Lakenheath Fen

Lakenheath Fen

Lakenheath Fen
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Lakenheath Fen

  • 30 August recent sightings: Late summer fun

    Good morning. The weather has been fairly kind this week which is good news for everybody enjoying the last week of the summer holidays. There has been plenty to see over the last week and here are some great images that we have been sent:

    A red admiral:

    A female common darter:

    Image credits: Matt Walton

    A juvenile water rail:

    A male roe deer:

    A kingfisher:

    Image credits: John Gamble

    Thank you very much to Matt and John for sharing these images with us!

    On the subject of kingfishers, these beautiful little birds have been showing really well on the reserve recently. The two current "hotspots" are New Fen viewpoint and Mere Hide. You may also be interested to hear that we have two "kingfisher quest" events next weekend. One is on Saturday and the other on Sunday. Please click on the links for details about how to book places.

    I have a large list of sightings in front of me so I will do my best to pick out as many as I can! Despite the weather on Monday, two stoats were gambolling around in front of Joist Fen viewpoint and a bittern was seen in flight nearby. At least two bearded tits were seen from Mere Hide and at least 50 swifts were feeding over the far end of the reserve.

    On Tuesday, there were six little grebes on the washland and at least four common terns feeding in the large pool. There were dragonflies everywhere and the skies were just full of migrant hawkers. I saw a late black tailed skimmer near the Washland viewpoint and when I reached the viewpoint, a male clouded yellow flew right past me. This was a reserve "tick" for me so I was really rather pleased! 

    I had a walk around Brandon Fen on Wednesday morning and a muntjac deer ran across the path right in front of me. A meadow pipit flew from the washland into the grazing marsh and a common buzzard flew south over the visitor centre. 

    It was really rather dreary on Thursday morning but it did eventually brighten up. Roy saw a kingfisher and a water rail from Mere Hide. He also saw two hobbys over West Wood. The great white egret was also seen in flight near Joist Fen viewpoint. It has been pretty elusive recently so it's good to know that its still here! 

    There were at least 80 coots on the washland yesterday along with three little grebes. Two swallows were feeding over the large pool and a kestrel was hovering nearby.

    We hope to see you soon! 

  • Scary, or just misunderstood?!

    As I walked along the riverbank in Brandon Fen this morning, I kept walking through spiders webs. This is definitely a sign of the times, as this is a great time of year to look for our (mostly) eight-legged friends. I am going to use this opportunity to introduce you to some of the species that you might find on a walk around the reserve. 

    I will start off with one that you may have heard of, the garden spider. Despite its name, it can be found in a variety of different habitats and it can be found here at Lakenheath Fen, if you know where to look. It can be slightly tricky to identify, as it comes in a variety of colours. Here are a two of the colour variations:

    Image credits: Tim James

    As you can see, both variants have a cross on their abdomens. This gives them the alternative name of: "cross spider". 

    Garden spiders mainly feed on flying insects that they catch in their orb-shaped webs. The females are usually found upside down in their webs, which are found around a metre from the ground.  

    The next species is the four-spot orb weaver. This species holds the record as being the heaviest spider found in Britain. Hopefully, the picture below will help to explain why:

    Image credit: Tim James

    It certainly has a very large abdomen! This is another species that can vary in colour. This species' hunting tactic is to build its web close to the ground so that it can catch unfortunate crickets and grasshoppers that jump into its web.  

    The third and final species is the attractively marked marbled orb weaver, which looks like this:

    Image credits: Tim James

    This is a bit of a local specialty and it is always great to see this species for the first time each year. The best month of year to see them is September and as you can see from the pictures above, they can be very photogenic. Their scientific name is the rather elaborate Araneus marmoreus var. pyramidatus. The "marmoreus" part literally means "marble-like", hence its British name. 

    The best place to see them on the reserve is around the poplar woods. They build their orb-shaped webs on plants like cow parsley. They can usually be seen until the end of September so if you would like to come and see one, you have plenty of time!

    I am sure that some of you will love this blog post and some of you will hate it. If you love it, I hope you have enjoyed this small insight into which of our  "eight-legged" friends call the reserve home. We hope to see you soon! 

  • 25 August recent sightings: A sign of the times

    Good morning. I hope you are enjoying the long Bank Holiday weekend! I will begin with a selection of photos that have been taken here in the last week. Thank you very much to local photographer Matt Walton for sharing them with us:

    A cryptically camouflaged roe deer:

      

    A lovely barn owl:

    A female kestrel:

    Two lovely shots of kingfishers:

    Image credits: Matt Walton

    I will start where I left off on Friday. There were three swifts and three swallows over the visitor centre. A common buzzard also flew over the car park. Although the weather deteriorated in the afternoon, volunteer Lawrence saw a marsh harrier from New Fen viewpoint and a charm of around 40 goldfinches near Joist Fen viewpoint.  

    There was definitely a seasonal flavour to Saturday's sightings, with migration very much in evidence. The Washland viewpoint was the place to be with at least 30 house martins, 12 sand martins, 10 swallows and 10 swifts. There were two hobbys over the poplar woods and kingfishers were very conspicuous. At least two were seen from New Fen viewpoint and two were seen from Mere Hide. 

    As the day went on, an adult and a juvenile water rail were seen from Mere Hide. Suzanne and Roy also saw two sparrowhawks from the visitor centre window.

    It was a pleasant day yesterday and the great white egret was seen from various places along the riverbank over the course of the day. There were two hobbys feeding over the washland and a bittern flew very close to Mere Hide. 

    An eagle-eyed visitor spotted some hare's-foot clover growing alongside the hard track and he also saw several marbled orb weavers. This is the first sighting of this species of spider this year. Please click on the link above for a picture of this attractive species of spider. 

    I popped in with my parents yesterday afternoon and we spent half an hour at the Washland viewpoint. We saw at least two garganeys on the large pool and a yellow wagtail flew over. There were plenty of dragonflies on the wing including several migrant hawkers and large numbers of common darters.

    I returned to the Washland viewpoint with my father this morning and a kingfisher flew right past us just as we got to the viewpoint. There were at least 70 mute swans present on the pool along with over 100 coots and at least 10 little grebes.

    Although the weather forecast isn't looking great for today, it looks set to improve for the rest of the week so why not come and visit? We hope to see you soon!