• Toad of Toad Hall?

    When you work at such as an amazing place as Minsmere, it's easy to take things for granted. We come to know where to expect to see certain species - as you read in Whistling Joe's latest post about adders. But that doesn't mean that there aren't a few surprises hiding out there, ready to catch you out. I encountered one such surprise today: a common toad.

    This really should not be a surprise. When I…

    • 10 Mar 2020
  • It's spring!

    This week saw the official start of spring, according to the Met Office, who mark the change from winter to spring on 1 March - although others go with the spring equinox on 21 March as the key date. Whichever date you mark spring by, a walk around Minsmere gives a clear indication that spring is very much upon us, with adders, booming bitterns, displaying buzzards and marsh harriers and the return of Mediterranean gulls…

    • 3 Mar 2020
  • Wet and windy wild weather

    In the week that I've been away, there's been some significant changes among our wildlife, but some things remain the same. Not least among these, is the weather, which remains wet, windy and wild. There's been a welcome respite today, but it looks like the stormy conditions are set to return later in the week. Luckily, it doesn't bother the wildlife too much.

    One consequence of the rain is that the paths…

    • 25 Feb 2020
  • I really want to find a pixie

    Next week is half term for our local schools, so we've arranged a varied selection of fun activities for families, if the weather doesn't scupper our plans too much.

    On that point, it's worth noting that we currently expect to be open as usual this weekend, although it is likely that paths through the woods, including the path to Bittern Hide, will be closed for safety reasons. If the weather warning is increased…

    • 14 Feb 2020
  • Out for the count

    Every month, teams of volunteers head out around wetlands throughout the country to undertake detailed counts of the birds using our rivers, lakes, estuaries and coasts. These counts are part of the Wetland Birds Survey, known as WeBS, and they generate some incredibly important data. WeBS counts began in 1947, and the survey is run by a partnership between the RSPB, BTO (British Trust for Ornithology), WWT (Wildfowl and…

    • 12 Feb 2020
  • Showing off

    It's that time of year when many of Minsmere's often harder to spot species become easier to find as their usual reticence to put in an appearance is overcome by the desire to show off in an effort to attract a mate.

    That's certainly the case in the woods, where birdsong is increasing by the day, with chaffinches, great tits and marsh tits now joining the chorus alongside robins, wrens, dunnocks, blue tits and…

    • 5 Feb 2020
  • Springing forth

    It may only be the end of January, but there are already plenty of signs that spring is just around the corner. You only have to set foot outside, whether here at Minsmere, at home or int he office, to notice the increase in birdsong. Robins are particularly vocal, and you may be lucky enough to have a song thrush or mistle thrush singing locally. Our woods are full of singing blue, great and marsh tits, wrens and dunnocks…

    • 28 Jan 2020
  • Not the nine o'clock smews

    Maybe not, but we are pleased to welcome back a single female-type smew, known as a redhead. This small, fish-eating, diving duck is an increasingly scarce winter visitor to the UK, as milder winter mean that they choose to stay in Denmark or the Netherlands, rather than continuing eastwards. It's arrival coincided with the first notable frosts of the winter, which resulted in large parts of the Scrape and Island Mere…

    • 23 Jan 2020
  • Simply the best

    If you're reading this blog, you probably know this already, but it's now official: Minsmere is simply the best. Yes folks, in a very close fought battle, we have been voted Site of the Year in the Birdwatch Magazine/Birders' Choice Awards for 2019, pipping our friends at RSPB Frampton Marsh by just seven votes! This is a great recognition of the amazing job done by our wardens and volunteers to keep Minsmere…

    • 15 Jan 2020
  • A needle in a haystack

    New Year's Day always brings birdwatchers out of the woodwork as they look to start their year list off with a bang. Many of them will head to Minsmere, where there is always a good chance of spotting some of our elusive species and getting them on the list early: bittern, water rail, bearded tit and Cetti's warbler will all be among the target species, for example.

    For those visiting Minsmere on New Year's Day…

    • 9 Jan 2020
  • Happy New Year

    As we come to the end of another decade, I'm reminded of the lyrics of an ABBA track from 40 years ago, the third verse of which ends:

    "It's the end of a decade
    In another ten years time
    Who can say what we'll find
    What lies waiting down the line
    In the end of eighty-nine"

    In his blog a couple of days ago, Matt shared a summary of the highlights from the last ten years, which got me thinking. What will…

    • 30 Dec 2019
  • A little review of 2019

    As we approach a new decade, it's time to take a breath and look back on the last 12 months, and the last decade.

    Little terns by Ian Barthorpe

    Minsmere’s Scrape seabird colony goes from strength to strength. Over 3000 pairs of gulls and terns nested this year, including the first nesting little terns since 2009 (10 pairs fledged 7 young), the most productive year for nesting Sandwich terns since 1977 (50 pairs fledged…

    • 28 Dec 2019
  • Christmas opening arrangements at Minsmere

    It's that time of year when schools and offices close for an extended Christmas break. Wildlife doesn't get such a luxury. As a result, many people take the opportunity to head out and enjoy family walks over the Christmas period, often watching some of the amazing winter wildlife around them.

