Monday, 22 August 2016

Aug 22nd Minsmere

Minsmere has been attracting a lot of excitement amongst the twitcher community this month. A few weeks ago, thousands of people from across the UK travelled to this part of Suffolk to see a western purple swamphen, a bird that resembles a large purple moorhen that is normally found in southern Spain but for some reason found itself all the way here, the first time one has ever done so. Then, just a few days ago, a bee-eater showed up, attracting mostly local twitchers. Of course, they were gone before I planned to make a visit. So, as Mum and I have finally made the effort, what could possibly show up today?

Strimming work at North Hide 
The answer. Nothing! Well, technically, there were wood, green and common sandpipers and greenshanks at a temporary wader trail at the far end of the reserve. But I couldn't work out how far of a walk that was, so we left that out. Instead, I decided that we should walk around the scrapes and see if we could find some of these waders there from within the many hides. We started at North Hide first, but before we even entered, the sound of a strimmer resonated from the direction of the hide. A member of staff was using a strimmer to cut down the vegetation from outside the North Hide. This activity made this part of the area pretty much empty of birds. They had all moved to other sections of the scrapes where it is a little bit quieter. With one quick glance from inside North Hide, we decided to move on and make our way to the beach and East Hide.

Red Deer
On the way to the beach, we had a quick scan for stone curlews on the heath. Apparently, the stone curlew pair from Springwatch had managed to successfully hatch two chicks after a second attempt, though one got predated. There was no sign of them today, however, we did see these three red deer instead. One of the three was a young fawn, while the other two were females. Besides the deer, there was very little else about as we continued our way to East Hide. Even the sea was empty of bird life!

3 Little Gulls and a Black-headed Gull (the one on the right)
It was a little better when we got to East Hide and then South Hide, as there were plenty of waders about that did not flee the sound of the strimmers. Annoyingly though, they were all mainly gathered towards the back of the pools, as far from the hides as possible. Without a telescope, it made identifying them much more challenging. Even my camera was struggling at the furthest limit of its range to get clear images. I did manage to make out a few ruff, avocets, black-tailed godwits, dunlin and a little ringed plover as well as a few little gulls (my best highlight of the day). Of course, larger birds such as little egrets and lesser black-backed gulls were a lot more obvious and there was no hesitation in identifying them. There was even a quick flash of a kingfisher as it darted past the front of South Hide at lightning speed.
Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull with youngster begging for food
Little Egret and Ruff
Moorhen Chick
Male Common Blue Butterfly
Other highlights from today included a shoal of rudd in a ditch, a handful of sand martins and a few common blue butterflies, which only provoke me more as I continue to hope that one shows up at Strumpshaw for me to tick off my challenge sheet. And that was it really. No marsh harriers, no bitterns. It was almost uneventful. It was also fairly hot, enough to drain us both of energy from our circuit walk around the scrapes. We had had enough by the time we reached the visitor centre for lunch and so we decided to go home early.

Female Common Blue
Red Admiral

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