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Recent sightings

  • 4 October 2015

    4 October recent sightings: Chilly mornings, sunny days

    Good morning. Although we have had some chilly (and foggy!) mornings recently, we have seen plenty of sunshine which is very welcome at this time of year!

    I will begin with a brief detour back to two weeks ago when Harpenden Photographic Society came for a walk around the reserve with Steve, one of our volunteers. 

    They kindly sent us some of the photos that they took on the day. We hope you like them:

    Joist Fen viewpoint:

    Little Ouse River:

    Image credits: Harpenden Photographic Society

    Joist Fen viewpoint:

    Little Ouse River north of Joist Fen viewpoint:

    The Washland:

    Image credits: Shelagh Collingwood

    Thank you very much to Harpenden Photographic Society for sharing these great images with us.

    There was plenty to see on Friday including an obliging kingfisher that was fishing in the visitor centre pond. Bearded tits were showing very well at the Washland viewpoint and an otter was photographed at New Fen viewpoint. 

    A group of five cranes were also seen from Joist Fen viewpoint during the afternoon. This was most likely to be the pair that we know as “Little & Large” with their youngsters plus two associated hangers on. Our first peregrine of this winter period was reported over the car park and a hobby was tearing around the sky over the visitor centre just before we closed.

    A treecreeper was calling in the fog behind the visitor centre yesterday morning. Once the fog had lifted, three common buzzards were circling over the car park.

    Volunteer Roy spent some time down at Joist Fen viewpoint in the afternoon. He saw two marsh harriers, a common buzzard and a kingfisher. A grey wagtail was also feeding in front of the viewpoint, which is a good reserve record.

    I went for a walk this morning and I saw presumably the same grey wagtail from yesterday over the Washland viewpoint. A flock of 16 lapwings were circling overhead and a common snipe also flew over.

    As I walked along the riverbank, a flock of bearded tits were calling north of the river and a meadow pipit flew over. As I walked alongside East Wood, there were still plenty of marbled orb weavers and garden spiders to admire.

    Another group of bearded tits were calling in front of New Fen viewpoint and a lesser redpoll flew over. I met Dave, our Site Manager just after I left the viewpoint. He spent some time at the viewpoint and saw a flying bittern.

    Shortly after we opened the visitor centre, a kingfisher was fishing in the visitor centre pond and a treecreeper was singing behind 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

  • 2 October 2015

    2 October recent sightings: The gloves are on!

    Good morning. As Katherine mentioned in her blog post from last week, I have been away in sunnier climes. I therefore had to put my hat and gloves on when I ventured out on the reserve for the first time yesterday morning!

    I will try and pick things up where Katherine left off but I will start by sharing some great pictures that Matt Walton took here while I was away:

    Bearded tits:

    Great white egret:

    The Washland:

    Image credits: Matt Walton

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

    A great white egret was on the washland on 26 September along with an otter. The osprey was also seen for the last time from the Washland viewpoint. 

    The great white egret was again present on the washland on 27 September along with presumably the same otter. A bittern was also seen from the Washland viewpoint. 

    Three buzzards were over the visitor centre on 29 September along with two hobbys. A great white egret was also on the washland.

    Also of interest, my father and I went to Burwell Fen, which is part of Wicken Fen NNR on 30 September. Three very familiar cranes flew over, which turned out to be one of the pairs that nested here this year along with their youngster. It was good to see them and nice to know that they aren’t too far away.

    I went for a walk down to New Fen viewpoint yesterday morning and I saw a kingfisher whizzing along the river. A chiffchaff was singing in the big willow near the visitor centre along with a Cetti’s warbler. A lesser redpoll also flew over New Fen viewpoint.

    As the day went on, a great white egret was seen from the Washland viewpoint. Two juvenile hobbys were seen from New Fen viewpoint and a bittern was seen from Mere Hide.

    I went for a walk around Brandon Fen this morning and there were two goldcrests flitting around. One was singing which was nice to hear. A chiffchaff was also singing nearby and a marsh tit was calling at the end of the ramp.

    I spent some time at the Washland viewpoint and a lesser redpoll flew over. A flock of 13 lapwings were swirling around and a common snipe also flew over.

