Posts Tagged ‘Minsmere


Budget Statement

On our recent migration day at Minsmere … we saw lots.

I took this photo of a Great White Egret looking South from Island Mere hide towards the Sizewell nuclear plant. Given the chancellors recent announcement it set me thinking.

I thought the photo showed quite well the juxtaposition of where we are and the dilemma we face. The Egret is a relatively new coloniser in the UK, but it has become somewhat of a regular breeding species. It is a species that has taken advantage of ever northward moving increasing temperature contours. Increasing temperatures caused by human induced climate change. Then in the background is Sizewell power station. The site of the proposed new C reactor. A project designed to lower carbon emissions; to limit climate change.

Some would say why does Sizewell C have to take up prime wildlife habitat next to what could be described as the UK’s no1 showpiece reserve? I guess existing infrastructure has something to do with that; after all it has to go somewhere; and we do have to limit carbon emissions: don’t we?

Some would say why not pump the £30M estimated construction costs into wind, wave or solar energy production. So where do the turbines or panels go? I presume they have a larger landscape or seascape footprint than a nuclear plant producing an equivalent output.

The answers are not easy. I don’t know the solutions but there has to be some compromise and I do know we have to do something to reduce power production carbon emissions … but does it have to be Minsmere? Really?



We had a great tour down to Minsmere last weekend with excellent sightings of Hen Harrier, Lesser Yellowlegs, Bittern, Bearded Tit at point blank range, displaying Great crested Grebes, Great White Egret, a couple of Whooper Swans, a pair of absolutely pristine Pintails and Mediterranean Gulls and more Dartford Warblers than I’ve ever seen in a single day.

Wrap all that lot up, and more, with the good company of my guests and it made for an excellent day.


A ‘bit …’ more please

The tour to Minsmere earlier this month was a good one with some excellent sightings as well as good company. A nice drake Garganey put in an appearance as did a Little Gull close in front of the hide. Even a Hobby or two were putting on a show between the sauntering’s of Marsh Harriers. The few waders we saw were in full summer garb. The Knot in particular, dressed in brick red were impressive. The distant high-pitched reeling of a Savi’s Warbler even caught our attention. This irregular visitor is not often seen but we got half decent repeated views of him sitting in a bush singing away with his bill wide agape. However, it was the Bitterns that made us smile; beating their way across the reeds and pools they took on the appearance of modern-day Pterodactyls. Next years day in May 2020 is up for bookings


A bird in the hand

There were quite a few fungi we stumbled across on our tours to Minsmere in Suffolk this last week. The Birds Nest Fungi is probably the most fascinating. I photographed these with a five pence piece to give some sense of scale; they are tiny. As the fruiting body ripens it reveals the ‘nest’ containing the spore cases which look similar to eggs sitting inside.

As raindrops splash into the cup they disperse the spore cases.

2015 10 27 Bird's Nest Fungi Minsmere Suffolk_Z5A3460


Phallus impudicus

Phallus impudicus is the Latin name for the Stinkhorn. On the fungi theme once more and again at Minsmere on tour last week we smelt this fruiting body before we saw it!

2015 10 28 Stinkhorn Fungi Minsmere Suffolk_Z5A3503


A Whale of a time

You would think a very  very showy Cetti’s Warbler, a subtly marked beautiful female Ring Ouzel and sixty odd other species was enough for a mornings bird watching to throw at us? How wrong could I have been?

We were on our tour to Minsmere in Suffolk yesterday and my guests were already pleased with what they had seen. Little did we know there was so much more to come.

Our bird list for the day was escalating quickly but on reaching the sea I scanned the horizon only to find it disappointingly bereft of birds. I scanned again. Was that a dark shape I just saw? Studying the sea closely it reappeared and then went down below the waves again. Although it was a long way out it was definitely a cetacean; a large one at that. It was facing me and looked broad as it surfaced again. I know that shape well. A clear bushy blow discounted Minke. When it turned side on at the next surfacing the stubby fin confirmed we were watching a Humpback; Suffolk’s second ever. We watched it for quite a while and enjoyed the moment. Judging the appearances there may have been another cetacean nearby but of this I remain unsure.

