Bitterns are famous for their booming calls. However, this sound is only usually heard in the spring and summer. You may be surprised to hear that bitterns can also be quite vocal at this time of the year. One of our resident birds in particular has been very vocal recently. This individual seems to spend most of its time in New Fen North, and even if you don't see it, chances are that if you spend enough time at New Fen viewpoint, you will at least hear it!
The sound that you will hear is a harsh croak, almost like a very loud frog! This is the bittern's contact call, which is only usually hear when a bird is commuting to and from a nest during the breeding season. It seems that every time this bird flies, it starts croaking! Although we are all slightly perplexed about this unusual behaviour, there may be an answer.
Yesterday evening, I saw "Mr Croaky" as I have dubbed him (or her!) in flight over New Fen North. It dropped into a pool or channel in the south west corner of the reedbed. Shortly afterwards, another bird, that had less black on the wings and was not croaking, flew into a similar area. So there must be two birds in that 20 hectare area of reedbed, so who knows what is going on there!
Apart from in the breeding season, cranes are also very vocal birds. Their loud, bugling calls can really carry a long way. This morning was a perfect example. I was stood at the washland viewpoint (between the car park and the visitor centre), and I could hear some cranes bugling. They were probably either north of the river or beyond Joist Fen viewpoint. Either way, they were between one and a half and two miles away and I could still hear them!
The cause of all of this noise was probably our two resident "parties" of cranes interacting with each other. They are very territorial, and quite often, if one group strays too close to the other, a bugling match begins!
Yesterday was a busy day; with our annual feed the birds day and also a lot off people on the reserve. I didn't have much chance to get out on the reserve myself, but a lot was seen by others during the course of the day. I did manage to sneak a short walk around Brandon Fen in the morning, though. I was rewarded with a flock of almost 30 bearded tits. The sky seemed to be full of their pinging calls, and they were flying around from place to place quite rapidly.
Although it clouded over as the day progressed, a wide range if species were reported. Our resident family of cranes, Little, Large and Ginger Nut were seen during the afternoon. It was also a good day for birds of prey, as a peregrine and four common buzzards were seen from Joist Fen viewpoint along with the local marsh harriers.
A group of four swallows have been lingering in the area for the last few days. They must surely be thinking of heading south soon! As the day drew to a close, I saw a bittern flying low over New Fen North just before it got dark. Please note that despite the road closure between the river bridge and Hockwold village from today until Friday November 5th, the reserve is still accessible from the south (Lakenheath direction), and we are open as normal.
Since my last blog, there have been some interesting sightings on the reserve. At around lunchtime on Wednesday a flock of around 50 pink footed geese flew north of the visitor centre. Although they are very numerous on the North Norfolk coast each winter, this is only the third record of this Icelandic nesting species on the reserve.
Small numbers of whooper swans have been present on the washland for most of the week. Numbers peaked on Wednesday morning, when there were 17. This number has steadily dropped until yesterday, when there were two present. Also of interest on Thursday was a pintail, which itself is quite scarce here.
Presumably the same great white egret from last Saturday evening was seen in flight from Joist Fen viewpoint yesterday evening. A range of migrants are still passing through. This includes reasonable numbers of brambling, siskin, redpoll, fieldfare and redwing. A yellowhammer in Brandon Fen yesterday was a good record. It was still present this morning, and was even heard singing.
It seems as if our hobbies have finally left. Our resident reedbed species are being seen fairly often. Bitterns are best looked for from New Fen viewpoint. Bearded tits are widespread across most of the reserve. However, the small flock in Brandon Fen have been showing very well recently, especially in the mornings. There are at least five marsh harriers present and the cranes are seen occasionally.
If you plan to visit during the next two weeks, please take a look at Steve's blog about the road closure that was posted yesterday (22/10/10.) Many thanks.