Springwatch boosts Minsmere's visitor numbers

Image caption The RSPB's reserve at Minsmere includes lakes, reedbeds, woodlands and heathland

The Suffolk nature reserve which hosted BBC Springwatch this year said the programme boosted its visitor numbers.

Just under 11,000 people visited RSPB Minsmere during the three-week broadcast, up 50% on its expected visitor numbers at this time of year.

RSPB spokesperson Rachael Murray said the size of the reserve meant people could still have a "private experience" despite the large BBC crew.

BBC Springwatch broadcast from Minsmere from 26 May until 12 June.

Image caption The first day of Springwatch's broadcast was "one of the busiest ever in Minsmere's history", according to the RSPB
Image caption The avocet became the RSPB's symbol after the bird returned to establish a successful breeding colony at Minsmere in the 1940s

Minsmere visitor centre manager Tim Rose said: "On the first day of broadcast, we had one of our busiest days ever in Minsmere's history."

Miss Murray said the "percentage of first-time visitors has shot up to around 40%" during the three-week broadcast, which is "nearly double the number" the reserve would usually expect.

The RSPB had planned for a hoped-for increase in visitors by nearly doubling its volunteers to just under 200.

They "enthused about wildlife" and "pointed out [to visitors] what people had seen on Springwatch the day before", according to Miss Murray.

Many of the volunteers will stay on until October to continue to assist visitors.

Image caption The bittern is another species which is now breeding at Minsmere after it nearly died out in UK
Image caption The reserve also offers sanctuary to many mammal species, including deer and badgers

The reserve is on the north Suffolk coast near Sizewell and was founded in 1947, after land was given to the RSPB by the Suffolk-based Ogilvie family.

It has now expanded to 1,000 hectares (2,470 acres) and receives 90,000 visitors a year.

Minsmere's "star species" include marsh harriers, bearded tits, avocets and bitterns - whose booming call was imitated by the Springwatch presenters Michaela Strachan and Chris Packham.

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