesting in that area, and Grub was born several months later than most tawny owl chicks, we're as confident as we can be that this has to be Grub. He should by now be fledged and very mobile, though still at least partly dependent on his parents for food - hence the frequent calling.

    Next, our popular bittern chicks.

    As previously mentioned, we still have the camera on the nest and have continued to monitor their behaviour since the BBC crew left. When we checked the camera earlier this week there was no sign of the chicks coming back to the nest, so it looks like they too have actually fledged. This is really good news and adds to what looks like being one of the best years ever for nesting bitterns at Minsmere. With several nests still active, bitterns continue to be seen regularly at Bittern Hide, Island Mere and on the Scrape.

    A bittern close up by Jon Evans - this is an adult from earlier in the year but our chicks will now look very similar

    Also in the reedbed there are regular sightings of marsh harriers, including fledglings, bearded tits, reed and sedge warblers and reed buntings. Cetti's warblers are still singing, though less frequently now as they start their post-breeding moult, and sightings of hobbies are less frequent suggesting they are incubating eggs nearby. Otters are still seen regularly and kingfishers are often seen at Bittern Hide  and Island Mere.

    Wader migration is well underway too, with a good variety of species on the Scrape this week. Highlights have included two wood sandpipers yesterday and five little ringed plovers on Monday, plus varying numbers of green sandpipers, ruffs, whimbrels, spotted redshanks, knots and dunlins. Interestingly, the avocet count has exceeded 200 on most days this month. We usually expect numbers to decline once the breeding season has finished, so these gorgeous birds may start to move to the estuaries soon, but they are putting on a good display at the moment.

    Other migrants on the Scrape include small numbers of Sandwich, little and common terns, little, Mediterranean and Caspian gulls, teal sand wigeons, while West Scrape is particularly popular with grey herons and little egrets still.

    Today's gusty, showery weather is not ideal for insect watching, but when the sun shines there is a wide variety of species to look for. Brown and southern hawkers, four-spotted chasers and various species of blue damselfly are the most obvious dragonflies. Bumblebees and hoverflies are drawn to flowering brambles and buddleia. The brambles are also popular with two of our more elusive butterflies that rarely descend from the canopy: white admiral and purple hairstreak. Canopy Hide is a good place to look for both species. The most numerous butterflies at the moment are the grassland-dwelling browns and skippers - meadow brown, ringlet, small and Essex skipper - which can be seen on Whin Hill, North Wall and the dunes.

    There are many other flowers in bloom now to attract hungry insects too. The sluice trail is lined with pale pink marsh mallow and hemp agrimony; the rare round-leaved wintergreen can be seen off the Island Mere boardwalk; musk thistle, common centuary and ragwort add colour to Whin Hill and various shingle specialist flowers can be found in the dunes.

    Scarlet pimpernel - a tiny flower of disturbed ground. Photo by Ian Barthorpe

    Posted by Ian Barthorpe

  • 1 July 2014

    A wonderful week for wildlife

    The weather may have been a bit unpredictable week, with bright sunshine giving way to heavy rain, but perhaps we should expect that with Wimbledon and Glastonbury vying with the World Cup for our attention on the TV. Did you know there's a link between Minsmere, Glastonbury and the World Cup this year? Once the BBC team decamped from Minsmere, most of the vans and many of the crew headed southwest to Glastonbury, while some of the cabling was shipped straight to Brazil for the BBC's coverage of the World Cup.

    Many of the stars of Springwatch have continued to put on a good show at Minsmere this week, with bitterns, marsh harriers, hobbies and bearded tits remaining prominent in and over the reedbed, reed and sedge warblers and whitethroats continuing to sing and family parties of blue and great tits popping up all over the place.

    Out on the Scrape there have been a few successes after the disappointment of Audrey the avocet's eggs being eaten. At least two avocets chicks fledged, there are family parties of shelducks, coots and mallards swimming around, and several pairs of common terns are still trying to nest. A pair of great crested grebes is nesting at Island Mere still too.

    As we move into mid summer, and breeding finishes, many birds immediately begin their long migrations back south, and this can be seen by the increasing variety of migrants passing through Minsmere. Several gorgeous summer-plumaged spotted redshanks have already returned, and the first ruffs and green sandpipers can also be seen on the Scrape. A juvenile little ringed plover has been seen several times - though they don't breed here at Minsmere. The first little gulls are arriving too from their breeding sites further East in Europe, and numbers are likely to increase in the coming weeks. Likewise, we're seeing several Sandwich terns, including fledged young, and little terns gathering on the Scrape.

    Our ducks have already lost their breeding finery and acquired their dull eclipse plumage with several teal having already returned for their post-breeding moult. An eclipse pintail has been seen today too.

