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Good morning. We have got some inconvenient but much needed rain here this morning so instead of gazing out of the window waiting for the rain to stop; I thought I would update you all with some recent sightings.
I will begin with some great images that were taken on the reserve last week:
A stoat in full flow:
Juvenile bearded tit:
Image credits: David Gowing
Thank you very much to David for sharing these great images with us.
A jay was mimicking a common buzzard outside the visitor centre on Saturday and there was plenty of kingfisher activity in front of Mere Hide. A bittern was also seen from the same area.
Meanwhile, a juvenile bittern was seen in front of Joist Fen viewpoint and a water vole was seen near the visitor centre. A sand digger wasp was also feeding in front of the visitor centre.
We had our family fun day on Sunday and I walked around Brandon Fen early in the day to check the trail was still up. While I was out, there were at least 10 black tailed skimmers on the wing. Later on in the day, a ruby tailed wasp was showing well in front of the visitor centre along with a hornet mimic hoverfly. There were also two juvenile kestrels over the visitor centre.
A red kite flew over New Fen viewpoint on Monday. There was also plenty of crane activity at the far end of the reserve. The family of four were seen in flight west of Joist Fen viewpoint and the other pair were seen with their young in the grazing marsh west of Trial Wood.
Yesterday, bitterns were seen from New Fen viewpoint and Joist Fen viewpoint. There were 12 juvenile grey herons on the washland and nine little egrets were also present. Meanwhile, closer to the visitor centre, a stoat was seen carrying a mouse along the visitor centre veranda.
There is plenty to see at the moment so why not come and visit? We hope to see you soon!
Posted by David White
Good morning. I will begin with an apology: I didn’t post any images in my last recent sightings blog post. I hope you all accept my apology and rest assured, images will be back with a vengeance in today’s post!
I went for a walk down to New Fen viewpoint before work yesterday morning. Here is the view towards Hockwold church:
I heard kingfishers near the Washland viewpoint and near the visitor centre. There were plenty of gatekeepers on the wing along the riverbank and a chiffchaff was singing in the big willow near the visitor centre.
When I got to New Fen viewpoint, I was very pleased to find two juvenile bearded tits feeding on the grit tray in front of the viewpoint. As I walked back through the reserve, I spooked a buck roe deer that was skulking around the Fen pools.
I had to pop out mid morning to change some signs over and while I was out, I saw a brown hawker and a hornet mimic hoverfly alongside the hard track near the Fen pools. I also saw several ringlets.
As the day went on, Katherine, Emma and Rob went to count marsh carpet moth caterpillars down at the far end of the reserve. While they were down there, they saw four cranes in flight just west of Joist Fen viewpoint.
When they returned, they apprehended a Roesel’s bush cricket that was attempting to gain entry to the visitor centre:
In the afternoon, this red admiral was busy feeding on the buddleia in front of the visitor centre:
Towards the end of the day, I was summoned out into the visitor centre to identify a “dragonfly” that was perching on the visitor centre window. Closer scrutiny found that it was not a dragonfly, it was a damselfly! Here are some pictures of it:
Image credits: David White
It turned out to be a willow emerald damselfly. This species was only recorded on the reserve for the first time last September, so it is fantastic news that it is on the wing here again this year. Hopefully, there will be plenty more on the wing between now and the end of September. Congratulations to volunteer Roy who initially alerted me to its presence!
If you are planning to visit the reserve this weekend, I would just like to reiterate the two notices that I posted at the end of Thursday’s blog post:
Firstly, due to the fact that kingfishers have been showing very well from Mere Hide recently, it has been very popular with birdwatchers and photographers alike. There is limited seating, so while using the hide, please be considerate to your fellow hide users. During busy times, if you have been in the hide for a while, and someone comes in, please consider giving up your seat to give someone else the opportunity to watch wildlife.
Secondly as part of our summer holidays family fun day on Sunday, there will be a bird ringing demonstration taking place weather permitting. Everyone is welcome to have a look in if you are here so fingers crossed the weather will be kind! Please read this blog post for more information.
