Today is an important day for us here at Minsmere as we're celebrating the 75th anniversary of Minsmere becoming an RSPB nature reserve.

The reserve looked very different when the RSPB signed a management agreement with the landowners on 25 April 1947. Much of the low-lying farmland had been flooded by the closure of the Minsmere Sluice as part of wartime measures to prevent a German invasion. The freshwater reedbed was much less extensive than it is now, and was home to the last four remaining pairs of bearded tits in the UK, their population having been decimated by the preceding bitterly cold winter. The Scrape didn't even exist. And as for visitor facilities, there were none!

The RSPB was very different too. Minsmere was one of just a handful of nature reserves. Birdwatching was seen as an exclusive hobby. There were few facilities, and certainly no RSPB Shops or cafes. There was no avocet on the RSPB logo either.

In fact, there were no avocets nesting in the UK at all, and hadn't been for about 100 years. Then, just a few weeks after the management agreement was signed, four pairs of avocets were found nesting on one of the pools left behind by that wartime flooding. These avocets nested successfully at Minsmere in 1947, and also at the nearby Havergate Island, which itself became an RSPB reserve the following year.

Avocet by Jon Evans

Avocets have nested at Havergate Island ever since, but at Minsmere they didn't return until Bert Axell first created the Scrape in 1963. The rest, as they say, is history! So much so that this elegant black and white wading bird was chosen to become the RSPB's new symbol in recognition of its successful recolonisation of the UK.

Throughout the 1960s and '70s Minsmere, Havergate Island and Suffolk were synonymous with avocets, but they eventually spread farther afield into Norfolk, and more recently to many other counties in England.

To celebrate both Minsmere's 75th birthday and the subsequent arrival of avocets, let's take a look at the collective nouns associated with these beautiful birds. The first seems very apt when we talk so much about their colonisation of Minsmere: a colony of avocets. The term colony is used in association with many different birds, as well as such varied wildlife as ants, weasels and bats, but as a collective noun it is actually only linked to a few.

In contrast, an orchestra of avocets is unique to avocets, though it seems a strange choice of words. Yes, a colony of avocets can be very noisy, but they're hardly orchestral in the way that several nightingales, song thrushes or blackcaps might be. Perhaps it's origin relates to the flickering black and white pattern of a flock of avocets wheeling over an estuary, which could be said to resemble a musical score. 

Avocet in flight by John Chapman

If anyone can explain this strange of term better than me, please let me know. Similarly if you know of any alternative collective nouns for avocets, I'd like to hear them too.

Regardless of these origins of these terms, let's celebrate these fabulous birds. Why not come along a spot them for yourself.

Anonymous
Parents
    1. I can remember having to get permits by the latest 6 months before your visit to Minsmere or any other RSPB reserve. Minsmere only open 4 days a week with limited opening hours and that wasn’t just for Minsmere. But lots of other RSPB reserves as well and that included some RSPB reserves where no permits where. RSPB members had to pay an admission charge as well to lots of RSPB reserves which was about half the admission charge that non-members had to pay. Bert Axcell was very strict indeed in the number of permits on any of the days of opening, I have read as well that the RSPB headquarters the Lodge Reaerve where you had to apply for permits that a family had applied for a number of permits and that family who applied for a number of permits and that would have taken the maximum number of permits over the limit of permits for that day by 1 and the RSPB decided to allow that to happen and what I read was that BerT Axell wasn’t very pleased by that. Of course no shop or cafe at Minsmere or any other RSPB reserve at that time. If you wanted to buy anything from the RSPB shop, you had to order from the RSPB catalog as no internet, debit or credit cards of any sort, so payment was by cheque or postal order by Royal Mail Post. Leighton Moss was the first RSPB reserve to have Visitor Centre with Shop and Cafe  in the early 1980’s. The limited opening hours, only open a few days a week and admission charges for RSPB members at some RSPB reserves came to an end in the early 1980’s with a few lines in the then RSPB magazine called Birds and saying this; The RSPB Council has decided that all RSPB Reserves will be open for 7 days a week all year round, with most RSPB reserves extending opening times and no permits needed and all RSPB reserves allowing RSPB members free admission. That was when it all changed and also definitely for the bettter. I know some other RSPB members on this forum can remember that as well. I have posted this before but for anyone who became a member just recently, that is some recent RSPB history and only changed in recent decades.
    2. Regards,
    3. Ian.
Comment
    1. I can remember having to get permits by the latest 6 months before your visit to Minsmere or any other RSPB reserve. Minsmere only open 4 days a week with limited opening hours and that wasn’t just for Minsmere. But lots of other RSPB reserves as well and that included some RSPB reserves where no permits where. RSPB members had to pay an admission charge as well to lots of RSPB reserves which was about half the admission charge that non-members had to pay. Bert Axcell was very strict indeed in the number of permits on any of the days of opening, I have read as well that the RSPB headquarters the Lodge Reaerve where you had to apply for permits that a family had applied for a number of permits and that family who applied for a number of permits and that would have taken the maximum number of permits over the limit of permits for that day by 1 and the RSPB decided to allow that to happen and what I read was that BerT Axell wasn’t very pleased by that. Of course no shop or cafe at Minsmere or any other RSPB reserve at that time. If you wanted to buy anything from the RSPB shop, you had to order from the RSPB catalog as no internet, debit or credit cards of any sort, so payment was by cheque or postal order by Royal Mail Post. Leighton Moss was the first RSPB reserve to have Visitor Centre with Shop and Cafe  in the early 1980’s. The limited opening hours, only open a few days a week and admission charges for RSPB members at some RSPB reserves came to an end in the early 1980’s with a few lines in the then RSPB magazine called Birds and saying this; The RSPB Council has decided that all RSPB Reserves will be open for 7 days a week all year round, with most RSPB reserves extending opening times and no permits needed and all RSPB reserves allowing RSPB members free admission. That was when it all changed and also definitely for the bettter. I know some other RSPB members on this forum can remember that as well. I have posted this before but for anyone who became a member just recently, that is some recent RSPB history and only changed in recent decades.
    2. Regards,
    3. Ian.
Children