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Good morning. The weather has been gradually improving all week and it’s a lovely morning here at the moment.
I had a walk around the reserve on a rather gloomy Thursday morning and heard a greenshank calling as it flew over the visitor centre. I also heard two kingfishers between the visitor centre and New Fen viewpoint.
The reserve team were out pulling ragwort once again and they were lucky enough to see all seven cranes in flight west of Joist Fen viewpoint.
Volunteer Lawrence went for a walk during the afternoon and he saw at least three hobbys. Two were over the washland and one was over New Fen viewpoint. He also saw at least three kingfishers in front of Mere Hide.
It was a lovely day yesterday and a muntjac deer was seen on the entrance track during the morning. Several people also saw bitterns in flight from Joist Fen viewpoint over the course of the day.
I went for a walk around Brandon Fen before work this morning and I had fantastic close up views of a barn owl hunting over the washland. A marsh tit was calling in the poplars near the riverbank and a willow warbler was singing in the big willow near the visitor centre. A brown hawker was also patrolling nearby.
I had a look in the fen plant bed in front of the visitor centre armed with my camera. The good news is that I saw some lovely insects. The bad news is that all of my photos of them were rubbish!
I will therefore rely on much better photographers than me and share some pictures of the species that I saw that have been taken here over the years:
A marbled orb weaver:
Image credit: Tim James
A common stretch-spider:
A Roesel’s bush cricket:
Image credit: Katherine Puttick
Volunteer Roy has just been out looking for invertebrates and he apparently almost trod on a grass snake. That could have ended badly for both of them!
The weather is looking pretty good for the next couple of days so why not come and visit? We hope to see you soon!
Posted by David White
Good afternoon. It felt really autumnal here this morning! Sadly, for those of you who like summer, autumn isn’t too far away.
However, it isn’t quite here yet! Since the last time I blogged, both pairs of cranes with their young were seen last Thursday and two turtle doves flew over Joist Fen viewpoint.
Although most of last Friday was a washout, volunteers Simon and Pete were out ringing in Brandon Fen during the morning. They saw a good selection of bird species while they were ringing. A greenshank flew west along the river followed by four avocets. There were seven common terns fishing on the washland and a kingfisher flew over Brandon Fen.
We had The Long Walk on Sunday. As a wet weather precaution, I parked the reserve Astra down at Joist Fen viewpoint. On my way back through the reserve, a bittern flew over New Fen North triangle and two turtle doves flew in to West Wood.
Although it rained for some of the walk itself, we did see plenty of interesting wildlife. We saw at least three individual bitterns between Joist Fen viewpoint and the far end of the reserve. There were at least seven marsh harriers hunting over the west end of the reserve and a kingfisher was fishing as we walked back along the riverbank.
We also saw two barn owls on our travels. They were presumably trying to dodge the rain! We disturbed two roe deer on the way through the reserve along with several black tailed skimmers.
There was also an added bonus on the way back through the reserve: I heard a turtle dove purring in West Wood. This is a great sign, so hopefully we might have a nesting pair. Fingers crossed!
Sadly, we didn't see the cranes. However, they had been heard south of the railway line earlier on in the day so that is probably where they were. If you would like to take part in the next “Long Walk”, it will take place on Sunday 20 September. Details on how to book places can be found here.
I went for a walk before work this morning and the reserve looked lovely in the morning light. I took a couple of pictures and here they are:
The cows grazing the washland:
A gatekeeper trying to hide:
Image credits: David White
After a successful Wild Wednesday session of family activities, work experience student Owen and I went up to the Washland viewpoint. We saw the following:
There were also three common buzzards circling overhead.
We witnessed a moment of drama as we walked back: a brown hawker plucked a gatekeeper from its perch before devouring it on a nearby leaf. Delightful!
There is plenty to see at the moment so why not come and visit? We hope to see you soon!
Thursday is our regular volunteer work party day and we had various jobs to complete today so we split into two groups. Emma took one group to continue with some of the ragwort, Senecio jacobaea, pulling whilst Darren and I headed down to Botany Bay with chainsaws and brushcutters to clear a fallen tree and open up a section of path in preparation for the long walk on Sunday.
Whilst driving through the reserve we were treated to seeing the crane pair Little and Large plus their chick in one of the grazing marsh fields and many newly fledged marsh harriers, who were loafing around on the tracks, on fence posts and in willow bushes waiting for mum or dad to return with some food for them.
Botany Bay was fabulous for insects as usual at this time of year and I had a little time to grab a few photographs as I finished my chainsawing before Darren completed his brush-cutting. There were numerous damsel and dragonflies including this ruddy darter Sympetrum sanguineum which posed nicely for me, plus butterflies, bees and hoverflies.