There is plenty to see at the moment so why not come and visit? We hope to see you soon!
Good afternoon. I haven’t been here since the end of last week so this afternoon’s sightings may be slightly eclectically arranged!
On Friday afternoon, a kingfisher was fishing in front of New Fen viewpoint and two bearded tits were feeding on the grit tray in front of the viewpoint. An emperor moth caterpillar was photographed on the riverbank and an oystercatcher flew over the visitor centre, calling as it went.
I had a pleasant surprise as I went past the reserve on the train on Friday evening on the way down to visit my parents in Dorset: I saw three cranes from the train. It was the pair that we know as “Little & Large” along with their youngster, which has only got a couple of weeks to go before it fledges. What a treat!
Katherine was working on Sunday and she was lucky enough to see a stoat hunting in our staff car park. One of our regulars went looking for insects on Sunday and as he found so many, I have attached his list to this blog post for interest.
A kingfisher was seen from the visitor centre window on Monday and a water rail was seen at the edge of the visitor centre pond on Tuesday. Also on Tuesday, Warden Emma counted 76 mute swans feeding in front of the Washland viewpoint which is a good count for this time of year.
The reserve team did a bittern survey this morning and although there wasn’t much bittern activity, four cranes were seen in flight west of Joist Fen viewpoint. Volunteer Catherine was out and about on the reserve and saw a great white egret in flight from New Fen viewpoint. She also saw a bittern in flight. As the day has gone on, kingfishers have been showing well in front of Mere Hide.
If you are planning to visit the reserve over the next couple of days, here are a few notices:
Good morning. I will begin with some fantastic kingfisher images that were taken from Mere Hide on Tuesday:
Image credits: Graham Joyce
Thank you very much to Graham for sharing these wonderful images with us.
There was a bittern survey yesterday morning and bitterns were seen from the Washland viewpoint and New Fen viewpoint. A great white egret was also seen in flight several times west of Joist Fen viewpoint.
I went for a walk first thing and I saw two marsh harriers over New Fen North, a first summer male and an adult female. There were plenty of insects on the wing as I walked along the riverbank. This included a meadow brown and a banded demoiselle.
As I walked down to New Fen viewpoint, I saw a couple of brown hawkers and a female common darter. As I walked back along the hard track past East Wood a song thrush and a chiffchaff were singing in East Wood.
As the morning went on, a barn owl was seen from Joist Fen viewpoint along with three hobbys. A juvenile nightingale was photographed near the visitor centre. A hornet mimic hoverfly was seen in front of the visitor centre and a selection of damselflies were photographed on the riverbank. This include common blue damselfly, azure damselfly and variable damselfly.
Volunteer Lawrence went for a walk around the reserve in the afternoon. Two hobbys were hunting over the Washland viewpoint and there was plenty of kingfisher activity in front of Mere Hide. A bittern was seen from New Fen viewpoint and a juvenile bearded tit was feeding on the grit tray in front of the viewpoint. A kingfisher was also hunting in front of the viewpoint.
At Joist Fen viewpoint, there were cranes calling in the distance and the great white egret was seen again in flight. A small flock of bearded tits were also feeding near the viewpoint.
We received some interesting late news this morning. Two purple hairstreak butterflies were seen on the reserve on Tuesday. Surprisingly, this isn’t the first record of this species on the reserve as one was photographed alongside Trial Wood exactly five years ago to the day. Fancy that!
This morning, a bittern was seen over the washland and a grasshopper warbler was reeling in Brandon Fen. A brown argus butterfly was also photographed in Brandon Fen.
As the day has gone on, a bittern was seen from Mere Hide along with a kingfisher. Four cranes were seen in flight from Joist Fen viewpoint and two hobbys were seen over the Washland viewpoint.
Good afternoon. I will begin with some fantastic news: One of the crane pairs that call the reserve home fledged two young yesterday! This is wonderful news and here are some pictures of the family:
Image credits: Dave Rogers
This is the second consecutive year that this pair have fledged two young, which is a very unusual occurrence indeed.
