Minsmere is always referred to as the crown jewel of RSPB reserves. Our Group has been talking about going there for several years now and in the summer made a definite decision that we would visit this November. The 1,000-hectare site has been owned and managed by the RSPB since 1947 and covers areas of reed bed, lowland heath, acid grassland, wet grassland, woodland and shingle vegetation. It has been the location for Springwatch on several occasions.
After an early morning start of 8 a.m. 13 members met in the Car Park at around 10.15 a.m., surprisingly all four cars arriving within 5 minutes of each other. The weather was good, although cold, the sun was out and there was no wind.
Talking to the staff in the Visitors Centre they advised us to take the Coast Trail which is a 2-mile circular walk with several Hides along the way which would bring us back to the Visitors Centre around lunchtime. So after having a drink in the cafe we set off on a leisurely stroll down to the East Hide which backs onto the sea – the only birdlife we saw along the way was Chaffinch and Goldfinch, and several rabbits. Going up onto the seawall the sea was calm and it was a really good feeling to breathe in the sea air and to be by the sea on a glorious winter day.
The East Hide overlooks a lagoon (as do all of the Hides on this walk). This area is known as the Scrape. From the Hide we could see large numbers of ducks, gulls, etc. including a large number of Cormorants, Shelducks, Gt. Black-backed Gulls, Herring Gulls, Lapwings, Teal, Mallard, Gadwall, 2 Gt. Crested Grebes and a Pintail. One of the highlights of the day was when a large number of ducks, etc. took to the air obviously having been frightened by something and after scanning around with our binoculars identified not 1 but 3 Buzzards.
After leaving this Hide we walked for a while along the seawall and on the way had a really good sighting of a female Stonechat sitting on the reeds, and then turned inland which led to the next 2 Hides. These Hides overlooked 2 more lagoons and the only additional birdlife we identified was several Avocets.
Arriving back at the Centre it was time for lunch. Some of us sat outside and enjoyed our picnic lunch watching the birds on the feeders while others went back to the car. Several Coat Tits, Chaffinches, Blue Tits and Great Tits were on the feeders, also we saw Dunnock, Pheasant and Grey Wagtail.
After lunch members went to the Bittern Hide hoping to see a Bittern flying up from the reeds but were disappointed.
Back at the Centre we all agreed that it had been a very enjoyable day and how lucky we had been with the weather – so to sum up: good journey, good weather, good company, lovely surroundings and nature. What more could you want? – except perhaps to see a Bittern – but maybe next time!
Birds seen: Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Crow, Cormorant, Gadwell, Gt Black-backed Gull, Teal, Shoveller, Mallard, Shelduck, Gt. Crested Grebe, Herring Gull, Black-headed Gull, Greylag, Coot, Moorhen, Starling, Sparrow, Robin, Buzzard, Stonechat, Wigeon, Pintail, Grey Heron, Avocet, Lapwing, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Pheasant, Magpie, Dunnock, Little Egret, Pied Wagtail.
Wild Flowers: Mullein, Gorse, Prickly Sow Thistle, Smooth Hawksbeard, Common Ragwort, White Yarrow
Next Meeting: Wednesday, 11 December – Hanningfield Reservoir – Meet in Visitors Centre at 10 a.m.