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

    Posted by David White

  • 24 September 2015

    Lovely day for a stroll!

    Firstly, I'd just like to apologise that it's been such a long gap since we last blogged.  With David away in sunnier climes, it has fallen to the rest of us to blog, and it's just been one of those really busy weeks!

    On Saturday, the osprey was seen several times cruising over the river and washland and perching up on the willows near the Wilton Bridge. It has been seen most days since, including earlier today. The great-white egret is also still around. Two male red-crested pochards showed well on the washland on Tuesday, along with 15 little grebes, 83 mute swans and 99 black-headed gulls! Apart from that, it has been fairly quiet with birds.

    Osprey by Dave Capps

    I had the pleasure of doing the Long Walk on Sunday, something I had been looking forward to doing! It’s a good chance for me to get out and walk the reserve trails and see what’s about, instead of whizzing past in the truck or the quad bike. I had a very small group of six people, so Darren, who was back-marking had a fairly easy job of keeping everyone together!

    We had perfect weather for the walk, sunny and not too breezy, which I was quite pleased about as the last few Long Walks have been a bit wet and windy! The route we walked took us up to New Fen North, through Trial Wood and down to Joist Fen viewpoint on the main visitor trail. From there we took the surfaced track all the way through the middle of the reserve and down to Botany Bay. Sightings along the way included lots of ruddy and common darters, and migrant hawkers. Bird-wise it was pretty quiet, apart from three marsh harriers, and although we heard plenty of bearded tits and water rails, they remained elusive!

    We made a quick detour into an area of reed that was cut last year, with the aim of showing everyone a disused cranes nest. It was a little boggier than expected, and to be fair, crane nests aren’t terribly exciting, but everyone seemed to enjoy going to see it nonetheless. Again bearded tits were close by, but not showing!

    We didn’t quite have time to go into Botany Bay, instead we carried on to the apple tree near the Green Dragon Pub to have some lunch. It was a nice spot for lunch, although there were a few disappointed faces when I carried on to say that the pub had closed over 40 years ago and all that was left were the foundations!

    Green Dragon pub as it would have look 50 years ago.  Photo by Ken Engle (I think!)

    Carrying on down the riverbank, we were treated to a sparrowhawk soaring right above our heads, while a large flock of long-tailed tits busied themselves finding food in a nearby willow. Three hobby’s were hawking for dragonflies alongside East Wood, and as we got closer to home we saw the great white egret wading in the shallows. And so we arrived back at the visitor centre, tired and looking forward to a cup of tea (and an ice-cream)!  Everyone thoroughly enjoyed it, and there were several comments that they’d sleep well that night (me included!).

    The long walks are an excellent way to see the whole reserve, including areas that aren’t usually open to the public. The next Long Walk will be celebrating the 20 year anniversary of the reserve on 31 October.

    Cheers, Katherine


    Posted by Katherine

  • 14 September 2015

    14 September recent sightings: It's not every day that somebody finds a first for the reserve!

    Good morning, although I said that yesterday’s blog post would be my last recent sightings blog before I went on holiday, but I have a first record for the reserve to report, which is very exciting indeed!

    I was checking the RSPB Suffolk Facebook page this morning and noticed that regular visitor Bob Greef, who is also a volunteer at RSPB Strumpshaw Fen had posted a picture of a male willow emerald damselfly that his partner Rachel had taken at the north east corner of East Wood, the first poplar wood on Saturday:

    Image credit: Rachel Greef

    Thank you very much to Bob and Rachel for sharing this great picture with us.

    The key identification features were confirmed by my colleague Ian Barthorpe at RSPB Minsmere and Adrian Parr from the Suffolk Naturalists Society confirmed that it was a first record for both the reserve and the surrounding area. How exciting! 

    This species was first discovered as a larval exuvia in 1992 in the North Kent Marshes. The first record of an adult damselfly in this country didn’t come until 2003. This species is now spreading slowly across southern Britain.

    Hopefully there will be more sightings of this rare species on the reserve so watch this space.

