Following last years successful trip to Minsmere, timed to coincide with BBC’s Springwatch visit, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to repeat the experience this summer.
I really enjoy seeing what it takes to get the amazing footage that they do. You don’t just turn up on the day with a camera and hope for the best! Attention to detail in selecting the right equipment and how and when to use it is paramount.
Fortunately the presence of the BBC doesn’t distract from the reserve as there are always plenty of places to escape any increase in visitors. I usually stay at Eastbridge, on the edge of the reserve, and any additional activity at Minsmere only enhances opportunities at Eastridge. Lovely to see the barn owls are still breeding at this site. I did actually managed to spot what was probably one of the Eastridge birds from the Island Mere hide as it was hunting along the south western boundary of the reserve. This was after 8am so the barn owls must have been under quite a lot of pressure to capture more prey.
This is one of the very best times to see bitterns at Minsmere. Although the reed is well grown and makes photography a little tricky at times the females are at their most active. With hungry offspring to feed the adults have to make regular flights from their nesting area to the prime fishing spots. Once an idea of a possible nest site has been determined the flight path and frequency can be reasonably predicted.
Other Reedbed Birds
One of my absolute favourite birds to photograph is the bearded tit. Again with the increase in activity as a result of having lots of hungry mouths to feed this is an excellent time of year to try to capture a photograph. That’s not to say that it is easy! Usually the birds can be seen fluttering back to their nests and dropping straight down into the redeemed out of sight. Occasionally however, ans=d I haven’t worked out when or why, they will spend some time at the top of the reeds. Very often this is a small group of birds and probably not involved with feeding young. Whilst you’re waiting for these special moments there are often reed warblers and reed buntings about to keep things interesting.
No discussion of reed bed birds would be complete without the mention of starlings. This species uses this habitat primarily for roosting, especially in the winter. The occurrence of starling murmuration is one of this country’s greatest spectacles.
The otters at Minsmere are surprisingly active throughout the day, although I find that early mornings are the most productive. I saw otters very day on this trip, sometimes several times. They tend to be spotted at distance and spent quite a bit of time fishing in the centre of the Mere. However several times they did venture along the margins and get quite close to the hide. The photo I have included here is when one adult climbed up onto the pile of cut reeds right in front of the hide. The photograph is hopelessly out of focus and I wouldn’t normally keep something like this but the framing of the face by the reeds somehow seems to add an air of mystery. Well that’s my excuse anyway!
During the hottest part of the day on the hottest day of the year in true British tradition I decided to carry all my gear to Dunwich in search of the Dartford Warbler. Fortunately this seemed to have paid off as both the stonechats and Dartford warblers were active feeding their young. If you do want to see these birds please follow the guidelines on the notices around the reserve. Stick to the paths, don’t stay in one place for too long and definitely do not use any audio device to try and attract the birds. By keeping low and still for relatively short periods it is possible to catch a glimpse of these beautiful birds.
The excellent daily ‘What’s About” sheets alerted visitors to the presence of a Greater-spotted woodpecker nest hole with hungry and very veal occupants. Although in deep shade I was able to get a reasonable photograph using high ISO settings and a remote control. I don’t mind taking ‘less-than-perfect’ photographs as they often remind me of notable events of the day. They can also help me to identify certain species.
For similar reasons I have included the green woodpecker in the gallery. Several birds were frequently seen feeding on the ground at Whin Hill in front of the Springwatch studio.