    Bitterns aren't the only herons stealing the show at the moment. Two spoonbills are commuting between the Scrape and Levels, and numbers of both little egret and grey heron are increasing daily - I counted 17 little egrets on West Scrape alone on Sunday.

    A hungry little egret by Jon Evans

    Our mammals and reptiles are still putting on a good show too with regular sightings of otters, water voles, stoats, red deer, adders and grass snakes. Some lucky visitors have seen moles, badgers and slow worms this week too - I finally saw my first Minsmere slow worm last week but it had be decapitated by two hungry magpies!

    The warm sunny weather is perfect for spotting insects. Most of our butterflies are now on the wing, including the first records of grayling, purple hairstreak and white admiral this week as well as large, small and Essex skippers and small heath butterflies. Day-flying moths to look out for include hummingbird and broad-bordered bee hawkmoths, cinnabar and both five-spotted and six-spotted burnet moths. Look out for the yellow and black caterpillars of cinnabar moths on the ragwort too. there's also a good variety of dragonflies, hoverflies and bumblebees to look for, with the buddleia bushes outside the visitor centre being particularly good places to look.

    And finally, if you're visiting this week, don't forget to look for some of our flowers including musk thistle, common centuary, yellow horned-poppy, sea bindweed and purple loosestrife.

    Another flower to look for is one of my favourites, tufted vetch

    Posted by Ian Barthorpe

  • 20 June 2014

    Bitterns, beardies and bee-eaters!

    Guest blog by Paul Green, Warden, North Suffolk Reserves

    Every Thursday morning during spring and summer a team of wardens and volunteers carry out our bittern watches. Each of us sits in somewhere with a good view of the  reedbed and waits, recording all bittern activity to help us to locate nesting females. Sometimes this means sitting, exposed to the elements, for several hours, but the rewards can be amazing.

    Yesterday's bittern watch started, as usual, with me walking the New Cut bank to my nominated seat overlooking the southern part of the reedbed. Walking along the bank I was struck by how many small tortoiseshell butterflies were feeding on the thistles - a welcome sight as this lovely butterfly has declined considerably in recent years. My first bittern of the morning flew out of the reedbed and landed beyond East Hide, and several hobbies were hawking for dragonflies over the reedbed.

    I climbed the ladder to my watchpoint - an old deer seat in a tree in the reedbed - and settled to watch for bitterns. Three juvenile bearded tits were collecting caddis flies from the branches below me, so I sat motionless while they fed. Then a water rail emerged from the reedbed and also began to pick insects from the lower branches of my tree!

    Juvenile bearded tit by Jon Evans

    Just before 10 o'clock I became aware of bee-eaters calling above me. I looked up to see two birds drifting towards Eastbridge. One of our volunteers, Derek, had seen one fly over Dunwich Coastguards cottages moments earlier. The pair showed intermittently high over the marsh for the next hour - though unfortunately very few visitors were able to spot them. [Bee-eaters are rare, almost annual visitors at Minsmere, but rarely linger for any length of time - ed]

    My radio crackled to alert me that a glossy ibis had just landed on South Scrape. I tried to stay focussed on the task in hand, but I must confess I was a little distracted! [The ibis didn't stay for long either - ed]

    As I walked back to the office, three Mediterranean gulls flew north and another bittern flew south. What an incredible few hours.

    [Anyone who knows Paul, will know that his enthusiasm is infectious, but even he was clearly excited by yesterday's events. If only I'd seen the bee-eaters myself - ed]

    [Other sightings this week include: regular bittern, hobby, marsh harrier, bearded tit and reed warbler sightings in the reedbed, otters at Island mere, two spoonbills overhead this morning, up to 150 black-tailed godwits and two spotted redshanks on the scrape, two almost fledged avocet chicks, stone-curlews, adders, various dragonflies and butterflies, and a fox on my way in this morning - ed]

    Bittern by Jon Evans

    Posted by Ian Barthorpe

  • 14 June 2014

    Springwatch may be over but the wildlife remains

    Wow, what an amazing three weeks. It's been a whirlwind of emotions with fledgings and predation, new discoveries and surprise observations. There were moments to make to you laugh, and others to make you cry. Footage to make some hide behind the sofa and events that will never be forgotten.

    Who will ever forget the adder predating the unfortunate goldfinch chick, and the amazing survival of the second chick when the snake returned to the nest? Or the brave defence of his chicks by a male blackbird when another adder entered the nest? After such a great spring for sightings of adders at Minsmere, even we didn't expect them to be such stars (or villains?) of the show. Sightings of adders continue, especially between Bittern Hide and Island mere, though much less frequently than earlier in the year. We're also hearing regular reports of grass snakes and slow worms in the same area - I've still never seen a slow worm at Minsmere!