    In other news, I had the good fortune of finding an osprey circling over the Washland viewpoint yesterday afternoon just before we closed. Although it disappeared shortly after, it was still present this morning. It was perched up at the eastern edge of the Brandon Fen family trail before circling over Wilton Bridge, immediately north of the reserve. Hopefully it will stick around for a while!

    There were also two juvenile hobbys hunting over Brandon Fen and a late sedge warbler was skulking in the reedbeds near the Washland viewpoint.

    We hope to see you soon!




    Posted by David White

  • 13 September 2015

    13 September recent sightings: Nocturnal wanderings

    Good morning. There has been plenty going on here over the last couple of days so here is one more recent sightings blog post from me before I disappear for a couple of weeks.

    An otter was photographed on the washland on Friday and bitterns were seen from both the Washland viewpoint and Joist Fen viewpoint. Three hobbys were seen over New Fen viewpoint and a kingfisher was seen from Mere Hide. 

    I went for a walk in the drizzle yesterday morning and I disturbed a green woodpecker that was feeding on the visitor centre lawn. A marsh harrier was hunting over the washland and two Cetti’s warblers were singing near the visitor centre. There were also two juvenile kingfishers perched up at the edge of the visitor centre pond.

    As the day went on, an otter was seen from New Fen viewpoint along with a bittern. Volunteer Roy saw two common buzzards from the same place along with a hobby.

    There were plenty of interesting insects around the visitor centre. A species of ichneumon wasp, which was most likely to be Pimpla hypochondriaca was perched on the visitor centre window and a small tortoisehell was feeding in the plant bed in front of the visitor centre and a common stretch spider was feeding in the visitor centre pond bed.

    We had a bat and moth night with the reserve Wildlife Explorer’s club yesterday evening. As we were walking alongside the northern edge of East Wood, a barn owl flew over and a bittern flew west along the river, heading towards New Fen viewpoint. Two tawny owls were also dueting in East Wood. This was most likely to be a male and a juvenile.

    There were plenty of bats around. This included plenty of common pipistrelles and a noctule that kept flying back and forward over New Fen viewpoint. We also found plenty of moths and a list of what we found is attached to this blog post. This coincided with National Moth Night, which actually took place on Friday.

    We also found plenty of spiders, which looked very sinister when we shined a torch on them. This included lots of marbled orb weavers, two four spotted orb weavers and more garden spiders than we could count!

    It was a great night but I am really rather tired this morning! I will leave you with a couple of landscape photos of the reserve that I have taken this week:

    Image credits: David White

    I hope you like them!

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


    Posted by David White

  • 11 September 2015

    11 September recent sightings: Summer in September?!

    Good morning. We have had a lovely couple of days here at RSPB Lakenheath Fen. If I start where I left off on Tuesday, a lesser redpoll flew over the visitor centre and a stoat was rampaging around the visitor centre veranda. All of its hard work paid off, when it caught an unfortunate rabbit in front of the visitor centre. 

    I went for a walk before work yesterday morning and there were several chiffchaffs singing between the visitor centre and East Wood and a Cetti’s warbler was singing near the big willow behind the visitor centre.

    I met local photographer Matt Walton at New Fen viewpoint and after spending some time there after having only heard some bearded tits pinging, I decided to head back to the visitor centre. This proved to be one of the worst decisions that I have made for a while!

    Shortly after I left, Matt took these fantastic photos:

    One of two otters that spent at least 10 minutes playing in front of the viewpoint:

    A kingfisher:

    A green sandpiper showing off it’s distinctive white rump:

    Image credits: Matt Walton

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

    I had to console myself with great views of a brimstone and two small tortoiseshells feeding outside the office window. This at least put a smile back on my face!

    As the day went on, fellow local photographer David Capps spent some time at New Fen viewpoint. He saw three hobbys and a male sparrowhawk hunting over the viewpoint.

    I popped up to the Washland viewpoint after lunch and there were at least five little grebes in the large washland pool. A common buzzard was also being harassed by at least two juvenile hobbys, that were making quite a racket whilst doing so!

    It was another lovely morning this morning and I walked around the interior path of New Fen North, the first area of reedbed for the first time since it reopened. A chiffchaff was singing in Trial Wood and a meadow pipit flew south overhead.

