Tuesday, 10 June 2014


Little grebe from Bittern hide
On Sunday 8th June, a fellow teacher sidekick of mine and I decided to take an hour's drive to visit Minsmere in Suffolk. I have been meaning to visit this reserve for a very long time, and have never quite got round to it before. With Spring watch being based there this year, it seemed there would be no better time to give it a try! This RSPB reserve is enormous, and is just as beautiful as they have portrayed it to be on Spring watch. It was a gorgeous hot and sunny day, and we saw more than thirty species of bird, and some other surprises besides.

Tree creeper hanging around
When we first arrived, we decided to head straight to the Bittern Hide, which boasts regular views of bittern and other birds. We saw no bitterns this time, but did have some very good views of a very sweet little grebe. I'm sorry to say that this is the very first time I have seen a little grebe, so there is another first for me this year! Due to the increased number of visitors, they helpfully had an RSPB volunteer stationed in every hide to aid with observations. The volunteer in this hide was immensely helpful, and got me started learning the calls of two different warblers we could hear: the Cetti's warbler and the reed warbler. Emma's wish for near the bittern hide was to see a tree creeper, because she had never seen one before. Luckily, on our way to the next hide, a very handsome tree creeper decided to oblige and complete its ritual dance around a tree trunk for us.

On our way to the second hide, we seemed to be doing a very good job of chasing a Cetti's warbler, but even though it sounded like it was right next to us, we never saw a glimpse. One of the loveliest things about this reserve though, was how friendly the other visitors were. As we were peering through the trees for our Cetti's warbler, a couple encouraged us to hurry to the hide where they'd just seen a spoonbill and a bittern! We missed the bittern, but the spoonbill had stayed put. I didn't get the best photo in the world, but it at least proves we've seen one... We also had a pair of spotted red shank and some good photo opportunities for little egrets and grey herons.
Little egret

Spotted redshank in foreground, shelduck further back

Grey heron in flight
Common tern
 The second hide looked over the scrape, as did the third hide, but from the opposite side. That meant we got to see avocets nesting (could it have been Audrey?), black headed gulls nesting, common terns, sandwich terns, baby coots and moorhens, amongst others.

As we were walking around, we were constantly surrounded by sand martins on all sides, and the occasional swallow. It was wonderful to see these agile birds up close. Sometimes they were soaring overhead, other times landing on the path above us. Eventually we walked to their nesting cliff, and saw them swiftly entering their nesting holes, feeding and leaving. They seemed to have no time to waste.
Sandwich terns

Baby coots
Avocets nesting
Black headed gull on nest
Sand martins nesting in cliff
 Later on in the evening, we decided to walk back to the bittern hide to try our luck. We still hadn't seen a bittern, but were surrounded by people all day talking about how they had never seen so many bitterns... We passed a group of three visitors with very large cameras. I asked them what they were looking for, and we discovered that a bittern had recently flown into the reeds. We waited... and waited... waited a little longer, and the bittern didn't come out. We continued on, and were stopped by an excited couple who had just seen an adder. They told us to be quick, but careful, as it had apparently been hissing angrily at them. We found it, but it seemed unphased by us; it just wanted to get back under cover.
Adder retreating to cover
On our way, we came across more very fluffy moorhen chicks. When we arrived at the hide, we were greeted by about twenty other visitors with the same idea as us. We all sat, speaking in hushed tones, with the occasional call out of 'reed warbler' or other bird in the reeds. I watched what turned out to be a Cetti's warbler hurrying to and from a clump of reeds right next to the hide, although I had no idea that's what it was at the time. A red deer also appeared and grazed at the waters' edge the whole time we were in the hide. As time was ticking on, we were thinking about leaving. I left Emma with my binoculars whilst I made a quick phone call. When I came back in, I was greeted with the news that I had missed two bitterns and a Cetti's warbler... Ah well... There's always next time!

Moorhen chick
Red deer
Cute baby rabbit in the car park

1 comment:

  1. Loved the photos. Better luck with the Bittern next time. Brian & Sandie