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Good morning. It’s a lovely sunny morning so here are some more recent sightings. As it is a nice day, hopefully the local hobbys will be performing like they were when these pictures were taken on Thursday 12 May:
Image credits: Phil Hacker
Thank you very much to Phil for sharing these great images with us.
I will start off where I left off on Friday. A short eared owl was seen north of the river and two common buzzards were circling over the visitor centre. Three bitterns were seen display flying from Joist Fen viewpoint and a single crane was seen in flight.
As the day went on, at least 17 hobbys were hunting over the far end of the reserve. There were also plenty of dragonflies and damselflies on the wing. This included our first records of the year of banded demoiselle and scarce chaser.
I went for a walk before work yesterday morning and I saw a cuckoo in Brandon Fen. A male marsh harrier was hunting over the washland and two tatty drake garganeys were dabbling in the pool north of East Wood. As I walked towards New Fen viewpoint, I spotted a glow worm larvae in the vegetation alongside the path.
As the day went on, a single crane was showing well from Joist Fen viewpoint along with a water rail. There were at least 12 hobbys hunting overhead and closer to the visitor centre, a female garganey was seen in flight from the river into New Fen North.
In the afternoon, some very bizarre bittern activity was reported from New Fen viewpoint: Two birds were having a bit of a squabble in front of the viewpoint and then they took flight. Suddenly, the higher bird of the two defecated on the other one. Disgusting! I have never heard of this behaviour below and to be honest, I feel bad for the bird on the receiving end of this “unexpected” surprise!
I walked down to Joist Fen viewpoint before work this morning and there were cuckoos everywhere! I saw at least five different birds. Two bearded tits were showing well just east of Joist Fen viewpoint and two marsh harriers performed a food pass near Mere Hide.
As I walked back towards the visitor centre, a bittern flew over my head (and thankfully for me didn’t defecate at that particular moment!) and it landed just east of Joist Fen viewpoint. There were also garden warblers singing in Trial Wood and East Wood.
Just before I go, I just have space to say that the pair of great tits in our nestbox with a camera in it now have at least four chicks! They can currently be viewed from the comfort of 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
Good morning. There has been plenty going on here over the last couple of days but I will begin with some images that have been taken here over the last week or so:
Male orange tip:
Two cranes in flight:
Image credits: Dave Rogers
Male marsh harrier:
Image credits: Matt Walton
Thank you very much to Dave and Matt for sharing these great images with us.
I will start of where I left off on Wednesday. It was a bit crazy in the office in the morning so Katherine took me out on the reserve for 10 minutes to show me a couple of things. She showed me a water vole feeding horde near the visitor centre and the sad sight of a dead coot. The coot was absolutely crawling with burying beetles, which are known as the undertakers of the insect world.
I went up to the Washland viewpoint at lunchtime and saw at least 75 swifts feeding over the large pool. I also saw a smart rhombic leatherbug near the viewpoint.
Suzanne and I did our Common Bird Census (CBC) in Brandon Fen yesterday morning. We heard a nightingale singing by Wilton Bridge and a smart buck roe deer on the riverbank. We also saw two collared doves, which are a tricky species to see here.
I led a guided walk around the reserve later on in the morning and we saw two cuckoos from New Fen viewpoint. We found a large drinker moth caterpillar alongside West Wood and at least three bearded tits were showing well just east of Joist Fen viewpoint.
At the viewpoint, at least 12 hobbys were feeding overhead along with a couple of marsh harriers. We could also hear at least three different bitterns booming.
As we walked back through the reserve, I spotted a smart female hairy dragonfly perched up near the track to Mere Hide. When we got to the eastern edge of Trial Wood, we were treated to the unprecedented sight of a grasshopper warbler reeling right out in the open which was a real treat. Just before we got back to the visitor centre, some visitors pointed out four common lizards that were basking at the edge of the fen pools.
