I was going to call this blog, “My Favourite Nature Reserve”, but I think I would already be contradicting myself, because in my previous post I have already said that it was RSPB Old Moor, and thinking about it, Titchwell Marsh is up there too, but that has the unfair advantage that we only go there, when we are on holiday in Norfolk, so I’m bound to be happier! But I really do believe this one is my favourite.
However in number 1 spot of my favourite reserves is (fanfare please) Attenborough Nature reserve in Nottingham. Before going into too much depth, I will give you a bullet point summary of why:
- 1) It’s a 10 minute drive from my doorstep (No long drive for the kids to get stroppy about).
- 2) It has a huge diversity of wildlife to see.
- 3) It has a great cafe, which does huge doorstep bacon butties, and the best cakes and flapjacks.
- 4) There is also a Costa and a McDonalds nearby, for picking up a warming drink beforehand in the winter, and for bribing the kids, who may start to get a bit weary on the way round.
- 5) It is the location of some of my greatest sightings ever!
Attenborough was where I got back into wildlife and nature in general. I have always been interested in Birds since I was a child, but slowly and gradually over the years I had let other things take over, computers, drinking, girls (well, one particular girl, Jo, who is now my wife), jobs, kids, etc…
So many years ago, myself and Jo decided to go for a walk round Attenborough for the first time, fed the ducks, had a slice of cake and a drink in the cafe, and generally had a nice time, without taking too much notice of the actual specifics of the surrounding birds. I probably didn’t realise it at the time, but this is where it all started again.
Over the next few years, and the introduction of a baby Abbie we visited again and again, and slowly we all started to notice more, recognise new birds and look them up when we got home in a new Bird book, and went from looking at “ducks” to Mallards, Tufted Ducks, Grebes, and the awesome king of the water, the Grey Heron.
After that, I remember seeing our first Little Egrets at Attenborough, and being impressed that something so exotic could come to a location so close to home.
Fast forward to now, Abbie is a moody teenager who reluctantly comes along with us, but our ground work has paid off, despite her appearance of disinterest, she cannot help herself but get excited when we see something new and rare, like the Green Woodpecker she saw last year.
The only downside with experience is that we now have become a bird snobs –
“It’s just a chaffinch.”
“Wow – what’s that singing in the bush over?”
“It’s just a Robin.”
A few years ago, Chaffinches, Robins, and especially Egrets got us excited, and now it has to be at least a Year tick to impress us!
Having visited for many years, I will let you into a few pro-tips to get the most out of your visit.
- When you come out of the visit centre, and turn right over the big bridge, the scrape on your left is the best place to see birds!
It the bit of land with channels of water running along it, just before you get the to path going to the Bittern Hide (The one of Stilts)
In our years of visits we have seen a Snipe, a Jack Snipe, a Yellow Wagtail, and a Green Woodpecker there.
- This one applies to anywhere there are people and nature. If you see a group of people all looking in one direction, ask them what they are looking at!
Birders may not appear it, but they are very friendly if you are interested. We have looked through other peoples binoculars, scopes and even on occasion borrowed a very expensive camera and lens to take pictures!
- If you turn left after the scrape and follow the path, you will get to the Bittern hide. Where you stand the best chance of seeing the elusive bird. To get the most out of this hide, you will need a decent pair of binoculars or a scope. (Or as per the previous tip, just sit close to someone who already has one!) I have never seen a Bittern (here, or anywhere) but I did once see a Water Rail from here through a borrowed scope!
- If you don’t turn left you get to the Kingfisher hide. I once saw a very distant kingfisher here, but with binoculars you can seen a large number of waterfowl across the vast area of water. Mandarin Ducks, Goldeneyes, and Ringer Plover have all been ticked off my list from this hide.
- Finally, don’t forget to sample the cake at the visitor centre, or start from here and take the homemade flapjack around with you!
P.S If you see a family walking round Attenborough this weekend, with an especially noisy 4 year boy, please say hello! Even if it’s not us, then you’ll have made someone smile!