Light, Camera, Wildlife!

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions
Minsmere at dawn, © Mike Read

Minsmere at dawn, © Mike Read

When BBC’s nature programme Springwatch migrated to the RSPB reserve of Minsmere on the Suffolk coast on May 26th it shone the spotlight on one of the richest areas for wildlife in the UK.

The three-week series delighted in the site’s 5,600 species and the rich biodiversity of the wildlife-rich shoreline of this scenic East Anglian county. Presented by Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan and Martin Hughes-Games, Springwatch has been enjoyed by almost three million people a night and has become one of the UK’s longest-running wildlife series.

Habitats at 1,000 hectare RSPB Minsmere reserve (2,470 acre) include curvaceous sand dunes, shingle beaches, bird-scattered saline lagoons, fertile reedbeds and shaded woodlands.

Minsmere's Boomacre Mere ©  David Tipling

Minsmere’s Boomacre Mere © David Tipling

The RSPB has been giving nature a very special home on the Suffolk Coast since 1947 and has been thrilled to share the rich biodiversity of this glorious coastal location with a wider audience. The series, which ends on Thursday (12th June), has featured an abundance of iconic views and Suffolk wildlife from specially-built hides – Minsmere is home to 336 bird species, 37 kinds of mammals and more than 1,000 species of moth and butterfly, including the Minsmere crimson underwing.

Some of the UK’s rarest and most endangered birds, including nightjars, bearded tits and stone curlews also have a home there. Viewers have also been treated to some stunning wildlife camera work in and around the nests of avocets, terns, oystercatchers and lapwings, allowing constant, real-time updates as they keep watch for predators and strive to raise their young.

RSPB Minsmere is one of the RSPB’s most-visited reserve and popular with families keen to introduce young children to nature and the terrain’s fascinating wild inhabitants. Take as troll through winding leafy trails to spot common terns and gulls on the Scrape as enjoy the first sightings of spotted redshanks, ruffs and other wading birds on their return from the Arctic from late June. Be sure to keep an out eye for the colourful array of butterflies and dragonflies flitting, dashing and buzzing around the reserve. Young marsh harriers flap hesitantly over the reeds. Rare plants such as yellow horned-poppy flower on the dunes, where little terns sometimes nest in a specially fenced enclosure. The heaths turn a stunning purple as the heather begins to flower, while nightjars churr at dusk – if you’re lucky you may spot a glow-worm too.

Minsmere's Eastbridge Meadow. © David Tipling

Minsmere’s Eastbridge Meadow. © David Tipling

A purpose-built Wild Zone and Wild Wood Adventure boasts loads of fun activities for children of every age. With a bittern-themed play area that offers a chance to sit on eggs in a giant play nest.  Kids can also be a make-believe sand martin, clambering through giant ‘sand tunnels’ or build a den or seek out minibeasts in a safari through the leaf litter. A special Riverwatch Hide crafted from swirling willow spares is perfect for younger children, over-looking a miniature river habitat. Looking for activities to keep the kids happy throughout the summer? Then check out RSPB Minsmere calendar of events for the school holidays, from pond dipping and enjoying close encounters with the bird-ringing stand to some forensic-style owl pellet dissection to discover  what the birds of prey on the reserve are eating!

So, even though the three-week long wildlife party to celebrate Springwatch’s 10th anniversary is over, and the presenters and crew have packed up their binoculars and gone home, the  colourful cast of local characters at RSPB Minsmere, including marsh harriers, badgers, otters and red deer, continues to captivate and entertain. Visitors to Minsmere are immersed in the magical heart of the action amidst an intricate system of freshwater lakes, marshes and islands that includes one of the largest areas of reedbed in the country. Delve into splendid woodland, wetland and coastal scenery to see rare birds breeding and calling in on their migrations, a glimpse of a shy otter, a host crawling, beautiful bugs, sun-dappled coastal lagoons and a colourful scattering of wild summer flowers.

Minsmere  scrape at dusk - as viewers might see it. © David Tipling

Minsmere scrape at dusk – as viewers might see it. © David Tipling

The car park, hides and countryside walks are open from dawn to dusk every day, except 25 and 26 December. The visitor centre and shop are open daily, 9 am to 5 pm. The café closes at 4.30 pm. From November to January, the visitor centre opens daily, 9 am to 4 pm.

Entry to the visitor centre is free for all. To visit the countryside walks, Wild Zone and hides is free for RSPB members and RSPB Wildlife Explorers. Non-member adults £8, children (under 19) £4, Under 5s free, students £5.50, family offer: one child free with two paying adults.

 

For more about the RSPB or RSPB Minsmere, click here.

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