Minsmere

Minsmere

Minsmere
Explore, discover and enjoy nature at Minsmere. There's always something exciting to inspire a return visit to Suffolk's natural treasure.

Minsmere

  • Minsmere is number one

    That's what you tell us anyway. 

    We're now rated as the number one visitor attraction in Suffolk according to Trip Advisor, with 97% of reviews rating Minsmere at least four out of five. We really enjoy reading reviews on Trip Advisor. Many reviews thank our amazing volunteer guides and reception volunteers for their great welcome and help. Others rave about the delicious food in the cafe - cakes and cheese scones come in for high praise.

    Of course, some have their gripes , and we're working hard to improve our customer care even further to reduce these gripes. A few are unhappy at the cost of entry to Minsmere, which is of course free for all our wonderful members. If you love Minsmere, and have had a great visit here, why not share your thoughts with a review of your own.

    There's still time to help Minsmere to win the BBC Countryfile award for Nature Reserve of the Year, as nominated by Chris Packham. The deadline for voting is Saturday 31 January, so if you haven't done so already please vote for us here.

    Winter can be a quiet time to visit Minsmere, though when the sun shines many of you still come along to enjoy some winter wildlife. It looks like we've finally got a small group of 14 Bewick's swans roosting at Island Mere, but it's not easy to see them. They seem to leave soon after first light, returning after dark from their chosen fields somewhere north of Westleton - I haven't seen them yet. Two whooper swans are a little more reliable on the mere. Over the weekend we also had a small roost of starlings - though at about 800 birds it's nothing to shout about yet. They seem to have moved from North Warren, so if anyone knows where there are any starlings roosting on the Suffolk coast, please let us know.

    Bewick's swans by Jon Evans

    Other wildlife at Island Mere this week has included up to nine snipe, regular bitterns, bearded tits, otters and kingfishers, and several marsh harriers. A ringtail hen harrier was seen earlier in the week. I was lucky enough to walk into Island Mere Hide on Monday lunchtime when a dog otter was porpoising across the mere, then to watch it eating a fish. The coots weren't happy though.

    On the Scrape we still have a single redhead smew, a few pintails and our first avocet of the spring, with one or two black-tailed godwits, dunlins and redshanks present most days, as well as four turnstones. There are, of course, large flocks of commoner ducks and lapwings too. A short-eared owl has been spotted on a few occasions too.

    In the woods there are flocks of redwings, siskins and long-tailed tits, red deer and drumming great spotted woodpeckers. A great spot is also regular around the feeders at the visitor centre, which we're having to fill up three times a day due to the numbers of tits and finches feeding there. This is a good time of year to spot marsh tits on the feeders. Bullfinches don't visit the feeders, but are often seen around the car park.

    With cold weather forecast this week, maybe we'll find more smew or swans dropping in over the next few days.

    Bullfinch by Sue Tranter (rspb-images.com)

  • Spring is round the corner

    Next Sunday, 1 February, we switch to summer opening at Minsmere. This means that the visitor centre remains open until 5 pm, and the cafe hours switch to 9.30 am to 4.45 pm. To help us to get ready for spring, the cafe will be closing early on Monday, at 2.30 pm, for a deep clean, so if you're planning to visit that day make sure you get your refreshments early.

    Our opening times aren't the only impending signs of spring, as the first avocet returned to the Scrape yesterday. It is still present today.

    Even more surprisingly, I saw a cow parsley plant in full flower on my way to work on Thursday - that's at least three months early! Of course, snowdrops are flowering in many gardens now, and our daffodils are already sprouting nicely.

    It has felt rather springlike today too, with almost unbroken blue skies, though the breeze has made it feel chilly at times. Apart from the avocet, there have been some good sightings too. The redhead smew remains on East Scrape, along with a pair of pintails, and was joined today by a dunlin and four turnstones. Bearded tits showed very close to the path between South Hide and the sluice. Bitterns were seen at Bittern Hide and Island Mere. Two whooper swans were on Island Mere, where the female otter and two cubs were seen, followed later by the lone dog otter. Redwings, goldcrests and bullfinches were all seen in the woods and a stonechat along the North Wall.

    And, of course, our feeders were extremely busy, with a constant stream of tits and finches feeding on them. I hope you feeders are well stocked for the Big Garden Birdwatch tomorrow - or that you did the count today. Don't forget you can enter your results at www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch 

    A coal tit by Ben Hall (rspb-images.com) - one of the birds on Minsmere's feeders

  • A busy week

    While I've been enjoying some extremely memorable birdwatching in Portugal (this isn't the place to relate the stories unfortunately), it's been a really busy week at Minsmere.

    Work has progressed well on building the new fence around the Scrape. The bank on which the fence will sit has been raised in places, though there is some earth-moving to do. The first stretches of the fence itself have now been constructed too, as can be seen from this photo taken at lunchtime today looking left from North Hide. Work will continue until at least the middle of February, so there will continue to be disturbance on the Scrape for several weeks yet.

    Meanwhile, in the reedbed we've had the amphibious reed-cutting machine called the Truxor back to carry out important clearance work. This machine can access much wetter areas than the wardens can on foot. It cuts the reed and scoops it into piles beside the cut areas. North Marsh has already been cut - see photo below - and today they were cutting in front of Bittern Hide.

    Last week the Truxor was also used to clear encroaching vegetation from the pond, ready for the arrival of school groups to go pond dipping in the spring.

    Other exciting bits of machinery were in use last week too as the Soft-track and Piston Bully were demonstrated. These big machines have been used to cut reed and fen vegetation, gathering the cut material and storing it a large plastic bag. Here it is dried and turned into briquettes for use as biofuel - a process that was also demonstrated for the first time last week. This is part of a DECC-funded project to create a renewable energy product from the annual habitat management programme on nature reserves.

    With so much work going on you could be forgiven for thinking that there would be no wildlife to see at Minsmere, but that's far from the case. Bitterns, otters, snipe and bearded tits continue to show at Island mere every day. The redhead smew is still favouring the South Scrape. Hundreds of commoner ducks are present - mostly on the Levels. Flocks of tits and finches in the woods include siskins, lesser redpolls, bullfinches and marsh tits. Birds of prey this week have included hen harrier, short-eared owl and peregrine as well as the regular marsh harriers, sparrowhawks and kestrels. While offshore highlights have included pomarine and great skuas, velvet scoter, grey seals and large flocks of red-throated divers and great crested grebes. Not forgetting, of course, many small birds on the birds feeders and groups of red deer in the woods.