After the wash out that was Saturday afternoon, the weather was slightly better yesterday (Sunday 27th). I lead our third barn owl walk of the year so far in relatively decent weather. We headed to Joist Fen viewpoint hoping to see the pair that nests nearby. Despite being in the area for almost forty minutes, all we could muster was a brief flight of a bittern and a couple of marsh harriers.
It is always a shame when you go out on a walk in order to see something specific, and don't see it. So I trudged back to the visitor centre with the group feeling slightly dejected. As we reached the centre, I decided to try one more throw of the dice so to speak and lead the group onto the viewing mound nearby.
Sure enough, within a couple of minutes, we were rewarded with fantastic views of a barn own hunting over Brandon Fen! We had walked around three miles, and we would have been just as well to stay near out starting point. At least we managed to do what we set out to do show people barn owls on a barn owl walk.
As I got back into the visitor centre, I was in for another surprise: Black necked grebe was on the sightings board. This is a very scarce bird on the reserve, and the last record was around six years ago. As its name suggests, it is a grebe with a black neck! It had been reported on the washland, so one of my volunteers and myself headed up there in the fading light and saw this scarce bird.
It has been around on the washland for most of the day although due to its habit of diving frequently, it has been fairly elusive. The cranes have also been around in the last few days. On Saturday afternoon, I saw both pairs flying over the reedbed into a maize strip south of the railway line. There is plenty to see on the reserve on the moment, so what not come down and see for yourself?
We had a lot of rain last night and when I got here this morning, it was still coming down. I didn't have very expectations for my walk this morning, but begrudgingly set out anyhow. As I reached the big willow by the riverbank, a male hen harrier flew over my head! It flew east along the bank and did a quick circuit of Brandon Fen. I scrambled up onto the bank and although I couldn't see it straight away, I soon relocated it hunting low over the field north of the washland pool.
As it flew over, many of the birds in the vicinity took to the air in blind panic. This included two snipes, several teals and a couple of wigeons. Shortly after, a water pipit flew up briefly from the long grass and soon disappeared again. There were several pintails present, including at least one drake. Considering I was only out for about 20 minutes, this wasn't a bad start to the day!
It is possible that "Ginger Nut", our young crane from last year has finally left for pastures new. Yesterday afternoon, it was seen flying high and east. Perhaps it has gone to the Norfolk Broads, to join the crane population there. A bittern was seen in flight several times from Joist Fen viewpoint, and several marsh harriers were in the area.
The water rail near the bird feeders was being typically elusive yesterday. It kept disappearing for long periods of time, and suddenly appeared and swanned around as if it owned the place! Several pairs of great crested grebes are now present and are showing signs that they will be starting their elaborate penguin dance display in the near future.
This is just a quick note to let you know that Lakenheath Fen is now on Twitter. To follow us, just search for "RSPBLakenheath". We will keep you up to date with latest sightings and information about events. This is to go with our Facebook page, which this very blog gets posted onto! If you haven't found it yet, just search for "RSPB Lakenheath Fen" and click "Like". Happy social networking!
There certainly is a recurring theme in the recent sightings here at the moment.....i.e. nothing much has changed! However, the weather has warmed up and this has stimulated more birds into song and generally more activity. On my customary walk around Brandon Fen this morning, both mistle and song thrush were in full song. They were almost perched on top of neighbouring trees!
There was a large flock of finches in the alders near the riverbank consisting of around sixty goldfinches and thirty siskins. They certainly made a heck of a racket when I walked past and disturbed them. Talking about finches, small numbers are still visiting the feeders at the back of the centre so look out for orange instead of pinkish brown amongst the chaffinches.
The male goosander was still present on the washland along with a few little egrets. Several reed buntings were in full song and the sky seemed to be full of their simple three note song that I liken to the phrase: "doop, doop, doooop". A couple of redshanks flew over and an oystercatcher was noisily mobbing a passing crow nearby.
We found out that at least four cranes were present in a slightly strange way. Our Warden saw them from the train as she whizzed past the reserve! If you know where to look, these majestic birds can be seen quite often from the train if you are travelling between Brandon and Ely, so look out for them!