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Recent sightings

  • 18 December 2014

    18 December recent sightings: Twas a week before Christmas!

    It’s my last day in the office before Christmas so here are some recent sightings from the last couple of days along with some information about our Christmas opening times.

     I will start of with another picture from Monday followed by some exciting bird news.

     A lovely view from New Fen viewpoint:

    Image credit: Matt Walton

     Matt also saw a jack snipe alongside the big willow near the visitor centre. This species is very tricky to track down on the reserve so it was a great find.

    Things picked up where they left off on Tuesday and volunteer Paul saw a kingfisher from the Washland viewpoint. An adult Caspian gull was on the washland along with a juvenile yellow legged gull. A peregrine flew low over the large pool, which attracted plenty of attention from the local carrion crows.

    One of the great white egrets was showing very well and here is a picture of it:

    Image credit: Ian Goodall

    Thank you very much to Matt and Ian for sharing these images with us.

    It was unseasonably mild yesterday and I popped up to the Washland viewpoint before work. I saw a great white egret, seven little egrets and the same two goldeneyes from Tuesday morning. Three tufted ducks were also present along with two great crested grebes.

    When I got back to the visitor centre, Suzanne and I were treated to great views of a barn owl hunting in front of the visitor centre window. As the day went on, a smart male lesser redpoll was on the visitor centre feeders along with a marsh tit.

    I went for a walk this morning and there were six whooper swans in front of the Washland viewpoint along with the two goldeneyes. One of the great white egrets flew east along the river and a roe deer was skulking south of East Wood.

    There was also a rather impressive sunrise and here are some pictures of it:

    Image credits: David White

    Just before I leave you today, our Christmas opening times can be found here. Also, from New Years Day, we will be reverting back to the old system of RSPB members showing their membership cards in the visitor centre rather than leaving them on the dashboards of their cards.

    All I have left to say is wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from all of the team here at RSPB Lakenheath Fen! 

    Posted by David White

  • 16 December 2014

    16 December recent sightings: There is plenty going on!

    Good morning. I was going to wait until tomorrow to do a “recent sightings” post but circumstances have dictated that today is the day instead!

    Although the weather was a bit patchy on Sunday, there was still plenty to see. A barn owl was hunting at the edge of the car park first thing.

    I had a quick walk around Brandon Fen before work and saw a great white egret feeding with a little egret in front of the Washland viewpoint. There were two great crested grebes on the river and there were at least six bearded tits feeding in Brandon Fen.

     As the day went on, a single crane was seen in flight from Mere Hide and at least four stonechats were seen along the riverbank.

    The adult Caspian gull was again on the washland and a male merlin was seen from Joist Fen viewpoint. Volunteer Pete was down at Joist Fen viewpoint until it got dark. He saw at least 10 marsh harriers hunting and a bittern flew over the reedbed.

     It wasn't a bad day yesterday and local photographer Matt Walton got these incredible images of bearded tits:

    He also photographed a bittern:

    Image credits: Matt Walton

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

    I went for a walk around Brandon Fen this morning and saw at least one great white egret on the washland along with four little egrets. I had a pleasant surprise when two goldeneyes flew around over the main washland pool although sadly, they didn't land. A flock of at least 110 lapwings also flew over the visitor centre.

     The weather forecast isn't looking too bad this week so why not come and escape the festive rush for a walk around the reserve? We hope to see you soon.

    Posted by David White

  • 14 December 2014

    14 December recent sightings: The week that was

    Good morning. Now that the technical issues have (hopefully!) been solved, here are some recent sightings from the last week:

    On Tuesday, Dave headed down the reserve before work and saw 47 whooper swans leaving their overnight roost at the far end of the reserve. He also saw at least four marsh harriers, a common buzzard and a barn owl in the same area.

    Later on in the day, there was a great white egret showing in front of the Washland viewpoint along with five yellow legged gulls.

