As promised for those who attended the moth event on Saturday (and for those who may also be interested), here is the moth list for the evening:
On wine ropes:
Yesterday was a great day to be out on the reserve, as there was plenty to see. On the Wednesday walkabout, I decided that we would focus on wildflowers, as there are plenty to see at the moment. It didn’t take long to chalk up a respectable list, including purple loosestrife, marsh woundwort, tufted vetch and hemp agrimony. As usual, they were all “showing well”, which plants have a great habit of doing!
As we reached the north east corner of East Wood, a hobby was directly overhead and several marsh harriers were nearby. Two cuckoos were also still calling, and one flew over the reedbed. The kingfishers near New Fen viewpoint were busy flying back and forth and the fen ragwort nearby was also “showing well!”
On the way back towards the visitor centre, there were several interesting caterpillars to be found. The common ragwort was covered with cinnabar moth caterpillars. If you have never seen them before, they look like tigers with their orange and black stripes! There was also a gigantic mullein moth caterpillar on one of the large mullein plants, which is well worth taking a look at if you get the chance.
I nipped down to Joist Fen viewpoint after work and managed to see bittern, marsh harrier and bearded tit in quick session. I always used to think that it would be impossible to see all of three of these species in the same place on a particular day but it is perfectly possible here at Lakenheath Fen.
As we were heading down to the west end of the reserve for an evening’s moth trapping a pair of barn owls were swooping around the Landrover looking for an evening meal. We were trapping in Botany Bay SSSI, and we caught some fantastic moths. Undoubtedly the rarest moth we caught was a marsh carpet moth. If you are not familiar with this species, it is only found in East Anglia and we think we have the largest population in the country.
We caught plenty of other great species, including both privet and large elephant hawkmoths. My personal highlight was a large emerald moth, which lives up to its name being a beautiful emerald colour and was really rather large! Also of interest was a large emperor moth caterpillar and a brown hawker resting in the darkness.
Yes it has been rather warm recently! It certainly makes nature watching more challenging when it is sweltering! It has been business as usual for our reedbed specialities though. There are plenty of bearded tit families roaming around the reedbeds and the adults will already be thinking about a second brood.
Bitterns are very busy, and there may be as many as six nests on the reserve this year. It is well worth looking out for feeding flights, especially from New Fen and Joist Fen viewpoints. Marsh harriers are also very busy, and there may be as many as sixteen nests, so look out for them passing food.
Golden orioles are still being quite vocal, especially in the mornings, and they are still being seen from time to time. They will soon stop singing, and can be extremely difficult to track down in July. The kingfishers nesting in East Wood are keeping busy and are seen fairly regularly from New Fen viewpoint.
There are now plenty of fenland plants in flower, including common meadow rue, comfrey and tufted vetch. The caterpillar of the mullein moth can still be found on mullein plants, and there are plenty of cinnabar caterpillars on the ragwort.
There is plenty to see at Lakenheath Fen at the moment, so we hope to see you soon.
Now that we have reached the longest day of the year, you really have to be out and about early to experience the magic of dawn at a wonderful place like Lakenheath Fen. As some of you most likely know, if you are a keen bird ringer, you have to be out early in the morning to catch the highest number of birds. Simon, one of our local ringers was out very early yesterday morning, and was treated to some wonderful sights...........
At first light, there were literally hundreds of swifts feeding low over the reserve. These birds nest in the local villages and come here daily to feast on a banquet of insects that they catch over the reedbed. They are superbly aerobatic birds to watch, screaming as they go. At 6am, seven crossbills flew south. These are likely to be birds from nearby Thetford Forest that are going for a wander after the breeding season.
Perhaps the most unusual sighting was provided by a full adult Mediterranean gull that drifted north at 7am. Now I realise that gulls aren’t everybody’s cup of tea, but I think adult “Med” gulls are always worth tracking down. They have jet black heads with a white circle around their eyes. This is contrasted with their white wing tips, which show up very well in flight. They even have a wonderful call, which I always liken to a posh black headed gull.
OK, I’ll stop waxing lyrical about gulls! A red kite was also seen over the weekend. This species is becoming more and more regular in these parts, and their elegant grace is always welcome as they soar effortlessly overhead. Keeping on the bird of prey theme, our local marsh harriers are very busy with nesting activities at the moment. One was even seen mobbing a bittern as it flew low over the reeds, and apparently the bittern went away with a few less feathers because of it!
Golden orioles are still present and remain quite vocal. They usually quieten down towards the end of the month, so it is now is the time to come and here their wonderful fluty song. There are still several hobbys around, hawking acrobatically for insects. If you are around in the evenings, our local barn owls are also very busy at the moment, especially around Joist Fen viewpoint.
My answer to the above question is a definite yes. On Tuesday evening, I actually saw three elephants flying. Before you think that I have gone completely mad though, they were moths of course! They were elephant hawkmoths to be specific, and if you have never seen one, they are extremely colourful with a beautiful mixture of pink of green.
We also caught such goodies as swallowtail moth, lots of dark arches and several pyralid moths that are notoriously difficult to identify. As it was such a warm evening, we had moths swarming around us and there were so many that we had to make sure we didn’t cause any of them an injury!
Two male golden orioles were seen chasing eachother from Trial Wood to West Wood yesterday so it is good to know that they are still quite active. Three garganeys were on the washland and a family of swallows have taken temporary residence on the kingfisher post at the edge of the visitor centre pond.
There was a tantalising report of a pair of Montagu’s harriers on Tuesday after the excitement of seeing a ringtail from Joist Fen viewpoint on Sunday. A quail has been reported several times from Joist Fen viewpoint recently, and I saw a small, hunchbacked shape shoot across the path behind the viewpoint on Tuesday. I have never seen a quail before, but it could well have been!