I walked around the reserve this morning and there were cuckoos everywhere! I saw and heard at least five individuals. A turtle dove also flew south over the visitor centre.
There were plenty of invertebrates around alongside Trial Wood including a nursery web spider, a blue tailed damselfly and an azure damselfly. I also saw a freshly emerged damselfly, which was most likely to be a variable damselfly.
Katherine did her Common Bird Census (CBC) in East Wood and she was lucky enough to see a tawny owl. She also saw cercopis vulnerata (the froghopper that produces cuckoo spit) and a green carpet.
There is plenty to see at the moment so why not come and visit? We hope to see you soon!
Good morning. Mid-May is a very colourful time of year which is reflected by these great images that have been taken on the reserve in the last week:
Image credits: Ian Goodall
Chicken of the woods:
Image credit: Janet Barwell
Female hairy dragonfly:
Image credit: John Barrett
Thank you very much to Ian, Tim, Janet and John for sharing their great images with us.
Unfortunately, the black terns departed stage left at lunchtime on Thursday. A lesser whitethroat was heard singing in Brandon Fen and two otters were seen from New Fen viewpoint.
I had a quick look for black terns on Friday morning but all I could see was a single common tern. A pair of garganeys were on the river and a spotted flycatcher was calling behind New Fen viewpoint. There was also some lovely water violet in flower along the southern edge of New Fen North.
Shortly after I got back to the visitor centre, two Arctic skuas were reported over the washland. I went and had a look for them and although I didn’t see them, a turtle dove flew over the Washland viewpoint. There was also a hobby hunting over East Wood.
I led a dawn chorus walk with the Wildlife Explorer’s club on Saturday morning and although it was rather chilly, a barn owl was hunting over the washland and two cuckoos were showing well in Brandon Fen. A turtle dove flew over the visitor centre and three roe deer were grazing near the car park.
Once it warmed up, there were plenty of dragonflies on the wing. As well as good numbers of four spotted chasers, there were several first records for the year. These were azure damselfly, variable damselfly and red eyed damselfly.
There was plenty to see on Sunday and there were at least 27 hobbys feeding over Joist Fen viewpoint. There was also the extraordinary sight of six bitterns display flying over the west end of the reserve.
There were a couple of interesting flyovers at Joist Fen viewpoint including a red kite and a turtle dove. A single crane was also seen in flight.
I returned to the office this morning after four days of gallivanting around the country. I walked down to the western edge of Trial Wood and heard three cuckoos in the wood. A male marsh harrier was hunting over New Fen North and a jay flew east along the river.
Please note that there are now cattle grazing on the riverbank Public Footpath. There are also Dartmoor ponies grazing in New Fen North which are visible from the riverbank Public Footpath.
Good morning. It has been a bit wet for the last couple of days so here are some more recent sightings. I will start with a couple of photos that have been taken recently on the reserve:
Image credits: Tim James
Image credit: David White
Thank you very much to Tim for sharing these pictures with us.
There were several freshly emerged emperor moths on the riverbank on Sunday. There were at least 29 hobbys over Joist Fen and a bittern was seen from Joist Fen viewpoint. Several common blue damselflies were also on the wing.
As the day went on, our first spotted flycatcher of the year was seen at the far end of the reserve. There was also an intriguing report of a singing wood warbler in Brandon Fen. Sadly, it could not be relocated which is a shame as it would have been a first for the reserve.
I walked around Brandon Fen before work on Monday and heard the nightingale singing by Wilton Bridge. There was also a garden warbler singing in the same area.
Sadly, the weather put pay to the variety of sightings on Tuesday and Wednesday. However, a couple of four spotted chasers were seen emerging from the pond bed outside the visitor centre. Look out for Katherine’s blog post about this over the weekend.
