Well, it has been a fantastic weekend if I may say so myself. I had the pleasure of leading the “long walk” today and also did a rece yesterday. The star performers have undoubtedly been the cranes. There may have been as many as ten birds present over the course of the weekend.
We saw four during our rece yesterday. The family of three that we currently know as “little, large & their youngster” were in Humphreys Paddock before flying off further down the reserve. We also saw a single bird in flight further down, which was actually standing on the hard track until we disturbed it.
If this was good, today’s walk was awesome! The birds were keeping us guessing though. Our first sighting of them came just beyond viewpoint when three adults flew in from north of the river. Quite where these birds came from is anybodies’ guess and the local birds seemed to take exception to them as a furious bugling match ensued. The three eventually flew over very high to the north...........
Shortly after, one of the families flew in from the north and landed at the west end of the reserve. As they flew in, further bugling nearby indicated that the other family were also present somewhere in the reedbed. Our last crane sighting came while we were standing right at the west end of the reserve, as three flew over the reedbed and landed north to the river. Phew!
There was also plenty of other things to see. Over the course of the walk today, we saw three bittern flights, including one that flew right alongside us offering a great view of it. We also saw three juvenile bearded tits at very close quarters, which was a real treat.
A juvenile cuckoo entertained us south of Joist Fen viewpoint by perching in a bush at very close quarters. A green sandpiper flew over nearby and a hobby was over the west end of the reserve.
There were plenty of invertebrates out enjoying the sun. This included large numbers of brown hawkers and one or two fresh migrant hawkers. Two Silver Y moths were also on the wing at the west end of the reserve.
I will leave you with a photograph of one of my favourite plants that we encountered at the west end of the reserve:
Photo credit: Roger Horton
Its large-flowered hemp nettle and it can be found at various places on the reserve at the moment. We hope to see you soon.
Please note that the long walk on Sunday July 29 is FULLY BOOKED. We can only accommodate those who have booked places in advance. We are very sorry for any inconvenience caused.
Summer has well and truly been here at Lakenheath Fen this week. I will begin by sharing some great photos that were taken by Allan King during the week:
Barn owl & kestrel having a ding- dong
Three cranes in flight
A juvenile cuckoo
The lovely weather began in earnest on Sunday and a bittern was seen in flight from Joist Fen viewpoint. A hobby was also feeding close to the viewpoint. The first emperor dragonflies were also on the wing, with two zipping around imperiously near East Wood. There were also plenty of black tailed skimmers around.
The cranes have been particularly active this week, presumably showing their respective youngsters the best places to feed on and around the reserve. Three were seen from Joist Fen viewpoint on Monday. A kingfisher was seen in a similar area and around 50 lapwings flew over.
I came down later on in the evening and saw the “other” three cranes fly in from north of the river. They flew right over Joist Fen viewpoint, which was a real treat. A bittern also flew right over the viewpoint and flew the entire length of the reedbed in front of me before dropping down right at the western end of the reserve.
A juvenile cuckoo kept perching on bushes near the viewpoint and a green sandpiper flew over somewhere nearby. A grasshopper warbler was also reeling at the western edge of Trial Wood.
Our ex-Site Manager came down early on Wednesday and saw all seven cranes over the course of the morning. He also saw at least three bittern flights. A female/ 1st summer male golden oriole was in West Wood with perhaps another calling nearby.
Yesterday morning, a grasshopper warbler was reeling near the visitor centre and a green sandpiper flew over. At least three common terns were fishing in the reserve pools and there were plenty of bearded tits out and about enjoying the sunshine.
A charm of ten goldfinches flew over and two weasels were chasing eachother around near East Wood. A hobby was also hunting very high over Trial Wood. Lets hope the weather stays lovely and we hope to see you soon.
As David mentioned on Sunday, the Bittern Watch continues apace and we are spending a lot of time now trying to decide on a final number of nests around the reserve. As well as recording bitterns, we also jot down any other sightings in our trusty notebooks and transfer these to a ‘sightings’ list in the reserve office. There is also a list out in the visitor centre, to which our visitors can add their own sightings – these records are just as important as visitors are often out and about in different areas to staff and can provide valuable insight into species that we may have missed ourselves.
