I found myself out of county today and with a couple of hours to spare at the Suffolk bird watching mecca that is RSPB Minsmere. I was accompanied as is often the case by my 6 year old assistant and whilst we had slightly different agendas, this reserve ticks the boxes for young and old alike. We started with the sensible options of den building and playing in the life size sand martin tunnels and I was eventually allowed to do some birding. First were the hoardes of great tits, blue tits and chaffinches on the feeders around the reception. We were also amused by the antics of the giant amongst the smaller birds.
Gulliver the Pheasant with his tiny chaffinch chums
In the visitors centre we also got to see a grass snake up close and personal which was another treat for old and young. In the sand cliffs adjacent to the visitor centre were swarms of sand martins. These birds are the first of the hirundine family to return to the UK and will be followed in running order by the house martin the swallow and lastly the swift. Sand martin is least likely to be seen in Hethersett and whilst they will nest inland in sandy banks they do not do so locally. If seen it will be a chance sighting as they migrate over. The birds were mostly a blur as they wheeled around and occasionally stopped as one to check on this years nesting holes. Catching a photo of these birds is a serious challenge and here is the best of many which I think captures the mood.
Minsmere is a must visit due to the variety of habitats but with time not on our side we checked out the North Hide and its view of the scrapes. As is often the case five minutes can produce so much. There was a wealth of afternoon noise with displaying lapwings and noisy gulls and oystercatchers. Out in the open a few hundred yards from the hide amongst the starlings was a jack snipe. This little wader is a winter visiting bird and recently seen closer to home at RSPB Strumpshaw. It is by nature a skulker and phenomenally well camouflaged just as the larger common snipe so a view out in the open was a pleasant surprise.
Alas I had to head home only having scratched the surface of the reserve and the last photo of the day from minsmere is a a non avian alternative. I had hoped to get a photo of a brown hare as I saw them time and time again during the day but never at a spot which didn’t involve placing myself at danger from traffic to get the photo.
An obligingly cute young rabbit
I didn’t get the chance to check out the reed beds and look for the speciality bitterns and bearded tits but fortunately I did manage to get a couple of shots last weekend worth showing of the latter.
Male bearded tit at home in the reeds.