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SUFFOLK (Leiston, Ipswich), (e)

National Grid TM 460672 00o00´/00o00´ 970ha 0-24m, heathland mainly just inland dropping to large reedbeds with coastal lagoons and dunes, has river and meadows, some oak woodland and some reverting arable and plantation

anytime (and 03.09.08 to )


Birding Site Guide

Britain has some of the most diverse habitats and geology for its size of any similar sized region in the world and of all the places in Britain Minsmere comes top for its habitat and species diversity. This is reflected in the list of breeding birds, which is the largest in Britain at around 90-100 species per year (134 species have bred in total) and its total bird species list is very impressive at 331. Lists of species for other Classes are equal impressive, see lower down. In total around 5,600 species have been documented, and while a few other sites may have longer lists, such as the New Forest, they are invariably much larger.

Suffolk is located ne of London above Essex and below Norfolk, it has no motorways but good dual carriageways and ‘A’ roads. Minsmere is run and managed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). To reach Minsmere travel towards Norwich, then take the A12 south to Saxmundham and the B1119 towards Leiston. From Leiston head north for a mile on the B1112, the reserve is signed off here, and you should follow the signs taking one of the side roads east to Eastbridge and hence the reserve. There is a subsidised public transport service, which costs around £1, called Coast Link which runs from Darsham train station collecting around the towns and villages on demand and then on to visitor attractions on the Suffolk coast.

Suffolk is a very attractive county, it has a relatively low population and has a high percentage of ‘old’ countryside (that is pre-Enclosure or before 1830), which means it has many twisting single-track sunken roads or hollow-ways with associated old hedgerows and irregularly shaped small fields. It has retained these characteristics due largely to it poor sandy acidic soils, which are not the best for agriculture, though much of the fens and heathland has been converted to improved pasture and foreign species conifer plantations. The area around Minsmere consists of low rolling hills with heath and floodplain areas with reedbeds.

Places to stay are easy to find in the towns, with bed and breakfast (B&B) or self-catering holiday cottages being most popular. The nearest place is the RSPB own holiday cottage; Scott’s Hall Cottage, book by contacting Suffolk Secrets or phone 01502 722717 altenatively try the Eels Foot Inn at Eastbridge. It is advisable to book in advance in peak season to avoid disappointment. Places to eat are easy to find at many pubs and in peak season at many tourists hotspots.

At the reserve access is free for members, £5 for non-members and wheelchair facilities are good. Facilities at Minsmere included a large car park and disabled facilities for much of the reserve, motor-wheelchairs are available to go round the reserve. There is a large well-stocked shop, selling RSPB items, optics and a wide selection of natural history books. There is also a tearoom with varied food menu. There are regular guided walks and events, see RSPB website for detailsRSPB .

The full range of habitats, all in hectares as of 2003 are: Heath/acid grassland/bracken 446, reed 155, unimproved and semi-improved neutral grassland 150, woodland and scrub 94, vegetated dunes 42, open water 33, coastal lagoons 19, arable 14 other (infrastructure etc) 14. Reserve paths focus on a loop around the reedbeds, called The Scrape, initially this area was flooded with freshwater during the war to form a sea-defence, by closing the sluice. Avocets were then found to be breeding in 1947, the first time they had bred in Britain in over 100 years. The RSPB appointed a ‘watcher’, Bert Axle and he created The Scrape in the 1960’s. Management on The Scrape focuses on maintaining the partially saline area for invertebrates and for the nationally important numbers of Avocets and increasing the reedbed specialist species such as Bittern, Bearded Tit and Marsh Harrier and maintaining Minsmere position as one of the best sites in Britain for all 4. The eastern part of the path’s loop connects with the public footpath along the dunes and beach. Four hides are located along this loop, with an additional public viewing area on the east side. There is another path from here, which leads back parallel with the road to 2 other hides, and this can be followed back to the entrance road. Additionally a network of 16.4 km of Public Rights of Way (ProW) crisscross the site and these can be accessed at all times free. The Scrape area attracts large numbers of gulls, terns, wildfowl and passage waders.