    I was elsewhere for most of the day on Wednesday but I had a great view of a female barn owl hunting near the visitor centre before I set off for my daily adventure. Meanwhile, back at the far end of the reserve, Katherine and Suzanne counted 18 little egrets into their overnight roost on the reserve. 

    It was a bit stormy on Thursday morning but I still walked down to Joist Fen viewpoint before work. A barn owl was hunting at the edge of the car park and two roe deer were skulking at the edge of East Wood. At least 46 whooper swans left their overnight roost (from a similar place than Dave saw them on Monday) and four marsh harriers were hunting in front of Joist Fen viewpoint.

    On the way back to the visitor centre, I got this very gloomy picture of the steam engine "Union of South Africa" puffing past the reserve on its way to York:

    Image credit: David White

    It was also a work party day and on the way back from a hard day's work in the reedbed, volunteer Phil took this picture of Joist Fen out of the window of the moving truck (he wasn't driving I hasten to add!):

    Image credit: Phil Hammond

    It was a bit bleak here on Friday but there were three great white egrets on the washland along with plenty of gulls. Pick of the bunch had to be an adult Caspian gull, which is the first record of this scarce species on the reserve for quite a while. An adult yellow legged gull was also present.  

    It was a cold but beautiful day here yesterday and local photographer Matt Walton was out and about early. Here are a few of his pictures:

    A female marsh harrier being pursued by a carrion crow:

    A marsh harrier showing off its bright yellow eye:

    One of the great white egrets taking off:

    Image credits: Matt Walton

    Thank you very much to Phil and Matt for sharing their images with us. 

    Around a dozen bearded tits were showing well in Brandon Fen and the adult Caspian gull was again present in front of the Washland viewpoint.

    We hope to see you soon! 

    Posted by David White

  • 9 December 2014

    A warden's work is never done!

    Sometimes, it’s very easy to get caught up with paperwork in the office, and lose track of what is happening down the reserve. Luckily, there are several jobs that do get me out and about, mainly volunteer work parties (what a lovely day we have planned this Thursday...!), bird surveys and tree safety surveys!

    Tree safety surveys involve walking the edges of all of the woodland on the reserve, making sure all the trees are healthy and sturdy, and hopefully not likely to fall down unless there are any really exceptional weather conditions. This generally gives me a good excuse to go poking around in all the bits of the reserve that we rarely go to. Suzanne, our administrator, came along on one of the visits, when we decided to look at the trees at the far western end of the reserve. On our way, we bumped into our graziers cheeky-faced ponies, who have been munching their way through the tough sedge in Botany Bay.

     Botany Bay ponies by Katherine Puttick

    Birdlife was fairly quiet, though we did put up a lovely woodcock from beneath the poplars. A couple of goldcrests and a treecreeper were among a large long-tailed tit flock, and we interrupted the daytime snooze of a barn owl, who was roosting very close to the public footpath!

    Thankfully most of the trees we looked at that day were in good condition, with no obvious signs of imminent failure.  Only one was tagged for future monitoring; an alder that had a potential weakness between two main trunks. 

     Tree tagging. What fun!  By Suzanne Harwood

    We met up with the ponies again on Sunday, during the monthly Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS).   This is a national survey organised by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), and involves counting all the waders and wildfowl on a wetland area. New warden Emma, was on hand to assist with this months count. Part of the survey requires us to plod across the grazing marsh in Botany Bay looking for snipe. Usually we get a handful, plus less common jack snipe if we’re lucky. This time, no jack snipe, but we did count 39 common snipe! This is a bit of a record, and though we didn’t have time on Sunday (heavy rain called end of play at 11am!), I’d like to do a full reserve snipe survey soon. Along with water rail, they are probably among the most under-recorded birds on site.