The Stoat chasing a Rabbit almost around our feet during our picnic lunch was a delight to watch; the predator at least having the decency to despatch his quarry out of sight. The day was turning into a ‘mammal day’.

Perhaps for my guests the icing on the cake was the Otter we watched surfacing and surprising the Teal and Wigeon flock. For me … it had to be finding that long winged new-englander lounging offshore. It made my year!


Humpback Whale _MG_1574

Here’s one I photographed earlier!



Grumpy Old Git?

We called at Minsmere last week. For those that don’t know Minsmere is a reserve under the auspice of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). This is the same organisation that runs Titchwell Marshes in Norfolk (I’m sorry if you already know this but some readers in the States will not)

During 2011/2 the RSPB made some changes to Titchwell reserve and replaced hides. I did a write up of the hide design last year ( and it didn’t come out well. The new hides despite winning design awards were and are unpopular with birdwatchers.

I was surprised therefore to find a similar but perhaps worse design at Minsmere. The old Reedbed hide was in need of replacement and something clearly had to be done. A company called Gilleard Bros Ltd we drafted in to design and build the hide.

I love the RSPB – they do a great job and in the main they get it right; but a serious review needs to be made of the people within the organisation (presumably at the top) commissioning these hides.

Take a look at the photo below taken from the back of the Reedbed Hide on our visit. More photos here


Notice anything? It’s difficult to see why anyone thought it would hide its occupants – it clearly does not. There is too much glass on both sides. Someone has already noticed this as they have put anti-collision stickers to prevent bird strikes on the glass. It beggars belief that it has to be pointed out but these constructions will only hide the occupants if they have narrow openings and are dark inside – the wish to make them light and airy to attract more clientele and drive up profits is understandable but self-defeating – there will be nothing for them to watch. Indeed the only birds close to the hide were relatively tame Mute Swans; the short marsh area was devoid of Snipe which I would have expected to see here on a bright winter’s day.

The old hide had two tiers and from what I can recall would have seated around 48 people the new hide is one tier and will seat at best 20 with standing room for perhaps another 20 (*but see the note below)

As we sat in the hide our view out was severely restricted. This is bizarre given the amount of glass in the hide but reflective surfaces just obstructed vision. In the old hide my visibility would be restricted to around 170 degrees. Now it must be 120 degrees at best.

The openings lights are over engineered. Yes they enable wheelchair users to open window flaps without assistance but a better, simpler arrangement could have been made. The lower pane of glass is wound by way of a geared wheel into the panel in front of the observer’s legs. It goes too low and leaves the surface where you put gloves, hat and camera etc. too exposed. They will easily fall out. Several items of clothing have already been lost outside the front of the hide.

The higher glass panes rise on pulleys to near horizontal. They are dangerous. In high wind they come down – an accident will happen. *It suffices to say anyone stood up can only look out through glass when it’s windy. Goodbye photographers. In any case there is just too much glass – it’s unnecessary and indeed detrimental to viewing birds.

There is a long ramp to the hide, no doubt to aid access to wheelchair users but it rises well above surrounding reeds – it needs screening.

It has to be said construction is to a very high standard. Zero marks for design. In this age of austerity a good old fashioned wooden replacement would have been more than adequate and much better than what we now have. Please, please RSPB consult a few birdwatchers in the know next time. Please.

Wow this is turning into a long post but while I’m writing I might as well get it all out. The reserve at Minsmere seems as though it’s going through a phase where it’s beginning to look like an extension of Pleasurewood Hills (the local theme park for our American Readers) Swings, play areas and statues and the like. I feel as though a Wildlife Reserve is just not the place for these things. Or am I just being an old grumpy git?

I promise the next post won’t be as long.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Mar 2023


%d bloggers like this: