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Recent sightings

  • 21 May 2015

    21 May recent sightings: A game of cat and dog

    Good morning! Well, after listening to it barking for around three hours last night, I am pleased to say that I saw the little bittern last night at around 8.30pm!

    There were plenty of eyes and ears down there last night and local birdwatcher Richard Thewlis did these fantastic sketches of it:

    He also did a sketch of a crane and a red kite on Sunday:

    Thank you very much to Richard for sharing these with us!

    The search for the little bittern was really a game of cat and dog last night as it was barking almost none stop between 5.30pm and 8.30pm. If you are not familiar with the call, a recording can be found here.  I based myself on the northern side of the triangle and the bird did sound like it was very close. It was seen on the southern edge of the triangle slightly later but all we saw of it was the reeds shaking and not the bird itself!

    We went round to the southern side of the triangle where there were more pairs of eyes. The bird was seen again by several people as it “flopped” across the channel (this was the description we got!) As the light faded, we eventually saw it in flight east over the triangle at around 8.35pm. Success! It was great to see this special bird which was not only a first for the reserve, but the first record of this species in Suffolk since 1979.

    While we were waiting (mostly) patiently, we saw a reed warbler out in the open and a male cuckoo flew behind us. As the light began to fade, a grasshopper warbler started reeling behind us and a “great” bittern was booming in the distance.

    As I walked back through the reserve, I saw a stoat running across the hard track and another “great” bittern was booming in New Fen North, the first area of reedbed. 

    After Suzanne and I did our Common Bird Census (CBC) around Brandon Fen this morning, we popped down to listen for the little bittern. It was barking in the same area and unfortunately, it was seen just after we left so we just missed it! Oh well! It’s a great sign that it’s still here so hopefully it will stick around for a while.

    We hope to see you soon!

    Posted by David White

  • 20 May 2015

    20 May recent sightings blog post: The little bittern is back

    Good afternoon all. This is just a quick note to say that the little bittern is back! It has been barking intermittently this afternoon and was seen at around 3.30pm. It is present in the part of the reserve that we know as "New Fen North triangle". This is between Mere Hide and Joist Fen viewpoint. Where the path splits just west of the track down to Mere Hide, take the right hand fork which goes alongside West Wood and listen in the reeds on the right. Please see the reserve map for more details. Lets hope it sticks around!

    Posted by David White

  • 19 May 2015

    19 May recent sightings: A "little" bit of time off

    I have been on holiday for the last three days. It’s just typical that the reserve’s first little bittern would turn up while I wasn't around! Sadly, it hasn't been heard or seen since Saturday but hopefully it will reappear soon!

    Anyhow, there were plenty of people here on Sunday and local photographer Tim James took these great photographs on the reserve:

    Three cranes circling over the car park:

    A red headed cardinal beetle:

    A four spotted chaser:

    Two peacock butterflies:

    A common stretch spider:

    Image credits: Tim James

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

    The early birders on Sunday saw a good selection of species. A great white egret was on the washland and a bar headed goose (probably an escapee!) was seen at the far end of the reserve. 

    A red kite flew over Joist Fen viewpoint and there were at least three hobbys out and about by the time the visitor centre opened. There were also at least nine cuckoos around, which is a great count for here.

    The weather was pretty miserable yesterday morning but it did clear up in the afternoon. Suzanne saw six common terns on the washland.

    There were several people listening for the little bittern and unfortunately, they didn't hear it. However, they saw at least 10 marsh harriers from Joist Fen viewpoint and perhaps as many cuckoos in a similar area. Two bitterns were seen in flight and two kingfishers were seen from New Fen viewpoint. A stoat was also seen on the hard track north of Trial Wood. 

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

    Posted by David White

  • 17 May 2015

    17 May Recent sightings – Once little bittern, twice shy?

    As David blogged last night, a little bittern has been seen at Lakenheath Fen; a rare visitor to Britain and an amazing first ever record for the reserve!

    Some great views were had last night; after ‘barking’ for a while, the bird was seen climbing up some reed stems before making a brief flight  – I only wish I had been there to see it.

    I made it down the reserve for 5am (the alarm clock was a bit of a shock this morning!) and joined the many others near Joist Fen, in the hope of catching a glimpse of this rare visitor. Unfortunately, despite many pairs of eyes (and ears) on the lookout, there was no further sign of the bird today.

    We will keep you updated with any further sightings as soon as we have them. Let just hope it’s a case of being twice shy – it’s small stature (it's smaller than a moorhen) and the size of the reedbeds here makes spotting this elusive bird no easy task.

    Although, the little bittern wasn't seen this morning, it was still a great time to be out on the reserve. As the sun started shining through the poplar trees, we were surrounded by the booms of bitterns, cuckoos calling and singing sedge warbler, reed warbler and reed bunting.

