7 Mar 2017, 10:32pm


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  • Spring at the Minsmere Bird Reserve

    In this post I thought I’d share how I spent some of that time I bought back from The Man today. It’s also a little bit about Suffolk, and I get to play with audio on here – most of these recordings are binaural giving the bst effect on headphones. The sun was out and I felt like a bit of Spring at the Minsmere bird reserve, on the Suffolk coast. It was free but if you aren’t a member of the RSPB then it will set you back £9.

    I’d say even at that price it’s worth it – they have put in a lot of effort over the last few years to make the areas around the visitor centre and in particular the information and some of the events child-friendly, but the place is big enough to get away from all that too, since it is clustered around the visitor centre, cafe and shop.

    View over the Scrape part of the reserve

    In general spending time in Nature doesn’t cost you anything other than the cost of getting there, but they have worked hard to make this accessible and certainly if you’re coming from a distance it’s worth the price of entry because they have concentrated a lot here. I wasn’t after anything in particular, just a whiff of Spring and a load of birds, what’s not to like?

    Spring seems to come earlier at Minsmere. At home there are still a few winter visitors like Redwings in the trees and very few birds singing, other than our indefatigable Robin. At Minsmere I was greeted almost immediately with a Chaffinch in full song, which is the first I’ve heard this year

    The main feature of the reserve is the Scrape, which is a very shallow lake filled with brackish water. At the beginning of World War 2 the farmland around Minsmere was abandoned to the sea to make it more challenging for a German invasion of the East coast. These defences is still there in the form of anti-tank defences

    Minsmere concrete cubes – anti-tank defences on the sand dunes facing the sea from 1940

    The flooding helped more welcome invaders though, the iconic Avocet started breeding again in the flooded region in 1947, and they are still there

    The Avocet, with its upswept bill-tip

    It’s about a three-mile walk around the Scrape, and there’s a right racket from all the birds on the islands in the Scrape. Many of the gulls and waders breed there, though it’s the gulls that make most of the noise

    Birds on an island in the Scrape

    and this is a quiet time for them, they get a lot louder later on in the year! It wasn’t particularly windy today, but the sea sounded good with long rolling waves

    the North Sea at Minsmere

    If you arrive in the morning at Minsmere and the sun is shining, then it is worth going clockwise round the Scrape (ie first head off from the visitor centre via the reedbed of North Wall by following the signs to East Hide. That way you have the light behind you rather than in your face, and it sort of follows you round if you take your time. The furthest point in the sluice – in Summer it is a good place to see swallows. I had indeed enjoyed seeing them close up in previous years

    but I hadn’t realised they nested inside the sluice! A lot of water goes through this, it’s a terribly noisy place to make a home, but they don’t seem to mind the row.

    and on the way back I got to hear one of these guys – this loud sound is made by something the size of a sparrow, the Cetti’s Warbler

    Minsmere is a welcoming place, they go out of their way to highlight interesting stuff and there were some volunteer guides posted near a couple of adders lurking in the undergrowth. It was a bit cold for them, but they were out of hibernation and coiled up, although in the drab winter skins, so the devil’s own job to spot. I didn’t feel totally good about being a couple of yards away from a venomous snake, but it was worth a gander at some coiled trouble with the trademark flickering forked tongue. It was a good end to a morning reminding myself of better ways to spend a day than going to work 😉

    Minsmere is just off the A12, about 80 miles from London.  Visitors from London might like to stay at Southwold for a pleasant weekend break, which is only a little bit further up the A12.

    Minsmere at the RSPB website and on Twitter. That’s about the first worthwhile use of Twitter that I’ve discovered, kind of fitting in the case of a bird reserve 😉

    8 Mar 2017, 7:18am
    by Underscored


    Fabulous place, I love visiting. Even my noisy 2 year old was made to feel welcome.

    Thanks for sharing the recordings, did bring the place back to mind more powerfully than photos.
    I visited a couple of easters ago, it was very blowy, cold and brown that day and the kids trailed behind moaning through chattering teeth.
    I do remember there was a inordinate number of cheery red cheeked people out walking and being pleasant to each other. None of them wanted to adopt a couple of miserable teenagers though.

    Great stuff! Much better than working for sure. Here’s my nearby cost-free nature bolthole:


    Nice one. Looks like buying time back from the Man was a good investment, eh? I’m not much inclined toward bird watching, but if I had the time I’d probably take up astronavigation. How I’d love to be able to sail to the Med with nothing but a sextant. Oh well. 9 more years, and then maybe…

    Nice audio, I’m a Sound Engineer and did my final dissertation on Binaural recording. I’m interested to know what equipment you were using?!

    I used a Soundman OKMII and my own head, into a Tascam DR-22 WL. You can only use the OKMII outside on a very still day, which that day was. The previous day had been windy, which is why the sea had rolling waves I guess.

    Thanks for reminding with early retirement should look like….8 months into my ER I recently took on a temp job for a couple of months. Good money to fix up some old C code (not mine), but nevertheless a mistake that will not be repeated. Enough money, not enough time……

    hehe – every so often I wonder about that when linkedin runs a vacancy past me, but yesterday I saw a friend buried. It is a reminder than I have seen more summers than I will see again, and too many of those through the office window. As you say, not enough time…, but sufficient to live well, hopefully!

    @Underscored – glad you introduced a little-un to birds, get ’em young! Minsmere have raised their game a lot to make the bits near the visitor centre good for children and tried ot draw some of the common garden birds nearer there. They”l struggle for @Nathan’s teenagers though 😉

    @hosimpson that’s hard-line. Presumably need a chronometer too for the longitude problem?

    Yes, that would come in handy. Also a few maps and an almanac 😉

    Martin Mere is the closest place to where I am which is something similar to Minsmere. I had the good fortune to be able to spend a day volunteering there (organised by Old Co). Although I’m not generally an outdoor person, I really enjoyed it and it’s something I would love to do when I no longer need to work full time!


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