Lakenheath Fen

Lakenheath Fen

Lakenheath Fen
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Lakenheath Fen

  • 22 July recent sightings: Back again!

    Good morning. Again, its been a while since my last update as I haven't been here for the last week. As is often the case, I will start off with some lovely pictures that we have been sent over the last couple of weeks:

    Some large-flowered hemp nettle, which is a bit of a local specialty...

    Image credit: Keith Waterfall

    ...And here is a great selection of invertebrates from volunteer Richard O'Brien:

    A gatekeeper:

    A Roesel's bush cricket:

    A scorpion fly:

    An unidentified spider emerging from its web:

    Image credits: Richard O'Brien

    Thank you very much to Keith and Richard for sharing these pictures with us. 

    Since Ali's last recent sightings post, there have been several interesting sightings. A cheeky little wren managed to find itself into the visitor centre on Saturday and there were seven little egrets on the washland. There was also a grass snake basking near the pond dipping platform and a short-winged conehead (a type of bush cricket) was outside the visitor centre. 

    On Sunday, a barn owl was over the washland and a redshank was seen nearby. At least five bearded tits were seen near Joist Fen viewpoint and two stoats were seen on the hard track alongside Trial Wood. At least two kingfishers were also seen from New Fen viewpoint. 

    The Washland viewpoint was clearly the place to be yesterday. There were 96 mute swans on the washland and at least nine grey herons. By lunchtime, they were joined by nine little egrets and four common terns. There was a bit of excitement mid-afternoon when presumably the same great white egret from last week appeared on the washland north of East Wood. 

    As it was such a nice evening and I hadn't been out on the reserve for over a week, I came down for a walk after work last night. I saw the great white egret at the edge of the large pool in front of the Washland viewpoint. It offered a great size comparison with the seven little egrets that were feeding close to it! I also heard some cranes bugling near Joist Fen viewpoint and saw several hundred peacock butterflies between Joist Fen viewpoint and the visitor centre. 

    The early birders have already been out this morning and have seen the great white egret from the Washland viewpoint. There was also a greenshank and a green sandpiper at the edge of the pool along with several little egrets

    The weather is looking nice and warm this week so why not come and visit? We hope to see you soon!

  • 18 July recent sightings: Feelin' hot hot hot!

    Phew!  I hope you're all doing ok in this rather oppressive heat.  Apologies for the lack of updates this week, there have been a number of training courses taking place that have kept us away from the reserve.  Luckily our volunteers, visitors and the staff who have been in, have been updating the sightings sheet.

    On Monday we received this photo of a lovely Essex skipper, from Ann and Terry Smith who visited the reserve on 06 July.


    Essex skipper by Ann and Terry Smith


    Some of the skipper butterflies can be tricky to tell apart, particularly the small and Essex skippers.  The difference to look for is the tips of the antenna - not an easy thing to check admittedly.  Small skippers have orange tips on their antenna while Essex have black tips.  The absence of a chequered pattern on the bottom of that upperwing also rules out a large skipper.  Thanks for the photo Ann and Terry!

    In bird news, a great white egret has been spotted over the reserve this week.  It was seen twice on Wednesday by visitors, firstly flying west along the river north of New Fen North reedbed and then flying east over the washland.  Volunteer Rob D also saw it yesterday during a bittern survey, flying over Joist Fen south towards Botany Bay.  Below is a photo of a great white egret taken last year - it shows how they differ from the little egret landing next to it.


    Great white egret and little egret by Les Bunyan


    More black-tailed godwits have also been seen just this morning.  Three were spotted by volunteer Roger B coming off the washland and heading south over the reserve.  Our count of mute swans on the washland increased to 103 on Tuesday, it looks a bit like a gathering army up there!  Kingfishers continue to show well, particularly from New Fen North viewpoint.  Roger B saw two during the bittern watch yesterday and an early visitor this morning has also seen one.  Although I wasn't on the bittern survey myself I'm told that there was still activity seen across the reserve in New Fen North, Joist Fen North and New Fen South reedbeds.  Dave (who was doing some prep work for his Beginners Wildlife Photography Workshop taking place on Sunday, places still available - see website for more details!) spent some time in Mere Hide and got some footage of the fish activity in the pool.  He commented they were perfect bittern sized rudd!  I hope to show you that footage in next weeks blog.

    Hot of the press, literally as I type, Katherine has returned from checking the moth trap down the reserve with the news that a Harris's hawk is present on the reserve.  Roger B also thought he saw it on Tuesday so it's been here a few days.  This is an American bird of prey so it's more than likely an escapee from somewhere, otherwise very lost!  It doesn't appear to have any 'jesses' on it though - these are the thin leather straps placed round the legs that falconers use to control birds when on the glove or perch.  So it's a bit of a mystery as to where this bird has come from.  They look a bit like a juvenile marsh harrier but without the ginger head and with a very obvious white rump - the photo below was taken in 2011 on the reserve.


    Harris's hawk by David Carr


    With this hot weather continuing the reserve is a fantastic place to see numerous species of butterflies and dragonflies.  The odd thunderstorm is forecast over the next few days but don't let that put you off paying us a visit, there is such a variety of wildlife to see.  Hopefully though it'll mean slightly cooler temperatures for next week - we've got ragwort pulling and trail maintenance to do which is rather sweaty work at the best of times!


  • 13 July recent sightings: Just plain unpredictable!

    Good morning! The unpredictable weather has certainly kept us on our toes for the last couple of days. There was plenty to see from Joist Fen viewpoint on Friday including a bittern and at least four bearded tits. A stoat  was seen along the hard track and garden slugs were conspicuous in the damp conditions. 

    Yesterday morning, I went bug hunting with the Lakenheath Fen Kingfishers Wildlife Explorers club. We found plenty of interesting creepy crawlies including a common green grasshopper, a Roesel's bush cricket and lots of red soldier beetles. We also heard a greenshank calling on the washland while we were up on the mound by the visitor centre. 

    I went for a quick walk around Brandon Fen at lunchtime and I saw my first painted lady butterfly of the year on the riverbank. There were also lots of peacock butterflies and large skippers on the wing. My personal highlight was a gigantic garden snail that I found on the way up to the riverbank. Here is a photo of one that I took in a similar area last year:

     Image credit: David White

    There was plenty to see from Mere Hide throughout the day and at least four bearded tits were showing from the boardwalk on the approach to the hide. A kingfisher was seen several times and a water rail was skulking at the edge of the pool. Most visitors' highlight of the day though came when a bittern flew right in front of the hide before disappearing off towards Joist Fen viewpoint. 

    Meanwhile, down at Joist Fen viewpoint, a barn owl was seen several times and at least two cranes were seen in flight over the course of the day. There were also at least six marsh harriers hunting in front of the viewpoint along with two hobbys.

    Elsewhere on the reserve, a hobby was perched in West Wood and at least four common lizards were basking alongside East Wood. A juvenile grass snake was nearby along with a small copper butterfly. We also had a great view of a kestrel hovering behind the visitor centre. 

    This morning, a couple pointed out this moth resting on the viper's bugloss in front of the visitor centre:

    Image credits: David White

    As yet, I haven't managed to identify it but when I do, I will comment below which species it is! We hope to see you soon.