I also saw this little beast which I think is the Conopid fly Sicus ferrugineus. Adult Conopid flies are often seen on flowers taking nectar, however the larvae of these flies have much more gruesome diet for they are parasites of bees and wasps . These little flies jump on the bees back in flight and lay an egg on them. The fly larvae then develops inside the bee, feasting on it's internal organs....
After finishing our work, Darren and I got back in the truck and rejoined the main group who were working along the bank in Joist Fen South grazing marsh near the railway line pulling ragwort. Ragwort is a great nectar source and supports a number of interesting insect species. However it is poisonous to some grazing animals, particularly horses. Our grazier takes hay of different fields each year and grazes with ponies as well as cattle and sheep. In addition we have Higher Level Stewardship agreement which helps us financially to manage Lakenheath and our grazier claims the the Single Payment so we need to take appropriate steps to manage the plant within the reserve to comply with the rules of both these schemes. Therefore we control the plant in the grazed and hayed parts of the reserve but leave it for the cinnabar moths and nectar loving insects elsewhere.
Here is the team enjoying a well earned break and some of Emma's lovely lemon drizzle cake.
During the rest of the day we were treated to a fly past by the other pair of cranes with their twins and two more flights from Little and Large plus their youngster. If you want to see the cranes now is the time to come to Lakenheath as from our experience in previous years they will hang around for a couple more weeks and then venture out into the wider Fens to feed in the arable fields.
We hope to see you soon.
Senior Site Manager.
Posted by DaveR
Good morning. I am not going to be here much for the next couple of days so here are some more recent sightings:
It turned out to be quite a nice day on Tuesday. Emma and Suzanne went down to Botany Bay at the west end of the reserve to look for marsh carpet moth caterpillars during the morning. Although they didn't see any, they saw four cranes and at least six juvenile marsh harriers.
Meanwhile, closer to the visitor centre, volunteer Paul Holness spent some time up at the Washland viewpoint. He counted at least 104 mute swans which is a great count for this time of year.
Emma and I went down to Botany Bay during the afternoon so that I could check out the route for The Long Walk, which is a 10 kilometre guided walk that will take place around the reserve on Sunday.
This was the first time that I had been in to “our bit” of Botany Bay SSSI since last September so it was a real treat for me. I saw lots of yellow loosestrife bees, several scarce chasers and some lumbering brown hawkers.
While I was waiting for Emma to pick me up, a bittern flew over by head and as we set off back towards the visitor centre, another one followed it. They both disappeared eventually into Botany Bay, probably on a feeding trip.
Meanwhile, at New Fen viewpoint, David Capps, one of our local photographers saw a bittern clambering up a reed in front of the viewpoint before falling in the water! It apparently looked most disgruntled after it had its unplanned bath!
I went for a walk before work this morning and it was lovely in the morning sunshine. I disturbed at least two painted ladys that were bathing on the riverbank Public Footpath and a meadow brown that was determined not to be photographed!
I had more luck photographing insects along the hard track between New Fen viewpoint and Mere Hide. Here are a few of the better ones that I took:
A small skipper:
A posing female sympetrum sp. which was feeding like a common darter but looks more like a female ruddy darter!:
I bumped into locals Matt Walton and David Capps who had seen two kingfishers and a bittern from New Fen viewpoint. There was also apparently a roe deer with her fawn in the viewpoint when David got there which must have been a bit of a shock!
I saw also saw three common terns fishing over the Washland viewpoint and heard a grasshopper warbler reeling at the edge of the visitor centre pond. A kingfisher shot across the visitor centre pond shortly after we opened and a green woodpecker was feeding on the visitor centre lawn.
There is plenty to see at the moment so why not come and visit? There are also still places on The Long Walk on Sunday, so we hope to see you soon!
Good morning. If you read our reserve blog regularly, you may have realised that I have been away for a week. Well, I returned to work this morning to look at our staff and volunteer sighting sheet this morning and there was nothing on it for the last week! Don’t worry though, there has been plenty going on while I have been away!
The big news is that both of our pairs of cranes have fledged young! Please read Dave’s blog post from Sunday for more information. The “Lakenheath Fen seven” can now be seen from Joist Fen viewpoint if you are lucky.
If I return briefly to last week, as Katherine mentioned in her blog post on Friday, we were visited by a group of staff and volunteers from RSPB Frampton Marsh last Tuesday. They saw a bittern from New Fen viewpoint and a turtle dove flew over West Wood. They also saw two hobbys from the Washland viewpoint and heard a grasshopper warbler near the visitor centre.
