Last weekend was a bit of a disappointment nature-wise so I am experiencing nature-deficit grumpiness. Most of my nature watching is within 10 miles of where I live but an occasional trip further afield adds variety now and again.
Living as far from the coast, almost, as it is possible to be, a trip east to Norfolk or Suffolk is always tempting, particularly at migration time. I’ve been keeping an eye on the websites of potential destinations such as NWT’s Cley nature reserve, the RSPB’s Minsmere and the NT’s Wicken Fen (which could be en route to either of the above for me) and they aren’t very informative about what i might see if i get in my car and head off to them tomorrow.
The Minsmere webpage has, like many RSPB nature reserves, a section called recent sightings but it is no longer used for that. Instead I can find a very useful blog about the nature reserve which I enjoy reading (well done and thank you Ian Barthorpe) but it is, by its nature, often a few days old and isn’t there primarily to tell me which spring migrants were seen yesterday. There is quite a clever thing on many RSPB nature reserve pages on the RSPB website – a feed of sightings for the reserve that have been entered through Birdtrack. This is a good idea, and quite useful, but doesn’t include non-avian information and sometimes feels a bit random. I’d give the RSPB and Minsmere 7/10 for trying, and for having some up to date information available. But it falls a little short of being an up-to-date update of what’s around for me to enjoy if I make the effort to visit.
Cley Marshes is a favourite place of mine. I saw my first ever bittern there in, I think, 1971, and plenty of birding memories have followed that. Added to which, looking back from the shingle beach, across the marshes to Cley village and its windmill is one of the best views in southern England (although arguably doing the same from Salthouse beach a little further east is even better). I can’t find any up to date information on recent sightings on the NWT website -maybe I’ve missed it but I have tried. There is, of course, some general stuff about what to see in spring and how great a place for wildlife the reserve is, but nothing to tempt me to visit this site tomorrow – as I might be thinking of doing. I can’t give the site any more than 3/10 as it really doesn’t tell me anything that I don’t already know about what I might see there.
Maybe I should make the shorter journey to the National Trust’s Wicken Fen? This has a recent sightings bit of its web page but I find (on April 9) that the most up to date sighting is of a brimstone butterfly on 1 March – hardly very informative. There is a lot of archived information about the wildlife of Wicken Fen on this site – and I found that very interesting and impressive. But in terms of giving a taste of the ever-changing wildlife that I might see if i head off to Wicken tomorrow then it wasn’t very informative at all and so gets 5/10 (largely on the basis of the large amount of historical information available that at least whets my appetite).
Maybe you think I am being unfair but to me, in this age of websites, laptops, moboile phones and every other gizmo under the sun then I feel that if I am going to a nature reserve to experience nature then an up to date taster of what nature might be available is not too much for which to to ask.
And I certainly haven’t chosen the most embarrassing examples from these and other nature conservation organisations – there are some real howlers out there in terms of errors and omissions.
These three websites are full of information about their visitor centres’ opening times, charges, facilities, events etc but seem to be a bit light on nature. As a visiting naturalist I’d like a bit more information on nature please.
What do you think?