Scarlet Pimpernel, one of my favourite flowers. I love the colour (which seems to be a slightly scarce tone in a blue, white pink and yellow flower world) as well as the name and it was the first thing I saw as I stepped out of our car having parked up at the RSPB's Minsmere reserve on the Suffolk coast. It turned out that it was everywhere, making it's name a little ironic and with respect top this little flower I was hoping that the day would yield some slightly rarer sights.
After a quick drink at the excellent visitor centre we stopped at the Sand Martin breeding bank which is easily viewable. Sadly, these were the first Sand Martins that we had seen this year with only a modest amount of swifts as our usual summer visitors. I shouldn't be saying that about an iconic summer visitor.
My eldest son was on a weekend Scout camp so we took my youngest and luckily he likes nature and was soon captivated by this superb reserve. I must say that the bird sighting information is detailed and very up to date which is a credit to the staff and is perhaps driven by the fact it is such a prestigious site for seeing nature. We were mindful of little legs on an expansive site and decided to try and visit the most popular hides which conveniently took us to the beach as some hides are accessed via a beach path.
Another thing that we are short on back home is butterflies and moths so it was very satisfying to see so many butterflies on the day, I reckon we saw about a dozen different types with Peacocks appearing everywhere. The Poplar Hawkmoth wasn't as active though...
We drove to the reserve past Ipswich and the river estuary was a clue to our coastal destination, but as you drive to the reserve you go through classic British woodland and that to me is the beauty of this site because you can switch from woods to grassland to red beds to marsh to coastal habitats very quickly. I would definitely recommend a telescope for a visit.
|This is a small elder growing out of a WWII tank obstacle. I liked the symbolism.|
The shingle seashore is soon reached and the breeze was much appreciated on a near 30 degree day. There were several coastal plants to be seen and path to the hides on the edge of the reserve runs parallel to the sea.
And to the East scrape and the first of the star attractions that you associate with the reserve-Avocets, and there's no waiting around in the hope that one will deign us with it's presence (like a Marsh Harrier or Bittern) as there were absolutely loads to see with 200 or so recently sighted. The variety of birds was impressive from the usual to the not so common.
The array of flowers that can be seen is a credit to the site as well. As with all the flora and fauna I snapped there is a good varietal mix. I'm not sure what the delicate mauve coloured flower is (above bottom RHS) so if anyone knows I'd be happy to hear from you!
We'd decided to make a trip to the bittern hide our penultimate visit as we were wilting somewhat. It is a vast expanse of reeds (hardly a newsflash for Bitterns) and there had been a good amount of recent sightings although you could wait forever and not see this s(k)ulky bird. We were treated however to a couple of good views of a Marsh Harrier and I managed to get a shot of it but it's too far away to make inclusion of the picture viable. My son manged to follow it with a scope and exclaimed "Wow, it's beautiful" which was a bit loud for in a hide but seeing as he'd spotted it the first time before the twitcher collective (with camera lenses the size of an oil drum) he can be forgiven. When it comes to nature let's encourage youthful exuberance before it gives way to adult understatedness.
We'd planned the route to go from the Bittern hide to the view point (which overlooks one of the meres) as we could dump our bags and walk there quickly from the car park. The shimmering heat haze effectively prevented any bird id but my son did spot the wooden 'studio' close by that was recently used for the BBC Springwatch series broadcast from there. I said to my son "Look there's the Beech" (see the above picture), which drew an "Oh ha ha, very funny" monotone reply. Hmmm, it was time for a quick drink in the café.
You'll probably not surprised to read that I highly recommend a visit, we did well to see what we did with little legs to consider but we've hardly scratched the surface with a day visit and this small blog could easily read like an extended list. Non-members can pay on the door to get into the centre and I'll be doing one or two early morning, go as slow as I damn well want visits during my forthcoming work sabbatical. Click here for a pdf map.