I've just been catching up with the news from yesterday (November 29th) and there were plenty of good sightings on the reserve. One of our locals had an excellent day. He may have been one of the only visitors out on the reserve, but he certainly saw some good stuff.
The most unusual sightings was provided by a female goshawk that flew north over the reedbeds, being mobbed by several jackdaws as it went. These large but secretive birds of prey are rare but regular nesters in Thetford forest, and this is only the third record of this species at Lakenheath Fen.
The raptor theme continued as a female hen harrier was seen hunting between the poplar woods. This is perhaps a sign that there is a pair wintering in the area, as a male has also been seen several times recently. The merlin put in another appearance, this time it was hunting near the visitor centre.
Four Bewick's swans were seen feeding north of the river, which is a great sign as this species is a lot scarcer than the other "wild swan", the Whooper swan here. Fast forward to today and the raptor theme continued. A peregrine was harassing gulls over the washland and a buzzard was hunting over the car park. Presumably the same hooded crow from Thursday (November 25) was again seen beyond Joist Fen viewpoint, so keep your eyes peeled for this scarce bird.
As I was de-icing my car yet again this morning, I had a very pleasant surprise: six waxwings flew over my head! If you have never heard waxwings before, their call sounds like a tinkling bell, very festive! We are hoping to hear this delightful sound here at Lakenheath Fen in the near future as well. Waxwings have never been recorded on the reserve before, but considering the amount of these little punk rockers from Bohemia there are in East Anglia at the moment, we have our fingers crossed.
We have even put some apples out to tempt them in. They are great lovers of fruit and berries and while they are feeding, they tend not to pay much notice to any passing people or vehicles. Therefore, we have thrown some nice juicy apples on the ground just outside the visitor centre. If we see any, we will let you know.
Anyhow, back to the birds that we actually have on the reserve. On Sunday afternoon, 11 Bewick's swans flew over the visitor centre towards the washland. They tried to land several times but they didn't. Whether they were intimidated by the large amount of mute swans already assembled there or by the two marsh harriers hunting above, they soon headed off towards the Ouse Washes.
Several barn owls have been seen hunting recently. It is not unusual to see them hunting at any time of the day in the winter, and we hope that they are managing to find enough food amongst all of the ice and snow. If you are in the area tomorrow (December 1), there is a talk about Redgrave & Lopham Fen Suffolk Wildlife Trust reserve in our visitor centre from middady-1pm. If you would like to come along, just give us a ring on 01842 863400 or e-mail: email@example.com.
The last two days have again provided some good quality bird sightings on the reserve. Birds of prey were again showing well yesterday. The female merlin was seen several times speeding low over the reedbeds like a bullet. The male hen harrier also put in another appearance, as it was seen hunting along with four marsh harriers from Joist Fen viewpoint as the light faded.
Several people also saw bitterns yesterday. The icy conditions will tempt them out into the open to try and find food, so look out for these usually secretive birds. There was also a wide assortment of gulls stood on the ice bound washland pool yesterday afternoon. These were mostly black headed gulls, with a few lesser black backs and common gulls mixed in. There was one probable yellow legged gull. However, the flock was so tightly packed in order to keep warm that only certain parts of the bird could be seen at any given time. Not ideal!
When I got here this morning, the temperature was around -5 degrees so I only intended to have a quick look on the washland to see what was about. However, when I got up there, there were a flock of over 200 lapwings stood looking rather forlorn on the ice. There were small numbers of wigeon and teal pottering around in the small areas of water that hadn't already froze over.
A shape caught my attention on a wooden sign by the river. As I focused my telescope on it, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was a kingfisher. Now there’s a bird to brighten up a frosty morning! I had excellent views of it as it fished in the river and used various perches to look out for its next meal. This may be a sign that we will start see kingfishers more regularly near the river, as quite a few of the pools on the reserve are frozen.
All too soon however, I had to retreat to the visitor centre to warm up. One more pleasant surprise was provided by one of our regulars Jez, who phoned to say that six cranes had just flown in front of Joist Fen viewpoint. This is likely to be "our" five and one other straggler. This straggler could be "Tiny" the young crane fledged here last year. The group split as three flew north and three flew south, but it is great to now that they are back in the neighbourhood again!