Some people may be unhappy at me for saying this but autumn has already begun, for some birds at least. This is particularly noticeable as wading birds that have failed to breed are now returning from further north. The two species that are almost always the first to appear are common sandpiper and spotted redshank, and both were on the lagoons this week. There are two spotted redshanks towards the western end of the reserve, both are really worth a look as they are still resplendent in their speckled black breeding plumage.
Common sandpiper by Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
While it might be autumn for a few wading birds, it is still definitely summer as far as our insects are concerned. The grassy banks are dotted with lovely butterflies such as red admiral, meadow brown and small tortoiseshell. In the last week or so we have started to see a few painted ladies, hopefully the pioneers of a much larger invasion still to come! One of my favourite wildlife groups is the bumblebees and the workers can be seen in their hundreds searching the clovers and vetches for the best sources of pollen.
Meadow brown by Caroline Clay.
We are really pleased to have two tern rafts now on the lagoons to the west of Karen's Viewpoint. Hesketh Out Marsh used to have a sizeable tern colony before it was reclaimed for farmland about 40 years ago so it is fantastic to be able to help them recolonise a former breeding area. There is a pair of common terns that are often seen displaying across the site, but the stars of the show are the arctic terns. At least three pairs are present and investigating the rafts. You can get brilliant views of these graceful birds fishing close to the path.
We have also had a few unusual sightings recently. Last month there was a Temminck's stint for a few days and this month we have been treated to a gorgeous male blue-headed wagtail. A sub-species of our yellow wagtail, this bird should really be in France or further south or east. As Colin's photo below shows, you can often get really good views as he sits on the fence beside the path at the western end of the reserve.
Male blue-headed wagtail at Hesketh Out Marsh by Colin Bushell.