Naturelog: Saturday 23rd August

A bright morning and off to Minsmere with the Central London RSPB group. Minsmere never seems to disappoint, whatever the weather, whatever the season. Its unique collection of different habitats in a single area (Sea, tidal marsh, freshwater marsh, woodland, heathland, reed-bed) mean there is always something to see.

Island Mere
Island Mere

My top priority today was to see if I could find and photograph Black Darter, a dragonfly species becoming increasing scarce in the South and East of England.
Black Darter (Male)
Photo by Dave Green [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

I have seen it at Minsmere some years ago and wanted to see if I could find it again. So I departed off to the heathland stopping briefly at Island Mere where I was fortunate to see both Marsh Harrier and Bittern, both specialities of the reserve.

Looking from Winn Hill over Island Mere
Looking from Winn Hill over Island Mere

Alas my search was in vain. The fact that the clouds had come over and the wind got up didn’t help, but no Black Darter to be found. I did manage to catch up with one good butterfly species as I noticed a large butterfly which was lost to sight as soon as it landed. Closer inspection revealed it to be a Grayling, a master of disguise whose camouflaged underwing enables it to ‘disappear’ as soon as it lands. It also rests at an angle to reduce the shadow it casts on the ground. It is also a declining species and is estimated to have declined by over 50% in the last 30 years.


Looking at the weather it seemed that it was not likely to be very productive for either dragonflies or Butterflies so I decide to head off for the scrape to see what wading birds were around. The east scrape proved the most productive with a number of waders including some which caused some ID queries. Ringed Plovers were present but were they Little Ringed or Common Ringed? Both had been reported and at the distance viewed it was impossible to see the yellow eye ring of the Little. I was fortunate to get some views of birds in flight and was able to confirm that both species were present (The Common has a wing bar and the Little doesn’t). Equally Common and Spotted Redshank were also both present. In breeding plumage these two species are very distinct but now as we go into winter plumage it is more difficult. One individual looked quite dark in its plumage and most people agreed that it was almost certainly Spotted Redshank. A small part of Yellow Wagtails was also a welcome sighting. Regrettably all these birds were too far for photographs.

Looking over North Scrape towards Sizewell Power station
Looking over North Scrape towards Sizewell Power station

Walking back to the reserve centre, a feeding Goldfinch did at least provide the opportunity for some decent photos and then there were the Beewolf. A reserve volunteer was showing visitors these interesting digger-wasps which parasitise bees (hence the name).



For me watching these wasps dig their holes and hearing about their life-cycle was one of the highlights of the day along with that sighting of Grayling. As I said Minsmere never seems to disappoint.

Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Gadwall (Anas strepera)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Eurasian Teal [sp] (Anas crecca)
Little Grebe [sp] (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
Eurasian Bittern [sp] (Botaurus stellaris)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Little Egret [sp] (Egretta garzetta)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Western Marsh Harrier [sp] (Circus aeruginosus)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
Common Ringed Plover [sp] (Charadrius hiaticula)
Little Ringed Plover [sp] (Charadrius dubius)
Black-tailed Godwit [sp] (Limosa limosa)
Eurasian Curlew [sp] (Numenius arquata)
Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus)
Common Redshank [sp] (Tringa totanus)
Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia)
Dunlin [sp] (Calidris alpina)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Rook [sp] (Corvus frugilegus)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Marsh Tit [sp] (Poecile palustris)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Sand Martin [sp] (Riparia riparia)
Barn Swallow [sp] (Hirundo rustica)
Common House Martin [sp] (Delichon urbicum)
Eurasian Reed Warbler [sp] (Acrocephalus scirpaceus)
Common Whitethroat [sp] (Sylvia communis)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Western Yellow Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla flava)
White Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla alba)
Meadow Pipit [sp] (Anthus pratensis)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Greenfinch [sp] (Carduelis chloris)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)
Common Linnet [sp] (Carduelis cannabina)

Small White (Artogeia rapae)
Grayling [sp] (Hipparchia semele)
Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina)
Speckled Wood [sp] (Pararge aegeria)

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta)
Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum)

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