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Recent sightings

  • 30 May 2016

    30 May recent sightings: Breezy Bank Holiday

    Good afternoon, as Katherine blogged some recent sightings yesterday, I will try to put a slightly different spin on today’s post. 

    I will start off with some interesting news that we received this morning: As some of you may now, each year, we fit small numbers of our young marsh harriers with green wing tags to give us a better idea of their movements once they fledge here. This is done in partnership with the Hawk and Owl Trust

    In the past, birds that have fledged here have been seen as far away as the Coto Donana National Park in Spain and WWT Martin Mere in Lancashire. However, our latest recovery has trumped both of these interesting records: “LS”, a first summer male that was tagged here last year was photographed in Norway the other day! This is the first ever British tagged marsh harrier to be seen anywhere in Scandinavia. It is fascinating to find out how far they go and we are all scratching our heads as to why it went that far when it left here! 

    In other reserve news, one of the Hereford cattle on the riverbank Public Footpath has calved in the last couple of days. Therefore, if you walk along the riverbank, please give mother and calf plenty of space, especially if you have a dog with you. 

    It was really rather breezy for my walk this morning but I managed to take these pictures of the yellow iris that is currently in flower on the riverbank:

    I walked along the riverbank and found a drake garganey feeding on the pool north of East Wood. As I walked down to New Fen viewpoint, I could hear a cuckoo calling in East Wood. I saw several more cuckoos between East Wood and West Wood. As I walked alongside West Wood, I could hear a turtle dove purring in the wood which was lovely to hear.

    A bittern flew past me near the track to Mere Hide and there were several azure damselflies resting in the vegetation. There were also several caterpillars lurking nearby, including a couple of drinker moth caterpillars and a garden tiger moth caterpillar.

    As the day has gone on, two cranes were seen in Humphrey’s Paddock, the grazing marsh in front of Joist Fen viewpoint. One flew into the area behind Mere Hide before flying back again. Several individual bitterns were seen from the viewpoint and a drake garganey was seen from New Fen viewpoint.

    I will leave you with a species to look out for here if you come and visit over the next couple of weeks. It’s a female scarce chaser. Although I didn’t take this picture here, hopefully I will get a picture of one here soon!:

    Image credits: David White

    There is plenty to see at the moment so why not come and visit? We hope to see you soon!

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Posted by David White

  • 29 May 2016

    Aliens still emerging! And other sightings.

    Well, it's the end of another busy week, with lots going on down the reserve again.  The non-avian stars of the moment are still the ever-emerging dragonflies coming out of our pond bed near the visitor centre.  As I type, there are another four people staring intently into the vegetation, with warden Emma pointing out the finer points of the dragonfly life-cycle!  To follow on from Davids photo of a few days ago, here are a few that I took of the emperor dragonfly emerging.

    The larvae bursts open as the adult begins to emerge.

    An acrobatic back-flip sees the adult free itself from the head of the larval form.   The white stringy bits, I think, are probably the once-sealed thoracic spiracles that the larvae used to breathe underwater.  During the last few days of metamorphosis, these are opened to allow the larvae to breathe air directly.

    Just hanging around waiting for its legs to dry and harden...

    After an impressive sit up, the new adult expands its wings...

    Then expands its abdomen...

    Adult emperor dragonfly ready to go.

    The whole process took from about 10.30am when it crawled out of the pond and up the stem, until 2.44pm when it was ready to go.  Hopefully it didn't share the same fate as another one we had been watching, which having warmed up its flight muscles, took off towards the poplars (with a few cheers from on-lookers), and was promptly gobbled up by a hungry pied wagtail!!  

    Over the last week and a half, over 20 emperor dragonflies have emerged from our wee pond, imagine how many must be emerging from the whole reserve!  With different dragonflies having different emergence dates, we're quite looking forward to seeing what emerges over the next few weeks and months. 

    While all that was going on, our volunteers were busy with various tasks.  Gill and Roger H, have done a fantastic job 'weeding' and tidying up the wildlife friendly bed (I know nature doesn't 'do' tidy, but there were quite a few plants  (some may say weeds...) that were not in the right place, and taking over the plants that are meant to be there!  We also decided to plant another bee and butterfly border next to the toilets, which looks great now, and will look even better once the plants have established.  Roger and Tony tidied up around the staff carpark, including removing all the brambles that were starting to invade.  They also put up some wires in lieu of planting honeysuckle and other various wildlife friendly bushes.  Dave M constructed some new A-frame signs for our seasonal interpretation, while Nigel spent a few hours monitoring marsh harriers.