    On the way back, I stopped at New Fen viewpoint and saw a small group of bearded tits feeding in the reeds. A kingfisher shot across the pool and although the otters didn’t show themselves, I suspect they were nearby as most of the wildlife that was present seemed pretty flighty.

    I returned to the visitor centre via the Washland viewpoint and there was a mixed flock of around 40 wigeons, gadwalls and shovelers. Although they were mostly still in eclipse plumage, this was definitely a sign that winter is on its way.

    If you are planning to visit this weekend, here is a quick reminder that Lakenheath railway crossing will be closed all day on Sunday. It will therefore be necessary to access the reserve from the north (.i.e. via Brandon, Weeting and Hockwold). Please read this blog post for more information. We hope to see you soon!

    Posted by David White

  • 8 September 2015

    8 September recent sightings: September sunshine

    Good day to you all. Although we haven’t seen the sun much in September, it has certainly encouraged a wide variety of wildlife to show itself when it has been shining.

    The reserve team had their management plan pathfinder meeting on Friday, when they discussed an overview of the management of the reserve for the next five years. They spent the afternoon out on the reserve and saw two bearded tits on the grit tray in front of New Fen viewpoint.

    A kingfisher was seen from Mere Hide on Saturday and another was seen from the visitor centre window. A red underwing was roosting above the visitor centre pond and a red banded sand wasp was hunting nearby. 

    We had our twentieth birthday family fun day and there was plenty to see in the sunshine. The local butterflies were out in force with several small tortoiseshells and a large white feeding in the plant bed below the office window. A red underwing also got up close and personal with volunteer Liam, when it landed on his thigh! 

    There was plenty of bird of prey activity over the visitor centre, including a female marsh harrier, a common buzzard and at least two hobbys.

    I was in charge of bug hunting and we saw a good mix of interesting creatures. We saw plenty of common darters and ruddy darters. We saw a brimstone butterfly and an impressive looking scorpion fly. A large common lizard was also basking between the visitor centre and the car park.

    Meanwhile, down at the pond dipping platform, they caught several water scorpions and water stick insects. A female southern hawker kept landing on one of the tables and a grass snake swam across the pod. There was also some chomping and plopping sounds coming from the edge of the pond, which was likely to be the comings and goings of one of the local water voles.

    I retrieved the trail signs around Brandon Fen at the end of the day and a marbled orb weaver landed in my wheelbarrow. I also apprehended this impressive looking creature:

    After a little help from a friend, I managed to successfully identify this as a speckled bush cricket, which was a new one for me! 

    I popped in briefly yesterday to find a large female sparrowhawk perched on the “Welcome to RSPB Lakenheath Fen” sign.

    I walked around Brandon Fen this morning and saw a barn owl hunting. Several common snipe flew over Brandon Fen and I spooked a roe deer, which promptly took a plunge in a nearby ditch. Fortunately, it got out the other side so all it got was an unexpected bath! 

    I also took some pictures of some of the species of fungi that are currently growing near the visitor centre:

    Image credits: David White

    A kingfisher was seen from the visitor centre pond shortly after we opened up and there were several common lizards basking in the staff car park.

    We hope to see you soon!

    Posted by David White

  • 3 September 2015

    3 September recent sightings: Knock on wood

    Good afternoon. I am not going to be around much for the next couple of days and there have been a few interesting sightings recently so here is another recent sightings blog post.

    Although the weather did cheer up a bit on Tuesday afternoon, the view out of the visitor centre window wasn’t particularly inspiring:

    Image credit: David White

    I went for a walk up to the Washland viewpoint after lunch and the hemp agrimony was almost covered in red admiral and small tortoiseshell butterflies. Although I didn’t spend long at the viewpoint, I was there long enough to catch a glimpse of an otter fishing in the river which was a pleasant surprise.

    It was lovely and bright yesterday morning and I took my morning coffee up to the Washland viewpoint before work. A stripy juvenile great crested grebe was feeding in the river and a kingfisher whizzed past a couple of times.

