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RSPB Minsmere unsprung

PUBLISHED: 13:25 27 May 2014

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Ben Andrew rspb-images.com

Spring at RSPB Minsmere is a magical time when wildlife is at its busiest. No wonder BBC Springwatch has decided to make the reserve its home for the next three years. Aggie Rothon reports on what the team - and we - can expect to see

Avocet in flightAvocet in flight

If you’ve ever been to RSPB Minsmere on the Suffolk Coast you’ll know what a special place it is.

At any time of year wildlife thrive in the reedbeds, woodland and dunes. But there’s no better time to go than spring – one of the busiest times for all sorts of wildlife.

Adders and grass snakes – out of hibernation for some weeks – can often be seen basking on the heathland. Wetland birds, such as the avocet, are nesting and the woodland is alive with a chorus of birds busy looking after their chicks.

It’s no wonder the BBC has decided to broadcast Springwatch from the reserve this year and in the following two years. For three weeks from May 26 the intimate lives of Suffolk’s wildlife will be brought into the nation’s living rooms four nights a week. For many people Springwatch will be a huge incentive to visit the reserve and try to spot the stars of the show – both wild and not so wild.

Kids enjoying the Discovery Zone at MinsmereKids enjoying the Discovery Zone at Minsmere

So, if you have a budding Chris Packham or Michaela Strachan with energy to burn during half-term, Minsmere is the perfect place to visit. The whole family can discover nature together in the Wild Zone and Wild Wood Adventure areas just a short walk from the visitor centre and car park. The Wild Zone has loads of fun activities – a chance to become a bittern sitting on eggs in a giant play nest, or a sand martin clambering through giant sand tunnels.

In the Wild Wood Adventure you can build a den, or search for minibeasts in the leaf litter. Younger children will love the special Riverwatch Hide made of swirling willow shapes overlooking a miniature river habitat.

RSPB staff and volunteers will be on hand to help spot some of the special creatures that live at Minsmere. It’s worth getting there early – this is often the time that more elusive creatures venture out to feed or warm up. You might spot an otter family slipping into the water or a bittern fishing in the reeds. Parties of flaxen-feathered bearded tits also dart from reed to reed making sharp, pinging calls. Listen for cuckoos and chiffchaffs sounding out their names.

When the Springwatch cameras stop rolling, Minsmere will still provide a host of exciting opportunities for the family to explore. Throughout the summer holidays you can join in lots of activities on the reserve. Try pond dipping at the purpose built platform – favourite finds are caddis fly larvae cases, made by the larvae collecting and sticking together tiny fragments of shell, leaf and stone and mega-predatory dragonfly nymphs. These tiny creatures have enormous grasping jaws to grab any unsuspecting prey they take a fancy to. Children love seeing birds up close at the bird-ringing stand, or you can have a go at dissecting owl pellets to find out what the birds of prey on the reserve are eating.

Bittern in reedsBittern in reeds

So whether you’re watching from your living room or enjoying the great outdoors there are plenty of ways to get involved.

To find out more about Minsmere and the RSPB go to www.rspb.org.uk/minsmere or like the RSPB Suffolk Facebook page for daily updates on Springwatch goings on over the broadcasting period.

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