    I unfortunately missed one of my favourite birds, an osprey, on Friday as it flew high over the visitor centre on Friday (that'll teach me for having a day off!).  I did not miss the spotted flycatcher in the big willow near the visitor centre yesterday though!  A drake garganey was seen on the washland on Saturday morning.  Up to three bitterns have been seen in flight, while bearded tits have been seen regularly flitting around the tops of reeds.  Hobby numbers have past their peak now, with only about ten around at the moment.  

    A late evening visit on Friday unfortunately did not reveal any spotted crakes, but a badger wandering across the track near the visitor centre made my evening! 

    That's all for now.  Hope to see you on the reserve soon!

    Katherine

    Warden

    Posted by Katherine

  • 26 May 2016

    26 May recent sightings: Creepy crawly country!

    Good morning. I will begin with some photographs that I took on Sunday morning.

    Common stretch-spider

    Drinker moth caterpillar

    Furrow orb spider:

    Cercopis vulnerata

    I will start off where I left off on Sunday. A lucky visitor saw four bitterns flying together from Joist Fen viewpoint. There were also three garganeys on the washland, two drakes and a duck.

    There were also plenty of invertebrates on the wing. This included several freshly emerged scarce chasers alongside Trial Wood and several broad bodied chasers near New Fen viewpoint. 

    As the day went on, a common buzzard was hunting over the car park. A scarce species of fly, thought to be conops vesicularis, was seen in the vegetation near the Washland viewpoint.

    A young song thrush was on the entrance track on Monday morning and a marsh harrier flew over the visitor centre pond. I came down for a walk in the evening and saw a bittern over New Fen North, the first area of reedbed. A mistle thrush also flew into the same area.

    On Tuesday, a turtle dove was seen near Wilton Bridge, which is where the riverbank Public Footpath meets the main road. A lucky visitor saw seven bitterns display flying together from Joist Fen viewpoint and there were also at least 12 hobbys feeding overhead. 

    Suzanne and I did our Common Bird Census (CBC) around Brandon Fen this morning. We disturbed a roe deer and saw a female barn owl hunting over the grazing marsh. A common buzzard was circling over the car park and at least two cuckoos kept flying around.

    There were plenty of signs of breeding activity. We saw a Cetti’s warbler carrying food near the Washland viewpoint and a kingfisher whizzing across the grazing marsh with a fish.

    Meanwhile, further down the reserve, a female garganey was seen from New Fen viewpoint along with a bittern. There were also good numbers of swifts feeding aerobatically over the reserve.

    As I haven’t been here much this week, I have unfortunately missed most of the excitement of dragonflies and damselflies emerging from the pond raised bed outside the visitor centre. However, I got lucky this morning and took this photo of an emperor dragonfly about to emerge:

    Image credits: David White

    If you have been following our blog posts regularly, you will know that the great tits in our visitor centre have chicks. They now have five chicks which should hopefully fledge on around 5 June. Why not come and watch their comings and goings from the comfort of our visitor centre?

     There is plenty to see at the moment so why not come and visit? We hope to see you soon!

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Posted by David White

  • 22 May 2016

    22 May recent sightings: Incoming!

    Good morning. It’s a lovely sunny morning so here are some more recent sightings. As it is a nice day, hopefully the local hobbys will be performing like they were when these pictures were taken on Thursday 12 May:

     

    Image credits: Phil Hacker

    Thank you very much to Phil for sharing these great images with us.

    I will start off where I left off on Friday. A short eared owl was seen north of the river and two common buzzards were circling over the visitor centre. Three bitterns were seen display flying from Joist Fen viewpoint and a single crane was seen in flight.

    As the day went on, at least 17 hobbys were hunting over the far end of the reserve. There were also plenty of dragonflies and damselflies on the wing. This included our first records of the year of banded demoiselle and scarce chaser.

    I went for a walk before work yesterday morning and I saw a cuckoo in Brandon Fen. A male marsh harrier was hunting over the washland and two tatty drake garganeys were dabbling in the pool north of East Wood. As I walked towards New Fen viewpoint, I spotted a glow worm larvae in the vegetation alongside the path.

    As the day went on, a single crane was showing well from Joist Fen viewpoint along with a water rail. There were at least 12 hobbys hunting overhead and closer to the visitor centre, a female garganey was seen in flight from the river into New Fen North.

    In the afternoon, some very bizarre bittern activity was reported from New Fen viewpoint: Two birds were having a bit of a squabble in front of the viewpoint and then they took flight. Suddenly, the higher bird of the two defecated on the other one. Disgusting! I have never heard of this behaviour below and to be honest, I feel bad for the bird on the receiving end of this “unexpected” surprise!