    The green woodpecker/jackdaw interaction at their nest tree has been fantastic to watch. The last two woodpecker chicks were so reluctant to leave that the last one only fledged on Thursday morning - just hours before the cameras were finally switched off for the year. The following day I watched an adult probing for ants just a few metres from the nest tree.

    The undoubted stars of the show have been the bitterns. What superb footage! Booming males, nest cannibalism, and bittern selfies! With the cameras helping to propel these rare herons into national TV stars, a new catch phrase was coined: bitterns got talent! We have to agree, and the birds themselves have clearly been enjoying their moment of fame. While June is often a good month to see bitterns, with females flying to and from the nest in search of food for hungry chicks, this year has been particularly good. Very few visitors have left without seeing a bittern, and most haven't had to wait too long either. Yesterday we even watched two "semi-fledged" (another new Springwatch-derived term) bitterns at the top of the reeds at Island Mere for 30 minutes or more. The good times look set to continue for a little while until all the chicks have fledged - the nest cam birds will be dependent on their mum for another two or three weeks at least. While we can't promise such easy sightings all summer, bitterns will be present in the reedbed all year giving everyone the chance to see one.

    Bitterns aren't the only stars in the reedbed. Hobbies are regularly seen catching dragonflies, or chasing the sand martins around their nesting colony. The first juvenile marsh harriers have fledged at Bittern Hide this week and bearded tits are regularly seen at Island Mere. Reed warblers seemed to be everywhere yesterday, including lots of chicks. With the cameras off we can't be sure if our nestcam birds have fledged yet, but they should do so any day. Another warbler featured on the cameras was whitethroats, and I also saw several juveniles around yesterday.

    Nick Baker finally tracked down his Norfolk hawker on his #wildlunchbreak on Thursday, and last night I was buzzed by one near Island Mere as it chased midges and mosquitos along the woodland edge just inches from my face! I've also enjoyed watching four-spotted and broad-bodied chasers patrolling the ditches, red-eyed damselflies perching on floating vegetation, and a variety of blue damselflies that provide an ID challenge. While spending time looking into ditches we've also been watching male sticklebacks digging and guarding nests in the muddy streambed at Island Mere and close to the Wildlife Lookout, and have seen a few shoals of rudd too. One of our guides even spotted this amazing water stick-insect on the path near Wildlife Lookout earlier this week.

    Out on the Scrape life hasn't been quite so rosy, but the footage has been amazing. A Springwatch favourite, the badger, did his popularity ratings no good at all by breaking through the Scrape fencing (we presume it dug underneath somewhere), swimming out to the island, and devouring many of the avocet and black-headed gull eggs and chicks. Presumably as a result of this disturbance there are few birds still nesting on the Scrape, but there is a still a good variety of birds to be seen there. The first spotted redshanks have returned from the Arctic this week, and a garganey has been on South Scrape for a few days. Other waders include 93 black-tailed godwits, 52 avocets, a few lapwings, redshanks and oystercatchers. A few common, Sandwich and little terns are present too, along with a variety of ducks and several little egrets and grey herons.

    If you're already missing Springwatch, don't worry as the BBC team will be keeping their Facebook page open, and you can contact them on Twitter @BBCSpringwatch with your wildlife sightings throughout the year. Autumnwatch will be on your screen later this year, and we're already looking forward to the next series of Springwatch next year.

    Of course, we're also keen to hear about your visit to Minsmere, and see your photos of Wildlife from around Suffolk on the RSPB Suffolk Facebook page and @RSPBMinsmere on Twitter. If you haven't been to Minsmere recently, or ever, then please come along soon and see for yourself. 

    Finally, if you''re missing the view from the studio, this was the scene from Whin Hill last night.

    Posted by Ian Barthorpe

How you can help

Coast on a stormy day with heavy rain falling on coastal headland

We're setting up an emergency fund that we can use to get our reserves back into shape and repair the damage caused. Please help us rebuild from the worst storm in 60 years.

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Your sightings

Grid reference: TM4767 (+2km)

Red-footed Falcon ()
31 Jul 2014
Collared Pratincole (1)
27 Jul 2014
Curlew Sandpiper (1)
1 Aug 2014
Spotted Redshank (16)
1 Aug 2014
Wood Sandpiper (1)
1 Aug 2014
Little Gull (58)
1 Aug 2014
Common Sandpiper (6)
30 Jul 2014
Avocet ()
30 Jul 2014
Little Ringed Plover ()
30 Jul 2014
Cetti's Warbler ()
30 Jul 2014

Contact us

Where is it?

  • Lat/lng: 52.24746,1.61705
  • Postcode: IP17 3BY
  • Grid reference: TM473672
  • Nearest town: Saxmundham, Suffolk
  • County: Suffolk
  • Country: England

Get directions

Note: Some reserves are not served directly by public transport and, in these cases, a nearby destination (from which you may need to walk or take a taxi or ferry) may be offered.

Living classrooms