     The elusive and under-recorded water rail by Matt Walton

    As usual, we found most of the ducks tucked up in small, out of the way pools within areas of willow and grazing marsh. Unfortunately this means they all fly off while you are trying to count them, so you need to be extra good at identifying ducks in flight! Respectable totals of 267 mallards, 53 gadwalls, 46 wigeons, and 165 teal were recorded within the grazing marshes. Up on the washland, the highlights were five little egrets, one great white egret, 153 black-headed gulls, 206 lesser-black backed gulls, 61 mute swans and a bittern. Not a bad days counting!

    Posted by Katherine

  • 7 December 2014

    7 December recent sightings: Double the fun

    Good morning. I will start where I left off on Friday with some more sightings. Dave and Emma went down to the far end of the reserve and saw a treecreeper on Botany Bay and a bittern in flight near Joist Fen viewpoint. They also saw a sparrowhawk flash across the hard track near the visitor centre.

    Meanwhile, closer to the visitor centre, two great white egrets were seen in various places throughout the day along with four little egrets. I went and counted the gulls in the sleet at lunchtime and there was an impressive count of 192 lesser black backed gulls. They were accompanied by an adult yellow legged gull, an adult herring gull and a couple of common gulls.

    A marsh tit appeared behind the visitor centre during the afternoon and a merlin was seen near Joist Fen viewpoint. 

    It was absolutely freezing yesterday morning but myself and several others made the effort to get out for a walk around the reserve. As I reached New Fen viewpoint, I could hear the hubbub of a flock of "wild swans" and eventually located a total of 23 whooper swans on the washland which was lovely to see. A roe deer dashed across the frosty track in front of me and I saw two great white egrets in flight near the Washland viewpoint. 

     Local photographer Matt Walton was also out and about early and here are some of his pictures:

    The misty river:

    Two mute swans:

    A kingfisher:

    Image credits: Matt Walton

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

    As I mentioned in my blog post on Friday, there was the added bonus of two "Black 5" steam locomotives going past the reserve on their way to Norwich. Here they are:

    Image credit: David White

    While I was off gallivanting looking at steam engines (I have lost count of how much I have said this about myself over the years by the way!), I missed fantastic views of a sparrowhawk and a male bearded tit from the visitor centre window. Oh well, you can't win them all as they say! 

    As the day went on, a male stonechat was seen from the visitor centre window and a kingfisher was showing very well from Mere Hide.

    I haven't been out yet this morning as it hasn't even got light yet but I did have a barn owl floating silently in front of me as I drove down the entrance track. What a way to start the day! We hope to see you soon. 

    Posted by David White

  • 5 December 2014

    5 December recent sightings: To new beginnings!

    Good morning. I will start by introducing our new member of the team: Emma Cuthbertson! Emma is our new Warden and she started on Monday. She joins us from RSPB Fairburn Ings and RSPB St Aidan's in Yorkshire. I am sure you will join us in welcoming Emma to the team and if you visit the reserve regularly, you will probably cross paths with her in the near future.

    Once the fog had lifted on Sunday morning, there was plenty to see including two great white egrets on the washland and a peregrine perched up near Joist Fen viewpoint. A single golden plover flew over the visitor centre with around 12 lapwings and a very late peacock butterfly was on the wing over the riverbank. 

    A new reserve record was set on Monday morning when volunteer John saw three great white egrets moreorless together from the Washland viewpoint. A single great black backed gull was also present, which is an unusual bird for here.

    It was a bit miserable on Tuesday but I still made the effort and walked down to Joist Fen viewpoint before work, I saw a great white egret on the washland and a male roe deer on the hard track near the Trial Wood viewpoint. 

    It was a lovely morning on Wednesday and local photographer Matt Walton captured this great image of the sun rising over Brandon Fen:

    He also photographed one of at least two great white egrets that were present that day:

    Image credits: Matt Walton

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

    I was lucky enough to see two species of owl before it was fully light yesterday morning. A little owl was perched on the visitor centre roof when I arrived and a female barn owl was hunting over Brandon Fen. A brambling was calling in the big willow near the visitor centre and at least three water pipits were present on the washland. 