    I walked down to Joist Fen viewpoint before work this morning and there were cuckoos everywhere! I saw at least five different birds. Two bearded tits were showing well just east of Joist Fen viewpoint and two marsh harriers performed a food pass near Mere Hide.

    As I walked back towards the visitor centre, a bittern flew over my head (and thankfully for me didn’t defecate at that particular moment!) and it landed just east of Joist Fen viewpoint. There were also garden warblers singing in Trial Wood and East Wood.

    Just before I go, I just have space to say that the pair of great tits in our nestbox with a camera in it now have at least four chicks! They can currently be viewed from the comfort of the visitor centre.

    There is plenty to see at the moment so why not come and visit? We hope to see you soon!

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Posted by David White

  • 20 May 2016

    20 May recent sightings: Cuckoo central

    Good morning. There has been plenty going on here over the last couple of days but I will begin with some images that have been taken here over the last week or so:

    Male orange tip

    Two cranes in flight:

    Image credits: Dave Rogers

    Male marsh harrier

    Hobby:

    Swift

    Image credits: Matt Walton

    Thank you very much to Dave and Matt for sharing these great images with us.

    I will start of where I left off on Wednesday. It was a bit crazy in the office in the morning so Katherine took me out on the reserve for 10 minutes to show me a couple of things. She showed me a water vole feeding horde near the visitor centre and the sad sight of a dead coot. The coot was absolutely crawling with burying beetles, which are known as the undertakers of the insect world. 

    I went up to the Washland viewpoint at lunchtime and saw at least 75 swifts feeding over the large pool. I also saw a smart rhombic leatherbug near the viewpoint. 

    Suzanne and I did our Common Bird Census (CBC) in Brandon Fen yesterday morning. We heard a nightingale singing by Wilton Bridge and a smart buck roe deer on the riverbank. We also saw two collared doves, which are a tricky species to see here. 

    I led a guided walk around the reserve later on in the morning and we saw two cuckoos from New Fen viewpoint. We found a large drinker moth caterpillar alongside West Wood and at least three bearded tits were showing well just east of Joist Fen viewpoint. 

    At the viewpoint, at least 12 hobbys were feeding overhead along with a couple of marsh harriers. We could also hear at least three different bitterns booming.

     As we walked back through the reserve, I spotted a smart female hairy dragonfly perched up near the track to Mere Hide. When we got to the eastern edge of Trial Wood, we were treated to the unprecedented sight of a grasshopper warbler reeling right out in the open which was a real treat. Just before we got back to the visitor centre, some visitors pointed out four common lizards that were basking at the edge of the fen pools. 

    I walked around the reserve this morning and there were cuckoos everywhere! I saw and heard at least five individuals. A turtle dove also flew south over the visitor centre.

    There were plenty of invertebrates around alongside Trial Wood including a nursery web spider, a blue tailed damselfly and an azure damselfly. I also saw a freshly emerged damselfly, which was most likely to be a variable damselfly

    Katherine did her Common Bird Census (CBC) in East Wood and she was lucky enough to see a tawny owl. She also saw cercopis vulnerata (the froghopper that produces cuckoo spit) and a green carpet.

    There is plenty to see at the moment so why not come and visit? We hope to see you soon! 

    Posted by David White

  • 18 May 2016

    18 May recent sightings: All the colours of the rainbow

    Good morning. Mid-May is a very colourful time of year which is reflected by these great images that have been taken on the reserve in the last week:

    Black tern:

     

    Image credits: Ian Goodall

    Chicken of the woods:

     Emperor moth:

    Image credit: Janet Barwell

    Female hairy dragonfly

     ]

    Image credit: John Barrett

    Thank you very much to Ian, Tim, Janet and John for sharing their great images with us.

    Unfortunately, the black terns departed stage left at lunchtime on Thursday. A lesser whitethroat was heard singing in Brandon Fen and two otters were seen from New Fen viewpoint.

    I had a quick look for black terns on Friday morning but all I could see was a single common tern. A pair of garganeys were on the river and a spotted flycatcher was calling behind New Fen viewpoint. There was also some lovely water violet in flower along the southern edge of New Fen North.

    Shortly after I got back to the visitor centre, two Arctic skuas were reported over the washland. I went and had a look for them and although I didn’t see them, a turtle dove flew over the Washland viewpoint. There was also a hobby hunting over East Wood.

