The promised rain arrived as forecast, and the morning was wet and damp and quite dreary. we took our time with a good breakfast, and by mid day the rain had moved through to leave overcast but milder conditions. The wind had moved around the the south west, and despite the fresh breeze it felt a lot warmer. We decided to head back into Minsmere for the afternoon, and arrived in completely different conditions to those we had arrived in on Saturday.
In the car park a single Robin was singing from the Gorse bush.
We signed in at the visitor centre, and received some news that took us off in the direction of the South Levels. As we walked along the west side of the Scrape the rain started, only misty rain but we took shelter in the South Hide until it eased. Once dry again we were off and walking down to the South Levels. Scanning across the levels I immediately found the reported three Spoonbills, but even better, beyond them at the back of the levels were three Common Cranes.
The Spoonbills can be seen better in this view, only one Crane now as the others have moved away to the left.
The other two Cranes, the views were very distant, and they were preening, and walking around, the bushel of feathers standing out clearly.
Lovely to see these here, the RSPB very keen that they like the area and look to breed. These three though are probably still sub adults, lets hope they continue to stay here on a piece of land that is highly suitable to them. Later on in the day, the Cranes were seen flying north over the reserve towards Dingle Marshes.
We headed back into the reserve and off towards the Island Mere hide. In the overcast conditions the Sand Martins and Swifts were hawking for insects low over the reeds and open water. The Swifts are as difficult as the Swallows to photograph, but I managed to get this one.
On the way to the Island Mere we stopped to check the Adder trail. There was one female in a different place, we couldn't though see the head, just the body exposed to the radiation coming from a sun that was attempting to break through the clouds.
The hide was once again packed and there was no seats, this though was not too much of a problem as the high open windows did allow me to be able to watch the Hobbys flying low over the water.
Their agility was amazing to watch, switching back, flying up as insects became available
And finally a grab with the yellow talons, and a meal on the wing.
Below the Hobbys the Great Crested Grebes were still trying to repair challenged relationships.
A pair of Greylag Geese in front of the hide were protecting their brood of newly hatched gosling. One little gosling decided to take refuge in the parents wings, sticking its head out to see what was going on. An Ahhh moment.
The Hobby continued to hunt over the water, although it would disappear for long periods, and began to drift away over the reeds towards the Bittern Hide.
Then as we watched the water, to the left along the dyke a Bittern flew in and landed by the side of the Reeds.
Just like yesterday it moved along the edge of the reeds before finally coming out into the open. When it did it performed extremely well. In this photograph you can see the almost binocular vision the Bittern has.
Again the low stalking walk as it methodically made its way through the reeds and the water
At one point it stopped and ruffled its feathers and swelled itself up, was it going to boom?
It didn't, but kept on going to the edge of the water. Finally it flew off, crossing in front of us heading to the east.
This was an even better show than the one we were treated to on Saturday, it was closer, and longer, a brilliant experience.
We sat still for a little bit longer but finally decided it was time for a cup of tea, and headed back to the visitor centre. After Tea I wanted to check the North Wall for Bearded Tits, so we walked by the Sand Martin bank and on the the main path. As we did we found this little fellow under the bracken.
As we walked up to the bank there were two Bitterns in flight over the reeds, and we stood and watched as they dropped into the reeds. Yesterday we had heard one booming here so maybe one was that boomer.
It didn't take long to find the Bearded Tits, their pings announcing their presence. I saw a female fly into the reeds near me, and I waited to see if it would emerge. However behind me Helen had seen another fly across the wall, and this one was a male. I scrambled up the bank and found it by the edge of the water foraging through the reeds.
It had a bill full of insects and was clearly searching for more.
Gorgeous and enigmatic birds, the male is very impressive
It then flew across the wall again, and dropped into the area the I had seen the femal come from. After a short wait, the female appeared again just visible in the reeds.
The decision to look here having proved successful we decided for one more time in the Bittern Hide so we set off once more through the Oak trees. As the sun was out we checked the Adder trail to see if there were any more showing, and sure enough the female from yesterday was in the same spot.
Probably the best view so far.
Leaving the Adder we went down to the hide. Surprisingly it was busy, so we waited for a seat to open up. When it did we were almost immediately treated to yet another Bittern. Coming in from the west it settled on the edge of the reed and then walked across to the other side in the sunshine.
This one though did not stay so long, and was soon off flying away to the south east before dropping out of sight into the reeds. This was the ninteh Bittern we had seen over the two days, five yesterday and four today, chances are that at least two were the same bird today so at least seven individual birds.
The reeds returned to the quiet, Marsh Harriers drifted by, and two Red Deer, the only ones we had seen on the reserve after a small group as we drove in on Saturday., were on the bank of the dyke.
Despite the sunny afternoon weather the forecast was for thundery storms, and away over towards Eastbridge the skies were darkening with the threat of a storm.
As a result we decided to call it a day. We have had two wonderful days at Minsmere with some really good quality sightings of both birds and animals. At this time of year Minsmere never fails to deliver and you can be assured we will be back.