To the south are the wet grasslands so important for breeding Redshank and Lapwing. Parts of the heath are Open Access land and PRoW are present, much of the heath however is closed, at least in the breeding season, for conservation, as rare birds such as Nightjar, Dartford Warbler and Stone Curlew breed. Further work on the heaths is focusing on reverting plantations and poor arable land back to heath or acid grasslands.

Along the coast the reserve stretches from the higher ground of the adjoining National Trust reserve; Dunwich Heath, 3km south to Sizewell nuclear power station. A coastal PRoW carries on south of the power station to Thorpeness and permissive paths continue from the power station to connect with other PRoW a little way inland. The dunes system holds rare plants such as Sea Pea. Offshore nationally important numbers of Red-throated Divers winter, and seawatching can be profitable in the right winds. Inland the reserve extends northwards and joins Westleton Heath a reserve with several landowners. Westleton Heath adjoins Dunwich forest, which is west of Dunwich Heath, North of Dunwich Heath is Dingle Marshes which has one of the largest reedbeds in the UK. North of Dingle Marshes the protected chain of reserves continues with Westwood Marshes and Walberswick Nature Reserve then Benacre Broad. Other reserves inland but very close to Minsmere include North Warren, Aldringham Walks and Snape Warren, none of which have visitor facilities but all can be accessed via PRoW.

Minsmere Species Totals, Figures given are Total, (RDB sp., Na, Nb, BAP, BAP research) Birds, 331, , , , , Lepidoptera Total, 1060, 15, 5, 75, 8, 59 Lepidoptera (Moths), 1027, 15, 5, 73, 4, 57 Lepidoptera (Macro Moths), 476, 6, 2, 26, 4, 57 Lepidoptera (Micro Moths), 551, 9, 3, 47, 0, 0 Lepidoptera (Butterflies), 33, , , 2, 4, 2 Odonata (Dragonflies and Damselflies), 24, 1, , , 1, Coleoptera (Beetles), 515, 5, 12, 43, , Trichoptera (Caddisflies), 28. Pseudoscorpions), 252. Orthoptera (Grasshoppers and Crickets), 16, , 1, 2, , Hymenoptera (Ants, Bees, Sawflies, Wasps), 152, 8, 7, 10, , Chilopoda (Centipedes), 12. Diptera (Flies), 471, 18, 42 scarce species, , Heteroptera (True bugs), 123, 1, , 1, , Auchenorrychna (Leafhoppers and allies), 16, 1, , , , Dictyoptera (Cockroaches), 1. Neuroptera (Lacewings), 17. Isopoda (Woodlice), 7. Mollusca, 50. Bats, 6. Other mammals, 30. Reptiles, 4. Amphibians, 4. Vascular plants, 672. Bryophytes, 107, 5 nationally scarce species. Lichens, 105, 3 nationally scarce species. Fungi. 1321 Agarics, 369. Brackets and allies, 192. Micofungi, 983. Fish, 8+.


Below are lists for most popular Classes, all other lists not on this page can be found here MINSMERE OTHER SPECIES LISTS .


Minsmere bird list to January 2008 Year last recorded





Other vertebrates

Mammal species total 35, though this includes introduced species such as Rabbit, Reeve’s Muntjac and Grey Squirrel all of which are thriving. Red Deer are re-introduced and also common. Introduced American Mink are present but despite this Water Vole numbers are good, possibly because of Otters hindering their increase.


Herptiles number 8 species



Invertebrates number around 1400 species, of which 1060 are Lepidoptera (476 macro moths, 551 micro moths and 33 butterflies), there are 21 species of Odonata. This is the UK stronghold for the Antlion.

Minsmere Butterfly List


Minsmere Dragonfly List


Vascular plants number 647


Thanks to all RSPB Minsmere staff for kind permission to use their information.


Author: BSG, author of lists Robin Harvey (RSPB)