    Understandably, therefore, Minsmere is high on people's list of places to enjoy a winter walk. Whilst we're keen for you…

    • 20 Dec 2019
  • New to Science!

    Maybe?

    This beautiful coral fungus has popped up in our sand dunes and was spotted by one of our volunteer guides (photo, below, by Peter Phillips). Peter thought is unusual enough to try and find out a bit more.

    Coral fungi have several different species in the UK but all are associated with trees. And that is what makes this one unusual. The county recorder for Suffolk, Neil Mahler, has taken a sample and forwarded…

    • 18 Dec 2019
  • Brightening up a dull winter day mk2

    Without wanting to sound like a stuck record, it's been another dull wet today, following on from several more dull wet days since my last blog. In fact, it's been so wet recently that we have had to close the path from South Hide to the Sluice as it is impassable, even in wellington boots! All other paths remain open, but there are deep puddles in places, especially near the bottom of Whin Hill, on the approach to Island…

    • 17 Dec 2019
  • Brightening up a dull winter day

    Even on the dullest of winter days, there's always something to brighten up a visit to Minsmere, starting outside the visitor centre. Here, you can watch the constant to-ing and fro-ing of blue tits, great tits, chaffinches, along with several marsh tits, coal tits, goldfinches and greenfinches, as they dash between seed-laden feeders and the safety of nearby trees. Watch carefully and you may even spot our female blackcap…

    • 12 Dec 2019
  • Beginning birdwatching: jargon busting

    It's been a while since I wrote my last blog in the occasional series about beginning birdwatching. For this latest instalment I'll try to break down one of the major hurdles for anyone taking up an interest in wildlife - understanding the terminology.

    As in many aspects of our lives, birdwatchers are prone to using many abbreviations and slang terms, and these will often confuse and baffle any beginning wanting…

    • 5 Dec 2019
  • A golden evening

    It's been another beautiful early winter day today. Despite the clear blue skies, I resisted the temptation of a lunchtime walk, instead waiting till late afternoon to head out in search of the starling murmuration. 

    First, though, it was a quick detour to Whin Hill to take in the sunset. What a treat, especially as the six whooper swans arrived right on cue and landed close to Island Mere Hide, providing great photo…

    • 4 Dec 2019
  • Whoops and murmurs

    After such wet weather for the last few weeks, it's been great to see the sun over the last couple of days. The arrival of colder weather, complete with frosty mornings, has brought a few small changes to the birds seen here.

    Perhaps most exciting is the arrival of a small murmuration of starlings. It's early days yet, but after reports of 2000 over North Wall on Friday, we've watched about 4000 gathering there tonight…

    • 2 Dec 2019
  • Strange pond creatures

    After a night of torrential rain that left many local roads flooded, it was perhaps not a surprise to see some unusual creatures emerging from the pond today.

    On this occasion, though, these were not some strange species of aquatic invertebrate or amphibian. No, they were a team of welly- & wader-wearing wardens and volunteers, wielding shovels, rakes and wheelbarrows!

    The reason? The pond, which has for many years…

    • 27 Nov 2019
  • Celebrating what we see, not what we miss

    How often have you heard the phrase, "You should have been here five minutes ago?" Such comments are frequent among birdwatchers, and are always infuriating. Do I need to know that the bittern that has been feeding in the open for two hours has just returned to hiding, or that the rare bird has just put in it's once every three hours appearance? Hearing such comments invariably leaves birdwatchers feeling frustrated about…

    • 25 Nov 2019
  • Looking seaward

    The last few days have produced some ideal conditions for those birdwatchers who enjoy the art of seawatching. I say art deliberately, because it's not to everyone's taste and requires a lot of practice to get it right, but the rewards can be worth it - sometimes!

    Seawatching is just that. It requires hours spent sitting and staring out to sea. A telescope is an essential item, as many of the birds will be passing…

    • 18 Nov 2019
  • Black and white en masse

    The weather for the last few weeks has somewhat unpredictable, with bright sunshine one minute followed by heavy rain the next, so I took advantage of one of the drier days today and enjoyed a stroll around the Scrape in the gorgeous autumn sunshine. 

    There's something special about this time of year. On calm sunny days, like today, the light is just perfect, casting long shadows and highlighting the golden colours…

    • 13 Nov 2019
  • Reedmace flying everywhere

    After another wet, dull morning I had decided against a lunchtime walk before starting my shift in the visitor centre this afternoon. Not long after my shift started a call went out on the radio that a penduline tit had been found at Wildlife Lookout. Needless to say, I wasn't in the visitor centre much longer as i quickly made my way to the hide.

    On arrival in the hide I was greeted with the news that the bird was…

    • 7 Nov 2019
  • One swallow doesn't make a summer, but one swan certainly makes a winter

    It's official. Winter is here! At least, it is as far as I'm concerned, because on Friday I saw my first wild swan of the winter. By wild swans, we mean the two long-distant migrant species, whooper and Bewick's, rather than the resident mute swans. The latter are thought to largely descend from captive stock, and those on the Thames are still, officially, claimed by The Queen.

    Our wild swans, in contrast…

    • 4 Nov 2019