Suzanne and I did our Common Bird Census (CBC) around Brandon Fen this morning. Simon and Pete were also ringing in the same area. The nightingalewas singing by Wilton Bridge at 5am but by the time Suzanne and I got up there at around 6.50am it had already stopped singing. Simon and Pete saw a single crane fly over heading north east. Suzanne and I heard a garganey calling near the ramp up onto the riverbank in Brandon Fen. Apparently, we all missed a greenshank on the washland which was a shame.
There has already been a bit of drama this morning as Katherine was based up at the Washland viewpoint for this morning’s bittern survey. She asked me to take a cup of tea up to her mid-morning. I duly did at 09.45 and while I was in transit, Suzanne came running up behind me and there was clearly something happening on the washland. When I got up there, a black tern was perched up but what didn’t I have? My binoculars! Typical! Fortunately, a kind gentleman let me look through his telescope so I did see it.
The excitement didn’t end there. Katherine phoned again saying that there were now three black terns on the washland! I did nip up there, this time with my binoculars so I did get to see them gracefully hawking over the large washland pool.
Just before I go, I just have space to tell you that another one of the cows in Brandon Fen has given birth this morning. When Suzanne and I walked around the grazing marsh, we couldn’t see it. However, it couldn’t have been much more than an hour old so we weren’t too surprised that mum was keeping it hidden!
There is plenty to see at the moment so why not come and visit? We hope to see you soon!
Good morning. It’s a lovely sunny day today so I will begin with some of my pictures from the last couple of days:
Bird cherry outside the visitor centre:
Image credits: David White
I will start off where I left off on Friday. A red kite drifted over West Wood and at least 36 hobbys were seen over Joist Fen viewpoint. A common sandpiper was on the washland.
There were also several invertebrates on the wing. This included several hairy dragonflies, large red damselflies and our first common blue damselfly of the year.
I popped up to the Washland viewpoint after work on Friday and was very lucky to find a turtle dove perched up on the wires behind the large pool. There were also at least four common terns feeding over the pool.
We had a very successful bat night on Friday evening. Several noctules were hammering up and down East Wood and a mixed group of pipistrelles (both common and soprano) were feeding near New Fen viewpoint.
There were also several birds around. A barn owl was hunting over washland and two tawny owls were calling in East Wood. A bittern was booming in New Fen North and a large female sparrowhawk flew over East Wood.
I walked around Brandon Fen before work and I was very pleased to find three common sandpipers on the washland near Wilton Bridge. Surprisingly, I think this is a new reserve record count! A cuckoo was also calling in East Wood.
Site Manager Dave led a group of students from Cambridge University around the reserve. They saw a crane and a bittern in flight. They also saw at least 30 hobbys overhead.
As the day went on, a whimbrel flew north over the reserve and a lucky couple saw a water vole from Joist Fen viewpoint. A water rail was showing well in front of the viewpoint and a garden warbler was singing outside the visitor centre.
This morning, there were at least three cuckoos calling near the visitor centre and I saw a muntjac deer in Brandon Fen. A barn owl was hunting in front of the Washland viewpoint and three shelducks flew south over the viewpoint.
As the morning has gone on, a crane was seen from Joist Fen viewpoint and several bearded tits were seen near the viewpoint. A bittern was seen from New Fen viewpoint along with a male garganey. A garden warbler was also singing in our staff car park.
Good morning. It’s early May so there is currently a lot going on out on the reserve. I will start off with some pictures that have been taken on the reserve recently:
Image credit: Lynne Nunn
Lady’s smock in the Fen pools:
Thank you very much to Lynne for sharing this picture with us.
I will start off where I left off with some sightings on Monday. Volunteer Paul Holness saw a long bittern flight from the Washland viewpoint. Four late bramblings were seen in Trial Wood and I found a firecrest in one of the Scots pines in front of the visitor centre. Although it didn’t stay for long, I did manage to see it out in the open for a couple of seconds which was fantastic.
I saw a roe deer alongside the entrance track on Tuesday morning and I had a walk around Brandon Fen before walk. The nightingale was singing by the river bridge and a female blackcap was feeding out in the open on the riverbank.