    As I made my way back to the visitor centre the swifts were screaming over the reedbeds and I spotted my first hobby of the day. We’ve had up to 45 hobbies counted in the air at once and it’s definitely a sight not to be missed. Joist Fen or New Fen viewpoints are the best spots to watch this spectacle.

    Hobby (Image credit Tim James)

    Top sighting of today (so far!) are the three common cranes, spotted by Dave and Roger whilst on car parking duty. They flew in from over the carpark, where they proceeded to circle over the washland, calling all the while, before heading off west over the reserve.

    Whitethroats are singing well down the main track and a grasshopper warbler is reeling away near Mere Hide.

    Other highlights in the last few days include great white egret on the washland, red kite over Joist Fen (this morning), bittern in flight, curlew and kingfisher all from New Fen viewpoint.

     An inquisitive stoat has been making regular appearances on the main track leading to Joist Fen viewpoint; some excellent photo opportunities to be had there.

    Stoat (Image credit Matt Walton)

    The last week or so has also seen the first sightings of various damselflies and dragonflies, including common blue damselfly, azure damselfly, large red damselfly and hairy dragonfly.


    Azure Damselfly (Image credit Matt Walton)

    All in all, a pretty great time to visit!

    Posted by Emma Cuthbertson

  • 16 May 2015

    16 May recent sightings: Little bittern

    Good evening. This is just a quick note to say that after a brief sighting between Mere Hide and Joist Fen viewpoint this morning, a male little bittern has been heard "barking" in the same area this evening. It was also seen in flight briefly just after 9pm. This is a very rare bird in Britain and it has only nested in Britain in two locations. Please read this article for more information.

    Here is an illustration of one of these moorhen sized birds:

    Image credit: Mike Langman (

    If you are planning to visit the reserve tomorrow (Sunday), please expect the reserve to be very busy! We hope to see you soon. 

    Posted by David White

  • 15 May 2015

    15 May recent sightings: Little beauties

    Good afternoon! We have had a great couple of days here are there has been plenty to see. Here are some pictures that have been taken recently, courtesy of Tim James:

    A dunnock:

    A common whitethroat:

    A sedge warbler:

    Image credits: Tim James

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

    There was a bit of a surprise on Wednesday when a raven flew west over Joist Fen viewpoint. This is only the third record of this species on the reserve. At least 24 hobbys were over Joist Fen viewpoint and three cuckoos were seen in the same area. A great white egret in breeding plumage was also present on the washland.

    Meanwhile, closer to the visitor centre, a stoat was seen several times in the staff car park and a garden warbler was singing nearby. A Cetti’s warbler was also singing behind the visitor centre.

    An osprey was seen from Joist Fen viewpoint later on in the day. This is probably the same bird that has been present on and off for the last couple of weeks.

    The weather was a bit patchy yesterday but the great white egret was still present on the washland. There were at least 100 swifts and 100 house martins over New Fen viewpoint, which must have been quite a sight to see!

    I went for a walk around Brandon Fen before work this morning and I saw at least three roe deer. A cuckoo flew over the Washland viewpoint and the great white egret was showing well further along the river.

    I have just returned from a very successful walk around the reserve with a group of school children from Fairstead House School. We saw several drinker moth caterpillars alongside East Wood and several pregnant nursery web spiders. There were also plenty of garden spiders, busily weaving their orb shaped webs.

    There were several species of dragonflies and damselflies on the wing. This included several blue tailed damselflies, a common blue damselfly and a hairy dragonfly

    We had our lunch down at Joist Fen viewpoint and there were at least 38 hobbys feeding in front of us. A common tern was fishing in the pond in front of the viewpoint and a cuckoo perched very obligingly for us just behind the viewpoint. A spotted flycatcher was also darting about just north of the viewpoint, but it was too quick for most of the children to see.

    As we walked back along the riverbank, we found plenty of signs of otters including some spraints and some broken swan mussel shells. Just before we got back to the visitor centre, there was a lovely peacock butterfly on the wing. 

    All in all, it was a great walk! The children were very well behaved and we saw lots of great wildlife.

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

    Posted by David White

  • 13 May 2015

    13 May recent sightings: Everything is better when the sun is shining!

    Good morning. It’s a lovely morning this morning so it’s about time to update you about what is around! The local hobbys have definitely been the stars of the week so here are a few pictures of them:

     Two images by Roderick Woods from Thursday:

    Image credits: Roderick Woods

    ...And here is one by David G Carter from Monday:

    Image credit: David G Carter

    Thank you very much to Roderick and David for sharing these great images with us.

    It was a nice day on Sunday and there was plenty to see. I saw a male roe deer as I drove in and another two were in Trial Wood. I saw a least three different cuckoos around the poplar woods and a sparrowhawk flew from East Wood to West Wood.

