One of the highlights of a walk round the reserve trails at the moment is the sight of little red-and-black 'bombers' zipping from flower to flower. They love the ragwort, thistles and teasels, but what are they? Most are burnet moths, and we have three types here: six-spot, five-spot and narrow-bordered five-spot, but until they've settled on a flower, you can't tell them apart (well, I can't anyway). We should also be seeing cinnabar moths in the next couple of weeks, and if you look carefully on the yellow ragwort flowers, you might see their orange-and-black stripy caterpillars.
These are all day-flying moths, so you can see them alongside our butterflies, which at the moment include gatekeepers, small tortoiseshells and some very smart commas. Another day-flying moth to look out for are silver-Y moths, a migrant that has arrived from the continent. Their wings are straw-coloured, with a tiny silver 'Y' mark on each wing. Other insects worth looking out for include common darter, emperor dragonfly and southern hawker - hopefully we'll see these on our Dragonflies and Damselflies event on Saturday.
August is the month to see migrating waders, and we allow the water levels to drop on the lagoons so that there is plenty of food-rich mud for them as they stopover on their long journey from the Arctic to west Africa. One or two green sandpipers have been here most days for the last fortnight, a curlew sandpiper and ringed plover were seen yesterday (3rd), there are several whimbrels on the estuary which come onto the lagoon islands at high tide. Up to 14 dunlins and 10 black-tailed godwits have been seen this week, a turnstone was reported last Wednesday (29th), two greenshanks and a grey plover on 25th.
Other birds are starting to ship out, such as 20 swifts circling high above the reserve yesterday morning (3rd), and we have seen sand martins again this week after a couple of months' absence. Juvenile redstarts have been seen on several dates in the last couple of weeks, drawing attention to themselves with a flick of their orange tail, while a kingfisher has been seen a couple of times recently, hopefully returning for the autumn and winter as usual.
July can spring surprises, such as an Arctic tern and seven common scoters in the estuary on the morning of 25th as we were setting up for the reserve's 20th birthday party. One early visitor saw an otter on the reserve yesterday morning (3rd) and we've spotted them on our trailcam too, while stoats and weasels have also been seen most days, though no particular place is reliable for them.
Small birds are hard to find at the moment, as they are hiding in the bushes, moulting their feathers after a busy season feeding young. A few warblers still have second broods in their nests, but in a few weeks they'll be more obvious, feeding up on insects and the rapidly-ripening blackberries before starting their journeys to Africa. It's a great time of the year to visit, as you never know what you're going to find.