Lakenheath Fen

Lakenheath Fen

Lakenheath Fen
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Lakenheath Fen

  • Get the home fires burning!

    Well, hasn’t this year gone quickly?! Too quickly for my liking. The last few weeks have been exceptionally busy for us down the reserve, mainly because we’ve had a contractor in doing some reed cutting!

    Our contractor uses a digger with a special bucket on it, called a Bradshaw bucket. This is one which cuts the reeds either underwater or at ground level using the reciprocating blades on the front of the bucket.

    Cutting reed with a Bradshaw bucket is much easier than strimming it!  Photo by Katherine Puttick

      Emma stoking the fires. Photo by Dave Rogers

    The cut reed is piled in heaps, and we then try to burn it, which is where the volunteers come in! If there’s nothing more our volunteers like, it’s to have a jolly good bonfire! Just as well really as there is rather a lot of reed material to get rid of! On various days between Monday and Friday, Nigel, Rob, Robert, Phil, Darren and Roger, all took charge of matches and pitchforks and reduced many piles of reed to ashes. There’s still quite a bit to get rid of though, so I suspect that’ll be the main job in the New Year!

    Looking east along the cut compartment.  Photo by Katherine Puttick

    You may ask why we burn the reed instead of using it for thatch. The main reason is that we need to remove the reed somehow, and as the reed we are cutting is about 16 years old, it makes it very unsuitable for thatching. To use it for thatching, you’d need reed of one to two years old, as it has long straight stems and very little reed litter. Our reed is a mix of thick and thin stems, mostly fairly wonky (technical term!), and with quite a depth of litter that has built up over the years.    

    Over about three days, we cut about 2.5 hectares of reed (barely 2% of the total amount of reed we have on-site!). This will be the last time for a while that we cut the reed in that particular compartment. The aim now is to keep the levels low in the cut compartment, graze it until late next year, then bring the water levels back up and let the reed re-colonise. Cutting reed on rotation in this way allows us to keep the reed at different stages which attracts a wider range of wildlife. It also prevents too much leaf litter building up, which can eventually raise the level of the reed bed and dry it out, which makes it unsuitable for bitterns and other wildlife that rely on a reed bed being wet! Next year, we’ll start cutting the next oldest bit of reed!

    View of Joist Fen north.  Photo by Katherine Puttick

    Well, that’s it from me, apart from to wish you all a very merry Christmas and happy New Year! Blog posts may be a bit few and far between until the New Year, as we’re all on our holidays! The reserve will be open dawn until dusk throughout the festive season, but the visitor centre will be closed from midday on 24 December until 1 January. The toilets will be open 9am to 5pm from 27 to 31 Dec.

    Time for me to go and get my home fire going.  It's cold out there! 

    Cheers to all!


  • 18 December recent sightings: Twas a week before Christmas!

    It’s my last day in the office before Christmas so here are some recent sightings from the last couple of days along with some information about our Christmas opening times.

     I will start of with another picture from Monday followed by some exciting bird news.

     A lovely view from New Fen viewpoint:

    Image credit: Matt Walton

     Matt also saw a jack snipe alongside the big willow near the visitor centre. This species is very tricky to track down on the reserve so it was a great find.

    Things picked up where they left off on Tuesday and volunteer Paul saw a kingfisher from the Washland viewpoint. An adult Caspian gull was on the washland along with a juvenile yellow legged gull. A peregrine flew low over the large pool, which attracted plenty of attention from the local carrion crows.

    One of the great white egrets was showing very well and here is a picture of it:

    Image credit: Ian Goodall

    Thank you very much to Matt and Ian for sharing these images with us.

    It was unseasonably mild yesterday and I popped up to the Washland viewpoint before work. I saw a great white egret, seven little egrets and the same two goldeneyes from Tuesday morning. Three tufted ducks were also present along with two great crested grebes.

    When I got back to the visitor centre, Suzanne and I were treated to great views of a barn owl hunting in front of the visitor centre window. As the day went on, a smart male lesser redpoll was on the visitor centre feeders along with a marsh tit.

    I went for a walk this morning and there were six whooper swans in front of the Washland viewpoint along with the two goldeneyes. One of the great white egrets flew east along the river and a roe deer was skulking south of East Wood.

    There was also a rather impressive sunrise and here are some pictures of it:

    Image credits: David White

    Just before I leave you today, our Christmas opening times can be found here. Also, from New Years Day, we will be reverting back to the old system of RSPB members showing their membership cards in the visitor centre rather than leaving them on the dashboards of their cards.

    All I have left to say is wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from all of the team here at RSPB Lakenheath Fen! 

  • 16 December recent sightings: There is plenty going on!

    Good morning. I was going to wait until tomorrow to do a “recent sightings” post but circumstances have dictated that today is the day instead!

    Although the weather was a bit patchy on Sunday, there was still plenty to see. A barn owl was hunting at the edge of the car park first thing.

    I had a quick walk around Brandon Fen before work and saw a great white egret feeding with a little egret in front of the Washland viewpoint. There were two great crested grebes on the river and there were at least six bearded tits feeding in Brandon Fen.

     As the day went on, a single crane was seen in flight from Mere Hide and at least four stonechats were seen along the riverbank.

    The adult Caspian gull was again on the washland and a male merlin was seen from Joist Fen viewpoint. Volunteer Pete was down at Joist Fen viewpoint until it got dark. He saw at least 10 marsh harriers hunting and a bittern flew over the reedbed.

     It wasn't a bad day yesterday and local photographer Matt Walton got these incredible images of bearded tits:

    He also photographed a bittern:

    Image credits: Matt Walton

    Thank you very much to Matt for sharing these images with us.

    I went for a walk around Brandon Fen this morning and saw at least one great white egret on the washland along with four little egrets. I had a pleasant surprise when two goldeneyes flew around over the main washland pool although sadly, they didn't land. A flock of at least 110 lapwings also flew over the visitor centre.

     The weather forecast isn't looking too bad this week so why not come and escape the festive rush for a walk around the reserve? We hope to see you soon.