What makes a really good nature reserve?
Firstly, and most obviously, top wildlife. Minsmere has this. It gets rare stuff (I've seen the Purple Chicken, Citrine Wagtail, and Semi-Palmated Sandpiper in recent years), but also has a variety and quantity of nature that means even when there is 'nothing here' there is still lots to see.
Secondly, you need to be able to see it. Minsmere has a network of walks and hides that means just about everything is accessible to the public.
Thirdly, you need knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff. Minsmere has a number of people who fit this bill. From roving wardens in the hides to staff in the centre there is all the information and guidance you need to get the most out of the day.
I was meeting up with a friend who has an interest in wildlife so Minsmere was a suitable place. the day got off to a good start with a Little Owl perched on a sign post just off the A12, and then on the access road (taking care park by the watchpoint and not on the road as it is a criminal offence to do this on this stretch and cameras are positioned), 2 Stone Curlew and a small herd of 8 Red Deer.
Garden Warbler singing by the car park, then to the centre. Savis Warbler singing from the bushes left/opposite Island Mere hide. Little Terns on the south scrape. Friend arrived so we set off for Island Mere, and had the bird singing easy enough. And then eventually the bird itself in a bush exactly here the staff said it would be, distant but clearly a darkish locustella.
Then round the scrapes. Little Gull, several Little Terns, a few Knot, 2 Whimbrel flew off calling from south scrape. along the beach two Stonechat in gorse, so we looked for accomplices and found a pair of Dartford Warblers once again showing very well.
At this stage we looked inland and saw from our lofty sunlit point a thunderous (literally) dark grey cloud with a mass of swifts, martins and gulls feeding frantically in front. We thought we saw a couple of hobbies too. The clouds appeared to be getting nearer so we headed to the centre for a coffee, and as we were there the heavens opened.
Finally, friend having departed, the centre staff said a few hobbies had been sent from Bittern Hide, so a quick pre-departure visit and there were not just three hobbies hunting over the reed bed, but a Bittern sat just on the edge of the reeds.
Once again an excellent visit. Non-stop wildlife spectacle. Must be the best place in England for wildlife.