Earlier this week, my mum and I went to camp in Suffolk for two nights in the hope of being able to go to RSPB Minsmere for two full consecutive days. The journey down did not prove to be a good start – there were horrific traffic jams on the motorways, there was some very heavy rain, and just to top that off – our car got struck by lightning. That was quite a terrifying yet amazing experience.
Once we had arrived at our campsite near Minsmere though, the harsh weather had passed and we were greeted by the ‘purring’ of the Turtle Dove at a tree near the entrance. The next morning brought along an early wake up due to a very loud dawn chorus, with lots of birds in full sound – from Wrens to Yellowhammers, to Turtle Doves to Cuckoos – it was very busy. However, the main cause of our early wake up on both mornings was due to a Magpie pecking at the tent while squawking.
Once at the reserve, we were greeted by a small rabbit who posed for a photo, not at all disturbed by our presence, happily cleaning itself. There were seven hides around the scrape (the main part of the reserve)(there are also 3 other hides over the reedbeds and woods), and so there would be lots of different viewpoints out over it. There were lots of waders, terns, gulls and ducks nesting all over it, and so there was plenty of activity going on. In recent years here, the nesting birds have had eggs and chicks predated upon by Foxes and Badgers living nearby, who although blocked by water, decided to swim. However, now the RSPB has built a fence around it which is deep enough to stop Badgers digging underneath it.
It is fair to say that waders were there on the scrape in the largest numbers. Waders there included lots of Avocets and Black-Tailed Godwits, with the latter having seemingly hardly any chicks in comparison with the first. There were also Lapwings, Oystercatchers, Redshanks, Spotted Redshanks, Greenshanks, Dunlins, Ruffs, Curlews, Ringed Plovers, Turnstones, and Whimbrels. There were also some Common and Green Sandpipers, which from a distance could often be hard to distinguish between. The trip certainly put my wader identification skills to the test, with a huge number of birds there to be observed.
There were three species of Tern present that were regularly seen on the scrape – Little, Common and Sandwich. They had lots of little chicks and would fish out at the sea behind before coming back to their nests on the ground to feed their chicks. On the second day, we were lucky enough to see a Roseate Tern – a much rarer species of tern in the UK than the others. It is much smaller than the Common and Sandwich Terns and has a mainly black bill.
In the reedbeds, there are three species of bird that are well sought after – Bearded Tits, Marsh Harriers and Bitterns. We were lucky enough to see all three species, some with better viewing than others. The Marsh Harriers are quite easy to see as they are often found soaring over the reedbeds and at this time of year there are lots of juveniles flying about. This means that there are lots about in the sky – at one point, we saw four Marsh Harriers at once. Bitterns are very secretive and hard to see, but at one hide, on the far side of the lake, there were two within a couple of metres of each other, sitting in the reeds. Although it was too far away to tell that they were juveniles, the very fact that they were tolerating each other’s presence so close shows that they are not yet territorial like the adults. With Bearded Tits (one of my favourite birds), you often hear them ‘pinging’ before you actually see them. At this time in the year, they travel around in large groups – mostly a female with 5 or 6 juveniles. We saw them at various points, but our best viewing was when a female with 5 juveniles flew straight in front of the hide and settled in some reeds not too far away.
There were also lots of Butterflies at the reserve as well, and while my knowledge of these is very little, this did not stop me from taking some photos. I have now decided that as butterflies are so photogenic, I really ought to learn about what I am actually photographing.
Throughout the whole trip, I saw 78 species of bird – a huge number of birds. There were also plenty of butterflies, dragonflies, deer, and some fish. I thoroughly enjoyed the visit and would highly recommend anybody to visit RSPB Minsmere themselves. It is a great reserve to visit at any time of year as there is always lots to see.