Because of social media, today’s bird lovers know when to dash off to almost anywhere to record a rare or unusual species. A normal day at Minsmere sometimes turns into a scene of chaos as the carpark rapidly fills with cars unloading the ‘anoraks’ with ‘bins’ and ‘scopes’ slung around their shoulders dashing off to crowd into a hide or assemble around a windswept clump of bushes. Some birds attract a great deal of attention, others seem not to attract a second glance. One of the latter species to twitchers is the coot, a bird as unremarkable as its close cousin, the moorhen. It is a black-coloured bird with a white beak and plate. It has ridiculous feet and is quite ungainly on land. Just recently, a coot turned up on the Wilderness Pond in our Park. So what, you say. Then, a few days later another coot arrived and, I am reliably informed by Philip Murphy, one of the coots was found sitting on a nest. This somewhat unremarkable species of bird is now something special. It is, I believe, a new breeding species for our Park. Will the young coots, if the eggs hatch, survive? Not if the lesser black backed gulls have anything to do with it.
In the latest SOG (SBG now) magazine is an article written by its President, John Grant. It is really more of a plea than an article entitled “Time to show our love for Minsmere”. It is almost a tear-jerking letter to the Government asking for protection of our beloved Minsmere Reserve. John pleads for a cast-iron guarantee for the safety of this beautiful, ‘bio-diverse’ hotspot with its 5,000 odd species. So far, we have received no such reassurance of protection if/when Sizewell C is built. What also sticks in the throat to many of the visitors to our coast is that this £18 billion plus nuclear power station is being built by the French company EDF Energy together with the Chinese Nuclear Power Group CGN. Also, for the last couple of years, Scottish Power has been carving up the Suffolk countryside for a pipeline to bring in the energy produced by the North Sea wind farms. I feel so sorry and angry for the residents of beautiful villages, like Eastbridge, who are threatened by a campus of over 3,000 being deposited on their doorstep.
Speaking about Minsmere, I found myself sitting in the Bittern Hide the other day with just one other bird watcher. He said he came from Surrey and had recently taken up birdwatching again having enjoyed it as a child. He loved seeing the marsh harriers performing above the reed-beds and was also keen to see a bittern. However, he had no idea what the large white dome was on the horizon!
Philip Murphy’s spring bird walk held in our Park on 23 March was a huge success with over 24 keen birders being enthralled by Philip’s enthusiasm and knowledge. I have mentioned the nesting coots already in this article but also confirmed on this walk was the fact that a pair of little grebes (dabchicks) were also nest building. Yet another first for our Park. Now that coot and little grebe have joined other nesting waterfowl (Canada goose, mallard, mandarin and moorhen), the lesser black backed gulls will certainly not go short of food. Philip’s party had only just vacated the Wilderness Pond area when 500 or so runners taking part in the weekly Park Run charged past. I wonder what the pond life thought of all this activity? Incidentally, other birds seen on this walk included buzzard, chiffchaff, sparrowhawk, two species of woodpecker, and a flock of 50 or so redwings.