    One of our regulars was out on the reserve early and saw a bittern in flight from New Fen viewpoint. As the day went on, a hobby was seen from New Fen viewpoint along with two bearded tits.

    There was also the welcome sight of five cranes flying over the reserve. They came from behind Mere Hide before disappearing north east. This was probably one of our pairs with their youngster along with two associated hangers on that have been seen with this pair before. They had obviously been feeding nearby and we just checking that the reserve was still here. Come back soon please!

    Interestingly, Norman, our ex Site Manager, was out at nearby Boughton Fen yesterday afternoon. When I let him know about this sighting, he said that he heard some cranes flying over while he was there. Given that Boughton Fen is in that direction, it was probably the same birds!

    Meanwhile, closer to the visitor centre, two kingfishers were seen from the visitor centre window. A large red banded sand wasp was hunting in the fen bed in front of the visitor centre whilst two garden spiders were fighting over a fly in the same area. A common lizard was also basking in the staff car park.

    Wardens Emma and Katherine saw three whinchats on the Norfolk side of the river during the afternoon. Although there isn’t any public access to the area it was seen in, they may be visible from the Suffolk side of the riverbank if it is still present today.

    I went for a walk around Brandon Fen before work and two muntjac deer ran across the path in front of me. A bearded tit was feeding in the reedbed and a kingfisher was fishing in the river. Two Cetti’s warblers were having a shouting competition near the visitor centre and I disturbed a large female sparrowhawk in front of the visitor centre.

    I will leave you with a picture of the newest addition to our bird feeding area:

    Image credit: David White

    Although it may look a bit odd, it’s a woodpecker feeder! It is stuffed with lard so hopefully the great spotted woodpeckers that use the feeders regularly at the moment will discover it in the near future!

    We hope to see you on the reserve soon.


    Posted by David White

  • 1 September 2015

    1 September recent sightings: Goodbye August!

    Good morning. Unfortunately, August ended in a bit of a whimper with lots of grey skies and rain. There are still quite a lot of recent sightings so without further ado, here they are:

    The Cambridge Conservation Forum had their first outing to a reserve on Thursday evening. They went to look at an old crane nest and while they were there, two green sandpipers flew over. 

    I walked up to Joist Fen viewpoint on Friday morning and on the way, I caught a glimpse of a water vole feeding in the pool just below the Washland viewpoint. 

    On the way along the riverbank, a kingfisher flew along the riverbank and a male marsh harrier was hunting over New Fen North. There were several summer migrants in the bushes, including several willow warblers and blackcaps.

    I got up to Joist Fen viewpoint and I was admiring the strimming that had been done in front of Joist Fen viewpoint:

    As the days went on, one of our locals did the same walk as me and found plenty of interesting wildlife. He found at least eight small red eyed damselflies feeding over the washland pool north of East Wood. He also saw at least three Essex skippers and a grass snake

    There were at least three hobbys feeding over the riverbank and at least three individual bitterns from Joist Fen viewpoint. He also saw two bearded tits from the same viewpoint.

    It was a nice day on Saturday and four common buzzards were circling over New Fen viewpoint enjoying the sunshine. A bittern was seen from the same viewpoint and two common terns were seen over the washland.

    A red kite was seen over New Fen viewpoint on Sunday and an Arctic tern was seen on the washland. A male marsh harrier was seen from the Washland viewpoint along with a hobby and a common buzzard.

    It was a pretty miserable day yesterday as it rained moreorless all day. I braved the weather nonetheless and walked around Brandon Fen after lunch. Although it was fairly quiet I saw a jay and there was a mixed flock of hirundines feeding over the washland. This included at least 40 house martins and at least 30 sand martins.

    It was raining once again for my walk this morning. However, I saw a green woodpecker in Brandon Fen and a tree pipit flew over, calling as it went. There was also a kestrel hunting over the car park.

    I took a few photos between the showers, I hope you like them:

    The land form of amphibious bistort:

    Common comfrey:

    A small fairy ring on the lawn in front of the visitor centre:

    A giant puffball:

    Image credits: David White

    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 ()
29 Sep 2015
Marsh Harrier ()
26 Sep 2015
Kingfisher (1)
26 Sep 2015

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

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