Good morning. We have had another busy week here so without further ado, I will start where I left off with some sightings from Wednesday afternoon.
Our second willow emerald damselfly of the summer was photographed by the pond dipping platform along with a female red eyed damselfly.
Meanwhile, there was some excitement when visitor centre volunteer John spotted an otter feeding in the visitor centre pond. Sadly, by the time and Suzanne and I managed to escape from the office, there were only bubbles to be seen...
On Thursday morning, local photographer Matt Walton was here very early in the morning. Here are a couple of his pictures:
Image credits: Matt Walton
Thank you very much to Matt for sharing these images with us.
The morning count on the washland produced:
Little egret: 53
Little ringed plover: 1
Yellow wagtail: 1
Green sandpiper: 1
Common snipe: 1
Common sandpiper: 2
As the day went on, I saw a hobby in flight over the visitor centre and at lunchtime, there were two Egyptian geese showing well from the Washland viewpoint.
On Friday, volunteer Steve spent some time at the Washland viewpoint. He saw three cranes, four greenshanks and two common sandpipers. The heron family was also well represented, with 32 grey herons and 27 little egrets.
Yesterday, a bittern was seen from Joist Fen viewpoint and several bearded tits were calling in front of New Fen viewpoint. A little grebe was also showing in front of the viewpoint and a green woodpecker was showing well in Brandon Fen.
It was a lovely morning this morning and I took this photo of the river Little Ouse:
Image credit: David White
Local birdwatcher Nick was up at the washland early this morning and he saw:
Yellow wagtail: 3
Water rail: 1
Common snipe: 4
As I walked back to the visitor centre, a chiffchaff was singing above my head. Two kingfishers were fishing in the visitor centre pond and a tree pipit flew high over the visitor centre, calling as it went.
There is plenty to see at the moment so why not come and visit? We hope to see you soon!
Apologies, it has been a while since we last did a management blog so here are a few things that we have been up to in the last few weeks.
Katherine, Emma, the Thursday volunteer team and I have been pulling ragwort - it is that time of year again. It is a great nectar source for insects and is home to a few specialist species but it is also toxic to many grazing animals so we try to keep it in check in the grazed parts of the reserve, particularly those where our grazier takes a hay crop. In the past couple of years we have pulled up a lot of ragwort plants by hand and Joist Fen South and Humphrey's Paddock definitely have fewer plants in this year. New Fen South however has looked like a field of oilseed so we are planning some different tactics for next year. There is plenty of ragwort elsewhere on the reserve for the insects however!
Last week we trialed some new cutting machinery. Wetland reserves can generate lots of unwanted vegetation as part of their essential management. Last winter we cut and burnt around 5 hectares of reed as part of key rejuvenation work to the reedbed in New Fen North. Ideally we would have liked to have turned that cut reed into something useful like a bio-fuel. The RSPB and other conservation bodies have been working with the old Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) for the last three years to just such a scheme,developing methods to harvest, process and use such material. At Lakenheath Fen in addition to the reed cutting we currently have a number of fields that have significant amounts of soft rush in them. Small amounts of rush provide a varied structure to wet grassland and some cover for ground nesting birds but large amounts make the habitat unsuitable for a wide range of key species like waders. So as part of a trial also involving the Ouse Washes we had two specialist tracked cutting machines in to cut the rush off.
The Pisten Bully (left) cutting and blowing the cut rush into the Softrak (right)
These machines can work in very wet conditions and the Pisten Bully came fitted with a special harvesting cutter which chopped up the cut rush into small, regular sized pieces suitable for sending to an anaerobic digestion (AD) plant.
Having both machines working like this allowed the Pisten Bully to keep cutting for longer before it needed to be unloaded
Many farmers are installing these AD plants to generate methane and electricity and having a number of them located close to the reserve means low transport costs for us in moving the cut material. The AD plant liked the look of the material and are now feeding into their machinery. So in future they may pay us for it. This would mean we can offset much or all of the costs of doing the management we need to do to maintain our habitats in tip top condition. We are also looking at possibly feeding some of our cut reed as well so if this works we may be able to manage both our reedbeds and our wet grasslands for wildlife in a more efficient, economical and environmentally friendly fashion.
The cut material piled up and loaded onto trailers ready for transport to the anaerobic digester.
To celebrate another very successful breeding season by our two crane pairs we put out a press release at the beginning of the week. As a result on Wednesday I did a live interview on the BBC Radio Cambridgeshire breakfast show, followed by TV interviews for Cambridge TV and BBC Look East. The news was also picked up by a number of local and national newspapers. One of the crane families was obliging for the Cambridge TV cameraman but despite the BBC bringing two large, expensive cameras and a big telephoto lens we couldn't find the cranes when they were filming so they had to rely on some of the footage we had shot on our little £250 trail camera. Both crane pairs are still present on the reserve at the moment which is interesting as in the last few years they have tended to start feeding in the wider Fens from mid August onwards. Joist Fen viewpoint remains the best place to see them from, though if you are travelling on the train between Ely and Norwich do keep a look out as you go past the reserve as both pairs seem to like the grass bank near the railway. We have a number of short video clips from the trail cameras showing close up views of the crane families which we are showing on the computer in the Visitor Centre so do pop in and take a look at our TV stars in close up as well as seeing all the other wildlife the reserve has to offer at this time of the year.
We hope to see you soon.
Good morning. I am pleased to say that our “wader fest” has continued recently so the majority of today’s blog post will be about that. Before we get to our long legged friends though, here are a couple more of Ken Clegg’s pictures that were taken recently on the reserve:
Female emperor dragonfly laying eggs:
Image credits: Ken Clegg
Thank you very much to Ken for sharing these images with us.
I went up to the Washland viewpoint yesterday morning and here is the list from my notebook from approximately 06.55- 08.25. With thanks to local birders Nick and Steve for pointing out several things that I probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise!
Barn owl hunting: 1
Willow warbler singing
Common snipe: 2
Common sandpiper: 1
Curlew sandpiper: 1 (First reserve record since November 2009)
There was also a Canada goose with a neck collar with the code: “AJX” present. This bird was ringed as an adult in Thetford on 9 July 2014.
Bird ringers Simon and Pete were ringing in Brandon Fen and while they were out, they saw a hobby and a green sandpiper.
As the morning went on, volunteer Paul went up to the Washland viewpoint. He saw four black tailed godwits and 46 little egrets on the washland. There were plenty of insects on the wing in the sunshine including a southern hawker over Brandon Fen and a male brimstone butterfly.
At lunchtime, two kingfishers were showing well from the visitor centre window. Volunteer Pete and I went up to the washland at lunchtime and we found a dunlin, which was the tenth species of wader of the day which has to be a new reserve record.
I went up to the Washland viewpoint from approximately 06.50- 08.25 and again with the help of local birder Nick (and fellow staff members Suzanne and Emma from around 8am), I noted the following:
Redshank: 1 (Species of wader number 11 in less than 24 hours!)
Green sandpiper: 2
Curlew sandpiper: 1
Bittern: Out in the open and perched up on the reeds
Yellow wagtail: Flyover
Cranes: Calling from the far end of the reserve
Nick also saw 50 little egrets and presumably the same little ringed plover from yesterday.
As the day has gone on, I had a brief view of a water vole at the pond dipping platform and Site Manager Dave saw four cranes at the far end of the reserve. A hobby was also hunting over the visitor centre.