As the day went on, two cranes were seen from Joist Fen viewpoint. At least 20 hobbys were also feeding over the reserve.
I came down for a walk in the evening to listen for grasshopper warblers. I heard at least three between the visitor centre and East Wood. Another was reeling just east of Joist Fen viewpoint. I also finally saw my first reed warbler of the year, which was singing alongside West Wood.
As it was such a lovely day on Wednesday, I came in on my day off to get my annual hobby fix. As I walked down the riverbank, there were plenty of butterflies on the wing including an orange tip and several peacocks.
I spent a couple of hours down at Joist Fen viewpoint and I counted up to 20 hobbys in the air at once west of the viewpoint. A single crane was also flying around and I saw it several times while I was up there. As I walked back through the reserve, there were two common buzzards over Trial Wood and another four hobbys over New Fen North.
I covered most of the sightings from yesterday morning in my blog post which can be found here. As the day went on, two garganeys were seen from New Fen viewpoint and a common sandpiper was seen on the washland.
I went for a walk before work this morning and heard a garden warbler singing behind New Fen viewpoint. Cuckoos were calling in both East Wood and Trial Wood. As I walked back through the reserve, I saw my first common stretch-spider of the year alongside East Wood.
Good morning. As several of the team are on holiday this week, I volunteered to help out with this morning’s bittern survey. I arrived in time for the 7am kick off and was all set up to head down to New Fen North. However, when volunteers Roger & Janet came in, they reported hearing a bittern booming in front of the Washland viewpoint on Tuesday evening. As this is very unusual, I was therefore sent up to the Washland viewpoint and I took my position just before 7am. Here is what I heard and saw:
06.56: A bittern booms from the west, probably in New Fen North
06.57: I spot a barn owl hunting along the Norfolk bank of the large washland pool.
07.01: A cuckoo starts calling in East Wood
07.02: A grasshopper warbler starts reeling just west of my location
07.09: A bittern booms again from New Fen North
07.12: A bittern starts booming from the north east corner of the large washland pool. After it stops booming, it clambers up onto the reeds and perches right out in the open until...
07.16: ...when it flew from the north east corner of the pool into the north west corner of the pool
07.17: The bittern booms in the reed at the north west corner of the pool
07.18: I watch two common terns plunge- diving into the large washland pool
07.21: I spot a short eared owl hunting along the Norfolk bank of the river. Presumably, it’s the same bird that has been around on and off for the last fortnight
07.22: Two great crested grebes start indulging in their elaborate “penguin dance” display in front of me
07.40: Two shelducks drop into the large washland pool
07.41: I spot another barn owl hunting over the Norfolk bank of the large washland pool
07.43: The bittern flies from the north west corner of the washland pool right towards me. It spots me and lands in the reeds directly in front of the viewpoint
07.46: The bittern booms in the reeds right in front of the viewpoint. It is so close that I can feel the resonance of it’s boom!
07.49: The bittern booms again from the same location. Amazing!
08.11: A cuckoo flies east in front of the viewpoint
08.13: Presumably the same cuckoo flies west in front of the viewpoint
08.30: Time to retreat to the visitor centre for a well earned cup of coffee before I open the visitor centre.
I hope that gives you an impression of quite what a bittern survey involves. I will leave you with this picture of an exceptionally well camouflaged bittern that Warden Emma took a couple of weeks ago. It is in there somewhere, I promise!
Image credit: Emma Cuthbertson
I will return with some more recent sightings either tomorrow or Saturday so until then, we hope to see you soon!
Good morning. I will start off with some exciting news: Stanley the cuckoo has been on the reserve recently! If you are not familiar with Stanley, he is one of the cuckoos that has been satellite tagged by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO). You can find out more about his movements by following this link.
