Monday, 2 November 2015

Nov 2nd Minsmere

Greenfinches on a feeder at Minsmere
The fog was beginning to clear a little as we arrived at Minsmere this morning. As it was thick with fog yesterday too, who knows what rare migrant species might have turned up while lost flying in these conditions. Scanning the sightings board in the visitor centre, there was nothing of the sort that would attract twitchers from all over the country. However, there were four special birds out on the scrapes today that caught my interest.

Coal Tit
Bewick's Swans
After spending some time watching the birds on the feeders while eating a bacon butty, we made our way with a short walk to North Hide. Out on the scrapes from the hide, there were birds everywhere. They were mostly teals, mallards, wigeons, shovelers, godwits, a few avocets, lots of gulls and the odd lapwing and redshank. But glowing white from amongst the mist were the four Bewick's swans I wanted to see. They were busy preening and having a snooze, but the lack of movement is understandable when you know that they have travelled many miles from Arctic Russia to get here. Bewick's swans have hit the headlines this autumn, as the first ones arrived earlier than normal to WWT Slimbridge and many predict that this is a sign that this winter will be a really cold one. The four here at Minsmere are probably more of these early arrivals.
They are lovely birds to look at with their mostly black than yellow bills occasionally peering out of their wonderful white plumage. I have to admit, I'm not sure if I have ever seen a wild Bewicks before. I have seen mute and whooper swans, but probably not Bewicks except in wildfowl collections. They are much scarcer than the other two species and rarely mingle with them. They also look similar to whooper swans, but they are much bigger than Bewicks and their bills are mostly yellow than black.

Highland Cattle
Female Pheasant
A bush covered in spider webs
While walking down to the beach, a male marsh harrier soars close over the mist covered reedbeds. Stonechats sat on the bushes and heads of reeds as if posing for us or watching us watching them. Bearded tits were pinging in the reedbeds surrounding the stonechat's bushes, teasing us with quick glimpses as they flew low over the reeds.

Male Marsh Harrier

A foggy scene on the beach
From East Hide, we could still see the four swans, but they were more distant than they were from North Hide. We could see the same wildfowl, waders and gulls we saw from North Hide with a few new additions. A Mediterranean gull in winter plumage was preening itself on one of the small islands and a snipe was doing the same on another island behind it. Suddenly, lots of wildfowl started to swirl in the air to our left before making a splash landing together at once. Something had spooked them and I quickly found the culprit. A female marsh harrier was soaring low over the reeds and scrapes, attempting to drive the birds up again. This time it failed, but the commotion did make the Bewicks wake up and a bit more alert than earlier.
Mediterranean Gull
Female Marsh Harrier
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Bewick's Swans

We made our way back for lunch at the visitor centre finding a kestrel and some rabbits along the way. There were a lot more birds coming to the feeders as we watched them while eating our lunch. Pheasants were feeding on the food dropped to the ground by the finches and tits on the feeders above them.
Another Rabbit
Goldfinches and a Greenfinch
Greenfinches and a Goldfinch
Blue Tit and Goldfinches
Male Pheasant

Foggy scene at Bittern Hide
By the time we had finished lunch, the fog had rolled back in and was thicker than it was this morning. It made the walk to Bittern Hide a waste of time as the view was almost non-existing. We did see a kingfisher flash by, but even his bright colour was washed away by the grey mass of the fog. At least the woodland trail appeared rarther enchanting in it as we made way back slightly disappointed.

Autumn colour in the woods

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