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Reserve management

Konik ponies grazing at RSPB Minsmere

Konik ponies help keep Minsmere good for wildlife

Image: Andy Hay

Minsmere's habitats include four national conservation priorities: reedbeds, lowland wet grassland shingle vegetation and lowland heath. Among the diverse wildlife are important populations of bitterns and other rare wildlife.

The RSPB is working to safeguard all the reserve's ecosystems, and developing it as a showcase for our activities. 

Bitterns and beyond

Minsmere has up to 30% of the UK's breeding bitterns. We are managing the reedbeds to create a range of habitats from open water and wet reed, favoured by bitterns, to drier fen and carr woodland. 

To do this we regulate water levels, cut areas of reed to create a more open habitat favoured by fish, and control encroaching scrub. This also benefits other wildlife, including marsh harriers, otters, water voles and bearded tits.

Good grazing

We are managing the wet grassland for wintering wildfowl, such as wigeon and white-fronted geese, and breeding waders, such as redshanks, snipe and lapwings. 

Water levels are controlled to create damp grassland in spring for breeding waders and flooded areas for winter wildfowl. The grass is grazed by cattle in summer, then mown, to keep it as short as possible for breeding lapwings in spring.

Healthy heathland 

We are managing heath and acid grassland for the benefit of specialist wildlife, including nightjars, Dartford warblers, natterjack toads and silver-studded blue butterflies. Measures include grazing, heather and scrub management and controlling invasive plants, such as birch and pine.

Shingle vegetation

We are grazing with sheep to improve vegetated dunes for rare flora and invertebrates. We erect temporary exclosures to protect breeding little terns.

Other habitats

Other habitats on the reserve also require management. 

We are regulating water levels and salinity to maintain coastal lagoons for avocets and other water birds. On the nesting islands, vegetation is kept short by mowing and grazing. We are controlling non-native plants and fencing out deer to improve woodlands for wildlife such as nightingales. 

We are cultivating areas to encourage rare arable plants. We are also converting former arable farmland into acid grassland and heathland to provide more habitat for woodlarks and encourage the re-colonisation of stone-curlews. 

Working with people

We are maintaining and upgrading our facilities for up to 100,000 visitors a year. We are also developing our events programme and aim to increase the number of schoolchildren that use our environmental education programme.

We will continue to develop good relations with the local community and to showcase our management techniques to key audiences. 

We are also working with the Environment Agency to maintain coastal defences and tackle freshwater flooding, while liaising with all key landowners on strategies for dealing with rising sea levels.

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We're working to give nature a home. We protect threatened wildlife and special places so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again.

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