Imagine a wild place on a golden summer’s day, a pool of silver lies nestled amongst emerald green rushes lined with venerable twisting willows, reflecting in its cool waters an ancient crenelated castle set upon a hill like a crown. A moorhen calls across the pond bobbing it’s white tufted rump as it hops across the water, dragonflies shimmer back and forth like darts of metallic blue and yellow while water-loving wildflowers bask in the sun showing off their pinks, blues and whites.
Now stop imagining because this place is real and we went there. We were in Suffolk on a birding holiday staying in the picturesque town of Framlingham, home to the sort-of-famous Castle of the same name. It was an excellent place to base ourselves with the Suffolk coast reserves half an hour away and a few other inland reserves within easy reach as well. But rather than give you an exhaustive list of birds we saw at Minsmere I am going to go into detail about a lovely little nature reserve literally next door to us. The Mere has been a presence in the town for centuries – before the castle was even built and although it has shrunk a bit since medieval times (due to it getting older) the Mere is a great spot for wildlife situated at the base of the castle walls and composed of a fair sized pond with a stream running through it, surrounded by wet grassland, meadows and hedgerows.
It is truly a lovely place, one of the first birds we saw was a small perky little grey bird with a streaked breast that flicked itself into the air and back to its perch in the blink of an eye, returning triumphant with an insect in its beak. This was a Spotted Flycatcher – a dull looking bird with endearing habits that spends the winter in Africa and the summer nesting in rich people’s gardens. The next bird was very brief but still special; a couple of Bullfinches that whisked into a dense shrub giving us a clear view of their stunning white behinds before we could get our binoculars on them, these are difficult to see and you can never predict a sighting but they are beautiful creatures. As we walked around we heard the almost soporific cooing of Stock Doves hidden in an ivy clad tree while overhead House Martins swooped and twisted in the pollen-laden air. I found some lovely pale orchids specked with pink growing amongst tall grass, I wasn’t sure of the species but I am always thrilled to find orchids – they have a strange allure that cannot be put down to just their beauty. Before we left we had quite a close encounter with a couple of Reed Buntings, a male and a female, that were perching on the tips of branches above a ditch, they are very attractive birds; the male has a clearly defined black head ringed with white and accompanying moustaches. The female has a burnt caramel head with a white feather boa and attractively streaked back and sides. Not a lot of birds you might complain, but what we saw was good and the location perfect.