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Recent sightings

  • 24 September 2016

    24th September Recent sightings – How time flies!

    It seems like only yesterday that I was last writing a recent sightings update, however a week has once again sped by (where does the time go?!), so apologies for this week’s update being a little delayed!

    The osprey continues to be the star of the show and has been seen daily across the reserve for the past week. It’s treated us to some spectacular views from both Joist Fen and New Fen viewpoints whilst fishing in various the reedbed pools.

    It certainly proved to be a welcome distraction on Thursday as we were cutting back the reeds in front of Joist Fen in order to open up the view. The strimming was quickly called to a halt as we watched it fishing for a good ten minutes, before it successfully carried off a fish!

    Thanks to Matt Walton for sharing this great image of the osprey.

    We’ll be cutting more reed back at Joist Fen next week, hopefully encouraging a few of our secretive reedbed residents like bittern and water rail to make an appearance.

    Close runners up for star of the show have been our bearded tits, which have been showing amazingly well this week. As we sat in Mere Hide last Sunday as part of the Rambler’s Ramble event, listening their pinging calls, a group of four suddenly appeared about a metre away from the hide!

    Things continued to get better at Joist Fen as a group of around 15 spent time flitting around in the reeds directly in front of us. Only yesterday there was a group of 28 spotted there mid afternoon, so it’s well worth the walk down there.

    Bearded tits (Image credit - Tim James)

    Osprey aside, it’s been a great week for bird of prey sightings; marsh harriers daily across the reserve, up to four hobbies around New Fen (22nd), two red kite over the river bank (22nd), four common buzzard over Joist Fen (24th) and kestrel  regularly alongside New Fen.

    There have been regular sightings of water rail at New Fen, skulking in the fresh reed growth to the right of the viewpoint.

    Kingfishers have been regular visitors to Mere Hide and the visitor centre pool, posing well for anyone passing with a camera;

     Kingfishers from the visitor centre (Image credits - John Wightman)

    And to finish - a reminder that tomorrow we have on a binocular, telescope and early Christmas shopping day here at Lakenheath Fen.  You’ll have the chance to not only get advice on the best binoculars, telescopes and accessories to suit your needs, but the opportunity to try them out as well. You can also make an early start on your Christmas shopping with a selection of cards, calendars and gifts for sale!


    Posted by Emma Cuthbertson

  • 16 September 2016

    16th September recent sightings – What a difference a day makes!

    It’s hard to believe that for the last few days the reserve has been basking in sunshine and ever increasing temperatures, as today the skies are dark, rain is falling and thunder is grumbling!

    As I headed down the reserve this morning to check the route for this Sunday’s Ramblers Ramble event (more details below!) there was a definite feel of autumn in the air. Despite the rain showers, juvenile marsh harriers were soaring over the reedbeds and little egrets were making the most of the increasing water levels in the grazing marsh.

    Also braving the elements today was volunteer Catherine, who wandered down to Joist Fen and was rewarded with an osprey flying overhead! We’ve had regular sightings of osprey over the last week with the washland viewpoint and New Fen seeming to be the best spots. However, despite my best efforts, including running up to the washland numerous times in one day, I have yet to see an osprey at Lakenheath Fen!

    Osprey (Image credit - Christine Nelson)

    Having been away from the reserve for the last few days, I eagerly checked the sightings sheet when I got in to see exactly what I’ve missed....

    The washland continues to be a great spot for waders, with sightings of greenshank (up to three birds), green sandpiper (up to five birds), ruff, dunlin, common sandpiper and curlew sandpiper (last seen on the 11th).

    The waders have been joined by hobby, marsh harrier, kingfisher and garganey throughout the week, so it’s most definitely worth a visit up there. It’s also worth a wander around Brandon Fen as there have been sightings of sparrowhawk and green woodpecker around the trail.

    Records from New Fen viewpoint have included marsh harrier, up to three kingfishers, and on Sunday, a weasel and clouded yellow butterfly.

    Clouded yellow (Image credit - Tim James)

    The kingfishers seem to quite like the new look of the visitor centre pool and are making the most of the extra perches put in. They really are spoiled for choice for fishing spots now!