So as you can imagine, we have many sheets of paper detailing these sightings and we need to collate the information into a useable form. This is why, while cooling down after Bittern Watch on Tuesday morning, Katherine (the warden) gave me an introduction to the database system that we use to do just this. It seemed fairly standard and I’m now ready to get entering the data and start working through the stack of sightings.
Once entered, the data can be reported in various ways and is used in documents such as the Annual Report. We can see total numbers of particular species in particular compartments of the reserve, see who reported which sightings, see which species arrived at certain times and many other useful reports. And it’s not just birds – we have recordings of invertebrates, mammals and reptiles as well as plants – the recent appearance of the Bee orchids for example was first spotted by a visitor. Today I saw and heard my first Roesel’s bush-cricket of the year and I’ve already added it to the sightings list (and managed to get a photo).
Photo credit: Ali Blaney - Roesel's Bush-cricket
So remember to pop back into the visitor centre after your trip around the reserve and let us know what you have seen, where and in what numbers. Any other information about what you have seen is also useful, for example if you know if the animal was male or female, if it was a juvenile, was it carrying food etc. The collection of reliable data helps us make evidence based management decisions and the sightings made by all who visit and work at Lakenheath play an important part in this.
Rest assured though, I’ll be trying to save the data entry for a rainy day – now the sun has finally appeared here at Lakenheath it would be a shame to spend the time indoors...unless it gets much hotter!!
Photo credit: Ali Blaney - View of Joist Fen North reedbed from the riverbank
As some of you may know, it is fairly obvious when our golden orioles arrive each year as this coincides with a lot of singing and a large influx of visitors. However, every year we are asked when they leave, which is a difficult one to answer. The birds tend to stop calling at the beginning of July, which makes these already difficult to see birds even more difficult!
The birds are still here though with sightings of both male and female in Trial Wood on Wednesday evening and yesterday (Saturday) afternoon. They were presumably enjoying the sun that hasn’t shone on us for some time now!
Although it was raining on Friday morning, reserve staff were still out watching bitterns. There were encouraging signs, as there was a lot more activity in comparison with most previous watches. Dave our Site Manager was lucky to see ten individual flights. We are yet to confirm how many nests we have, but once we have, we will let you know.
The single crane that has been hanging around the reserve recently spent quite a lot of time in Humphrey’s Paddock on Friday. This is an area of grazing marsh that is visible from the Joist Fen viewpoint (look for the green gates.) The origins of this slightly bizarre name come from a bull named Humphrey who used to live in it:
Photo credit: RSPB staff
There was plenty of other things to see on Friday as well. A cuckoo and several kingfishers were seen from Joist Fen viewpoint. A hobby flew between Trial Wood and West Wood and another kingfisher was making regular visits to the visitor centre pond.
One of our volunteers was lucky enough to see one of our families of three cranes close to Joist Fen viewpoint on Friday afternoon. Two barn owls were also out and about hunting near the visitor centre later in the evening.
Yesterday morning, a female marsh harrier was hunting over the washland along with three common terns. The single crane was again in Humphrey’s Paddock and one of the families of three flew over Joist Fen viewpoint and appeared to land south of the railway line. A bittern was also seen in flight nearby and two bearded tits were showing extremely well right in front of the viewpoint.
The warm weather encouraged lots of birds of prey out to hunt. There were at least four hobbys tearing around the sky and two common buzzards were soaring over the west end of the reserve.
There were also plenty of insects on the wing including plenty of brown hawkers and black tailed skimmers. I also saw my first ruddy darter of the year on the riverbank. There were lots of red admirals on the wing and our first gatekeeper of the year was also seen.
Please note that there are now cattle grazing on the riverbank public footpath. The path is slightly muddy and may become slippery after wet weather. Walking boots are advised if you with to use this path. We hope to see you soon.