    I led a dawn chorus walk with the Wildlife Explorer’s club on Saturday morning and although it was rather chilly, a barn owl was hunting over the washland and two cuckoos were showing well in Brandon Fen. A turtle dove flew over the visitor centre and three roe deer were grazing near the car park. 

    Once it warmed up, there were plenty of dragonflies on the wing. As well as good numbers of four spotted chasers, there were several first records for the year. These were azure damselfly, variable damselfly and red eyed damselfly

    There was plenty to see on Sunday and there were at least 27 hobbys feeding over Joist Fen viewpoint. There was also the extraordinary sight of six bitterns display flying over the west end of the reserve.

    There were a couple of interesting flyovers at Joist Fen viewpoint including a red kite and a turtle dove. A single crane was also seen in flight.

    I returned to the office this morning after four days of gallivanting around the country. I walked down to the western edge of Trial Wood and heard three cuckoos in the wood. A male marsh harrier was hunting over New Fen North and a jay flew east along the river.

    Please note that there are now cattle grazing on the riverbank Public Footpath. There are also Dartmoor ponies grazing in New Fen North which are visible from the riverbank Public Footpath.

    There is plenty to see at the moment so why not come and visit? We hope to see you soon! 

     

     

     

     

    Posted by David White

  • 12 May 2016

    12 May recent sightings: The rain returns!

    Good morning. It has been a bit wet for the last couple of days so here are some more recent sightings. I will start with a couple of photos that have been taken recently on the reserve:

    Reed bunting

    Cuckoo:

    Grey heron

    Image credits: Tim James

     Bog bean

    Garlic mustard:

    Image credit: David White

    Thank you very much to Tim for sharing these pictures with us.

    There were several freshly emerged emperor moths on the riverbank on Sunday. There were at least 29 hobbys over Joist Fen and a bittern was seen from Joist Fen viewpoint. Several common blue damselflies were also on the wing. 

    As the day went on, our first spotted flycatcher of the year was seen at the far end of the reserve. There was also an intriguing report of a singing wood warbler in Brandon Fen. Sadly, it could not be relocated which is a shame as it would have been a first for the reserve.

    I walked around Brandon Fen before work on Monday and heard the nightingale singing by Wilton Bridge. There was also a garden warbler singing in the same area.

    Sadly, the weather put pay to the variety of sightings on Tuesday and Wednesday. However, a couple of four spotted chasers were seen emerging from the pond bed outside the visitor centre. Look out for Katherine’s blog post about this over the weekend. 

    Suzanne and I did our Common Bird Census (CBC) around Brandon Fen this morning. Simon and Pete were also ringing in the same area. The nightingalewas singing by Wilton Bridge at 5am but by the time Suzanne and I got up there at around 6.50am it had already stopped singing. Simon and Pete saw a single crane fly over heading north east. Suzanne and I heard a garganey calling near the ramp up onto the riverbank in Brandon Fen. Apparently, we all missed a greenshank on the washland which was a shame. 

    There has already been a bit of drama this morning as Katherine was based up at the Washland viewpoint for this morning’s bittern survey. She asked me to take a cup of tea up to her mid-morning. I duly did at 09.45 and while I was in transit, Suzanne came running up behind me and there was clearly something happening on the washland. When I got up there, a black tern was perched up but what didn’t I have? My binoculars! Typical! Fortunately, a kind gentleman let me look through his telescope so I did see it.

    The excitement didn’t end there. Katherine phoned again saying that there were now three black terns on the washland! I did nip up there, this time with my binoculars so I did get to see them gracefully hawking over the large washland pool.

    Just before I go, I just have space to tell you that another one of the cows in Brandon Fen has given birth this morning. When Suzanne and I walked around the grazing marsh, we couldn’t see it. However, it couldn’t have been much more than an hour old so we weren’t too surprised that mum was keeping it hidden!

    There is plenty to see at the moment so why  not come and visit? We hope to see you soon! 

    Posted by David White

  • 8 May 2016

    8 May recent sightings: Sunny Spring Sunday

    Good morning. It’s a lovely sunny day today so I will begin with some of my pictures from the last couple of days:

    West Wood: 

    Bird cherry outside the visitor centre: 

    Peacock butterfly:

    Image credits: David White

    I will start off where I left off on Friday. A red kite drifted over West Wood and at least 36 hobbys were seen over Joist Fen viewpoint. A common sandpiper was on the washland.

    There were also several invertebrates on the wing. This included several hairy dragonflies, large red damselflies and our first common blue damselfly of the year. 

    I popped up to the Washland viewpoint after work on Friday and was very lucky to find a turtle dove perched up on the wires behind the large pool. There were also at least four common terns feeding over the pool.

