It was a rather early start if me and my parents wanted to get to Minsmere and still have a decent amount of time around the reserve. We left at 6:45 and arrived at 10:00. We first looked for the elusive Turtle Dove but sadly with no success. We then headed to Bittern hide where we had a quick glimpse of a Kingfisher, Marsh Harrier and Bearded tits. We then headed down to Island mere Hide where we had no success other than the occasional 'Ping' from a bearded tit group. On the way back to the visitor centre though we had a close encounter with a group of recently fledged Sedge Warblers.
We then decided to have a rather early lunch whilst we watched the Sand Martins flying over our heads and diving into their nests. However the speed of them meant I didn't get any good pictures. We then bumped into David Walsh, a really nice birder who I have been in contact with for a few months. It was really good to go round with him and talk, (and find out that my Dad knew his grandfather). We were very lucky to have David with us and it helped when we got to the first hide (East hide). Within second he had spotted all the main species including, Spotted Redshank (one in jet black summer plumage), Redshank, Ruff, Dunlin and Ringed Plover. David also spotted several Common Sandpipers and two Green Sandpipers meaning he could show me the difference.
Spotted redshank (in summer plumage)
We then headed along the beach to the next hide hoping to see the Little Gulls. But half way along David had a scan of the sea and I got a bit of a surprise when he let me have a look through his very good scope and saw three COMMON SCOTER!!! We then went to the hide where we got a reasonable view of around 60 Little Gulls and a few Common Tern. When we came out of the hide we got a nice view of a Grayling butterfly.
On the way to the next hides we stopped to look at a Little egret and Common Sandpiper just past the Sluice where my Dad got a bit confused about the common names of birds and how they 'aren't in the same family'. Then on the way to the final two hides an even better view of the the Little gulls and an unusually amazing view of a Cetti's Warbler. In the penultimate hide (west) there was again good view of a Ruff and 5 Knot in partial Summer plumage. David was also able to show me the difference between Spotted Redshank and Common Redshank as they were feeding together. This was really helpful and by the time we got out of the hide I was more or less confident that I could tell the difference between them. We ended the day with a visit to the Cafe and shop. Overall a really good day birding and it was very nice to finally meet David and walk round the reserve with him.
Although the Breeding season has come to an end I recently went to the Oxford Harcourt Arboretum to partly look for nests but mainly to see what sort of stuff there is and to see wether I could include it as one of my Nest Record Scheme sites. The main species of interest there are; Little Owl, Barn Owl, Tawny Owl, Nuthatch, Willow warbler, Chiffchaff and potentially Spotted and Pied Flycatchers. There are three main areas where I think there are nests; a large young plantation of Ash, Willow and small shrub with wildflower (with Willow warblers and Chiffchaffs), A large old wood of mainly Oak (with Flycatchers, Tawny Owl, Red kites and Nuthatch) and finally two large fields of grazed and non-grazed wildflower with a barn and scarcely spread out trees (with Barn Owls and Little Owls).
I started by heading to the wood where I heard what could be a Spotted and Pied Flycatcher but also spotted what could be a young Red kite from a nest that has been used two years in a row. There was also a large amount of good nest sites for the Flycatchers and Tawny Owls (dead trees with cavities and holes).
Red kite (possibly Juvenile)
I then moved onto the young plantation where there were only Chiffchaffs and Willow warblers to be heard and after a while of searching there were no signs of nests. I then Finally went on to the Old barn where there was a Barn Owl box. The box had been used two years ago but in the last few years has been abandoned and it was only a few weeks ago that one of the staff realised there was a pair nesting in it and it was just possible to hear the young bumping around in the box. I also spent a bit more time around the edge of the field looking for signs of Little Owls and Tawny Owls in amongst the trees but found nothing other than a Stock Dove nest. Hopefully like in my local area and reserve I will be able to put up nest boxes for the Flycatchers and Owls, but if i'm really lucky put up a natural nest box either a Tawny or Little Owl or even a Nuthatch, made from a a dead trunk sawn off, hollowed out and attached back to the tree.