A trip to Springwatch at Minsmere

On Wednesday morning I was up very early as I had a five hour car journey ahead. I was off to RSPB Minsmere reserve which is along the Suffolk coast. But this wasn’t mainly for a trip to visit and explore the fantastic reserve, I was also going to the Springwatch HQ to feature on the 4.30 Extra show with Lindsay Chapman.

This was very exciting for me as I’d never been to Minsmere before but I’d heard about how much of a great reserve it is from Springwatch and online. I was also very excited as when I visited Leighton Moss back in Autumn for Autumnwatch I had a brilliant day and I was certain today wasn’t going to be anything less!

After leaving the house at 6.30 we eventually arrived at about 12.30, on the way we didn’t see much apart from a red kite along the A14 somewhere. When I got there I headed straight out to do some filming. I wasn’t too fussed though as we went out onto the reserve and explored a woodland area for any signs of varies species and to see where a good spot would be to put my trail camera up. Even though I didn’t actually leave a camera there it was still very exciting as there were plenty of signs about and the woodland was thriving with different species. As we were walking through we spotted a woodpecker nest and a male blackcap which was making a delightful racket. Once I’d met back with my family again we went off to observe the reserve even more.

Our first stop was Bittern Hide. As soon as we got there and looked out over the reed beds I saw a marsh harrier flying and hovering about and two hobbies which put on a fantastic display for us. As we only had a couple of hours we carried on our way and bumped into a friend of mine, Jason Alexander (Wildlife Gadget Man) who was with another man from the Suffolk Amphibian and Reptile Group. They were walking around with a special piece of kit which they were using to track down the adders they’d radio tagged. For a while we joined them to see how it works and what they were actually doing. It was very interesting to see how it works and how they use the data to discover new things about the adders on the Minsmere reserve. I even got to have a go myself and a bit later on we went along with them to watch an adder they’d caught be radio tagged which was later released on the programme. It was really fascinating to see how it works and how they put the tags on – real life science!

snake tracking

When heading back to the Springwatch HQ before I featured on Extra we also heard a bittern booming. In the past I’ve seen a bittern but I’ve never actually heard one booming. It was a really fascinating sound and quite odd. We weren’t too far from the bird and it actually felt like my body was shaking because of how low pitch it was.

Once back at the HQ I waited patiently for my cue to go onto the show. When I was on I spoke about a variety of things. This included trail cameras and a bit of science behind the species I film, urban wildlife including the pied wagtails in my local city centre, the BBC Wildlife Magazines Top 50 Conservation Heroes list, and some things about young peoples attitudes to nature and what studies show about how many children are engaged with it. I have attached the clip for Extra below. I had a really great chat with Lindsay, she was very welcoming and friendly along with everyone else on the Springwatch Crew and who work at the Minsmere reserve. I managed to have a good chat with a few familiar faces and met some new people too.


Once my time on Extra was over I managed to spend some more time on the reserve, have a chat with a few more people and get ready to appear in the Unsprung audience. When I got back last night I read some comments on social media about Unsprung as it has caused a bit of a stir. However I thought it was great, very funny! It isn’t as serious as the main show and they still spoke about some interesting topics. It was also fantastic to see Vic Reeves as one of the guests. They spoke about his hidden passion for wildlife which was something different for the show. I was a massive fan of his latest series that he featured in, House of Fools and think that he’s really funny so I enjoyed the show a lot! In fact I don’t think I could of chosen a better Unsprung to have been in the audience of!

Overall it was a very action packed day and I really enjoyed myself. I had a lovely walk around the reserve and it was also very exciting to spend time within the Springwatch HQ and studios. On the way back home, yesterday morning, we popped into see Jason Alexander (Wildlife Gadget Man) who if you didn’t see on The Great British Garden Watch has a superb garden with cameras set up at every corner filming a variety of species from blackcaps to hedgehogs. You can see more of what he does here.

Here is a link to Springwatch Extra which I appear on, if you skip to the 40 minute mark you can watch me there – http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b05xwdnq/springwatch-extra-2015-9-afternoon-27052015

You can also watch Unsprung by clicking here – http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b05x6gm8/springwatch-unsprung-2015-episode-3

I’d also like to share some exciting news which is that myself and another young naturalist, Josie Hewitt, will be taking part in one of the Special Evening Events at the Rutland Birdfair this year, on Friday 21st August. We’ll be guiding three well-known conservationists, Chris Packham, Nick Baker and Simon King, through a series of questions in front of an audience of about 500+ people. The reason why I’m sharing this now is because tickets have just become available. You can buy them and find out more about the event by clicking here.


Leaping into Spring!

Over the past few days and weeks the weather has been warming up, we’re seeing birds collecting nesting material in the garden, bees and butterflies are emerging, primroses are spurting up everywhere and frog spawn is emerging in our garden ponds. There’s no doubt about it Spring has sprung and it’s very exciting! I went along to one of my favourite local places yesterday, Elford Hall Gardens, and there were plenty signs that Spring has arrived!

Whilst walking around the walled garden I was having a good look in one of the small ponds and spotted a massive heap of frog spawn and at least 10 frogs surrounding it. The frogs were croaking, swimming around and poking their little heads above the water. Even though frogs are a species that I see throughout Spring, Summer, and sometimes into the colder months, they were great to watch and I managed to get some photos of them too.

Along with this, whilst walking around the gardens, there were lots of Spring flowers including primroses and daffodils. However the best moment of the visit was walking down a path and a swallow was flying right above our heads! This was the first time I’ve seen a swallow this year so it was very exciting and I couldn’t wait to record it as part of the Big Spring Watch.

The Big Spring Watch

For those of you who watched Springwatch at Easter on Friday evening you’ll already know all about this but for those of you who didn’t the Big Spring Watch is where you record when you see five seasonal events. By doing this the Woodland Trust hope to piece together the speed at which five seasonal events are first seen across the country from south to north.

The five season events are:

  • English Oak
  • Hawthorn
  • 7-spot ladybird
  • Orange tip butterfly
  • Swallow

These records will lead to a better understanding of seasonal timings which means the Woodland Trust, along with many others, may be able to help species that appear less able to react to climate change. We know that our precious habitats are under threat and it’s important that we do what we can to protect these habitats and the species within them.

You can read more about the Big Spring Watch here – http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/natureuk/entries/ec03f10b-aa7e-46a4-8671-67d8f9069bec

I have already recorded one of the five seasonal events, which was a swallow, so don’t forget to do so yourself when you spot one of the events from the list.