Thursday, 10 September 2015

Sep 10th Minsmere

Minsmere is always a great place to visit at this time of year. You never know what will turn up and today's visit proved it. Two rare migrants have turned up today; a barred warbler and a red-necked phalarope. The barred warbler in particular interested me the most, as I have never seen one before and a phalarope is always good to see. So after getting the directions, I led Mum through the woods and down the western half of the scrapes towards the sluice gates at the far end of the reserve to where the warbler was.

Along the way, we popped into the two hides en route. There wasn't too much about. The first hide did have a few little egrets and a little grebe, while the second had several spotted redshanks and a few dunlin, but no red-necked phalarope.
Little Grebe
Spotted Redshank
Another Spotted Redshank

A crowd of twitchers waiting for the Barred Warbler
When we got to the sluice gates at the furthest corner of the scrapes, a crowd of twitchers gathered around the two sides of this fenced off corner. Most of them still hadn't seen it yet, but were informed that the warbler was in some bushes surrounding a bricked structure with wooden posts pertruding above them all beside the structure. A few minutes after we arrived, Mum spotted something on the tallest bush. It was quickly identified as a whinchat. Not the bird we were after, but still good as whinchats only pass through this side of the UK on migration.

Barred Warbler
We decided to wait with the twitchers for a short while for the barred warbler to show itself. It wasn't a long wait though, as the bird gave us a glimpse of it before hiding again in the dense vegetation. We saw it, but I didn't get the shot in time. We were about to leave, satisfied with the glimpse that we got, but then it came up for another, much longer appearance to feed on the blackberries. I managed a few ok shots before it went down again. This may seem like another brown bird, but this was a large warbler from Eastern Europe and was more impressive than any common warbler you will see in Britain. It is named for the barring streaks on its breast, though I found the eye more striking. Like most rare migrant birds arriving at this time of year, it is probably a juvenile that has lost its way, heading west and not south.

Red-necked Phalarope
With my first barred warbler in the bag, we moved on to look for our next rare migrant. The East Hide was packed and this meant one thing, the red-necked phalarope was here! Annoyingly though, it was at the far end of the scrape, producing some very fuzzy images.

 Distant it may be, we could still see what it was doing and just make out what it looked like. Surprise, surprise, it was another juvenile bird. This tiny wader is grey and white at the moment, like all phalaropes of its kind as they develope their winter plumage. These birds breed further north in the Arctic Circle (with some breeding on the Shetland Isles), where it is the female who has the looks and the male who does all the work looking after the eggs and chicks. They are only stopping by here as they fuel up on an epic journey that takes them over the Atlantic, through North America and to Peru. An incredible fact that has only recently been discovered. This amazing bird has an interesting feeding method, which I witness with this individual, as it spins in circles. We also spot a common sandpiper and black-tailed godwits, which were a lot closer to see than the phalarope.

Black-tailed Godwit
Common Sandpiper
After lunch, we went to the Bittern Hide, where a bittern was around but hidden. I did not see it, but I did see a kingfisher briefly land in the area of reeds the bittern was hiding in and a flock of gadwalls fleeing in drastic fashion brought our attention to an otter. It was a fitting end to a great day watching some great wildlife. Lets hope the rest of autumn provides more exciting things like today.

Parasol (I think)
More Parasols
Orb-web Spider
Red Admiral

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