    The usual suspects (blue tits, great tits, goldfinches, reed buntings and greenfinches) have been visiting the feeders outside the centre, with welcome additions of chiffchaff and blackcap on Wednesday.

    As I write this a sparrowhawk has just been spotted sat in one of the willows at the back of the visitor centre pool, needless to say the feeders were deserted very quickly! Volunteers Roger, Roy and Norman are keeping a close eye out for its return!

    We’ll be looking out for all this wildlife and more on our Rambler’s Ramble event this Sunday. Walking a roughly 10km route around the reserve, and heading into areas away from the usual visitor trails, you never know what we might find...

    Full details of how to book on can be found here – there’s still plenty of places left!

    Rambling along! (Image credit - Emma Cuthbertson)

    Posted by Emma Cuthbertson

  • 10 September 2016

    10 September recent sightings: Soggy September?!

    Good morning. It's a bit damp this morning but we definitely do need the rain! I will start of where I left off on Thursday with some recent sightings. Local bird ringer Simon Evans was ringing in Brandon Fen and while he was out, an osprey flew south over his head just after 09.30. It was being mobbed by an adult and two juvenile hobbys. He saw a grey wagtail flying south and he also saw the following on the washland:

    Grey heron: 16

    Greenshank: 2

    Green sandpiper: 2

    Common snipe: 12

    Garganey: 1

    As the morning went on, two dunlins were spotted from the Washland viewpoint and a hobby was hunting overhead.

    There was a pleasant surprise at lunchtime when two red kites drifted west over the visitor centre, being closely pursued by a hobby.

    The reserve team were busy giving the visitor centre pond it's autumn haircut and here is the finished result (including for and after shots!):

    Image credits: David White

    Shortly after they finished, a water rail popped out at the edge of the vegetation and a kingfisher was perched at the back of the pool. 

    The osprey reappeared over Joist Fen viewpoint mid-afternoon and here are some record shots of it:

    Image credits: Christine Nelson

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

    Also at Joist Fen viewpoint, a clouded yellow butterfly was on the wing and a goat moth caterpillar was photographed near the viewpoint. 

    I went for a walk down to New Fen viewpoint before work yesterday morning and as I walked along the riverbank, I saw a greenshank, two green sandpipers and five common snipe on the washland. A yellow wagtail flew up from the washland and a grey wagtail flew west. 

    A hobby flew out of East Wood and when I got to New Fen viewpoint, a kingfisher was fishing in front of the viewpoint. A chiffchaff was singing behind the viewpoint and on the way back through the reserve, a smart comma butterfly was on the wing at the edge if East Wood. 

    Volunteer John Ingham went for a walk around the reserve mid-morning. He saw a water rail from Mere Hide and two bearded tits in front of New Fen viewpoint, one adult and one juvenile. Later on in the day, I nipped out onto the reserve and saw a male sparrowhawk over the Fen pools.

    I went for a walk this morning before the rain started and I saw the following on the washland:

    Yellow wagtail: 2

    Ruff: 2

    Greenshank: 1

    Green sandpiper: 1

    Common snipe: 5

    Common sandpiper: 1

    Garganey: 3

    I also saw a late common whitethroat skulking in a bush along the riverbank and heard a muntjac deer barking from the edge of East Wood. 

    After today, the weather forecast looks OK for the rest of the week so why not come and visit? As for me, I am off on leave for a couple of weeks so until then, happy wildlife watching! 

    Posted by David White

  • 8 September 2016

    8 September recent sightings: Sunny September!

    Good morning. It's a lovely sunny morning here so it's time for some more recent sightings. Although I have been out with my camera this morning, I will start by posting a couple of sunny pictures that I took on the reserve over last weekend:

    The Little Ouse river:

    New Fen viewpoint:

    Image credits: David White

    I will start off where I left off on Saturday with some recent sightings. There was some excitement at lunchtime when an osprey was seen over the Washland viewpoint. It didn't linger there for long though and promptly appeared over Joist Fen viewpoint. It then hunted over there for the next 15 minutes providing several lucky visitors with great views of it. 

    In the afternoon, a water rail was skulking in front of New Fen viewpoint and a great spotted woodpecker was feeding on the peanut feeders behind the visitor centre.