I will start off where I left off with some sightings from Friday. I went for a walk around Brandon Fen first thing to try to hear the turtle dove that was present the previous day. Although I didn’t hear it, I did see it make a brief flight over the poplars. I was very pleased to find a nightingale singing near the eastern end of the Public Footpath, very close to the junction with the main round.
As I walked along the riverbank, I saw my first swift of the year over the washland and there were four common terns feeding in front of the Washland viewpoint. Meanwhile, further down the reserve, a whimbrel flew west along the river and at least 60 swifts were over Joist Fen viewpoint.
As the day went on, stoats were seen near the car park and alongside Trial Wood. A muntjac deer was seen alongside Trial Wood and a green veined white was seen alongside East Wood. The turtle dove was also heard calling in Brandon Fen.
There was plenty to see on Saturday morning. A short eared owl was seen from Joist Fen viewpoint and two whinchats were reported on the riverbank in the same area. A single crane was seen from the viewpoint and at least eight hobbys were hunting overhead. A yellow wagtail also flew over.
Meanwhile, closer to the visitor centre, the nightingale was singing in Brandon Fen along with a garden warbler. A greenshank also flew west over the Washland viewpoint. Local photographer Dave Capps also took these photos of a sedge warbler:
Thank you very much to Dave for sharing these great pictures with us.
There weren’t many reports yesterday but a red kite flew over the reserve which was the highlight of the day.
I had a walk around Brandon Fen this morning and the nightingale was in full song near Wilton Bridge. There was a notable increase in the amount of reed warblers singing and two cuckoos were singing near New Fen viewpoint. Two bitterns were also booming near the viewpoint.
As the morning has gone on, a willow warbler was singing near the visitor centre and a bittern made a long flight over the Washland viewpoint.
Good afternoon. There have been some interesting sightings on the reserve over the last couple of days so here is an update for you. There were plenty of cuckoos around on Tuesday afternoon and Site Manager Dave saw a single crane flying from south of the railway line into Humphrey’s Paddock, the grazing marsh just west of Joist Fen viewpoint.
It was a chilly start to the day yesterday morning but there were plenty of grasshopper warblers reeling on the reserve. I heard one around halfway along the riverbank in Brandon Fen. Katherine, Dave and Emma were also doing their respective Common Bird Census’ (CBC). Emma and Dave’s patches overlap slightly so they both saw a grasshopper warbler reeling out in the open at the western edge of Trial Wood.
As the day went on, two collared doves flew over the visitor centre (surprisingly, a difficult species to find here!) and Suzanne saw the grasshopper warbler in Brandon Fen.
It was a cold but bright start to the day today and there were some interesting birds out and about first thing. This included a short eared owl over the washland and our first turtle dove of the year. The turtle dove was heard “purring” at the eastern edge of Brandon Fen, not far from the road bridge. A group of three black tailed godwits also flew over the washland, which is an unseasonal record here.
I went for a walk when I got in and saw a presumably newly arrived grasshopper warbler reeling out in the open at the top of the steps onto the riverbank near the big willow. As I walked along the riverbank, there were two common terns over the washland and the reedbeds were just alive with the songs of reed warblers, sedge warblers, common whitethroats and Cetti’s warblers.
As I walked from the stile towards New Fen viewpoint, a blackcap was singing out in the open at the edge of East Wood. A bittern was booming in New Fen North and a male marsh harrier was hunting over the reedbed.
As I walked back through the reserve a chiffchaff was singing out in the open near the Fen pools and a green woodpecker was calling in East Wood. We have had our office window open this morning and a song thrush was belting out it’s exuberant song in the staff car park. A brambling was also singing it’s much more subdued song at the edge of the visitor car park.
Several hobbys were seen from Joist Fen viewpoint in amongst the swifts mid-morning and a bittern was seen from Mere Hide. A single crane was seen from Joist Fen viewpoint and several bearded tits were seen near Mere Hide.
I will leave you with the up to date “birding map” for the reserve:
I have also attached the up to date first migrant list for this year.
Grid reference: TL7286 (+2km)
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