    Volunteer Mark headed down the reserve before doing a stellar job on car parking duty. He saw a stoat alongside West Wood and at least six hobbys were over New Fen North. 

    Volunteers Mark and Roger did car parking duty and while they were doing it, a common buzzard and an osprey flew over. They also saw several orange tips and a speckled wood on the wing. 

    There was a great count of 46 hobbys hunting in front of Joist Fen viewpoint and a weasel was seen north of Trial Wood. A great white egret was seen on the washland and a ruby tiger moth was on the wing near the visitor centre. 

    It was a nice day on Monday and there were at least 20 hobbys hunting in front of Joist Fen viewpoint. A red kite flew over and a Cetti’s warbler was showing well in front of the viewpoint.

    As the day went on, an osprey flew over Joist Fen viewpoint and a grasshopper warbler was singing in the same area. A great white egret was also on the washland. 

    I got here nice and early this morning in order to practice my surveying skills. I heard a grasshopper warbler in Brandon Fen and there was a cuckoo was singing behind the visitor centre.

    I also tried to get some pictures of the plants in the raised beds this morning and despite the bright sunshine, I managed to get these:

    Water violet:

    Bog bean:

    Image credits: David White

    Unfortunately, there have been no other reports of golden orioles since last Thursday so perhaps the bird that was heard was just passing through. Hopefully that won’t be the only record of this species that we have of this species here this year. We live in hope!

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

    Posted by David White

  • 9 May 2015

    9 May recent sightings: ...As unpredictable as ever!

    Good afternoon. The last couple of days have been pretty unpredictable here! I will start with a few photographs that local photographer Tim James has taken here this week:

    A little egret on the washland from Monday:

    Some images of young coots from Monday:

    A male gadwall with an unusually pale collar from this morning:

    A weasel from this morning:

    Image credits: Tim James

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

    Since my last recent sightings blog post, two avocets flew west along the river on Thursday and as mentioned yesterday, a male golden oriole was calling and singing intermittently in West Wood. 

    On Friday morning, despite volunteer Pete Dolton and I spending several hours listening, we unfortunately didn't hear the golden oriole. However, two female cuckoos flew over New Fen North and two mistle thrushes kept flying back and forward between Trial Wood and West Wood.

    Meanwhile, in Brandon Fen, Simon, our local bird ringer, was ringing in his first “Constant Effort Site” session of the year. I have attached his ringing report below. He also saw two turtle doves at the eastern end of the reserve and three common buzzards flew over.

    As the day went on, around 25 hobbys were hunting over Joist Fen viewpoint and a red kite flew south over the reserve. A bittern was seen from Joist Fen viewpoint and a stoat was seen between the same viewpoint and Mere Hide. 

    It has been a bit of a breezy morning this morning. A kingfisher was seen from Mere Hide and several cuckoos were seen from New Fen viewpoint.

    I went for a walk around Brandon Fen with our Wildlife Explorer’s club. We saw a common millipede and a cinnabar moth

    Suzanne and I have just been up to the Washland viewpoint and we had a fantastic view of two hobbys hunting over the large pool. There were plenty of swifts overhead and a garden warbler was singing next to the viewpoint.

    There has also been a sighting of a Chinese water deer in West Wood, which is a good sighting for here. 

     The weather forecast is looking great for the next couple of days so why not come and visit. If we have any other reports of golden orioles, we will let you know. We hope to see you soon! 






    Posted by David White

  • 8 May 2015

    8 May recent sightings: Golden oriole

    Good morning. A male golden oriole was heard singing and calling intermittently in the western edge of West Wood (the furthest poplar plantation) yesterday afternoon and evening. We have been out listening since first light this morning and unfortunately, we haven't heard anything yet. However, hopefully it will stick around and a female will appear as well!

    I can't resist a sharing a few lovely pictures of these stunning birds that were taken here a couple of years ago so here we are:

    Image credits: Paul Foster

    We will keep you posted about any further sightings as soon as possible.

    Posted by David White

Your sightings

Grid reference: TL7286 (+2km)

Cuckoo ()
23 May 2015
Kingfisher ()
23 May 2015
Cetti's Warbler ()
23 May 2015
Water Rail ()
21 May 2015
Grasshopper Warbler (1)
20 May 2015
Singing/breeding calls heard
Wheatear (1)
15 May 2015
Common Tern ()
23 May 2015
Great Spotted Woodpecker ()
23 May 2015
Garden Warbler (2)
23 May 2015
Gadwall (2)
21 May 2015

Contact us

Where is it?

  • Lat/lng: 52.44839,0.53250
  • Postcode: IP27 9AD
  • Grid reference: TL722864
  • Nearest town: Brandon, Suffolk
  • County: Suffolk
  • Country: England

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Note: Some reserves are not served directly by public transport and, in these cases, a nearby destination (from which you may need to walk or take a taxi or ferry) may be offered.