It was a nice day on Saturday and local photographer Matt Walton took this fantastic photograph of an otter feeding in the river:
Thank you very much to Matt for sharing this great photograph with us.
I went for a walk before work this morning and there was plenty to see and hear around Brandon Fen. There were still plenty of blackcaps singing and I saw my first turtle dove of the year flying east overhead. There were also at least 77 mute swans on the washland along with two great crested grebes.
There were plenty of dragonflies on the wing including several black tailed skimmers, two brown hawkers and an emperor dragonfly.
There were also plenty of butterflies on the wing. There were lots of gatekeepers along with a few ringlets. I also saw a peacock and a small tortoisehell.
The weather isn't looking too bad for the next couple of days so why not come and visit? We hope to see you soon!
It has been a very exciting, record breaking few weeks here at Lakenheath. After 12 weeks of worry our crane parents finally got their recalcitrant youngsters into the air. As I'm sure most of our regular readers know we provide a home for two pairs of cranes here at Lakenheath. One pair, known to us as A2 are very secretive, the other pair, Little and Large are the more visible cranes to visitors, volunteers and staff alike. After a months incubation though March and early April both pairs hatched chicks, with Little and Large being about a week behind pair A2. We knew A2 had twins but Little and Large only a single chick. The literature on cranes says that crane chicks should be able to fly at 10 weeks old but ours generally do not fly until their 11th or 12th week after hatching. That is a long time in a young crane's life. When they are really small they could be eaten by mink, otter and marsh harrier. They are vulnerable to foxes until they can fly. In addition crane chicks can be very aggressive towards each other, with stories of chicks killing their siblings. Add in all the other risks, bad weather, disease, finding enough food and the dangers of navigating your way around a wetland and it is not difficult to see that most crane mortality occurs before the birds can fly.
So on to the record breaking - pair A2 managed to fledge both their youngsters , with the first flight we spotted being on the 6th July. These are the first crane twins reared here at Lakenheath. Then on the 12th July Little & Large coaxed their youngster into the air for his or her first flight. We have never managed to fledge 3 cranes in the same year before. Now that these chicks can fly they should hopefully enjoy long and fruitful lives. Given previous year's experience they will stay with us here at Lakenheath for a few weeks, building up their flight muscles. So now is a good time to come and try to see them - ask in the visitor centre for the latest information.
Pair A2 and the twins
By mid August they will start to range out across the Fens. They will stay with their parents throughout the autumn and winter and learn where to find food across the Fens on the arable fields and wetlands, mixing in with the other cranes present in the Fens. Cranes have a very varied diet; animal and vegetable including large insects, slugs and snails, left overs from the arable harvest - spilt grain, potatoes missed by the harvesting machines and sugar beet tops. They will use the wetlands in the Fens for safe roosting sites, with the Nene Washes being a favourite spot. The families will return to Lakenheath full-time sometime in January next year but the youngsters will be chased off by their parents in February or early March as mum and dad start to think about breeding again. I always think January, February and early March are the best time to see our cranes - they fly about frequently, bugling as they go and can often be seen dancing on the riverbank from the Joist Fen viewpoint. It should be particualry exciting this time with three teenage cranes to move out from mum and dad's home.
We hope that this year's young will stay with us in the Fens and join the growing population. It will be another 3 or 4 years before they find themselves a partner and start looking for a new home. There are plenty of other wetland sites which currently don't have breeding cranes so hopefully our birds will stick around and in a few year maybe we will see the spectacles they get in Europe with hundreds of cranes feeding in arable fields in winter, calling and dancing en mass.
Finally I would like to thank all the volunteers, contractors and staff involved who help to manage the reserve, monitor the cranes and generally get everything right so that the cranes can get on with the job of being parents. Oh and our two crane pairs for doing such a fantastic parenting job this year. Long may that continue.
Senior Site Manager
Good morning. It was a lovely day on Friday and there were plenty people out and about enjoying the weather and the wildlife. Local photographer David Capps took this picture from New Fen viewpoint, which caused a bit of a debate when I posted it on our social media pages (which are RSPB Suffolk on Facebook and RSPB Fens on Twitter, just in case you were wondering) :
Image credit: David Capps
It clearly shows a bittern in flight. However, if you look carefully, you can see at least one other bittern at the edge of the reeds. I have to admit I can only see one other bird but some people can see two others! Talk about great camouflage. Anyhow, regardless of how many birds there are, it’s a wonderful image and thank you very much to David for sharing it with us.
Meanwhile, elsewhere on the reserve, a grasshopper warbler was reeling near Mere Hide and a kingfisher was seen dashing across the visitor centre pond.