The other pair are still a couple of weeks off fledging so let’s hope that their one young will fledge in around four weeks time. Fingers crossed!
As usual, the best place to see cranes on the reserve is Joist Fen viewpoint, so look out for the family of four in flight if you come and visit over the next couple of weeks.
In other reserve news, one of our prettiest plants is currently in flower near the visitor centre, large flowered hemp nettle:
Although our plant book describes this plant as an “arable weed, mostly on peat”, hopefully you will agree that it is really pretty and the flowers are almost reminiscent of orchids.
If you would like to come and see it, it can be found between the visitor centre and the Washland viewpoint. Please ask in the visitor centre for more information.
A barn owl was seen over the entrance track on Thursday morning and a bullfinch was seen in Brandon Fen. Two kingfishers were seen from Mere Hide along with a juvenile sparrowhawk, which said kingfishers were understandably keeping a wide berth of!
As the day went on, volunteer Lawrence heard a grasshopper warbler reeling from the riverbank at the eastern edge of West Wood. He also saw a bittern from New Fen viewpoint.
This morning, a bittern was seen from New Fen viewpoint and a coal tit was singing in front of the visitor centre.
It was really rather wet for our orienteering event but while I was out marshaling, I saw a male marsh harrier from the Washland viewpoint and a golden bloomed grey longhorn beetle near the viewpoint. A chiffchaff was singing behind the visitor centre and several azure damselflies were on the wing over the raised pond bed.
I will return with some more recent sightings on Wednesday so until then, we hope to see you soon!
Good morning. I have returned from two extremely busy weeks working at RSPB Bempton Cliffs as part of my sabbatical to find that summer has come to RSPB Lakenheath Fen.
I will begin with a couple of interesting sightings from last weekend. A great white egret in breeding plumage was seen from New Fen viewpoint on Friday and an osprey flew over on Friday.
I returned on Monday and I had a walk around the reserve before work. A male marsh harrier was hunting over the washland and a cuckoo was calling in East Wood. As I walked along the riverbank, I saw a selection of butterfly species. This included a small tortoiseshell, a comma and a large skipper. I also found an impressive looking scorpion fly.
As I walked back along the track back towards the visitor centre, I saw a blue tailed damselfly feeding alongside the track. I also took this photo of the white campion that is currently in flower at the edge of East Wood:
As the day went on, two kingfishers were seen on the washland and several meadow browns were on the wing in Brandon Fen.
I walked around Brandon Fen on Tuesday morning and saw two cuckoos chasing eachother. A male marsh harrier was hunting over the washland and four common terns were feeding aerobatically in front of the Washland viewpoint.
I also managed to photograph a couple of my favourite invertebrates while I was out and about:
It was a nice morning yesterday and local photographer Matt Walton was out about on the reserve:
Image credits: Matt Walton
Thank you very much to Matt for sharing these great images with us.
As the day went on, an oystercatcher flew over the visitor centre and several individual bitterns were seen in flight from Joist Fen viewpoint. We had out annual volunteer BBQ in the evening. Whilst we were out enjoying the cloud and biting insects, a grey wagtail was calling nearby and a hobby flew over the visitor centre.
I just about have enough space to give you an update on our cranes. As regular readers and visitors will know, one of our pairs currently have two young. They are due to fledge any day so fingers crossed they will soon! The other pair are a couple of weeks behind so we still have a couple of weeks to find out whether their chick will fledge successfully. Fingers crossed for both pairs!
Is, thankfully, the phrase I heard plenty of times over the radio on Thursday!
As previous blogs have mentioned, it’s not been easy to pin down how many bittern nests we have on the reserve this year.Our surveys have recorded very little activity and been inconclusive to say the least, which is unusual in comparison to previous years.
However, Thursday proved to be different – within 10 minutes of being in position, over looking Joist Fen, I saw my first bittern flight! In prior weeks I’ve waited up to two hours to see one, so I knew this had to be a good sign....
