Guest blog by Phil Riley, Minsmere visitor centre volunteer

Its Friday 3 April 2020, my alarm has just gone off on my phone to tell me time to go to Minsmere for duty on reception. Three weeks of social isolation and nearly two in lockdown has passed and the garden has become a haven for humans as much as wildlife. I am fortunate to have a bit of garden for the family of five and dog to share.

We have two feeder stations in the back garden,:one down the side of the house opposite what I like to call my office, where everyone else calls it something else; and secondly around the back visible from the dining room. Both stations are the same: three feeders, a tray and a water dish. The feeders contain sunflowers, suet bug pieces and mixed seed.

Over the three weeks I have had 13 species on the feeders:

  • A few finches, green, gold and chaffinch.
  • A good selection of the tit family great, blue, coal and long-tailed tits.
  • Lots of dunnocks and robins.
  • Only one thrush, the blackbird.
  • Woodpigeons.
  • Grey squirrels
  • One greedy herring gull.

Beneath the feeder all the above plus pheasant and a field mouse.

I blame this bird for the angle of feeder. Must be nearly the biggest individual bird by biomass on a feeder? Anyone seen bigger?

A couple of weeks prior to lockdown, I had bought a pair of suet feeders at Minsmere and the feed. This feeder has brought the long-tailed tits down from the trees and garden hedgerow.

It’s also become the favourite of the robins, the big beasty above and blue tits.

A chance handheld shoot of a long-tailed tit, proving my point above.

I sat out one day for half an hour near the feeder and they all played silly games and so no better shot, YET.

In the garden, bushes trees and overhead I have seen and heard another 15 species of animals:

  • Four crows: carrion, rook, jackdaw and magpie.
  • Two raptors: sparrowhawk and buzzard.
  • Tawny owl (hear every night)
  • Goldcrest
  • Blackcap
  • Buff-tailed bumblebee.
  • Selection of individual butterflies brimstone, red admiral, comma, small tortoiseshell and peacock.


My son and I are now digging the wife a vegetable patch. It’s made the robins and blackbirds very happy. I’ll let you know who wins.

After this is a mini pond, as seen on the Chris Packham breakfast feed. Look out for it every morning at 9 am on Facebook and YouTube and the RSPB wildlife gardening web pages.

Be safe.


(All photos above by Phil Riley)

Additional thoughts by Minsmere volunteer guide, Colin Moyes

You never know how much you miss something until you do not have it. That is how I feel about not being able to come to Minsmere on Tuesdays and participate in my volunteering. Obviously, I miss the reserve and all that it offers, particularly at this time of year with all the early migrants coming in. Just to be able to walk around Minsmere is something that is not easily put into words; you have to experience that buzz to understand what Minsmere is all about. Not just the Scrape, the dunes, bitterns, otters, harriers, but all other types of life that can be seen at the RSPB's premier reserve. It is just amazing. I also miss all the new friends that I have made in my time since I started my volunteering, Tuesday is a day of the week that I looked forward to so much, hopefully we will all be able to return in the not too distant future.

Birding locally, is not too exciting Ben and I mainly go on farmland walks with small woodland areas put in as well A pair of fantastic bullfinches are probably the regular highlights.

Male Bullfinch by John Bridges (