Good morning. I have now returned and if you are wondering where I have been for the last three weeks, please read this blog post.
I popped in briefly on Saturday and saw nine roe deer grazing alongside the entrance track. A group of four curlews flew over the visitor centre and a water pipit flew up just east of the Washland viewpoint.
I lead a 10 kilometre “Long Walk” about the reserve on Sunday and we had fantastic views of three cranes at various points during the walk. A couple of roe deer were grazing at the far end of the reserve and a muntjac deer ambled across the path in Botany Bay. A male sparrowhawk was also hunting overhead.
As we walked back along the riverbank some bearded tits were calling alongside the riverbank Public Footpath. A great white egret was feeding north of the river along with four little egrets. When we got to Joist Fen viewpoint, we were treated to a long bittern flight just west of the viewpoint, which was great to see. All in all, it was a great walk and if you are interested, the next walk will take place on Saturday 30 July. Please follow this link for more details.
I went for a walk before work yesterday morning and a great white egret was showing well in front of the Washland viewpoint. A couple of pied wagtails flew south and two roe deer were skulking in East Wood.
I stopped at New Fen viewpoint and took a couple of pictures:
Image credits: David White
As the day went on, three water pipits were showing in front of the Washland viewpoint and at least nine roe deer were grazing alongside the entrance track.
Yesterday, a great white egret and a kingfisher were seen from the Washland viewpoint. A covey of 12 red legged partridges were seen near the visitor centre and two coal tits were on the visitor centre feeders. Also, excitingly, a bittern was heard booming quietly at the far end of the reserve. This is the earliest that we have ever heard these scarce birds booming here, so spring isn’t that far away!
Although it was quite chilly this morning, it certainly sounded like spring out on the reserve. A blackbird was singing near the visitor centre and a reed bunting was singing near the Washland viewpoint. A skylark was singing over the viewpoint ans a song thrush was also singing in East Wood.
There were some very strange light conditions just after sunrise and here are some pictures:
Image credit: David White
There was plenty to see including a sparrowhawk that dashed over the visitor centre shortly after I arrived and a great white egret was showing well in front of the Washland viewpoint. Four great crested grebes were showing well in front of the viewpoint and a short eared owl was hunting distantly behind the large pool.
As I walked along the riverbank, a barn owl was hunting at the edge of East Wood. Two roe deer were grazing in East Wood and presumably the same 12 red legged partridges from yesterday were seen near the visitor centre. A yellowhammer also flew west, which was nice to see.
There is plenty to see at the moment so why not come and visit? We hope to see you soon!
Hello there! If you read our blog posts regularly and have been wondering where I have been for the last couple of weeks, hopefully, this blog post will give you an insight into what I have been up to:
The first thing to make you aware of is that I have now been in continuous employment with the RSPB for over seven years (I started at RSPB Lakenheath Fen on 13 October 2008 to be precise.) As a thank you to it’s employees, the RSPB offers sabbaticals to members of staff who have worked for the RSPB for over seven continuous years. The rules are fairly simple; you are entitled to up to four weeks of sabbatical leave to work on a project of your choice. The only two rules are as follows: firstly, it has to be with the RSPB or a Bird Life International partner. Secondly, it has to benefit conservation in some way, shape or form.
I have chosen to come to RSPB Bempton Cliffs, in East Yorkshire for my sabbatical. If you are not familiar with this fantastic reserve it is a seabird colony that is home to large numbers of birds like gannets, puffins and guillemots in the summer months. However, as I gaze out of the window of the visitor centre at the moment, the starts of the winter months here are a wintering flock of around 150 tree sparrows, a very obliging pair of barn owls and the chance to see exciting marine mammals such as grey seals and harbour porpoises offshore.
Instead of doing my sabbatical in one hit, I have split into two placements. I have just completed my first two weeks and I am returning for my second two weeks in mid- June, during the reserve’s busiest time of the year. I will focus on the first part of my sabbatical for the rest of this blog post:
My main focus of part one of my sabbatical was to create an interactive presentation for the large touch screen computer in the visitor centre. This was an ideal project for me, as it meant that I learnt a lot about the reserve in a relatively short space of time.
In order to provide me with some inspiration for putting the presentation together, I was first sent to RSPB Leighton Moss in Lancashire, where they have already been using touch screen computers to good effect to enhance the visitor experience at the reserve. This was like a trip down memory lane for me, as I regularly visited this wonderful reserve while I was studying at the University of Central Lancashire in nearby Preston. While I was there, I learnt a lot about the touch screen computers and also got a chance to reacquaint myself with the reserve as I had not visited the reserve for around six years.
On my return to RSPB Bempton Cliffs, with the help of a very comprehensive brief from the reserve team there, I started putting the presentation together. I quickly discovered that this was a very big job and realised why this was chosen as a sabbatical project as opposed to something that is part of somebodies’ work programme!
Slowly but surely, the presentation came together and after consultation with various members of the team, several more sections were added. Before we knew it, the presentation was 150 slides long! After various tweaks and a rather major formatting issue was resolved, I finally finished the presentation at around 11am on Friday morning. Hooray! I look forward to seeing the presentation being used on the visitor centre’s large touch screen computer when I return for round two of my sabbatical in mid-June. I would like to thank the teams at RSPB Bempton Cliffs and RSPB Leighton Moss for having me and I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the north.
I will leave you with a couple of pictures that I took at RSPB Bempton Cliffs, I hope you like them:
I will return with some recent sightings from back here at RSPB Lakenheath Fen on Wednesday so until then, have a good week!
Well, maybe not quite everywhere but it certainly felt like it yesterday afternoon when we were watching 11 cranes flying around the reserve, making a racket with their distinctive bugalling calls!
Thursday, as ever, was work party day and we were just finishing lunch when the first crane calls were heard...soon the sky was full! We are almost certain that our two resident pairs were present as there was a distinctive group of four and three circling around, at one point the three (which we assume were Little, Large and their youngster) flew directly over our heads!
The family of four (Dave Rogers)
Counting them wasn’t the easiest as they kept dropping down or flying out of sight, but between us, with much excitement, we managed to confirm 11 of them. It was an effort to return to scrub removal after that, but we did manage it!
Having checked our records this appears to be the highest count of cranes we’ve ever had on the reserve at once. They are still a little elusive, but for the best chance of seeing them the recommended spots are Joist Fen viewpoint and along the river bank.
The day had already started off well with close up views of two barn owls along the main track from the visitor centre and later in the day an otter near Joist Fen viewpoint. Typically I had headed in the opposite direction at this point and missed it!
Whilst I may have missed the otter I did get to enjoy watching a stoat scampering around the hedge in front of the centre.
A stoat from sunnier times! (Matt Walton)
In other news, the great white egrets are still regularly on the washland but have also been reported flying along the river and in the fields north of the river.
Along the riverbank footpath there’s been regular sightings of stonechat and occasional sightings of water pipit.
Heading down into Brandon Fen, there’s been up to 20 brambling, 12 redwing, 2 collared dove, 12 redpoll, 3 meadow pipit and buzzard overhead. A group of up to 10 roe deer are also roaming round Brandon Fen and can often be seen as you drive along the entrance track.
A curlew calling over the visitor centre was a welcome addition to year list for us, unfortunately it didn’t touch down on the visitor centre pool for a quick wash like the bird below did last year!
Curlew outside Visitor Centre (John Wightman)