    There was plenty to see from the Washland viewpoint on Sunday morning. Between local birder Paul and myself, we managed (albeit at different times):

    Great white egret: 1

    Greenshank: 3

    Green sandpiper: 3

    Yellow wagtail: 1

    Marsh harrier: 1

    Teal: 352

    Garganey: 4

    As the day went on, a bittern was seen from Joist Fen viewpoint and a red kite drifted high over the river.  A kingfisher was also fishing in the visitor centre pond.

    In the afternoon, a weasel was seen alongside Trial Wood and this impressive musk beetle was photographed near the visitor centre:

    Image credits: Barbara Donald

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

    Sadly, the great white egret was not seen again on Monday which is a shame. A wood sandpiper was reported on the washland on Tuesday along with two green sandpipers and six common snipe

    I spent a cumulative couple of mornings at the Washland viewpoint on Tuesday evening and yesterday morning and I saw:

    Ruff: 3

    Curlew: 1

    Common sandpiper: 1

    Greenshank: 1

    Green sandpiper: 2

    Kingfisher: 1

    Grey wagtail: 1

    Common snipe: 4

    Little egret: 5

    Dunlin: 2

    Marsh harrier: 1

    Local birder Steve spent a bit of time up there with me and after I left, he saw a hobby, a barn owl and a water rail.

    In the afternoon, a goldcrest was calling in front of the visitor centre and a kingfisher was feeding in the visitor centre pond.

    I went for a walk before work this morning and just as I headed out, a grey wagtail flew over the visitor centre. As I walked along the riverbank, I saw a greenshank and two green sandpipers. I also saw a wing tagged marsh harrier

    As I walked down from the riverbank towards New Fen viewpoint, I saw lots of spiders. This included plenty of garden spiders, four-spot orb weavers and marbled orb weavers. Some photos will follow in a blog post in the near future. At the viewpoint, I saw a kingfisher and a water rail. When I opened up the visitor centre, I spotted a kingfisher perched at the back of the visitor centre pond. 

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

    Posted by David White

  • 3 September 2016

    3 September recent sightings: Well look who's back!

    Good morning. I will get to "who" made a welcome return to the reserve yesterday below, but before that, I will post some pictures of this day last year and tell you a bit about what what was seen on Thursday.

    I took a photo for this blog post this morning and while I was trying to save them, I found these photos that I took exactly a year ago today:

    As you can see, the weather wasn't exactly great! I fear that by the end of today, we will be seeing similar scenes here judging by what the weather forecast says unfortunately!

    On Thursday morning, I went up to the washland and I saw three greenshanks, one green sandpiper and a kingfisher. I walked around Brandon Fen and I found a skylark feeding close to a yellow wagtail. I also found a pair of marbled orb weavers near Wilton Bridge. 

    A kingfisher was fishing in the visitor centre pond shortly after we opened up. Volunteer Lawrence went up to the Washland viewpoint and saw a common sandpiper, eight common snipe and a garganey. Two hobbys were also hunting overhead. 

    Yesterday saw the return of an old favourite when a great white egret was found in front of the Washland viewpoint. A green sandpiper was also seen in the same area.

    I spent some at the Washland viewpoint this morning and I saw:

    Great white egret: 1

    Egyptian goose: 5

    Greenshank: 2

    Common snipe: 4

    Green sandpiper: 2

    Great created grebe: 2

    Common sandpiper: 1

    Kingfisher: 1

    A juvenile marsh harrier was hunting nearby and a Cetti's warbler was singing in Brandon Fen. A chiffchaff was also singing by the big willow near the visitor centre.

    When I got back to the visitor centre, I spotted a kingfisher perched at the edge of the visitor centre pond. 

    I photographed this rather impressive fungi that has recently appeared near the visitor centre:

    While I was out and about, I found a large leopard slug emerging from a crevice in the Brecks raised plant bed. There were also several small tortoiseshells feeding in the morning sunshine. 

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

    Posted by David White

  • 31 August 2016

    31 August recent sightings: Goodbye August

    Good afternoon. It's the last day of August so here is the last recent sightings blog post of the month.

    On Monday morning, local birdwatcher Nick counted six garganeys and 271 teals on the washland. 