And it was! We had plenty of bittern activity throughout the morning and the radios were in constant use to alert each other to incoming bitterns that could otherwise be missed.Darren won the prize for the most bittern flights recorded, mapping 18 in total. Whilst it’s still a little early to come to any conclusions it’s finally a step in the right direction!
Croaking bittern! (Credit: Matt Walton)
Over the last few days, bittern sightings are being reported increasingly often from both Joist Fen and New Fen viewpoints, so if you’re visiting soon there’s a good chance of seeing them there.
Our marsh harriers are also showing well from both viewpoints, with regular aerial food passes between the male and female – a very impressive sight. We’ve also spotted our first fledged juveniles of 2016 making their first tentative flights over the reedbed, looking a little wobbly on their wings!
Our cranes are very elusive at the moment, but one of the families can occasionally be seen from Joist Fen viewpoint. The vegetation is almost as tall as they are now, but a little patience can be rewarded with a glimpse of Little, Large and their youngster.
Bearded tits have been showing well from New Fen viewpoint over the last week, with great views of juveniles on the grit tray to the right of the viewpoint.
Juvenile bearded tits (Credit: Ken Clegg)
New Fen has also been a great spot to see kingfishers over the last week and we’ve even had occasional sightings of them on the visitor centre pool; always a welcome visitor!
Other highlights of the week include turtle dove (over Brandon Fen), common tern and hobby over the washland, barn owl in Brandon Fen and red kite flying low over the visitor centre on Thursday afternoon.
Making the most of the drier weather, the moth trap has been out over the last couple of nights - I’ll leave you with some of the highlights:
Poplar hawkmoth (All image: Emma Cuthbertson)
Posted by Emma Cuthbertson
Well it's not quite the wettest June we've had since we started recording rainfall here, (that honour currently goes to June 1997, when 184.4 mm was recorded) but it is getting close! Since Dave's blog last Sunday, not including yesterday's deluge, we have had an additional 37 mm of rain. I seem to remember June 2009 being quite wet too, with one memorable afternoon when 90 mm of rain fell in a couple of hours! Yesterday afternoon felt a bit like that day, when this was the view out of the visitor centre...
It's bad enough watching it, but imagine being a bittern or marsh harrier, trying to sit tight on a nest in the middle of the reeds - not much fun I should imagine! This is our major concern at the moment, what is happening with our bittern and marsh harrier nests out on the reserve. We already know that one of our confirmed bittern nests has succumbed to the weather, not from rising water levels, but from the shear weight of water coming from the skies, which we think collapsed the nest into the water. Usually the thatch of leaves and old reed under the nest is enough to hold it up, but seemingly not on this occasion. There is a slight chance that this female may nest again, although it is certainly getting late in the season. As Dave mentioned last week, it has been really difficult this year to get to grips with nesting bitterns. All we can do is keep watching, and hope any other bitterns have more secure nests - watch this space!
Generally across the reserve, the water levels have only crept up a little. We have set all the sluices at a level that water will flow over rather than build up. The only exception is Botany Bay at the far western end of the reserve. This is an area of washland which is connected to the river. We have some control over what water gets into Botany Bay, but once the river reaches a certain height, there is nothing we can do to prevent it coming in. So with all the rain we've had recently, the river level has come up significantly, and the grazing marsh in Botany Bay currently looks like this:
Hopefully with most birds having fledged young already it won't have affected too many of them. Speaking of fledged young, a great place to see bearded tits at the moment is the grit tray at New Fen viewpoint, where youngsters are regularly seen eating grit. They do this to help them digest their food as their diet changes from mostly insects to reed seeds.
Making the most of the brighter weather this afternoon, I popped out for a walk along the riverbank around Brandon Fen. It was fairly quiet apart from the occasional common tern, and I was pleased to see that one pair of great-crested grebes on the washland had at least one chick. The ones on the reserve seem to be doing quite well too, with a family of three, and a family of one being recorded in the last week or two. A further two pairs are still on nests, so fingers crossed they hatch soon!