    As the day went on, there were two great white egrets on the washland and at least 100 lesser black backed gulls bathing just north of New Fen North, the first area of reedbed. A male stonechat was also seen near the washland viewpoint. 

    I was a bit pushed for time this morning so I only had a short and brisk walk. Despite only being out for 20 minutes, I saw two great white egrets, two barn owls and a female marsh harrier. "Not too shabby" as they say!

    The weather forecast is looking cold but nice for most of this weekend so why not come and visit. Tomorrow, there should be the added attraction of two "Black 5" steam engines passing the reserve with their train at around 11.45am and 5.10pm on their way to and from Norwich. Full times can be found here if you are interested.  We hope to see you soon!  

    Posted by David White

  • 30 November 2014

    30 November recent sightings: Yesterday was a good day

    Good morning. I will focus mostly on sightings from yesterday, purely because there was so much to see! I went for a walk before work and in descending numerical order, I saw four little egrets, three water pipits, two Egyptian geese and one great white egret.

    The great white egret was feeding gracefully on the washland and by the end of the day, there may have been as many as three present on the reserve. Two seen together at one stage, although it is impossible to tell whether these two images depict two different birds:

    Whilst on the subject of photos, here are a few more from yesterday:

    A female kestrel:

    Two mute swans:

    A robin:

    Image credits: Matt Walton

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

    As the day went on, a water rail was skulking around at the edge of the visitor centre pond and a treecreeper was singing behind the visitor centre. I popped up to the washland viewpoint at lunchtime to count gulls and the highlights included one adult yellow legged gull, three herring gulls and 67 lesser black backed gulls.

    Volunteer Mark spent most of the day down the reserve and he saw a grey wagtail and two stonechats from Mere Hide. At least one bearded tit was also showing from the hide. He saw a bittern from Joist Fen viewpoint along with six marsh harriers and a cheeky weasel.  

    Meanwhile, as the day drew to a close, a barn owl was hunting over Brandon Fen and and a shelduck flew over the Washland viewpoint. There were also two short eared owls feeding on the Norfolk side of the river at around 3.30pm. These may be visible from the riverbank so it is definitely worth looking out for them!

    I got here bright and early this morning in the dense fog (which hasn't lifted yet by the way!) I went for a walk around Brandon Fen and saw a barn owl hunting at close quarters. A corn bunting was singing nearby which is fairly unusual for here and a roe deer was browsing in the grazing marsh. Sadly, I couldn't see the large washland pool but I could hear several water pipits calling so there was at least some life out there somewhere!

    The weather forecast for the next couple of days isn't looking too bad so why not come and visit? We hope to see you soon! 

    Posted by David White

  • 28 November 2014

    28 November recent sightings: It's been a while

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

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

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

    Image credit: John Wightman

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

    Image credits: Andy Collier

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

    Female marsh harrier:

    Kingfisher with fish:

    Image credits: Matt Walton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Posted by David White

  • 21 November 2014

    21 November recent sightings: This week in pictures once again

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

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

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

    Image credits: Matt Walton

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

    Image credit: Lee Gregory

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

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

    Image credit: David White

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

    Image credit: Matt Walton

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Posted by David White

Your sightings

Grid reference: TL7286 (+2km)

Great White Egret (1)
13 Dec 2014
Marsh Harrier (2)
12 Dec 2014
Merlin (1)
12 Dec 2014
Cetti's Warbler ()
12 Dec 2014
Caspian Gull (1)
12 Dec 2014
Kingfisher (1)
12 Dec 2014
Water Rail (1)
7 Dec 2014
Seen in suitable nesting habitat
Barn Owl (1)
7 Dec 2014
Seen in suitable nesting habitat
Bearded Tit (12)
7 Dec 2014
Singing/breeding calls heard
Whooper Swan (23)
6 Dec 2014

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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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