I thought I would share this very funny anecdote from one of my volunteers who was here yesterday. I reproduce it verbatim:
“Hi David, had a stroke of lucky at New Fen today. Bittern appeared on far side of pool and proceeded to stand with here head up for around 20+ minutes. It then decided to head for cover and took short swim to the reeds and disappeared, or so we thought! It climbed up through the reeds and proceeded to sunbathe for around 40 minutes, sometimes stretched right up sometimes squatting down. It then disappeared again when we heard a splash and it fell in the water! It climbed back into denser cover and was only partly visible for quite a while. It then dropped into cover and was gone.” Mark Brown, RSPB Lakenheath Fen volunteer.
I have even managed to obtain a photograph that Mark took yesterday for posterity Spot the bittern!:
In other news, an exceptionally lucky couple saw an otter between the riverbank and Joist Fen viewpoint on Sunday afternoon. There are still several hobbys around and yesterday, a sparrowhawk was seen near Joist Fen viewpoint. Several bearded tits were seen there and a kingfisher also put in an appearance.
It seems that our cranes are still on their holidays over on the Ouse Washes at the moment. They are currently part of a flock of ten birds, so goodness knows where the other five have come from! Lets hope that they return to the reserve soon. They can even bring the other five along which would be great!
The clear and still conditions were very good for “vis mig”. If you are not familiar with this strange term, it refers to visible migration, which is a great feature of this time of year. I got down to the reserve just after first light, and despite the fact that it was freezing cold and misty, there were plenty of birds on the move.
This included several siskins and meadow pipits, and a few over small birds. Later on in the day, there was a notable passage of common buzzards through the reserve. Mid-morning, there were seven over Joist Fen viewpoint, and by mid-afternoon, there were 11 north of the river. Whether this group consisted of the earlier seven plus some stragglers or was part of a separate group is anyone’s guess, but it was great to see anyway.
There was a true sign of autumn yesterday, as a flock of around 20 redwings flew south over West Wood. These birds were probably on their way south from their breeding grounds in Scandinavia and Iceland. There was even a report of two fieldfares nearby today, so the winter thrushes are definitely on their way!
A bittern was seen from New Fen viewpoint, and several marsh harriers were floating around looking for prey. Bearded tits seemed to be popping up all over the place, and there was a gang of about 10 in front of Joist Fen viewpoint yesterday afternoon. A Cetti’s warbler was also singing near the viewpoint.
At least four hobbys were out and about, including two diving around in front of Joist Fen viewpoint and two over the washland. Several sparrowhawks and kestrels were also seen enjoying the sun, and I even saw a kestrel catch a late lunch, although I couldn’t identify the unfortunate prey item!
I will end with a plug for a talk that I will be doing at the reserve next Sunday (October 2). It is entitled “Dorset: A local’s account” and it will include about the RSPB reserves in my home county along with some other fantastic wildlife that can be found there. If you are interested in coming along, the talk is from 11am-12pm. The cost is Adults £4, Children £2 (RSPB members half price). Booking is essential. To book, please ring 01842 863400 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope to see you there.
Please note that the RSPB reserves in the Fens talk on Sunday September 25 11am-12pm has been CANCELLED due to lack of bookings. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.
It seems that it is not only here that our cranes have territorial disputes. At WWT Welney yesterday, our family of three were seen chasing the other pair around in front of one of the hides. This is unusual, as it is usually the other way round when the birds are here, as “Little and Large” as they are known are the dominant pair. However, this may be a case of strength in numbers, and the three are using their extra body to boss the others around!
Slightly closer to home, there are still at least four hobbys around on the reserve here. As ever, they were dashing around in deadly pursuit of insects. They should be leaving for Africa soon. However, the latest recorded autumn date was October 22 in 1997, so they might be around for a few weeks yet.
There were several marsh harriers around in the sun yesterday, and a buzzard was seen hunting north of the river. At Joist Fen viewpoint, the first grey wagtail of the autumn was seen feeding at the edge of the pond before flying east. Several bearded tits were close to the viewpoint, doubtlessly enjoying the sunny weather. A little egret was also seen in flight north of the river.
One lucky family not only saw a grass snake shedding its skin along side Trial Wood, but also a stoat hunting nearby. There are still lots of dragonflies and around, and it will be well worth looking out for species such as migrant hawkers and common darters over the next few days while the sun is shining.
We had some very special visitors on Tuesday. They came from Solarcentury, and they looking into the possibility of installing some solar panels at the reserve. If you are interested in hearing about this, please see my colleague from RSPB HQ Harry Huyton’s blog about it. You can find it here:
The pictures feature, Steve, our Reserve Assistant, who is sadly leaving the team tomorrow after almost five years at the reserve. At the beginning of October, he will take up the post of Warden at WWT Welney. I am sure you will all join me in wishing him the best of luck for the future.
We had a real treat on Monday afternoon, when a kingfisher was perched on the post overlooking the visitor centre pong. It was there long enough for us to have a good look at it through the telescope to see that it was a male, with no orange underneath the bill.
There are still a few hobbys around; they have been wowing visitors with their aerobatic hunting skills as they feed up in advance of their long journey south. Several marsh harriers are still around, and they are best seen from Joist Fen viewpoint.
There seem to be cranes all over the Fens at the moment. Yesterday for example, there were eight at the Nene Washes and six at Welney. This is a total of fourteen birds, and whether this includes any of our birds remains to be seen. This is a fantastic amount, and this is a great sign for the future.