Minsmere is the RSPB’s premier nature reserve on the Suffolk coast, East Anglia, UK, and luckily for me, just a stones throw away from where I live half an hours drive further down the coast. I do not visit as much as i’d like to or should, but when I do, I am always pleased to have paid a visit. Whether it be for birding, bird photography or just a brisk coastal walk (though nearly always a combination of all 3) there is always something happening at Minsmere, always a wealth of birdlife and natural history interest all year round it seems and I never seem to fail to have a successful trip there.
I took at visit to Minsmere yesterday with Phil, the main plan of action being to look for an adult Caspian Gull which has been present for some days now on the scrape. After some searching, we had good scope views of both an adult and 2nd year Caspian Gull so felt we’d achieved as we made our way to the cafe for very delicious toasted sandwiches and a nice cuppa. We sat outside to eat and watched as Goldfinch, Siskin, Chaffinch, Magpie, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Robin, Blackbird all came down to the feeders, a Marsh Tit was a particularly nice addition at the feeders.
After lunch we decided to visit Island Mere hide where there have been recent sightings of Penduline Tits along with the usual Bearded Tits. We did not catch up with any of these though heard distant Beardy ‘pinging’ in the reeds some way off. A very smart male Hen Harrier worked the field margins towards Sizewell and a pair of March Harrier were displaying high above the reedbed. I photographed several Common Snipe which approached the wet grassy areas right next to the hide with some caution but eventually showed well. They fed frntically, then slept below the hide.
However the star of the day was yet to come, as with a rustle of reeds and several pre-appearance ‘BOOMS‘, a hungry male Bittern came into view and he started an evening fishing campaign in earnest. At first he was some distance away as he worked the wetter pools for tiny fish which he seemed very apt at seeking out and stabbing at regular intervals. Later, the Bittern came a lot closer and right out in the open. I seem to see Bitterns well on most occassions I visit Minsmere, but to see one so ‘naked’ and ‘exposed’ away from the reedbed margins never fails to captivate and give a real sense of luck and awe – just a great natural history thrill as a photographer and birder to witness. Bitterns are still scarce in the UK and there has been huge conservation efforts, very successfully, to bring the numbers of Bitterns at Minsmere and other UK locations up and back from the brink of UK extinction. Bitterns were absent from Britain for 25 years until they re-colognised in 1911. Minsmere is ‘THE’ place to see Bitterns, especially in the Spring, with the strongest population of breeding birds in the UK. In the winter months a great place to see Bitterns is the Lea Valley in Hertfordshire.
These are a small selection of my Bittern images from yesterday. I love the clean looking reflection one as the Bittern hunted for fish. The light and conditions were not great but the cloud cover made for quite pleasing neutral tones throughout. These were all taken hand-holding my Nikon D3s and 200-400mm VR lens.
. . .. .consuming a minnow.
At the end of his 20 minutes or so of prancing around in front of the hide, he took a dip and headed off to a different section of reedbed – a swimming Bittern, that was a sight I’ve not seen before!