Anyway, back to my walk. I'm always looking out for different insects as I wander along, and I wasn't disappointed today. I saw several narrow-bordered five-spot burnet moths (bit of a mouthful!) buzzing around the knapweed and thistles. The riverbank is the only place they are found at Lakenheath Fen, and it is a treat to watch them. Here's one I managed to take a photo of.
Further on I saw lots of banded demoiselles, which almost look as if they are dancing! I'm too slow to get any photo's of them, they always seem to dance away as soon as I get my camera out! Although I did manage to get this group of males in Botany Bay a few days ago.
Coming of the riverbank and through Brandon Fen, the bright yellow biting stonecrop is quite eye-catching among the grasses. It almost forms a carpet of yellow on bare sandy ground, and is well worth looking out for.
Then it was back to the visitor centre for a cup of tea - still with the sun shining!!
Although the birds do go a bit quiet at this time of year, it is still well worth a visit to look for different insects and see all the flowers in bloom. Hope to see you on the reserve soon.
**Please note also that the road from Lakenheath village to the Wangford road junction on the B1112 is currently closed. The road from the junction to the reserve is open.**
Posted by Katherine
It has been a busy week and a very wet one here at Lakenheath Fen. So here is a little recap on what has been going on.
We have had 34mm of rainfall in the last 4 days and half way into June we have already had slightly more than the average rainfall for the whole month and boy has it tipped down at times! We had a visit from some of the Birdlife International council members this week so we wanted the reserve looking in tip top condition. Emma was out with the brushcutter and I took the mower out to cut back some of the paths. All the rain helps the plants grow even quicker than usual and the heavy rain we have had knocks the vegetation down across the paths. Our visitors arrived on Thursday and I got to show them around the reserve and most of our keys species including bittern, crane and marsh harrier. I got to talk about conservation with visitors from Bulgaria, Italy, Lebanon and Singapore. It was very interesting discussing the different challenges facing conservation across the world.
Whilst I was showing the visitors around Katherine and Emma along with our trusty volunteers were surveying the reserve for bitterns. Nesting females are proving difficult to pin down at the moment, not helped by the inclement weather. New Fen North saw most of the bittern action, as it seems to have done all week. Earlier in the week visitors were treated to the sight of 3 bitterns clustered close together in New Fen North. These birds had climbed up the reeds and may have been newly fledged young waiting to be fed by mum. We are hoping for additional photographs from the visitors who saw them to see if we can establish that they were indeed young birds. I have spent a bit of time both before and after work this week trying to see what these bitterns have been up to. I went down to the New Fen viewpoint last night after work and again this morning and saw bitterns from the viewpoint each time. Last night there was a bittern preening itself on the far side of the pool in front of the viewpoint. This morning a bittern flew in to the same patch of reed. This morning I also had good views of two male marsh harriers hunting across the reedbed.
Image credit: Dave Rogers
There were also a couple of common terns fishing in the pool.
Image Credit Dave Rogers
The kingfishers are very busy at the moment and this morning both parents were flying past the viewpoint like little emerald and orange missiles going out to seek food for their young or coming back with a fish in their beaks. There was also a whitethroat singing well at the viewpoint and lots of reed warblers chirping away and flitting around the reedbed. This weekend Emma has been running a moth trap overnight and then showing visitors some the wonderful species we get on the reserve. Highlights of the species caught on Friday and Saturday night include burnished brass, poplar hawk-moth, eyed hawk-moth and swallow prominent.
Here is a burnished brass from this morning.
Image credit Dave Rogers
Finally two of our more challenging to see species have been on display this week. Firstly distant views have been had all week of one of our crane families. The pair we call Little and Large are visible (with some effort) from Joist Fen viewpoint. We believe they are looking after one chick which is now just over 4 weeks old. Large numbers of breaded tits appear to have fledged in the last week, so if you are in the right place at the right time you may get good views of these little gems.
So lots of lovely wildlife to see. We hope to see you soon.
Posted by DaveR
Grid reference: TL7286 (+2km)
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