Lakenheath Fen

Lakenheath Fen

Lakenheath Fen
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Lakenheath Fen

  • 28 November recent sightings: It's been a while

    Good morning. As I expected, I would not have a chance to post this week until now so here's for making up for lost time! 

    As is often on the case on a Friday, I will start with a few pictures.

    This first picture is a couple of weeks old, but I think you'll agree that it is definitely worth sharing! This amazing picture of a kingfisher (and a bittern!) was taken from the visitor centre window on Saturday 18 October:

    Image credit: John Wightman

    The great white egret has been present all week and here are some pictures of it:

    Image credits: Andy Collier

    The local marsh harriers and kingfishers have also been showing well this week.

    Female marsh harrier:

    Kingfisher with fish:

    Image credits: Matt Walton

    Thank you very much to John, Andy and Matt for sharing these great images with us. 

    Travelling back through the mists of time to last Friday, there were three adult yellow legged gulls on the washland and 13 unidentified waders flew over the visitor centre. These were most likely to be golden plovers, but unfortunately none of us got a good enough view of them to confirm identification.

    The weather was a bit damp last weekend but a bittern was seen from Joist Fen viewpoint and two stonechats were seen near Mere Hide on the Saturday. 

    We had a welcome visit from eight cranes on Monday that flew west over the reserve. An otter was also seen near Mere Hide

    The great white egret was on the washland on Tuesday morning and a roe deer was skulking around in Brandon Fen. A grey wagtail was seen on the riverbank near Joist Fen viewpoint and I FINALLY saw my first Lakenheath Fen treecreeper of the year behind New Fen viewpoint. 

    I went and jumped in some puddles for an hour and a half before work on Wednesday morning. While I was doing this, I was distracted by the great white egret that was showing well on the washland and a roe deer that was browsing at the edge of West Wood. 

    Despite a gloomy start yesterday, it turned out alright in the afternoon. I went for a walk down to Joist Fen viewpoint at lunchtime and saw the great white egret on the washland. Slightly further down river, I found an adult yellow legged gull and an adult herring gull which are both good records for here. A kingfisher shot along the river and a common buzzard was circling overhead. 

    As the day went on, Suzanne saw four bearded tits in Brandon Fen and a peregrine was seen from Joist Fen viewpoint. Katherine saw three whooper swans at the west end of the reserve and at least two barn owls were hunting over the reserve as darkness fell.

    The weather isn't looking too bad this weekend so why not come and visit? We hope to see you soon! 

  • Time travel. Guest blog post by Sammy Fraser, Brecks Community Engagement Officer

    Sammy Fraser, RSPB Brecks Community Engagement Officer writes...

     Most of you who have paid a visit to the reserve in search of booming bitterns, bugling cranes and pinging bearded tits, will have noticed a subtle transition between the car park and the area west of the visitor centre. This transition is from the sandy and dry Brecks, harbouring specialist plants and a plethora of rabbits, to the reed covered nutrient rich peat soil. You may have also noticed unusual pieces of geology lurking amongst the sandy soil in the form of flints. Coming in all shapes and sizes, flint provides an insight into how the Brecks landscape would have looked and the lives of our ancestors.

    Flint: 

    Image credit: Robert Chapman

     The first humans to be recorded in the Brecks were people of the Paleolithic Age. They were hunters and foragers who used natural resources to eek out a living in the Brecks. They presumably hunted red deer in the woodland and foraged for native plants as food sources. They actually had little impact on the Brecks landscape. It was the Neolithic people who were to be the first people to radically alter the wooded landscape that the Paleolithic people first utilized. Some say that there was a Neolithic settlement on what is now Brandon Fen. Perhaps they crossed the “border” to the Fens to fish and hunt for birds such as cranes?

     The Neolithic people are often referred to as the first farmers in the Brecks. They arrived with seed for crops, livestock and knowledge of how to create tools. They found the lightly wooded, sandy Brecks soils easy to clear and began to plant crops in the newly felled areas. They would have quickly found out that the soil of the Brecks holds naturally few nutrients, and so in order to farm, they grew crops on a rotational basis. It was necessary to leave the soil fallow after two to three years of growing crops. By removing the woodland and leaving the soil fallow, the first areas of heathland began to form in the Brecks. This is a very contrasting habitat to the Fens but it has an equally unique set of specially adapted wildlife. 

    Typical sandy soil of the Brecks: 

    Image credit: Chris Knights.

     Perhaps the most obvious remains of the Neolithic people are their flint mines. For those of you who have been to nearby Grimes Graves just over the border in Norfolk, you will have seen the remains of over 400 mines. To think that they dug these mines using nothing but red deer antlers and bones is mind-boggling!  

    However, it is not only at Grimes Graves where you can see the remains of the flint mining industry in the Brecks. The Brecks was once the flint capital of Britain, from as early as the Neolithic period until as recently as the 1950’s. Towns like Brandon were the centre of this mining industry. Flint was originally mined for flint weapons, later for flintlock muskets and building materials. Over 1,000,000 musket flints per month were supplied through the Napoleonic wars.

     So next time you are taking a stroll through Lakenheath Fen remember the snapshot into our fascinating history under your feet. 

  • 21 November recent sightings: This week in pictures once again

    Good morning. This week can moreorless be summed up in pictures, so here we go:

    It wasn't too bad a day on Tuesday and Matt Walton took this lovely landscape shot from New Fen viewpoint:

    The great white egret was also present on the washland, looking as elegant as ever:

    Image credits: Matt Walton

    Meanwhile, closer to the visitor centre, there was some excitement when a water pipit was ringed near the visitor centre:

    Image credit: Lee Gregory

    According to Simon, our local bird ringer, this is only the twenty sixth water pipit ever to be ringed in Suffolk and it may well be the first ever to be ringed in West Suffolk! 

    Another feature of this week has been mist and fog. Here is a picture of the sun rising yesterday above a halo of mist:

    Image credit: David White

    Last but by no means least, the local bearded tits have been showing exceptionally well this week so here is a lovely picture of one from New Fen viewpoint yesterday:

    Image credit: Matt Walton

    Thank you very much to Matt and Lee for sharing these great pictures with us! 

    The great white egret has been around all week and tends to favour the pools in front of the Washland viewpoint. As well as showing well in front of New Fen viewpoint, there is also a flock of around 20 bearded tits in Brandon Fen. They were showing exceptionally well on Wednesday morning... if only I had a better camera (and I was a better photographer!) Your best chance of seeing water pipits is from the Washland viewpoint. 

    There are plenty of other things to look out for. I saw bitterns (or a bittern) out on the reserve two days running, which is exceptionally unusual for me. One flew into the grazing marsh in Brandon Fen on Wednesday and one flew west along the river yesterday. I was lucky enough to watch yesterday's bird for around five minutes, as it flapped slowly across New Fen North, the first area of reedbed. 

    An otter was seen from Mere Hide on Wednesday and there were plenty of signs of this elusive creature on the riverbank yesterday morning. The male hen harrier has been seen most evenings this week and Dave had a great view of it from Joist Fen viewpoint yesterday afternoon. 

    Please note that due to calendar constraints, this is probably going to be my last recent sightings post until next Friday so I look forward to posting again soon!

    There is plenty to see at the moment so why not come and visit? We hope to see you soon.