There was also some excitement when Katherine, one of our Wardens found several yellow loosestrife bees feeding in the bog raised bed in front of the visitor centre. This species of solitary bee is really rather scarce, so it was great to see it so close to the visitor centre.
Katherine was also busy strimming at the edge of the visitor centre pond, so that we could have an alternative pond dipping area. I went and had a look at the newly created area and within less than 10 minutes, I had seen seven different species of dragonflies and damselflies. They were:
As well as opening up areas to see these colourful species, it also allowed me to take some pictures of the visitor centre pond from a slightly different vantage point yesterday morning:
There were two grasshopper warblers reeling between the visitor centre and East Wood yesterday morning. One was north of the riverbank Public Footpath and the other south of the same path. A willow warbler was singing near the visitor centre and a Cetti’s warbler was singing near the Washland viewpoint.
There was plenty to see at Joist Fen viewpoint over the course of the day. At least six marsh harriers were hunting in front of the viewpoint and several people were lucky enough to see a long bittern flight. There were also several bearded tits showing in front of the viewpoint.
Meanwhile, closer to the visitor centre, two kingfishers were fishing in the visitor centre pond.
I went out to look for invertebrates in the afternoon and here are a couple of pictures:
A gatekeeper up on the riverbank:
A probable Essex skipper in front of the visitor centre:
Thank you for reading and we hope to see you on the reserve soon!
Good morning. I love this time of year as everything is so colourful! Our raised plant beds are a riot of colour at the moment and there are some lovely plants out on flower. In the bog bed, it is currently possible to admire both native species of loosestrife together:
Purple loosestrife and yellow loosestrife:
There have also been plenty of ringlets on the wing, favouring the yellow flowers of the common ragwort that is currently in flower:
It was a nice day yesterday and local photographer Matt Walton was here bright and early. Here are some of his pictures:
An otter fishing in the river:
A skulking water rail:
A posing male bearded tit:
Image credits: Matt Walton
Thank you very much to Matt for sharing these great images with us.
The reserve team did their last bittern survey of the year and Darren, one of our volunteers broke the record for the highest amount of flights during a survey. He saw 23 flights between around 8am and midday west of Joist Fen viewpoint!
There was also plenty to see from the visitor centre. A kingfisher was fishing in the visitor centre pond and several species of raptors were seen overhead. This included a common buzzard and a kestrel.
Volunteer Lawrence went for a walk in the afternoon. He saw a marsh harrier and a hobby from the Washland viewpoint. He also saw a kingfisher from New Fen viewpoint.
The weather forecast for the next couple of days is looking pretty good so why not come and visit? We hope to see you soon!
Good afternoon. There has definitely been a dragonfly theme to this week here so far. Yesterday, we were lucky enough to be joined by writer and dragonfly ambassador Ruary Mackenzie Dodds, who lead a workshop about our “tooth jawed” friends for RSPB staff.
In recognition of these beautiful creatures, here are some wonderful images of a selection of species from last week, courtesy of Richard Jones:
A banded demoiselle:
A blue tailed damselfly:
A black tailed skimmer:
A four spotted chaser:
Thank you very much to Richard for sharing these images with us.
Volunteer Paul spent some time up at the Washland viewpoint on Monday. He saw two hobbys and five common terns.
It was a bit showery yesterday but Suzanne still managed to get out for a walk at lunchtime. She saw two hobbys and a common buzzard from the Washland viewpoint.
Meanwhile, further down the reserve, Emma surprised a bittern on the hard track just west of Joist Fen viewpoint. It was apparently doing the “bitterning” stance right in the middle of the track!
I went for a walk before work this morning and a cuckoo flew into East Wood. A common tern was fishing along the river and a barn owl was hunting over New Fen North, the first area of reedbed.
As I approached Joist Fen viewpoint, a garden warbler was singing between the riverbank and the viewpoint. I may have also heard the little bittern barking between the viewpoint and West Wood, but I wasn't entirely convinced.
I spent around 45 minutes in the viewpoint and in that time, I saw two bittern flights. A wing tagged marsh harrier was hunting in front of the viewpoint and several bearded tits flew low over the reedbed. A green sandpiper also flew west over the viewpoint.
As I walked back through the reserve, some more bearded tits were pinging between Joist Fen viewpoint and Mere Hide. Another garden warbler was also singing in East Wood.
A song thrush was singing in the staff car park and there were also plenty of butterflies fluttering around there while Suzanne and I were having a meeting. A small skipper landed on Suzanne’s arm and a ringlet was fluttering around nearby. We also saw a species of bush cricket, which was most likely to be a long winged conehead.
Grid reference: TL7286 (+2km)
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