Had a superb encounter with a Bittern this week it came so close that I had trouble getting it in frame. The trouble was that when I arrived there were people milling about and talking quite loud (although not as loud as one of the coats being worn). All the windows were open on a very pleasant evening. Those left in the hide were quite keen to tell me about the Bittern that had been popping its head out of the reeds very close to the hide only to step back in to the reed bed very quickly and had been doing so for the last hour, after 20 minutes when everyone finally left and I was all alone I sat quietly and hey presto withing 2 mins a Bittern popped its head out and almost seemed to look up at the hide, seeing no movement or noise it happily wandered out and started to feed, it continued until it was too dark to photograph and I guess it was no more that 15 feet from the hide for most of the time.
I sat there wondering how many other near misses will be experienced at Island Mere due to the number of people that can fit in, the associated noise levels and movement, no screening or an attempt to minimise the effect of the 360 degree picture windows. That set up may well work at Titchwell when you're 30+ feet above the birds, on a concrete floor and due to the angle movement seen from ground level is considerably reduced but in a wooden hide when you're only a few feet away and a few feet up, not sure
Only time will tell, oh yes and the day before at sunrise, I had another Bittern to the right of the hide and it ducked into the reeds never to be seen again when another visitor walked up the ramp to the hide.
I did like the old hide, I know why the changes were made, just not sure it maximises opportunities for all
Agree the behaviour of some people in hides in unbelievable. A few weeks ago at Sculthorpe I was trying to film a lesser Redpoll, by someone next to me with a noisy tripod, what a pain they are, scared it off. Nothing will beat Holkham last year. Two people came into the hide and allowed their dog to run free up and down the gangway, I hate dogs and had to leave. I wish there was a code of conduct for people using reseves.
I would have to agree with that. I was at Minsmere for 3 days last week, and have experienced the same situation. A Bittern would appear from the left, and start making its way nearer and nearer the hide. Whenever someone entered of left the hide, it was scamper back into the reeds, and reappear a few minutes later. By the time there were only about 6 people left in the hide, it then came out and walked right out and across the hide, ending up only 15 feet from me.
Surely screens could be put up along the side of the gangway so that birds could not see people walking up and down it? Another problem is that when I was in the section for photographers underneath the hide, many of the people coming up to the hide would be talking loudly, which also causes birds to keep their distance from the hide.
I agree about people moving about as well, and the noise levels. The new big windows are fantastic for viewing and photographing, but it also means that people moving around will become very visible.
I cannot remember the old Island Mere hide, but I think the new one, particularly the section underneath, is very good.
I paid my first visit at the weekend and I have to admit that although the new hide is very comfortable and gives great views I did notice that as soon as anyone moved around or anyone walked up the ramp the Bittern was off like a shot.
I would guess that a large part of the decision to build the hide "as is" was a comercial one and encourages families who will probably end up spending more money in the visitor centre than your average birder generally would.
The Bittern hide however is a different matter, I saw not 1, not 2 but 3 individual Bitterns as well as a very vocal Cettis, water vole, deer and various other water fowl which made my visit well worth the 2 hour journey.
Really interesting comments, totally agree with most of them. How ironic that the Bittern hide is now the best place to regularly have rewarding interaction with Bitterns. Maybe the Island Mere Hide, thinking logically, should now be named The Island Mere Hide without an Island any more.
What I personally would have liked from the new hide would be if it were built 7 meters further back, split into 2 levels and with benches instead of squeaky chairs. As another feature I would have had more traditional and less obvious windows that hid the public from the birds. All this and no long obvious and exposed ramp way.
Surely someone must have raised the issue during planning that actually the hide was so productive as it stood it merely needed replacing not redesigning?
I completely agree about the chairs. Although they are good in that you can move them around, they make so much noise when you move them across the floor that you wonder if they are worth it.
As far as the positioning of the hide is concerned, I can't compare it to the last hide as I can't remember it, but as a photographer I very much like the new hide, although do think that they should make it so that birds cannot see you when you walk up the gangway to the hide!
The views that I had of Bitterns from the Island Mere hide were superb though, better than I have ever had.
Glad you enjoyed the views Oscar, as a twice a week visitor I do not even bother to visit the hide anymore, something unthinkable a year ago.
Can I ask what is the point of hiding visitors on the long ramp when the direct sun means all the windows are completely open and every noise from inside the hide ( I say hide although it doesn't actually hide anyone) will cause disruption to shy birds such as Bitterns.
Occasional good views of Bitterns? maybe but up close and personal to the point you could not focus down on ya bins....sadly I fear those days are surely gone.
I would also point out that Minsmere is not a Bittern one trick pony! Close up views of Bearded Tits and a glimple of a Penduline Tit swaying on a reed stem while the hide is in silence? No.
S O' B
I've been persevering with the new hide as I thought myself a bit daft feeling so disappointed with it. I've not warmed to it yet though. I'm irritated every time I open the (what must have been expensive to install and will certainly be expensive to repair when they regularly go wrong*) windows. The chairs are horribly noisy to move around - get rid of them and nail the benches to the floor please!
I like the idea of the long ramp that allows me to stand at reed-top height..... but now, having seen some of the other comments, maybe it won't be so good to see close up Beardies from.
I've not tried underneath yet - I knew it was being suggested but didn't realise it was arranged until I noticed the viewing flaps last weekend (when it would only have been possible to get underneath with a boat!).
When it first opened, it was packed with people; on my more recent visits Bittern's been busy and Island Mere quiet. Not sure whether that's co-incidence or people voting with their feet yet, only time will tell.
* Titchwell has had the same windows for a year or so now - on my last visit a number of the windows had faulty/broken mechanisms and, unlike traditional windows, I'm sure will require more than a simple screwdriver to fix
i think that the island hide is a bad design because before it was two tiers but now only one tier but there is not enough room for all the amounts of people which makes it over crowded. the windows are a good design but the roof needs a ledge above to stop rain drops on the window and will reduce the amount coming in