Posts Tagged ‘RSPB


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


Rallying Rail

Everyone knows that Water Rails show well at dusk. This individual had not read the books. Walking alongside the path at Titchwell it was attracting a steady steam of admirers.


The blind leading the blind

I’ve been doing a lot of research in museums lately. Grubbing about in crates, cabinets and archive warehouses. More on that at a later date.

I heard on the grapevine the other day that the RSPB had also been doing some research in the archives. They have been looking up old occurrences of a couple of bird species with a view to gathering evidence to support more ‘re’-introductions.

Don’t laugh … Black Stork and White Pelican are apparently on the agenda.

Below is a photo of a Black Stork I took in France some years ago. Could these become a regular sight in British skies?

I do wish the money that the RSPB spend on reintroductions was put to more useful purpose. It’s not reintroductions at the top of the food chain that really matter. Releasing White tailed Sea Eagles and Red Kites is all very well and it’s crowd pleasing stuff; but they are unsustainable in the long term if we don’t get the food chain below them functioning correctly. More specifically the bottom of the food chain … the insects. These are the bottom blocks upon which all the other species blocks sit. If they are removed the pyramid will just come tumbling down. We, the human race, are part of that pyramid.

I remember driving my first car  to Bridlington one summer in the 1970’s from where I lived on the slopes of the Dearne Valley in Yorkshire. It was a Morris Marina 1.8L GT. Mustard with a brown vinyl roof. Proud of it I was. I guess the journey was 70 or 80 miles. I specifically remember having to stop three or four times to clean the windscreen of dead insects. When was the last time you had to do that? In the last 40 years we have sprayed insects out of existence in our quest to produce more crop from the same acreage of field. It’s all about money!

To put the mini-beasts back we need to put money into converting some farmland back to heath, grassland, pastures and marshes. I read the other day we waste around a third of all the food we produce. We don’t need all the food we grow. We could do this; it’s possible. We could effectively pay farmers to ‘farm’ insect life. We already give subsidies for ‘bee crops’. Do this and small mammals and reptiles that feed on the insects would increase. Lager mammals and birds would increase as a result. No need to reintroduce top predators … they would eventually move back of their own accord. Get the habitat right and we’ll get more insects. More insects, more everything else.

Our subscriptions to the RSPB should surely be wholly and fully directed towards land conversion. We need to start converting land and increasing efficiency of food use soon. The quicker the better.

Not really sexy though is it? Who would pay their subscriptions for that? It’s better to be seen to have an instant result. So let’s stick a few big birds back in the countryside.

Sadly it … is … all … about … money!

Black Stork


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.

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Jan 2023


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