I went to Minsmere last week with my friend and former colleague Alistair Gammell. Alistair is a great guy and Minsmere is a great nature reserve.

We chatted to several other visitors – and we helped a few of them see some birds. It was good to hear others’ stories of the birds in their gardens and their excitement at being at a place like Minsmere where they could see lots of wildlife. It isn’t just kids who are mad about nature – it’s a bunch of retired adults too who have the time, and some of them the money, to get out and immerse themselves in nature.

But we were shown things too. I wondered what the two young ladies were doing, sitting on the boardwalk, but when we reached them they pointed out the Water Vole chomping on a stem just below our feet. I would have walked straight past looking up at the Sand Martins – which were lovely – but so was the Water Vole. Everyone needs help – point things out to other nature-lovers.

We had a brilliant view of a Bittern flying past the Island Mere Hide – very close. That was very memorable.

But even more memorable was the butterfly that fell fluttering to the ground in front of us as we walked along the woodland edge.  It was, on closer inspection, a Red Admiral. But on even closer inspection it was being attacked and eaten by a Hornet.  After a few seconds the Hornet, with the Red Admiral clasped in its jaws (I think) corkscrewed up, about 15 feet, into the oak tree above us. It corkscrewed in the sense that it went pretty much straight up but on a very tight spiral path. It was very impressive and very memorable.

There were close Little Egrets, ping!-ing Bearded Tits, displaying Mediterranean Gulls, a red Red Knot and a grey Red Knot, some immature Little Gulls, loud Cetti’s Warblers and much more. Minsmere never disappoints.

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7 Replies to “Minsmere”

  1. I'm very lucky to have Minsmere as my local patch. The best way Minsmere has changed since I was a child is peoples attitudes. The first few times I was ever taken there the other visitors were grumpy towards children. I remember seeing an Osprey fishing at the Island Mere. I was enthralled and excited. One gentleman saw how excited I was and snapped "It's only a juvenile". Another gentleman in another hide mumbled under his breath about "bloody kids" even though my brother and I were on our best behaviour.
    Because of life getting in the way if my love of nature I didn't return for a good few years until one day I decided to take my wife and 3 children. What a change!!! The other visitors couldn't have been more friendly even to the point of going out of their way to come over and tell my children that they have just seen something interesting. Often my 3 got to look down some scopes already trained on the species of choice.

    Minsmere has always been a fantastic place but thanks to a change in attitudes my children are developing a love for nature. It's a lovely cameradery amongst those of similar interest.

  2. That's amazing about the red admiral and the hornet. It's our lack of bioabundance (as Simon Barnes calls it in the new British Wildlife) which makes such experiences rare, so it's harder for people to have 'ah!' moments and see how wonderful (literally!) the natural world is.

    1. I once saw a hornet take down and methodically dismember a dragonfly - definitely one of those moments, and I agree, all-too rare sadly.

  3. I have complained to hornets about their failure to eat cabbage white butterflies but they just turn their heads and look at me in a menacing way

  4. I agree with you Richard - RSPB reserves are really child friendly places and a lot of it is down to the visitors. Ironically, the only unpleasantness we have ever encountered occurred in one of the hides at Minsmere that was actually geared up for children's activities.

    The London Wetland Centre on the other hand is the complete opposite thanks to a core group of elderly birders who are very intolerant of children in hides. The last run in I had was when I took my two children and one of their friends. On this occasion, one of the birders rudely "shushed" them just because they were talking to each other normally and not in hushed tones. Considering that they were at the top of a 3 storey hide with very small windows and weren't running about or shouting this was completely unnecessary, especially when I was then told rather disingenuously that they were disturbing wildlife!

    Coupled with the heavy handed gardening of the reserve - cutting down mature silver birches (I was told by a warden to prevent crows from using the trees as vantage points to predate wader chicks and to improve sightlines for birds approaching from the Thanes), trees "tidied up" for no obvious reason and hedges severely cut every year, preventing them from flowering and fruiting, my last visit was not particularly enjoyable.

    1. During the 2014 Springwatch I went to Minsmere and the place was heaving. My daughter wanted to see a Bittern so I took her to the Bittern Hide. The place was packed to the rafters and the noise level was that of a London Cafe during the lunch hour! Bar my daughter I must have been the youngest there! So we left and went a hide on the scrape. There it was just me and my daughter plus another couple. What did we see? A bittern just for us!
      It's nice to see people are keen and a little noise in a hide is fine. I did think however the noise was excessive and caused by adults! Most of their clothing, expensive binoculars and top of the range cameras still had the labels on. Hopefully they were purchased at the visitors shop!


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