    As the day went on, a bittern, a bearded tit and a hobby were seen from Joist Fen viewpoint. A water rail was also skulking in front of Mere Hide. 

    Meanwhile, back at the visitor centre, up to three kingfishers were feeding in the visitor centre pond for the majority of the afternoon.

    Volunteer John went up to the Washland viewpoint after we closed and despite the fact that the water levels have come up, he still saw a good selection of waders:

    Greenshank: 4

    Green sandpiper: 1

    Redshank: 1

    Common sandpiper: 3

    Common snipe: 4

    Dunlin: 2

    Little stint: 1

    I went for a walk down to New Fen viewpoint before work yesterday morning and as I walked along the riverbank, I saw a barn owl and a kingfisher. As I walked from the stile towards the viewpoint. I photographed this garden spider devouring a garden slug:

    Just before I got to New Fen viewpoint, I heard a group of bearded tits calling and managed to catch a glimpse of two individuals.

    I went up to the Washland viewpoint at lunchtime and I saw a juvenile marsh harrier hunting. I also saw a green sandpiper and a common snipe.

    I went up to the Washland viewpoint this morning and although I was a bit pushed for time, I saw:

    Garganey: 6

    Common snipe: 4

    Kingfisher: 1

    Yellow wagtail: 1

    Greenshank: 2

    Green sandpiper: 1

    Willow emerald damselfly: 1

    A kingfisher appeared at the edge of the visitor centre pond shortly after we opened and proceeded to fish on and off all morning.

    I led a guided walk to look for reptiles and I found this smart common lizard in our staff car park: 

    As we walked around, we found one more common lizard and we were rather surprised to find an amphibian, a common frog near the visitor centre. We also saw a marsh harrier being mobbed by a hobby near New Fen viewpoint. 

    Meanwhile, further down the reserve, volunteer Catherine saw two bitterns from Joist Fen viewpoint and another one from the Washland viewpoint. 

    Our cranes haven't been seen since Friday so it seems like they may have gone for their autumn holidays out into the Fens. Hopefully, they will be back before too long. We will keep you updated!

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

    Posted by David White

  • 29 August 2016

    29 August recent sightings: Bank Holiday birds

    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:

    The washland: 


    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

    Greenshank: 5

    Little ringed plover: 1

    Yellow wagtail: 1

    Green sandpiper: 1

    Redshank: 1

    Common snipe: 1

    Common sandpiper: 2

    Kingfisher: 2

    Ruff: 1

    Shelduck: 1

    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:

    Garganey: 5

    Greenshank: 2

    Common sandpiper: 2

    Green sandpiper: 1

    Yellow wagtail: 3

    Water rail: 1

    Redshank: 1

    Common snipe: 4

    Kingfisher: 1

    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!





    Posted by David White

  • 28 August 2016

    Toys for the boys and camera shy cranes

    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.

    Dave Rogers

    Site Manager

    Posted by DaveR

  • 24 August 2016

    24 August recent sightings: The wader fest continues!

    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!

    Greenshank: 5

    Lapwing: 104

    Barn owl hunting: 1

    Water rail

    Chiffchaff singing

    Willow warbler singing

    Little ringed plover: 1

    Kingfisher: 2

    Common snipe: 2

    Common sandpiper: 1

    Ruff: 1

    Green sandpiper: 1

    Garganey: 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:

    Greenshank: 4

    Ruff: 1

    Redshank: 1 (Species of wader number 11 in less than 24 hours!)

    Common sandpiper: 2

    Green sandpiper: 2

    Kingfisher: 4

    Curlew sandpiper: 1

    Garganey: 1

    Water rail: 1

    Linnet: Flyover

    Hobby: Flyover

    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.

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



    Posted by David White

Your sightings

Grid reference: TL7286 (+2km)

Great White Egret (1)
4 Sep 2016
Marsh Harrier (5)
24 Sep 2016
Water Rail ()
24 Sep 2016
Cetti's Warbler (3)
24 Sep 2016
Bittern (1)
21 Sep 2016
Kingfisher (2)
21 Sep 2016
Wigeon ()
24 Sep 2016
Gadwall ()
24 Sep 2016
Little Egret (3)
24 Sep 2016
Sparrowhawk (1)
24 Sep 2016

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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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