    We had a very successful bat night on Friday evening. Several noctules were hammering up and down East Wood and a mixed group of pipistrelles (both common and soprano) were feeding near New Fen viewpoint. 

    There were also several birds around. A barn owl was hunting over washland and two tawny owls were calling in East Wood. A bittern was booming in New Fen North and a large female sparrowhawk flew over East Wood.

    I walked around Brandon Fen before work and I was very pleased to find three common sandpipers on the washland near Wilton Bridge. Surprisingly, I think this is a new reserve record count! A cuckoo was also calling in East Wood.

    Site Manager Dave led a group of students from Cambridge University around the reserve. They saw a crane and a bittern in flight. They also saw at least 30 hobbys overhead.

    As the day went on, a whimbrel flew north over the reserve and a lucky couple saw a water vole from Joist Fen viewpoint. A water rail was showing well in front of the viewpoint and a garden warbler was singing outside the visitor centre.

    This morning, there were at least three cuckoos calling near the visitor centre and I saw a muntjac deer in Brandon Fen. A barn owl was hunting in front of the Washland viewpoint and three shelducks flew south over the viewpoint.

    As the morning has gone on, a crane was seen from Joist Fen viewpoint and several bearded tits were seen near the viewpoint. A bittern was seen from New Fen viewpoint along with a male garganey. A garden warbler was also singing in our staff car park.

    There is plenty to see at the moment so why not come and visit? We hope to see you soon!

     

     

     

     

    Posted by David White

  • 6 May 2016

    6 May recent sightings: Busy times

    Good morning. It’s early May so there is currently a lot going on out on the reserve. I will start off with some pictures that have been taken on the reserve recently:

    Common lizard:

    Image credit: Lynne Nunn

    White dead-nettle:

    Lady’s smock in the Fen pools:

    Image credit: David White

    Thank you very much to Lynne for sharing this picture with us.

    I will start off where I left off with some sightings on Monday. Volunteer Paul Holness saw a long bittern flight from the Washland viewpoint. Four late bramblings were seen in Trial Wood and I found a firecrest in one of the Scots pines in front of the visitor centre. Although it didn’t stay for long, I did manage to see it out in the open for a couple of seconds which was fantastic. 

    I saw a roe deer alongside the entrance track on Tuesday morning and I had a walk around Brandon Fen before walk. The nightingale was singing by the river bridge and a female blackcap was feeding out in the open on the riverbank.

    As the day went on, two cranes were seen from Joist Fen viewpoint. At least 20 hobbys were also feeding over the reserve.

    I came down for a walk in the evening to listen for grasshopper warblers. I heard at least three between the visitor centre and East Wood. Another was reeling just east of Joist Fen viewpoint. I also finally saw my first reed warbler of the year, which was singing alongside West Wood.

    As it was such a lovely day on Wednesday, I came in on my day off to get my annual hobby fix. As I walked down the riverbank, there were plenty of butterflies on the wing including an orange tip and several peacocks.

    I spent a couple of hours down at Joist Fen viewpoint and I counted up to 20 hobbys in the air at once west of the viewpoint. A single crane was also flying around and I saw it several times while I was up there. As I walked back through the reserve, there were two common buzzards over Trial Wood and another four hobbys over New Fen North.

    I covered most of the sightings from yesterday morning in my blog post which can be found here. As the day went on, two garganeys were seen from New Fen viewpoint and a common sandpiper was seen on the washland.

    I went for a walk before work this morning and heard a garden warbler singing behind New Fen viewpoint. Cuckoos were calling in both East Wood and Trial Wood. As I walked back through the reserve, I saw my first common stretch-spider of the year alongside East Wood.

    There is plenty to see at the moment so why not come and visit? We hope to see you soon!

     

     

    Posted by David White

Your sightings

Grid reference: TL7286 (+2km)

Cuckoo ()
30 May 2016
Cetti's Warbler ()
30 May 2016
Kingfisher (1)
29 May 2016
Water Rail (2)
27 May 2016
Singing/breeding calls heard
Grasshopper Warbler (1)
17 May 2016
Singing/breeding calls heard
Gadwall ()
30 May 2016
Shoveler (1)
30 May 2016
Common Tern ()
30 May 2016
Stock Dove ()
30 May 2016
Green Woodpecker ()
30 May 2016

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Where is it?

  • Lat/lng: 52.44839,0.53250
  • Postcode: IP27 9AD
  • Grid reference: TL722864
  • Nearest town: Brandon, Suffolk
  • County: Suffolk
  • Country: England

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